Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
The road to the Dard village wound along the Indus river. We saw several bridges along the way. And I was also shown a few hand pulled rope carriages that were used to cross the river. Having never seen one, I was delighted at the concept.
Here is how it works:
There is a rope suspended across the river, fixed to a concrete structure on each bank. Usually at a height of at least 4-5 storeys above the water.
Hanging from that rope by a system of pulleys is a combination of a carriage and a pulling-rope.
The traveler who wishes to cross the river using this mode of transport must seat herself in the carriage that can hold a maximum of 2 people. Then the traveler must tug at the pulling-rope that is connected to the carriage – so by tugging at the rope, the carriage moves forward.
Sounds so easy right?
So all the way back I had been asking my host ‘are we there yet’ like an excited child! I really wanted to try this out.
We parked near one such ropeway and the grandpa host came all the way to the building to show me the way. I was keen on trying this contraption and he knew that I had never seen it before that day.
He asked me if I knew how to use it …..
Anyway he decided to take care of this fool and decided to agree to my request to coming with me.
Note that we had absolutely no work on the other side of the river. We were leaving behind the driver and the grandma hostess in the car.
I assumed we’d just go for the ride to the other side and back and then be back in the car in 10 minutes.
But nature had a different plan.
We both (and my phone) struggled to sit down in the carriage and began pulling the rope. I was thrilled to bits to see us moving. We were leaving the bank and moving. Yippee! And our own hands were pulling us to the centre of the river! That felt really great that it was not any machine (well a pulley is technically a machine but its not motorised so it was still our own strength pulling us along) performing this feat!
The wind was very strong and we could see the rope flying in the air. The river gorge between two tall mountain ranges create an extremely powerful wind channel.
As I filmed we moved along. Until at some point the host asked me if we should turn back.I could feel the power of the wind. I could understand the word HIM-alaya finally – for in Sanskrit it means Home of the Wind. It felt like the rope could have snapped anytime with the strength of the wind.
And so we decided to turn back.
And that is where our challenge began.
SO much to learn – so much that I am clueless about! So this was the point when I found out that river banks, especially in Mountain rivers are not all at the same level. So the bank we started from was higher than the bank we were heading for. So the ropeway sloped on our way to the midpoint of the river. And when we turned back, the journey was uphill!
Until now either my host or I were pulling the rope. But now this was not enough. We stalled for a few scary minutes. Not quite knowing what to do. Then we did what I have seen laborers do when they have to work in unison.
We both held on to the rope – one in front one at the back, and both counted 1-2-3 and gave a hard tug at the count of 3. That moved us a few inches each time. The scary part was done. We were moving again. Against the slope. In spite of the heavy wind. A little crowd of 4 people – all drivers including our own had gathered at the bank to watch the drama. There was nothing anyone could have done to help. (not that we really needed help!)
And after a short struggle we were back on the bank – helped ashore by the drivers.
As we were walking back upto to the car, my host asked ‘How much do you weigh?’