So it started with my father down with jaundice. Oh! Don’t worry this story has a happy ending. So where was I…huh! My father was down with jaundice and I was in third standard. There was a chapter in English called an “Igloo”. The word sounded like an alien to me but hey, I was in third, I was at the learning stage so even “alien” would have sounded like an “alien” you know what I mean. Anyway, my father used to take my lessons and would often ask me “what is an igloo?” after all the mugging up this used to be my answer- “an igloo is a house made of Ice and snow which is a home to Eskimos” (I imagined Eskimos as a tribe like Red Indians). Like really??? Even though I knew the answer but never believed in the concept of Igloo- until now….
My father is no more but my igloo lesson with him became a fond memory. Not knowing that it’ll actually turn into a reality. Hamta is just one and a half kilometer drive from Manali after a kilometer trek down the white slopes I witnessed an actual Igloo…yes! Made up of actual ice and snow!
For the first time in India, Vikas Kumar and Tashi Dorje from keylinga.com made the unbelievable, believable. They have successfully built four igloos (if I’m correct) from small to a high capacity one out of blue plastic stacking boxes. Ya! the ones we are given at the airport security check point to keep our laptop and carry bags. Still unbelievable! Well, I thought the same so I inquired further and asked them “how did they go about it?” they said “Igloo is pretty common in west and we thought if they can do it then why can’t we? So we started looking up on the internet. We used to google and YouTube how to make igloo videos. It took us months to complete it as we would wait for heavy snowfall. And then once we were done we tested one igloo approximately for 16-20 odd days to see if it survives or not. When the experiment worked we opened it for public.” They also mentioned that there are two kinds of igloo- one is a natural made and another is an artificial.
The natural one takes its own shape due to heavy snowfall. All they have to do is to manage weight on both sides. In the artificial one, an igloo Skeleton is made which is meant to manage weight on both sides all they do is fill up the sides with thick snow blocks made out of blue plastic stacking boxes. They said what holds an igloo together is its weight management. If the weight is managed properly on both sides then even in extreme weather conditions like storm, heavy rainfall or extreme sunlight, igloo doesn’t break down. And that’s the science behind it. The one I stayed in was a natural one and trust me it wasn’t fragile by any standards.
Now let me give you a brief insight of what is inside an igloo. The elevation of its entrance isn’t high so I l have to literally crawl inside. Once I was in I saw two ice beds, a ventilation hole and a bulb with a long wire connecting to its switch. Honestly! You I didn’t feel that cold inside. And there was lot of breathing space. Though there is a ventilation hole but they said that igloo has so much oxygen inside that it wasn’t necessary but they still gave it so that one doesn’t feel claustrophobic.
After bonfire and a warm dinner (they used to cook dinner in a huge tent) it was time for my friend and I were waiting for. It was time to spend the night inside the igloo but hold there is a process to that.
First we got comfortable in your warm clothes and then we took a close look at our ice beds. It was now covered with two plastic sheets. Two light weight mattress on top. Two blankets on top of it. Two sleeping bags with warm inner, with a hood on top of it and a hot water bottle at the bottom of each inner. And on top of it another blanket was given. We kept our body straight and went inside the inner. Our head was covered with hood all the time. And hot water bottle touched our feet. Once tugged our instructor zipped our respective sleeping bags and went off the sleep.
Now the fun started. Remember the bulb I mentioned inside the igloo. It’s very much functional till the time generator is on. And heavy duty generators are kept there to manage electricity but they don’t run overnight and at some point lights have to go out. Though, Vikas and Tashi ensures that once we are asleep only then generators are off…but if one is awake or wakes up in between…bad luck! That’s when it struck. I was still ok since as I slept while the lights were on but my friend couldn’t and so when the light went out she panicked. I woke up with anxiety only to get I psyched out. It was pitch dark we were sleeping on a ice bed surrounded ice-walls and there aren’t many people around us and that’s when it hits you. But I guess it’s a natural reaction. I even made my way out of the sleeping bag to look for help but as I stepped out it was dark and cold and so I went inside and thought about a trick.
Please READ THE FOLLOWING CAREFULLY- thankfully my phone had some battery left so I opened my mobile torch. I left it open till about an hour or so, till the time we went back to sleep. It did the trick till the time our brains were put to rest. Though, we had our share of anxiety attacks in between but everything went normal when the sun came out. Honestly it was our mistake as we didn’t adhere to the list which Vikas has sent out before coming- he clearly mentioned to carry lot of sunscreen, sunglasses, toilet paper and torch with us. We missed the most important one. Also it’s important to carry your own water proof jackets, gloves and track pants. They do provide water proof clothes but it’s still better if you do.
We woke up to a mild to heavy snowfall next morning. Within minutes the entire Hamta valley got covered in fresh powder snow.
Tashi and Vikas are also professional ski instructors and the package we took included ski, snowboarding and what not but we were so taken by the snowfall that we want to soak into weather. We were advised to leave early due to heavy snowfall and as I trek back to the road and took a one last glance at the igloo and in a strange yet in a sweet way I felt like I connected with my father again!
Author: Jyotsna Kumar
Writer and a fighter. My playground is my radio station. Big movie buff and an adventurous travel junkie:)