Before the Storm...
For as long as I remember, I had always wanted to travel the world. When a trip to India was advertised at school, I told myself that I would raise the money and go on it.
I managed to raise the money to pay for the trip in 18 months. When the day came round, I was so excited. This was my dream! The team of nine students and two adults met at school and then went on our way to the airport. The flight was eight and a half hours and we all just wanted to get there to start the trip of a lifetime.
We landed in Delhi and started our travels up to the region of Ladakh in the northwest mountainous area of India. We were based in a town called Leh situated on the Indus River. We travelled to Leh by road, which took about a week. In the second week, we were going to volunteer at a school—we were only supposed to stay there for six days, helping out with some construction and English classes.
Halfway through the week, there was a huge storm. Rain came pouring through the ceiling and windows and the wind was 1)howling outside. It started at around 12:30 am, and the first we knew about it was when our windows 2)flung open and rain came in.
The girls in the group were sharing a room and the boys were downstairs. When we heard rain 3)gushing into the building just outside our door, we ran downstairs to get the boys up to help us.
Most of us were running on 4)automatic, fetching buckets from the shower block outside and pulling up edges of carpets to try and 5)minimise the damage. In Ladakh, they only get about five days of rain a year, so none of the students 6)boarding at the school had a clue what to do.
Eventually the rain stopped and we could start emptying the water out of the hallways. We lay blankets out to try and soak up the water, and some of us were up until 3 am clearing up.
The next day, it was like nothing had happened; everything went on as normal and we assumed that was the last of it that we would see. That wasn't the case. The next night, the rain was a lot worse. We could hear huge amounts of rain pouring in through the roof and hear the wind 7)banging against our windows. The students were scared and a few were praying that they would be safe in the morning. No one slept that night.
After the Storm
The next morning, mud was all over the stairs from where the roof had leaked, and walls had been knocked down where they kept the cows.
Alongside the school ran a small stream, but when we went down there to have a look, you could see how much the stream had risen by—it had taken down the bridge and carried huge trees down to the river.
The water tanks and 8)filtering systems had all been washed away too, meaning we had no clean, running water to drink. Everyone had to help clear up the site and use water wisely.
That evening, the students and volunteers at the school all sat down to watch the local news—there had been 9)devastation in Leh and the surrounding area, we were some of the lucky ones. Whole villages had been washed away, pulling more houses down on the way to the river.
A couple of students had lost family members as they were living in the worst hit areas. It was such a shocking situation we found ourselves in.
As the days went past, we managed to collect water from a nearby spring so we could still cook and drink. By the start of the next week, the stream had settled down a bit more and people were able to cross it. The team was still told to keep an emergency bag together in case there was more rain and we had to 10)evacuate.
Half way through the second week at the school, we were able to leave and go back to Leh.
There are no words to describe what I saw as we drove back through the flooded areas. Houses were falling down, people were digging mud off roads and from buildings, and everyone was wearing mouth and nose masks to keep the dirt out of their faces. It was 11)horrific.
We stayed in Leh for a while before flying back down to Delhi where we were much safer. We enjoyed sight-seeing and going to the Taj Mahal.
The rain we had was the worst they'd seen in 700 years, and I still can't believe I was part of it.
Although it was a hugely terrifying experience, I found every minute amazing and I learnt so much. Now I hope that all those affected are starting to rebuild their lives.