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Published: August 29th 2015
Snaky Road Through the Lower Himalayas
Much of the journey in northern India looked like this
Little Bit Long Time
At 3:45 in the afternoon we were high up in the desolate mountains in northern India; our bus was the first in line at a bit of “road construction,” which turned out to be a rockslide in the making. We piled off the bus to get a closer look at what was happening ahead of us on the road. A local man came up to us and told us that we would be here “little bit long time.” Boy was he right. The other two foreigners on the bus and I spent the next few hours contemplating whether or not the slide had been intentional or not – and if it had been, why create it in the middle of the freakin’ day when there is heavy traffic? One man was on a big-boy's machine, with some sort of phallic “cock rock chopper,” as we dubbed it, pounding away at the rock on the side of the narrow dirt/gravel road, in fact, the only road from Leh to Kargil. The river was down the steep embankment to our left. A huge pile of rock blocked all lanes of traffic with one imbecile driving a
It took five hours to clear the debris before we could pass
digger with a bucket collecting the tiniest of rock debris to throw over the side of the cliff. He worked tirelessly but slowly and inefficiently while the lines of buses, jeeps, motorcycles and lorries in both directions grew longer and longer. There wasn't anywhere for anyone to go and nothing anyone could have done, except maybe to throw rocks over the side by hand to speed things up a bit! (if we had all done this we would have gotten more accomplished than the man behind the wheel of the digger). The entire time the man with the bucket pushed three or four rocks down the embankment, the man with the “cock rock chopper” kept chopping into the side of the mountain, creating more of a hindrance than anything. Why he didn’t stop or help in any way was beyond all comprehension.
At 5pm, Emma and I couldn't hold it any longer and just had to trudge down to the river to pee in the bushes, the only place with a smidge of privacy. We had to first face full on the dangerous, gravely, slippery embankment. Up above, alongside the road, there was not one single place for a
female to relieve herself, certainly not with all the men lurking about and more and more vehicles coming up in droves by the minute. All I can say is I'm glad we took care of business before it got too dark to see and climbing up, down and negotiating all the loose rocks proved too difficult.
Just before dark a new digger came onto the scene, a larger, more powerful one with a much
better driver. The last one was quite wimpy to say the least and not one person on my side of the slide was impressed with his work, or lack of it, as the case turned out to be. With nothing better to do to pass the time, everyone just stood around watching the action.
It was dark by 6:30 and we were still in the same place come 8:20pm. Some military guys had invited us for a spot of tea inside their Russian jeep (it was boxed in a few vehicles behind our bus), but after only one or two sips of the scalding, freshly made brew, we were promptly forced to leave. Apparently a supervisor had arrived and frowned on all of the
Couldn't have been an easy feat...on the feet
foreigners inside one of their beloved vehicles and ordered us out. Whatever, dude. We were sipping tea with your fellow countrymen not sharing trade secrets with them. At least we all got a few photos for memory sake before departing.
The sun having disappeared long before, it was getting dark and cold in the mountains while we patiently waited for all the rocks to be cleared from the road. We had no idea how long we were going to have to be there but braced ourselves for a long, cold frigid night in the bus. I dreaded having to pee again! Many cars and a few military trucks and jeeps had turned around hours before, heading back to the nearest little town for the night, I suspected. Throughout the afternoon, many passengers from various vehicles had gotten out and walked to the opposite side of the landslide. They went down the slippery, rocky slopes to the river, crossed the water, walked along a narrow dirt pathway and then back up the other side. I suspect they were all hoping for a ride to get them to wherever it was they were going with a car that might happen to
turn around. It's going to be a battle to determine which direction is going to be able to proceed first once all the rocks are cleared. This being India, it wouldn't have surprised me if what had ensued would have been utter chaos.
At 8:24 I figured it wasn’t going to take too much longer and gave it half an hour more. Some cars and a few motorcycles have been creeping forward the past few hours and there must be at least a dozen or more in the front of the queue now, no matter that our vehicle was the absolute first to have arrived at the scene, many hours ago.
The first vehicles – yeah – came through from the other side at 8:35. The other direction seems to have gotten first dibs but many rows of cars are on this side, three wide, so I wonder how they will pass us? Oh yeah, this is India; they handled it just fine. Somehow. The last car from the opposite side came through just before 9, at which time the motorcycles on our side went first, followed by the smaller cars and then the rest of
Little by little the rocks were pushed over the edge
us. After having been forced to a halt, we moved on, five hours later, after our driver finally came back to the bus, fired her up and let out the choke. Little bit long time.
Tot: 2.305s; Tpl: 0.055s; cc: 12; qc: 59; dbt: 0.0495s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb