Running for Our Lives
Could the roads get any worse than I previously described in On Edge? Absolutely. In fact, the entire road can collapse and you can be stranded on the wrong side – oops. That’s exactly what happened to us as we attempted to travel from Nako to Tabo.
After tearing out my hair on the nightmare roads from Rekong Peo, I had convinced the others to shell out the dough to hire a car to drive us on into the Spiti Valley. We had found a jeep, bargained out a decent rate, and were ready to go, when a local informed us that the road had partially collapsed and even jeeps were unable to make it over the rubble. Quite used to these kinds of scenarios, it was decided that one public bus would carry travelers to the landslide area where another bus would meet us and carry us on to Spiti – meaning we were back on the buses.
We all fought our way on to a crowded local bus and proceeded to the collapse, which ended up being only a short distance beyond Nako. Everyone, mostly locals with a handful of backpackers, piled out and started walking towards the landslide area. What I had envisioned as a small collapse covering the road turned out to be far more significant. A huge portion of the mountain had given way and massive boulders had come tumbling down completely wiping out any signs of a road for about 100 yards.
As we came around the bend near the collapse, we noticed that the locals began running like mad. We noticed one old woman leaping across the worst part of the collapse like some sort of mountain goat. The Indian man in front of me suddenly ran forwards manically hopping and jumping through the rubble as basketball sized boulders rolled down just behind him. The landslide was still in progress!!!
All of the foreigners, completely dumbstruck by such a surreal situation, stood at the bend staring at the path ahead as Indians, accustomed to such traffic hindrances shot across the danger zone. We pondered our options as chunks of rock rolled by ahead. After a few minutes, there was a lull in the falling debris. As if someone had fired a starting pistol, we foreigners suddenly took off fully loaded with backpacks and daypacks and water bottles leaping and racing over rubble along a narrow path clinging to what remained of the cliffs all the time checking to see if something was about to hit us from above. Over the narrow path, low-voiced shouts of “run, run” volleyed back and forth as we all dashed out of the landslide zone.
But it wasn’t over. Once most of the foreigners had made it to the other side, we suddenly noticed Ariel, Amit and Yael had just reached the landslide area. For some reason, they were far behind us and were just beginning to cross. Having arrived upon the scene during the lull in falling debris, they seemed to be unaware that the landslide was still going on. All three are rather afraid of heights and narrow paths, so they were crossing quite slowly and didn’t appear to be looking out for falling debris above.
Several of us on the other side, yelled to them, “Run, run! Rocks are still falling!” But realizing our mistake, we shut up afraid that our echoing voices might suddenly trigger another landslide. It took forever for them to inch across the narrow path, during which time Thomas snapped the picture above. Once across, I ran back to Amit and grabbed her daypack and told them to move it before more of the mountain decided to rain down upon us.
Luckily, everyone, Indian and foreign, made it across without any injuries. We were all shaken up a bit, but that was quickly forgotten when we discovered that the bus that had come to pick us up on the other side was going to have to make a u-turn. A U-TURN on this road – no way. Ahhh, but that’s another story.