The landslide-prone road to Delhi

Deodar cedar forest

14 August - While I was walking I saw, quite near the bus station, that there is a forest park of lofty trees occupying a considerable area. I followed the fence, then noticed an entrance gate and paid the 5 Rp fee.

In the long walk through the forest I would soon forget I am in a town, were the traffic noise from beyond the fence not take me back to reality. Still the smell of the forest and its thickness send me to another world. They're Deodara cedars, magnificent, towering straight to the sky with a lofty foliage at their top. If you walk along the path, you touch the side overlooking the rumbling stream. Here every memory of the town is lost, since this continuous water tumult is enough to outdo every noise coming from far away. Once more I am surprised at nature's dimensions in this Himalayan India.


I asked at the bus station if the road has been opened yet. Some say it has, others it hasn't, others don't know. The picture is uncertain, as I expected. I have understood I'll have to see personally. Certainly a few vehicles have pulled in, a sign that the movement may have started again. I go to a Punjabi restaurant for a cheese paranta snack. Then I loaf around until departure time when I meet Jodie who is also leaving to Delhi for the last days of her journey that has lasted 11 months.

The bus is half sleepers and half rather comfortable seats, but I don't know if I'll still think so after the 16 hours of this trip, barring unforeseen events. We start at brisk speed along the valley in a verdant landscape, although we are going down from an altitude of 2,000 m. When we stop at 10 pm for the first halt at a roadside restaurant, it's raining hard. I order beans, like Jodie, but I can't swallow them and leave half. Always this curry flavour.Too often skirting the edge

Along the highway in the night we notice myriad small landslides of the slippery terrain with a fall of earth and debris onto the carriageway. Often also stones, obviously just fallen, take up part of the land. We see a lorry capsized off the road and we must zigzag as in a gymkhana between the crashed vehicle and others still standing at a short distance.

We drive past, it's now the heart of night, and we find ourselves trapped in a queue. The engine is turned off, I go down to see what's the matter, but I can't see more than a hold-up in our lane and no vehicles coming from the opposite direction. It starts raining and I go back on board. I'm resigned to stay here hours on end because if a landslide has occurred, it'll be some time before the road is cleared. After over half an hour during which sleep is mixed with this sense of suspense, I feel headlights nearing. It's a vehicle crossing ours, then more follow. In fact we soon start the engine and slowly we proceed towards the place of the disaster where a huge boulder has come off the road side and occupied a whole lane. Zigzagging the vehicles pass through the breach opened between the boulder and the road margin.

After an hour, at 1 am, the same situation is repeated and after a long wait with stopped engines and the subsequent uncertainty about the outcome of the journey, we get past a rock of similar dimensions that skirts the bus wing and windows. After these two slowdowns the road gets normal, but it's long. I can't get asleep in my seat and I look in vain for a less uncomfortable position, covering as I can from the fresh night air that gets in through the open windows. At 6 we get into the motorway to Delhi and at 8 we are dumped in an unknown suburb along an anonymous street. They are celebrating the 60th anniversary of independence from England.

We take a rickshaw to Paharganj and I hire a room for the day. In the evening I go out with my friend. I saw a simple restaurant, very brightly lit-up, intended for travellers since it's located in front of New Delhi train station. Its light contrasts with the dull colour of dirt and soot of the surrounding venues. I don't know if Jodie will like it, but I ask her to follow me if she feels like a snack before saying goodbye. She's enthusiastically of my choice: I think she's a frank person and I get on very well with her. I bid her goodbye, as I bid India goodbye. She also looks a bit sad because with this hug in front of the station she's rounding up 11 months in a country that conquered her heart, and is turning to a difficult come-back home.

It's here that I started my trip to Amritsar three weeks ago, when I found a night time station invaded by bodies sleeping on the ground. This is the time of a wheel that turns silently, and not just in my life, but the in lives of humanity, uniting past, present and future in the vastness of Indian and world crowds, through the continents, in the forms of life of the seas, the air and the earth.