Highest road in the world and thinking at altitude

25 09 2012

This year we took a different challenge on… driving to the highest motorable road in the world in the Indian Himalayas. At 5602 metres,  Khardung -la is higher than Mount Everest base camp.  The trip itself was awesome, driving from Narkanda to Leh on a road that is only open 4 months of the year to supply the military and where landslides close the way almost every day. It’s a battle to keep a single muddy track passable and a one where the edge of single track is a drop of between 300 -500 m without any barrier.

Altitude does some great things to the landscape – the sky was more blue than at any time I can remember – the clouds whiter. The rock and mountain scenery is stunning – it takes your breath away every corner you turn.

What was also impressive was the tenacity and spirit of the Indian road workers – never giving up on their Herculean task.  Each day armed with little more than hand tools, and the occasional vintage bulldozer, they would repair the previous nights damage and sort out a passage for the waiting supply lorries and occasional tourists. They slept at over 12,000 ft, eating a basic diet of bread and veg curry with a sprinkling of dust – which pervades every gap and chink in the clothing.  Yet as we passed they always smiled and waved – maybe not so many westerner drive in India, maybe our dirty faces caked in dust amused them, maybe they just thought we were mad – but it was heartening to see people with so little seemingly so content and openImage. As observers we cannot know what they really think about their harsh life conditions, but they chatted, smiled and worked well with each other on their task – clearing the road again. Maybe we have something to learn from them…. when we moan about our mundane days or our Herculean task…. my challenges seem pale in comparison.

 

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