The Time I Almost Died, and Why You Have to Visit Himachal Pradesh
I have a lot of irrational fears in this life—namely plummeting to my death in an elevator and beating attacked by a shark, leaving me to get into the ocean no further than my knees typically. Now, though, I can add a very real fear that many would consider to be an irrational one: having your bus swept off the side of a mountain in Himachal Pradesh, India. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, I had a brush with a landslide. But the story begins way before that. So here’s the time I almost died, and why you have to visit Himachal Pradesh.
Before the Bus
Emmanuel had decided to take me to one of his favorite places in India—the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, also known as Himachal Pradesh. We’d traveled to a few other places in northern India (Amritsar, Chandigarh, and Shimla) all of which you’ll get to read about in other posts, and we were finally headed from Shimla to Reckong Peo, which would act as our hub as we traveled throughout Himachal Pradesh.
Bus stands in India are crazy, namely there is no organization whatsoever. This time was extra crazy because we almost missed our bus! No one seemed to know where the bus was going, apparently because Reckong Peo was not its final destination. Somehow though, by vaulting over my suitcase, pushing a few people around, and Emmanuel tying down one of our bags on the roof, we made it into our seats and off to the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains.
Why I Won’t Travel at Night
Our bus left Shimla at 6:30pm, which we thought was a great idea. Get on the bus, sleep, and wake up 8 hours later in Reckong Peo. Travel at nighttime, especially through the mountains is much, much scarier than the daytime. Sure, in the daytime you can see the 4,000 meters or so below where you’d plummet to your death, but there’s something much more frightening in not knowing what’s ahead.
Also, the local buses are not cut out for sleeping on, I’ll just be honest. They’re bumpy and packed with wall to wall people sitting and standing, so despite trying and trying, I just couldn’t fall asleep!
After what happened next, you’ll understand why we vowed to never travel at night again.
Wide awake at 2 am, I felt our bus come to a screeching haul next to three other cars who’d also stopped on the slide of a cliff. The next thing I heard was the most frightening sound I’ve heard in my life: rocks falling from the mountain above directly into our bus’ path.
“All the men off to help move the stones,” the bus driver yelled. And those who were awake, which weren’t many, obliged. Fear must have been so real in my eyes, because Emmanuel looked at me and asked “do you want me to stay here with you or can I go.” Selfishly, I wanted him to stay by my side because I was genuinely afraid that if he left, I might never see him again. Most unwillingly, I told him to go help.
You could hear the sound of men grunting, shouting in unison to all move the stones at the same time. But these weren’t your run of the mill stones, these were boulders. And as my boyfriend and many other men were trying to move these boulders, I heard the sound again—more boulders, rocks, and dirt falling from the mountain. And then the sound of men yelling in Hindi.
My heart stopped.
Thankfully, Emmanuel came back to report that we couldn’t move the stone for the bus to go over the landslide. We figured the bus would turn back to Shimla. Nope. Our bus was going to wait for someone to come, in the morning, to move the boulders. So we sat, on a non-AC bus, parked on the side of a mountain in Himachal Pradesh, waiting for morning.
“What do you mean they’re moving the bus?”
After only about an hour and a half of sleep on the bus, it was about 5:30 am and the sky was beginning to show the signs of sunrise. And then three vehicles passed our bus. Somehow these cars had made it over the landslide coming the opposite direction. At that moment, you could feel a fire lit under the men on our bus, and out they poured to again attempt to move the boulders out of the way.
They were successful.
As Emmanuel re-boarded the bus, I looked at him with tears in my eyes and said “what do you mean they’re moving the bus?” No one had come with a backhoe yet and I knew there was still so much of the landslide left on the roadway. Yet, the driver of our bus had deemed it safe to travel on.
I will not sugar coat this: I full on ugly cry, sobbed as we drove over the landslide because I just knew that the bus wasn’t going to make it. Every time the rear of the bus started to slide, I pictured the bus crashing over the side of the mountain. I just knew that we were going to die and my body would never be recovered from this site.
Did I mention that Kinnaur Road which we were traveling on is listed as one of the most deadly in India. Seriously, y’all, I cannot make this stuff up…
Success and Reckong Peo
As the sun began to rise over Himachal Pradesh, I saw the most beautiful scenery I ever laid eyes on. Even being in the foothills of the Himalayas, mountains were so tall and snow capped. And we had survived the night!
Our bus woes weren’t over though, because just 5 kilometers from Reckong Peo, we had to abandon our bus (literally) on the side of the road and board another bus because of some tire issue. Alas, I’ve never been happier to step onto solid ground than when we arrived at the Reckong Peo bus stand.
Why You Have to Visit Himachal Pradesh
There are two easy reasons why you have to visit Himachal Pradesh: the people and the view. We encountered some lovely people during our time in Kalpa and Reckong Peo. Helpful, pleasant, and always smiling, these folks are hard workers and live in sometime harsh conditions, but they have the best hearts you will ever meet.
And the view. I mean, people, when we stepped out of our guesthouse, we stepped onto a balcony facing snow capped mountains. How much better does it get? Himachal is so much untouced beauty, in part because many places are only accessible a few months out of the year. I was in awe as we were driving to see just how gorgeous these places were. We didn’t get to make it to many other places we had planned because of landslides, but other stunning places to check out in Himachal Pradesh are Spiti Valley, Chitkul, Manali, and Tosh, just to name a few!
Want to learn more about visiting India? Make sure to check out my posts on getting an e-Visa and my time in Kerala! I promise you won’t be disappointed if you come visit India. And if you’ve already been, drop your favorite destinations in the comments! I’m already wanting to start planning my next trip here and hopefully I can visit your favorite India destination!
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In my own world,