Himalayan Highway to Hell

May 2008

During the six years I live in India I went on a lot of bus rides and of course  none of them was actually pleasant.

The Himalayan roads are situated on rank 5 on the list of the world’s most dangerous roads and the worst bus ride experience I ever had by far was driving down the Himalayas from Gangotri:

The weather was miserable, it was freezing cold and rainy. Shortly after the departure it started raining cats and dogs. Soon it rained so much, that I could barely figure out what was happening behind the dirty bus windows.

The bus driver did not seem to worry at all and rushed along the incredibly steep slopes. At each bend the brakes squeaked in anguish; and inside of me, my nerves did just the same! I felt as if I was sitting in a rollercoaster instead of in a public transport. The only thing I could see when looking outside was the sky; not even one inch of the narrow road was visible.

To cap it all, a thunderstorm came up gradually; soon the bus was not only shaken from side to side due to the extremely bad road conditions, but the strong wind contributed an extra thrill to the situation. I wiped the mist from the window and distinguished broken trees and electricity poles on the side of the road. Colorful plastic bags, branches and metal objects were whirling high up through the air. I held on tight to my seat and for some reason the movie “The Wizard of Oz”, with the scene where Dorothy’s house gets lifted up to the sky by a tornado, came into my mind. I would not have been surprised at all, if suddenly a cow or the wicked witch of the east would appear from out of nowhere swirling by my bus window.


While Sita Ram Baba was complaining loudly about the driver’s craziness, I silently supplicated and prayed to all the 330.000.000 Hindu Gods. I felt terrified like never before and truly believed that I was spending my last moments on earth. I always thought that my life was good and happy and that if I had to die, it would not be such a big deal; everybody has to do so sooner or later.

In the end, death is the only thing that will come to all of us for sure!

But in that precise instant I suddenly realized that I had been wrong; I was not prepared to die at all! I still wanted to have kids and see them grow! I felt the urge to hug my family and friends who were far away back home and after all I still needed to meet my parents before I died, to tell them that their crazy daughter had married an Indian Sadhu without their knowledge!

..and by the way…

Where the heck were Toto, Tin Man, Lion and the Scarecrow?!?

Sita Ram Baba was still complaining and now started to threaten the driver with peeing into his stainless-steel-indian-tupperware-container if the bus would not stop immediately!

Suddenly the two jeeps that were driving just in front of us braked hard and so did the bus with a long and extremely loud and awful creak. The passengers had to hold on hard to avoid being catapulted towards the front; a huge tree had crashed onto the road, right in front of us. That was close! First nobody moved; then several Indian heroes jumped off the vehicles into the pouring rain and started to pull on the immense tree, which of course did not move an inch. As if it would help Sita Ram shouted:

“This not working, you Stupids! You need one elephant!”

 and grimly climbed off the bus to follow nature’s call.

A long queue of vehicles started to line up behind us. After about three hours of waiting in the standing bus and observing, like in a movie, how more and more Indian heroes dressed in different styles tried to pull and push on the tree, the rain ceased. Eventually someone tied a rope to a jeep and they succeeded to drag the tree to a side. From that moment on I had the feeling that the bus driver was driving a bit more carefully.

Writing and reading this post made me remember how precious life is and that I really should try harder to be aware of that fact more often in everyday’s life.

It will end one day and I for sure still have a long bucket list and much cleaning up to do before I will feel ready to leave this body; although I wonder if I will ever feel prepared for that last journey…

Thank you, crazy life, for being just the way you are!