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3 October 2011 / leggypeggy

Slip sliding away—but not over the edge

Clearing the landslide at night.

We had an unexpected delay about a week ago in China—actually we have had lots of unexpected delays, but this was a new kind of hiccup.

It was getting later and later at night and we still hadn’t found a decent—let alone big enough and flat enough—space to bush camp. We were cruising through the southern Himalayas, where camping spots aren’t at all easy to come by and where there are plenty of roadworks underway at every turn. For the most part, they are trying to straighten out some of the biggest curves on the highway.

There was a quite a bit of truck traffic on the road and suddenly we all came to a halt. Turns out there had been a landslide not far ahead and the road was completely blocked. Work to clear the mess had just begun. We had no idea how long we would have to wait, so we piled out to have a look and take pictures. I probably got closer than anyone, but I didn’t get too near. No need to interfere with operations.

In the meantime, Will and Lu went off to check out whether any of the nearby peripheral roadwork areas might be suitable for a camp. The verdict was that no area was big enough for a camp, and even if one had been, Will couldn’t have gotten the truck up there.

The first users of the new road—for camping rather than driving.

But within about 20 minutes, the road was clear enough for us to pass. A few impatient drivers shot ahead of us, and we were more than happy to let them do the ‘test’ drive through the shaky ground. There was certainly a collective sigh of relief when Gary announced that we were well past the landslide spot.

Of course, Will was still searching for a camp and as he rounded a large old curve, he noticed that the ‘new’ inner curve being constructed was almost complete, but not yet open to traffic. A quick inspection confirmed that there would be enough space for the truck, our camp kitchen and all the tents.

Will reversed up the new curve and parked across the road at a 45-degree angle to block off any oncoming traffic that turned too soon by mistake (the other end was still blocked off by roadwork equipment), and we all put up our tents behind the truck. Except for being on a slope, the space was pretty good and not nearly as rocky as the photo shows.

The last photo shows the hill where we camped. We were perched about halfway up the photo (see what looks like a ledge) and about one-third of the way across the photo from the left. Where the rock has fallen away on the far left is NOT where our landslide was. That was another one that happened long before we arrived that night.

An unexpected campground in the southern Himalayas.

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