As I went into my harmonica solo for Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” I realized that something was wrong. Well, I had switched to a D harp for the previous Springsteen song. But they don’t know the difference. Do they? . I quickly popped my A harp back into my holder and completed the song to the mild amusement of the onlookers. They seemed happy.
Landslides are a pretty grim reality here at times. In the middle hills in front of the Himalayas. Every year hundreds, if not thousands, of people die during the monsoon across the large swath of Himalayan foothills likely from Pakistan all the way to Eastern India. Sometimes whole villages. Buried. Communities and families destroyed. Farms wiped out. Then they rebuild. Karma? Hmmmm.
They are also a daily occurrence along the roads.
Today we were lucky enough to experience three. One that lasted a long time as the villagers nearby armed with a big backhoe device cleared the road. As I shared my driver’s spliff (yes my driver likes to smoke pot while navigating these winding treacherous dirt roads as we roll down from 10000 feet to near sea level.) “Two hours sir.” So I pulled out my travel guitar and harmonica and perched myself on the nearest errant boulder and started to play.
What started as a few people, quickly grew to 20 (maybe 100 people are waiting on each side. Growing every minute.) As I looked up at the end of the first song and saw the people, I had my first real connection with the people here. I got a good laugh and smile out of them when I smiled. Realizing I was the only westerner there and we were all in the same boat. Pictures and videos ensued.
It has been so hard to connect with people here as I have mentioned. So any chance I get……
So the rest of my time in Tawang was great. It’s a beautiful place and you likely saw pictures of my taxi ride to the Bhutan border. I am crossing into Bhutan on Sunday to see my friend Chhimi from Grad school. Everyone should have a Bhutanese friend! Haha.
But I’m crossing a different border. The one I visited I am not allowed to cross. But the Indian guards made me fill out all the forms so I could walk 100 meters past their post. Then fill them out again when I returned. I got a good laugh with the army dudes.
My taxi driver, Tashi, was a nightmare. If you can imagine 9 hours in a taxi with an Indian guy with very basic English trying to impress you enough to go back to the US with you. “sir one time I have tourist and they said I’m the best driver” in the first five minutes. “Sir you bring girlfriend next time and I marry and come to USA” And my favorite. “More rice sir? ” No. More rice sir. No. More rice sir. No. More rice. NO!!!
AND he insisted on making me skip songs on my iPod he didn’t like.
I kid you not that was the exchange. “Sir I come to hotel with gift later.” Dude just get me home.
So the drive was basically like driving thru the Nepalese foothills weaving thru valleys and villages with the highlight being the giant white Tara statue I put in pics. Just staring out over the valley. Stunning.
My long drive back was me trying to figure out how to get out of this painful situation. Knowing full well I got fleeced on the fare.
We finally left yesterday to make the now two day drive back to the heat in Guwahati. The highlight today being my driver, not high yet, flying down the twisting and turning dirt roads in the densest fog I have ever been in. And I lived in San Francisco! No shit maybe 40 feet of visibility. Maybe. He hates using headlights. Some mild buttpuckering moments as he leaned his head out of the car to see better, then slammed on the brakes to avoid an oncoming vehicle. Careful not to slip too close to the side. Its a one lane road. It’s an absolutely stunning drive thru rolling mountains and steep drop offs and waterfalls and rivers and streams.
We dropped thru the fog enough to start to feel the heat right when we stopped with these 100 or so cars eventually. Parked on this landslide road, totally exposed. Light drizzle. Bugs. Sweaty. Steep 500 foot drop down to our side. And I am just so happy not to
have the shits.