Tuesday, 25 October 2011

No worries. . .

"Who would want to be anywhere else?" The question was rhetorical but I could see Ben's point. I was riding in the cab and enjoying the scenery just as much as he was. "I mean, who would want to be in an office, compared to this", he added. Quite.

We were heading deeper into Bhutan, probing these remote roads for the first time. And they were not disappointing us. Passes and valleys, dense forests, lush vegetation, fast running rivers, bright sunshine - we had it all.

I remarked how wonderful it was to see all this without any traffic too. Ben was agreeing as we swept around a corner to realise why - landslide roadworks. Two canary yellow Catapillars were busy scooping earth and displacing large boulders while a line of traffic waited on either side. Fortunately, our side got the nod to drive through just as we joined the queue.

I know Ben is probably the best driver I will ever meet but even so, this looked like a real challenge. What some fool had called a road was barely wide enough for one car let alone an 11 ton truck. And the surface looked like a child's sandpit - there was neither cement nor tar-macadam to be seen.

Did I mention that we had a cliff for company on my side and a precipitous drop on the other?

"No worries" Ben said, reading my worried look, with than unsettling upward inflection at the end that turns every Australian statement into a question. (Pity the poor bride hearing her beloved say "I do" and wondering is this the biggest mistake of her life. But I digress.)

Ben released the clutch slowly and inched forward. Snowy heaved up and down through each pothole deliberately, under expert direction. The cliff face loomed large and I involuntarily searched for a brake pedal at my foot. I was relieved not to be able to see properly out Ben's window. I suddenly found myself with no head for heights.

Slowly, steadily, we made progress until we cleared the troublesome section. I breathed a sigh of relief. Ben flashed a smile in my direction. "No worries", he added, for good measure.

I thought we were clear but there was another challenge in front of us. Although the road was wider, the parked line of oncoming vehicles left an even narrower passage. To complicate matters there was a deep gulley we had to avoid. If the wheels slipped off the road into it, we would need a crane to extricate ourselves.

I mentioned this non-trivial challenge to Ben.

"No worries", came his reply, inflection still rising.

With a nonchalance entirely misplaced, Ben slipped into gear, eyes darting left and right at his mirrors.

"How're we doing, Bob?"

I peered out my window and was alarmed to see the front wheels only inches from the gulley. I quickly informed Ben and added with as much sang-froid as I could muster that the edge of the road was crumbling under the weight of the truck, sliding us toward the gulley.

"No worries". And with minute adjustments he continued his masterclass in spatial negotiation until the whole road was ours, landslide, boulders, gulley and all far behind us.

No worries.

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