Monday, 19 January 2009

treck to Indian border

Labouche-Namchee Bazaar Day 9

It was a very cold night again -15 inside my tent so was very happy to quickly be on my way and walking to generate some body heat. Within a short time I warmed up and found myself flying along, wow! I am a walking machine, tak, tak, tak, tak, the more I descend the stronger I feel, my body must have got well acclimatized and now I feel as though I have twice as many resources at hand. I march along at full speed, enjoying the way my body is feeling and watching the scenery drift past. I plough up the hills like I have nitrous oxide fitted to my thighs and do not want to stop for anything. I am enjoying the ride so much, the rapidly changing scenery and looking forward to explore new places. My breathing is like I am at rest and my feet are in perfect rhythm, time flows by very easily and so do the kilometers, I am somewhere else not really aware like in a dream my body is doing everything automatically whilst my mind feels completely free. I have a great sense of love welling up in my heart, of nature of beautiful things, feelings. I trace the sunlight as it filters through the Himalayan foliage around me, it all seems so enhanced, bright, sparkly, clear, crystal clear like my mind is feeling and my heart. I feel very clean. I start to see lots of detail around me, colors, and shapes, patterns that have always been there but not truly observed or noticed. Nature is truly infinite. Never static always changing, we are no different we are also organic and abide to the same rules and changes, birth, death, rebirth. Matter cannot be completely destroyed or created it just changes from one state to another. We fear change, we get too precious about things, yet change is for sure, it is so important to accept change, nothing is ever permanent.

Mountains are a place of purity of less is more, exposed, we present ourselves, vulnerable, we are naked to the raw elements that can come down upon us, we have to be humble and respectful to survive. Mountains are a window to the soul and a union between man and nature .......... our creator.

Namchee Bazaar-Kharikola 12 hours Day 10

I tried to write something in my diary today but I was completely spent, too tired after walking 12 hours late into the evening trying to get to Kharikola. Arrived 8.30, dark and set up tent. Icollapsed into a deep sleep.

Kharikola-Nanjing 9 hours Day 11

From here now onwards we leave the main Base camp trail and head south east towards the Indian border, passing close by to Mira peak.
Another big start to the day turning off from the main trail on to a tiny trail that cut steeply up through a few houses and then to lose itself amongst heavy forest, which was difficult to follow but felt good to be within a more natural setting rather than all the rows of guest houses that had been prior to this. The trail finally leveled out and reached a small village in time as my stomach was complaining about food again. I had been strict with it for most of the week surviving on rations that I had prepared, dried food, pasta, and I had lost a lot of weight. I could feel bone now when I sat down, it was uncomfortable, there was no padding on my rear any more, my arms were cut and I could see every muscle.
I noticed a place where villagers were all eating, it looked good, bloody smelled good, my stomach said what the hell are you waiting for, so decided to try to stock up with some extra calories. I dropped my bag to the floor outside many curious faces all watching me, “Namaste, Kana daal baat?” ello eat Daal Baat? someone points to sit down inside, so I go in and my eyes squint adjusting to the dark, smoky interior. I love it, the familiar smell of wood, cooking, spices and all the other condiments of Nepali lifestyle. Shafts of bright sunshine pierce through the bamboo slits in the wall, creating a 3 dimensional venetian blind effect, as it illuminates and slices through the fog from the open fire. I sit and amuse myself for a while watching dragons and demons dance and fight with each other, this laser show of light, smoke and fire.
The food arrives, a huge plateful of rice, daal curry, a few curried potatoes and saag, spinach. Aaaaah yes I cant wait, my stomach cant wait, my eyes are bulging and mouth salivating. I dive in local style with my hand and scoop up a huge handful and pack it into my mouth, its like I have been on a desert island for years the spices and different textures flood my senses, I am very happy and I smile at the others “ram ro cha, mito” very good, very tasty, they laugh, smile and the feeding continues. I finish and they fill my plate up again two more huge platefuls which I quickly get down, my stomach is swimming around in it and is completely ecstatic, for a few more hours at least.
Fuelled up now and ready to go. I can see the way ahead from here, at the far end of the village the trail starts climbing up steeply again to a pass through the ridge behind, its going to use up at least half a plateful of Daal baat to get up there I calculate.
800 meters up, 2 hours later, hot and sweaty now with the midday sun I turn to see the tiny houses of the village below where I came from and the thin streaks of kitchen smoke lazily drifting across the Himalayan range, aaahhh Daal baat, goodbye.
Now as I reach the top of the pass I can see for the first time the land to the east, a formidable horizon of mountains, rivers, deep valley. I can see the direction I need to go and its not going to be easy, about three big rivers to cross which means three big climbs and descents as we traverse south east across them.
The trail descends now to the first river, its very steep, very long and my calf muscles feel like swollen balloons about to pop, but I am loving this part of Nepal, no guest houses, jungle, lots of it, a few tiny villages, ahh I feel am home, this is where I feel it, already I am planning in my mind what not to do next time if I come to Nepal and where I want to be.
I enjoyed going to the base camp but the commercial squeeze is too much for me, it is good that they are earning a living but I think Sagamartha is holding her head in shame with this highway of chocolate wrappers to the top of the world.
It’s a crazy descent to the river I am slipping on the dusty lose surface half climbing, hanging on to trees, peering down over a deep precipice into a raging river far below. I cross a long suspension bridge and take some video of this dramatic area, the noise of the river below drowning out any other sound. I am being looked down upon by two huge walls of rock and jungle either side of me, I feel so small again.
I start to climb up the other side it feels such a waste of energy I have just come all this way down to have to start climbing up again and then to do it all over again maybe another two times, I try not to think about it too much and drop down into low range.
I pass by a few tiny houses perched high up on the side of the mountain. I stop to talk and refresh with their water, real local Nepali people, I love them, so clean in their hearts not wanting anything from you here and perfectly happy for you to stay a while to just be, talk a little.
I climb almost to the top, but I can feel the energy just starting to fade, then I notice a stone shelter built next to a stream in the middle of this forest, yes a perfect place to stay for the night I decide. I clear the ground, collect some wood for the night and arrange my things, so good to outside like this. Soon my fire crackles away and I am warm, fed and completely relaxed, just enjoying the simplicity of this forest, its different sounds and sensations, it is so peaceful, so quiet. I feel cradled in its arms and by the warmth and light of the fire. I settle down to sleep.

Nanjing-Sonam Day 12

This was the biggest day so far with a 2000m climb then to drop down again another 1500m, both my up and down muscles were completely spent. I cannot believe how un-flat this place is, there was no relief from the relief at all with standing on some sort of steep gradient, loose rock that was like trying to walk over a demolition site, my knees were sore and throbbing from the barrage of shock they were trying to absorb.
I came across a basic guest house, the first one I have seen on this trail and just before the next big pass. I see no good place to camp and feel the need of a good meal again, my body reserves are low and I feel the need to eat, lots. I had been dreaming about food the last few nights even my stomach comes to haunt me in my dream state. I was lost in some sort of junk food fantasy, enjoying this virtual treat of food fantasies, pizzas dripping with grease, chocolate, sandwiches of cream, honey, biscuit, caramel…...arrrgh I woke up sweating and still grinding my teeth, disappointed with the lack of sweet things that this waking reality presented. I laughed to myself whilst waiting for my next plate of food to arrive, aaaah yes we are going to feed well tonight as I catch a glimpse of a jar of jam, trying to hide behind a bottle of pickles he thinks he is safely locked away under lock and key. I think to myself, “that will not be safe for long” Hmmmm pancakes. I am only small weighing in at this time what felt like probably 47kilos yet I have an uncontrollable appetite fuelled by my passion for cooking and eating. I feel I can eat three times my own body weight. The feast soon started and continued until I could no longer entertain anything to do with food. I belched and crawled on my hands and knees to my room, no, leave me alone I’m full I’ve had enough, aaah but sir its only wafer thin…..!
Tomorrow I will need all this fuel, the last big obstacle a 3400m pass. I was glad to have pushed hard yesterday to leave a short climb in the morning, after here things should get a little easier as we descend down into a valley to follow a river to Tumblingta, here I was hoping to find some sort of transport to get me to the border.

Sonam-Gothe Bazaar 8 hours Day 13

Very pleased with the progress it looks like I will complete the journey 1 week less than what I predicted, without compromising on missing out on any of the atmosphere.
I really enjoyed the guest house last night it was not like the others I had seen trying to compete with each other and providing all the European comforts they could. I come here to get away from our life style, so I really enjoyed the basics here living as they do, we had no electricity, nothing, basic food no menu just eat whatever they have available and are prepared to cook that evening, its simple, its uncomplicated and leaves nothing to be disappointed about. I really feel like I am in real
Nepal here.

Sonam-Gothe Bazaar 8 hours Day 14

I am feeling great my body is well fed now and I am very light not carrying any excess, I enjoy a long walk down to the valley below, cross a suspension bridge and follow local trails through small villages, here I am lost in a timeless world of village life and crops being gathered.
I have just finished reading a book about the early attempts on Everest. I thought it topical but not something that proved to keep me feeling warm at night I must confess. There was an extract that I felt was very interesting it was written by a young Sherpa lad who had lost both parents to the commercialization of Everest, in fact all his family and relatives had died in the end trying to help rich foreigners who had no or very little experience to climb Everest, fuelled by their poverty they committed themselves into trying to assist these unworthy, money cushioned attempts to get these people to the top. Putting the lives of many Sherpas at risk and who consequentially died, his final statement was that Sagamartha is a sacred place and should only be reached by those worthy and able bodied people, without the aid of oxygen that today still litters the side of something pure. It is mans desire and greed to fulfill egotistical goals at the expense of others and of the surrounding natural beauty it should be kept pure as possible.
It was a great day full of small villages and jungle scenery, no tourists and no guest houses. I feel that I want to walk forever now, never stop just keep going.
I walk late into the evening accompanied by a fantastic sunset behind me. I feel like some movie star in an exotic setting my shadow taller than my soul, stretching far out in front of me. I cross a small bridge and just as I was passing two bamboo houses, I stopped to watch an old woman, she was busy weaving some dried straw to form circle pads which she then bound together to make a comfortable little stool. I smiled but could not communicate apart from saying `very good` in Nepali, she pointed to the house and made a sign to sleep with her hands, “ok yeah great” I say, it did not take much convincing for me to stay here, I felt very at home. I had a great evening her children and relatives came round to enjoy a new face and we all ate together and talked, laughed, joked. I really love these people.
I passed a similar place the day before, so peacefull I almost had to stop, but I felt if I did I would get stuck and never come back again. That I would forget everything of the west and live this life with them. Their children were playing in the next field of freshly cut straw, all ages playing perfectly well, no crying, bullying or being spiteful. The relatives close by all busy with daily life, collecting, drying, making things, it was like you could feel the natural clockwork of the time, the season, the hour and everyone had their thing to do, it was beautifull, you could feel the love and warmth between them all, unhindered by clutter, free to apply care and attention all aspects of living as a unit, a village, a community. I know I am not one of them and never can be, but I see so much of what they have that is good, pure and simple. Less is more.

Gothe Bazaar-Chainpur 6 hours Day15

I followed the local trails as best I could in the direction of the river that would soon intersect with the bigger ones that were running South. several times I got lost amongst the maze of small local trails and villages that started off in the right direction but then soon ended up inside someone`s pig shed or front room, it was like that and I amused myself for most of the day this way to finally descend to the valley below at a heavily enriched altitude of 700m. I felt very, very fit.
I joined with the big river that was now like walking on the west coast of
France, kilometers of almost white sand lined its dry river banks. I followed to finally arrive at Chainpur at around , a relatively small town/village but seemed like a sprawling chaotic mess again compared to the few days of jungle and simplicity. I mooched around for a while looking out for signs of transport. I came across a land rover packed full of locals, they agree to let me ride and I scramble up on to the only available seat left, up on the roof, next to two others, a sack of oranges, potatoes, chickens, rice. I make friends with the sack of potatoes and wedge myself in for what was to be a very bumpy ride. The road was very rough, if you could call it a road that had to literally go through two rivers and then a camel trophy ride to arrive at Chainpur for .
I set up base camp literally in the bus station that night, which was a patch of dirt high up overlooking the southern Nepalese landscape, so that I would not miss any ride out of here early in the morning, they would have to run me over first. I was told a bus may or may not arrive at

Chainpur-God knows where

1st gear bus ride of hell. We set off down a road¦! Well I did see a sign that said this was a Nepalese development road, but I don`t think this road had even been proposed, let alone developed in any way or even should have been driven on. I was not sure if I wanted to hand the bus driver a medal or sentence him for crimes committed against the gearbox and cruelty to buses in general. No matter how beat up or how old they were they did not deserve this sort of abuse, to cross rivers, span crevasses, to defy motor mechanics and to supersede all the maximum tolerance specifications of its original design. The tortured engine screamed and continued to scream along in 1st gear for most of the journey, sometimes managing to get a pleasant crunch out of second or was it two and a half! All this and having to try to find some part of my arse that did have a little flesh on it to cushion me from the hard seat and hammering ride. I had now lost a lot of weight. I did not have too much to spare in the first place, it was painful to sit, my hair was matted, my face covered in a thick Chris Bonnington beard, dried snot, mud, dust, the cloth of my trousers were hiding behind a film of sweat, jungle and food that somehow missed my mouth. I looked a mess.
We crossed another river, literally straight through it, yes in a bus, it screamed across still in first, trying to keep up speed so as not to get stuck and bounced so high I left my seat and nearly landed on the lap of the guy next to me. Then it climbed up the other side to come to a complete stop behind a collection of queuing vehicles. There were many people buzzing around, police, goats, and chickens which were all looking serious and pecking at the up turned truck in the middle of the road. Nothing was moving very much. I got the story a little later that a child had been killed in a road accident, so emotions were very high, plenty of pointing and waving of arms around, crying, old men chewing betel, old women chewing betel, cats, dogs and the uncles brothers sisters cousin. Hours passed, I could not understand why things were not moving, there seemed to be enough room to go around, but by the look on everyone`s faces they had all resigned to a long wait for some reason. Eventually the police decided they had enough Daal Baat and chai, cigarettes and made some sort of announcement, then out came those bits of paper again which got passed around and waved about at each other, this seems to be a re occurring trend these days. Then more standing around. What is going on? Maybe they were waiting around until the soul had time to depart properly, sometime around 2.30 I hoped. Then there was a need for lots of shouting and more finger pointing, crying, then a protest. This became a cycle of events that went around at least four times in short emotional waves before they all started to get bored with it, the chickens left first, then the goats, then finally the people. Maybe they had got everything out of their system by now and any stray souls looking for the light had decided they were better of out of there. Their absence felt, the crowds dispersed along with them. Gingerly the vehicles went on by and for the next 8 hours I fidgeted uncomfortably on my bony ass as we crawled along in 1st again.
We arrived late because of this mornings hold up and had to stop short of our destination at a convenient town. I had no Nepalese currency on me now as the prices in the national parks broke my budget and no where to change any, so now it was late, dark, and I was tired with no enthusiasm to find somewhere to camp, but the Gods decided to come down upon me again. I saw a European face for the first time in many days, they also surprised by the encounter came and introduced themselves, a lovely couple of whom the guy new this place well as he had been working here on some aid program a few years ago, now he was returning to visit friends here, he quickly offered to book me into his friends guest house, he seemed to be close friends with everyone here, they all knew him and it was a joy to see their faces light up when they became reunited with him, obviously he had a great experience here. He told me what an incredible time he had, getting to live with and to know these people. I can quite imagine, he spoke fluent Nepalese and obviously got a great deal out of the experience. I thanked him for his help and had a great night, hot shower which was much needed and good food.
I was told to meet back at the bus at
to continue the rest of the journey, so with that I had set my alarm and settled down to sleep. I slept like the dead that night, to awake before my alarm went off, feeling completely refreshed and wide awake. I looked at the watch it read I turned it off and quickly got my things together and without any thought tried to get out. I forgot to tell them I wanted to be away early, there was no sign of life, pitch black. I switched my headlamp on and traced my way out to the door that was locked, shit, I walked around making as much noise as I could hoping someone would get up, but nothing, no one. I tried the rear door to find another way out. No I don`t believe it I am locked in. I go up some stairs and find myself out onto a balcony. I look around and then I heard a voice in my mind saying “you are thinking to leg it over there aren`t you!” Hmmmm maybe, I think to myself as I peer over the side, it looks not too far, but its dark and my fading batteries cast a yellow area of light which I cannot work out how far it is. I move a few pot plants and like a cat burglar I step out on to side. My bag is heavy and I calculate that I am going to drop like a sack of spuds, thud….. I drop drown maybe 3 meters, nothing breaks. I get up from underneath my rucksack, which had a nice soft landing thanks to turning in mid air and landing on me, so I brush myself off and walk quickly to where the bus was. I start to look around but its completely deserted, this is funny I think, normally by this time things are starting to come to life. In Asia everyone gets up very early. I get to where the bus is parked, but the same thing no one. I think to myself that we should be going soon, then that feeling of doubt starts to saturate my mind, now a small alarm bell was saying alert! Alert! Warning. OK what`s gone wrong? What`s happening? I look inside the bus and I can see the driver, he is asleep. I try to wake him but no matter how hard I try he will not wake up.
Maybe I was not as awake as I thought I was when I got up this morning. I started clawing around inside my mind trying to find an answer to this little mystery, and ah haaaa as usual there was no great mystery……I check the time again it says
.. eh! ........Still..! Hang on. Suddenly I realise that time was not frozen at exactly . I woke up to look at the alarm time that I had set, thinking this was the current time, I immediately swap it over from the alarm display to the current time, I looked, no way it was only 11.35pm.. bloody hell¦.. I had slept deep from and woke two and half hours later thinking it was time to go. All the pieces suddenly fell in to place clak, clak, clak,.Aaaaaah. Well ok there was no way I was going to lose face and go back to the guest house. I looked at the alternatives and climbed up on to the roof of the bus, then looked up at the incredibly clear, beautiful sky. The milky way stretched from horizon to horizon. I was instantly hypnotized in the dead of the night, complete solitude and stared deep into the dreamtime of that cosmos for a moment, just enough time to lose myself within all these stars, all these possibilities and thought to myself “yes I want to be here” I unpacked my sleeping bag and found a comfortable place to lay down and stared dreamily into the heavens. I started to chuckle to myself, which broke out into a full belly laugh from the bottom of my soul. I saw myself, an image within this universe, a point a tiny dot upon this scene, this situation, this place, those words in my mind again”yep I did not think this was going to happen today” again that statement seemed to echo through out my life and continues to smack me in the back of my mind when I am least expecting it..this time it said…..”you stupid idiot” the stupid idiot in me then stood up from the crowd he was hiding amongst to put up his hands, and said “eah fair enough, that was a pretty good gaff wasn`t it?”.
All these things you go through whilst travelling, the pleasures, the pains, the highs and the lows, somewhere in between there is balance, when all becomes calm, there is clarity, peace and acceptance. Ours is not the only culture in the world, no better, no worse just different bits of better and worse, but the differences make me humble. I hold dear in my heart all these experiences, and especially the people I have met and the exchange of time between us for the rest of my days.


Time 21:21

No comments:

Post a Comment