May 14th, 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

Another wonderful morning, good enough for singing, but it didn’t strike us with quite the same force as yesterday, so quickly does familiarity breed contempt.  We decided to climb the high hill immediately behind the hostel.  It was tougher than we thought it would be, since we didn’t find a path, but scrambled up ourselves.  We stopped + sat on a rock as soon as we had climbed high enough to reach the sunshine, + chatted for quarter of an hour.  Then set off once more, onward + upward, taking short breathers.  As we began to approach the top, the clouds started to move in, causing us briefly to regret the not particularly early start we had made, as well as the 15 mins spent in pleasant but idle chatter, but once we were actually there, we found the cloud made little difference.  It wasn’t a solid + fixed mass cutting us off from the world, but wispy + ephemeral, providing interludes of alternating mystery + clarity.  It was good to be there.  There was a definite summit, for one thing, 2 or 3 rough + ready cairns, + a tall improvised flag-pole with a couple of faded + tattered flags sprouting from it.    Many of the hills + smaller peaks sport these as decoration, put there by Buddhists.  Still, once we were there, there wasn’t a great deal to do, + not much more to see, + with the cloud around us it was too cold to linger, so down we went, this time sticking to the path for most of the way.

I had one of my periodic bouts of depression this morning.  More than anything, I had the aching feeling that I was wasting time, that, especially out here in the mountains, I was walking + sleeping.  I didn’t even have the hedonist’s self-satisfaction, since I wasn’t enjoying myself.  We talked it over + decided, rather than spin out the time aimlessly until our flight on the 26th, to advance the flight as much as possible, + if necessary celebrate my birthday early, but the sooner we get moving again, the happier I will be.  And as if in response – it wasn’t in fact, we had already decided to go back – we packed, drank a couple of rusty, filthy + battered cans of delicious pineapple juice, + started off on the return trip.

Once again, it was a pleasant + comfortable walk to Langtang, it seemed to take longer than we had expected, but then we were expecting a really fast trip.  There was an unexpected delay just the other side of the village.  We had a postcard + a couple of letters that we thought it might be nice to send from up there, especially since Langtang had a post office.  We made our way to it across a field.  Outside, sat in the grass, was a young man, the person in charge.  He was being attended by about a dozen delinquent-looking boys of about 8 or 9, some of whom were clutching pens and/or exercise books in grubby hands.  He was, clearly, also the schoolmaster.  It appeared the most thankless of tasks.  Every so often while he was talking to us, they would begin to press round out of curiosity, + with a bellow he would pick up the branch that he used as his instrument of chastisement + self-protection.  One or 2 of them asked us for pens, even tho’ they might be holding a couple already.  We heard later that the most recent big expedition to come thro’ the area, Canadian, had brought in an exercise book + 2 cheap ball-point pens for every child.  And the results of their munificence can be seen littering the villages + streams all over the place.  Our man insisted on seeing our passports, + entering their details in his book (“civil officer” he told us, as a third hat) but his face blanked out entirely in incomprehension.  Obviously, his idea of a post office and ours didn’t co-incide.  So we gave up, said goodbye, + walked off.  We had wasted time unnecessarily, for if we had carried on walking down the trail, no-one would have been any the wiser.  The only consolation was that we did the teacher a good turn by taking him away from his charges.  When I told him I was a teacher too, he offered to let me take over for a while.  Not on your Nepalese nelly!  There wouldn’t be enough rupees in the treasury to pay me for that job.

The hike to Gora Tabela was equally pleasant + non-strenuous, tho’  we did have to struggle past  a large group of locals, on their way to Trisuli, we were told, to buy rice.  At the government lodge, we came upon Martha + Amy, the 2 American girls, who had left Kyangjin early this morning, but Val + I paused only for a cup of tea, then pushed on again to Riverside.  They were headed that way too.  Following the advice of an American we had met on the trail the other day, we stopped at a rough shack, matting thrown over a simple wooden frame, just a few mins before Riverside, + asked about cheese.  Sure enough, he had some, made it himself from the milk of his own yaks.  It wasn’t quite what we’d hoped for, being like a watery, rather acid cottage cheese, but we weren’t in a position to be choosy, + it was very cheap.

Chris with Martha and Amy

At the Lodge too we indulged our taste buds with curd + honey, then later the speciality of the house, momos, with a can of pineapple.  I looked for my friends the birds, but couldn’t see them.  When I was here last, on the upward journey, + had been so sick, I had sat in the sunshine + derived a good deal of pleasure (despite being desperately sorry for myself) watching a particular sort of bird.  It was black, with a white crest, + an orange – I think it was orange – wedge-shape in the tail.  The tail itself had 2 positions like an electric switch, up or down.  I am not usually, by inclination, a naturalist – a bird’s a bird so far as I’m concerned – so I don’t know why these particular ones struck me so forcibly.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve read so often of the4 affinity the sick – and dying indeed! – haver with nature, enjoying heaven’s works while one is still able, etc, etc.  However, I’m not really, + wasn’t then, the poor crippled girl carried downstairs to see her final spring.  I meant to write of all this at the time, but somehow forgot.

After our meal I sat in the warm kitchen + read – where does Clavell get his reputation from?  Noble House is the most appalling nonsense – while Val chatted with Martha + one of the Frenchmen, also down from Kyangjin + heading the same way.  The evening was so much more pleasant than the last one we’d spent here.  This time there was civilised company + warmth.  Above all, warmth.

Despite my depression, it was good to come to a conclusion, and to decide to set our travels going again. Nepal has been an amazing experience, but actually it has proved a diversion, when actually we do have our heads on returning to Europe, and a more purposeful approach to life.

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