May 17th 1984

posted in: The way back, Uncategorized | 1

And so began the mad rush for home.  We had the tantalising promise of dinner in Kathmandu dangling in front of our mind’s eye, but it would require moving along speedily, + a good deal of luck.  We followed the path quickly up to the road, + then stuck to that, hoping to pick up a ride once we’d got beyond the point after which vehicles couldn’t go.  We coped much better with the workers, + for that matter with everyone else, when I adopted the role of benevolent commanding officer wandering around the camp.  I would bark “Namaste” in a loud, imperious + challenging manner, shaming all + sundry into replying.  Nothing like a bit of role-play to help one thro’ a sticky situation.  At times, even tho’ we were following along the road, we were forced to resort to some scrambling.  The workers would point to some crumbly steps rudely cut into the cliff with a spade, + with a shrug to cover our extreme nervousness, up we would go.  But once on the part of the road open to traffic, there were no more such problems, all we had to counter was the boredom of the tedious plod.  It was hard to get any solid information about the likelihood of a truck, but we knew there was none behind us, so it seemed sensible to keep on walking.  Even when a couple of trucks did drive past us, going the other way, we discovered they weren’t likely to return until about 1 pm, so we decided it would be better to carry on, especially since it was thought to be far more likely there would be trucks to + from a town lower down the road, called Kalikati.  By keeping to the road, we were much higher than the path, + for a while we were horrified by what seemed to be the only 2 options available to us – following the road down its tortuous path, snaking back + forth to lose altitude; or scrambling down the hill, not a pleasant prospect.  Fortunately tho’, we happened on a real path leading down, + saving a lot of time.  It was just as well, since it was my turn to be ailing.  Both of my hips have been plaguing me, on + off, all the time we have been in Nepal, aggravated by the exercise I suppose, + this time it was the turn of the left one to play up.  So, it was with enormous relief that we, or I, stumbled into the village.

It had a bhati, or tea-house, albeit a more than faintly grotty one, but they were able to supply basic needs – food, potato curry + curd + biscuits; + drink: sweet tea.  There was also a lot of activity on the road, with 3 trucks heading up[wards, + 2 of them returning shortly, + stopping outside.  We were assured by the drivers, however, that they weren’t going down to Trisuli, or even to Batrwati, tho’ it was difficult to imagine where else they could be going.  Eventually, the 3rd one came down too, + yes, they were going to Trisuli, + yes, they could take us.  The driver indicated a place another hundred yards or so further down where they could stop, + off he went, us plodding after with our packs.  It was only then that we discovered the village’s other bhati, much more salubrious + better-stocked.  They even had bottle of orange soda – I emptied 2 with 2 swallows.

Then onto the truck.  We clambered up into the back, then forward + upward to our assigned perch, a box on top of the driver’s cab.  We were more than pleased – it was airy + sunny, gave us a good view, + as I sat on my pack, it wasn’t even uncomfortable.  It was only when we started to move that the drawbacks became apparent.  The roads were dry + dusty, + we soon found ourselves in a thin grey film.  Because we were heading steeply downhill, we found ourselves sliding forwards.  But worst of all, by far the worst,  was that we found ourselves in the hot seat for a nightmare ride.  The road twisted + turned, back + forth down the mountainside with hairpin bends, with a sheer drop over the side, + no safety barriers, + we were racing down the hill.  We didn’t even have an engine for most of the way – they kept trying to bumpstart, but then seemed to give up, + freewheeled.  More times than I could count I was convinced I was about to plunge to an early death, never seeing 31, but  no-one else seemed to care.  The locals aboard were chatting, laughing, singing as if it were a charabanc outing to Bognor.  It was a much longer ride down than we’d expected, but eventually we rattled into Betrawati.

There, a big tall American, the one we had met up the trail who had told us about the cheese, climbed aboard, + off we went again, final stretch.  We were dropped off again, all 3 of us foreigners, outside of town, I don’t know why.  I had no idea what the time was, but had given up hope on Kathmandu, but to my joy, relief, the K bus was still there.  We hurriedly bought our tickets, stowed our bags on the roof – I somehow managed to move the big man’s pack, a superhuman task, then grabbed one ice-cold coke from the shop across the way before squeezing onto the bus.  There were seats for us, but it hardly mattered, since there wasn’t enough room between them to fit one’s knees, let alone the rest of one’s legs.  The big guy had the best idea – he rode the first half of the journey on the roof.  His main thoughts were for security, but he had the most comfortable ride too.  Unluckily for him (+ for us too – we weren’t likely to have our bags interfered with while he was riding shotgun) he was told to come below for the second half.  The ride was long + uncomfortable, so we were thoroughly pleased to pull in, for the 3rd time, to Kathmandu.

We arranged with the big guy, called John, to meet for dinner, then went back to our guest-house.  We were relieved to discover they still had our bag, tho’ somehow – things never go perfectly tight at the place – they had mislaid our washbag + towel.  After a shower, we had some Bob Hope to relax, then went to our favourite corner-bar for a beer before going to Naryans.  Big John was amiable but unexciting, but the meal was superb.  I overate grossly + felt rather ill, but I think it was worth it.

This being our final day on the trail, the photos are a selection of the various ones that have somehow not made it on to the daily posts. And we are back in Kathmandu, our trekking days done. It had been a wonderful experience, albeit an unexpected one, but, like most of our trip, we had somehow staggered into it.

  1. Pamela J Blair

    Your trip in the truck reminds me of one I took on top of a cab in Ethiopia. The bed was piled up to the cab with beer bottles, on which sat about a dozen people and their bundles, baskets of vegetables and chickens, and it felt so unsafe, almost like a rubber raft in water, that I moved up to the cab, which had a chrome railing about two inches above it that I could hang onto. The road seemed to wind along the spine of the mountains, and I was sure it would go off one side or the other. I was continually looking for places to jump to. The only thing that calmed me was thinking the guy needed to get those beer bottles to the brewery. Obviously, we made it.

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