Friday, November 26, 2010

Heading for the hills

Now if I was one to believe in omens or the whispers of fate then I probably would have decided against beginning the trek as it seemed as if the fates were conspiring against me ever setting off at all. First off there was the ear infection which laid me low for a week and next it was the unexpected 2 day stop off in Bhuwan's home village of Turture. The plan was the spend a night there so that Bhuwan could catch up with his family and then we'd head off and hit the trail bright and early the next morning. This was something I was initially very happy to go along with as it gave me a rare chance to peek beneath the veneer of Nepalese society. It took two bus rides to get there on two chaotically overcrowded buses - this is the norm in all means of Nepalese transport - and we had one stopover to enjoy some buffalo momos and change buses at Dumre, a place where I also enjoyed watching a fist fight between two Nepalese youths.
Communication in Bhuwan's house was an issue as apart from Bhuwan, only his Dad spoke a smattering of English but, happy in the knowledge that we'd be there for one night only, I was content to ride out the interminable silences that come with language barriers. Besides the family were unfailingly polite and friendly so the awkwardness was felt on my part only. Nepalese males eat daal bhaat twice a day for their entire lives. No matter where they are, no matter what they're doing, lunch and dinner will always be daal bhaat. It's remarkable then that Bhuwan sincerely professes to still love the stuff. Our first meal there is of course daal bhaat and as I'm living with the locals I eat like the locals and tuck into the daal bhaat with my bare hands - no cutlery required. And it's not as easy as you might think. Daal bhaat contains rice which is smothered with lentil soup and then there are the sides of pickles, meat (if you're lucky) and spinach. The food is mixed together and you scoop it up with your right hand - always the right hand as the left hand is used for wiping one's arse and other such unmentionables - and eat. I watched the experts nervously before I tried, trying to give off the air of a man who's eaten several meals like this (do sandwiches count?) and scooped, slopped and swallowed.
The following morning it became clear that we weren't actually hitting the trail that day. Bhuwan's Dad reassured me that we'd be starting tomorrow - a Tuesday - which as he explained to me "Tuesday is lucky day in Nepal." Lucky for some maybe but not if you've been itching to hit the trail for some 10 fucking days. And so we duly spent the day in the village again - not the worst thing in the world by any means - and enjoyed the best of Bhuwan's family's wonderful hospitality.
Tuesday morning arrived and we waited for the bus to take us to the head of the trail at the village of Besi Sahar. Our bus had no room inside but this is Nepal and if there's one thing the Nepalese do well it's space management so up we climbed aboard the roof of the bus and off we went. I hadn't travelled like this since sitting in my father's boat years ago as he brought it to Lough Conn in time for another fishing season of big fish who got away. Eventually there was space for us inside - though I use the word space in the loosest sense - and I sat in the front of the bus with the driver ramming the gear stick into my knee with no little relish on every gear change. Exactly what every trekker wants before a 3 week trek.
About half an hour from Besi Sahar, the final obstacle to our trek emerged most unexpectedly. A motorcyclist, upon seeing our bus, decided that now would be a good time to lose control of his bike and damn well nearly slide right underneath us. Fortunately he stopped before going under and only because our bus had reached the crest of a hill or perhaps my patella saved him. The driver was fine but his passenger cut his knee pretty badly and was none too happy with his pilot. And so finally we reached Besi Sahar.....

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