himalayan entry number 5: we can’t stop, we won’t stop. oh wait, our jeep just stopped. never mind, as you were…

21 Jan

“Earth and skies, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountains and the sea, are all excellent schoolmasters and teach some of us more than we could ever learn from books.” -Lubbock

I won’t write any more of the days in the mountains or coming back out. One of the gifts that travel has given me are memories that can’t be described to anyone else. Memories and feelings that are mine and mine alone to keep until the day I die. It is a bit torturous because all I want to do is share them with everyone I know and love but I can’t. Every single person who travels – and I mean really travels – will receive these gifts on their own time and they will hold them so tightly that they will always have them because no one, not even time, can take them away.

The day we got to Seribu Bensi, the last village on our trek before driving back to Kathmandu, was a day with many emotions. We had made family up there, in those crazy, glorious mountains and I already missed them. As Lucas and I approached the last bridge that we had to cross into the village, we hugged and held hands and hobbled across because we were so sore from the day’s work. We stayed in the village that night using the time to arrange a Jeep back to Kathmandu. What a hellish nightmare; because of the strike (remember we came into the mountains during a holiday and now we were leaving during elections strike… I know, I know… we are excellent at planning), everything was closed, no busses in or out and that meant all of the Jeeps and trucks were taken up. Except one and we got it, thanks to Lucas.

The next morning all vehicles leaving the village had to create a caravan with the police. Because of the elections that were proceeding, there had been some bombings of cars and busses in the previous week or so by extremists. Before our trek we kept in the loop by finding English newspapers and talking to our host. There were also political gatherings, parties, marches and so on throughout the country that we got to witness as we traveled. We were actually really surprised at the amount of involvement, advocacy and passion everyone had and wish that Canadians took such an interest in politics (extremists actions aside, obviously). Of course, this is Nepal’s second election and so perhaps Canadians just take it for granted.

I don’t have to go into detail about the road that we had to drive out on. If you’ve read the first entry you know it was intense but if you haven’t, you can find it under “nepal” in the categories on the right. It was just as bad as it was coming into the mountains but this time we were sharing the Jeep with four Spanish people.

The day was long. Having to stop and create a caravan with the police left us in a village on the side of a mountain for a couple of hours. We made some friends, ate some food but there was a question of our impending departure when we finally left about two hours later and were happy to do so: we had a long drive ahead of us and wanted to get started. You can image how excited we were when, as we were coming onto our fifth hour of driving, the Jeep stopped out of nowhere. It stopped in the middle of an inclined cliff road, on a mountain, at dusk around a bend where the massive dump trucks and busses coming down the hill around the corner couldn’t see us.

The Jeep stopped and everyone fell silent for a moment. The driver pumped his peddles and black smoke started coming out of the front of the Jeep. Then the Jeep started going backwards very slowly. As calmly but seriously as I could I said, “break.” It was all I could muster up. Well, that and the smile I was giving to everyone. The seven of us got out and all I could think of was that my mom told me to never get out of the car if it’s broken down, there is a higher chance of getting hit by another car. Did I mention the trucks coming around the bend?  I had to chuckle to myself and then my chuckle turned into a full blown laugh. You see, here we were, on the side of a mountain highway with a local driver who couldn’t be more that 25, four Spanish people who were driving me a bit crazy (they were lovely but they were all over the place), night time nearing, in Nepal. I laughed to myself as I took my camera out to take pictures of this glorious moment.

These are the moments that school can not give you. These are moments that a job can not provide you. These moments teach you something about the world, about others and about yourself. You see how you process things, how you react, how you carry yourself. These learning moments, the ones that come when you are not looking, are part of the memories and moments I speak of when I say that traveling gives you gifts that not even time can take away from you and that you tend not to even unwrap right away.

As time passed and Lucas and the driver tried to fix the Jeep, myself and the Spanish people felt helpful by slowing the oncoming trucks down by standing on this “highway” and waving our arms at them. Yes, that must have been very helpful, indeed.

I looked over and I saw Lucas and the driver hunched over the engine. They were communicating through hand signals and simple English words. More black smoke. Pump, pump, pump. More black smoke.

Ah! Wait! There’s another Jeep coming up the hill! We pull the guy over and make a deal with him: 4000NR and we are good to go… wait a minute, Lucas starts yelling at us to get into the Jeep, they have fixed it! We had already paid the guy we started the journey with so this is convenient, we’ll go with our broken little Jeep. We thank the second Jeep and we climb in as fast as we could at Lucas’ direction.

The seven of us get in. The pumping starts again. We start rolling backwards. I yell, “Break!” We all get out.

A local bus slowed to a halt. At this point it is hectic; no one seemed ready to commit to leaving or staying and the four Spanish people were looking at Lucas and I for direction: I get why they were looking at Lucas, he hooked everyone up with the Jeep. He planned the whole thing and made it happen. If you know him, you know what I’m talking about, he just makes shit happen. Lucas and I looked at each other and I see his “I’m done with this shit” face and he climbed onto the top of the Jeep and started handing me everyone’s bags and I stared shelling them out to everyone else like an elf on Christmas morning. We ran to the bus and climbed on. Yes, a very local bus with local people, indeed. I looked around and smiled. Nothing. I say “Hello,” probably a little too loudly and scurry to the back of the bus out of habit.

We make it to Kathmandu just as it starts to get dark outside and I sigh a very large sigh of relief. I mean, I go to sigh but because of the gas and pollution, I just end up coughing, but it’s a cough of relief and that’s what mattered for that day.

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