October 2017

Nik: I wanted to leave the city for the mountains, just for a weekend. I biked north, the air became clearer, the houses became sparser, and I could see a wall of foothills in front of me, which form one side of the valley in which Kathmandu lies. I crossed the hill as the sun set. Flying down the other side I rolled into a little village with a guesthouse. The room was full of lizards and spiders and other little creatures, and I slept well. I woke up before the sun, and kept cruising down the hill into the valley. Sandy sometimes paved roads led through villages here and there, following the river down, down into a bigger city. I was hungry then, and had roti with channa by the side of the road. I could see the crossing where I’d get out of this valley and into the mountains. I didn’t expect such an endless climb. It went on forever and ever, and when I thought I’d reached the top, I hadn’t. I played chess with some men sitting by the road. Here I was knackered. And I thought that was the top.
Cresting the real top it was getting dark. Too excited on the way down, I jumped, landed too hard, and flatted. Fixed the flat and it was dark. Sandy roads on mountain sides at night, I felt scared. Snake on the road. I became extremely aware of the sounds of the forest. Super knackered by the time I reached a little town at the bottom of the mountain valley.
The next morning I pushed my bike up a mountain trail. Two women told me it wasn’t getting easier, that I should ditch my bike. So I did. I felt so light running up the valley without my bike!
Langtang. In the background are the rocks that came tumbling down the mountain during an earthquake in 2015, engulfing the original village and the people in it. On the third morning I was running out of food and money. Two pieces of chocolate. I would nibble the chocolate every hour or so. Knowing that in the long run I wouldn’t be hungry, it was curious and liberating to walk through this mountain valley and observe my body as it found unknown sources of energy.
I walked here and turned back. Behind those mountains is the roof of our world.
Energetic somehow I ran down the valley. Shoe broke, so I ran barefoot. Before dawn the next morning I ran the last bit through the dark forest to my bike, to the bottom of the trail. I thought I’d transcended hunger but I hadn’t. Kept thinking about food. Stopped for a nibble of my piece of chocolate. I turned a corner and suddenly there was a little mountain of bananas. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was election day in Nepal and somehow this meant free food. People gave me bananas, they gave me juice, I delighted. Coming down the endless hill it happened again, people gave me rice, dal, channa.
The sun was already setting as I reached the wall between me and Kathmandu. Way up there, where there is usually sky, I could see the hilltop. An hour later it was dark, and I was not even halfway. Coming around a turn a truck suddenly came towards me. I got squeezed between the cliffedge of the road on my left and the truck on my right. I slowed down and as I did my light turned off. I couldn’t see anything, and lost my balance as the truck hurtled past me on the right. I put my left foot down and could feel the edge of the gravel road crumbling under it.
A little further up a man on a scooter kept wanting to help me, insisting on riding behind me. A little later some of his friends appeared on a scooter. One of them had a bat, and I wondered if maybe they wanted to rob me, so I stopped. Coming over the hill I could see an ocean of magnificent lights, and I rolled down into it, energised again by something. I came home, and Nimra and Mai and I had curd and momos and noodles. ■