(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!
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. ■