Between space and time

(september 2017)

Nik: Nimra, Mai, and I came to Nepal around August 2017. Our mutual friend from high school, Sonam, met us there. We lived in Boudha, a Tibetan Buddhist bubble in Kathmandu, and worked voluntarily at the school from which Sonam graduated. Monsoon ended and Dashain holiday started, and we went to the mountains.
Karma, our student and friend, showed us the way. Mountains where there's usually sky. Mukhiya (Karma's friend), Markus and Andres (dudes we bumped into), Nimra, Mai, Karma There was a loud thundering noise and I could not help but shout 'Waaaaaooooooow' in this moment. Karma and Mukhiya Mai: We were at the “Thorong La” Pass with elevation of 5416 metres above sea level. It was difficult to breathe.
We did not want to miss the bus back to Kathmandu. Yet, after two weeks of trekking in the Annapurna Circuit – a trek within the Annapurna mountain range of central Nepal, the crazily grandiose mountains which we could easily see from distance that made us look so small in front of Mother Nature, the colorful Tibetan flags that created a giant colorful “spider web”, the extreme sunshine during the day that could burn one’s face easily and the extreme cold at night that got our hands swollen like baby fingers, the bizarre smokes in early morning that always kept me wondering whether they were fogs of early morning or smokes from a teashop somewhere nearby to keep the owner warm, everything started to become the dominant reality I was living. Hence, the thought that after 8 hours, the reality in front of me would be something completely different - Kathmandu, the chaotic, noisy, colorful, and nostalgic Kathmandu was so unreal.
We were so happy to see the sign of the town Muktinath at the foot of the mountain. We were running out of foods, and our faces got burned so harshly because of the extreme sunshine on the mountain ranges we were exposed to during two weeks. We were running down in our heavy hiking shoes rapidly as if that was the only thing eating up our minds at that time, at that moment.
It was a tough 8-hour- bus ride from Muktinath back to Kathmandu. The fact that the bus was packed with so incredibly many people helped me to stabilize my head, as it was locked up by many hands, heads, and stomachs without literally any space left for anyone to move. Otherwise, my head would have been rocked up and down like my butt because of the bumpy road. Nepal’s roads, especially the one connecting the Annapurna Circuit and the city Kathmandu, was so crudely rocky and tortuously narrow, as if it was enclosed by a giant snake.
The road was so twisty that nobody wanted to lean against the right or the left of the bus for fear that it may drag the whole bus down into the mysterious depth of the mountain. Niklas – my travelling sidekick, and I were holding our breath in stillness. While Nik was laughing in awe at how much we were putting all our life in the skillful riding hands of the drivers, I kept looking up instead of looking down at the chasm, praying we would be safe, not knowing to whom I was praying to. The mountain spirits, I guessed. The mountain and its chasm became so scary and intimate at the same time. Scary, as the mountain was swallowing all of us with its mysterious darkness, yet intimate as they seemed so big that we were all hugged and enclosed with its silence and calmness.
One of Nepal’s characteristics, to us at least, is its ability to charm people with its quick transition between its mountain and the city Kathmandu. This transition, it has something wild, something unreal, and something nostalgic. Wild, as the sharp contrast felt so unbelievable. Within 8-9 hours of bus-ride from Kathmandu, we found ourselves completely surrounded by tremendous mountains. Vice versa, the ride from the mountain to the city just made us wonder: is it real, that we have just been with the mountain, or was it a dream? Unreal, as in the blink of an eye, especially as we slept on the bus, the world around appeared to have been transformed. The mountain was so grandiose, so authentic, just standing naked in front of our eyes, making us feel so relieved as if were back to something very primitive of human. Enclosed, and touched by nature.
Nostalgic, as the quietness of mountain contrasts so much with the chaos of Kathmandu. So contradictory it was hard to not think of Kathmandu when we were in the mountain. The noise of cars and motorcycles getting stuck on the street, especially during monsoon season; the disorganization of transportation due to no proper paved road and sidewalk; the bus was on the bumpy street and it rocks up and down. You may have a good laugh at the bus and wonder if it can hold people on the road for long. And it does. It was also hard to not try to imagine the Annapurna mountain ranges when we were in Kathmandu. The stillness of Nepal and the chaos it offers are such a deep, yet close contrast that makes this country so fascinating, so humane, and so naked.
Such a contrast and transition makes one feel as if one is not really anywhere, but between a spectrum of space and time. ■

© Niklas Bazzan Schelling