Taking the bus from Dhading Besi to Karkigaun, the remote mountain village where my friends Sita, Arjun, Ambir and Akash call home, can be somewhat of a bumpy ride. This time of year though (July/August), due to the rains, the final part of the road taking us to Karkigaun is closed off to vehicles…
…So, with that in mind I caught the bus right up until the final point that I could, which was still a three hour hike away from where I was headed.
I mean it’s okay, I didn’t have to do the hike alone! Seriously I would still be wandering around those mountains now if that were the case!
No, Arjun had come to meet me.
“We have to make it past the river before the rains start.” – he exclaimed.
To get to the river we firstly had to walk through small villages and homes, most of which had ‘relatives’ of Arjuns’ living there.
I use inverted commas there for relatives…mainly because half the time it’s hard to keep up with whether they actually are relatives, or whether they are just acting relatives. Ya know like an ‘auntie’ could actually just be a friend of the family. Or a ‘sister’ a similarly aged girl close to the family. That kinda thing.
So anyway, passing through these homes, their offerings of tea were slowly making the minutes tick by, so by the time we were nearing the river it was almost completely dark and the rains (which had now started kicking our arses ) had grown stronger. We had scrambled up and we had scrambled down, most of it through the jungle cladding of these Himalayan foothills.
At one point I would look to the left of me to see a thin, but fairly deep canal of water. To the right of me a sheer and immediate drop off the mountain side (and more than likely death should balance, from the thin ridges that we were walking along, be lost).
So to reach the river (I say river but really it was a mountain flow of water), it was a steep scramble down. The heavens, by this point, a mighty monsoon falling over us. The rocks slippy, the jungle thick, and the sky now completely turned to night.
Now, I do like an adventure, but at this moment I had started to wonder perhaps it would have been wiser to have stopped the night at one of the homes of Arjuns’ many friends and family that we had past through along the way.
But, ya know, we didn’t. So, carrying on…
So we’re at the river now, and we’ve wadded ourselves through, hoping to god that the stone we were stepping on wasn’t the stone that would make us slip and fall into the gushing flow of water. It probably wouldn’t have killed us but it sure would have shocked the hell out of us.
Well, neither of us fell. Phew!
At least that’s done, no need to rush anymore.
From here on in though it was up all the way. Still raining, still slippery, and still I could not see a thing besides the faint glow of Arjun’s brightly coloured trainers in front of me. We were both sodden through, I mean really we couldn’t have gotten wetter even if we had of fallen into the river! Arjun leading the way through the dark, he seemed to know instinctively where each step and rock lay. Me on the other hand, not so much. I kept tripping. Not normally liking to take help (well it shows weakness doesn’t it? lol), finally I had to admit defeat and had to hold on tight to his hand the remainder of the hike. Had I not I would have continued to stumble with every step.
“Why?” you ask, “did you not use a torch?” – a very valid question.
Basically, it had not been anticipated that the bus would arrive three hours later than expected, therefore it had not been anticipated that torches would be needed.
I know, I know, I know…prepare for the expected AND the unexpected.
We did have the torches on our phones, but hopefully with my mentions of the rains you’ll understand why we felt we couldn’t take them out.
So on we continued, relying purely on Arjun’s knowledge of his mountains. We continued in this way right up until I took a step too wide and down the edge of the mountain I slipped!
Don’t panic folks! Remember I was holding on to Arjun’s hand. The moment he sensed my fall his grip tightened and tensed and held on strong. Without it I would have continued to fall, as below my feet I felt nothing. Having to use his arm and the wet, muddy, side of the mountain I pulled myself back up again.
Once up we stood under the umbrella and retrieved a phone to use as light. We shone it down at the dark nothingness of where I had slipped. What an odd feeling it was to know I was very nearly a human land slide!
Yikes! That coulda been really bad!
Needless to say we kept the phone out for the rest of the hike!
So there we go, my little brush with death. I mean not really, I’m sure it would’ve been fine, a tree or the muddy earth hopefully would have stopped my fall at some point.
But, ya just never know!
Heading back was a different story – this I loved. It was bloody hard at times, but still I loved it. I had spent just a short 5 days in the mountains with Sita and Arjun, but within those 5 days it had rained so much and so hard that these mountain ‘roads’ had become sodden mud baths, and subsequently a complete death trap and a no go zone for buses. We had to walk.
It would take the best part of two days.
We hiked from Arjuns village to a neighbouring village, home to his nan and aunt. To get there we cut across terraces and farmland and we hopped, skipped and jumped across streams. We scrambled down rocky mountain sides, the same mountain side in fact that inspired my ‘A Brush With Death’ yarn (which did actually happen I just need to add), and we drank from fresh mountain springs.
We did manage to hitch a ride on the back of this truck (below)…for about ten minutes, but then we got stuck in the mud and some fallen land spill again. Back to walking it is!
Eventually – just as the sun was going down and the sky was that perfect colour of milky purple. Just as the air had become thick, full of heat and moisture so desperate to explode out and over us – we arrived at the village and at nan’s. Here we slept.
The next day it was back to the feet for a steep hike up …
…up a little more, a break to drink some water, and then up we continued, for some more up hill walking, up a mountain. Flip me… this was a lot of up! And it was bloody knackering!
But how great did it feel once we’d reached the top!
….and on we continued for the rest of the day passing through pine forests and green hills that seemed to roll on forever, until eventually we had the welcome sight of Dhading Besi in the distance, home to tarmac roads once again and a bus that would take me back to Kathmandu.