Short Stories from India
With a bit of Nepal Included
March 9, 2018 - Bus Station in Chennai-
Hampi, East-central Karnataka, India
April 7, 2018
Hanumanahalli, Karnataka, India
April 14, 2018
April 25, 2018
Thamel District, Nepal
May 7, 2018
Pokhara - On the road
May 29, 2018
"Pokhara was becoming a blur. I was losing motivation, each day blending into one another. The decision to move is one I always seem to go for, throw the grenade at your feet, jump, think later. Anytime I begin drinking in the evenings, each and every day, I realise it's mostly out of boredom. I think a big part was being isolated in an all-French-speaking community, feeling on my own but surrounded by people, little to no privacy. I said my farewells on the 26th of May and began walking southwest towards Kathmandu. It took almost a full day to get out of the city, and into the smaller villages. Crazy how much it's grown. My pack is close to 30kg and I'm not fully adjusted to carrying such weight. The road turns into a dust storm in many sections, grit on my teeth, little room to walk with trucks speeding by. Each day has been super hot and humid, with thunderstorms in the evening. I walk along looking as if I've been swimming, drenched in sweat, caked with grime, yet strangely loving it.
I covered around 22km that first day. I ended up in a small quarrying village overlooking an extremely old large eroded river valley when the storms began to hit, steep steep walls. I saw an archway I thought symbolized a temple. Following the path up 200m or so I found my camping spot overlooking the village and river below. There were bathrooms and a tap I could shower under. Shortly after I set up my tent big winds hit, hail falling on the tin shelter I pitched my tent under. Later that evening I was invited by a local to stay at his house. I think I just needed some personal space and politely declined. I went to his house the next morning, dirt floors, similar to the old mustering sheds in New Zealand. The night before we talked about how important it is to help people, him saying his house is small and simple, but his heart big.
The next day my body felt wrecked, hips bruised, feet sore from all the road walking in boots. He offered me a ride but I wanted to push on. The road narrowed following the river, much more dangerous. Quickly in the day, I was starting to feel exhausted, just wanting a place to set up camp safely, I kept sidetracking off the road only to find each temple locked. When I start to tire I fill four 1L bottles of water and buy fresh fruit and veggies so I can camp anywhere, but my pack 5kg heavier. By 4 pm the storms hit again, crazy wind, lightning, hail. I took shelter in a small restaurant. Two young Nepali guys come over and sit with me. Next thing I know I'm on the back of a motorbike, speeding through the village. They take me to a small house, dark inside, full of young people. We smoke together. I walk with them for sunset overlooking their village and all the rice fields, they are so proud of their Nepal.
I ask about camping at the top but they say it's too dangerous, bad people in the village nearby. They take me to a temple I had stopped at earlier. There is a baba sleeping, and the temple priest doesn't seem super keen about me sleeping. He permits for me to lay next to the baba, asks I cook, and please go to sleep. Shortly after dinner, right as I'm getting ready to try to sleep more young locals come by. He explains he lives alone. His friend told him about me and he wants to help, he doesn't want me sleeping in the temple when he has a free bed.
I end up in his small room, his brother home from work. We sit talking, sharing our lives, drinking rokshi, smoking, sharing dinner. I'm struggling to stay awake. Finally, I'm able to close my eyes, but having to lay shoulder to shoulder with the Nepali. Haha, he is basically trying to cuddle and I'm not feeling that. Just different cultures I think. I sleep well, he goes and buys chicken feet, neck, and heads to make breakfast. Although I've never eaten these things, I do, and tell him how so appreciative I am of his kindness. He was struggling to be alone still, wishing he had a girl in his life. We talked much of this that night, and how he must first find inner happiness. I'm not sure if I helped but I could see the struggle in his eyes.
I walk with him to the edge of town, he must catch a bus to work, already 30 minutes late after cooking for me. The goodbye was strange, he became a friend in less than twelve hours. I begin the walk along the road, my goal 26km to a temple on the river I found when we came rock climbing last week. Within a km of leaving the last village a man on a motorbike stopped and asked what I was doing. Feeling it was fate I jumped on the back of the bike. He asks if I'm walking because I have no money, am I hungry, he wants to help. I explain I'm walking because I enjoy it, meeting everyone along the way. I think when you make yourself vulnerable, you open the doors for life, curiosity, kindness. The bike ride was a struggle with the full pack, full-on an ab workout to stay alive, on the bike haha. I decide to take a bus for the next 16km, buy food, go to the river temple for a chill day.
I make it by 2 pm, thunder already in the air. Older Nepali are sitting by the river smoking. I join them, the group soon turns into ten or more. They point out a good swimming spot, a place to wash my clothes. I trust and leave everything in my tent. After a restless nap, I wake to storms brewing close by. I set up my kitchen in a large shelter nearby. The storms were big again, mangos falling in the roof, free food 😆. While I was prepping dinner a large group of locals came back, we smoke and talk. They make a pipe from a plastic bottle, bamboo, and some tin for the bowl. One guy points out the highest village in the area. He says it's another world up there, different climate, rhododendron forest in bloom, good cheap smoke.
I decide at that moment to change my plans. When I looked on www.maps.me the village was not on the map. I could see lights vaguely in the dark last night. The name of the village is Chimk Tanahu. It's around a 2000m steep ascent. Going to give myself two days to make it, ask for directions at the mountain village I visited last week 1200m up.
Last night before leaving people kept asking if I was afraid. I was confused by the question and said of course not. Last night my dreams were wild, a snow leopard standing over me, when I put my hands up my fingers go into his mouth. I try to scream for help and no sound will come. This morning two older ladies came to float offerings into the river and asked the same question, am I not afraid? I ask why this time, and they say because of the ghosts. The temple is very old, many of the buildings being overtaken by nature. The river in front is the result of snowmelt from Annapurna, swollen, cold, grey with silt. I sit now having coffee with this water, enjoying a chill day. I will start the climb up this evening, camp above the cave again. Bathrooms and a tap to shower under. Tomorrow morning I'll attempt to make it to Chimk tanahu."
June 5, 2018
"I spent the last night camped above the mountain village of Bandipur, five days on the road since leaving Pokhara. Even here, where it's a bit touristy, I struggled to find out much information about the mountain, or hill as one local called it. I decided to take enough food for three nights, not really knowing what to expect.
The first day was hot hot hot, the rough mountain road would split into many sections forcing me to guess which way to go, no traffic other than a couple of bikes. Mentally challenging, never knowing if I was going the right way. By evening I was on the slopes of the mountain, took a side trip to a village in the valley below. They spoke little to no English but drew me a map, allowed me to fill 5l water, and pointed me on my way.
Once climbing back out of the village, heavy with water, I wanted a place to set up camp. I climbed up terraces on the slopes of the mountain looking for a well-hidden spot. The next thing I know I've stumbled upon a massive grove of marijuana, it took me a second to realise that's what it was. I crept close and could see a couple of rough huts, and lines to dry the buds. In that second I realised maybe I shouldn't be here, I'm not sure how they would react. I went down just below the fields and pitched my camp behind a large boulder.
The next day I awoke above the clouds, in awe at the view and watching the fog drop, rise, and move through the mountain valleys. The air was so quiet, a solace from the loud sounds of traffic I have grown so accustomed to. Crickets, birds, the bells from roaming livestock. I'm moving by ten, planning only to go to the base of the climb up, find a place to camp, and get lost in my book. The mountain roads, trails, were stunning. The slopes were near vertical in many sections, old ladies passing, piercings covering their faces. Namastes exchanged, prayer hands. I pass mud houses, corn drying on lines below the slate roofs, terraces everywhere in the steep slopes. Other than some tin roofs, it's like stepping back in time, nothing has changed, the mountain culture intact.
“Helllloooo! How are you?!” I hear yelled from a mud house on the hill. It is a few terraces up from the road, corn growing high on each. He invites me up for water, I hesitate, and then decide why not. We exchange names, his English really good. Barat somehow found a way to work in Malaysia for part of the year. From my second-day hitchhiking I had learned the Nepali word for smoke. I say the word, a handful brought out, I roll a test smoke and enquire to purchase more. He brings out a large grocery bag full, 500 rupees, no negotiations needed. I see older ladies nearby stirring a cooking pot, tending a fire. I realise they are making rockshi, the local moonshine. I walk over to see, taste, and I'm amazed at how clear theirs is compared to the cities. I buy 1L for 50 rupees.
I say my thanks, and decide it's time to move. He says I'm only two hours from the top. After much inquiring, no English, I think I'm on the right path. Local village girls yell to each other from terraces far separated. Each is there to point my way, smiling, namastes. The climb up is a bit of a struggle but I enjoy it. Arriving on the top is really like stepping into another world, a temple on the summit, ferns, flowers blooming from the parasitic plants in the trees. The summit is so often covered in clouds, mist, the ecosystem more of a rainforest. I worry about how exposed the summit is, burn marks from lightning on many of the trees. After much self-debation, I choose a “somewhat” safe spot.
I ended up staying two nights. The wind was cold, my dreams vivid. I glimpsed the Himalayas for the first time in seven years, my first time seeing the Annapurna range. Words can't describe the scale. From 2100m, an 8000m mountain range is like seeing something out of a dream. As the clouds clear I think I'm seeing things. They are higher than I would look for a commercial jet. On the summit, you have views of both sides. Endless layers of mountains, clouds far below.
That day a Nepali family visited the top. They brought a newborn for blessings, incense, flowers, coconuts, and fruit for offerings. They spoke no English and I felt unsure of camping where I was. The place felt so sacred, quiet, pure cold air. Before they left they brought me an apple and two bananas, this alleviated the feelings of doubt.
I ended up spending four days surviving on muesli, dates, milk powder, vegetables, and 6 packs of noodles. I left before 8 am the last morning. Finished the last of my food and made the walk back in one day. I think about free camping to save money, then find 1000 rupees, life. A guy gave me a ride for the last 1km. He was a popular local business owner, the police check I didn't expect no problem."