This is a short story I wrote not long ago, while being inspired in Nepal.
It’s the first thing I’ve written in years, it’s amazing what traveling does for you.
Today was a weird day, today was a day I won’t easily forget.
It all started simply enough, with a straightforward trip from Kathmandu to Gurkha, on a road that is well traveled, but never uneventful.
My journey began on a micro van, a common way of transport renowned for having drivers with the skill and fearless shame to dodge and weave through traffic at dangerous speeds.
The teeth-clenching drive came to a sudden halt adjacent to Manakamana, a temple on top of a big hill, with cable-cars pulling visitors up through a breath-taking view.
After about an hour of sweaty patience, I decided to go out and investigate, the narrow two-laned road was crowded with vehicles as far as the eye could see.
Speaking in my broken Nepali, and wielding my smile as a weapon, I managed to learn that the reason for this halt was a landslide, about 14 kilometers from our location, which has caused a traffic jam for the past 2 days.
I’ve considered my options; sit in the sun for as many hours as it takes for the landslide to be cleared, and reach my destination at an unknown time, or seize life in my hands and find my way through.
Being a traveler, gathering experiences at the cost of comfort, I chose the more adventurous path.
I plucked my bag from the micro van, said my farewells to it’s patient inhabitants and began walking towards the temple, bent on the act of riding the cable-car over the hill and making my way towards Gorkha.
Soon after making my way down a long flight of stairs, which seem to be connected to any form of temple or pilgrimage, I learned that this will not be possible, taking a long breath and cooling my nerves, I chose to continue my adventure, and begin walking on the constipated highway.
As I walked on the road, in between countless busses, local and tourist, micro vans, and trucks with their flashy designs of random western brands mixed with eastern art of deities and idols, I could not stop but think, and take it all in.
The first thing that struck me was the nepali positive spirit and endurance, it seemed like the words Ke Garne, literally meaning What to do seem to be deeply embedded in the culture, it seems like in the most difficult and frustrating moments in life, they just shrug their shoulders, say the magic words, smile and try to make the best of it.
I kept on imagining this situation in a western culture, the amount of shouting, yelling and cursing that would erupt from the anger and frustration, would be great. yet the people I have seen were all being patient, speaking between themselves, socializing and making each other comfortable.
Even though we were on a highway far from any settlements, I could see indian chatpati merchants selling snacks out of their bicycles, and vans filled with goods opening their trunk and selling it’s contents to the nearby stranded commuters.
I’ve seen men walking over far distances carrying empty bottles, hoping to find a tap to fill them and provide hydration for their families, yet there were also the less determined who chose to puncture one of the nearest pipes alongside the road, which apart from providing drinking water, allowed many people to cool down from the hot noon sun.
Walking in that jungle of cars, resembling a zoo of sort, with the animals kept inside their vehicular enclosures, many thoughts ran through my head, of the many different men, women and children, all on their way, sitting outside and waiting for the situation to be resolved. Seeing them waiting patiently, I was crossed between feeling sorry for them for not having the determination to control their fate and start walking, and between being jealous at their patience to let fate run it’s course.
Music was blasting out of many of the vehicles, a bizzare mix of different sounds fading in and out as you moved between each vehicular sound system, the most common was ofcourse nepali music, with its repeated beats and high tones, followed by the current indian hits, and rarely, yet frequent in the amount of different muses, were western pop songs, arriving in nepal about a decade late.
One song struck me, a song I haven’t heard in years yet seemed so fitting, “Lonely, I’m mister lonely”, the accurate description of my situation brought a grin to my face.
Walking along the endless highway, on a mysterious journey for as long as it may take, thoughts sprang to my mind of the different treks I’ve done, and their similarities to this situation, Langtang and its constant threat of landslides, and Annapurna with it’s long walks towards the unknown.
I felt as if Nepal has prepared me, taught me to make the most out of a situation and never fear a chance for adventure.
Several hours of ponderous walking later, I’ve finally reached the fabled landslide, imagining in my mind a massive amount of boulders sprawled along the road and perhaps several crashed carcasses of unlucky vehicles, I was severely disappointed, yet amused, to find a single worker clearing the last few pebbles with a rough grass broom.
Shortly after, I managed to find a motorcycle willing to give me a lift. climbing aboard the back, without a helmet and with very little experience with motorcycles, I must admit I was afraid, and although being agnostic and far from pious I kept on hearing a repeating mantra through my mind, Om Mani Padne Om, the ancient and powerful buddhist prayer that is so common in these parts.
Allowing my muscles to relax, and enjoying the cooling breeze, I couldn’t avoid having a big smile on my face, content with the choices I’ve made, I decided that as long as I can, I will always take the more adventurous path.