26 June, 2003

The story. . .

A young boy, sixteen maybe, from eastern Nepal showed me to my room. In contradiction to the beauty of the stone buildings and dining patio, my room was concrete, smelled of mold, and had funny (not that funny) pellets on one of the pillows. I wasn't sure if mice inhabited the Himalaya. Either way, the room costed me about 100 rupees, or $1.50. I threw my things on the 'other' bed and went to the stone pavilion for a late dinner. I ate, turned on my hedlamp and wrote a bit, sipping on Nepali tea that kept cooling off. So I kept pouring more and more from the pot. It was almost a stress.

I have fully indulged myself in the Nepali pasttime and addiction of tea drinking. It is always tea time, there is no such expression as "afternoon tea" or "would you like to have some tea?" No, tea just is; it is always happening, and so it is with me. What it is is hot water, maybe a third or less milk, with normal black tea and sugar. At first I didn't much care for it. But I remembered my intense passion for Moroccan mint tea once I had adjusted to it. So I continued trying it. This tea is very much like chai - Nicole - but without the spices. Smooth and sweet - I drink it all day. Cafe, monastery, different cafe, internet cafe, back too cafe - this is the score of my daily ambulations. I walk a few laps around the stupa -

but now I have burnt my story to ashes. "Phoenix - rise!"

Naked, I crouched upon the wall of the hot spring. Maybe it was close to eleven. The rain and cloud dampened the air to an impermiable darkness, only broken by myriads of fireflies in the woods across the river. There was no reflection in the slate water running in the river just downslope. The air even seemed to numb the river's rolling thundering sound to a static background. Why was I alone enjoying this place? Where were everyone else? A blessing. The springs were large. Two, the first too hot, unregulated; but the second, still a bit scorching, but wonderful and empty. So I went naked.

Couched on an underwater step, arms spread across the wall, I breathed in amazing satisfaction. My eyes focused nowhere, nowhere to focus. The heat was too great for long submersion, so I would move up and sit upon the wall. The rain was coming down in a constant meter. I rolled a cigarette for the occation earlier after dinner. It smoked slow, dampened, just as it both dampened and envigorated my state. I could feel the orbit of electrons around their nuclei, my hairs vibrated with their motion, all together - chaos to rythmn. But my mind went quiet, as listening to the sonata of my body, relishing the exhaustion of exertion, the relief of nurishment, the atmosphere of heat and moisture, and the stimulous of tobacoo. A fine night. A fine end. The air was warm and didn't encourage me to walk back along the river, up the stairs to my concrete room to sleep. But I did. Tomorrow I would hike out of the valley, down into another to Beni to catch a bus to Pokhara.

I woke up at a reasonable, though not a respectable hour. I had a bowl of Muesli and hot milk and begin the walk downvalley. There were other hikers on the trail today. Egotistically, or self-competitorily, I didn't like that they could keep up with me. Although I was not feeling so strong I went without breaks and tried to make good time. By lunchtime I only had an hour to go; I was right on schedual.

Alone, enjoying a fine Dal bhat, my hostess came and joined me. She asked me the same sort of questions as always. "No bus, no bus in Beni," she said unexpectedly in response to my plans. I really didn't pay much attention. People were always saying the strangest things. Of course there were buses in Beni. Everyone knew there were buses in Beni. I told her many people had said to the contrary. I took a deep breath and realized that perhaps I should attempt to understand this woman. I was stubborn. So I start asking questions, trying to see what she meant. Deep down, out of somewhere I remembered the strikes.

Since the Maoist revolt in Nepal, there have been surges of strikes for various reasons in various places. Many peole suppot the Maoist fight for renewed democracy. Was there a strike going on? "Yes, no buses. No taxi."
"No taxi? This is a problem. This is a big problem." It was now Saturday afternoon. I had to be at work Monday midday. There was no transport. This was a problem. "What about tomorrow, buses tomorrow?"
"No, three, four days. Maybe ten days," she said. "You stay?"
"No, I have to and solve my big problem."

I paid, threw my pack around my back and slouched off still a little too full to hike but unwanting to talk about these new challenging circumstances. But, "Nothing to be done," not until I could get to Beni. I tried solving it in my head. It was too far to walk. Maybe I could pay a local to drive me. But it was a three hour drive. Maybe I could hitch. Maybe the buses would go. Maybe a motorcycle. Maybe I would swim.

Nearing Beni, I saw some army men I had met earlier in the day. They had shown me the way to the good dal bhat, and I had explained Bush era politics. I asked them about the situation and they confirmed my problems for me. I kept on walking intensely until I reached Beni.

Nothing changed. "Nothing to be done." No hope; no one would offer any ideas that could get me out of Beni that afternoon. "Maybe tomorrow the buses run,' a few folks said. Maybe tomorrow. As I sat in continplation, a couple walked up I had met the night before. We walked to a hotel together. We met another couple on the way. We all dined in the hotel restaraunt together and lightly discussed our mutual predicament. The conversation turned to the arctic, Baffin Island, the new Canadian territory, the Krakauer / Boukreev (this is the proper spelling) debate, the book "Into the Wild," - it was a lively and pleasant conversation. I drank nearly two pots of tea and ate three plates of food. My tab was quite substantial. They ripped me off - $8 all together.

That afternoon, learning my way around so I could find the bus area in the morning, a six a.m. bus, I found a local track meet. I watched two 4x800 meter relays. The girls ran barefoot, not all too fast, but there was a great crowd. That night I slept soundly and woke up a little after five.

No buses.

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