I don’t think I would make a good mountain climber. I am reckless and have too much attachment on reaching the summit. I have always been fond of mountain climbing movies and books. As a boy watched the film K2, countless times with my father, and always dreamed on going on a Himalayan expedition. Later I would read books by Krakauer, Messner, and Vestures, and learn of tragedies associated with these great peaks. It seemed to me that the only climbers that come back are those that have the disciple to turn back when things become unsafe. If that were the case I should have turned back on my first day when in the remote Himalayan roads things began to go bad.
It was the morning of my second day, the once smooth paved road had become a large puddle and after pushing through endless mud I finally came upon a somewhat dry descent. Excited at finally being able to ride I picked up speed started splashing through puddles. Soon however I came upon a large muddy section of the road and decided to ride the thin smooth shoulder that had been used by pedestrians. Still riding fast I lost balance and slide off of the road. I jumped off my bike and fell for what seemed like a while before landing in a large muddy field, upon hitting the ground all I could think of was that my bicycle was headed straight for me , I quickly moved and “bang” my loaded bike came crashing down and landed right where I had fallen. Luckily my legs were tucked in and I avoided being hit by the falling mass of 65 kilos. Things happened so fast that I looked around to find that I had fallen ten feet into a muddy corn field. Unscratched but covered in mud, I looked at my bike to find that one of my pannier’s hooks had broken and that my racks were bent from the impact. I slowly put things back together and waited for someone to cross the road above. Soon I heard the sound a man yelling at cattle and I yelled up to him from below. He peaked out over the edge of the road and saw me covered in mud below. I motioned to my bike and luggage and he quickly threw down a braided rope that he was using as a whip. Using the braided rope he pulled my panniers and bicycle back to the road. Walking around I found a few foot holds and climbed back up. A bit shaken I got back on the bike and continued down the road. A few hours later I realized how lucky I was and decided that I would drink the stream water directly, rather than waiting till evening to boil it.
Two days later, after some of the hardest cycling of my life, and some extreme gastro intestinal disturbances I came around the corner of my mountainous route to find that the road had collapsed in a recent storm, leaving nothing but a steep track over a 50 meter fall into a raging river. I sat for a long time and contemplated what to do. I thought about turning around but couldn’t imaging riding all the difficult roads back again. I walked the track a couple of times and each time I told myself that it was too dangerous and that I would turn back, yet… each time I found myself sitting and waiting by the bicycle thinking things over.
Finally an old man showed up carrying a large bag of corn meal on his head. He watched me walk the trail and asked me in sign language if I thought he could do it. I gave him a throat slitting gesture and said “dangerous”. He repeated the word “dangerous” as if he knew what I was saying then tightened the bag on his head and proceeded to cross. I sat by the bike in safety and watched as he navigated his way on the rocky trail. Most of the trail was not too dangerous as there was adequate walking space, however at about halfway there was a steep section that were straight up the mountain near a small stream here the track became muddy with loose rock. This was the section that was directly over a 50 meter fall into a raging river. When the old man got to this section he literally stopped and began calling to me to help him. He would put his foot up the trail then it would slide down and he from his voice I could tell that he was trembling. At first I didn’t know what to do, as if I went out there what could I do from below him? He would try to pass me his bag or he would fall down on me then we would both fall. Worried for my own safety I hesitated and did nothing.
All of the sudden an old lady showed up on the other side of the trail. She called to him and he handed her his bag of corn, she quickly grabbed the bag and climbed to safely, the old man quickly following her. They were gone over the ridge for a while, and I thought again to myself “Do not do this”. Then just as she had shown up before she appear again, this time with a baby on her back and a small goat on a lease in front of her. I watched as she with ease picked up the goat and crossed the loose vertical precipice to my side. (Both arms were cradling the goat and the baby seemed to be asleep on her back). When she approached me she gave me strength, I can do this I thought, and I decided that I would have to make 4 trips back and forth in order to get all my gear to the other side.
I decided that I would carry my bike across first as this was probably the most difficult thing and wanted all my strength. I thought about tying a rope to the bike and pulling it across but quickly realized that if it fell rope or no there was no way I would get it back. Removing all the panniers and putting the bike over my left shoulder I jumped around. With one arm holding the bike I could have my dominate right arm free to assist in case of struggle. I began to walk the trail and soon was at the small stream that marked the point of no return. Across the stream was where the man got held up, the point where it was too difficult to turn around, especially with a bike on your back. I found myself repeating a Buddhist mantra,”Om Mani Bhimi Hum” which I only do when I am extremely scarred, I took on last breath and pushed on. My legs worked well, and the adrenaline must have provided me with extra energy for as I climbed the steep section seemed easier and was shocked when I found my self standing on the other side with the bike still on my shoulder. I walked back across and to my amazement I found the old lady, the one with the goat and baby standing near my panniers. She made a carrying gesture to me then grabbed my two rear panniers (the bigger heavier ones) and started across. I grabbed my two small front bags and followed her across. On the other side I tried to give her money but she refused and smiled at me, she then pointed at her head and made a crazy gesture and laughed. I was now on the other side and there was no way I was going to turn back.
I am now in the second largest Nepali city of Pokhara. My laptop was destroyed en-route and my gear is in poor condition. My health however is fine and I will soon be in the capital Kathmandu. I will be there for several days waiting for a Burmese visa. My posts will be sporadic for the next few weeks as internet cafe’s are sparse, but I am OK and have survived the Himalayas.
Sounds frightening but glad to hear you’re safe and made it!
What an adventure. Glad you had the presence of mind to wait and see how locals managed the trails and got some assistance.
Thanks Sheldon, Happy Thanksgiving !
Congratulations. It sounds like the force is with you.