Okay people. Letâs just see what happens when you try to condense 3 days or so of adventure into 1 journal entry, written 2 months after the event. With all the memory holes, surrealities and kaleidoscopic confusions thatâs likely to entailâŚ
âAre my pupils dilating yet?â. Be fearless when diving. âSo, have you ever had to kill someone?â. âSmall ginger tea please.â Awake.
Hot springs and fine foods at Tatopani behind me now. The dusty road. Not so pretty now the trek. The trail to Jomsom. A tedious, slow ascent. Tired legs. Narrow runnels of dirty water. Road fixers. Bridge builders by the roadside.
âNamasteâ. âNamasteâ. âNamasteâ. A decorative pink car. Oranges sold by the roadside. Fallen boulders. The way, mercifully blocked for a time for cars. A sticker proclaims âHOPEâ through barrack Obama. It beams from the butt-end of one of the many jeeps/ mini-buses that cut the dust along this part of the Annapurna Circuit. The sound of the river below. âIt is not so easy to kill somebody. It should not happen.â
Pink Cadillac on the way to Ghasa.
Tired. Tired. Still early. Arrive in Ghasa, Mustang district. No will to carry on today. Lunch and reading high atop the guesthouse roof. Vultures - and the occasional eagle - glide the thermals and occasionally swoop low overhead. They possess more grace than their reputation would suggest. I rest on seat. They rest in trees. I am joined by Felix (Germany), Tom (UK). Friendly lads. To be my travel companions for the next coming days. Raj(endra), affable, polite and sincere.
Tomâs pal. Their Nepali guide. Candle-lit dinner (?). Apple brandy. BAD! âIf someone starts to approach, first we shout âSTOP! do not come any closer!â in Hebrew.â Last night.
Last night. In a dream, my father taught me to be fearless when diving. High diving. He was patient, humorous, and showed me the way through fear. Why mention this? Well, I could say that I never have dreams but this is of course an untruth. I have them all the time. Every night I guess. But I near as never remember them. A few times a year at best. And my parents, sadly, are so rarely participants in these rare shows of imagination. The vultures rest in the morning breeze-ruffled trees. âIf they do not stop, next we shout âSTOP! Do not come any closer!â in English.â A turn in the road. Snow-dusted mountains again. Relief for the eyes. The Dhaulagiri RangeâŚ I think? Part of it.
Raj diverts us, whenever possible away from the dispiriting monotony of the jeep trail. A dusty scar running through the region from the far south to Muktinath much further north. Another debt paid in loss of beauty and scenic charm for the double-edged promise of Progress. âWhiskey anybody?â.
Jomsom jeep trail bus window (detail)
Marijuana. Naturally occurring. Last remnants. Tom, a man ofâŚ.err?âŚpharmacological interests, hungrily harvests away. More whiskey. Water. Anthropology. Experiments with the effects of Jelly Beanie e-numbers on the dirtânâdust covered Nepali village children. Not much. Quizzical stares at Uncle Tom and his cameraâs lens. âIf they continue forward, then we must shout âSTOP! Do not come any closer!â in Arabic.â Khalopani. Lunch. Long lunch.
Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud. A man sits in the street pounding without respite herbs? Spices? Chillies? For the entire hour or so we sit there. Chilled out trekking. Tom ânâ Raj stylee. More children for Uncle Tom to play with. Running. Laughing. Jelly Beanies. Screaming as he lifts and whirls them over small brooks. No time to get to Marpha today. Tukuche instead, tonight to rest our heads. Heated coals beneath the table. Marijuana. âBad sh*t!â Chuck it on the burner. Oops! A near room-sized bong. Lovely people. Great place. Bad food. Plenty of lovely homemade regional cider. Sleep. Last night my father taught me to be fearless when diving.
âUm-num ShivaiâŚum-num ShivaiâŚun-num ShivaiâŚâ. Wow! Itâs not just a line from an Indiana Jones script.
Strange portrait. Marigolds for good luck from our hosts. Gimme that 5 Rupee kid. Buddhist monastery. Steps. Prayer wheels ânâ chants. Donation. 5 Rupee boyo. The Marpha orchards are bare right now, robbing the town temporarily of a greater visual charm I guess it must possess. Feet starting to hurt now. The blisters are gathering their forces for an assault upon my comfort and sanity. Rocky valley basin. Slipping. Tired already. Tripping. Ankles roll on stones. The winds are picking up. A receding green âhairlineâ of flora gives way to barren dust and rock the further north we trudge. Extremely beautiful in its own way. My blisters are picking up. âIf still they come closer we must raise our guns and shout again âSTOP! DO NOT COME ANY CLOSER!ââ. Jomson. Not a pretty town, cradling the airport strip.
Large birds of prey circle high on the thermals at Ghasa.
âIâm here to confirm my flightâ. âOkay, you must do tomorrowâ.
Moneyâs all out. Tobacco and battery negotiations for Tom. âHow much?â. âWhy tomorrow? Iâm here, now. Todayâ. âWell, I only have this muchâ. âNo. tomorrow you must confirmâ. âBut Iâve already confirmed in Kathmandu and now so why tomorrow also?!â. âItâs a good deal for you!â. âBook me on that flight!â. âWhy is Drum so f**king expensive here?!â. I stoop in reverence to the God of the ATM machine. âIt out of order sirâ. âFor how long?â. âWell, this is all the money I have so ask your boss. Itâs a good deal!â. âI donât know sirâ.
Tom attempts to harvest the few remaining scraps of the naturally occuring marajuana crops that occur on the trail here.
âWell, when will it be fixed?â. âI donât know sirâ. âOkay, okay you buy the batteries, but no money back if they donâ workâ. âWhat dâya mean âif they donât workâ?â. âWhat do you mean I canât confirm today but tomorrow? Thatâs f**king ridiculous!â. âThey donâ work. Not my problemâ. âWhat do you mean you donât exchange Pound Sterling?!â. âOh f**k it. Iâll take âem!â. âDollar. Euro onlyâ. âWHAT?!â. âDollar. Euro onlyâ. âThe f**king b**ch! These f**king batteries donât work!â. âF**k me!â. âF**K ME!â. A deep bag rummage uncovers a final $5 and 5 Euro note.
Tom and Felix's guide and friend Raj.
Saved! âF**king conning b**ch!â. Dexedrine? Deximel? âWhat?â. âMedicinal speed my man!â. âSo I have to be here tomorrow?!â. (which I was gonna be anyway but I ainât gonna tell her that). âAngina my man. Just say youâve got this condition wherebyâŚâ âOrange anyone?â. ââŚyour heart involuntarily stops and needs a rebootâŚâ. âCheers Raj!â. ââŚand these guysâll sell you anythingâ. Uh? Right. âF**king dead batteries with my last Rupee!â. âI f**king hate Jomsonâ. âHowâs it kicking in man?â. âLetâs bust a groove!â. âAre my pupils dilating yet?â.
âUm?â. âF**king b**ch!â. âI f**king hate Jomsonâ.
Nepali kiddies at Khalopani.
Hunter S.Thompson. Jules Verne. Douglas Adams. âItâs like having 20 espressos all at onceâ. âDONâT PANICâ. Wind behind us. Dry. Spiders web riverbed. Reduce to a trickle in places. Rocky valley basin. Donkey trains. Discomfort. Blue skies. Desolate beauty. Ravaging blisters. Hot sun. Wind. Mercifully behind us. Silhouettes in the distance. Members of a spread out, rocky caravanserai. Lunch. Lemon tea. Sore feet freed. Pain. Eased. Fried rice in golden bars of light. Do we have to walk again?! Nearly there. Wind still behind us. Rocky. Mountain air. Kagbeni sighted. Relief. The furthermost, final point of my trek draws near. âIf they do not stop now we shout âIF YOU COME ANY CLOSER I WILL SHOOT YOU!ââ. Shangri La. Hot shower. âSo, have you ever had to kill someone?â. Too tired. JJ. Daphna. Red lanterns. Warm coals. Journeys end. Rosti. Rest. Rest. âIf they still do not stopâŚâ. Rest.