Thursday, September 4, 2008
DAY THREE: Wild Man at the Door
The next morning our gang mulled over the useless map again as a symbolic gesture of planning. Rather then go back up the same valley we had just come down the day before, we choose an obscure and rarely traveled path up the ridge above.
I ask a local village man how difficult the trail was and he answered quite frankly: “Not difficult for us, but for you I think quite difficult”. How I remembered those words as I slowly ascended that steep goat for path for the next 5 hours and 3000 feet.
My God!!!! Why did I choose this path??? I don’t want to admit to how wimpy I can sound, but my mantra the entire afternoon of vertical ascent was: “I must be crazy to do this!” and “I hate this.”
I spearheaded our vertical ascent to the ridge. The trail was so steep in places you had to wrap your arm around small trees to drag yourself up to the next level. My legs felt like alternately like lead and then later wobbly like rubber. Moving them was and exhausting labor. The straps of my backpack cut into my back as I didn’t have the waist belt to disperse the weight.
It seemed like all day, but eventually the ridge gain and we traveled a small distance through small enclaves of Himalayan farm houses. The ridge afforded a view of terraced rice fields that will perfectly accented by the after noon sun. In one small court yard by a farmhouse temple, I paused to photograph prayer flags fluttering and the valley far below. What a vista! It was at once a simple and yet incredibly moving experience.
After an hour or so we arrived to a rarely visited village called Syapargaon. Our presence was duly noted by everyone and yet they didn’t overwhelm us. While it was still light I started to wash my sweaty T-shirt in the stream that ran thru the village center. A funny scene insued as the headman of the village arrived and with an air of bravado threw his worn shirt in my laundry pile by the stream. It was very amusing to all.
In the village, we found lodging in a traditional Tibetan style tea house that was decorated with all kinds of simple rugs, woven textiles and the myriad of small items of the typical Himalayan home. It was not just for travelers, but someone lived there full time. I suppose they may have just vacated their home to rent us the space for a night.
Rob & Julie took a different tea house slightly up the hill. It seemed that no traveler ever came to Syapargaon and we were a very big boost for the local economy. This was even more evident when our little group had dinner together at our guest house. Apparently, this was a big boon as the dinners usually ran about 100 Rps ($2.) per person. The other guest house was visible perturbed. What to do?
We ate the same basic Dhal Bhat dinner as the night before sitting out doors and watching the quiet routine of the small village. As the sun edged beneath the horizon all of the villagers seem to edge beneath their blankets. By 8PM again their was no sound or light in the village.
Earlier that day as we hiked to Syapargaon I noticed some very interesting plant life. Just growing among the many other plants were alot of weeds of some repute (marijuana). My whole life this common Himalayan plant had been the much coveted, expensive, and highly illegal recreational high.
As a meditator, I no longer had much interest in getting high, but could resist picking ups some of the “weeds” that were quite literally strewn along the path we were walking on.
That night in the guest house when I emptied my pockets I found the little temptation. Neither Kirsten or I were pot smokers, but as it was early evening and we felt like it might be entertaining.
Remember my opening lines of this story? “Oh My God! I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into!” Once again as we tempted fait our realities were uniquely turned up side down.
First, the Himalayan pot was extremely strong. As I was whirling around from the effects there came a loud banging at the door and some incoherent yells.
I immediately became paranoid imagining all kind of police actions and unrealistic horrors that could await outside that door. I hid the remaining marijuana on a rafter and opened the door,.....
A wild eyed village who spoke no more then 10 words in English came in and was gesturing madly with his hands in a desperate expressions. He was imploring me to come out into the night for some unknown reason. I was so stoned that the event was amplified into a shocking drama. What could he want? Why was he here? Finally,through sign language I was able ascertain that someone was hurt and they needed a doctor.
It is an unfortunate myth, that all travelers are considered to have both medicine and doctoring that the villagers need in emergencies. Fortunately, I did have some iodine and aspirin and passed them to this stranger giving him an idea of how to use. I hoped he got it. He still wanted me to come, but I refused. I was not a doctor and I did not want to wander off somewhere in the dark Himalayan night.
These were my back up supplies, but under the circumstances I just gave them away. Wow. Bizarre. Who know what actually happened, but I was glad to help out. I was glad the whole shocking drama was over. Kirsten and I had gotten a whole lot more entertainment then we bargained for. Sleep would be a great relief after this wildman at the door.