The Second Day
The next day begins with a demand to pay 2000 rupies for the privilege of walking to Junbesi, and probably another 2000 rupies for my porter. They have chosen the wrong morning: I am not here for the walk, I am here because there is no better way to get to Junbesi – I am not walking voluntarily, I hate walking, I am here to volunteer and teach Nepal’s children a bit of English, I am already paying enough in money and effort, and I will not pay. Over and out. After a bit of discussion, they see the light – I don’t have to pay.
For the last time I try to move my porter and other persons to please find some mode of transport to the next village – without success. And so I begin the ascend – and God, are Nepal’s mountains steep! Swearing, sweating and panting I climb up, step by step, always trying to catch up with my porter, knowing with each step taken that I could comfortably have sat in a bus, frustration in my heart. We cross a sort of sand track– again I try to convince my porter to wait here for a car, but apparently, there aren’t any. We ascend further – the „hill“ doesn’t seem to find an end. Then we hear a bus horn being honked somehwere – I turn around, a bus, quite far below us. I tell my porter that I really want to take this bus – he looks amazed: „You want to take a bus?“ I stare at him – why I didn’t push him down the mountain I really don’t know, perhaps because he’s carrying my luggage on his back. In a few succinct words I make it clear to him that yes, I’d been trying to get him to take the bus for the last two days now. There is a lot of emotion behind those words – the message finally makes it through, but we are now standing in the middle of the mountain path, nowhere near the road, we don’t know where the bus is actually going, it seems hopeless, and so we continue to climb on – by now I am bristling with anger. We just cross the sand track again when the bus comes around the bend. I cry „stop it!“ and hold out my thumb, but the driver shakes his hand – the Nepalese sign for „No“.
The bus passes us, my eyes meet the eyes of a Western looking man, and the despair must have been plain in my face – fifty metres on, the bus stops, the door opens, and a friendly voice asks: „Do you want a lift“? YEEEEES! It turns out that this is a British trekking group, with guides and porters, destination Mount Mira and Everest Base Camp, and they hired the bus to get to the final station on the road, and this road isn’t even the official road, but just a shortcut – what luck and serendipity that we were just standing there when they drove by! Barry, Gwyn, Harry, Jay and Mike – rarely have I been so happy to meet people.
I am sitting; the sand track is really not suited for busses, but I look into the deep and am just happy to be sitting – although walking would have been much safer at this point. The bus drives ever higher – I can’t believe how high we would have needed to climb that day. Finally,as we are over the pass and quite far down the mountain, walking indeed becomes faster than sliding along the road, and we all get out, I say goodbye to the group, and together with my porter begin the descend into Bandhar. We had wanted to stay the night there, but thanks to the bus ride it’s still relatively early, so we decide to continue on to the next village – „very easy, very level, no problem, 2.5 hours“. Ok, I can do easy.
At lunch we meet up again with the trekking group, and it is now I hear that one has to climb up a mountain to get to Junbesi – 1800 metres of altitude ascend, up to 3600 metres, and then down 1300 altitude metres into Junbesi, even the local people admit that it’s quite steep. My jaw drops: 1800 altitude metres? On these steep mountains?? Up to 3600 metres??? This is more than the height of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze: „Oh, the walk to the school is really easy, just climb up the Zugspitze and down the other side, and you are already there“. Hallo? I cannot believe what I am hearing, and I am not amused.
I find again the British team and sit down beside the tour guide. He kindly asks how I am feeling, and to my shame, I burst into tears. I am a wreck, and there is only one thought in my head: I cannot do it – I am untrained, unfit, I didn’t expect any of this, I am wiped out. Again I am staying in a timbered room (at least clean this time), the usual squatting toilet and shower in the yard. I now understand that this is the standard here, and my vision of pretty guest houses in Junbesi with attached bathroom and all the rest will remain a dream. I feel like a spoilt brat in bootcamp. I decide to pull out, return to Kathmandu, and to write the school „sorry, but I just couldn’t do it“.
It’s the Brits who convince me to at least give it a try: „Don’t let it get you down, step by step, slowly, you can do it“. They tell me that there is a guest house half way, at Sete, and I should at least try to reach this and sleep there, and then continue the ascend the day after. In the night, Prussian discipline wins out over bodily misery, and I decide to give it a try.