Nepalese Notebook: September 10th, 2014

September 10th, 2014

Arughat Bazar 608m

3 hours of muddy road in a pick-up have brought us to our starting point on the banks of the Budhi Gandanki.  We passed buses stuck in ruts the length of a man's leg and watched as the drivers tried to dig their way out, some rocking the bus from one side to the other, others pointing down to the hole and calling out orders, while all the passengers stood alongside, jumping on the moment the bus seemed to free itself, but then hopping back off once they saw it was going nowhere.  Only once or twice did these buses actually block our passage, the rest of the time we drove right by on the edges of the mountain track.

Arughat is the most isolated town I have been to, but it has not the sort of magic and mystery one would expect from such a place.  The street that leads into and out of town, as if it were made from just misplaced rocks, is lined with mountain gear shops, ration stores, and tea-houses; there are no visible Buddhist temples and all the buildings are rather dull, except for the occasional vibrant color of one or two.  We were met by the furtive glances of people that seemed to be going nowhere and our own feeling of absence and naivety as we searched among the clouds for a sign of snow-covered mountains, but only the heavy silence of the river's rushing waters echoed in a valley of mist and rain.  Two incidents occurred which left a lasting impression on us: a boy of no more than three or fours years old from one of the windows above the street broke free from the embrace of his mother, and losing the towel that he was wrapped in, put his hands together and yelled out 'Namaste!' in such a proud manner to us that instead of being amused or even embarrassed by his nakedness, we found ourselves laughing along with the mother in such a way that we felt we knew the boy and were a part of the family.  The other incident was a man screaming in pain from inside one of the police checkpoints, and though the whole town could hear this, no one seemed to pay the least bit of attention to it, though it struck us with a feeling of anguish.

But now the waters of the river begin to echo again and have a different aura to them; you can almost see the glacial sands and there is a freshness as if it were snow just melted.  From now on, this is the river we will be following on foot, this is the river that will take us deep into the Himalayas.

Douglas Thornton


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