Friday, March 14, 2014

That time I fell down a Himalaya.

At the tender age of twenty I spent the summer in India. It was a trip that was so full of awesomeness and awfulness, that I could probably write a book about it. There is one story in particular that needs to be told, and I feel like today is the day.

In the middle of the trip we went to a part of the Himalayas and went backpacking up a herding path to visit with a nomadic, water buffalo herding people group for a few days. It was truly incredible. The people were amazing, the scenery was unbelievably gorgeous, everything was just spectacular.

Towards the end of the camping trip, three of us had to leave early to return back to the city to go through a training program. In addition, a fourth person had Giardia and needed to come back with us to get medication.

So, three clumsy people, one guide, and a vomiting girl strapped to a donkey set off in the pouring rain to climb down a buffalo herding path. Recipe for success.

Now, a key part of this visual is that the rain had turned all of the centuries of dried, hardened buffalo poop back into it's similar to original, mushy state. Not only was it disgusting, it made things wildly slippery.

When you are walking down a poop covered path, in the pouring rain, and you are not part mountain goat, you fall. A lot. The first few times you fight it and bust out the ninja-gymnast moves to try and break your fall and save your clothes. After about the tenth fall, you experience a grudging acceptance that you are going to get some poop on you and try to refine your technique to the fastest way of getting up so you can just get to the end.

Around fall number 25 you start to laugh. Once you top 50, and you are so soaked in poop that you don't recognize the people you are with, you are laughing and crying so hard that you pee your pants. How do I know this is a universal experience? Because I was not the only person in that group that peed my pants.

All of this slipping and sliding was punctured by our guide, leading the donkey, yelling, "step where I step. Step where I step! Why you fall down? STEP WHERE I STEP!!" as he frolicked down the mountain without getting a speck on him.

"Mmhmm. Yes. I hear you, but every time I try to step where you step I get more buffalo dung up my nose when I land on my face."

Needless to say, by the time we got to the village at the bottom of the trail we looked like creatures emerging from the crap lagoon. Here is photographic proof of how horrifying this all was: me after I have tried to clean up and stood in the rain, in a river, for half an hour.

How I wish I had pictures of the villagers' faces as we walked down the middle of the main road. A resoundingly, stunned silence surrounded us as we dragged our weary, disgusting selves down the lane looking for the car that was suppose to pick up us up and take us back to the city.

"We have problem, but I fix!" Not comforting words to hear from your guide. Our transportation was MIA.

He bounded back after finding said missing car, and quickly stated "we have problem, but I fix!" The car, while now located, was broken down on the outskirts. Our guide quickly found us alternative transportation.

Why there was a neon orange, Indian party bus in a village hundreds of miles from the nearest city I may never know, but we would have ridden alligators down the mountain at this point in the story so we clamored on to the bus.

Moments later, our guide popped on to the bus. "We have problem, but I fix!" Of course we do. We needed to take the broken down car with us, but the party bus, while heavy on flashing lights was lacking in tow chains.

The car ended up being tied to the party bus with a piece of rope. After securing the car, our guide bid us good bye and four drivers loaded on to the bus on the front bench seat and we were off.

Music a blaring, lights a flaring, poor sick girl a vomiting, hope of survival a dying, we careened down the Himalaya. Suddenly, the car was rolling past us. Turns out, rope, not a great tow chain. We stopped. All four drivers got out, retied the car, got back in, and off we went again. This happened multiple times, and each time we had a different driver when we started moving again.

Finally, all of the drivers decided that rope was not working. Thus commenced an impromptu scavenger hunt on the side of the mountain. The result? Barbwire. Let me repeat. BARBWIRE.

Seriously. This picture: the party bus, the broken down car, the multitude of drivers, the barbwire:

 Fun fact: when barbwire is used to lash a car to a bus every few moments there is a bone jolting jump as the car slips down a notch on the barbwire. It was a really nice addition to the ride.

Eventually, we made it down the mountain. At the "auto shop" fifteen people came out of a tent all carrying a different tool to work on the car. Shockingly, it actually started and we made it back to where we were staying and we all survived.


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