The sun was on its way to setting when I wrapped my emails and set off up the dusty road. I faced a solid chase; the bus had set off at noon, miraculously on schedule as it careened up the steep track. I now plodded up behind it; the weight of all the climbing garbage on my back made my boots sink up to the laces in the fine powder with every step.
I moved north up the line connecting Melamchi and Sirmathang. Time and time again, I’d pass rice farmers wrapping the day’s work; walking home either with giant scythes at their waist or bent under tubfuls of firewood or straw. They carry the goods in floppy sandals, up hill after hill. They carry as children, and carry as grandparents. We’ve forgotten what it means to carry, and they carry with a smile.
The sun set, and my pace changed. Walking by the feeble headlamp means walking in a tunnel; the world collapses down to what the lazy beam can reach. Beyond that, my fatigued imagination took over – noises became more ominous, passing monkeys more and more sinister.
I stopped late after dark, stumbling over a logger’s camp. Five hours of rest, shivering in my makeshift bivy, and I awoke to the loggers starting to load the rough cuts before dawn. I packed up, shook hands with them, and moved on, waddling the three hours up to Sirmathang with a stiff stride. I climbed above 2000 meters, and the haze began to thin as the sun boiled it off the hills.
I kept moving. The walk was getting long, but I had no time to waste; I felt behind. The sun shone hot, and I strode though what I though would be the final village. I found Meagan in Tarkenyang, a small but proper stop with a gompa and two lodges. The lukewarm shower was heaven, as was the first warm cup of tea in two days. In 17 hours, I had done the thirty-odd miles, and we were back together – it was worth it.