Getting our feet wet
29.09.1966 - 29.09.1966
The next morning we all trudged back into Boombri to tell our story to the District Police Commissioner, who spoke some English. T.T. was again wanting us to embellish the story and say we had been robbed, but we told the DC that we really had no complaint at all, apart from a disturbed night’s sleep. This upset T.T. no end, but we couldn’t have cared less, as we were really rather pleased that he had got his comeuppance. We got on quite well with the DC, and after checking our passports he invited us to take tea. A crowd of onlookers had gathered around the open air interview scene and hung on every word, whether they could understand or not. God knows what rumours were flying about, but evidently it was the biggest thing that had happened in Boombri in ages. Later, as we set out for our next destination, Putlikhet, T.T. was very subdued and we let him get well ahead of us on the trail, hoping to encounter him as little as possible during the day. Putlikhet was his home town so that was as far as we would have to put up with him at least.
We walked on the flat for much of the day, following the bank of the Andhi Khola as it wound its way through a valley that turned and twisted constantly. Sometimes the path became almost indistinguishable; sometimes no more than a raised paddy wall; sometimes a dry part of the river bed. We were continually trying to skirt small streams and irrigation ditches, doing our best to avoid getting our boots wet. At one point I managed to fall in - camera, passport and all, but fortunately got out before everything was totally soaked. While we waited for things to dry we took advantage of the brilliant sunshine and the sparkling river and had a great swim. The setting was so perfect that we were reluctant to move on, but we had to get to Putlikhet by nightfall.
There was no place we could find all day that would give us food, but we drank tea at every opportunity. I was getting worried about my ankle, which was still playing up, and I needed to take frequent rests. At least we were on the flat, but it was still very tiring walking in the hot sun, especially with no food to sustain us. Whenever we asked, Putlikhet was always 2ks away, always 2ks. Eventually we had to ford the river itself. We waded in up to thigh level, with me holding the camera high to avoid getting it wet again. Though the river wasn’t too deep at the ford, the current was very strong and it was about 50yds across. We had to be extremely careful because the rocks on the bottom were very slippery. Our hiking sticks helped however and we made it OK.
We plodded onwards and were starting to get a bit apprehensive as dusk approached because we knew we had another river to cross before reaching Putlikhet. We had not seen T.T. and the porter for hours and assumed they had already arrived. Just after sunset we crossed what looked like the bed of a river, but there was very little water in it. We could see Putlikhet in the distance, so we thought we had made it. But no - as it started to get dark we came to another stretch of water, not too wide, but with a very fast current. We struggled across this, only to find ourselves on a small pebbly island with even more of the river beyond. This was no wider than the first part, but in the descending darkness, up to the waist against the rapidly moving stream, it was more dangerous. Crossing Himalayan rivers in the dark is certainly no fun. Having made it safely to the other side, and with Putlikhet only 100yds away, we plonked ourselves down and had a cigarette before going into the town.
In Tansen the Stuarts had told us there was an American Peace Corps guy named Charlie living in Putlikhet and it did not take us long to find him. He was taking a meal in a local eating house and we joined him for our first food of the day. We were ravenous. While we were eating, T.T. came in - word of our arrival had obviously got around pretty fast. Charlie was able to question him at length and we finally found out what was going on between T.T. and the porter. Apparently the porter had stolen about 250 rupees worth of grain from T.T. at one time and was now bonded to him until the debt was repaid. T.T. had thought that getting the porter to carry our load was an opportunity for him to get back some of the money owed and that was the arrangement. The drunks at Boombri must have known something of this matter and decided to hassle him. News of the incident had travelled up the trail ahead of us by word of mouth, changing as it went, and by the time the story got to Putlikhet it was about a father and son who had been beaten up and robbed by their porter. Such was the rumour mill in the hills. It seemed the porter was not going to go on to Pokhara with us (the slave master probably didn’t trust him out of his sight), but T.T. said that he would arrange for someone else to carry the stuff for us.
Charlie invited us to stay in his house and there we met his girlfriend Lyn, another Peace Corps worker, visiting from Pokhara. The house was traditional Nepalese with two storeys and an attic. The ground floor consisted of an entrance hall and two rooms, of which the front one opened out via three removable panels to a narrow portico which ran around three sides of the house and was overhung by a verandah on the upper level. This upper floor was one large room with a couple of doors opening onto the verandah. In the centre were a number of heavy posts resting on the structural wall underneath and supporting the roof. Charlie and Lyn had made this main room very comfortable. We slept in one of the rooms downstairs. I stretched out on a Tibetan rug and was soon dead to the world.
* * *
Fishing in one of the many streams that feed the Andhi Khola river
Drying out after slipping and falling in
An opportunity for a swim and a sunbake
Fording the Andhi Khola, being more careful this time.
* * *