Getting up the mountain to Kalimati is not as difficult as getting to Uri. Uri is a much longer drive to the jeep drop off and then a few hours trekking up past Ghandruk and then taking a right turn off the trekkers beaten track up a narrow path though the woods and along the ridge to Kot Danda. Pokhara to Uri is a days travel. Pokhara to Kalimati half a day without the need to walk. Being able to get there all the way by jeep makes a big difference, although when you arrive there is still a fair amount of walking up steep rice terraces to get anywhere in the village which is very spread out. Jeeps go once a day in each direction – down the mountain 6:00am in the morning and then leaving at midday to get back up by early evening.
Getting to and from Kalimati school, to where I sleep at night is just over an hours trek down up and down again or up down and up again depending on which direction. Tougher going back at the end of the day. Sometimes I wait for the jeep coming back from Pokahra and catch a lift with them .. if there is space. Often there is not and its a case of people clinging on everywhere.
The roads are pretty rough, barely a road really, just a ledge hacked out of the mountain and very steep sides. Going up the mountain, if you have not managed to squeeze inside, it best to get a seat on the left hand side of the roof. I think the locals groan internally when they see me joining. With my big western backside, I take up the space of three Nepali ladies.
So I often end up on the roof.
Last week the only option I had was hanging on the right hand side at the back – entirely the wrong side of the jeep. It means you get to see the terrifying cliff edge drop as the jeep trundles up miraculously not going over the edge. At a particularly narrow point I thought it was curtains, sure the jeep was tilting to go over. I screamed and flung myself off the jeep landing flat on my back in the mud, much to everyone’s amusement and my embarrassment.
Today I decide to walk back home. It is late, getting dark, but the road is the middle of nowhere and quite safe.
Now Nepal is full of buffalo. I had seen the children in Uri playing tag on the buffalo’s tails and they seemed placid. Walking home on the road ahead of me was one great big buffalo. What to do? I want to get back before it gets dark as I have no torch. Wait for it to move..? No it was docile enough .. I decide to just walk around and behind it.
What I fail to notice is that this is not a placid grey buffalo but a black bull.
Passing behind it I hear a great big bellow, a loud snorting and before I know it I am tossed in the air like a rag doll, the next moment lying on the ground. The only thought in my mind is horns gouging and hoofs trampling and I scream. I look up and it is trotting away down the path; it is only the pain in my bum and my breathe knocked out of me I know I did not dream it.
It all happens in a few seconds, from standing on the ground to being airbourne and then flat on my back. Never have I felt so physically vulnerable.
My screams echoing through the surrounding jungle have brought the attention of a couple of migrant woodcutters. They take me into their makeshift tarpaulin tent where they were living; feed me something unknown and pour hot black tea into me until the jeep arrives. Everyone is very concerned and order me never to walk again, the jeep is much safer. Reshem when he heard, said he knew the bull.. it had thrown him off the side of the mountain last year.
My daily commute options… death by jeep or death by bull.