A momentary gasp escaped my mouth when a local villager pointed in an upward direction to a hill that was supposed to be our destination – Pathing. The fog and the rain made it harder for us to navigate where we were supposed to be headed. My glasses were a smeary mess. My cap was completely drenched and so were all the clothes I wore underneath my raincoat.
The children there were pointing at the red spots around the distant hills where the land had slid yesternight, and at that exact moment, I knew this would be a terrible idea. With nothing but a cup of black tea and some pieces of biscuits in our stomach since 5 am, I and four of my friends were hiking uphill to landslide-prone areas that we knew nothing about just for a college project.
We took breaks every 10 minutes as we walked, considerable to the fact that we were beginner hikers. Taking in the beautiful foggy scenery, we tried to make out where we had stopped before. My friend pointed at a house that looked like the one where a few days ago an old couple invited us to have sel roti with spicy cucumber pickle and a full glass of lassi when we just asked them if we could fill up our water bottle. That was just how people at Helambu were, always happy, hospitable, and eager to help others.
As we went up and up, the path became slippier. The red mud was getting deeper and every time we stepped at something, our feet would get stuck. I was the first one in the bunch to fall victim to having both legs stuck inside the red mud. We all had pleasant laughs whenever someone would fall prey to it and I kid you not all of us did, so much that it looked like we were wearing shoes made of red mud.
Lucky for us, we found waterfall crests every now and then to wash off our legs. And at one of these crests, I nearly slipped and fell down. At this point, you must be tired of reading about my clumsiness.
In this five-hour-long hike, we often saw trees that had fallen down and big rocks that had been displaced because of the landslides. Every time I saw something lying in our path, my heart would skip a beat and my eyes would wander up to see if there is a chance that something would fall down and we would all be dead. One of my friends was having way too much fun adding on to my misery by telling stories about how a woman had been hit by a rock and her head was crushed.
Fortunately, we survived with all of our heads still intact. We reached our destination which was Pathing School and at the top, the sun shined brightly and the sky was clear and blue. The fogs had faded away, and the air was fresh, something our lungs had never experienced in the city before. As we looked below us, we could see the place where we had started from. The breathtaking view from the top was worth it all – the fresh green landscape, the clouds hovering over the hills, and the river between the feet of the hills that looked like a thread from above.
Alas, it turned out to be one of the most memorable trips I had ever experienced and we still laugh remembering the time our feet were stuck in the red mud.