Extract from ‘Whistling Down To Jomsom’

We come into Kagbeni, crowded, closed, Tibetan streets, a river through the road, a complex, a jumble of lanes, dark alleys that narrow beyond vision, openings out onto the wide flood plane of the Kahli Gadanka, figures on the stones moving against vast stretches, the mesa-hillsides, the flanks of interwoven mountains crumpled into a landscape that becomes Tibet, a magical place, lunch in the cool upstairs of a rest house, chapattis, peas fried in onion, tinned chicken slices, and tinned fruit, decorations formed from an old Colgate tooth powder tin prominent among the iconography, our boots cracking the new mud floor, a puppy crapping among us, Susie bringing in a ten week old baby, his mother’s jumper folded under him as a nappy

…  and out into the valley, all in scarves and bandannas, against the winds coming up from the south, and into the Kahli Gadanka, the wide flat valley, the beach between the feet of mountains, the muddy wanderings of the split river, the laughter at the slippery stones, the sight of an old woman piggy-backed by her husband along the narrow side track,

smashing rocks in the search for ammonites, and the beginning of trees on the hillsides, and yellow flowered gorse and a purple clover in the stones and the dust rising up like a cyclone in the distance gathering momentum before dipping and then setting off towards us


…  and the five Nepalese girls travelling back home to Jomsom, arms swinging, shawls over their faces, and the huge curving rock faults, and the thunder colours further up, and the Eiger-wall face on the north east of Nilgiri appearing in the clouds that take on dust haze
layers of shade above the ever-darkening hill ridges, while a wild, drunken Nepali attaches himself to us, reeling through the canyon waving his stick until we shake him off, and we join the Nepalese girls who giggle at my attempts to sing through my bandanna, then they sing to us, leaning forward in earnestness and against the wind, and on across the pebbles and packed earth, white everywhere with surface salt, and into the bumpy mud mainstream of the town, an ugly mixture of Western influences, but not before we have seen riders in the valley corralling horses and the relations walking out into the wild land to meet the girls


(nb. ‘While Giants Sleep’ does not contain photographs and images used in this post are from Google and my notebook)

2 thoughts on “Extract from ‘Whistling Down To Jomsom’

  1. Hi Andy

    That was wonderfully atmospheric and I think your style of writing suited the piece perfectly. It’s a part of the world I’d love to visit and I’m enthralled when I watch documentaries about Nepal.
    I found myself wondering what that baby who wore the jumper as a nappy, is doing now. He’d be in his mid-twenties!
    Enjoy your trip to London for the Olympics.
    Ange 🙂

  2. Thank you for these kind and encouraging remarks, Ange. I had been unsure about this piece particularly because of the style in which it is written. I have read it recently at a couple of public events and it seems to be the one piece that provokes very differing reactions. However, most recently it has been getting the thumbs up so I thought I’d post an extract on this blog with links from Twitter and – so far – there have been some very positive comments and quite a lot of interest in general. Thanks for taking the trouble to write.

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