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
… and we arrive to porters and loads in the main street, some confusion and words from Temba and we step inside a hotel, with a round of apple brandy and it is the worst image of the remote lands, where a dissolute German and a local leer and press rakshi onto Krishna who shares some with me and out, head spinning a little, into the street, around the back of a rest house, to find a crowded camping space like a bombed out refugee camp, children watching, dogs that creep, and huddled people breaking wood for fuel
… and in the mess tent our young travelling companion whom Holly will mother and keep beside her in the night to deliver to his father in the morning, and he wide-eyed as he eats with us and takes three helpings of soup, and then outside at 8.30, as the lamp burns, only Susie and I are left with our diaries, a dog is yelping and laughter, coughing and conversation comes from the porters’ campfire and the vast changes that we have seen today from the town below the Pass to the entry into Tibet through Kagbeni with the cherry blossom and the moonscape, other planet, other consciousness and the tapping of the stick on the miles of stones to the one-horse, bombed-out resting place, have left a patchwork day, a richly woven, threadbare cloth of a day, a rags and riches of experience.