The Slowest Ride

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

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The bus is tilting precariously, again, and the boy who has been hanging out of the door jumps out to place a large rock behind the back wheel to prevent us from slipping any farther back. The driver restarts the engine and with a lurch we are off. The boy is running alongside the bus while holding onto the handle, we are moving so slowly it isn’t hard for him to jump in and out as he pleases. I am headed up and over the foothills in rural western Nepal on a “road” where only one bus passes daily. Besides that, the path is used by villagers herding their goats or cows and by the occasional daring motorcycle. Though it can’t be more than thirty kilometers to the top, it is nearly a three hour treacherous journey.

The bus is full of very curious villagers who are watching me shyly, they have never seen someone with such light hair and blue eyes and don’t know what to think. One of the older wrinkly ladies greets with me a huge toothless grin as she puts her hands together and says “namaskgar,” a greeting that shows respect. As we slowly turn the corner I have to close the window to prevent the branches from continuously assaulting me. The bus is overfull, and though my old broken seat is far from comfortable on this bumpy ride, it is much better than standing as many of the people are.

We are stopped again, and this time the ten or so men on top, and another dozen from inside get out to walk as the bus tries again to make it past the rough section. Most of the women in the bus look sick, and I can constantly hear the sound of someone retching out the window. These villagers are not accustomed to being in a moving vehicle, and the rough road is more than their stomachs can handle. We all stop for a break at the first village over the hill, a village composed of a handful of mud huts spread out over the hillside. There is a small “restaurant,” a few benches and rocks for tables where a man and his three boys are serving rice and dal. I decide to get off here and see what this village has in store for me. Everyone is shocked when I grab my bag down from the top. When they tell me the bus is leaving, I explain that I am staying here. They can’t seem to understand why I would stay here, in the most rural village on the hillside. But that’s precisely why I have chosen this spot, a village where time has stood virtually still.

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