Being a huge cricket fan, a near-perfect anology comes to my mind when thinking about our current situation. During the finals of IPL 2018, Shane Watson played 10 consecutive Dot-Balls before he got off the mark. Chasing a stiff target of close to 180, 10 dot balls is almost a throw away.
But then, the innings that followed was something that will be remembered by any CSK fan for years to come. Shane Watson ended up scoring a century in the next 41 balls to give Chennai Super Kings their 3rd IPL trophy.
Resembling the first 10 balls of Shane Watson’s innings, our 4th day too was spent waiting in Nepalgunj. However, instead of staying put at the hotel, we rushed to the airport after receiving news that the skies had opened up and that flights could operate.
We went to the airport at Nepalgunj which looked like any other airport from the outside. But it was when we went into the airport did we get a shock of our lives. The airport resembled a chaotic bus stand where different airlines put up their small counters (Like the ones you would see at a fair or a carnival) and shout out various destinations. Hearing this, people who wish to travel to a particular destination go to the counter and purchase their ticket.
The reason for this is that for many of the places in Nepal, the only mode of travel to Nepalgunj is by air. Even the smallest of traders and farmers have to take a flight to go to come to Nepalgunj and procure their necessities. Hence, there are small flights that keep coming in whose next destination is based on the demand from the passengers.
Another surprising fact is that neither does the boarding pass have the passenger’s name nor does it have the time of the flight. The person at the counter scribbles an incoherent number on the boarding pass which somehow, the security person manages to decipher later on.
This too has a very logical explanation. First, like I said in the previous point, there are so many passengers going to different destinations, most of them being illiterate, thus making it pointless to have a name on the boarding pass. Also, the time of departure isn’t mentioned on the boarding pass for the simple reason that all flights are scheduled by the weather gods. The administration has absolutely no say over when the flights may leave.
Adding to the previous point, it makes sense to have uniform boarding passes because ancellation of flights is a very common occurrence too, and that’s exactly what happened to us.
As we were waiting eagerly to board our flight, we could see around half a dozen flights bringing back pilgrims who were stranded in Simikot for 4-5 days one after another. Just as we were about to board our flight, we recieved news that the weather had become bad in Simikot again and hence all flights were cancelled.
Our excitement did a somersault and turned into disappointment as we all picked up our backpacks and slowly returned to the hotel. We were probably the only ever people to have checked out of a hotel after lunch and checked-in again just in time for tea.
The only consolation for me was that we atleast had some Chinese food at the restaurant instead of the Roti and dal that was being arranged for us everyday. By the time we went to bed that night, we had successfully spent 3 full days waiting in Nepalgunj.
The next day, I woke up with a sense of optimism and the feeling that things will go right today. True to that feeling, we got a call from our operator to immediately rush to the airport after a quick breakfast. As soon as we got to the airport, we were called to board our flight (In a manner similar to how bus conductors call you to board a particular bus).
Our flight was a small, 18 seater, dual propeller aircraft with 2 pilots and a single airhostess. I got to sit right at the front and could see the various equipment being operated by the pilots. The flight was a very exciting, one-of-a-kind experience where the pilot navigates through various mountains and valleys, offering you some of the best views you can ask for.
We could see a lot of tiny settlings practising step cultivation in a magnificent manner. The flight is also quite a scary travel and is a significant challenge for people with weak stomachs. The pilot goes immensely close to a mountain, almost crashing into it, before he just turns around to get into a valley beside the mountain.
Particularly, the landing makes your heart beat significantly faster, almost wanting to tear apart your chest. The runway is a single strip of land surrounded by mountains on 3 sides. The pilot skilfully navigates right onto the runway and stops the aircraft just before the tarmac ends.
Once we landed at Simikot with our hearts nearly in our mouths, we were taken to a shack, which supposedly was the airport at Simikot, where we were made to register ourselves for the helicopter to Hilsa. It was also time for us to get our winter clothing out as we could feel the significant difference in temperature due to the altitude change. Simikot is close to 3000 Meters above Sea level and Hilsa, another 1000 Meters above Simikot.
One thing that HAS to be spoken about here is the hospitality of the local Nepalese at Simikot. Since helicopters were limited, the same helicopters would have to do multiple trips because only 6 people can fit into one Helicopter (Excluding the Pilot). While we were waiting for our turn, we were very evidently hungry due to the fact that it had been close to 6 hours since our last meal.
Observing this, the local Nepalese villagers made steaming hot rice and cooked cabbage that had freshly been plucked from the fields and told us to eat. Neither did we ask for it, nor were they obliged to serve us. Just seeing us eat gave them so much joy that cannot be expressed in words. As a student looking to go into the hospitality industry, that will be the kind of standards that I will set for myself.
Just as we were finishing our meal, we were called to board the helicopter waiting for us. Being the youngest of the group, I was given the front seat, right next to the pilot and the experience is something I will cherish throughout my life. The feeling was a mixture of fear, delight, excitement and awe of what was going on around. The view was that was offered was outstanding and magnificent. Please Do check my Instagram profile @tedxplorer for more breathtaking photos from the Helicopter ride and a special thanks to Shankar Ram uncle for clicking these wonderful photos.
We landed at Hilsa in about 20 minutes, around 3:30PM IST, and were eager & ready to cross over to China, with the customs office being just 50 meters away. However, much to our dismay, our operator told us that it would not be possible to cross over on the same day as Chinese customs closes at 6Pm China time and the Chinese are 2 and a Half hours ahead of us.
Reconciling with the fact, we walked to the hotel in Hilsa. The reason I used The hotel instead of A hotel is because there is only one hotel in Hilsa. Hilsa is an extremely village with an area of about 100 square meters, which exists for the sole purpose of receiving Kailash pilgrims before they can cross over.
That night, we stayed in small, but cozy rooms where there were 7 beds and 7 people had to sleep in one room. We went to bed with a deep prayer that everything goes well and that we reach the abode of Lord Shiva soon.
But the scoring had begun. While the first 4 days in Nepalgunj were like Shane Watson’s first 10 balls, moving from Nepalgunj to Hilsa was the six to get us off the mark, and I’m sure there’s a century coming up ahead.
नमः शिवाय च शिवतराय च
Salutations To Shiva, the Auspicious one, unto Shivatara, the one other than whom none more Auspicious can exist