Home » Even Mountains Crumble

Many years ago I travelled with my wife (then girlfriend) through Nepal, doing research and exploring together. This is a story about a bus journey through the foothills of the Himalayas that didn’t go entirely to plan.

Life is ever changing
Our world is light and shade
Even mountains crumble
Even stars will fade

I sit beside a toilet
My head against the bowl
My stomach growls and lurches
As it struggles for control

The night is slowly lifting
No sleep to lift the haze
My eyes unfocused, drifting
My thoughts trapped in a maze

You ask me if I’ll be ok
We have to catch the bus
I feel pretty awful
But I hate to make a fuss

And so I pull clean clothes on
Skip breakfast and then walk
We catch the bus together
And we sleep a bit and talk

Driving up into the mountains
Away from Kathmandu
My guts almost distracted by
The ever changing view

As we rise through ever steeper vales
On twisting narrow tracks
My headache fades a little
And I do start to relax

After hours of coiling turns
I think I’m on the mend
The chances of me throwing up
Reduce with every bend

And we pass a laden donkey
Two ladies walk beside
And I wonder where they’re going
We’ve passed nothing on the ride

Just these buttresses of mountains
Stretching northward, reaching high
To the towering Himalaya
Only rock and ice and sky

Now the road cuts like a ribbon
Down the winding valley side
A sheer cliff above us
A precipice beside

Dropping down into a river
A thousand feet below
A wheel’s width to the right
And over it we’d go

Life is ever changing
Our world is light and shade
Even mountains crumble
Even stars will fade

Along the ribbon road I see
A queue build up ahead
The driver calls and stops the bus
We don’t know what he’s said

But then he signals us to stand
And we all climb from the bus
And the driver’s on the roof
Throwing our bags down to us

Our Nepali isn’t great
And we don’t know why we’re here
But the traffic isn’t moving
Either in front or to the rear

So we don’t have any choice
But to walk along the track
A days walk to where we’re going
Or two days turning back

So we walk with many others
Heavy bags and tired legs
And my stomach starts complaining
And the pain refills my head

And I start to notice boulders
The size of family cars
That have fallen from the cliff above
Carving ugly scars

On there way down to the river
Where they now lye to rest
And I start to wonder whether
This road will pass the test

Of buses, cars and lorries
Stacked 200 deep
Clinging to the canyon wall
So fractured, worn and steep

And as we round a corner
The answer blocks the track
A crumbling mass of mountainside
Invites us to turn back

Because the road ahead is blocked
The road ahead is gone
A thousand tonnes of landslide
Insists we can’t go on

But we do continue forward
And we reach the hulking pile
Of great rocks and mud and shale
And we wait there for a while

And we watch the locals closely
As we don’t know what to do
We see a man who holds a whistle
Which he blows and right on queue

A group of people start to clamber over
Shifting rock and stone
And I can’t really believe it
And my stomach starts to groan

Because that’s the way we’re going
There’s now no other choice
As the whistling gets close now
Like an ear splitting voice

Shrieking out a word of warning
Crying out a vultures call
To remind us that our ending
Will await us if we fall

Or if shifting rocks above us
Decide to choose that time
To drop straight down and crush us
To crush us as we climb

A final whistle sounds
We know it’s our turn
We climb onto the stones
And fear starts to burn

A fuse that leads it’s way to panic
But I can’t let it ignite
It’s only fifty yards away
The solid road is now in sight

And I look up and see the cracks
In the cliff face up above
See the boulders that would fall
Given just a tiny shove

And as my feet arrive on tarmac
My heart beat slows it’s pace
I turn around to see you
Relief etched on your face

We sigh and sit together
Not sure of where to go
Eventually a truck pulls up
And though we do not know

Where it goes, we climb aboard
And as it pulls away and drives
We feel thankful for each other
And thankful for our lives

And just three hours later
We sit beneath a tree
Draped in rainbow prayer flags
Feeling calm and feeling free

And just as Buddha sat before us
In this very spot
We realise the meaning
Of everything we’ve got

In twilight shadows lengthen
The sunlight ebbs away
The stars light up the evening
And tenderly they say

Life is ever changing
Our world is light and shade
Even mountains crumble
Even stars will fade

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