When I had decided to choose civil engineering as my profession, I had no idea that it would offer me a lot of opportunities to travel. Going to Mugu was confirmed when working in RAP3 I was asked by Bill Seal (Engineering Team Leader) to join a team that was conducting a detailed survey for a road corridor that would connect Gamgadhi (headquarter of Mugu) to Humla. In his mail, he mentioned, it would be quite an interesting and challenging job.
At first, I was excited to travel to Mugu and Humla, both being new places to me, but when I reached home and informed my parents about it, they weren’t excited. In fact, they weren’t happy since it’s a risky place to visit considering the steep terrain, jungles, and rivers. To tell the truth, somewhere inside I was scared too. I had once fallen from a steep terrain when I was in grade 11. Blood vessels of my head were bruised and I had to walk on strength of a leg for a week. The same feeling pours through my nerves every time I have to walk on steep terrain and this time it was more than just walking. It was also about finding the control in a body to handle a piece of expensive equipment called the total station, used in surveying.
However, I conquered my fears and convinced my parents saying that it was a great opportunity for me. Not only I’d be making some extra money, but I would be taking part in my first professional road survey which was grand in itself and its grandness was amplified by the fact that I was going to the rural places like Mugu and Humla of Nepal.
With that mindset, I set out. By any means, I was hoping to return in one piece, come back and celebrate Dashain (the biggest festival of Nepal) with my family.
The journey began. Up and down the hills I went. Truly speaking, I had never been so close to the mountain ever before. Not in Achham, Bajura, or Dadeldhura.
We walked at least 7 hrs a day. We woke up at 6 am. Got ready by 7 and by 7:30 we were in the field, working. The target which we had set of reaching up to Humla border (Chankheli) had to be met. As we marched further away from Gamgadhi, the remoteness of the place increased.
Throughout the journey, I came across some steep slope time and again. I even slipped in one place but was rescued. Just a small scratch and not much. Yeah, I learned engineering survey but besides that, there were many other things that I felt good of. I came across many people, talked with them, understood their feelings, the scenario of their living, and much more.
One of those lively talks was at Chankheli pass, with a female hotel owner regarding the child marriage. She asked me if I was married. I said, “No” and then she asked my age. I said “23”. Then she gave a good laugh and said, “Sir, None of the girls would believe you now. You are too old for anyone in the village”. That made me smile.
When I felt my legs, my heart got stronger. By walking through the hills, my legs were getting damn stronger. I felt that I could knock out anyone with a kick. To kill the tiredness resulted in from walking and working all day, we used to take whiskey made locally. I had never known about “Jhaikuti”, which is made by heating ghee and frying a tiny amount of rice until it turns red (a process called “Jhanne” in Nepali) and when it’s ready we pour that into the divine drink and sip it up. Its kind of hot drink and the locals forced me to take it when I was suffering from cold and to my surprise, it worked. The next morning, hoarseness in my voice disappeared. Cheers to “Jhaikuti” 🙂
Not only Jhaikuti was the first thing there. I had “Jharal”, “Naaur”, Rabbit’s meat for the first time there. I had slept in a tent in the middle of the wilderness for the first time there and most unforgettable, I shitted openly in the forest every morning, for about 10 days, there.
There it was, i touched a real gun and heard the sound of bullet fired. Some people were hunters. They were proud to call themselves “Sikari”. Guns present there reminded me of the “Sankat kal” (internal fight between government and Maoist) , that our nation went through. I talked about it and hearing their story I could do nothing but just take a deep breath. Its such a shame that Nepal went through sacrifice of many young lives and to find the situation of our country at the moment is not justifiable to the sacrifices that it has borne.
30 days came to an end. To celebrate our victory of successfully completing the work, we went to Rara Lake, the biggest lake of Nepal. Drizzle on the way was making the atmosphere very cool. When we reached there, I felt it might have been at its best, or like many, I might be the one who was so lured by its beauty. A good drink in an open-air filled with the fragrance of its beauty and presence of loved ones around me is something I’ll cherish.
There were many incidents/talks worth sharing. Honestly, at that time in the field, I wished many times on returning home sooner. Now, thinking of it, the more I stayed there, the more experience I gained.