Wanderlust: ‘I look up and there is another boulder coming’

by Brad Tafoya

Continuing with Part II of Brad Tafoya’s epic tale of his trip to Nepal. In Part I, his crew arrived and experienced multiple setbacks due to rain and rockslides while installing solar lights in teahouses along the Great Himalaya Trail.“We continued on from (a village that had been partially wiped out by a rock in a landslide). We are at the Tibet border. We go into a village that hardly has any visitors ever, (though) it has the oldest monastery in Nepal and Tibet. From there, we climbed a 16,500-foot pass and there was a day where I was ahead of everyone trekking along and I hear this loud sound and I look up just in time to see this boulder the size of a dump truck flying through the air that lands on the trail, which is like a wide road, literally 20 feet in front of me; scares the shit out of me. I’m standing there shocked that this just happened, and I hear a sound and I look up and there is another boulder coming. It’s a ways up there, so I decide I am going to get a picture of this one. My friends are all below me and they don’t think I see this boulder and I wave a, “Yeah whatever,” because I’m watching this thing, but when it gets 50 yards from me it’s headed right for me and you start to think, “Which way do I go? Which way do I move?” and as I thought that, another little boulder bounced and careened about 30 feet behind me on the road.

We finished our trek and get back to the village with the plane that will pick us up, but we are delayed again for two days because of rain. The planes, they keep telling us they are coming and they don’t come … So the last day that we can go before missing our Kathmandu flights to home, a plane comes in and we’re told to go to the airport strip. We are standing there waiting and our guide says, “We need more money.” We say, “What do you mean?” and he says, “We need more money.” And we say, “Fine,” We see them go over and he’s handing these bills to somebody. Then we start to see all these pissed-off looks from all these Nepali people and what had happened is we had pushed off local people from the flight because we had more money.

There is this huge rainstorm coming in, and we don’t even know if we’ll be able to fly because they typically don’t fly in the afternoons and the winds are coming in. They get us in the plane and we take off and the airstrip is very short and you have to pull up right away or else you hit a mountainside. I’m right up front, behind the pilots, and I can see everything. When we pull up to miss the mountainside we go right into the eye of the storm. I kid you not, as we go into that thing, and everything is black. You can’t see anything on the outside. The pilots flick on their radar and maneuver the plane through this deep mountain valley for 15 minutes using only radar and that is all they can see. It’s rocky and bumpy and everyone is upset and nervous but we landed and, I never thought I would do this, but when we landed I got down on my knees and kissed the pavement because I was so happy.”

Brad TafoyaGot a travel story worth telling? Write it in about 400 words and send it to [email protected]. If you’d rather tell your story, send a brief synopsis along with your full name and phone number to the same address. Either way, your story should be true.


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