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  Annapurna/Dhaulagiri 2005: IVAN VALLEJO RICAURTE: THE RELATIVITY OF TIME


Nepal, April 11, 2005

Dear friends of Ecuador and the world:

I send this chronicle from a point in the road, on the approach of Dhaulagiri Base Camp at 3,536 m. of altitude.  I have to mention that I feel really sad because of the political events that my dear Ecuador lives today. I send my deepest wishes for the situation to improve; that there is once and for all a compromise of love for the country, that shows the road to follow.  I, from here on the Himalayas, commit myself, so help me God, to send good news of this project that is mine and yours: CHALLENGE 14 (DESAFIO 14). 

Friends, I had the idea to use a literary figure in these chronicles, letters that I write to Karma, for that Karma that we all have, to that real or imaginary existence that keeps us going, that makes us dream, that sings to us, that loves us, that is our friend and our accomplice.  I am going to direct them to that Karma, although maybe it hasn't arrived yet, we know it is on its way.  For me it is Karma.  You choose your own name for it.

One more thing, friends, if you want to replay to this or other chronicles, I ask you a big favor: send only your message and erase what you have received, and I will get your news fast and I will be able to reply, as I wish.

With my love.

From somewhere towards the Himalayas

April 9, 2005

Dear Karma:

I know that you would have liked to kiss me goodbye before I went away, but that is precisely why I didn't do it, because we would have realized that it had the taste of a long goodbye; I looked into your eyes instead, to look good until I went deep inside the blackness of your hair and to tell you close to your ear: I climb two mountains, I come back down and we will meet right away again.  After hugging you I keep the smell of jasmine you left on my cheek.  I only raised my hand and said goodbye.  Remember?  I showed the guard at the gate the plane ticket, the passport and we disappeared, you staying there and I coming here.

Now I am writing from a point in the middle of these mountains; it took us five days to get here walking through endless places, all green, sharp, fertile and precious.  When we started this trek in Beni at 830 meters of altitude it was very hot and you could feel humidity; now I am at 2,400 meters sitting in a mess tent writing you this letter.  It is cold outside, porters cook on the fire, and that's the way they feed and get warm; above the trees with beautiful red flowers, a thousand stars shine.  From here I write to you, dear Karma, to tell you with my words what I am living, what I am learning and what I am feeling; so that you, although you are at the other side of the world come to me and make the trip with me.

So welcome to the passage through Dhaulagiri. 

ABOUT THE RELATIVITY OF TIME: FROM HERE TO THE STARS.

You see, you and I have grown up in our South America where we learned the meaning and also the value of the relativity of time.  It must be because of the indigenous roots that for the people of our Andes the distances and time have different values and measures from ours, the average citizens.

When sometimes, walking by the little mountains of my town I asked people: where is this hill? Or where is that ridge? I immediately got the answer: just right around here.  Or if maybe I was waiting for a transport to take me back home I asked: when is the milk truck coming?  They have also answered politely: it will be here in just a moment, just wait.

In both cases I kept the doubt of what the meaning of just right around here or just a moment meant.  Maybe a hundred meters, two hundred, a kilometer, five kilometers?  Or maybe five minutes, thirty minutes, an hour or a day?  But in any case it was nice to figure out the distance or time it was left, adding the joy of having asked the question, which had and didn't have an answer.

It should have been logic to hear: you still have to go 2 kilometers, 320 meters, then turn right by that eucalyptus that is two and a half meters tall.  Or maybe: at 7 hours and 25 minutes in the morning, exactly half an hour after it picked up 5,785 cubic centimeters of milk of the E-122 cow.

But luckily our roots, dear Karma, don't have that logic or go that way and I, in my daily job of finding the positive part of life, find in that relativity of time and space, a stupendous part.  Today I remember that when my kids were little they used to ask me how much I loved them and I said: a lot, a lot!  How much is a lot, a lot, daddy?  Like from here to the stars, I said the first time.  Other times, when I took my backpack to go to the mountain I said I was going to think about them and to miss them a lot.  How much daddy?  From here to the stars.  So, that way, I guess they learned to not quantify the measure of love.

And if in this very moment you'd ask if I think of you or if I miss you, I would say yes.  How much?  From here to the stars, I'd say, of course.

Do you see how nice this relativity of time and space it is?  It would be sad to quantify the love in such a way that I would have to say: I love you exactly 327,572 units or that I miss you 523,872 numbers.  No, it is good that that is not the way to do it and it is better to say, from here to the stars. 

But why have I thrown all this thing about relativity of time and space, well, to tell you that this relativity, here in Nepal, also exists but multiplied by a hundred or a thousand, I am not exaggerating.  My theory is this (I have to explain that it is a personal theory): here in Nepal people practice Buddhism and Hinduism, so they believe in reincarnation; that means that they will have to reincarnate in I don't know how many lives and how many forms necessary to get to a highest existence, free of iniquities, that lets them get Nirvana.  I guess that there is an average time to get rid of guilt of 5 lives, of 70 years each one, which add a total of 350 years, or 4,200 months, 126,000 days and 3,024,000 hours (you see, my defect of quantifying everything), so a day, a week or a month of waiting is nothing, absolutely nothing in the middle of such infinity.   

Now you should understand why the other day, to move just 200 kilometers from Katmandu to Pokhara took us so much time.  The Maoist guerrilla had blocked the road, there was no pass and the line of buses and cars waiting was endless.  Nobody took notice, all the Nepalese were quietly waiting without hope and we, the western expeditioneers, of course, waited impatiently and desperately.  When we asked a military group what time could we continue our trip, the answer, in the context of this particular relativity of time of Nepal was:

-          Maybe.  Possible, tomorrow morning.

Hours went by and we were hungry, which we wiped with five chickens for the 20 of us; we ate them with fried potatoes, vegetables, fresh greens, and cold Everest Special Edition beer. The afternoon came and the sun, tired of looking at the line of buses that didn't move, went to say hello to you on the other side, where you are now.

That day the trip was not possible and we went back to Katmandu.

On the next day we got up early again, with the innocence of ours. The endless line again.  They were sleeping, eating, reading Katmandu Post or playing cards by the edge of the road, and we were sleeping, reading, also playing cards, shooting pictures, listening to music or drinking bottled water (Everest brand, of course) to calm the heat.  When I could see the length of the waiting line from the top of the bus, the image of the Kafka's Chinese Wall came to my mind: there in that empire where everything was huge and immense, once the king sent his messenger to publish a new edict.  When he was just crossing the exit gate of the palace to start the trip, so much time had gone by that the dynasty was another one.  Thinking in that figure I asked the gods that maybe before this King of Nepal, who has been declared a dictator since February 1st, would change his rule, and we could get to Pokhara.

And on Sunday, April 3, at 8 in the evening we arrived after 13 hours of traveling, going at a little less than 15 kilometers per hour.

Do you have what it is to have waited 37 hours to get to Pokhara, when here in this beautiful Nepal they have to live an average of ... from here to the stars?

It is nothing, absolutely nothing, my dear Karma.

Iván Vallejo Ricaurte

Expeditioneer 

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Dispatches

 

 

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