Travel is a funny beast, thinking here especially of international travel. Waiting around, crossing timezones, completely messes with my sense of time. Where did it go? What time is it? I sit here watching the busyness and speed of a southern Californian freeway, while I sit waiting for the next stage - the day just passing by while I remain still.

I’ve just subscribed to Craig Mod’s January pop-up newsletter Walking TOKIO TŌKYŌ TOKYO² — Winter Edition. Running from January 16th through to the 23rd. That’s it. Subscribe and enjoy the read and exploration.

Horse and cart and bus on road near to Bodhgaya, Bihar state, India

Another photograph from my travels through the Indian/Chinese subcontinent between 1989 and 1990. This was taken near to Bodhgaya, Bihar state, India, possibly on the road on the way to the town. From the height of the photograph I wonder if I am sitting on the roof of a bus?

Photo capture of a slide projected onto a wall.

Kathmandu from across the Bagmati river

Kathmandu from across, I think, the Bagmati river. Like other photographs that I have posted this week, this was taken in 1989 during my travels through the Indian/Chinese subcontinent. Photo capture of a slide projected onto a wall.

Travels through the Solo/Khumbu Region

Last night I went back through some slides from my 1989/90 travels through Pakistan, China, Nepal & India. I have numerous slides, and they are in an ill arranged mess at the moment. As I loaded up the carousel to put into the projector, I had little idea as to what I would be looking at, even whether I would recognize the images.

My fears of not recognizing images were unfounded. The photos were mostly from the Solo/Khumbu (Everest) region of Nepal and my first forays into India.

This all happened towards the end of 1989, over thirty-three years ago. It was a time of great change for me. I had left home confused, lost, maybe angry, with many questions going through my head. I’m not even sure that I knew what those questions were? I just wanted some space, to get away from all that appeared to hold expectations over me and would not hear questions (or at least I did not feel comfortable going to them with questions). So, I threw a pack on my back and hit the road. This was my second trip and I felt that some pieces were beginning to fall into place, though I had fear around what I would do with those pieces once I was home. For now, I was in a safe place.

I spent a month in the Solo/Khumbu region. Two weeks trekking in, about a week in the area, and then a week or less trekking out. The walk out is mainly downhill, and my blood was pumping with oxygen due to all the red blood cells that it had produced in the rarefied atmosphere at the roof of the world. I found it hard to leave. I felt at home there, especially once I got up in the Sherpa region, dotted as it is with signs of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Something was seeding my growing interest in this faith.

So last night brought back happy memories for me. Memories of a sense of meaning being found, of self-discovery. Such I believe is always available to us, but there are times, such as those days for me at the end of 1989, when there is space to take time to explore, inquire, and look around. The incorporation of my discoveries into regular life were still to come, but at that moment I could take in, appreciate and start to reflect on what was beginning to emerge.

Below is a photograph of me with the Himalayan range, including Mt Everest, in the background. Mt. Everest is on the left of the picture, the triangular peak lying slightly to the left. The photograph is an image taken from a slide projected onto a wall, and then tweaked a little.

Strangers on the Road in Portugal

I am ready to share this story now. I have cooled down. Actually I cooled down once we were back at our B&B, but it has just taken me a while to get this story written down.

My wife and I were in the small town of Alcácer do Sal in Portugal a couple of months ago (more on the reason behind that later, in another post). The town is situated on the river Sado about fifty minutes drive south of Lisbon. We had had a busy day and decided to drive the forty minutes to the town of Comporta, situated on the Atlantic coast, and the nearby beach to watch the sunset.

So far all was uneventful. We stopped at a grocery store to stock up on a few items, sat on the beach, tested the water’s temperature (cold), and started the drive back to our B&B.

Now we had been in Portugal for a little over a day. We were still learning about the country and scraping by on our couple of Portuguese words, the generosity of the Portuguese people as they spoke English to us, and gestures or iPhones where the rest failed. We were on the main road back to Alcácer do Sal, a two lane road with sand on both sides. That is, the road appeared to be built on top of deep sand disappearing off into the surrounding forests. With the sun low in the sky, we left Comporta just before sunset, it was starting to get dark.

Suddenly I hear an odd noise in the car. My instinct was to pull over and investigate. I didn’t want the car to break down out here. Ironically it wasn’t going to, but I made things much worse and in a split second, as I pulled off the road, I realized my mistake. I was driving the car into sand. We were stuck. No forwards. No backwards. Stuck in the sand with the back of the car sitting on the road.

My command of English very quickly, and sadly, dropped to a few unprintable words. What were we to do? Traffic was little and those that did pass up appeared to be in a hurry to get home for dinner. We considered who we could call for help - the rental company, a couple of people who we knew in Portugal - but none were nearby. In hopeless desperation I started digging around the tires, but it was a futile effort.

We looked on helplessly as cars drove by, and then a small van pulled over. A man got out. Verbal communication was minimal, but then the problem was obvious and it was a case of figuring out what to do. I felt mildly better now that someone had voluntarily stopped to see if they could help.

After a short while trying to figure out what to do and not appearing to be getting very far, a much larger van pulled over and a crew of men got out. A construction team heading home and one spoke good English. He told us not to worry. There was a lot of looking around and under the car. Discussion between the men ensued as they figured out options.

Setting the rope to the back of the car

I had no idea what was going on, was humbled by my helplessness, and at the same time feeling deep gratitude that these strangers had stopped to help.

Checking under the car

They fished around in the trunk of the car, pulled out a tool, attached it to the back of the car and to that attached a rope. I still wasn’t sure what was going on, but it appeared that a plan was being acted upon.

Me looking very concerned

The other end of the the rope was attached to the work crew’s van. The van was going to reverse slowly. I was instructed that as soon as I felt the pull of the van to slowly reverse the car. Someone stood out in the road to slow traffic down. Afraid that I would make a total hash of these simple instructions, I followed them and with great relief we were out!

The final part all happened very quickly then. We cleaned up, my wife and I thanked them all profusely and we started towards Alcácer do Sal, moving in convoy.

The Kindness of Strangers

I have spoken before about the kindness of strangers. Again I found myself on the receiving end of such kindness. We did not know each other, and likely won’t meet up again. We came from different countries, could not speak each others’ mother tongues, but they stopped to help just because they saw someone needing help.

For me, not only does something like this deepen my faith in humanity wear it might be tested at times, but it was as I said above, humbling. I think that one would have to be like a rock to be in a similar situation and not feel humbled. As such it is a good reminder for me if and when I am ever feeling a little full of myself. I made a mistake, was helpless in being able to do anything about the situation, and a group of strangers took time out of the end of their day to stop and help us.

If you ever read this, thank you to you all.