Then, with my clothes still wet, I sauntered through the gates of Asia. I expected there to be signs and symbols of many countries, Asia being such a vast continent, but no, it was Nepal for the most part. The people who designed and made all this must surely have been to Nepal and fallen in love with the beautiful country; that is what went through my mind then. First, I came across the Yak & Yeti Restaurant. Below it was written: Anandpur District (fictional, no doubt). As I walked on in the midst of the large crowds strolling about, I saw a tall white peak in the background, which of course depicted a Himalayan peak, Everest, no less. There was no doubt in my mind that I was now in Nepal!
A trekking supply shop, complete with crampons, down feather jackets, and sleeping bags and rope hung outside, adding to the ambience. I entered anotherrestaurant, some way ahead, and found to my delight that it had Newari carved wooden windows, along with a Hindi film poster hanging on its wall. Hungry by then, I looked around for a place that had daal, bhaat, and tarkari, but sad to say, there weren’t any, and neither were there any selling momos! So, I had to settle for Korean pork ribs and a bottle of Spanish beer. Then, in no time at all (I was in too much of a hurry!) I was queuing up for the Everest Expedition, more popularly known as the Everest Ride. So popular, that there was a ticker above the main door informing about how long we would have to wait. At the moment: 55 minutes.
As our line snaked on, we came across a Nepali temple, an exact pagoda-style replica, with wooden struts, torana, pataka, copper roof, brass bells, et al, and plenty of vermilion powder everywhere. A small stone shrine in the courtyard had lots of coins strewn around; on closer look, I discovered that they were all American coins, so I flung a handful of our very own Nepali coins to add my own bit of realism to the scene. As we drew nearer to the gate leading into the ‘station’, we could hear shrill screams of excitement emanating from close by—no doubt from those on the Everest Ride. You can well understand how all this must have heightened our expectations!
But, we were still not there; first we had to walk through the Yeti Museum, which, too, was very interesting. Among others, asnowy display showed a ripped tent, empty oxygen canisters, shattered vessels and stoves, and such—an expeditionary camp high up in the Himalayas that had fallen prey to misfortune. And, that’s what was written on the signboard: that all the climbers of this expedition had disappeared, suspected to have been carried off by the yeti! Numerous photographs of the Himalayan region adorned the museum, along with said footprints and skull of the yeti. The abominable yeti was definitely the focus of the museum.
Next to the museum was a dimly-lit roomwith momo-making utensils and aluminum kettles on the shelves, along with Druk pineapple cans, and pickaxes, snow goggles, woolen socks and gloves and caps, down jackets, ropes, climbing boots, and so on. Finally, we were in the station, where we all hopped onto our seats on the narrow-gauge train with open sides, and pulled down our protective barriers securely. The excitement and the heightened expectancy were at fever pitch by now! We started off with a gentle downhill glide, very pleasant, and then began climbing up steeply to the peak.
As we neared the top, our train, with screeching brakes, shuddered to a stop. Ahead, a couple of trees had fallen across the track. Then, suddenly, the train started to roll backwards! Not only that, it was rolling back at tremendous speed; the noise of the rattling wheels on iron rails terrifying to the senses. That’s when the screaming started! The very next moment, we had entered a pitch black tunnel, all the while hurtling backwards at full speed. All of a sudden, the pitch black darkness was split by a flash of lightning. In this sudden light, we gaped up at the mammoth figure of a giant yeti high on a cliff.
At last (though it was but a few minutes), the train started moving forward. But, this was only breathing time for the next set of terrified screams that would spring from our throats, because as soon as we came out into light, the train immediately plunged vertically down at maximum speed, twisting and turning, and then tearing around a hairpin bend. Raw nerves and churning stomach, that’s what I had.Again, another drop straight down, tearing around another hairpin bend, the panic in us was a quite palpable thing by now. But, then, just as everything seemed lost, we glided smoothly into the station. You can guess that all of us riders were pretty much in a hurry to get out of the train, but I tell you, the Everest Ride was an experience that I will forever remember with a sense of great achievement!