By David Dafoe
I always tell people that I love growing older because the alternative is death, and that is simply not attractive to me. I actually like growing older, and I turned 50 this year and set two goals for the year. One, I would watch 50 movies in the theater this year. I love watching movies but never took the time to watch them in the theater, so I thought this would be a nice goal. For the record, I will fail miserably – there just weren’t 50 movies I wanted to see. However, I have seen quite a few and it makes me pay attention and actually go to see the ones that look interesting. You may want to know that the best movie so far was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. My second goal for the year was to travel somewhere every month of the year. I am happy to say that so far I have succeeded and with an upcoming trip to Mexico in December, I will have been successful. This brings me to Kathmandu.
We have an internal travel agency named All About Travel, and I am sometimes the lucky recipient asked to travel with the main travel agent to far and away places. A couple of months ago he asked that I go with him on a trip to India and Nepal. I thought for less than a second and agreed to go on the trip. The plan was to land in New Delhi with a trip to see the Taj Mahal and then to Nepal for adventure including Mount Everest. I had always wanted to see the Taj Mahal, and Nepal seemed intriguing, although never on my bucket list. As it turned out, I was destined to visit Nepal, not for myself but to be at the right place at the right time to save a life.
The Taj Mahal was built by a King as a memorial to his late wife. It is all about eternal love and the design and architecture reflect it in every way. It is as impressive as one could imagine, and just being there is humbling and thought provoking. In building Flavorman I often think “large and grand” but never to this scale……or do I? No matter, this site will live in my mind forever.
After a short visit to India, we went to Nepal to connect with a small group of travel agents in Kathmandu. By the way, I never knew Kathmandu had an “h” in the spelling of the name. When you arrive you know you are in a special place. The people are warm, the mountains are everywhere around and the surroundings are overwhelming.
Visiting the cities and villages, the art centers, the elephant sanctuaries and the mountainous areas is intoxicating. On the last day we veered from the itinerary to do some white water rafting. We are told that Nepal has more fresh water than any other country in the world after Brazil. You can imagine the amount of fresh water generated by the snow topped mountains running through and between the ravines to the lowlands, eventually ending up in India and dumping into the Ganges River. There were plenty of rapids and I was not sure I made the right decision to raft, but some significant peer pressure and a few beers convinced me otherwise.
We suited up eight in a raft and listened intently as the guide gave us a safety lecture and described the commands we would follow as we headed down the river. I had rafted before but was a bit nervous about rafting in these rivers in areas where the river was surrounded on both sides by towering foothills. I remember thinking that this was not a good day to die.
We got in the raft and down the river we floated practicing some of the commands we just learned. It wasn’t long before we approached the first rapids, and we maneuvered through them with ease. After we celebrated we enjoyed the calm current and quiet of the river. We talked among ourselves and you could see some of the nervousness dissipate. It was obvious I was not the only one with some apprehension.
As we floated we could see a foot bridge just down the river linking one side of the river to the other. There were about ten people on the bridge, and as we got closer we waived and yelled out to them. As we got closer we noticed a man climbing over the ropes, and within seconds someone in the boat yelled out that he was going to jump. He did.
He landed face down. The sound that his body made when he hit the water is one I will remember forever. I thought he was just playing around trying to scare the rafters but quickly realized this was serious. He never surfaced but lay face down in the water without much movement. Then there was no movement. We could still see his back and one of his arms.
Our guide told us to paddle forward which we did until he told us to stop. When we did, the current turned the boat until the man was floating right next to our boat and right next to me. The guide yelled for us to get him in the boat. I dropped my paddle, and Darren (our travel agent at All About Travel) and I reached out to get him in the boat. He had no shirt so there was nothing to grab onto so we had no luck trying to get him out of the water.
He started to float under the boat and I knew if that happened we would lose him forever. I reached down and grabbed his long hair with both hands and pulled him into the boat by the hair until he rested across my legs face down. The guide motioned for the group to paddle towards the shore. I wanted this guy to start moving around so we would know he was breathing but it didn’t look like it would happen. I remember patting his back as if that would make everything all right. As we approached the shore, he suddenly coughed and started breathing. I couldn’t believe it. He moved his head and neck slowly and smiled. He put his head back down and when we reached the shore he rolled out of the boat, stood up and walked away. Not a word.
I couldn’t believe what had just happened. The guide said that he would have died had we not intervened because the locals would not have got into the fast current of the river to rescue him. Stunned, we pushed back and continued our journey.
We never learned his name or why he jumped off the bridge. Was it really important anyway? For me, this moment was indescribable. Of all the joy I have had watching movies this year and all of the excitement and happiness travel has brought, nothing has been better during my fifty-first year on earth than that moment. Namaste.