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  • Bob checks for a gap in the traffic, opens the throttle on the Honda XL and we cut across the Kathmandu ring road, weaving between taxis and scooters. Down a narrow lane people wash at the ghat. There's a suspension bridge up ahead, just about wide enough for two people to pass and I feel cables take up slack as we bounce our way across the Bagmati which runs black and oily below.

    On the other side the road begins to climb. Buildings thin out. There are pine trees and the air is cleaner, though the view across the valley is hazy. A shield wall of cloud hides the Himalayas from view.

    Two thousand feet above our heads I see our destination, the Hattiban, an undulating, tree clad ridge that climbs to meet the sky.

    We round a corner and look out across a wheat field, stalks swaying in the breeze, catching green gold light. The ridge is closer now, reflected in a small lake.

    With a jolt, a bounce and a gear change we leave the road and climb a dirt track, higher and steeper with every turn. Pine needles litter the ground. Through branches I see people running, dressed in cloth the colour of blood. A group of Buddhist monks play volleyball in a clearing, robes flowing as they chase the ball. There must be over 100 young men and boys, red ghosts in the sunshine. They wave and shout namastes as we pass.

    Further on a group of Tibetans picnic round a camp fire. They wave too, then we're beyond them on a narrowing track. Wheels spin, lose traction, slip on pine litter. We leave the bike and walk to the top of the ridge. It's quiet and still and the sky bells out above us.

    Later we call in at a small resort, drink beer and watch crows ride thermals. It's a poem of a day.
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