For days we travelled through misty hills, winding rivers below us. Whenever skies cleared, surprising features were revealed. A village on the other side of the river, their roofs in purple, nesting between a hanging bridge and steps engraved into the landscape. Not a sign of a motor vehicle, let alone any industry other than farming.
Emerald rice paddies gleamed even when cloudy, their intensity reminding me of the sparkling greens of Laos and Vietnam.
Not all was idyllic – the children who stood with their mother while she attended her stall, their faces dirty, scratched, quiet eyes filled with a lost sadness – a feature I would often encounter in the western hills. The men inside, in the only inner living space available. No signs of toys – a ball, bicycle- let alone books; these children had nowhere else to be, nowhere else to play other than the fields and road-side. I wondered whether they went to school and how long it took them to walk there. There was no sign of a school anywhere nearby though.
School children are often seen along the roads of the hills; in their required uniforms, with light satchels or bags. From quiet bends where the elderly wearily stare out, to over-crowded buses whose passengers will include goats and sheep, there was always some surprise on those misty roads – children swinging on hanging bridges, boys playing by the flowing waters, while adults manually cleared rivers, the men digging for wet earth and the women carrying their heaving baskets to the bank. Life is shared on the road, by the road. Life is linked through these connections of tar. Temples and stupas, signs of faith, signs of hope, signs of acceptance.
Beyond the mists there lie hills to unwrap, lives to learn about, people to meet.
Mists reveal the resilience of those who live in the hills.