We’re free! It’s 6am and were all loaded onto the bus waiting to set off back to Sauraha, next to Chitwan National Park.
It was late yesterday by the time Scarlett was discharged from hospital, then, this being Nepal, there was a last minute problem with the internet so we couldn’t get all the paperwork we needed. We were promised it would be sent on but we’ve learned in the last few months that these things are much better sorted out on the spot, so we waited around in our room for an extra few hours.
Eventually we left. But with all out bags and bodies, and Scarlett in her plaster cast and with crutches, there was no way we were going to fit in one vehicle. The hospital had arranged an ambulance for Scarlett which we crammed with as many bags as possible (plus Scarlett and Janet, of course).
The ambulance screeched off into the mental Kathmandu rush hour traffic, sirens blaring. Me, Evie and Jem watched it weave across a packed intersection then tramped off to find a taxi. I was worried that Janet would be stranded with both Scarlett and a mountain of baggage but luckily our taxi driver was equal to the mentalness of the traffic, and without even the aid of a siren, managed to arrive across town mere moments after the ambulance.
We’d splurged on a more expensive hotel for the night – the original Kathmandu Guest House where The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix once stayed – because unlike all the other Thamel guest houses, it has both a garden and restaurant on the ground floor. Not something I’d normally pay $45 a day for but I really didn’t want Scarlett to brave the hectic, pavementless streets of Thamel yet nor did I dare carry her around. Even with able-bodied children, the streets of Thamel take all my concentration to navigate.
We didn’t have tickets to leave Kathmandu yet, and there was loads of organising that needed to be done to clear things with the insurance company and see if we can fly out of Nepal with Scarlett in a full-leg cast, so Janet went off to a cybercafe while I stayed with our girls in the garden.
It as fine at first. Evie and Jem went off exploring, occasionally popping out of flowerbeds or dashing across the lawn, while Scarlett and I did slow circuits of the paths to help her practice with her crutches.
Then Scarlett announced that she needed a wee. And, of course, she was bursting. It was coming. Now.
I immediately began to consider the logistics. Two children off hiding in the undergrowth. One too slow on crutches to reach the toilet in time. No idea where the toilet was.
Letting her crutches fall, I picked up Scarlett, tramped around the lawn calling for her sisters and, having finally found them behind some flowerpots, got Jemima to retrieve the crutches and set off inside. Evie had been to the toilet with Janet earlier, so I asked her to lead the way. So far, so good.
Except, after five minutes wandering through the surprisingly extensive hotel, I began to suspect that Evie was lost. Our next turn took us back into the garden. Yes, she was lost. And my arms were burning from Scarlett’s weight.
Abandoning the search for a downstairs toilet, we made a dash our room. Negotiating the stairs in flip flops while carrying a child who was becoming heavier by the second was made no easier by Jemima leading the way on crutches and a constant barrage of requests from Evie to use the iPad while Tettie was on the loo but eventually we reached our bedroom door.
Wrestling the crutches back from Jemima, I put Scarlett down, found the key and opened the door. I hovered behind her as she hopped inside, managing to keep her balance despite her sisters barging past. I turned to close the door, and CRASH!
She’d fallen. While I was turned, she’d set off again and her crutch had slipped on a rucksack strap. She was crying, gasping in pain, whimpering, “My fractures, my fractures!”
It was all I could do not to burst into tears myself. For first time since we set off in September, I just wanted to be at home, with Scarlett comfortably on the sofa , the other two in the garden, bouncing happily on the trampoline and everything we needed to be safe and secure.
I think Scarlett must have picked up on my upset. After I’d carefully laid her on the bed she started being very brave, telling me earnestly, “I’ll be ok in a minute daddy. Don’t worry.” If anything, I now felt worse.
After half an hour or so and with Scarlett restored by the combined soothing powers of cuddles, ibuprofen, paracetamol and Harry Potter, I was able to carry her carefully down to the guesthouse’s restaurant where, once again, having a garden paid off. I sat with Scarlett while her sisters had somewhere to play (does jumping out on guests from bushes and singing “namaste” count as playing?).
Eventually Janet returned and, with two adults, everything became manageable once more. Plus she’d managed to get tickets out of Kathmandu for the next morning. We were headed back to lovely Sauraha – the only place in Nepal we could imagine holing up for any time with an injured child.
I think Sauraha will be much easier. Scarlett can sit still not he veranda, the lawn or in one of the nice shady huts; I could even string up my hammock. Her sisters can play. There are fewer distractions, fewer dangers, fewer stairs. We know our way around. Of course the fact that Scarlett was able-bodied last time we were here may prove frustrating for her, but we also did a lot of schoolwork there, which she’ll be able to join in with despite her immobility.
Until we return to Kathmandu in three weeks anyway…