Wednesday, 12 October 2011

When push comes to shove - part 2

"You know the way to Mintoling Guest House?", Mike enquired of the taxi drive from Lilliput. If you put a caption "Honey, I shrunk the taxi" in front of the tiny vehicle, it would not have been out of place.

After a wonderful Sikkim dinner (momo (dumplings), chicken in cardamon and spinach, curried vegetables and more, all with hot chilli sauce) we decided that the impossibly steep gradient on which Gangtok is built was an unwelcome challenge for a walk back. Vigorous assurances by Lilliput Man of his street knowledge persuaded the four of us to climb into his unlikely chariot, the steep hill ahead sniggering at our ambitions.

The tiny engine whined into life (all 900cc?) and off we went up the hill in the general direction of the Guest House. In fairness, this character from Gulliver's Travels could manoeuvre his vehicle with consummate skill. Through hairpin bends, potholes the size of small houses and against honking competing traffic, we sashayed our way up, and up, and up.

Elena wondered why it seemed much longer than our walk down to the town. In defence of Lilliput Man, I suggested a very plausible topological explanation (men do get a bit like that when it comes to spatial reasoning - especially with women). Her withering look in my direction when we arrived at a cul de sac at the top of the mountain needed no explanation.

A pidgin English conversation with Lilliput Man left us not much wiser when I remembered I had a card for the Guest House - with a map. How foolish of me to think that would help. Off we went DOWNhill, engine off, lights off, looking hopefully for some sign.

We finally found our way and completed our journey without further incident. We had even persuaded Lilliput Man to turn on his engine and lights. We paid the modest fare (€1.20), gave him a generous tip and moved toward the Guest House entrance. But Lilliput Man was in trouble. On the steep decline, and with a next to empty tank, he could not start his engine. He jumped out and rocked the little vehicle fro side to side. No joy.

Eventually I found myself, having recruited three reluctant staff from the Guest House, pushing the taxi back up the hill to a flatter section. Lilliput Man's eyes lit up with relief as engine stuttered into life.

One good push deserves another.

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Location:Gangtok, India

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