We’re back in Kathmandu at the lovely Hotel Florid. A flushing en-suite toilet, sink with running water, hot shower, towel and toilet paper provided. Perhaps even better than that, the warm reception and feeling of home coming. This little hotel is certainly my home in Kathmandu.
The trip getting here from Tumlingtar was epic.
Our first jeep which took us from Tumlingtar to Hile was probably several years past it’s best before date. The back tires had treads and looked pretty skookum, not so the two front tires. Those tires had no trace of treads, smooth as a baby’s bottom.
I think the driver had spent more money on a massive speaker secured partially under the back seat than he had on any form of road worthy maintenance! This damn speaker protruded into the foot space for any one sitting in that seat just far enough to ensure they had no room to put their feet flat on the floor. Marianne, Dendi and I switched seats several times to ensure equal opportunity of discomfort! We three sat on the back seat while Tendi and Puri crowded into the front. Puri gets horribly car sick so he rode with his head out the window while Tendi straddled the gear shift and cooked his feet over the overheated engine.
Our driver was friendly and extremely competent. The road was horrendous! A deeply rutted often steep up or steep down, hair-pined, very muddy narrow track. Considerable skill needed to drive in the conditions.
We had a co-driver who we nic-named the “knock-knock boy.” Buses, trucks and the like here often have this assistant riding shotgun. Their job is to knock on the back or side of the vehicle to indicate that there is clearance between the back, side, front etc from other passing vehicles, cliffs or whatever other hazards might present themselves. I hadn’t experienced a knock-knock boy on a small vehicle before but this young fellow turned out to have another job as well. He was an extraordinarily quick tire changer. Yes we got a flat tire – in a muddy quagmire, on an uphill slope. Not one of the bald front tires either. One of the nice rear tires sprung a hissing flattening leak. From the moment we stopped until we climbed back in perhaps ten minutes passed! Impressive. Now we proceeded on three bald tires! The tire changing knock-knock boy and his friend (who seemed to serve no purpose related to our trip) rode in the back of the jeep, nestled among our back packs, but bouncing nearly up to the roof every time we hit a particularly large bump or hole in the road.
We arrived in Hile about noon. We would have liked to go further but the local jeeps are only licensed to travel within their designated areas…. complexities.
Marianne and I naively enjoyed a foggy afternoon – me blogging pictures from the trek. We had no idea what was to come.
Yesterday we left Hile bound for Kathmandu in a much superior jeep. No need for a knock-knock boy. Better tires, much more comfortable to ride in – thank goodness. We took 13 and a half hours to get here! As long as our flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong. Yikes what a tip!
The road was paved the whole way – bonus. There were of course sections of potholes and random mystery bumps and debris. But the road was seldom more than one lane wide. Although it was straight and flat as we drove through south eastern Nepal along the Indian border, it was for the most part extremely windy with hair-pin turns that defy belief! Much of the mountainous portion of the road was engineered and built by the Japanese. It is the most amazing road I’ve ever been on! Switzerland has nothing that comes close! We climbed way up one side of a range then plunged down the other. The jeep swayed this way and that as our incredible driver geared up and down and kept us away from precipitous edges, avoided oncoming traffic in our lane and passed slower vehicles with barely inches to spare!
We stopped at what appeared to be a really seedy place for lunch – I figured it would be dreadful and was completely wrong. We six ate together (a pleasant change from the usual) and enjoyed the best dhal bhat I’ve ever had! Being close the the border with India seems to have spiced up the food a fair bit. There were several mysterious vegetables to add to the mountain of rice. I’m not sure which ones were so hot that my mouth was on fire – but I had seconds of everything! Can’t judge road side stops by their outside appearances!
There was a monumental screw up as we took a one lane detour around a landslide. On our way to Khamding this area had been well organized. Traffic was held and directed to proceed one direction at a time. This time there was a break down in communication and we ended up meeting oncoming traffic. It was extremely difficult to ease by large vehicles and backing up was required in both directions on several occasions. There was a police man standing at about the central point with a radio in hand but to what purpose we have no idea. It was a great relief to get that section of road behind us.
As we finally approached Kathmandu – near Bhaktapur – traffic became hopelessly snarled. We inched along. There had been a violent wind and rain storm just a few minutes previously and it turned out that a large tree had fallen across a vehicle and half the road reducing a busy and sole access to the city from this direction to a dysfunctional mess. Why not work on clearing the tree? Can’t answer that. But no doubt the matter was being discussed as there were a great number of people standing around looking at the mess.
Our out-of-town jeep was not permitted into the inner city of Kathmandu so on a dark corner we all piled out, said a too hasty goodby and thank you to Dendi and Puri who now set off on their own ways. Dendi home to his family here in Kathmandu. puri to Tendi’s place where he will stay a could of days before returning to Khamding. Tendi, Marianne and I climbed into a small local taxi and continued to our hotel. We said goodbye to Tendi, he will join us this evening for dinner. A good meal and two beers later we were really more than ready for bed. I fell asleep last night lulled by the rumbling and flashing of a tremendous electrical storm.