Sunday, October 19, 2014

Adventures in Traveling in Nepal

October 19, 2014

We waited in the lobby at 7:30 AM for our ride to the border of Tibet.  We were happy to have had a full night’s sleep because we knew it would be a long day.  They arrived about 7:45 and we began our trip, picking up our site monitor for the upcoming project along the way who also happens to be the current Branch President and is the brother of Bishnu as of Meet the Mormons fame.  You would never believe they are brothers as they look so entirely different.  There is another brother that also does not look like either brother—from the same mother and father.  We also picked up the man heading up the project for TRUST named Hari but he was in a different car.  Our driver had a nice Jeep, and he was meticulous about his vehicle.  He was also a good driver, always a big plus in the amazing traffic,  maneuvering on bad, narrow and steep roads, dodging lorries and buses and bikers, weaving in and out and around others.

We knew it would be a long drive and a long day, but things went rather smoothly and we were on time to arrive at another hotel for the night before checking out the project.  As we drove, it became increasingly steep as we climbed higher and higher up the mountain.  The road narrowed to a car and a half width, but the tarmac was pretty decent.  Then it turned to dirt, still okay, but then to rubble from recent rock slides, which made for a violent rocking back and forth at times as we drove over large rocks embedded in just enough soil to not pop our tires.  We kept climbing and as we looked at the valley below, we knew it was how many thousands of feet down there?  The road was too narrow in most places by then for cars and buses and lorries to pass.  Often one of us would have to back up to get to a spot where we could pass, all the while looking down the vast valley.  To make matters worse, it also became muddy, which caused us to slip here and there, hoping not to slip over the edge. 

And then we saw this jam ahead of us.  What was the problem now?  We parked behind the lined up vehicles and walked up to see that a backhoe was trying to remove a recent slide across the road.  We don’t know how long it had been working on this but it became increasingly clear that it was going to take a while, and then we would have to wait our turn to go through as there were cars lined up on both sides of the slide—those coming down and those going up like we were.  After about an hour all of a sudden Jim and Mike Wasuita decided that we would turn back and come home.  Betty Wasuita and I then walked back the other way so that we could make sure no other vehicle got in our way as the guys brought the car back down.  That took a lot of doing to get turned around and to find others to move out of the way as most people had left their vehicles. 

Waiting at the edge of the road for the jam to clear.  We are on top of the world here, or nearly, as we were to climb even higher.

People waiting on both sides of the slide, hoping the backhoe can get it done.  He was having trouble with a very large boulder.

Eventually they got back to us and we went on our way.  Hours later we heard from Hari that he had gotten through and was at the hotel, and this before we got back to Kathmandu.  Since Hari has not always come through for us and because he minimizes challenges, we were not even sure if we believed him.  But I suppose the real reason we turned back is because we don’t want to do a project so far away from Kathmandu that our site monitor would have to take a bus ride for 14 plus hours to get there (and this, without problems), and this is the better time of year.  What happens when the weather is bad and he needs to go—it sounded like a dangerous proposition and a project we just didn’t want to do.

We had a very late dinner and fell into bed exhausted after 10 PM.  Tomorrow we go in a different direction back to a place we’d been before to check on the progress of the project.  That also has a bad, narrow dirt road, but still not as treacherous as the one we were on today.  As Betty Wasuita and I were walking back down the road to stop buses, I commented to Betty that I was glad that we were getting paid the big bucks to do this…last week she had to take a hike that was to last 1 ½ hours, according to Hari, which turned out to be 4 ½ hours, treading streams, falling down in the mud, in the rain, etc.

All through these high mountains people are living on these cliffs on the edge and sides of the steep mountain.  Their young children are standing near the edge and it doesn’t bother any of them.  It really is quite incredible, and the brave people driving and riding these big buses on these roads must not be afraid of heights either.  In the jam I listened to people talking and it was like being at the Tower of Babel—about half looked to be locals, but the other half were either site seeing or trekking and riding in old, large buses, all looking for places in the bushes to relieve themselves—they had already been there a long awhile.

Cliff dwellers.  Most do not have roads to the houses and they grow rice and other things on their steps.  This time of year after recent rains, is such a lovely time in Nepal opposed to a year ago last spring when we came here in the dry season with dust in the air and dried grasses and fields.

Love, From Nepal

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