Time to Go

posted in: Chris | 0

So our morning started with Alison starting the bargaining on the jeep ride out, and between the two of us we negotiated an agreement with the hotel staff and loaded up to go. The family together had decided that we should count ourselves lucky to have had the beautiful days we’ve had and the fun experiences, but we were ready to head out. The pass was tempting due to the challenge; and I would like to see the other side, but we could do that another day. This was what needed to happen for our family.

I’ll be honest. The jeeps scare me. I am not a good passenger. Since I was sixteen, I almost always did all the driving, and I like being in control of the wheel. When we get in the vehicle I always look at the guy and think “Does this guy have anything to lose?”

I mean, generally, the driver doesn’t want to die either.

As we hiked in, I noticed above Chame considerable snowfall on the roads. The road is sketchy to the extreme. I didn’t like the thought of complicating the road with snow. However, it was warm every day for the past few days, and I figured the snow was melting quickly.

It was mostly slush, and that is usually pretty safe. Our driver was off to a good start. I knew if we made it to Chame, then the only issue would be the road.

 

The views were gorgeous. Travelling backwards was like a fast rewind. It gave us a chance to pass through all the villages we walked through over the past week. We could remember each special meal and families we met, and all the difficult times as well.

Suddenly, we came around a curve and another jeep was stopped in the road. Our driver immediately shut the engine off and got out. He seemed to know what was wrong.

This is what we found. A huge boulder was blocking the road. The locals had rigged up some shoddy poles, and I don’t see what they were trying to do. There was no way to move a rock this big.

The trail actually goes right above where this rock slide took place. The funny thing was, it wasn’t even raining or anything. Just a sunny day.

This had to have just happened, as we passed a few jeeps going the other way only a few minutes before.

This was yet another reminder of how dangerous Nepal is. Any mountain range is always in process of being torn down due to weathering and erosion. The steep jagged peaks of the Himalayas will one day likely become like the Smokies at home, smooth and rounded. Rockfall and landslides are serious issues all through this region.

We had picked up a Russian fellow with a crazy story. He had rented a motorcycle to ride up this road. He didn’t get too far before the breaks went out. He was wandering up and down the trail using a combination of transportation and hiking, and finally had only 1000 rupees left and had to leave. He was hilarious and made the trip much more entertaining. When we got blocked, we all walked up the road to the next town and ordered lunch. It was so sunny, it was hot! This was a welcome change. We sat outside under an umbrella in Danyque and could see Manaslu as well, a beautiful top 10 mountain in the world which was covered in clouds as we hiked in.

Not sure what these concrete pillars will do, but there they are. When you look at the road from a distance, you are frightened by the perspective. A little ledge to drive on in the midst of such grandeur? Seriously we are going to fall down 1000’s of meters with one wrong turn. In actuality, when you only look a few feet in front of you, the road is not that scary. There is usually enough room to avoid the absolute edge. The Mahindra Jeep is amazing. When he shifted to 4 low it seemed to be able to do anything. We passed through rivers, creek beds full of large rocks and once right through the base of a waterfall. Oh, and we were on empty from about 1/4 of the journey. The light came on, and I asked him if he was going to get some diesel. He said it was fine. OK.

By the way, I still don’t know how he got around the large boulder, but he did.

I sat up front and watched his driving carefully. I soon realized he had the entire road memorized. He knew just when to slow down and when to speed up. He knew when to shift down to 4 low and when he could shift out again. Soon it became dark, and he seemed to drive even faster in the dark. I started off scared, but soon trusted that he would get us out safely.

We arrived after dark to Besisahar. This is a dusty gateway to the Annapurna region. The jeep mafia hang out there. We needed a room and found a beauty for 5 dollars per room. It was a bit scary, but we were fine. Alison told Ella for no reason to go the bathroom alone. We woke up and left first thing.

Not gonna miss the squat toilets too much. I tried to go local during this week. I will spare you the details.

We love finding some of the misspellings which are so cute. This one was a favorite. Another favorite was Thin Crushed Pizza and Kinder Garden. I didn’t photograph those.

We decided to take a microbus from Besisahar. This is a Toyota Hiace van. The Toyota Hiace is an absolute workhorse. It’s a diesel powered van which they drive like crazy madmen through the valley roads. They are found all over developing nations and are a nice vehicle. The microbus is much faster than a local bus or the tourist bus and holds about 20 people. We were of course the only Westerners.

The microbus has a driver and a money man. The money man sits by the door and yells his destination at anyone who shows interest on the side of the road. People come and go the whole way and pay differing amounts. We also saw the riders checking out how crowded the bus was before getting on. If they didn’t like the looks of the insides, they waved them on and waited for the next one.

Can you imagine just walking out in front of your house and waiting for some bus to drive by and pick you up and take you somewhere?

The picture above was when we were stopped by the police when entering Kathmandu. There was a huge traffic jam and our driver started flying down the edge basically using the sidewalks as a road and he was eventually motioned over. I suspect a bribe was offered as we were soon on our way.

We eventually made it safe and sound. We enjoyed a great dinner in Thamel and made some plans for the rest of our time in Nepal.

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