I was out the door by 4:10 in the morning. This was best case scenario, but in true Nepali fashion it was merely to drive backwards, half-an-hour to the last town on the trail, over a dark bumpy road. 3 guys got in and all sat in the middle row, with me. The back and front were entirely empty but there we were, 4 men needlessly pressed together.
By 5 we moved on and gained/lost people. Now there are 3 people in every layer, save for the middle where we have 4. At a quarter to 7 we stopped for a tea break. It was light and the roads were swarming with people walking on their daily business. As a night owl, it’s always nice for me to be up early in the morning. Still it had been almost 3 hours on the road and we had, what, 12? 15? more. We climbed back into the jeep and listened to hours and hours of very loud filmi music.
At 8:30 we changed jeeps. The only bit of excitement before that was the guy behind me spewing all over the place. It took some time to get going, but we all got back into the same places and eventually rumbled back down the mountain.
But progress was very stop-and-go. Even when we went, it was slow, over new roads and through dusty river valleys. But mostly we stopped as serious construction was taking place. Lots of new bridges were nearly built and the road was paved in many areas. We avoided all those and snailed along as quickly as we could.
Stopped for a good daal baht with a great potato curry around noon. I was hope that are within 6 hours of Kathmandu. We leave and drive through a long river valley. It’s beautiful in an entirely different way than the mountains, hundreds of people, goats, water buffalo, children playing and swimming, and just so much life everywhere.
But there’s so much construction too. After lunch, we stopped easily 10 times to see a dump truck slowly loaded with rocks and dirt from caterpillars. Each break took 15-20 minutes as busses, cars, and motorcycles impatiently queued on the narrow roads.
A few times we found tarmac and sped up to heady heights of 20 or 30 kilometers an hour. It would always devolve into crazy winding paths through villages or up mountains, though. I am really enjoying the constantly changing landscape, and with the window rolled down I can ease out from the press of the crowd.
At 5:30 we stopped for tea and I got some fly-covered cold and no doubt quite old (but still quite grubbing) aloo and roti for 50 cents. I’m starting to worry that we’ll get there late enough that finding a room could be a problem. The dude who speaks a little English tells me we are 2.5-3 hours from Kathmandu now.
At 6:30 we stop for gas at the “Buddha Oil.” One of the 4 dudes in the middle got out and though he was temporarily replaced by a man with a chicken, we ended up only having 3 guys in the middle from here on out. Much better.
It started to look like Kathmandu around 7:30. Some people get out but I stay in, waiting to see something familiar. Eventually we are at the end of the line and I have to get a taxi back to Thamel. The guy quoted 400 rupees to me, to which I responded with a “maybe 300?” We weren’t that close though (always the worry) and it took over 20 minutes to drive back there. (Though he pulled the whole “not-enough-change-trick to charge me 350 in the end.)
The best luck–even at 9 pm Shree Lal had a room! It was on the 5th floor, sure, and my long-awaited first hot shower was freezing. But I got my stuff and back and had a huge thali for dinner.
In all, it took 17 hours to make the trip. I looked up how close they were on the map and had to check several times, as it’s about 80 miles away. Despite being up since 4 (impossible even for me to sleep on those bouncing jeeps) I stay up until 2 am and buy a plane ticket to Norway this night. Stupid internet.
This is the end of the EBC hiking account. Thanks for reading!