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The Road to Bandipur

September 20, 2012

Its been a few days of adventure without access to wifi, so there’s a lot to catch up on, but here’s a little start.

Upon waking in Bhaktapur early Tuesday morning, I realized I’d left my toothbrush and paste in Kathmandu (I did actually realize it the night before, but could only deal with it in the morning.) I replaced both for 80 rupees (about $1). It’s shocking how cheap everything is. We’re told we’re meant to bargain for things, that they expect it. But when you’re paying a dollar for something someone made by hand, its hard to find a reason to do it.
After breakfast Jamal and I headed out again, he for a memory card for his computer, me for a new battery. We couldn’t find what we needed and asking a shopkeeper, were informed that what we wanted was available just on the other side of the gate. Bhaktapur is a gated city. It costs about $15 to enter and each time you leave and re-enter, you must pay again. $15 isn’t much, especially given the battery would probably cost less than one, but we suddenly felt like we were in the Hunger Games. We looked at each other and decided not to venture past the gate. Luckily Chitra came to our reduce and managed to procure our goods for us.
And with that, we were off to Bandipur. We were told it would be about a 5 hour drive and we’d stop for lunch along the way. We made our way back to Kathmandu, fighting the cars, scooters, and cows that crowded the roads without any obvious rules. Leaving the Kathmandu valley our small, very old van started fighting its way up a narrow mountain road. Barely room for one vehicle, we all held our breath each time one of the brightly colored trucks came towards us from the opposite direction. Along the way, Chitra would point out landslides that had obviously happened the night before due to the monsoon, and we’d all say a little prayer as the driver steered us towards the cliff to move around it.
After about an hour we adjusted to the perilous conditions and started chatting again. After a couple we were laughing and a bit oblivious to the danger.
That’s when we hit the traffic jam. We joined ht line of cars idling for a while until the driver finally switched the van off. We sat in the car for a while and Adam began a game of “Would you rather…” with the scintillating question “Would you rather be well-adjusted mud or an emotionally disturbed leaf?” The game devolved from there and after about 30 minutes of it without any movement from the cars, we braved the monsoon and ventured out of the car. It was great to stand and Alison, Martin, and I decided to go have a look at what was going on. Up to this point it could have been an accident, a landslide, we had no idea. Walking to the front of the jam, we still didn’t know. There were several dozen kids in blue jerseys yelling. It was hard to tell who was yelling at who, but we didn’t want to stay around to find out so we quickly headed back to the safety of the van.
Chitra was doing a little recognizance of his own and discovered that a group of students from the school nearby were protesting police who had beaten a student. OK – I’m for that protest, but it was very inconvenient.
After another hour or so, Anna charmed a local family into letting us use their bathroom. Sometime later, Chitra negotiated a deal with the leaders of the protest to let our van through as we were tourists. As we got close we were approached by a blond boy about 17. He was seemingly the leader (and a Nepali albino – honestly) of the protest and he shouted a few things at us and the driver, hit the outside of the van and we were on our way.
We stopped for a very needed lunch at a spot by the river and, after a great meal, walked cross the narrow suspension bridge and back and then hopped back on the van. All was going well for about an hour and then we came of the next jam. Once again, stopped traffic for more than an hour. This time the river had overflowed because of the monsoons and cars couldn’t pass. There was an American from one of the vans ahead of us who was eager to tell us what was going on (and to borrow Chit’s phone). My group was eager to learn about him (me not so much – I want to be the American) and asked where he was from. New York City was the answer. When I asked where, he hesitated, said it was a big city if you didn’t know it and eventually admitted it was Hoboken. After he left, I pointed out to my group, rather indignantly, that in fact Hoboken was in New Jersey and he was a jerk. They teased me about that for some time to come.
As the sun went down, we were able to cross the river. One by one, and swapping with cars from the other direction, we approached the fast flowing high water. The van plowed through it making a lot of noises I’m sure it’s not supposed to make and we were back in action.
After a short drive we began winding up again. And up. And up. And again it was a narrow road. I was sorry we weren’t doing it in the light, as the views were likely spectacular, but part of me was also quite happy to be in the dark, so I couldn’t see just how close to the edge we were.
About 5 hours later than we were meant to, we pulled up at the Old Inn in Bandipur, which can only be compared to the inn Karen Allen ran in Raiders of the Lost Ark, with its low ceilings and exposed beams. Its rooms were filled with candles which seemed very inviting, but was in fact because it was in the middle of one of the daily power outages that hit Nepal. We had yet another lovely dinner and retired to our rooms to settle in. Re-grouping in the bar, we played a heated game of Uno and then went to bed optimistic that the monsoon would end for our rafting the next day.

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  1. Linda Drohan permalink

    Kathy, this is fantastic. I hope you downloaded Yo-Yo’s silk road to play on these journeys.
    I’m sure they will tell you there’s a silk farm that is an hour walk from where you are.
    Love you, wish I was there. Linda

  2. Wow! You are detailing such an exciting journey (one which I think I’d be to scared to make)! Amazing—and good for you. Good thing you have xanax to barter with the other group members with, but I hope you don’t run out. I think I would have taken it all on that bus ride!

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