The idea was to revisit the areas of Lalitpur where I had gone in 2011 in a fun trip (which, in those days, would almost always come out as “work” trip too. My favorite quote from this story: “खोलामा खुट्टा टेकेर निस्किँदा त्यो कसको हो थाहा हुँदैन ।”). Recently I went up to Bhatta Danda and may be four kilometers below the Danda. It was all fun up to the Danda– wide and graveled road with little traffic. The dirt track– officially called the Kanti Rajpath or highway– began at the Danda. Just below the Danda, I came under a downpour and the road became slippery. Those enormous hills that looked inviting only a while ago suddenly felt scary— I could count more mudslides in the stretch of a kilometer than fish in Ranipokhari pond. I didn’t want to stuck between two landslides. So I did the sensible thing. I returned. But I will go back to see how Asrang and Pyutar villages where I had gone in 2011 are doing in 2014. I am waiting for October to come.
dinesh wagle– lalitpur bhatte danda around
A trip to rural Lalitpur (outside Kathmandu Valley)
यस्तै छ साथी हाम्रो हाल
It was a long drive that involved two buses and a taxi but not as tiring as one would expect given the distance covered (about 330 kilometers). I found the section between Leeds and York particularly enjoyable. One, I was sitting at the upper deck of the double-decker bus (second one, changed at Leeds) with better view of the area I was passing through. Two, window panes were not tinted as they were in previous bus. Three, the atmosphere, I felt, changed for better. More open spaces, reasonable space between two houses, less people on streets and fewer cars on road. Overall, the atmosphere was welcoming and energizing.
People usually mention or write about things that they find new. For me, seeing ‘gates’, like in airports, in a bus station (London’s Victoria Coach Station) was new. Thus these pictures. I boarded via gate number 18 that didn’t have pigeons sitting on its noticeboard.
More photos of the day and details of what I did in York this evening later.
Posting this update just to take advantage of the free WiFi connection (pleasantly surprised, I must admit) in this moving bus that is taking me to Leeds. Left London- the city and the crowd and the buildings- about two hours ago, now I can see a lot of windmills on both sides of the highway. Many small villages/settlements and lot of green fields and small hilltops.
My co-travelers. We had to stop in the middle of the road, not very far from Burtibang but before taking that Tractor ride, because the driver said the jeep ran out of gas!
To the plains,
I traveled a distance of about 96 kilometers in the past 36 hours. Of those thirty-six hours, I spent almost 11 hours in Jeeps (four in total including a Hulas Mustang) AND a tractor with six wheels. Of those 11 hours 2 may have been spent taking breaks and waiting for the next jeep. This is a HIGHWAY that will, after its completion, connect many rural villages of hilly Nepal with each other, to district headquarters and, of course, to Kathmandu.
The road is still under construction and there are no bridges at many places which means passengers have to change jeeps whenever a major river comes (it’s the same river twice). And there are landslides at two points. Passengers have to walk for as long as four kilometers (half a hour or so) at such blockades so as to meet a waiting jeep. And if there is no jeep waiting, they have to wait for it. AND if there is no jeep at all (“one has just left and will come back only after 1.5 hrs and other one is broken”) you hop into a tractor and complete the journey. The tractor part, though not entirely new as I had seen people traveling in tractors in Karnali highway in 2007 when it was being constructed. I had willingly and for fun had tried that for a few minutes. Today it was not a matter of choice. It was compulsion. Well, may be not. I could have chosen to walk for two hours under the mid day fully bright sun. Like many of my jolly travel mates (that’s a separate story) I preferred a tractor ride over trekking. And it was so unique an experience for me that I was tempted to make (and successfully made, after several attempts) an international call to share the experience live. Continue reading
Devotees lined up to get Darshan of goddess Kalika at the Kalika Devi temple near Baglung Bazaar on the 7th day of Dashain (2 October 2011)
Long and mostly tiresome bus journeys.From THE valley to the almost plain to the lap of the giant hills where I always love to be in. This moment is on the 30th hours of the journey that has already seen many faces- many of them happy some sad and filled with frustration. A few of them had no expression at all. Or, it could be equally true that I was unable to read them or I failed to capture their facial expressions properly. But I could hear them. So many different ways of saying things. Quite a few new words though not dramatically different from what I was used to with.Some talks and chitchat were amazingly interesting and revealing. They exposed the mental status of the persons involved in those conversations. They also told who those persons were WITH regard to-this is very important- the complex social, economical and political structure that is the Nepali society. The trail wasn’t new to me as it was not the first time I had traveled on that part of the trail. But as soon as the sun set I ventured into the area where I had never been before. The hills are all too familiar because wherever one goes in Nepal at this altitude it’s all the same. You definitely don’t need fans which brings me to the tweets I posted a while ago.
Bus ride: definitely not a joy ride.
Challenges of driving on a single lane ‘highway’.
I had gone to some rural villages of Lalitpur last week to see and experience the life there. All these villages are outside of Kathmandu valley though many people may think that the entire Lalitpur district lies inside the Valley. My colleague at Kantipur, Krishna Gyawali who covers Lalitpur for the newspaper, accompanied me. The trip started from Lagankhel where we took a bus to Chapagaun, the largest village of Lalitpur. At Chapagaun we bought tickets up to Chhapele, Bhattedanda. The first bus had already left by the time we reached there (8:30 am). This one was supposed to leave at 9 am but, as it happens with most things in Nepal, the bus finally left Chapagaun at 10:30. Rest of the travelogue, in Nepali, as published in Saturday’s Kantipur: यस्तै छ साथी हाम्रो हाल
[Click on the photos below to enlarge them] Continue reading
Seen inside a bus plying between Delhi to Banbasa (Indian town bordering with Nepal's Mahendranagar): "Emergency Exit". Seat for MP, MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) and Freedom Fighter.
This is clearly one of the most uncomfortable bus journeys that I have undertaken in recent times. I have to spread my legs to form a huge V so as to avoid rubbing my knees on the back of the seat in front of me.
The bus is filled with Nepalis who are returning to their homes to celebrate Dashain festival. Some of them told me that they work as security guards in Delhi. That was what I had expected when I asked them about their jobs in the Indian capital.
Uncomfortable it is but I am happy that I am finally making this trip to Mahendranagar (or is it Bhim Datt Nagar?) from Delhi a reality. I always wanted to travel with these migrant workers, my fellow citizens. This overnight journey that began from Anand Vihar bus terminal in Delhi will end at Banbasa tomorrow morning.
I am sharing this seat with two young guys from Mahendranagar. One of them says he spent three months in Delhi working at an office. He said he didn’t intend to return without completing his college education.
Many of my co-passengers were engaged in animated conversations until a while ago. “Ashtami ko din ghar pugine vaiyo” said the boy seated next to me.
Meanwhile a Nepali folk song is blaring somewhere at the back of the bus.
An elderly Raute in a thoughtful mood
The extreme airport video of Lukla reminded me of an extreme highway in West Nepal on which I have traveled thrice. A documentary (below) on Karnali highway made by a French production company rates the highway as one of the world’s most dangerous. My first journey on the highway that lasted for 52 hours straight was the result of my unwillingness to wait indefinitely at Jumla airport (another not-so-easy-to-land-at airport) for a plane to come from Nepalgunj The weather didn’t improve thus I opted for the road. (Why and How I was in Jumla and where did I go. Plus: Rara Lake and a different Alchemist)
The second time I traveled on the highway, I started the journey from Surkhet as driver Tilak and his helper Muskan (and the Rautes) do in the film. After watching the movie, if you become curious about Tilak Nepali then Tales of a Highway Driver in Karnali is the page to go. It was such a memorable journey but at times I was so very tired too. (Super Tired. Nearly Depleted. Almost Finished) Continue reading
Last week Suraj Kunwar forwarded to me a link to a video that documents thrills of flying in and out of Lukla airport of Nepal. The film, made by History Channel, rates Lukla number one in the list of the most extreme airports of the world. The film also contains video footage of 2008 Yeti airline crash at the airport that Suraj had captured almost live. From a reporter’s perspective, he was almost in the right place at the right time. I was pleasantly surprised to spot a familiar face in the film. Arpan Sharma of nepa-laya reports about the airport in the documentary.
Lukla! I have always wanted to go to Khumbu (the Everest region) of which Lukla is considered the gate thanks to the short take-off and landing airport there. Last time I was close to landing at Lukla was in 2005. That didn’t happen because the weather wasn’t good enough for a plane to land at Lukla that day. After making us wait for about six hours at Kathmandu’s airport the airline, Yeti, rescheduled the flight for the next morning. But I canceled the trip that evening because I wanted to be in Kathmandu to witness important political developments (the royal regime attacked Kantipur FM that evening).
While watching the History Channel film on Lukla airport I couldn’t stop thinking about my own desire to go there. But more than that I kept asking one question: Do I really want to fly in to Lukla? It feels so dangerous to take a plane to Lukla when you hear Captain Bijay Lama telling why the airport is so risky to land at. There’s no question of NOT landing once you reach a certain point, he tells. Also the structure of the runway and the notion that you will be landing there scared me. I have landed at several STOL airports in Nepal, some of them without paved runways where cows and buffaloes are seen grazing. At one point, while watching the movie, I felt good that I didn’t fly to Lukla then! Continue reading
Previous post: A trip to Manali, India.
Women who sell tea and snacks at the Rohtang Pass return to their homes
Not many options were available to us at the taxi stand. Manali is a small town, every taxi driver appeared to have known the other fairly well. So the bargaining ended pretty quickly. The journey started with an unexpected warning from our driver. The road ahead, he said in a calm voice, is not so smooth.
Near the Pass: A man leads horses down to Manali
Five kilometers passed in a jiffy. Songs from Hindi movies were blaring from the taxi’s CD player. The driver spoke again. It would be very cold up there, he said. Our clothes were not enough to keep us warm there, he explained. “There’s a shop a few kilometers ahead,” he said. “They rent jackets, trousers and boots.” Was he telling this because he had some sort of understanding with the renter for commission or was he genuinely interested in making us warm at the pass. Either way it wasn’t a big deal. I mean renting jackets. Continue reading