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
Next post: At the Rohtang Pass, Himachal Pradesh, India
Pavan Nithin arrived at my apartment in the morning. Were I ‘up for this trip to Manali’ in the evening? He wanted to know. He had asked me the same question a few days before during a G chat session. He was in Kharagpur, near Kolkata, spending his last days in college (IIT). I wasn’t sure then, I wasn’t sure now. His friend in Delhi who was supposed to accompany him had pulled out from the trip that afternoon making Pavan possibly a lone traveler. Nothing tempts me more than an invite to travel. The city of Delhi was boiling in the heat of May. What did I need more? “Let’s go,” I said. I called Gokul Dahal to cancel our get together scheduled in the evening at my place. “Plan changed,” I told him. “I am going to Manali with Pavan. You are welcome to join us.” Continue reading
Most of the pics were taken by, who else, Ishwari
July 5/6: Wow the real and full fledged feeling of the general dibba (compartment) in the Indian rail was experienced in this 11 hour partly adventurous, partly torturous journey. The train arrived at the dot but with all general dibbas filled to their capacity and far beyond. It was impossible to board the train from the last compartment (general dibbas are either at the front or the rear end of the train). Then we ran towards the front one. To make things worse, it was pouring and the general dibba was far from the shade. We reached the door only to see a massive crowd inside. No place to put a leg. It was a do or die situation. I jumped over a man’s leg and forced myself inside like a hammer. It worked. I paved a small but crucial way for my travel mates. Continue reading