The Journey That Ate Jeeps...
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
The flashes of foreseen hindsight that haunted me throughout this journey oscillated between, "I cannot believe I'll be explaining the obtuse hilarity of this happening again" to " I cannot believe this is where they're going to find my body".
I have never travelled on the roads when they were this bad, and I've taken enough photographic and video evidence for a short documentary entitled "How and Where Not to Drive".
After 'rushing' down from Maandra we'd made good enough time to call a jeep and try and get to Bhara-Bise to either get the 16:00 bus, (unlikely) or catch another jeep to Kathmandu, (more likely, still not great). What I really didn't want to do was spend a night in Bhara-Bise, as (no offence) I've always felt it's like the truck stop in 'From Dusk 'til Dawn' and have been warned off staying there by locals.
So, from Gaathi to the main road the journey was bumpy...not bumpy enough for the driver to stop using his phone and there were probably only 2 points where I thought that was going to be his last ever mistake,
At the main road we began discussing prices and jeeps to Kathmandu, halfway through the discussion it became apparent he wasn't going to Kathmandu, as his gear box had stopped working. So he called a friend, (who I'd met the day before) to pick me up and take me to Bhara-Bise, (and maybe KTM if I could haggle him down a bit).
On the way we passed 2 jeeps and 1 bus which were, er...not going anywhere anytime soon. The slip and slide road next to the now torrent of a river looked like a period drama of no-man's land designed by Jackson Pollock. Shockingly we arrived at Bhara-Bise but er...his jeep had stopped working and the warning lights seemed to be causing him some concern. A third jeep we had passed on the way returned optimistically and lo and behold, my 3rd jeep journey began less than 5km from starting point.
This jeep was I found out second hand, and purchased for about £10,500. It'd taken the young driver 3 years to save for it, working in China, India and Malaysia. It was such a shame therefore after it's real first test to smell the burning from the 4-wheel drive and notice how often he fiddled with something through a hole in the floor underneath the gearbox. Despite my concern they were extremely keen to make sure I didn't worry, especially when they suddenly jumped out to check the wheels and engine, (which I mistakenly thought was the perfect time to worry...)
However, at some point you've just got to stop looking over the edge and either fall with grace or act like you knew you'd be fine....
To his credit he took the most difficult part of the journey, in the dark and solely added to my confidence in the majority of Nepali jeep drivers. Unfortunately he'd forgotten his license, so after the first traffic officer let him off with a shake of the head, (lucky break!) he decided it was too risky to take me all the way to my destination, I agreed and suggested I therefore pay less. This was not met with overwhelming interest. Luckily we had picked up some students with a huge roll of carpets, (irrelevent detail) whose friend had been following us on a motorbike...
So on the back of a strangers motorbike, confidently (if rather quickly) I was taken from the backstreets of the students home where we'd had to drop off the carpets, (not so irrelevant now I guess) to my hotel, only 2 hours later than the first estimates!
But seriously, it's fun to experience and write about for a short while, but travelling that way everyday, to work, to live, to visit relatives, to go to a hospital or doctors appointment. I often think how much further ahead could Nepal be if it's climate and geography weren't so dead set against permitting it. I'm not sure how much credit we give to a country's climate to the ease and speed of development, but we really should give more...