Dreadlocks anyone?

35580008 Posted by Mark Gill on Wed, 28 Apr 2010 | 6 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

As we packed up our flat ready for transport to Dadeldhura, happily were still able to keep our internet connection – however, we only managed to received emails and greetings as we had little time to reply, so we will be playing catch up when we get there….not there yet. As I write, I am in the cab of a Tata 1613c truck on my third day (Mon 26th Apr) of travel with the driver and ‘kailassy’ – the driver’s helper, who as it happens, is a Christian .

Earlier in the week, I was trying to juggle keeping in touch with site as the work was progressing again, conduct a structural/programme review of our work at site, pack up, get one of my molars filled – down to the root, get up to date with 5 vaccination boosters, have a 50th birthday, get an Indian visa, set up and move stuff we need to leave in Kathmandu to a room we have rented, amongst a few other things. While that has been an adventure in itself, the current and constant weaving of this Tata 1613c around the hills is somewhat amazing – a truck just came pelting towards us around a blind corner, we halted suddenly at the edge of the road – sure, it is only a couple of hundred metres down…

Friday 23rd:
We got the office mini bus and transported our stuff to the Shipper’s container in Kalanki, the notorious junction on the ring road where the one and only main road comes into Kathmandu. Our stuff was going to go on the ‘medicine’ truck – a 6 monthly delivery to the Hospital. So after 6 loads, it was all there. We were sweltered working in 33deg C, but hey, the tan is improving!

So after a quick wash, we had a lovely chicken dinner with a few friends to celebrate the half century. Next day’s plan was not sure yet. There had been a strike in Dadeldhura from the previous Saturday to Wednesday after a local altercation. But the truck returning from the west, scheduled to do our run, was stuck in another local strike in Nawal Parasi along the main road. So Saturday morning I rang to see if it had got through overnight and it had. It had off loaded and would be ready for loading our stuff after 10am. So a quick pulling together of things: Ali was set up to go in a jeep with our N Irish friend Philip and take the ‘breakables’ in the jeep. She would leave on Sunday and arrive in Dadeldhura on Monday. But the truck would take 3 days, and to ensure it all got there, Mark is currently on the truck…

Well, as things go in Nepal, we sort of knew the truck wouldn’t be ready at 10am, so we arrived at 10:45, and it still wasn’t ready. The starter motor was getting a service. 11:45 it shows up and we start loading until 2:30 when we finally get on our way. Get a fill of diesel. Always a good thing to do, and in Nepal always done after everyone is on the bus rather than having the vehicle ready just to go. So we left Kathmandu valley through the Thankot pass having filled in our journey card which would have to be stamped at various police check points along the way, and in some places to pay a toll.
Being mid afternoon the roads were not that busy, but along the way, we saw at least 6 bus and car wrecks, left where they had crashed, even if it was the middle of the road! We stopped for a cup of tea in Mugling, the half way house of travel in Nepal, and we met the first bunch of Nepalis to be surprised to see a westerner get out of a Nepali Truck – usually they are on buses. After they picked up that I knew Nepali, the banter was great – anyway, we had to get on. We turned left at Mugling and followed the joining of the Marsyandi and Trisuli rivers into the Narayani aka Sapta Gandaki. Beautiful valleys with agricultural terracing going up thousands of feet into the hills.

After dark at about 7ish, we arrived in Narayanghat, one of the main towns along the est-west highway, and proceeded another few km to a little roadside halt consisting of a few wee hovels hoping to feed travellers with dal bhat, meat and drink. So on our first night – we had dal bhat, chatted to the locals, eating under the stars and retired to bed – that being the bunks in the back of the Tata 1613c Cab, let’s just say it was comfortable except for the steel edging on the seat/bunk frame, the split in the middle of the seat/bunk, the one inch foam, the box for a pillow, a few mosquitoes buzzing around and of course the driver in the upper bunk who decided to go sleep walkies in the night and ended up sleeping on the engine cover!

Day 2:
We were up and ready to leave at 5:15, first stop, yes, the diesel pump, where we also had a wee cup of tea and did our ablutions under a plastic pipe sticking out of a wall. The roads were free and we made good headway. 7am I had my first text message (yes, we have texting in Nepal now!) from Ali – they were just leaving the Kathmandu valley.

People were out getting ready for the day: farmers gathering hay, getting water, brushing out the barns, letting the livestock out to graze. We got to Butwal about 8:30am – we stopped for a wee cup, and also got some nice yoghurt. It was getting hot. So on we went across the Terai, the plains – the bread basket of Nepal where most places produce 2 crops of rice and in the winter, dry grain crops – which do not need flood irrigation. Weaving in and out between people, cows, buffalo, ox carts, ducks, other vehicles and check points, there were few places on the journey were there wasn’t something interesting going on, and I have done this journey many times, it is still fascinating.

A few hundred km after Butwal, we climb into the hills up to a peak at 500m (1500 ft) which is where we stopped for our morning dal bhat. It was pretty average…I asked for some dudh (milk) to mix in with my rice, and there were a few floaters in it – dead ants. I tried to blow them to the other side of the glass as I drank the milk, but a few slipped down the gullet. It reminded me of the joke (sic) about different stages of mission life: stage 1 – you’ll give the glass of milk with ants in it, back to the waitress and either ask for another glass or just not take another glass, and never come back to that restaurant. Stage 2 missionary will maybe scoop them out and use the milk, but say to the waitress about the ants: stage 3 missionary will just let it happen, and let a few slip down…and maybe give the waitress some stick about the ant meat being tasty!

On we went over the 500m pass and across a few ravines and I recalled passing a certain corner when we were returning from our first trip to Jhimruk in 1992. Our driver and front seat passenger had noticed some soil falling on to the road and stopped the jeep. We sat and looked for a few minutes, more soil fell, then all of a sudden the whole knoll came down, about 300 tons, just were our jeep would have been! We waited for more, nothing came, so we got out our shovels and dug a path around the outside. Happily, this time, we had no such incident.

We passed Kohalpur, and text from Ali saying they were in Mugling. Man it was hot, between the outside sun and the heat from the engine, we were roasted. We came to Bardiya – one of the National Parks of Nepal. Some people had been practicing their slash and burn system of agriculture, and the fires had spread to the park. Monkeys crossed the road to safety as it acted as a natural barrier to the spread of the fire. A peacock came along with a few other birds…we passed a river with an irrigation barrage known always to have the Nepali alligators there, and yes, there were 2…we approached the Karnali river with its impressive cable stayed bridge of 100m+. The river was at its dry season level, showing the monsoon level, where vegetation started on the rock walls, about 6m up.

We were making good time and Ali had got to Narayanghat, where we had stayed the previous night, she was catching up.

It was getting dark as we arrived at Atariya, the main cross roads at the start of the Dadeldhura road. The driver was keen to get out of the heat, so we decided to continue to the first village up in the hills, Kani dada, were we stayed our second night. I tried the top bunk this time, but I was a bit heavier than the 60kg of a Nepali driver, and it collapsed! lol – happily, there was no one under, and we had prayed, with the kailassy, for safety. Wasn’t able to contact Ali ,as my phone signal didn’t work so well in some of the valleys. Don’t know how far she has got.

Day 3
We have passed through a Maoist Party road check were they demanded Rs1000 (£8) ‘tax’ for the party machine. We got away with 500 as we were carrying medicines for the Hospital.

Just now, we stopped at what has become a regular stop, to get some ‘keer’ – rice pudding . There is this wee hovel, sitting on the edge of a road overlooking valleys and hills that stretch into the Himalayan mist, surrounded by Rhododendron forests, run by this old fellow and his family. The tar from the fire sticks to the roof – protecting it from bugs eating it, the stove is alight with a big BIG pot of keer bubbling away. It is as nice as ever, with coconut, cardamom, clove and other selected spices as available! So I am on the last leg of my journey across Nepal, hopefully, Ali is not far behind now and we will be in our new home tonight.

After 3 days on the road, dust, grime, sweat, blood, but no tears, my hair is as dry as the Sahara, might just put it in dreadlocks!

30 minutes to Dadeldhura…no time to write about the 6 policemen who went out to arrest a Maoist and cadged a lift with us for a few km, the locals we chatted to at tea stops, the beautiful scenery…oh and after I arrived, I looked in the mirror, i looked a proper Nepali, I was brown with dirt and dust!

PS: Ali arrive safely 5 hours after me…


David Gough said Thu, 29 Apr 2010 10:26AM
Well done Mark and Ali, that certainly seemed like a grueling journey across Nepal. It was an enthralling read and sounds like it was an exciting Tata adventure. I hope you've washed your face by now...I wish you well as you now begin a new episode of your journey in Dadeldhura - may God bless the work of your hands. David
Margaret McCreedy said Thu, 29 Apr 2010 11:39PM
This is travel literature at a high level- geographically as well as for beauty and excitement, I suppose! But don't give up the day job! Hugs to Ali...
LINDA said Tue, 04 May 2010 05:46PM
That was just fantastic!!!!!!!!! I feel I have just done that jouney.......exhausted. x
Theo said Fri, 07 May 2010 04:02PM
Hey guys, hope u both ok, thinking of u xx
Stephanie Johnston said Sun, 09 May 2010 08:18PM
I thoroughly enjoy reading your colourful blogs. May God bless you both. Stephanie

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