We finally set off on Wednesday after being further delayed by the threat of another strike (which then failed to take place.) Both Mark and I were eager to leave the pollution and sprawl of Kathmandu and to finally arrive in our respective hometowns for the summer. So as to avoid traveling at night, I planned to head to Mark’s town of Nepalganj where I would spend the night and then hop on a bus to Mahendranagar the following day. After waiting several hours for our 12 seat minibus to be filled (we ended up counting at least 25 passengers who managed to squeeze aboard) we finally took off through the mountains surrounding the Kathmandu valley.
The scenery along the road was simply incredible. As a result of the monsoon season the mountains were lush, green, and hummed with insect life. Tiny houses clung to the sides of the mountains, seeming to defy gravity. After several hours of this scenery we eventually turned off on the highway heading south down into the Terai.
Entering the Terai was like entering a different world. The landscape abruptly changed and we were now zipping along flat fields (the vast majority of Nepal’s agricultural activity takes place in the fertile soil of the Terai) plowed by water buffalo. It was impossible not to notice the drastic temperature change as well, and the sun baked our tightly packed vehicle.
Nonetheless, I considered myself lucky to be traveling at all. A group of local Maoists had called for a strike of “indefinite” length along our travel route (in fact, the only east-west highway in the country) after the army decided to relocate a military base to their district. We had spent several nervous hours in Kathmandu wondering if we were to be “indefinitely” delayed as well, before we received word that the Maoists had decided to call of the strike. The cancellation of the strike, however, came too late to prevent several passenger buses from being (literally) burnt to the ground for violating the travel ban. As we passed by their hulking, charred shells on the highway, it occurred to me that our trip had thus so far proceeded remarkably incident free. That’s when we reached the bridge…
Posted By Jeff Yarborough
Posted Jun 22nd, 2007