What is it about narrow, snaking, mountain roads not in the US? From Corfu to Madeira to Nepal, the guardrail industry seems to be non-existent. I don’t think it’s the money since what is spent on roadside shrines (for those who went over) probably surpasses what would be spent on the steel. And, buses were not even considered when road width was determined.
Here we go again.
Sounds good. Could use some clean, mountain air at this point. Sit back and relax for a half hour drive with a stop for tea and a pleasant walk around a typical farming village.
But, it seems no one considered that it was New Years Day, and a beautiful day, and the perfect day for the entire population of Kathmandu to get out of the city for an outing! Five minutes up the narrow road and the traffic stopped dead. It seemed that whenever two over-sized vehicles came together at a curve it was virtually impossible to pass one another…and one couldn’t back up as solid traffic pushed right up behind. In the meantime motorbikes continually moved through every possible empty space. The local police were helpless, and only other drivers and passengers could cooperate to stop the bikes and make enough room for the buses/trucks to pass. A deep ditch was on the mountain side and a sheer drop opposite making things even more dicey.
Between the stops and the breakneck racing speed around the scream-inducing curves the usual half hour trip took almost two. Good thing we had a pit stop just before setting out.
Just before reaching the top we found this picturesque place to have some delicious Nepalese tea. Seriously, only a super dry Hendricks martini with a cucumber garnish would have been better at this point.
The rest of the trip was quiet and provided some good views of the difficult farming conditions most of the locals face. The terraces are beautiful, but imagine toting your tools, water and harvested crops. The Nepalese are indeed a hearty people.
Along our hike into the farm village we came across some innovative ways the farmers utilize what they have around them to make it all work. All the farming is by hand. The men do the plowing and the women do EVERYTHING else. Wheat was the current crop.
We were allowed into this yard and house to see how the families live. To say sparsely is a gross understatement. The yard and the first floor is shared equally by the family and the livestock. Here the lady of the house is boiling not too fresh-looking water for some unknown purpose. We had to duck to get into the house and through the inner doorways. There was an open fire/cooking area on the dirt floor…and no chimney. The smoke simply rises to the ceiling and eventually works it way out of the open windows. Too expensive to do the masonry work for a chimney it turns out.
Presumably all their cooking and eating utensils. No closets. Almost no furniture. Glassless windows.
Two bedroom and two beds for Grandmom, Mom and Dad, and we believe three kids. An old singer sewing machine and a tiny, vintage TV (wonder what channels are available).
As we continue our walk through the neighborhood we do see a few more people and even a very small “corner store” where they can get things they need that they can’t grow or make.
We see some local kids playing make-up games…
…and more kids in the yard.
I know it might seem a little depressing, but it isn’t really. The air is clean and crisp, a water line runs beside the road, the foliage looks healthy and the crops good. They survive by their own hands and wits, and have a belief system that allows them to accept what they have without the need to hope for more – or to envy what others might have.
We head back toward the city as the sun is setting, thinking the traffic has cleared for a straight shot down the mountain.
Yes, they paid the same price to ride as everyone else. We have some fun with them and high fives as they pass by (withing less than an inch). Fortunately, just as most of our moods start to sour, several of our ebullient fellow travelers from Mexico start a round of songs that bring all spirits back up. We continue singing all the way down and sincerely wish Nepal a very Happy New Year!