Missed Part 1? Check it out here!
The Best Hotel in Besisahar
Besisahar was the last stop on the paved road. Once you go beyond this town, the already bumpy ride becomes a road fresh out of a horror story. Needless to say, the reason why we stopped at this particular hotel was because the bus wasn’t capable of bringing us any farther.
None of us particularly minded the change in plans, even though it would put us behind schedule. We were dead on our feet, in desperate need of a good meal, a hot shower, and a decent bed.
We split into groups of 2, and the hotel owner gave each group a key to their room (and I mean a bona fide, giant skeleton key). My dad and I were sharing a room, so we dropped our gear off before heading to the restaurant located in a separate building on the hotel property.
After meeting up with the rest of our group, the food was ordered and before long, a hot cup of tea was placed before each of us. Now, this isn’t the watery version of tea that I’m sure most of us are used to drinking (if you drink tea at all). No, this was traditional, Nepalese milk tea with cinnamon.
Thick and brown, I have to admit I was a little wary to try it at first. While I’m a deep lover of all things black, green, and oolong as it relates to tea, I’ve never been a huge fan of milk tea. As I was debating whether or not I should even take a sip, the aroma started wafting up to my nose and made the decision for me. I may not like milk, but boy do I like cinnamon.
Long story short, the tea barely lasted a minute. It was incredibly soothing after so much travel, and to this day, I’ve never had better tea. One of my biggest regrets is not getting another cup before we left the hotel the next morning.
Before long, our food was delivered to us. I never ordered, and I don’t recall anyone else at the table ordering either, which is probably why we were all given the same meal. Salted greens that had been boiled (I think it was spinach), rice, curry, flatbread, and a watery mixture meant to be poured over the rice to soften it up.
Every ounce of anxiety I had about getting sick from eating the food vanished after the first bite, and never came back over the course of the trip. All of the food was delicious, though quite spicy. Sadly my stomach wasn’t in any state to handle that level of heat, so I wasn’t able to finish my entire meal. But, it was all very good nonetheless.
After our meal, we all turned in for the night, as we were all exhausted beyond belief. After stepping back into the tiny bedroom, I was once again reminded that people in America have no right to complain about hotels. Our driver had called this place the best hotel in the entire town…granted, he might have been exaggerating, but even so, the place was unremarkable and in need of repair. Some of the walls were cracked, the beds were nothing more than a few pieces of wood with a sheet on top, and some of the tile in the bathroom was broken. All in all, it was nothing special to look at. But for me, it was more amazing than a king’s palace.
Because this was a rare opportunity to tap into Wi-Fi, I stayed up a little later than I planned on. After sending out a few emails to loved ones, I took a long shower and brushed my teeth for the first time in days. Unrolling my sleeping bag on top of the bed, I laid down for the first time in 3 days with a sigh. Even though it wasn’t as comfortable as sleeping in my own bed, the wooden planks felt as soft as a cloud.
The World’s Most Dangerous Road
After waking up in the hotel, we quickly packed up and got our gear ready. Our journey wouldn’t begin in Besisahar like it does for many other trekkers, so we would need to hire a Jeep to bring us the rest of the way to Chame. I had heard horror stories about these Jeep rides, and couldn’t say I was looking forward to it. Motion sickness is something that I struggle with, and it sounded like I was in for a rough ride.
Up to this point, I wasn’t really able to appreciate my surroundings. There wasn’t much to see on the plane ride, the Kathmandu airport wasn’t great, and most of the bus ride had been after sunset. For the first time in 4 days, I was able to actually take in the beauty around me.
To distract myself from my impending misery, I was taking in the sights, munching on a granola bar while waiting. Though they weren’t the snowcapped peaks that were awaiting us, the surrounding foothills were still quite stunning. It was nice to just be able to stand there in peace, after a good night’s rest and food in my stomach. A feeling that I would come to envy later in the trip.
About an hour after we woke up, the Jeep arrived to take us up the mountain. It wasn’t small, but trying to fit 8 of us, plus the driver and some of our gear inside the vehicle… Well, let’s just say “cramped” is a nice way to put it. When we were all situated, Lokendra told us that this would be our home for the next 10 hours or so. A horrifying thought any way you looked at it, and yet I was getting strangely numb to this sort of news.
The Jeep, an old Mahindra manufactured in India, was severely lacking in suspension, so the ride was the most jarring of my life. All of us were constantly being thrown into each other or the metal frame of the vehicle. On occasion, the road was nothing more than a couple of muddy ruts, forcing us to get out so that the lightened Jeep could wiggle through the mire. Other times, we drove up steep switchbacks so narrow that it seemed like we might fall off the cliff at any moment. But the most entertaining experience was driving through waterfalls and the rivers created by them, while watching the runoff slide over the edge right next to us and into the rapids far below.
We were all happy when lunch time came around and we got to stretch our legs. Our driver stopped at the Waterfall Restaurant, a building that looked a little precarious, but seemed like it got a lot of traffic. We entered, and once again, Lokendra took care of ordering for us. The dish was fairly similar to the one we had at the hotel, though far less spicy. For this, I was grateful. Even though my motion sickness hadn’t really acted up (thank you Dramamine!), I wasn’t about to test my limits while trying to digest spicy food.
At this point in time, we were almost halfway to our destination. The hours in the Jeep were starting to wear on all of us, and to make light of our situation, we compared bruises that had been received by the constant jostling of the vehicle. After relieving our bladders, we maneuvered our aching bodies back into position for the next leg of the journey.
The following hours went much like the last. Constant rocking, waterfall here, mud pit there, getting out to lighten the load, and then hopping back in. Of course, we weren’t the only Jeep on the road. Sometimes we encountered another driver carrying trekkers down the mountain. Unsurprisingly, we always seemed to run into them at a point in the road where it wasn’t wide enough to pass. This led the drivers to play chicken with each other, until one side finally conceded and would back up. Most of the time this happened with nothing more than a few angry honks, other times it looked like the drivers might start throwing punches. In this way, we were able to stay…entertained…through the arduous journey.
Before we left for Nepal, our team leader told us to be prepared to have all of our plans change. I asked him how this would apply if I had absolutely no concept of what to expect or plan for in the first place. His response was: “You’ll find out.”
Well, we found out.
The Jeep was chugging along like normal, a steep hill up ahead. Clouds were rolling in, evidence of a storm brewing on the horizon. We were making conversation to pass the time when all of a sudden, our driver stopped the vehicle. He didn’t say why, but asked that we get out and wait for a bit. After a few minutes, Lokendra came over to us and explained what was going on.
“The Jeep broke an axle.”
The words didn’t quite register right away. It had taken 43 hours of travel just to get to this point, and now he was saying that the Jeep…broke an axle?
Our dumbstruck faces prompted him to continue, saying that we could either wait 8 hours for a mechanic to come, or we could hike the rest of the way to Chame. Obviously, no discussion was needed to determine what we were going to do. So with the mental preparedness that came from figuring something like this would happen eventually, we grabbed our packs and said goodbye to the driver.
It felt good to be outside on my feet again. They were cramped from the long ride, but quickly started to loosen up once I got moving. We all gathered at the top of the hill, where Lokendra stopped us and pointed out a couple routes we could take. The road would be the easiest, but also the slowest path to Chame. On the other hand, there was a “shortcut” that we could take that offered a more direct route. We could see some of the trail that made up this shortcut, and it didn’t seem too bad. Since rainy weather looked like it was coming in, and night would be upon us within a couple of hours, we thought the shorter way would be best.
The first 30 minutes of the hike were the worst, since all of us were fatigued from travel. Every step felt like I was pushing against an invisible wall, and my lungs didn’t want to do their job properly. Though it was difficult, our bodies eventually realized that stopping wasn’t on the agenda, and walking didn’t feel as bad as it used to.
The road quickly faded in the distance as we dipped into the ravine and were surrounded by trees. The trail itself wasn’t too bad, aside from a few stream crossings where we only had a log to get us across. But even so, late afternoon was turning into evening, and Lokendra was getting more and more concerned about our pace.
That’s when the rain started.
Nothing too severe, but enough to make us miserable. We pulled on our raincoats and backpack covers, and continued on through the woods as fast as we could manage. Eventually a ravine came into sight, with a river flowing violently through it. As it would happen, we needed to cross this ravine, which is why the metal, swinging bridge was a relief to see. However, there was one problem…
Like the Jeep, this too was broken.