Missed Part 6? Check it out here!
We woke up bright and early. Outside of the house, a couple of Jeeps were already waiting to bring us down the mountain, and back into civilization. Unlike when we arrived, we wouldn’t be taking 2 days to travel the distance between Chame and Kathmandu.
I felt sentimental as we said our goodbyes to the house owners, especially since I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to make it back here. They had been incredibly good to us, and despite having very little to offer, they generously provided us their hospitality. It was a form of selflessness that I couldn’t remember ever experiencing in the States.
As we left, the husband came to us and draped a white scarf around each of our necks. It was a silky material that probably had some symbolic meaning, but I didn’t know what it was. Either way, it was a nice gesture, and we all thanked him for the gifts as the jeep started rolling down the road.
What Happened to the Road?
The landscape went by quickly, and we passed a few familiar sights from when we first arrived. A few villages, a helipad, the place where the Jeep broke down on our way up… All went by in a blur as we quickly descended the mountain.
Despite the bumpy ride, I was grateful to be sitting and moving so fast, especially after being on my feet for so long. We were making good progress for this first couple of hours, but this was Nepal. Something was bound to happen.
The Jeep came to a stop on the road for no apparent reason, with a thousand foot drop on one side, and a steep cliff on the other. We were all confused when the driver got out and told us to do the same, but by this point, we were also used to things like this happening. Lokendra went to talk with him, and we patiently waited as they exchanged a few fast words. When he came back, he spoke plainly to us…
“The road has been destroyed.”
We expected something unpredictable to happen, but this was just too much. The road was destroyed? What did that even mean?
Kumal and I went off to explore, while some of the others laid down to take a nap since it sounded like we would be here for awhile. As time went on, a few more Jeeps filled with trekkers came up behind us, creating a traffic jam that wound its way up the mountain.
After rounding the corner on foot, it became clear that Lokendra’s statement was no exaggeration. The road was completely blocked off due to a landslide, and there was no way to get around it. Since this was the only road up and down the mountain, we were effectively trapped for the time being.
Kumal and I walked back to our group and shared the news. As expected, Lokendra told us that it could be a few hours by the time a crew was able to get here and clear the debris away. This was a bit of a problem, because if it took too long, there was a chance that we would miss our flight. However, we weren’t too worried because we still had the rest of this day and the next as a buffer between us and our scheduled departure.
With nothing left to do but wait, I alternated my time between standing on the road, sitting in the Jeep, and returning back to the landslide to check for progress. I had a few snacks left that I finished as well, which made me all the more eager to get beyond this wall.
Near Death Experience
It was 4 hours before the road was open again. Faster than many of us expected, but still far longer than we would’ve liked. We slid back into the Jeep as our driver started the engine.
The road was clear, but as we drew closer, I began to wish I had just walked this section instead of getting back in the vehicle. Because of the landslide, the road in this area was narrower than it had been before. At this point, it looked like it was barely wide enough for the Jeep to slip through. I sat by the left window, so I had a clear view of the sudden drop over the cliff edge and down into the river below. When I looked through that dirty glass, a nervous smile crossed my face.
I couldn’t see the road.
We were so close to the edge that I saw nothing but open air. And from our time waiting for the landslide to be cleared, all of us were aware of how loose the ground was on the edge. At this moment, the left side of the Jeep was driving on nothing more than cracked rock and gravel, just waiting to break off and fall.
I had spent enough time in this country to know that Murphy’s Law was especially relevant – if anything could go wrong, it would. Naturally, this time was no exception. The tire underneath me suddenly jerked, and time seemed to slow down for a brief moment. I was looking out the window, so I knew for sure…the wheel was no longer on the road.
I should’ve felt afraid. The Jeep was slowly slipping over the side of the cliff, and there was nothing but rocks and water 1,000 feet below to break our fall. It would’ve been certain death, and we would’ve been added to the other vehicles that I had seen in the river throughout the course of the trip. But somehow, I only felt an overwhelming sense of peace in the split second where I was convinced I would die.
Obviously, that scenario didn’t come to pass, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to write these words. I heard the sound of the engine roaring, and the remaining tires on the road managed to pull us out of our death sentence. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
The Endless Road Trip
The rest of the drive wasn’t nearly as exciting as that moment, but it was pretty nonetheless. Time flew by in a jarring blur, and before we knew it, we were back at the waterfall restaurant for lunch. I didn’t have much of an appetite, but it was good to get something in my stomach again now that I had exhausted my stash of snacks.
Hour after hour, we were thrown and jostled until we finally made it back to paved roads. We were all fatigued, and I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open, but eventually we came to a stop in the large town of Pokhara. Here, we would transfer to a bus the rest of the way to Kathmandu.
I grabbed my belongings and staggered to the bus, exhaustion weighing me down. The large vehicle was much nicer than the one we had originally ridden in upon our arrival, though the seats were still uncomfortable and there wasn’t much leg room. However, none of that mattered to me as I instantly drifted off to sleep.
The bus was bouncy, but not as bad as the Jeep. Because of this, I was able to sleep every time I closed my eyes as buildings passed, landscapes changed, and cars honked. Every time I woke up, it felt like I was in a dream with bright lights and unfamiliar scenery that bled together in a confusing array. I was too tired to comprehend much of what I saw during those hours, especially after night descended.
Various people got on and off the bus at different times, but it was all a haze to me. Little shacks and houses appeared more frequently, and street lights started popping up as Kathmandu drew closer. It was almost 10pm when the bus finally let us off…it was about 6:30am when we left that morning. The streets were deserted, but after grabbing our belongings, we made an effort to find dinner in one of the few shops that were still open.
I lost all sense of direction in these streets, and could only rely on Lokendra’s guidance as he led us through the windy roads. After a short walk, we stopped outside a restaurant called “The Roadhouse Cafe,” and decided this would be our best bet for finding food. It was just about to close for the night, but the employees were nice enough to cook us the last meal of the day.
The restaurant itself was beautiful, and the pizza was even better. Even though everything felt like it was spinning now that we had stopped moving after endless hours in a rocking vehicle, it was hard not to enjoy the first “real” meal that we had eaten in almost a week.
Our hotel was close by, and it didn’t take long before we split off to our rooms. After indulging in my first shower since the hotel in Besisahar, I flopped down on the bed and said goodnight to the longest birthday of my life.