We knew it was almost impossible but our belief was injected with a tremendous amount of hope and courage to have one of the best hitch-hiking trips ever. So despite the strike, scorching sun and the thirst, we went on. Travelling on public transport and motorbikes had completely ruined our reasoning power of distance. We expected a familiar place to arrive after a certain bends but it was only after dozen similar bends that we finally would come to the resting point. The stereotypical Nepal actually begins after we farewell Kathmandu and her two sister cities.
The strong rumours that Kathmandu Valley would be closed for the day had ignited this plan in our head. We wanted to do something that was much productive than just staying idle in Freak Street. It was only after arriving at the border of Dhading and Kathmandu that we found out it was a strike in Dhading, not in Kathmandu. But what could stop a heart that has been craving for something adventurous and exciting? We looked at each other and we knew right away that no one wanted to go back to the unplanned and chaotic civilization. We had one tent, and only one sleeping bag since Sarah forgot hers in a shop at Kalanki), a small guitar, a bottle of water, a battery operated Lantern, and clothes to change. Prabin, with his Nikon D80, captured the entire trip.
We took a local bus from Kalanki that left us stranded two kilometers from Tribhuwan Park. By the time Sarah realised that she had left her sleeping bag in one of the shops of Kalanki, the bus came to a halt and going back to get it was simply out of the question. As we left Kathmandu, where one wouldn’t think twice to assist another in trouble, we encountered many people who were ready to help us just because we were there. We first hitched in a micro bus for a few kilometres, but were soon unceremoniously ejected. The truck drivers, who did not give us a lift, gave us an apologetic expression for not being able to help. The fresh water coming down from the mountains were viewed as no less than the Holy Grail to our dehydrated bodies.
Everyone on the outskirts acknowledged our presence and we never felt intruded or unaccepted. It was only Prabin, Shristy and I with flip-flops and after walking for a couple of kilometres, Yuskey and Sarah had to opt for the same since their shoes added to the heat of the sun. There were only speeding tourist buses and a couple of bikes owning the empty highway. We saw landscapes that could never be seen by travelling in a bus or car.
At one point, after walking for almost 30 kilometres, we were completely exhausted when all of a sudden a truck, on the way to Birgunj, stopped and gave us a ride on its back. That hitchhike lasted long enough for Yuskey to sing some folk Nepali songs on his guitar. The truck pulled over in a short while since there was a log of wood in the middle of the road with some protestors making the Banda effective. We stopped for a while and then started walking. Sarah and Shristy, were mistaken for foreigners by the locals when we heard one of them say ‘they have come to Nepal to walk around and see our village life. Strike is good for them.’
Well, strike was neither a good or new thing for Nepal but it surely became momentarily and exclusively for the five of us. A grey coloured Skoda with a tourist number plate, coming from Kathmandu, stopped next to us (you may not be that lucky) and offered a lift. One of the protestors who had seen us walking had requested the driver of the car to take us along if we paid some money. And we did, but very little. On the entire trip that lasted for about 45 minutes, we were smiling and feeling lucky. We knew some divine force was looking down on us and giving us free perks from time and again.
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We wanted to go to this waterfall that Yuskey was talking about but, as it had been a year he last visited, we could not find the way. Finally the driver who was listening to our conversation assured us that he knew of a similar waterfall on the way to Pokhara. And it really was the one we were looking for. We bid the driver goodbye and asked him to join us in Kathmandu whenever he was free. We climbed the hill that had the water fall but then there were some rowdy locals who made it really uncomfortable for us to have a good time so we gave up the idea and walked all the way to Abu Khaireni, where we bought noodles, water melon and an apple.
We had seen a lot of good river banks on the way where we could camp but we still wanted to look out for more. We started exploring Daraudi River from one point to another and, for almost an hour, searched for a good spot. We were searching for a narrower spot from where it would be safe to cross the river. A man in his early forties came to us and advised us not to cross the river since it was very risky. Instead he showed us a better place to camp and went away climbing the cliffs as if he was a lizard.
Though it was two nights before full moon, it looked almost like one of those nights were the moon was at its very best and one could stare endlessly at the beauty of the sky. And, to add to that spell binding night, we were camping by a river indulging in the perfect company of each other. The synergy of the songs Shristy and Yuskey sang on top of that splendid aura was so alchemic that it felt like the wind was drifting my soul away. The girls taught us to swim and we got so hooked with it that we were swimming till four in the morning.
The sunrise was very difficult to wake up to. The hangover of all the fun we had yesterday was filled with a tremendous amount of body ache. We packed our tents, cleaned the river bank, repacked our bags and started on the search of a hotel something to eat. The hotel we chose for our dinner happened to be owned by the same person who had advised us not to cross the river. We planned to swim for an hour before having our lunch but we ended up swimming for a couple. The local boys helped us cross the river, taught us swimming and also rescued us many a times.
‘Oi, ma dubey hai (hey I am drowning)’- With these words, Yuskey drowned as he courageously tried to cross the river alone. One of the locals rushed in for his rescue and brought him back safely. But after all that practice the night I’m pretty sure that Yuskey would have made out himself. An old suspension bridge with some of its ropes stretching down to the river became a good swinging sport for us.
Three chicken set dinner with Karela, and 2 vegetarian sets with 4 plates of Chana, two jumbo bottles of chilled water and a jumbo coke cost us around Rs.700. The lunch felt very replenishing. We started after a break of half hours. We climbed to the highway and, with the hitching hiking adventures over, took a bus back to Kathmandu.
Hitch hiking, unlike typical travelling, is getting to know a place like a local rather than normal travelers. Travelers get acquainted with spots that have been commercialized and altered for them. It helps you become open towards a life style and culture adhered in that place and is really worth it with all the things you get to explore that would normally be overlooked in normal travelling. For instance, local people are worried and concerned about your safety when you swim in the river near their houses. Try hitch hiking and you will know because no one will stop you from diving off a 12 foot rock by the river even if you don’t know how to swim.