Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of columns about Palmer Lake resident Jay Heinlein’s work and adventures in Nepal.
By Jay Heinlein | Guest columnist
Kathmandu, Nepal – Lonely Planet describes Kathmandu as “a pupil-dilating experience, a riot of sights, sounds and smells that can quickly lead to sensory overload.”
That might be understated.
The assault on the senses was immediate upon my arrival in Nepal on Oct. 2, 2015. I traveled more than 30 hours to get here and I quickly learned the Far East is more than just another world away.
From the very first moment, there was an in-your-face awareness that I was “not in Kansas anymore.”
In spite of the rather intense first impressions, and mind-numbing jetlag, I was eager to explore and discover this brand new world. I was even more anxious to get started with my old college buddies and their work in Nepal, especially on earthquake recovery projects, that were already underway.
But, I didn't expect, that I would get my wish in such a rapid hurry ... it came at me like a Texas flash flood!
On Oct 8, just six days after arriving, I was on an inexpensive “locals” commuter bus, headed for Dunche, Nepal, along with two new friends Mike and Omar, who had also just arrived from Colorado. Dunche is in the Bagmati Zone, one of the hardest hit areas by the earthquakes, just six months earlier.
And, what a bus trip it was! Let's just say that “the Nepalis make good use of space.” That smoke-billowing, rickety bucket of bolts was bursting at the rivets, including triple-seating, three to four deep in the aisles. And it carried a full load of humans and livestock on the roof!
The development company I have connected with, Five14Nepal, combines “off the beaten path” adventure tours with development projects in Nepal’s most vulnerable communities. They should simply send everyone on the bus ride I took.
Haunting Eastern tunes playing on a scratchy radio loudspeaker couldn’t distract from the bold stench of sweaty people packed tight on the teeth-jarring ride over washed-out, barely-passable mountain roads. I couldn’t stop thinking how close we all were to imminent death, from a long, careening plunge over cliffs at the edge of the road. It was an experience like none other.
The torture and terror lasted for seven hours, including emergency stops for a flat and a battery fire. I was giddy jubilant when it was finally over.
Travel tip, if you’re not on a tight budget, I would seriously suggest hiring a 4-wheel drive vehicle. But, props to those bus drivers. They should be counted among some of the most steely-nerved, skillful daredevil wheel-turners in the world, something like the bush pilots.
And I did thoroughly enjoy the Dal Bhat lunch stop. I savored it like a last meal.
The bus trip was over but our journey was just beginning. Next, came our first stark encounter with the earthquakes’ devastating destruction and the contrasting heart-melting, joyful resilience of the people of Nepal.
I will cover that in my next column, along with an adventure-filled trek in the Himalayas to 15,000-plus feet, and ultimately meeting the villagers and working in one of the original villages that had been completely leveled by the quakes.
Jay Heinlein is a lifelong writer, a publishing professional for over 25 years and principal of Heinlein Publishing Services. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
link to Tri-Lakes Tribune article: https://issuu.com/pikespeaknewspapersinc/docs/trb_0302/c/spl0tu3