07 July 2012

Dolpo Journal 1

 As Cedar and I cull through our journals we will be posting excerpts of our time in Dolpo...

When I circled into Kathmandu, just two days earlier, square pastel buildings ringed in lush terraces looked like a model below me.  A model with a tiny taxi weaving through the streets carrying my sister to fetch me with a cold bottle of iced tea and begin the pre-trip sprint to pick up our just finished permits, and shore up the many legs of our journey just to the “trailhead” of our 35 trek into Dolpo.  It takes a trip to Nepalganj on the boarder of India, and from there, a flight to the tiny village Juphal, the only airport (a strip of dirt above a deep ravine) in Dolpo.  The flights are full and unreliable since they only fly with full planes, and only if the weather is perfectly still and clear, since it involves some large mountains.  So we decide to try to catch a rare day bus to Nepalganj, which means showing up at the bus park and asking around to see if there is a bus going, and then try our luck at the flight to Dolpo the next morning.  After sleeping a few hours we get up and stuff everything into our backpacks and flush out into the streets of Patan at the puja hour, many bells ringing, and singing from the small temples.  We catch a harried cab as Karma, our guide -- and the only guide to ever come from the villages of Dolpo --  calls to tell us he found a bus going, but we must hurry to get the last seats.  Our unusually safety conscious cab driver takes his time buckling up and driving us slowly through the empty streets to the bus park where we catch the last three seats in the very back of the bus, which we share with four and then five men,  as we catapult over the rough road for the next 14 hours.

We cross the flat jungle land of golden Buddhas sitting out in fields and hot wind blowing through the yellow Salas forest, driving into the night - long strings of fire along the forest floor.  Slowly we are rickshawed through the empty streets to a guesthouse in Nepalganj and sleep-  finally- geckos on the wall and a fan blowing hot air across us through the night.  We realized before falling asleep that we do not have enough cash for the flight, as they only take cash at the airport, so before light Isan motorbikes with the guesthouse owner into town to see if anything is open.  Of course the square is closed, and just as they are about to give up, and insure a multi-day stay in this sweltering little border town, an ATM owner looks out his window, and shouts down to see if they need to be let in.  And so they return victorious, and we load into 8-seater plane, and teeter into the white mountains, Isan- saying she took all the money out that she could, and it was just enough for one-way tickets to Dolpo. 

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