After a few nights in the noisy Thamel area spent dodging traffic and saying no to Tiger Balm and hashish sales men we figured it was time to get above the smoggy pollution to see some of Nepal’s famed mountains. After wandering the busy Kathmandu streets we found the bus station, with the help of a local, and headed for the Newari town of Dhulikhel where we had heard there were some amazing mountain views.
The views from the bus of the lush green farm land and the hundreds of terraces were so amazing that we could momentarily forget about being crammed like sardines into our own metal packaging. We were quickly brought back to reality when the bus stopped short of our destination and everyone was told to get off; it was the end of the line. As we watched our bus head away back towards Kathmandu we realized that we still had about 10 kilometers left to go and the bus had turned around because of a transit strike. There was a large group of protesters, and looking around we wondered if we had made the right decision in coming to Dhulikhel. With no other buses, and being most of the way there anyway, we decided, “What the heck, lets just go for.” and started making our way through the crowd.
We were soon approached by a couple of young men who wondered if we would like to pay a few Nepali rupees to be taken up the road about two thirds of the way in their bike trailer. We, of course, agreed and hopped in back with two other people and our backpacks. Once the bike started moving we realized that he was taking us through the down hill section, and there were parts of that ride we were moving so fast that I was afraid a wheel was going to fall off. I really can’t tell you much more about that experience since my subconscious blocked it out from some kind of fear reflex, but everyone survived and we were a little closer to our destination. Turning down an offer for a ride on the back of a motorcycle, we decided to walk the rest of the way and arrived shortly.
We stayed at a nice little family run guest house on the far edge of town where we had mountain views from our windows and there was only one other guest. The lodge owner had his own version of the sad story so many people who rely on the tourist trade have; not enough foreigners. He said that the foreigners were scared off because of the recent change in government and the related uprisings, and that the transit strike was keeping people specifically from Dhulikhel. We then found out the reason for the transit strike and it helped us understand why maybe the foreigners were staying away.
A bus driver was asked to do a freight run, as I guess they commonly do in Nepal, where he was to take some milk to a particular destination and not pick up any passengers along the way. While he was doing this errand he was flagged down by some Maoists associated with the government who demanded to be taken where ever they were planning on going. When the bus driver refused to take them, since he had his milk run to complete, the Maoists beat him to death. The locals decided to go on strike until the widow was compensated with about the equivalent of a few thousand dollars and the offenders were prosecuted.
The second night we spent there I woke up with a head ache and cold sweats and what was probably a pretty high fever. After a sleepless night Andy decided that it would be prudent for me to have a Malaria test since we had spent time in a Malarial zone with out taking our medication and only using DEET as a preventative from mosquitoes. The lodge owner had told us about the local hospital and how there were foreigners working there, thinking that we might want to make some friends or something, so Andy found out where it was and dragged my weak, light headed ass across town to have my blood tested. When we saw the hospital we were pleasantly surprised; it was huge and looked brand new. This was a major stroke of luck since the transit strike had spread to the entire valley and there were no buses heading back to Kathmandu. The only way we could get back would be by calling a taxi from Kathmandu and paying an exorbitant amount of rupees to the taxi drivers who were scared of having major damage done to their vehicles, and possibly their persons, when they passed through the mobs of strikers.
It was a hospital that catered to the locals and I ended up having a check up from a doctor, a white blood cell count, and a Malaria test all for about three
dollars. The facilities were wonderful and the doctor spoke excellent English, the only difference was that all the lab techs were wearing flip flops. After you have any kind of work done the hospital gives you your test results and information to carry around for the next doctor you encounter, whether it be there or in a different town. It was a great experience and made me really glad that there is that kind of care for the locals in semi-rural Nepal.
Malaria free, Andy and I spent the next few days trapped by the strike in Dhulikhel. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to recoup. The town had a few neat little temples and the locals were so friendly and nice. As we aimlessly wandered the back streets children were constantly asking us to take their photo and as soon as we would snap their poses they would run over to look at the photo. They’d obviously been exposed to tourists before because everyone of them demanded pens and chocolate, neither of which we had. We enjoyed the laid-back feel and spent time reading in our room with a view, but it was a small town and we were ready to head on when the strike lifted.