Trekking in Dhading Part I - Getting There
The main purpose of my trip to Nepal (and then India) to do photography and video for two charities but I had some extra time and was considering doing some high altitude trekking like the Annapurna circuit or similar. While I'm sure the experience would be amazing these treks are extremely popular and I wondered if I might just end up feeling a bit crowded in and with lots of pictures very similar to thousands of other peoples'. I decided I wanted to go somewhere a bit more off the beaten track.
I met a guide Amish in Kathmandu and told him about what I was interested in – he suggested taking us us to his home village Baseri in Dhading Province, and planned a 3-day camping trek from there to the top of a nearby mountain with a Buddhist Gompa on top.
On the day we were picked up early to go to get the public bus to Baseri. This was my first time using public buses in Nepal or anywhere in this part of the world and it was quite an experience. As a tourist you are sometimes shielded from the less shiny parts of developing countries, and between most popular destinations in Nepal there are tourist buses with ample room, air conditioning and wifi etc. The public buses don't offer those comforts and apart from myself and Oscar (the other member of our party) our fellow passengers were all Nepali.
The buses are all heavily customised: the outsides are extremely colourful and covered in slogans/logos and inside you find good luck charms, holy imagery and various baubles and decorations.
I had been to Africa before but was mostly in remote areas so had never really been exposed to developing world cities. The level of poverty/squalor in places was unsettling to the western eye and some areas were clearly still recovering from earthquake damage but there were also some more well-to-do looking areas with beautiful mountains as a backdrop. I admit I was finding it all totally fascinating as we pulled away from Kathmandu's centre.
We soon started to get away from the built-up areas and into some beautiful rolling hills.
There were numerous stops in towns and villages along the way, and we had to change buses at least twice.
The condition of the road got worse steadily. Some of the river crossings took us over and past big boulders and there wasn't really any trail as far as I could tell. The river crossings would have been tricky in a 4x4 Jeep type vehicle - but the bus drivers went at them confidently and we got past them without any drama.
The terrain seemed too extreme for a bus to be attempting but we were making progress steadily. With nightfall coming up and already considerably delayed we encountered a hitch.
The bus came to a section of ruts and mud on a slight uphill gradient. We had to reverse and take a run-up to attempt one section several times - when this didn't work we were all ordered off the bus before the driver tried again. After several more attempts men with shovels appeared and started filling in the ruts.
This took a little while but no-one appeared to be particularly surprised or concerned so I assume this was fairly standard practice. I imagine this road could be totally impassible during rainy season.
After some work with the shovel and another few attempts the driver got past the worst section and we could get back on the bus and on our way.
We finally arrived at Amish's home in Baseri after dark, to find sleeping children and some very welcome and delicious food. I can't remember the exact details but I'm fairly sure we drank some local Raksi (millet wine/spirit). As we'd arrived so late there were numerous arrangements to be made in the morning for our trek, so we weren't going to be setting off at the crack of dawn - one advantage of the journey taking so long - roughly 11 hours in total.