We decided to pack all our stuff the night before, so after waking up, there is not much more to do than bringing our backpacks downstairs and waiting for everyone to arrive. I am taking my last typhoid vaccination pill from the little fridge in the ‘lobby’, so from now on, I am at least 70% proof according to the doctor. Luckily there actually was a fridge until so far, there probably won’t be any after we leave the capital. Our breakfast of freshly brewed Nepalese coffee and some bananas helps us kill the time until the Nepalese part of our team arrives together with the driver. The small bus would fit probably 10 people, so there is enough space to sit comfortably for everyone during the next four hours since most of our luggage is tied to the roof.
So now, the journey finally starts, and we start rolling out of town. It is impressive how it takes ages just to leave the urban area. Tiny streets, vast crossing and enormous amounts of people participating in the traffic spectacle by walking, biking, in cars or on motorcycles, make sure that we definitely won’t get bored during the drive. At first, I was thinking that it might be fun, if one of us would drive us to the countryside, but now I assume we would have only reached the next block before our first accident. So, it’s good we have Raju driving in order to master every static or moving obstacle for us.
Moving further through the city creates a way better impression of how it is actually like here. Chopped meat on dusty counters in the sun, ready to be sold. Fresh fruits and vegetables piling up next to each other, waiting for their consumption. The smell of incense, spices and ‘dal bhat’, something we are likely to experience more often in the next days. It is hard to tell, when we will get into a more rural area since the transition is fluent and it seems to be never ending. Only when the bus starts to slowly climb the first hill, we can turn around and see the vast pulsating network of houses, streets, people and animals that covers the Kathmandu valley as a whole – or at least some part of it since the buildings tend to fade in the dust and smoke towards the horizon. From now on, one of the most challenging parts of the journey is finding a balance between an open window that provides cool air and a closed one, that keeps the clouds of grey dust outside which our tires whirl up into the finally fresh air.
Nepalese pop music from the radio, a plethora of honking trucks and buses behind every corner and beautiful views give us company until we reach the peak of the mountain. After a military fence and two bored looking soldiers who guard it, we start to slowly descend on more and more bumpy roads. The vegetation on the left and right is covered in dust from all sorts of vehicles racing up and down the hills. It feels like driving through a deserted corridor in the middle of the green. Since the amount of buildings, we pass is now way smaller, you start looking at them more carefully. Scattered traditional stone houses, newly constructed brick buildings and half collapsed ruins, either isolated or in small settlements, border the road on both sides or can be spotted in the distant valleys beneath us. Wherever you look, there are people working: Men, women and children carrying construction material, piling up brick- or masonry-work or taking care of the plantations. But everyone is smiling, one of the most beautiful things that tends to be so much more natural here than it is back home.
Interesting but rather not that trustworthy looking bridge constructions allow us to cross the flowing river where people wash themselves, their cloths or dishes in the sun. Our driver seems to be more and more unsure about the directions and starts asking people passing by on every second fork. But after another hour of driving through nowhere, we reach a smaller town and stop for a late lunch in a restaurant. Luckily our native part of the team was able to announce our arrival beforehand so more dal bhat was already waiting for us in the kitchen. It was delicious! And a lot!
The last part of the journey is now only about half an hour more of jumping up and down in the backrow while slightly ascending the hills again. Govinda welcomes us in front of the project building: a reconstructed private house that provides two rooms for our partner NGO icimod to run the headquarter in. Luckily, the owners are so kind to offer us rooms to sleep in so we setup our basecamp in what was most likely their living room. Before we even have time to rest a while, Govinda brings us a little it further up the little road to a traditional wedding party that is taking place. Everyone welcomes us with honest smiles as if we were invited guests. Beautifully bright coloured clothing together with traditional music and dancing is probably the most overwhelming and exciting welcome I have experienced so far. It takes not even five minutes until almost everyone in Dhungentar village knows that we are here and so far, they even seam to be cool with it.
A small hut that serves as restaurant, bar and shop (while it’s also the actual home of the family living there) serves us enormous amounts of more ‘dal bhat’ for dinner. The local drink- and gambling-crew generously offered us the only table to sit, so we enjoy our meal in quite a hurry not to make them become thirsty in the meanwhile.
Since its already dark and the electricity decided to not illuminate the few lightbulbs in front of our homestay, we sit next to the read for a while. It is nice to have some time to get to know more about Nepalese culture and about our AITM team members in a more calm and informal environment. And now we are all in for it anyways, so we better get to know each other pretty well: There is four more days without a shower in front of us while still sleeping shoulder to shoulder on the ground.