The opinions expressed on this blog are the personal views of Andreas Kjernald and do not reflect the positions of either the UMC congregations in Skien or Hvittingfoss or the UMC Norway.

torsdag 2 februari 2017

One unbelievable trip, one million impressions - part 1

How do you know when you have reached the end of civilization? My measurement is when the best hotel in town says "No, we don't have Coca Cola here". I just heard it for the first time ever this past week and it happened in Dhangadi, Far West Nepal. There is so much to tell that I will have to split this blog post up in several parts.

My family and I just got back from the most adventuresome/grueling/amazing trip we have ever taken. I know that to some of you who are reading this our trip may not sound very "exotic" or "extreme" but to this family it was something else. Here is a map that shows you how we travelled:
Basically, we drove half of Nepal (and the hour estimate on this map is way off. It assumes western highway speeds. Yeah, that didn't happen). The route was Pokhara to the-metropolis-you-all-know-as-Butwal (or Rumpevegg, as our kids called it)-Dhangadi-Belauri-Dhangadi-Bardia National Park-Butwal-Pokhara. It was a 1200km trip (or 750miles) and it was done with the speedometer never reaching 90km/h (55mph). 300km was done doing S-curves and it was the slowest 300km I've ever done. It took 12 hours. This was our Jeep and this was our itenerary:
Day 1 - Pokhara to Butwal. 6 hours of driving through the Himalayan foothills. This is when we realized that our fairly expensive Jeep didn't have much suspension left in it. Needless to say, as we started climbing into the mountains we found out the hard way (literally) that we were in for a bumpy ride. Our (really great) driver let out some air out of the tires and that helped but I can't say I enjoyed the ride. And the buses and trucks flying down the roads...honking and hoping.
I did enjoy the views as we drove through a landscape of dramatic gorges, rivers, bridges and villages. I will never figure out why the Nepali people build on top of ridges and on the side of cliffs. I guess you take the land you're given...or something. The scenery was breathtaking and I am in awe of the Nepali people who populate this land. I kept asking myself, "-How the heck did they do that?".

For those of you who are wondering if the road was treacherous let me just say...sort of. The road was pretty safe and there were siderailings, sort of (again), most of the way but even so I had two thoughts in my mind, taking their turns. The first one was: "-If something brakes on this Jeep or a bus overtakes another bus (please stop doing that!) we're going over a cliff and we will die horribly". The second was: "-Well, it's going ok. We are still on the road". In Norway and Sweden I feel that I can always trust that solid engineers have built the road and that most people have taken extensive driver tests. Here...not so much. Here it's mostly prayers and the hope that the other drivers aren't complete morons. It's mostly prayer.

We finally made it to Butwal and let me just say this: Don't make any vacation plans for this "gem" of a city. It reason for existing is that the mountains stopped (surprisingly abrubtly) and it's finally flat. Amazingly, there is a western style 4-star hotel here, De Novo, that offered everything you can ask for. Hot showers. Room service. Pool (yeah, we didn't try it). Comfy beds. A/C and heaters. Needless to say, we enjoyed it (even if the mosquitos were fast to take advantage of us) and it was a nice little treat that we, unbeknownst to us, really needed the next day.

More to come.

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