– ODO- 13910 – 14052km
– Location- Hotel Near Belbari, Nepal
– Weather- 21-32 Overcast until midday but windy.
After yesterday’s wrong turn I decided to retrace my steps. Partly up the unfinished highway on compressed and sprayed sand and the rest of the time on the rough and broken slabs of the old road. For a short cut I turned from the highway onto a village road. In India I’d been surprised at how good a lot of the roads were. Even back roads connecting the thousands of villages that make up the majority of the country. In Nepal, as soon as the highway stops the road becomes sand.
Being a Saturday, everybody was out in the villages I passed. Women carried in bundles of corn on their heads. Children played in the fields. Elder men sat out on groups on the shade of a banyon tree. I crashed through over the gravel, sweating rivers. By the time I rejoined the highway I was exhausted. I took some time sitting in a bus stop waiting for my sweat to finally evaporate into the sodden air.
When I was in the mountains there were often strips of road with few houses or villages alongside. Reaching the flatlands things began to change. Looking at a map of Nepal the majority of the country, in the North, is a chunk of the Himalayas where life is hard for the locals. A teacher I met on the road told me some of his students walk two and a half hours to get to class. These villages have no possibility of access by road. All the food and supplies are grown there, or brought on the heads and backs of the inhabitants. Along the southern border with India there is a strip – 20-60km tall – of flat land. This is where the majority of food to support the country can be grown. That’s where, last night, I attempted to find a good place to camp.
Villages backed into villages. Saturday night brought everyone out on mopeds, cars and bikes. Some stopped to chat. I tried to avoid their attention. The only gap I could find between villages were the dried river beds. I started looking at each one as I passed. The first was busy with children playing. The next with tractors and workmen collecting rocks and sand. The third time I spotted my chance and dove down a track to the river bed. Still back from the bank I picked my spot. It wasn’t ideal. Nearby was a common dumping site – something that you don’t see on Instagram but is outside every village I’ve passed from Istanbul to Kathmandu.
I settled in as best I could, cooked and ate fast as the sun set. Several farmers walked by or came past on tractors and didn’t pay me much attention. With the tent up and cleaned, I got my kindle out and started to read. I sensed someone watching me and soon a few more people arrived on motorbikes to the river bank. As it was a Saturday, I thought, this might be their hangout. I continued to read. At once they approached. A ring of guys about my age, maybe a few years younger. I was camping somewhere dangerous they said. I pressed on concerned. Was there a flood risk? Was this private property. “Many Ghosts Here” came the the response from the youngest of the group. I look where he was pointing. Across the sandy river bed, about 200m was the cremation platform common to Nepal and India also. I promised them I’d move in a minute. Waited until they were done, got into my tent and fell fast asleep. No ghosts visited me last night.