On March 14th 1973, or thereabouts, I was driving in Southern Nepal.
After leaving the rain channeled Cherrapunji which overlooks the plains of Bangladesh, we had followed the Brahmaputra west from Assam. Now we wanted to get into Nepal and so on to Kathmandu. We had heard about a new road from the east of Nepal running along the Terai and we believed this would shorten a very long drive across Bihar in North India. We thought the crossing would be south of Siliguri near Naxalbari, the home of the Naxalites who were still believed to be operating in this area. The roads were empty through thin forest. Eventually there was a turning to the right and a river with a border. We explained to the friendly border official how to stamp our carnet and he showed us the register: we were the first foreigners to cross here since a group of Peace Corps some nine months previously. The track was a ford across the river, definitely four wheel drive, a couple of feet deep, the banks deeply rutted. Over in Nepal we came to the remote town of Bhadrapur, dirty, undeveloped, poor, broken streets and not on our maps. We wandered along a winding road through open fields and villages, always afraid that we were going too far to the south. Finally we came to a stretch of new road, and a forest rest house for camping.
We drove on the next morning through forest but it wasn't long before the new road came to an end and we had to turn south on small roads through a river and reservoir system that made me convinced more than ever we were heading back into India. After more twists and turns and several hours we got to another stretch of new road which eventually joined the main road to Kathmandu, the Tribuvan Highway, only finished in 1956, and itself slow and winding through the hills.
As the sun was going down we drove up onto the ridge which forms the first foothills of the Himalayas; the trees were shading red and the dim outline of mountains ahead was tinted pink. We found a hotel near Daman which gave us some food and allowed us to sleep outside. Then in the morning the sky was clear. We walked around a little in the cool air and then found near the road a panorama in stone and metal, showing the outline and names of all the mountains from Dhaulagiri in the West to Everest and Makalu in the East. We were able to see and distinguish every peak in a perfectly blue sky.
|The view from Daman: Picture by Inhabitat, CC|
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