We had finished our trek in Dhap, a small village comprising a house, a lodge and a shop. Dhap is located along the road from Salleri to Okaldunga, the main road for access to Solukhumbu and for those trekkers heading to Everest Base Camp who opt out of taking the short, yet perilous, flight to Lukla. We waited for our lift back to Kathmandu scheduled to pass Dhap at around 7am. Which it did. Without stopping.
After numerous phone calls – a mission in itself as there was no mobile network and the lodge owner’s landline phone had to be charged in another building where there was power – it was established that we were on our own. And at this point on the road all of the passing Jeeps were already full.
Around an hour later a truck pulled up that happened to have space for two people, two incredibly small people, and we squeezed ourselves in. We had chanced upon three cousins visiting family back in Solu who had hired their own private vehicle for the trip and recognised our plight. The cousins were already drinking roksi (the local rice wine) or ‘rice juice’ as Purna, a former British Army soldier, tried to claim. It was only 8am so an eventful journey was sure to ensue.
We stopped for breakfast at Okaldunga where we established that as long as I felt ‘easy’ then we could continue the journey to Kathmandu together. We crammed back into the truck, four of us in the backseat with Purna up front, and bumped our way down the mountains stopping every so often for food, photos, beer and to untangle our bodies.
Fortunately, much as I may have otherwise complained about road surfaces, the road from Salleri is generally in good condition. There are, of course, potholes and sections of unpaved road and each time we hit one the truck made some very disturbing noises. After one of these unpaved sections we pulled over and the driver took a spanner to the front axle. To my concern we continued with increased rattling, but he seemed unperturbed. If only I hadn’t noticed while we were stopped how old, how so very old, threadbare and slashed the tyres were…
Not so long after a passing motorist pointed out our flat tyre. Luckily, we were in a village with a workshop (so many vehicles here are in such a state of disrepair that workshops are two-a-penny) and they set to repairing the tyre, actually removing and fixing the inner tube – the likes of which I have never seen in my lifetime. Naturally this was an opportunity for tea, roksi and (more) beer with a few shots of vodka thrown in.
Eventually, we were safely on the outskirts of Kathmandu and a mere three hours of traffic jams later we had finished the last few kilometres to the drop-off point. After twelve shuddering hours in a truck together we had made new friends, exchanged details and planned for further beers in a slightly more comfortable setting…