Heading Into Nepal’s Highlands

NARAYANGARH, Nepal — If the road from Siddarthanagar to Kathmandu had a theme song, I imagine it would be a cross between “Stairway to Heaven” and “Highway to the Danger Zone.”

The city views gave way to forests.

The bus journey began innocuously enough, with the small, dusty city fading behind us, and the views of utilitarian urbanization giving way to broad swaths of hilly forests as far as the eye could see.

The roads seemed to be in good shape, although I found it odd to see rock walls constructed not with mortar and cement but with what appeared to be chicken wire.

I’d seen worse — traveling Andean highways in my family’s native Peru, for instance.

A UNICEF truck seemed friendly.

Along one of the small alpine towns, we passed a UNICEF vehicle, which made me realize that perhaps we weren’t in as desolate an area as I had imagined.

The villages might have been rural, but they were populated. Being a city boy, I had always thought of normal population density as being the shoulder-to-shoulder sidewalk traffic of a Manhattan rush-hour.

As we climbed in altitude, the roads became curvier, with a few hairpin turns thrown in for good measure.

These drivers are pros, I thought. No need to worry.

If I encounter Mama Cheese Balls, I’m totally getting some.

Until I saw a cargo truck that had run off the road and appeared to be stuck in a ditch. The road, luckily, wasn’t bordered by a precipice, so I imagined that the injuries, if any, were minor.

At least I hoped.

Not even a half-hour later, our bus driver guns the engine and impatiently passes another passenger vehicle. Peering up over my seat and out the windshield, I could see that the road wasn’t so narrow that I needed to worry.

My mind eased, I sat back down with my heavy backpack on my lap and thought about the sign we had passed earlier that simply said, “Mama Cheese Balls.”

Our driver passing another bus on the road to Kathmandu. (Photos by Bruno J. Navarro) 



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