Reportaje de Mateo Bueno
I’ve decided to make some changes to the trip.
I won’t be traveling with Gham power to the east of the country per the original plan to shoot a village powered by their solar microgrid system. I can’t fathom another entry and exit out of Kathmandu on a bus or jeep and prefer riding the bike a few more days to explore Chitwan – the national park that continues to be home to wild tigers, panthers, rhinos, elephants and giraffes. One of the few remaining protected areas of the country.
Getting there is as wild as Chitwan itself.
People warned me: careful with the road to Chitwan. It’s a bit nasty, unpaved, and has frequent landslides. At this point, when you hear a Nepali person saying a particular road is tough or nasty, you know that you should pay attention.
On the surface, the route sounds like the perfect moto adventure road. In reality, the road will now be engraved in my mind as any motorcyclists worst nightmare (with the wrong bike), or a dream multi-modal rally if you happen to be well prepared.
Imagine 100 kms of whoops / moguls on dry dirt that is lifted by a bazaar of trucks and buses all racing each other to get out of the dust. From Manang to Chitwan, you drop from 3700 masl to 400. Temperatures rise to 100F.
That means that your sweat turns to mud as it grips all dust in your path.
Everyone knows this road is hell and everyone wants to get out of it in record time with visibility that let’s you see four feet ahead of you, max.
Buses pass trucks that are passing buses. The three way pass is common, while motorcyclists look for the inside pass or take advantage of the larger pot holes that cause other vehicles to slow down. When you least expect it, the three way pass is coming your way and a truck will run you off the side of the road knowing that there is a foot of extra space where you can fit your bike as he zooms by.
Truck and bus drivers alike give up on rolling up windows since the dust makes it in through their air vents. Most of them wear dust masks, blast Nepali music to go along with their musical horns, and drive their colorful art cars through this scene out of a MadMax movie.
I pull over to clean my glasses. Did not take the camera or phone out at any other point with fear of perpetual damage.
The entire ordeal, on the RE Himalayan, feels as strenuous as a two day enduro. When the road turns to pavement, and the dust settles, you savor the clean air and smooth sailing.
=== Note on intention of this trip ===
Before I started this trip, I had a personal goal – to find an inspiring personal story of an individual who took action and served their community in a meaningful way. Someone who changed the world by changing the environment around him/her. I wanted to test my ability as a storyteller through video and also serve the community I was visiting in one way I could (making videos). I connected with Gham Power as step 1 in that mission and decided to do a video about the Nepali company providing solar power to remote parts of Nepal. The video has gone well so far (I hope!), but it had turned more into the story of a company more than an individual. I had pretty much given up on finding my inspirational human story.
That all changed in Chitwan.
Looking for a place to stay, I see a sign among 30 for guesthouses. Something about Sapana’s Lodge calls my attention. I follow the signs, arrive at Sapana, and will soon encounter one of the most inspiring humans I’ve met to date.