1st Time Hitchhiking Ever....and in Nepal (1 Viewer)

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Nov 29, 2017
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Murfreesboro, TN
Lumbini, Nepal, December 2016. The supposed birthplace of Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha.

I had been backpacking around Nepal for about 2 months at this point, mainly staying at a farm/ashram up above the outskirts of Pokhara. I managed to get down from the hills and mountains of Pokhara to the near barren and dusty plains of Lumbini, near the Nepal/India border, over the course of several days via public transit, dirt cheap accommodation, and a little luck. I didn't pack much in the way of food or camping supplies because I could easily get by on $10 / day for everything I'd need, and I had the money to keep me afloat.

Before heading to Lumbini from a town called Bhairahawa, I had encountered an unexpected political banda (or extreme strike) that was affecting the area. To this day, I'm not fully sure on what the real reason for this strike was, for I got many stories from many individuals that differed a lot. What my notes from the time claim is that The Communist-Maoist Party here, in the form of a forced strike which stopped businesses and public transport from operating due to fear of radical violence, was trying to make some area near the border be recognized as its own nation (India and Nepal sides both). This strike had no definite end. Previous ones have gone for months and months at a time, to the point where fuel ran out as well, and had to be imported from India. The only forms of transport available were taxis, which were comparatively much more expensive to general buses, especially if you're white like me (the culturally-accepted barter system allows for people to create their own prices and negotiate). I was a bit of a greenhorn at the time, and nervous about hitching it alone in such a completely foreign land. I managed to get help from a local in securing a taxi ride to Lumbini from Bhairahawa at a reasonable price though.

Once I'd made it to Lumbini, I found my temporary home to be none other than a Buddhist monastery ran by Korean folk. For ~$5 I could stay the night and was provided with three meals a day (rice and vegetables). The area was surrounded with various temples and monasteries funded from various countries of the world, all being dedicated to Buddha. All of them were quite extravagant and beautiful, almost too much so. As gorgeous as they were, they tended to deify Buddha, which seemed counter-intuitive to the religion. The place was peaceful though. Occasional Indian tourists would ask for pictures of me with my dreadlocks. Most hadn't seen a white person before in person, let alone one with dreads. It was humbling, and intriguing.

At the monastery, I'd met two people. An educated woman named Lotta born in Northern Europe (I want to say either Sweden or Norway...she spoke both languages), to a Sri Lankan parent, and a man named Rancee, the kindest and most generous good spirited soul you could ever meet, born in Canada with an Indian parent. I have fond memories of going to a small shack built by the side of a neglected, dusty, out-of-the-way road near the monastery where we'd sit with old Nepalese men, goats with makeshift jackets on them, and drink some of the best chai tea you've ever sipped on out of small metal cups. Behind the shack, you would see farmland stretching for miles where it would go off into India. It was beautiful, and I had excellent company with me.

The three of us, for our own reasons, needed to leave Lumbini around the same time. Because of the strike, a location that I had really really wanted to go to was essentially inaccessible. Because of this, and also because of the fact that I had a return flight to England that needed catching within a week, I decided to head back to Pokhara, the nearest major city that could provide proper transport to Kathmandu. The political strike had hours, and would stop during the night so at least some necessary business for survival could take place. This is when a bus ran from Lumbini to Pokhara. However, in order to make the trip worthwhile to the bus company, they needed a minimum number of passengers reached. There was no hope of that in sight in such a small town. We were more or less stranded unless we wanted to take a series of taxis to Pokhara, which would be very expensive. My two friends both had experience with hitchhiking before, and in different countries. They were going to do that to get to Pokhara with or without me. Having seen no other reasonable method of getting out of there, having always wanted to try hitchhiking, and knowing that I was with more-or-less trusted individuals with experience in doing it, I decided on a whim to go with them and hitchhike out of there.

A crazy evening ensued.

We hitched from Lumbini back to Bhairahawa, about 20km away, in the back of a truck with a spacious compartment in the back which was probably usually used for carrying bigger animals. There ended up being us three and two other locals who joined us (the strike hits everyone...). The trip took about 30 minutes, and we were dropped off at a truck stop. From here, we went around to various trucks to see where they were going and if they could get us a ride. We found one going to Waling, a town I have previously been to about 60km out from Pokhara. Good enough. We hop in with the driver, and friend of his, and a sister or someone who needed a ride to nearby. The front of the truck is surprisingly spacious for a truck (not just two seats - it was more like a driver seat and then a wrap-around space that could fit all of us), but with all of us in it with all our luggage, is was still very cramped. We headed off around 6pm or so. We dropped off the girl, the driver changed a tire (or something similar), we bought bananas (we didn't eat dinner) and off we went before stopping again in a town called Butwal (where, again, I had been in). Here, we helped load the truck with a small amount of long iron rods (probably for construction) and about 10 asian hole-in-the-floor toilet seats wrapped in hay. It didn't take too long, and one of the people we took the materials from gave my friend 50NR (~50¢) as payment. We went off, and had a long, bumpy, slow ride on tight, winding roads in the dark, up on cliff edges while passing other giant trucks who just barely pass you with inches to spare. The mountains and hills were coming back for revenge, and the small, tight, winding roads and big trucks handled it with great difficulty. There have been many reported incidents of trucks and buses falling off the edges of these roads to the death of everyone who happened to be inside. I questioned my situation a lot. Did I make the right choice? Can I make it to Pokhara from Waling at this time of night? Is the strike there as well? The hunger and fatigue were taking a tole on me. The driver didn't want us to sleep because it would make him sleepy too. We did our best to keep awake and keep ourselves entertained. Lotta at one point helped drive the truck, claiming to have experience with bigger farm-type tractors and whatnot. We did whatever we needed on that ride up to Waling to keep it all together. Looking back now, I enjoyed it, regardless of the stress that was forming around me.

After almost 7 hours, we eventually get to Waling, where we are dropped off. Rancee is well prepared with sleeping bags and experience roughing it outdoors. He's content where he is and goes off to eat food with the truckers and to sleep somewhere. Lotta and I wait for cars to come along the road, and fairly quickly (as in within 3 minutes of being dropped off from the truck) we flag down a passing bus going to Pokhara for a fare of ~$2. We were damn lucky. It was like 1AM at this point, so finding a bus was excellent luck. Had we not done so, who knows how long we would've waited for a ride. The bus was full and cramped, and we didn't even have seats at first. As later stops came, it emptied out slowly, and we eventually both got our own 2-seaters where we laid down and tried to sleep a little. At this point, it was cold too, and my warmer clothes were deep within my rucksack which happened to be out of reach. I had on a long sleeve shirt and a thin hoodie, which worked okay, but I was still chilly. The window of my seat kept opening and whipping cold air into the bus. I essentially went into fetal position to be warm and to try and sleep, doing my best not to rock off my seat from the bumpyness of the bus. We stopped at one point, and I got a snack of a samosa and spicy potato. Lotta got tea and some alcohol from some of the bus workers (not the driver) which was weird but good for her I guess.

Eventually, at around 4AM, we got to Pokhara in the dark. We made it. Soon after getting off the bus, I was looking for a place to piss in the dark, and I fell into a one meter deep ditch, my rucksack landing on my back, hitting my knees hard on the concrete, with a layer of dirty cold water, sticky burrs, and trash on the bottom. Absolutely not fun. I was tired, hungry, cold, hurting, wet, dirty (I hadn't had a proper shower in like 2 days, and those before were done out of a bucket with semi-warm water)... Just a mess. Eventually I got out, peed, and went with Lotta to a hostel she knew of, and had previously arranged for us to stay in. We had to wake the owner up, and he had a room for us waiting. A nice, soft, warm bed with clean sheets was waiting for me, and I quickly flopped into it and passed out for the night from a really fucking long day.

I woke up the next morning, and was a bit taken aback by what had happened that night and where I now was. I was still processing it all while eating a full, hearty breakfast at the hostel. But here I was. I was safe, fed, taken care of, and with a solid amount of sheer luck, I was where I needed to be. The experience of it all was beyond humbling. We eventually caught back up with Rancee, making sure he was well, and I soon left again for Kathmandu where I was due to be flying back to the western world. It's been difficult keeping up with Lotta, but Rancee and I to this day still communicate with each other, and I hope to find him again someday out in the world.

Thus was my first real hitchhiking experience which happened to take place in Nepal. Nepal is beautiful and full of some of the best people the human race has to show for itself. If you ever get the chance, please, make your way to that lovely country. Namaste.
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Sometimes traveler is traveling.
Jul 28, 2011
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Rochester, NY
Thanks for your story! I caught wind of this website several years ago by running across a travel story and so I read it - and then returned here to read more and look at the urban explore and I was impressed and became a member and so on. THanks again!!

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