The opportunity to come to Nepal and visit my high school friend, Gombu, and the village that he grew up in is what really initiated my entire trip. Gombu's childhood took place in a village here in Nepal and then he moved to Tahoe, where we became friends. I was lucky enough to take the opportunity to come and visit him here in his homeland with two other high school friends of mine, Sean and Chris.
I arrived in Kathmandu from Cairo with no problems. Right away I met up with Gombu and Chris and unloaded at our hotel. We grabbed a beer in a bar with a live band while we waited for Sean's flight to get in. After picking up Sean, we hit the hay and woke up to a city like none I've seen before. The traffic was hectic and chaotic, with roads where you are lucky to have pavement. Similar to Cairo, there appears to be little, if any, rules enforced for driving. We traveled around Kathmandu where we visited a couple of Stupas (structure used for Buddhist prayer), grabbed some local fruit from different stands and hit up a couple of restaurants where every time we ate, it was something new to all of us. There were areas we passed through where poverty and disease were impossible to ignore and would tug strongly at our hearts. The city also has a spark of energy to it and locals that were extraordinary kind.
We headed out on a pretty crazy journey... the bus ride to Gombu's village, Deurali. The ride took from around 7am to 6pm. People piled in and on top of the buses. Our bus was an express bus, so the people on the roof and hanging on the side didn’t happen until later into the bus ride. On a couple of the stops, Chris would entertain the other buses with his juggling skills, which was a blast to watch. Halfway through the bus ride, Gombu talked us into climbing on the roof for a portion of the ride. We were totally sketched-out at first, and remained that way just about the entire time we were up there. It was an amazing ride going through Nepal's lower elevations and we were stoked we got up there. The air was fresh getting out of Kathmandu and the views were amazing. There were times where the bus' tires were inches from a substantially high cliff, while passing another vehicle on the narrow road... and it seemed even all that more sketchy while sitting on top of the bus holding on for dear life! At a later stop, Gombu advised us to get back in the bus because the rest of the ride might get a little bumpy... What he didn’t tell us was that the bus had filled up with people while we were ridding on the roof. As we climbed off, 6 more climbed on the roof. We piled in the bus were people's legs were in between our legs and strangers were on our laps. I would also like to mention we were the only tourists on the bus ride, which made it all the more enjoyable for us. The rest of the “road” was something I would hesitate to take my old Jeep on, never mind a bus maxed out with people. It was a VERY bumpy dirt road with no relief of tossing us around. At one point in time, blood started dripping down the windshield... What happened was that someone on the roof ancidently sat on a chicken and the chicken was slowly dying, so they put it out of its misery with a quick “chop” during the ride. So after an unforgettable 11 hour ride, we arrived at Deurali.
Being Gombu's village, we were welcomed immediately as family. The kindness and hospitality of everyone of the village, especially the children, was almost overwhelming. Similar to all of what we saw of Nepal, the people of Deurali had very little in terms of materialistic items, but they are some of the nicest, happiest people you'll get the pleasure of meeting. Chance was on our side and we ended up being in Deurali during a festival. Basically the entire village gets together and goes from house to house singing and dancing and drinking "chang" (booz made from rice) while collecting money from each house to better the village and the surrounding area. Chris, Sean, and I never thought we would be coming to a village in Nepal for one of the longest, funnest parties we've ever been to. It lasted from 5pm to past 5am. We would all get in a rotating circle of people and sing and and dance. We picked up what we could from the songs and sang along when we could. Chris would occasionally put on a juggling show for everyone and Sean was given a guitar that he was able to play all night. Sean was also able to play a few of his own songs for everyone around. By the end of the night, we were so tired that we were falling asleep every time we had a chance to sit down. We were very lucky to be able to partake in such a fantastic event. The next morning, we woke up groggy and hungover from the good times. We were invited to a breakfast where we had a large meal and were basically forced to continue drinking and celebrating, which included more singing and dancing.
While we were in Deurali, it wasn't all just festivities, we also had time to go out and see some of the near-by places. We went down to a market, where we were the only “Gweeday” (tourists) around and had everyone’s eyes and smiles on us as we went by. The same day we bought a volleyball and had a great 3 game match against a team in a near-by village (we barely won). We also hiked up to a local cheese factory and Buddhist monastery. If you've ever had cheese in Switzerland, the cheese here is very similar because of Swiss influence. One day, Gombu took us to the older location of his village where we were invited in for tea by some locals. We were also given the opportunity to walk through Gombu's grandmother's house where Sean played an instrument made from a human femur in the prayer room.
After three days in Durali with Gombu's large family, we regrettably had to say our good-byes and get on the road for a trek to Mount Everest Base Camp. I defiantly greatly look forward to one day returning to Deurali. I'll be getting more into the trek itself in the next couple of entries.