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Trip Report Dogster: The road to Phulbari

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It’s a nasty stretch of road from Thamel to Dhulikel, a pot-holed, pock-marked plod of a highway that stretches from Kathmandu to China. The air is filthy, the traffic is vile, horns and screeches, belching fumes warn the incoming of more hell to come, console the outgoing with thoughts that there must be somewhere better than this. A wise punter would just wind up the windows and think of home.

Stick with it. After about an hour of this, just as you get to Dhulikel, if you dare open the windows, you’ll find yourself breathing in real, live air. It’s no illusion. One side of this horrid Nepali tourist town is open to the valley below. Tourism has built a row of hotels pointing at the non-existent view of the Himalayas in the distance. This is the raison d’etre of Dhulilkel – the view.

‘Ptooey,’ you can say, as your car takes a mysterious right, just before the Bus Station Square. In a blink you’re off the bitumen and in the hills. Hardly a house, just a brief Bhutan of jungle, a Darjeeling of descending slopes, a Bali of rice paddies etched layer by layer in curves down the steep sides of the mountain. Yup, you’re climbing through a mountain, curving along the ridges, up, up, up from Dhulikel. The odd person will pass you on the road. Watch their expression. See that double take, that ‘what on earth are foreigners doing here?’ expression?

That’s when you know you’re in Dog-world.

Stay focused. When the big views swing from the right-hand side of the car to the left and get bigger… you’re nearly there. Well, kinda. Now is the time to offer soothing words of encouragement to your driver. The road hasn’t just got worse; it’s just got worse than that. If you can’t see anything out the window, don’t fuss. That’s not blind panic; there’s a shower coming through.

Everything goes white. The road turns to river, the rivers turn to mud. You’re driving up a mountainside in Nepal and you can’t see a thing. If you could see the view you’d be gasping. You’re gasping anyhow, but that’s just sweet Nepali fear – you ain’t stopping till you get to the top.

Note your driver’s body language. If his head is swiveling from side to side, if he’s muttering ‘no-o-o-o, no-o-o-o…’ you’ll know you’ve almost arrived. Right at the peak of despair you’ll come to the next turn off. This one goes left.

Well, what’s left of the road goes left.

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