The return trip
In the absence of motorable road beyond Dolalghat as now, a trip to Chautara involved getting down at a small roadside settlement near the Bhotekoshi-Balephi confluence. It was about a four-hour trek from there. You just crossed the Balephi suspension bridge, as like many such bridges built during the Rana regime, and climbed up panting. Climbing was always eventless and dull as one got accustomed to the slow pace of life in the hills.
But one particular return trip after the hospital supervision works remains memorable due to unforeseen surprises. It was an afternoon two days before Ghatasphana and with a subordinate in tow, I started walking for Balephi aiming to catch an afternoon bus to Kathmandu. Walking through the Chautara bazaar one could not avoid noticing the ancestral house of singer Prem Dhoj Pradhan. It was a sort of landmark for being much bigger and apparently better built than others along the bazaar. During school days, we often walked past his Kathmandu house (between Bange-muda and Thahity) too.
It had been raining since morning even though it was late September. On reaching Balephi we found, to our utter disappointment, that buses were only heading to Barhabise, in the opposite direction that evening. Having left with no choice, we headed to Barhabise rather unwillingly. But it was even frustrating that there was no vacant room in the few lodges there. We ended spending the night in the bus compelled to pay for the bus that was timed to leave at 8 am, not 5. The night was uncomfortable as it was but it was made worse by the drunken brawl between drivers. In the meantime, Kathmandu bound bheda-chyangras stood watching the commotion drenched in rain silently. It rained the whole night with the roar of Bhotekoshi getting ominously louder.
No sooner had we begun our return journey the next morning than we were held up near Balephi due to rockfall. Another bus packed with the unit of Nepali cinema Manko Baandh shooting unit also happen to be behind ours. They too were returning back for the Dashai after spending some two weeks at Sunkoshi powerhouse for shooting. I happened to meet Salyan KC, the hero in the film and my college classmate at that spot. Their bus, for being smaller, did somehow manage to negotiate its way out of the fallen boulders. And he asked us to come along in their bus and I was in no mood to disappoint him. We were oblivious to the fact that this was only the first of the more obstructions that were to follow.
Wishing to bypass the second holdup at notorious mudslide at 53 km point after Dolalghat, five of us chose to a walk the hill track via Hokse to Panchkhal in order to reach Kathmandu early. We were encouraged by a raithane boy from the film unit. The other two being none other than actor/singer Hari Prasad Rimal and Jagannath Timilsina (villain in the film also a school friend). The local boy was obviously our guide. It took us over five hours, drenched in rain, walking through treacherous ratomato sluggishly. It should not have taken more than two hours in a normal day. It was the cruellest irony that no sooner did we reach Panchkhal and sat at the Pipal Chautari to rest, than the bus we had left behind, arrived with people in the bus bursting with laughter on seeing us.
It was hugely embarrassing that our detour exercise ended in futility. But we were happy getting on to the bus once again. But again, we had to abandon the bus two kilometers before Dhulikhel, as you might have guessed - another obstructive rockfall at an unlikely place. We took a local bus to Kathmandu finally assuming that there will be no further holdups but one more surprise awaited us. It was a just overturned minibus, in the middle of the highway blocking the road at new Thimi compelling us to take another detour through old Thimi. The journey that began one day before at about two in the afternoon ended finally at about eight in the evening taking about 30 hours.
ALSO READ: A hospital on the ridge (Chautara I)