Everest Base Camp Trek Day 21: Kinja to Bhandhar
Way back along we had been told that a direct bus back to Kathmandu was available from Bandhar but that the road was pretty bumpy. Walking now for three weeks, we were tempted to take the bus but had decided that instead we would continue to Shivalaya where the buses were more reliable and the road was better. Walking out of Kinja we had to sign out at a checkpoint and then we walked back a dusty, windy road uphill to the town of Bandhar. We passed a few motorbikes on our way and a tractor in Dokharp, the first vehicles we had seen in three weeks other than rescue helicopters and the planes at Lukla of course, we were getting closer!
We stopped at Bandhar for lunch but as we picked up our bags after our meal the rolls of thunder began. We walked by the bus park where two guys were cleaning the bus, bound for Kathmandu tomorrow morning. After talking to them we had to decide whether to get the bus from here or walk three more hours to Shivalaya and get the bus from there. The thunder got louder and the rain started bucketing down, our decision was made for us. We went to the ticket office and by chance we got the last two seats on the bus, it was a sign, it was meant to be! We spent the rest of the day sheltered in our guest house watching the countryside light up as the sun set accompanied by the torrential rain which by now was beating down hard on the galvanised roof of our lodge.
Everest Base Camp Trek Day 22: Bhandar to Shivalaya
We woke up on time for our 6am bus and with our hiking shoes firmly packed away, we waited at the bus park for. The time now was 6:15am, the bus should be here by now. Asking our guest-house owner where the bus was he pointed at a tiny white dot high above us on the mountainside, “not so far sir, just thirty minutes walk.” We began walking through the wet grass in our flip-flops all the while spurred on by the thoughts of the comforts of Kathmandu.
The bus started with a jolt and I was bounced three feet off my seat, banging my head hard on the ceiling. The bus shot up the muddy ‘road’, flying around the first corner and then coming to an abrupt stop as the wheels started spinning wildly in the heavy mud. The driver reversed a few times and tried again and again to get past this tricky section but with no luck. All the men on the bus got off, myself included and started throwing fresh dirt and gravel under the wheels to try to provide some grip. When this didn’t work the next tactic was to collect large rocks and basically build a road on the muddy path.
It took an hour of digging and laying down stones before the bus reversed back to try to make it up the now ‘much-improved’ road. However, as the bus reversed back, it went a little too far and the all too familiar sound of spinning wheels started again. This time there was no choice an out came the rope. It was now that the Czech boys arrived around on their way to Shivalaya on foot, having stopped in Bhandar last night too because of the bad weather. With more manpower we heaved and heaved and eventually, the bus was free and shot forward up the hill and six feet past where we had built the ‘new road’ and then it got stuck again. Again the rope was attached and we pulled the bus past this new section and we made it to the next corner. We joked with the Czech guys that we’d probably see them in Shivalaya, the next town and said goodbye. A moment later another problem came up as a tractor came down the hill against us. To me, this was the answer, spin the tractor around and get it to pull us to the top of the hill and we’ll be on the road to Kathmandu in no time. Instead, the two vehicles faced off and it was a complete stalemate with no one going anywhere. “We cannot pass!” Came the reply when we asked what was going on and so we got our money back changed into our hiking shoes and continued to Shivalaya on foot. The walk to Shivalaya took about three hours and was an enjoyable walk. After the initial climb to the top of the hill, it was downhill all the way into the town. We arrived to the smiling faces of the Czech group and went and booked bus tickets to Kathmandu for the following morning. We relaxed until it was time for bed and hoped that the next day’s bus trip would be uneventful compared with today’s.
Everest Base Camp Trek Day 23: Shivalaya to Kathmandu
We got on the bus at 6am and hoped we would get to Kathmandu without any problems. The bus bounced along the rough roads for about an hour and we were thankful. This was a huge improvement on yesterday. Crossing a river the road wound up the hill and we heard that awful noise of tyres looking for grip in the mud again. Our hearts sank but we tried to stay positive, we were going to get to Kathmandu tonight! Just like yesterday the bus reversed and made a few attempts to make it past this section of the road, digging the road up even more in the process. The men on the bus again threw dirt, stones and leaves to try to give the tyres some traction but that didn’t work. Two big jeeps had pulled up behind, blocked from continuing up the road by our bus and one more jeep was in front of us which also couldn’t get by. We played tug of war with the bus, just like yesterday but we couldn’t move it. We had been trying to get up the hill now for over an hour now and the 6:30am and 7am buses had pulled up behind us, unable to pass and the passengers from all three buses stood around as we watched the drivers take turns at some very strange approaches to getting the bus up the hill. I suggested to our driver that with all the extra people we could probably pull the bus up the hill but my suggestion fell on deaf ears as the impossible was attempted.
A rope was attached to the front end of the small jeep in front of us and the other end to the front end of the bus. The jeep then tried to reverse back and pull the bus up the hill, with no success. The next attempt was astonishing. We watched in amazement as the bus reversed back as far as it could, still attached to the small jeep which followed it back the road. The bus revved its engine loudly and the bus came flying up the hill, the jeep reversing at speed in front of it, trying to assist it up the hill. The bus swung dangerously from side to side but of course didn’t get any further up the hill. Finally, sense prevailed and the men from all three buses pulled the bus slowly, inch by inch up the hill until the tyres gripped and we reached the top. There were cheers from everyone until we realised we had two more buses to pull up past the badly dug up road. We successfully pulled the other two buses up the hill, the driver finished changing the flat tyre on our bus and with all three buses safely at the top of the muddy road the convoy set out for Jiri. After Jiri, the road improved significantly and we continued on towards Kathmandu. The bus rolled into Ratna Park bus station after just over thirteen hours on the road. We had made it back in one piece (just about!) and jumping into a taxi, wrecked, we thought about the hot showers and tasty food we had to look forward to. It had been an amazing twenty-three days in the mountains but for now, it was nice to be back to some sort of reality.