So this is a story about a bunch of people and a jeep. It all started near Kathmandu. In order to get to our shooting locations in Jumla and Chitwan we decided to rent a jeep for two weeks…
There included was a driver who also takes care of the vehicle while we are shooting. The idea sounded promising because we had the freedom to follow our own schedules, not relying on other people, avoiding the dangerous bus travels and the price for the fuel sounded really good compared to what you pay at the moment. But as you might have figured out, we faced some difficulties. Starting in Kathmandu went well and we drove to our first shelter for the night. This took approximately around six hours for 160 km because we got stuck in traffic and the road winds around the mountains. Meanwhile, we had the pleasure to welcome a little girl into our jeep that is somehow related to our woman protagonist. Not only that this Jeep ride was her second car experience in her whole life, she also couldn’t stand being in a car, which resulted in a six hour ride with the exiting bonus of vomiting every twenty minutes. This poor little girl was so exhausted when we arrived, she could barely stand. Definitely not a good experience for her and us, but in general it was peanuts. After managing more than half of the tour to our estimated region, our driver suddenly mentioned that we had a problem with the car. We asked him about the situation and got a short, but unemotional answer: “I think we are out of petrol, there is a chance I miscalculated the petrol numbers”. Why would he even check this little symbol anyways!?!? – duuuuhhh … GOOD JOB MAN!
A little side note to the driver: He also forgot to refill the oil for the jeep, causing another one and a half hours of waiting. He also encounters every single pothole in the street, doesn’t need any car mirrors and stalling the car for around 20 times. Orientation wasn’t his strong point either, so in conclusion, I have never seen such a bad driver :D!
Standing in the middle of nowhere on a mountain road, with the most devastating petrol crisis Nepal has ever faced … this was a problem!
After some discussions we split our group in two. Angie, some others and me, stayed at the car and the other group drove to the next village to try their luck. Somehow we managed to get patrol from some locals to refill the car on site, and even the second group delivered patrol when we reunited later on, but seeing an overview of all the petrol we needed for the round trip, we used double the amount that we calculated in the beginning. That includes stopping several times for Petrol from the black market, with prices triple to what you pay normally when there is no shortage. At the moment some people even pay 500 Rupee (ca. 4,7 Euro) per liter. But back to the point. We were now already close to our location, driving on a bumpy road, the exact size of our vehicle and on a 2400 meter cliff, when suddenly a big crane stood in front of us. What a perfect timing we thought. After seeing in Kathmandu how Nepali people work on locations like this, we instantly decided to continue by foot, which was a good idea when seeing that they needed nearly 2 hours for a hole with a scale of a potato – what manpower!
We finally reached the region, had a wonderful shooting there and then started driving back to Kathmandu. When you went through all that stuff you might think there is no chance that it gets worse, but this is a common mistake. At the next possible resting stop some people in the group thought it is a good idea to pick up around five huge 11 liter gas bottles in a car where already eight people sitting. Not only that it is scary enough to pick up explosive gas bottles in a car with the worst driver and roads where you swing around like in a carousel, but meanwhile there was lacking patrol in the trunk. After that, you consider rethinking the word “danger” and see everything much more relaxed. So this was decided and we drove on. After endless hours of driving and no surprises on the way slowly the feeling of safety came back, but right in that second the driver decided to run over a dog. I can’t tell how cruel this action was in itself, but because of all the time we already lost, we just drove on. No one dared to discuss it, because everyone was digesting it for himself. I will never forget this exact sound of the last yowl and the bone cracking of this dog – R.I.P. The time passed, it got dark and people were sleeping or still silent, when somehow the lights of the jeeps felt like not working anymore. I remind people that driving in the dark on a cliff is not the optimum of safety, so we came up with the idea to tape two flashlights in the front of our car. Surprisingly that works pretty well! Do you still think it can’t get worse than this? Sadly it can! The next day reached and countless hours of driving awaited us. Right before the sun was going down we drove on a large highway and at the end of the road you could see some lights. I personally thought in the beginning that it was some sort of celebrating because of all the people standing there, but as we came closer we saw a local bus flipped over in the ditch. The whole car was on fire and people were crying and running around. We had a hard time coming through the crowd with our jeep so we had to drive slowly. I watched out of the window and remember one man slowly turning with his face in my direction. His eyes were red underlined and his tears were almost dropping.
I felt like being in one of these Hollywood Armageddon movies because his eyes just couldn’t stop following me and the time stood completely still. Even though the scenery was stretched in slow motion, I got torn out of the situation in a blink of an eye because someone in the car suddently screamed “drive drive drive”. At first I did not understand why we had to drive on as fast as we could, but later on people reminded me that we still had the gas bottles in there. In a time where no one has Patrol or Gas in Nepal and an enormous crowd of people that could have gone wrong. Another big risk was the heat of the flames since we still had explosive gas in the car and lacking patrol all over the place. Viewing back to this event I want to know what happened, but maybe it is better that I do not. After this shocking adventure, even I thought now is enough, but this wish was not granted. As I mentioned before our driver was really not good and tortured the Jeep to the maximum, and as it was nearly expected in one of the curves he lost control of the car and we stood still. It has been found that the front axe of the wheels were lose and slightly ripped out. At this point we were only four foreign people in the car, so we had no chance to communicate with local people and hoping for help. The solution was found in a little wire which kept it all in one place until we reached the next workshop after two hours. They could repair the mess, but we lost another couple of hours. Waiting alone is really annoying in itself, but as it was not enough a drunken guy passed our way and focused us. We were not happy to have him around and the local people as well, so one of the guys took the opportunity and threw the guy towards the front of our jeep. When he stood up, he lost a couple of teeth and was bleeding all over the face. He was in sorrow and anger the same time, so he took an iron rod from the work station and tried to punch around. Gladly he was to weak for that and the locals achieved to disarm him.
Whats left to say….after that we didn’t have any other problems and came back to Kathmandu safely, but I think the ones we had, were way to much in the first place! In any case we made it all and still managed to have a great time and a lot of joy in the places were we have been. We are really glad for the opportunity to went on such a trip because we met wonderful people, finished our chapters for the documentary and learned so much about other people and ourselves. A big Dan-ye-bat (Thank you) at this point to our helping hands Radha Pauel and Inge Patsch. You made this trip happen and even more interesting than it has already been. A big hug to all the people who gave us shelter and helped on the way, especially Rhadas family and friends.
Folks, that’s it – stay tuned on the project, share like & spread the word. We see you in the next post