Traveling across the Terai of Southern Nepal was not all that different than traveling across Northern India, save for the incredible mountains that you cross when heading East out of the Kathmandu Valley. Once you’ve successfully navigated the careening ship around hairpin turns above steep ravines, dodging water buffalo and sleeping dogs along the way, it has enough similarities to recall it’s southern neighbor, but enough mountain crossings to remind you that you’re in the foothills of the Himalaya.
In villages along the way life is lived at an ancient pace, although the outlook of the young has considerably changed from the outlook of the aged. Modernity has crept its way into every village and valley. Here, a thoroughly modern young woman continues a life that has been practiced for centuries.
So many times I wanted to jump out of the vehicle, at this point a small jeep, and make some photographs, but I was relegated to shooting out of the window due to the number of miles we needed to make to get across the country. I was traveling with a medical team, due to hold a clinic in a remote mountainous part of the country in the far west. It was challenge to find a scene, frame it, and shoot before it disappeared into the side view mirror.
As sometimes happens when traveling over rough terrain, our jeep broke down. Fortunately we were near a small city at the time, giving me time to wander. The light was flat and it was all I could do to find a scene to gather in the essence of the city. Eventually I turned my lens towards the various repairmen who were working on the jeep.
We were due to pick up an American doctor who needed room in the jeep, so along with a translator I was jettisoned to a bus. I was struggling with bitterness, what made the doctor so much more important than a photographer? Oh yeah, it was a medical trip, can’t do much suturing with a camera strap. This poor lady summed up my feelings quite nicely.
And my feelings were warranted, I’ve been through this scenario so many times. That ride from Muang Xai to Phongsali, Laos where the bus broke down in the dark. Not speaking any more phrases than I could muster from the back of a Lonely Planet book, I could barely gather what was going on. Eventually we’d all hop into the back of huge dump truck the local people waved down and hunker down against the cold night air for the rest of the journey into town.
This time, the bus broke down. I was so surprised. haha. Finally, we arrived in Dhangadhi, after midnight. The medical trip was to commence early the next morning. This story will continue from there…