The Nepal/Tibet Border – Taking the Last Resort

Day 6 – Nepal 2008

This morning we escaped the chaos of Kathmandu and headed into the mountains. It was our first experience of Nepali buses and, having heard a little about them before we left, they didn’t dissapoint. The morning was quite foggy and as we headed out through some pretty grubby Kathmandu outskirts our speed started to pick up.

Suddenly, the bus in front wasn’t going quite fast enough for our driver though and he swung sharply to the right, veering into the murky fog. ¬†At this point the visibility was probably about enough for me to trundle on at about 20 miles an hour, in my own lane, peering ahead with narrowed eyes. Our bus driver, however, took it as an invitation to barrel on into the murk at 60mph, merrily blowing his horn as if that makes as the difference. Corners came out of nowhere and we sped around them, two buses abreast, oblivious of oncoming traffic, until at last he pulled in ahead of the other bus. With coronary number one out of the way, we headed on.

When I could peel my eyes away from the road in front I saw some amazing scenery. The hills were ridiculous – we think Scotland is far from flat but these hills and valleys just dwarf it. While Scotland is mostly gentle U shapes and rolling hills, puncuated with the odd mountain, Nepal is just one big series of Vs – valleys you can’t even see the bottom of next to the most steep hillsides with tower up to sharp topped peaks. At this point nothing was particularly high, but if you wanted to walk 20 miles in any direction you’d have to cross about 3 valleys and ascend/decend a good munro in total as you did so. It looked amazing though, and even more amazingly so much of it was terraced and farmed land. The terraces were tiny little things, laddering up the side of every hill, obviously created over hundreds of years by thousands of rural Nepalis. It made the hills look like lego constructions, or some sort of weird green, curvy pyramids, but it looked cool, and I couldn’t help but think that if we tried that hard to farm in Scotland we’d be the most productive country in the world!

Three hours and a good dozen heart attacks later we arrived at The Last Resort, a secluded little collection of buildings and safari tents just around 10 miles from the Tibet border. It was built years ago by an Aussie guy accross the gorge from the road so that they also had to build a suspension bridge for access. The bridge looked pretty cool, nearly 100m accross, spanning supposedly a 160m gorge. The most noticable thing about the bridge though was that it obviously served twin functions – firstly to provide a pretty dramatic, knee-shaking entry to the resort, and secondly to provide and even more bowel loosening activity, jumping from the middle attached to an eleastic band with big ideas. We had been talking to a few people on the bus and it turned out that a fair few were just here for the day, the jump being their only object. It was touted as the highest bungee in the world at 160m but some in the group said that there was a bigger one in South Africa. I didn’t dispute it but a few in the group started to swear quite freely as we passed the centre and I could only think it was big enough…

First order of the day was getting the jumps out of the way so cat and I watched as about 20 people hurled themselves in turn off the bridge, screaming to the gods that the oversized elastic band would preserve them. The fall was huge, about 8 seconds I counted, and it seemed ages before the people bounced back up. Everyone came back looking pretty pumped up though and most nipped off to the bar for a swift half without ado.

After the jumping Cat and I sought out our wee tent and attempted to get settled in. The plan was to stay 4 nights, do two days river rafting, a day’s canyoning and a day’s walking, and sneak a bungee jump in along the way. The only problem was the setting… The aforementioned Nepali hills, where they’re not stripped bare for terraced farming are covered in trees. And in these trees nestled not only our tent, but some of the biggest spider webs you’ve, well, I’ve ever seen. Spanning gaps between trees of, no exageration, close to 2m this didn’t start our visit well as far as Cat was concerned. Having a reasonably serious case of arachnophobia (although definately getting better as she managed not to run away on first sight!) the rest of the days was one big jangling nerve and every time a leave fell on her head she was running away in fright. After a couple of hours of this it was obvious the place wasn’t going to work – there was no way Cat could relax and that was supposed to the be the point for both of us. So we talked to the managers and switched our rafting to tomorrow so we could do that and head back to Kathmandu.

On deciding that though I knew I had to do my bungee now or lose the chance, so without giving myself the chance to think I trotted over and signed up. Less than 5 minutes later I was standing on the bridge being fitted up for my own little elastic experience. I was actually far less nervous than I expected, and it was great fun edging up to the precipice. It looked a long way down, but it was a cool view, and unlike my first jump years ago, this time I leaped on first command. All you feel is rushing air and a shout bursting from your lips unbidden, and far quicker than it seemed when we were watching you were bouncing up again. You were lowered down into the canyon afterwards, nearly landing in the river before two guys pull you in to the side to detach you from the rope. Afterwards I was a wee bit dissapointed, I didn’t get the same adrenaline rush as the first time I did it, but it was still worth it so I clambered back up to the resort in search of my swift half.

That night we ended up having a few drinks with two french guys, Marco and Gille, both of whom were a good laugh. Marco was a fellow computer geek living in Switzerland, but one who climbed mountains for a giggle. He and Gille, a serial ski season worker from Chamonix, had just done the Annapurna trek and attempted to scale some peaks on the way. They’d hit some snags though, stopped by pretty bad altitude sickness on the first try and then really bad blisters on the second. I almost laughed when he mentioned the blisters but then I’ve never walked for 10 days before attempting a 6000m mountain so I kept my inexperienced, sea-level living mouth shut.

We drank on till about midnight, with Cat downing vodkas in an attempt to be able to forget about the spiders and get some sleep. Just after midnight she judged herself inebriated enough but there were still a few screams as things fell from the canopy above on our way back to bed.

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