The road less travelled…

or How a wrong turn led to meeting the minister of tourism, culture and aviation of Nepal.

«Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference». This quote by Robert Frost couldn’t be more appropriate for the little tale I’m about to tell.

After 2 weeks in Nepal, I was feeling pretty confident. I had gotten a hang of how things worked, I knew how to communicate more-or-less efficiently with locals, I had experienced several 6-8hour bus rides and even rode around on a rented motorcycle (against recommendation of several blogs).

So, when it came to deciding whether Jorge and I needed a guide or porter for our 5-day trek, clearly, my answer was no.

Before I go on, a little side note. If you are trekking alone, DO get either a guide or porter, even if you are doing a short trek. We met a guy who, a couple of hours before meeting him, had been hanging off the side of a cliff clinging for his life with no one around to help him. He had lost his footing and had slipped. Luckily, he was physically fit and managed to pull himself up but it was a close call!

Anyway, back to the story. With no guide or porter we began our 5-day trek. Despite the heavy load each of us was carrying, we were charged with energy and within 1 1/2 hours had managed to cover a good amount of terrain. A pit stop was in order. As we were about to continue, a man came up to us and asked us where we were headed. «Ghorepani» I answered confidently to which he responded «no, sorry».

You see, due to a small navigational error involving turning right when we should have turned left, we were doing the trek backwards. Luckily, the trek is a circuit, so we decided to continue, it couldn’t make much of a difference, right?

WRONG! One hour later, we were met with some steep stairs and had no choice but to walk up them (as other trekkers walked down them). Hot, thirsty, quads and asses burning and 9000 endless steps (or a grand total of 4 hours) later we finally arrived to our un-planned destination.

Call us masochists, but before finding a guesthouse and calling it a day, we decided to take some photos of Ghandruk and its people and make a quick visit to the Meshram Baraha temple. What we didn’t know was that the temple was another 1000 steps away and that there was a hole where the temple once stood. All I could think about was why the hell the idiot we crossed half-way up didn’t warn us that there was nothing there! That, and the fact that we still had to go down the 1000 steps we had just climbed in vain.

By the time we were back, we were definitely ready for some R&R so we decided to ask the almighty Google which was the best hotel to stay at, and it was on point; The Gurung Cottage was a cosy hotel that has been beautifully decorated with flowers and apparently had a stunning view the Annapurna and Machhapuchhre mountains (I say apparently because there was no sign of the mountains and there had not been for the 5 days that we had been in the area, all due to a constant fog).

Unfortunately for us, the hotel was full and at this point, I was cursing the road less travelled.

What I did not know was that our luck was about to change.

We decided that if we weren’t going to be able to sleep at the best hotel in Ghandruk, at least we would have dinner there, and we did. While seated at the table enjoying our delicious meal, we noticed a bit of a commotion. The owner was darting back and forth, preparing a table next to ours and making sure that everything was perfect. 5 mins later 2 men entered, sat down and greeted us. A short while into our conversation with them we realised that we were chatting to no other than the Indian ambassador in Nepal and the Defence attaché.

Aside from having a thrilling exchange with them, they kindly offered to make arrangements for us on our upcoming visit to Patan, whatever that meant.

Regardless, things were looking up for us and waking up the next morning to the view of the majestic Himalayas (finally!) had me thinking that our mistake was turning out to be a thing of good fortune.

Fast forward to two weeks after our trek.

We were in Kathmandu and had already discovered the treasures in and around the city. The only thing we had left, was a visit to Patan so I reached for the telephone number that Col Man Raj (the defence attaché) had given me and doubting that he would remember me, hesitantly plugged in the numbers. “hello?” a voice replied. “Hi, it’s Christelle, I’m not sure you remember me, we met in Ghandruk a couple of weeks ago”, “of course I remember you!” he replied after a short pause. “We’re in Kathmandu now and were thinking of going to Patan the day after tomorrow, do you think your friend would be available to show us around” I asked. “Ah yes, let me speak to him and get back to you” he replied.

True to his word, a couple of hours later I received a whatsapp from Col Man Raj instructing me to call the following number and ask to speak to a Mr. Buddhi Raj Bajracharya who was waiting for our call.

After what seemed like the longest nonsensical conversation ever, I hung up and turned to Jorge to tell him that there was no way that this Mr. Buddhi Raj had understood that we were to meet at 11am two days from then in Patan, and that if he showed, it would be nothing short of a miracle. After some debate, we decided that we would go anyway because Patan was, after all, the one place that we hadn’t visited and didn’t want to miss.

As it turns out, miracles do happen, because at 11am sharp there were two men waiting for us.

The younger one of the two stepped forward and in perfect English said “Hello, it’s nice to meet you, this (pointing to the older fellow) is Mr. Buddhi Raj, minister of tourism, culture and aviation of Nepal. He showed the King of Spain around Patan during his last visit and today, he’ll be showing you around.”

By Christelle Enquist

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