A timelapse of Buddha Air flight from the Kathmandu Airport to Tumlingtar Airport in Sankhuwasabha district. This airport is probably the reason many hydropower projects are feasible in this district.
Num is barely 40 km away if we travel along the Koshi Highway from Khandbari – the district headquarters of Sankhuwasabha, yet it takes more than 5 hours to travel between these two locations in this season. People are suffering, our vehicles are suffering, productive time is suffering. The road is deteriorating every day, and many to blame but we are forced to travel in such destitute condition. I can’t imagine what happens if there is any medical emergency case. We are not allowed to get ill here. This highway is supposed to upgrade the lifestyle of people here, supposed to connect both China and India to bolster our trade and business – nonetheless it is waiting for its opportunity and potential.
I travel new and rural areas of Nepal a lot for my work. No need to highlight that travelling in such places is exciting as well as challenging. One of the frustrating thing in the these areas of this country is that there are not reliable means of communication most of the times. Telephone companies are not focusing in expanding their services in rural areas. This is an advertising board of Nepal Telecom at the Dhorpatan Valley in Baglung district. And you are already very happy when you know that you can use 3G service in your destination.
This time the work took us to the northern part of Sankhuwasabha district for feasibility study of a hydroelectric project. In my 10 years career as a geologist, I don’t remember any site tougher and more physically demanding than this one. We could reach the headworks area of the proposed project only on the 6th day after boarding plane to Tumlingtar Airport. There are not any human settlement in the project area that forced us to stay in tents most of the times. We were not the most organised to embark for such area. And all we could manage for food was Chinese bucket noodles bought in Chyamtang village – for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Those noodles were easy to make, good to taste and we could even use its container for drinking tea afterwards.
I always thank a person who invented noodles!
The Tumlingtar Airport is so gloomy for the entire morning, our hope for a flight today is fading away – but we are so desperate to get out of Sankhuwasabha district as we were there for 3 weeks for the most physically demanding site visit for a hydropower project. Magically, at 11 am, all the clouds over the airport get cleared and the plane arrives after 4 hours of delay.
Yesterday, upon arriving Tumlingtar, we heard sad news of helicopter crash that claimed the life of our tourism minister. In the air, this Beechcraft 1900D aircraft of Buddha Air jerked like a hell due to bad weather on the way. With yesterday’s news in the mind and unusual movement of plane in the thick cloud, this has been the scariest air travel so far in my life.
In 3 days, we walked roughly 50 km to reach the project area – and this has been the most entertaining and picturesque route I’ve travelled so far for a hydroelectric project. This route on the banks of the Budhigandaki River is very famous as the Larke Pass Trek. Trekkers usually do not cover this much length of the route in such short time – however, our exhaustion is well covered by the stunning landscapes of the area.
A permanent bridge is under construction at present at Dobhan near Num that connects Khandbari, the district headquarters of Sankhuwasabha with the remote northern parts of the district. Track has been opened to connect those remote locations, and the only way for vehicles to cross the Arun River is via ferry which is operated by government free of charge during working hours. First time in nearly a decade I had to cross the river on a ferry. Back then, I had similar experience in Bhojpur – that was also to cross the Arun River.
Sometimes the extraordinary events happen that define our life and death. We were cruising on the highway in the midday, heading towards our project site in the western Nepal. All of sudden, couldn’t reckon what was the reason – the driver lost control of the speed of our Land Cruiser, it skidded to nearby drainage canal and then everything was blank. My body smashed the windshield, yet came out without any bruises. One of the team members was seriously injured, but we all survived.
A young, low-ranked policeman stopped our bus, booked the bus driver for modifying seating arrangements as well as being overcapacity. Then, out of nowhere – an older, higher-ranked officer appeared, talked to bus driver in private, and released him without any further action.
A round of applause for a young cop for showing his guts, that very rare officers had shown in the past. Our highways can be much safer to travel if such young bloods are given little motivation.
While we were in Kalikot fieldwork, one of my female coworker asked me not to leave seat for any ladies because that always made her feel that boys were superior to girls. That was a shocking comment for me. I said okay! But that was never the case at all. I had never offered seat to anyone because I felt he/she was inferior to me. It’s just the matter of respect.
We have always offered our seats for the ladies and the seniors because we feel they deserve better seating conditions. In Bhojpur fieldwork, the overseers and the junior engineers offered seats for us. It was strange but amazing but never an awkward feeling for me. Till then it was me who leave seats for others. We accept seat without any such feeling of superiority/inferiority. While in a teamwork, we need to respect this unspoken hierarchy.
I travel a lot by public buses, and I still leave my seats for ladies and senior citizens whenever it is possible. It gives me immense pleasure when they accept and say thank you by the smile.