I recently traveled with the nonprofit organization DEFT Community to assist with the rebuilding of a local school and community center in Dhungkharka, Nepal which were destroyed in the earthquakes last spring. Learn more about the project through my blog and on our Facebook page here.
It’s no secret for those who travel around Asia that the more difficult a place is to reach, the more special your destination may be– less polluted, less touristy and more likely to make you never want to return to your usual home ever again.
Dhungkharka is a village about 50km (~31 miles) south east of Kathmandu. And while it sounds like a short distance, the drive from Kathmandu to the village is far from short and easy.
Those 50 km/31 miles take about 2-2.5 hours to travel. To put this in to perspective for some of my readers back home in Texas– the drive from Houston to Austin takes about 2.5 hours and covers over 265 km / 165 miles. With beautifully paved highways and roads you could travel nearly 5.5 times the distance from Kathmandu to Dhungkharka.
So what’s the hold up?
For the first portion of the car ride from Kathmandu we enjoyed smooth, paved roads. Although we had to deal with some annoying traffic, at least the ride was comfortable.
The last 20km or so of the ride is when the car ride starts getting very interesting/exciting/scary/nauseating (depending on who you are). Although we were on the “road” to Dhungkharka this part of the journey can only be described as off roading.
The terrain was constantly switching from mud to dirt to rocks and the drives to and from Dhungkharka were by far the bumpiest car rides I had ever experienced.
Our car was equipped with a roll and pitch meter that told you the front and side angles the car was experiencing as a safety indicator.
The meter in our car was going nuts and I wasn’t quite so sure why we even needed the roll and pitch meter. Seeing everyone in our packed car being whipped and rocked all around as we drove told me enough about the road conditions. This continued for nearly an hour but luckily I didn’t experience any motion sickness (although others were not as fortunate and needed us to stop for vomit breaks).
Aside from the rough roads, the drive to and from Dhungkharka is incredibly beautiful.
We drove through streams and rivers and made our way up in to the mountains. The views and scenery were incredible and enough to make me forget that we were rocking along a road that was just a meter from the edge of a mountain cliff.
The adventure of driving on this road was so new and different that it made me a million times more excited about our arrival to Dhungkharka. I knew I was about to have a very unique experience in the village.
While the difficulty of getting to Dhungkharka has allowed the villagers to preserve their stunning landscape and amazing culture and community, it also plays a role in making many aspects of life in rural regions like Dhungkharka difficult.
Not only does it make public transportation difficult (and many villagers do not own their own cars), it also makes accessing quality schools and health centers expensive or impossible. We did see buses traveling through the area but they were usually very crowded and potentially unreliable or dangerous (imagine going through these rocky roads along the mountainside while riding ON TOP of a bus).
After a disaster like the earthquakes and aftershocks experienced this year, these treacherous roads can also make sourcing and transporting the materials to rebuild the collapsed homes and buildings in the area an extremely expensive process for the villagers.
This is one of the many reasons why the villagers have asked for our help. It is the goal of DEFT Community to help the villagers with constructing these key buildings in the community in a safe and sustainable manner.
If you’d like to join our community and support our cause, please visit our Facebook page here.
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