After leaving Gorkha, the plan was to take a leisurely 3-day wander across the relatively unpopulated Terai region of western Nepal and cross into India at the little-used border crossing at Mahendranagar/Banbosa. Thus leaving me a solid 3-4 day trip skirting across the top of the most heavily industrialised and populated part of northern India to Amritsar – the Holy City of the Sikhs.
What could possibly go wrong with such a simple plan?
Democracy – that’s what went wrong. Or the demand for more of it, to be more precise.
Unbeknownst to most of the Western world, and this traveller in particular, Nepal is at a crucial turning point in the history of the current nation-state. Since the Royal Palace Massacre in 2001, and the ditching of the monarchy completely shortly afterwards, Nepal appears to be struggling to make a go of being a republic and is in danger of splintering into the many tribal regions. A surefire recipe for total ecomomic collapse, as only the Kathmandu valley region and the Pokhara region would have any hope of surviving as independent states. And these two regions rely almost entirely on Western tourism/trekking/mountain-climbing.
Enough of the history lesson. Due to the above state of affairs, some people in western Nepal didn’t like what some people in the Kathmandu were doing with the new Constitution so the people in western Nepal spat the dummy and organised protests against it. The police decided to close the road to travellers, including foreign tourists, about 50 km west of Butwal. The consequences of this road closure on my travel plans were disastrous. Not only was crossing the border at Mahendranagar now completely out of the question, but my second option at Nepalgang was also out of reach. I would have to backtrack 50km to Butwal and cross into India at Sonauli – the busiest border crossing of all. As well as that this road would take me further south into the industrial wasteland that stretches across much of this part of India.
So what was supposed to be a leisurely 5-6 day amble across the countryside to Amritsar turned into a 7-day marathon.
But that’s another story.