Regular visitors will know I’m a great lover of Nepal, and this last month I was able to finally return to that beautiful mountain land after the hiatus of Covid. I flew into Kathmandu with the intention of visiting the eastern border region where Nepal and India meet, and specifically the small village of Manebhanjhyang. Manebhanjhyang sits right on the border – in fact the border cuts straight across the main street, and one of its points of interest is that the dominant mode of transport in the village is the short-wheelbase Series One Land Rover, used as taxis. There are around 50 in the village, most with paint stripped off and aluminium panels polished bright with Brasso.
The Land Rovers are there because they are the only vehicles that can cope with the demands given to them. The tracks around Manebhanjhyang are often extremely steep, and very tight and twisty. Long-wheelbase vehicles wouldn’t cope with the corners. The Land Rovers have to carry huge loads up and down the steep tracks, often for farmers or for the military, so the little old Series 1s earn the love their owners definitely have for them!
I flew to Bhadrapur airport near Manebhanjhyang from Kathmandu, and then was met by Aakash and Ordzhun, whose Land Rover I was travelling in. We hopped into a Series 3 and drove the long trail up into the Himalayas. The Series 3 was an interesting beast – a Station Wagon in layout, her rear roof had been replaced by a soft-top. Here she is crossing the Bagmati River, the same river as flows through Kathmandu
We reached Manebhanjhyang and spent a few days exploring the area. I didn’t have an Indian visa so legally wasn’t able to cross the border. This is the border in the village – the drain across the centre of the pic. The tarmac on the other side is India, the cobbles nearest the camera are Nepal. The green sentry box on the right is an Indian Army border post.
Obviously if I found myself in India at any point it will have been due to a mapreading error **cough**.
Highlights of any stay in Nepal are the wonderful people and the wonderful food. I stayed at this farm outside Ilam for one night and was wowed by their family recipe for chili chicken. Most of the food on the rest of the trip was dhal bhat – lentil stew and rice. Which suits me because I love it 🙂
Pashan Taman (left) is one of the stalwarts of the Series One taxi community. He has been driving Land Rovers in Manebhanjhyang since the early 1970s and is a fount of information and stories about the cars and their owners, and the beautiful landscape where they live. There is a firm community who are very loyal to the Green Oval. They even have an official Welfare Association…..
It was easier for me to travel on the Nepali side of the border and so I hopped into a beautiful Series 1 and we spent a couple of days exploring the region – including beautiful tea plantations
All too soon I had to head back to Kathmandu and ultimately the UAE, but the drive down from the hills to the town of Ilam, and then Bhadrapur airport to fly back to Kathmandu, was made far more pleasant because of the Series One…..