The narrow, twisting blacktop road between Kathmandu and Pharping is only 12 miles long, but it takes about 45 minutes to cover the distance, due to the two-way traffic that is forced to squeeze by with two wheels in the dirt and perceptious dropoffs into deep ravines only feet away. As we pass the small villages lining the road, we move from the flatlands of Kathmandu at 4,000 feet, pass Nepal's major university, begin to dip up and down and around picturesque hills and dales, pass an abandoned cement factory, and then climb up into dark, mountain passes that curve around the gorges until we reach Pharping at 6,500 feet.
Most people in the valley are engaged in farming in one way or another, but some foodstuffs are transported from India to the south or China to the north. This becomes a problem when the few major roads into the country or the valley are blocked for one political reason or another. The beautiful valley floor is carefully tilled to take advantage of its riches, and the various governments have banned the commercial harvesting of trees which line the mountains to prevent erosion. However, the never-ending march of a growing population is a very serious threat to the future of this heart of Nepal. As more and more farmland is being replaced by strings and blocks of brick and concrete houses and apartments, the question of a self-sustaining society is paramont.
At night from our patio I see strings of lights across the valley that I've never seen before. While Kathmandu has a 2009 population of 2 million, Patan, the third largest city in Nepal and directly south of Kathmandu, has only 200,000+, but is growing by leaps and bounds. We recently drove south through Patan, passed street after street of new buildings and houses under construction, crossed a newly-constucted bridge over the Bagmati river, and ended up at that abandoned cement factory, which marked one-third of our journey to Pharping. --Jerry in Nepal