Call it development, or colonialism by another name, but the big donor nations have staked out distinct spheres of influence in Nepal. Despite the closure of the Gurkha Camp at Dharan, the bustling gateway to the eastern hills, almost half the British Army’s Gurkha recruits still come from the area, and the old ties are strongly felt. Britain’s aid programme, based in Dhankuta, has been handed over to the Nepalese government, but agriculture, forestry, health and cottage industries are still in operation. The biggest and most obvious British undertaking is the road to Dharan, Dhankuta, Hile and beyond, which was constructed with £50 million of British taxpayers’ money. While there are few grand monuments or temples, this region is a bastion of traditional Nepali hill culture. The bazaar towns of Hile and Basantapur, in particular, give a powerful taste of what lies beyond the point where the tarmac runs out.
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