A Greyhound bus trip it’s not, but an adventurous experience it is.

It takes 25 minutes to fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara. The bus trip takes 8 to 10 hours. Now about the ‘bus’. On the advice of our guide, Ganesh, we chose the micro bus rather than the regular public bus because the micro bus has seating for about 15 persons and takes a couple of hours less to reach destination.

 

We taxied to the area where the buses congregate and what meets our eyes is a very noisy, hap-hazard tangle of taxis, micro buses, large buses, hollering people, street sellers and what appears to be mass confusion. Our taxi motors slowly among the mess looking for a micro bus that is going to Pokhara. There is no way to know until you ask or hear someone hollering ‘Pokhara!’

 

At last we locate one, pay the fee, and Ganesh puts me in the window seat behind the driver (he knows my tendency to claustrophobic fits in crowds and tight places). Now we wait, and wait, and wait. It’s well past departure time, but it seems we don’t leave until every seat is full.

 

We finally do go…….about 50 feet….and pull over. Driver hops out and starts yelling “Pokhara!”

Through my open window flies a fist holding a bottle of water, then another with some kind of supposedly edible ‘thing’ followed by a third with a newspaper, etc. etc. After a few minutes we finally get going…….another 50 feet. We pull over and the whole process starts all over again.

 

This running of the gauntlet continues even after the seats are all full. It is now an hour past departure time. And guess what? The driver finds another 4 people to squeeze into the bus! I am now squashed up against the side of the bus sitting sideways on one ‘cheek’. But my window is large and if I had to I could crawl out, so no panic yet.

 

FINALLY, we travel more than 50 feet and our hearts lurch with hope. Yes, we keep on going! Sort of. Winding our way out of the city is a crawling, stop and go, horn honking melee. We reach the road to Pokhara which is (halleluiah!) paved! After being in Kathmandu for a month, I suddenly realize something…..its left side driving in Nepal! The mess of traffic in Kath weaving all over the narrow streets in and around each other muddies that issue.

 

We actually have two drivers, one behind the wheel and one on the roof with the tarped luggage. Our upper driver bangs on the metal roof in what we assume is code to inform the inner driver of things like “I hear a truck coming around that blind curve.” Inner driver leans on the horn to announce our presence. In fact, all traffic hits the horn as it approaches every curve. I certainly hope drivers have to pass a hearing test!

 

On we go. It’s hot. My open window saves my sanity and I silently bless Ganesh. Air Conditioning??? Foreign language never translated. We wind around and we climb up and down and pass through small villages. In some we stop and pick up another passenger or two to flatten in a space large enough for a box of rice. Speaking of which, we now see rice paddies in the mountainside terraced fields. The landscape is truly beautiful.

 

In one of these villages we stop for lunch and I’m sure we must resemble the circus Volkswagon which expels several dozen clowns from its tiny interior. My numb ‘cheek’ begins to prickle into life again as I limp over to the outdoor table upon which I find several pots of completely unidentifiable (except for the flies) supposedly edible concoctions. Appetite now dead, I purchase a bottle of Coke which seems the safest choice and it is COLD!


 

Twenty minutes later, we do the clown trick in reverse, but the driver just sits with the motor running. Sweat runs in rivulets into my eyes (stings!), down my face, neck, etc and I’m hanging out the window gasping and praying for a breeze and I couldn’t care less what it smells like. Seems we are waiting for two passengers who have disappeared. Plenty of Nepali jabbering is going on between passengers and driver and finally we up and leave.

 

A half hour later a hand with a cell phone appears from above and into the driver’s window. Seems the Upper Driver is also in charge of communications. We pull over and a conversation ensues. Don’t have any idea what is being said, but the passengers are laughing and contributing their own opinions. Seems the two missing passengers finally showed up to catch the bus and found it gone. They had gone off down the road to eat elsewhere without telling the driver or asking how long they had to eat. And they wanted us to come back and get them! Hah! When water buffalo pas de deux!

 

Another half hour….another cell phone call….another pull over. This time the errant passengers want their belongings left at the next village. Ok, we can do that.

 

This roadway is very busy with trucks, buses, motorbikes, cars, etc. One sees insane driving antics, especially with the motorbikes upon which at least two people are riding. Driver must wear a helmet, but passengers don’t. There must be some logic in that somewhere, but it’s not apparent to me. The final 30K into Pokhara has us back to pothole navigation and is s-l-o-w going. The trip seems endless but we finally arrive in Pokhara three hours later than planned. Thoughts of flying back after the weekend are extremely tempting.

 

RETURN TRIP

 

Okay, now we are experienced. We know this game and we are prepared! Once again, Ganesh gets me into the window seat behind the driver. English Chris and I are on a bench seat that sits three people and we plant our butts squarely and vow not to move. In front of us, just behind the front seat, is a ledge upon which we can put our backpacks. There are several other passengers to load but for some reason this can’t be done without several minutes of Nepali chattering, everyone talking over everyone else and a modulated tone of voice is impossible. Sounds like everyone is yelling but aren’t upset.  Eventually we are loaded.

 

As we go along, we keep picking up more passengers until the bench seat for 3 with it’s ledge in front of us is now holding EIGHT people!!!! We have to alternate knees with the person facing us. English Chris says he had a strange man’s knee in his crotch most of the way home. But we did not give up a millimeter of our butt space! The others could sit on top of each other. This happens because the driver wants to make as much money per trip as possible and comfort of passengers can go hang.

 

Oh yes, and during both trips Nepali and Indian music blared from the radio all…the…waaaAAAYYY!

 

As if it couldn’t worsen, we found ourselves slowing down and stopping behind a line of traffic. And we sat….and we sat…and we sat. Eventually some traffic would come the other way but only about 5 vehicles at a time. We crept a few feet forward at a time at long intervals. One and a half hours later, we were through the cause of the slowed traffic.

 

Here’s one I doubt you will ever hear happening at home. It appears the day before a motorcyclist from this village was killed on the roadway by a hit and run. The villagers stopped traffic to collect money for his family. Now that’s very thoughtful and an hour and a half of our time was for a good cause. Until we learned that about one quarter of the collection actually goes to the family.

 

This time our quick supper was a Coke and a bag of chips for me and I learn that if the need is great enough I can actually use a reeking Asian toilet.

 

It is dark by the time we reach the outskirts of Kath and the roadway and streets are jammed with traffic trying to get in and also trying to get out of the city. We crept along stopping and starting for 2 more hours, either eating non-catalytic converter exhaust or closing the window and being poached. The entire return trip was 10 hours to travel about 200 km. Twice the time it is supposed to be. I forgot the Nepali mantra: Nothing is as it is supposed to be in Nepal!!!

 

Never, never, never, never again! In the extremely unlikely event that I find myself having to travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara, that 25 minute flight is the only way!

 

From a previous post you know what a superb experience Pokhara was for us. A lush, green little city nestled by a lake and surrounded by the majesty of the breathtaking Himalayas. Sigh!

 

Oh, give me a home

where the water buffalo roam

and the bats and the monkeys do play

Where seldom is heard

an English word

and the skies are

mountain-peaked all day.

 

Cheerio!

Lynn