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

 

 

 

 

 

  Our adventure to Pokhara is really two stories, one for the trip there and back and the second for the time spent there. Let’s start with the time there.

As I am still challenged by posting pictures to this blog, I am saving them up until I get back home and will then post lots all at once!  So we will have to be content with videos for now.  I’m so happy we got those up!

The change from Kathmandu to Pokhara is as if they aren’t even in the same country. Pokhara is lush, green, cleaner, wider streets (however, they still have pot holes which I am sure saves time and money in building speed bumps), and the local people seem more relaxed and happier.

 

Again, Ganesh was our guide and our group was made up of myself, Irish Peter and English Chris who traveled over by bus for the three day jaunt. The Aussies, Charmaine and Rachel who were on a tighter schedule, came by air for the second day and returned later that day to Kath.

 

Our first mission was to check into our hotel, the Traveler’s Guest House, where I had a welcoming committee! La Cock-a-Roacha foursome were performing while Senora Spider-mama, the size of Asia, kept time with all eight legs. Needless to say, I came back down all three flights of stairs at the speed of light stuttering, “S-s-s-s-s-p-p-pi-pi-d-d-er!!!” while making large circular motions with one arm and stuffing my eyeballs back in their sockets with the other.

 

 

 

Ganesh and a hotel employee came to the rescue with a can of spray and a taking apart of the bed: mattress, bedding and mattress board, to find them all in various hiding places. Thorough searching and many assurances later, I was told the place was ‘clean’. I couldn’t help but notice the one-inch gap under the door through which a platoon of spiders and roaches could march. Therefore I rolled up a welcome mat and stuffed it as tightly as possible against the offending ‘bug-door’.

 

Off we went to the Peace Pagoda before it got dark. Nepal has only two directions:

UP…and…DOWN! We taxied as far up as the road goes and then…yup, more perpendicular stairs, sweat, bursting lungs and a heartbeat to outrace Bobby Unser. I tell you, I’m coming home with Thunder Thighs!

 

 

The World Peace Pagoda was built by an English woman as a Buddhist monument to promoting its namesake. Without a word of a lie, we all felt an ‘energy’ about the place that was indeed peaceful and as we stood and looked down on the beauty of the lake, valley and city of Pokhara. One could just breathe the environment and feel more fulfilled.

 

Back in the hotel for the night, I glanced balefully at the door gap and went about finding anything I could use to stuff it full. That done there was nothing for it but to get into a bed that I first stripped searched and turn out the light. Within 5 minutes something brushed my arm and I let out a shriek and dove for the light. Hmmm, it was just the curtain moving in a slight, very refreshing breeze. Wishing I had duct tape for my mouth, finally slept.

 

Next morn, Ganesh picked up Char and Rach at the airport and the six of us went on a whirlwind of activity so they could see as much as possible in their few hours. First, the bat cave. Dang, couldn’t find the Batmobile or its driver, but did see one bat for sure and named it Robin. Those of you who know me well, also know that I am claustrophobic. I expect a huuuuge round of applause for I conquered that fear and went into that cave!! It helped that there were no tight spaces getting into the large cavern. We carried lamps but their beams did not reach very well to the ceiling, so many bats were figments of our imagination, I’m sure.

 

Next stop, Devi Falls, named thusly for a Swiss woman, who while swimming with her husband, was washed away by a flash flood some years back.

Incredible pictures are to come later of this strange phenomenaof the river when in flood and when almost dry.

 

At this time of year, the water is at it’s lowest just before Monsoon season and that allowed us to once again go underground into an area that is filled with water after the rains. Ganesh is so gracious with his clients. He carried my camera and my water bottle more than I did as I groped around in the semi-dark among the rocks, steps, water etc. to reach the centre. He sweetly calls me ‘mother’ or ‘mum’ and makes certain that I am safe at all times. He really earns his money while bargaining for taxi rates, etc. and without him we would be spending much more money!

 

Then we cab it again to the Mountaineering Museum. What a great place! And the most modern building I’ve so far seen in Nepal. They are very proud of their mountains and the history around them.

 

 

Now we drop the Aussie gals at the airport and the rest of us are free to do some serious shopping, wandering, lunching etc. until supper time.

 

 

Pokhara is hotter and more humid than Kath due to a lower altitude and more rainfall. That rainfall made our last day a bit disappointing in that we planned a climb (grrroan!) up to Sarangkot in order to see the Himalayas at sunrise. The clouds only rose enough that we could see just above the snow line so no spectacular pictures that morning. Again, we turned ourselves into optimists and found great value in the experience anyway. Peter and Chris had booked paragliding following the sunrise we didn’t see and that also had to be cancelled due to weather.

 

Instead, we took a boat and paddled out to a temple on an island in the lake. Very picturesque and photos look really good in a light rain. So did a group of about 25 men of the Nepali army on a physical training exercise in and out of the water!

Next blog I will entertain you with the ‘ride’ to and from Pokhara!! Never, never again!!

’till next time, Cherrio!  Lynn

N

One thing is certain about life…much as we plan, there is always something around the corner that could knock your plans askew.  Such as this…..I simply cannot solve the problem of not being able to get my videos and pictures onto this blog!!! GGrrrr!

 

 

I have a blog entry all typed and ready to go.  All that was left was to upload the pics and videos.  No go.  SO, that being said, I am going to continue to work on that and in the meantime I can at least send you more news and your vivid imaginations can visualize to the max.

 

 I’m up to my eyebrows in monklettes!  I have two classes in the mornings after I have sweated and puffed my way uphill for most of 5K to the monastery lugging my school books and feeling like a pack mule.  On arrival I am soaking wet and my face is the colour of a profoundly embarassed tomato from the heat and exertion. I’m celebrating today (just starting my third week in Nepal) because I actually had my very first bandaid-less day for my feet!

 

Irish Peter and I teach at the same monastery (Sangye Goling Gompa) at the same times.  I start out earlier than peter because I like to stroll while Peter strides.  He is tall and lanky (built like my son, Dan and younger than him).  We walk back to the hotel together and discuss our classes, what worked, what didn’t and what was hilariously funny that day.

 

The monklettes all have colds and barking coughs (change of season from dry to wet) so Irish Peter and Boston Mike both got colds.  I haven’t and the only reason I can give is that I use a hand sanitizer at least 6 to 10 times during every class and keep my hands off my face. 

 

 My first class is 6 to 9 year olds.  Soooo cute in their little monk robes. They see me coming and hoop and holler “Good morning, namaste” and run into the classroom, set up my chair and tiny table, turn on the ceiling fan (bless them!) and sit cross-legged on the floor in anticipation. Anywhere from 16 to 26 can be in the class.  Completely uncontrollable!  When finished an exercise in their scribblers, they yell ‘finished!’ and swarm me trying to get their book into my hands first to get the much coveted drawing of a star from teacher. All the while hollering ‘Lynn, Lynn, Lynn!’ until I take their book.

 

 

After that class and two aspirin, I make my way to an older class of 15, 16, 17 year olds and the change is like rain to sun.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the wee ones. Again, someone runs and gets the board eraser wet, cleans off the board, another dries it and we are off. This class is ready for very basic grammar and is anywhere from 12 to 30+ on any given day.

 

 

There is one thing that makes teaching monks a bit different.  They learn all their Buddhist teachings and prayers by repetition memorization.  Thinking for themselves is a foreign concept and sometimes feels like giving birth, just to get a conceptualized answer or response! But we are getting there what with my antics, funny faces and cajoling. They are a great group too.

 

School aside, I think I’ll share with you some of the things I would never get used to if I lived here until I am a hundred.

 

1. Spitting.  Everyone spits on the streets! It is considered very normal.  In fact, if they see a foreigner blowing into a tissue they are repulsed by it!  Picture this….a very lovely woman dressed in  a beautiful sari is walking toward you and you are full of admiration.  Then you begin to hear a sound akin to an old junker trying to rev it’s worn out motor.  You look around wondering what this noise is and where it is emanating from.  As she comes closer you realize this lovely woman is the source and you think she must be in distress until she finishes with a drawn out ‘haawwk’ and promptly deposits half a lung at your feet.  Thus the local warning to newby’s “Watch out for the oysters on the streets”.

 

2. Flying water.  As you dodge traffic and other pedestrians, watch for oysters, doggie do, etc., be ready for a bucket of dirty water to be flung out a shop doorway into the street.

 

3.  Street children. Due greatly to the political mess in Nepal, many young children (boys) come into Kathmandu to be safe from being kidnapped by the Maoist soldiers in their villages.  They find there is no way to make income and live on the streets.  They  become hooked as glue sniffers and beg for money. We must never give them any and if you give them anything else they will simply sell it for cash to buy glue.

 

You see these filthy children sleeping on the street on filthy old blankets and most times are cuddled with stray dogs.

 

4. And that brings me to the street dogs.  My first day walking to the monastery I arrived in tears.  Diseased and injured stray dogs are aplenty. Rabies is known in Nepal so we must not approach or touch them.  But as I look in their eyes I see such misery.  So I have taken not to looking in their eyes and simply give them love and blessings as I pass.

 

On the other hand there are many pet dogs I see on leashes and others with collars that show they belong to someone. They are as loved and well cared for as those in our western culture.  We have one in our hotel that belongs to a staff family which lives in the hotel.  Her name is Shessy, she looks like a cross between a tiny polar bear cub and a teddy bear.  A pure white fluff ball with bright eyes with whom I have fallen madly in love.  I can hardly wait until I can send you her picture.

 

5. Horn honking.  Constant, varied squawking.  Absolutely no traffic control in the way of signs or lights.  Honking is considered polite because they are letting you know that they are coming and if you don’t get out of the way be prepared to be road kill.  I am about to buy my own damn horn and blast people and vehicles out of MY way!

 

This past weekend, Irish Peter and I attended an all-day retreat at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Centre.  A quiet oasis just 5 minutes from our hotel, hidden away down a side street.  We did an hour of yoga, were served a wonderful breakfast in a quiet garden, listened to a venerable monk speak on Buddhism, were served a lovely lunch, watched a DVD, had a tea break, another talk by the monk, another tea break, then a meditation practice. A long, but wonderful day from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

 

This weekend I will finally get out of the city into the real Nepal.  Myself, Courtenay & Rachel (two Aussie volunteers who have just arrived) Irish Peter and our guide, Ganesh, are going on a day trek into a forest reserve and hike to the top of a ‘rise’ which will take about 3 1/2 hours and return (2 1/2 hours). The following weekend we are taking 3 days to go to Pokhara (a must-see I am told), 6 hours by native bus (ho  boy!). I will definitely visit the Peace Pagoda among many other things while there. I will tell you all about these excursions in a future blog.

 

I shall keep working on the visuals. Stay with me here!

 

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Cheerio!

Lynn