Adventures By Bus
Nepali buses are notorious for many things, but comfort, space and safety are definitely not some of them. If, however, you want adventure, you are definitely on the right track. Last October while we were visiting Nagarkot, I spotted a group of European tourists returning to Bhaktapur. The young gentlemen all chose to experience the ride from the roof of the bus. Watching this, my heart was filled with envy because we had chosen a taxi.
This year we both realised that taxi's were not in our budget anymore, and that we would have to conquer our . . . let’s call it reservations about Nepal’s public transport. Keep in mind that we’re not in the habit of using public transport in South Africa, which is more or less comparable to Nepal’s system in most instances. So last month we set off for Nagarkot again, this time by bus. The first part was basically a walk in the park. We found the correct bus despite our extremely limited Nepali language skills. There were some challenges we hadn’t anticipated. First, we chose two broken seats. Furthermore, we overpacked by 1000%. This was a problem because we had to carry our big backpacks on our laps all the way to Bhaktapur. Then we missed our stop and had to take another bus to correct this mistake.
Time was also an issue. We had heard that it would take 2 to 3 hours, but we didn’t take into account that that amount would be stretched as morning turned to afternoon and afternoon to evening. In the afternoons, traffic on the buses pick up drastically, and finding space on the bus from Bhaktapur to Nagarkot was trying, to say the least. The bus was already full, or so we thought. The jump boy just continued to allow more people on the bus. As we were about to give him our backpacks, our courage failed and we defaulted to the taxi driver who had been bugging us the whole time, saying that local transport is not for tourists.
Back in Kathmandu, we regrouped and resolved to do better next time. So one day I travelled by myself to a village just outside the Kathmandu valley. This was challenging, as I am not good at remembering the names of places, directions or any information relevant to travelling by bus. Our guest house host took me to the bus station.
However, while I was still in the shower, I was informed that I had to be ready to leave immediately or I would miss the bus. The reason for this was that I had to take a bus to the place where I would get the bus which would take me to my destination. What had been one bus ride from our bus station to the village, had in fact been two buses. The jump boy on the first bus agreed to show me my next bus, but eventually my neighbour assisted me. Thanks, Kamal. So the first leg was an overwhelming success.
I had to wait for 45 minutes for the next bus to leave, and once we were off and made our first stop at a school, I had already had 3 different neighbours. Eventually a lady and her two children took the seat next to me. I think she was breastfeeding next to me, but as her back was turned to me, I am unable to confirm this. I know many ladies are campaigning for public breastfeeding, but having had to deal with this previously, I must tell you it really makes me uncomfortable.
Next I noticed the lady in front of me was struggling, having difficulties with spitting out of the window. In Nepal spitting in public is a common occurrence, so this baffled me. I then realised that she had motion sickness, which was evident when I looked closely at the window. She just covered her face and put her head back. I felt sorry for her, but was not able to think too long about it, as I suddenly spotted a spider starting his descent towards my arm. I grabbed the first thing I could find to kill it, which I later realised was the scarf of the poor lady in front of me. I apologized, unable to say more than a few words, and still worried about the fate of the spider. I realised there was not enough space wo search for it with three people sitting next to me. I surrendered my fate to the Lord, and enjoyed the rest of my journey.
A friend once said this about the traffic in India: "If you realise and accept the fact that you might die, you actually start enjoying it." Something similar happened to me. I travelled back to Kathmandu the next morning. Waiting for the bus with my 12-year old running buddy, his sister and a friend, I was actually looking forward to the bus ride. Coming down the mountain in the rain with the sound of metal on metal did not nearly worry me as much as it should have. I realised that I’d have to surrender my uncertainty about local transport, and by grace I took the first step.