Travels with the Beard – Nepal and Beyond

Our travels, chickens and surviving life

The Bus Journey

on March 15, 2013

The bus left more or less on time, and we drove through the smog along the Kathmandu Valley, picking up new passengers as we went.
There were about 40 seats on the bus, & when they had all been taken people began to stand in the aisle.
Of course every space on this bus was smaller than you’d find in Europe or the USA – the Nepalese are considerably smaller than us – & it was impossible to sit straight, with legs out in front. In order to fit we had to slant slightly to the side, knees pointing left or right.
On this particular journey Tod was sitting by the window & I was next to the central aisle.
As the aisle filled up with swaying, seatless travellers the human crush overflowed across the seats and across those of us unlucky enough to be sitting in them.
In no time at all I was squashed hard against Tod, and unable to lean back on my seat because a woman had slipped an arm down behind my back & was resting her head on the top of my seat. She began to snore.
Now it must be said that the Nepalese do not harbour any principles of personal space, and nowhere is that more obnoxiously obvious than when travelling on a Local Bus.
I couldn’t move, pinned as I was at a decidedly awkward angle, and I bagan to sweat.
The bus was by now massively overcrowded – even the roof space was jam-packed, & we could see a row of sandal-clad feet hanging over the edge above our window.
We started to climb up and out of the valley and the bus, overburdened engine roaring, slowed to a crawl. It laboured up the hills, bumping & crashing into craters, bricks & stones on the rough surface of the track. It swayed ponderously around bends, leaning over, over, further & further, seemingly often just beyond the point of no return, then crashing back into an upright position.
The scenery outside the windows changed quite quickly from smog-laden, jumbled brick factories, half built houses, & pocket handkerchief patches of cultivated land, to the steeply sloping lower reaches of the magnificent Himalayas.
A wall of squealing Nepalese suddenly swayed in the aisle, lost their balance and fell on me. In complete panic I began pushing them off me, shouting & trying to catch my breath. But it was Tod who grabbed & shoved, leaning over me to push them back into the aisle, and pulling me towards the precarious safety of the window.
I wanted off that bus! I wanted to scream & run for the door. But of course that was the problem – I knew I couldn’t move anywhere. I was trapped. Tod & I couldn’t even change places – there was no room.
So I just had to breathe deeply & hang onto my sanity.
Ten hours later we reached the first, and only town in the region, albeit a very small one by Western standards. I’m reasonably sure that Chericote has a law that obliges its residents to walk up & down the main street & round the square constantly. Because that is just what they do, in massive, moving waves of humanity.
The bus has to edge slowly through them, horn honking & driver shouting, making for the relatively clear road across the square.
This time we stopped in the square, & amidst much loud talking & hand waving the bus began to disgorge 20 or 30 of its occupants.
I breathed a sigh of relief; but too soon.
Now here’s a strange thing:
There is a Wicked Gnome in Nepal that blinds the travelling Nepalese to the fact that in order to exit a bus the way must be clear & free of INcoming travellers. And conversely, in order to board a bus the way must have been previously cleared of all those travellers wishing to exit said bus.
Sadly, the Wicked Gnome is stronger than anyone can imagine, and keeps Common Sense locked in a deep, dark cavern, from which it seems unlikely that he will ever escape.
Tod & I watched open mouthed as Nepalese travellers LITERALLY CLIMBED OVER ONE ANOTHER in an attempt to either exit or enter the bus AT THE SAME TIME.
Unless you have seen this you really cannot comprehend.
We are talking old ladies, babies, young men & women, the works.
That Wicked Gnome really has a lot to answer for.
Eventually we set off again, and an hour later reached Cowah – the ‘Village of the Damned’ as we call it – at the top of the valley.
Here the Wicked Gnome had a trump card up his sleeve, because before anyone could move a group of local shopkeepers began loading their wares into the bus. The aisle rapidly filled up with sacks of rice & boxes of bottled beer, standing 3 ft high and completely blocking the way.
Only when everything was loaded in did half a dozen travellers inside the bus stand up & insist that they needed to get off, and they proceeded to attempt to do just that.
Yes, I hear what you say, but believe me, this is the staggering TRUTH!
And of course, not only did travellers leave the bus, in a scrambled heap, but then another half dozen got on. Tod & I lifted an elderly lady over a stack of sacks of rice, one of which had split and sent its contents over several seats.
Eleven hours in that bus must surely be enough for any mortal. I know it was for us. But it was a 12 hour journey.
We had been told that the buses now go down the valley to the village of Lohrimani, an hour or so from our destination, but we were completely unprepared for the route it now took.
We turned off, onto a completely new road.

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