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  • A bus ride from hell

    Posted on June 20th, 2009 Sheila Yair 1 comment

    There are two main border towns to get to India from Nepal. We look at the map and decide to take the one that is closer to Katmandu figuring that in India with the train things will move faster. we head to the station around 1pm. at the station we find out of course that things are not so simple. The rout that looks on the map to only be 90KM from Katmandu is actually up a very steep hill and only one daily bus does it. It leaves at 6am, out of the question. There is another bus that goes around the mountain leaving at 7pm and arrives at 5am, making it just as far as the long rout to the other border city. So we contemplate. We decide to do some internet and send some postcards and take the night bus to the original town, figuring that during the night there will be fewer stops and less people on the bus. in Nepal as in much of the third world most routs are traveled by private bus companies and to make more money a bus will stop at every corner it thinks it can pick-up somebody. The first stop is usually right outside the bus station making the real departure always about half an hour later than what is advertised. But we will avoid all this on the night bus.

    When we finally find an internet place we discover that there is a power outage. Now this happens on a daily basis and it even has a schedule. They tell us power should resume around two. We wait outside the internet place for about 3 hours no sign of power. The internet shop owner is not having a very profitable day. We decide to walk around, our night bus decision starts to seem not that smart, but we are sure power will resume soon. At 6pm we are tiered of walking aimlessly and waiting at the internet place so we go early to the bus station. We place our bags get our seats and wait around the bus. At 5 minutes to 7 the power comes back, we board the bus and leave Katmandu, looking back at the lit-up station.

    We make our first obligatory stop at the entrance to the station. The bus driver and his helpers yell the names of the towns we will be going through and after 15 minutes we are off, now this is traveling, usually they stop for half an hour. At the entrance to Katmandu the bus stops, again yelling all the locations. This is a very busy intersection where pretty much all traffic enters and leaves Katmandu. It is very noisy, nepali people love using their horns especially the truck drivers who have super loud ones, and filled with exhaust fumes. About every 15 minutes the bus driver pretends to be leaving and goes right back to his parking spot. They put a movie on, but even the locals are getting agitated. The movie is in Hindi and it is about a guy who keeps winning and loosing his desired lady, it is almost as tiring as the wait.

    Once the movie ends, yes the guy got his girl at the end, the crowd on the bus start shouting. I figure they are demanding that the bus leave. After two hours and breathing every muffler of every truck in Nepal we finally move. It is after 9pm and we are one kilometer from the bus station, but every journey begins with one step. We maintain this wonderful forward momentum for about 150 meters when the bus driver pulls in to fill-up gas. Now why we couldn’t have done this in the two hours we were parked I guess I will never understand. Now we are really moving no stops. We climb out of the Katmandu valley and start heading down in to the Trishuli valley. We have been on this road before during the day, it is a beautiful steep decent in to the valley floor where the road runs. The bus stops and we see a traffic jam ahead of us. We move very slowly and once the road turns you can see the whole valley below. We see it is blocked all the way down. And traffic coming up does not seem to move either. Now sometimes it is better to not know how long the traffic jam you are stuck in really is, here it is crystal clear. It is 9:30pm we are 6 kilometers from the bus station and stuck in a 10KM traffic jam. Who decided to take the night bus?

    The traffic jam seems to have no apparent cause. After a short while trucks start passing on the right lane (which here since they drive like the brits is the wrong lane). So now both lanes are clogged and it seems like no solution is possible. I hear a faded whistle in the distance. A police officer is making his way up walking, trying to clear the opposite lane. Who knows from how far down he came. Trucks start moving to the side and finally there is a path clear. We start moving slowly occasionally getting stuck in a small traffic jam caused by trucks who just decide to pass and get stuck between the oncoming traffic and the other impatient trucks behind them that also made a pass. Did they really think they would just drive 10 kilometers on the wrong side and pass the whole jam with no oncoming traffic?

    It is after 11pm and we are 16 kilometers from the bus station. But now we are really moving, no joke.

    At 2am we pull in to a town for our dinner break. Now I have seen this before in South America. Sometimes you have these highway towns that just never sleep. Literally not in the slogan way that many cities like to think of themselves. the town is bustling, all the shops are open there are kids and women walking between the busses selling snacks, water and fruits, all the restaurants are full and there are about 30 busses making their stop, 2am in the morning. We pull by one of the restaurants and have our last dhal bat. dhal bat is pretty much all you eat in Nepal it is rice with lentil stew and some cooked vegetable. It is very tasty but you get tiered of it quickly. With a full stomach we continue the ride.

    At around 7am it seems like we are getting close to a big town. Just as I get excited about finally reaching our destination the bus stops. There is a road block. It appears the Maoists are blocking the road. Mao was probably the person responsible for the most death in human history, I find it a little hard to understand people who support him, but maybe that’s just me. There are 5 young guys who rolled a cement tube on the road and claim the road is closed. In Bolivia when there is a road block the whole village is out on the road, here it is just five young guys. No one in the bus argues even though we are about 40 people on the bus. We just turn around and start heading back. I look at Sheila, neither one of us can bear going all the way back to Katmandu. After half a kilometer we pass a big army camp. The soldiers are all out doing their exercises, I guess they are preparing themselves in case they are needed for anything… the bus turns and it seems we are taking a detour to bypass the block. We are going on very dusty dirt roads. After about an hour and a half the bus driver lets everybody down and says this is as close as we can get and we have to take rickshaws to the boarder. We are only 4 hours late which is quite surprising for all we have gone through. We get a rickshaw and go to the border.

    A trip to Birganj 340 rupees ($5)

    Dhal bat 60 rupees (90 cents)

    A night ride with Birgunj transportation, priceless

    “Ladies and gentlemen we would like to thank you for riding with Birgunj transportation we hope you enjoyed your trip and we hope to see you again soon”