Putchka Design

Bus Trip in Nepal – Blast from the Past

June 2006 –  A Bus Trip in Nepal

By Ilan Adler

Editors Note: I’ve decided to look through my email archives and post some of the more interesting travel related emails that I wrote. This one is from an short little 12 hour bus ride in Nepal. 

Hey guys!

What’s up? I just got back from the trek a few hours ago. It was pretty good, Although not nearly as good as the Everest Base Camp trek. In the first week we had a few days of pretty miserable weather (and don’t get me started on the leeches…) but then it got better and I had some nice views. The place I enjoyed most was Gosainkund, a holy alpine lake situated at 4410m. It was just so peaceful and calm there, just the most serene place I have been to on the trip.


I had no idea that the season affected the trekking so much, they were maybe 4 other tourists that I saw in the beginning and for the last week and a half I didn’t see any westerner at all! Anyways I had a really cool bus ride to the beginning of the trek…


Ahh the bus ride, what a long strange trip it was…


I got on the bus at 6:30 a.m, The seats were so close together it made it seem like sitting in a “nagmash” (M113 APC) was the equivalent of a La-z-boy…absolutely no leg room whatsoever…
The bus driver then arrives when he feels like he’s ready to go, starts honking the horns so everyone knows that he feels this way, and cuts thru sidewalks, alleys, and gas stations to get out of the bus terminal. Now I was thinking to myself that it’s strange that there are so few passengers on the bus. Alas we drive another 200m and stop, and of course half the city of Kathmandu promptly gets on the bus with all their worldly possessions.The whole aisle is full of people standing, and there are at least a dozen sitting in comfort on the roof. We finally get going for real; This old Tata bus laboriously pushing itself up on the steep hills, but we are moving. I doze off for a little, only to wake up to a surreal sight. On my right is a huge, steep drop-off with beautiful views of the mountains and the valley’s immersed in the clouds. The driver is driving nonchalant on blind hare pin turns, honking his horn instead of slowing down, and his ticketeer/luggage assistant/whistler is moving around on the side of the bus climbing from place to place.

Now let me explain what exactly does a whistler do. Since the driver doesn’t slow down on these blind turns, we off course came within a foot of colliding with another bus on two separate occasions. Since this patch of dirt vaguely resembling a road is not wide enough for two vehicles to drive by each other, one has to back up to a place where the other can drive past him. Here is where the whistler comes in handy, He whistles and the bus driver knows that he still has room to back up,  if the bus driver keeps backing up when he’s not whistling, well then I wouldn’t be here to tell you about this… Another secondary purpose of the whistle is to inform the driver when someone on the roof needs to get off.  Thus this position is very critical to the success of the bus journey in Nepal.

So anyways after 4 hours of trying to sleep in vain but only getting knocked on the head by people’s belongings and stuff like that, I decided that I have had enough and moved on to the roof to sit with the young and adventurous. As is common (for me so far) in Nepal, after speaking with the only person there who knew a few words of English, He had already invited me to his home on my way back for dinner… Anyways Sitting on the roof is great, you have a panoramic 360 view, natural air conditioning, and I fashioned myself a comfortable beanbag style chair out of a few sacks of clothing that were actually there as luggage.  So I was sitting back enjoying the view, which was fabulous, and generally having a great time. I even managed to drift off into a peaceful sleep, when suddenly I was jolted awake by the kid next to me, and the only thing I could understand was that everyone was getting off the roof and cramming inside the bus like sardines. After 50m we came to a stop at a police check post so I now understood why we got off… A policeman came aboard and looked for god knows what, and we drove for another 200m when the bus stopped and we all promptly climbed back to our spacious seats on the roof.

We continued driving and then it started pouring rain. This was a scene to witness, around 15 of us (me the only foreigner of course) bundled up first under a few umbrellas, then under sheets of plastic, and finally under a large tarp that they managed to dig up from somewhere, but kept us surprisingly dry. All this time we were driving on harrowing roads that I have no idea how we managed to drive thru them in the rain and mud.  We make it in to Dhunce, led in by a sort of coordinated cheer/chant between our rooftop section and the one of a adjacent bus. We were only 15 km away from Syabrubensi, my final destination and where I started the trek from. By all means that is considered a short distance right? Wrong! We had to suffer the obligatory mechanical problem that goes hand in hand with any bus journey here. I don’t know exactly what the problem was, but I think it had to do something with the brakes. which I would deem pretty important for driving on the side of a mountain in the rain and mud….

I don’t really know how they eventually fixed the problem, as I kept dozing off, But I figure it had to do something with the dozens of onlookers and the constant noise of the hammer banging that I kept hearing. We set off along the way slowly and surely. The whistler now had another new element to his vocation, He would get off  and throw people off the bus and make them walk ahead so that the bus would not be so overloaded at critical junctions where it might get stuck. This worked pretty well except for one time where he had to clear half the bus off so that the driver could pull himself out of the mud jam he got himself stuck in. At 6:30 p.m, exactly 12 hours to the minute we had left Kathmandu, We slogged into Sybrubensi, tired, worn out, but glad to finally be able to get a bed and something to eat.

Indeed what a long, strange journey it had been!