It’s said that when faced with death your life flashes before you.
You grab your camera and start shooting like crazy. Oh alright I didn’t think I was actually going to die, but reading the local newspapers a few days ago, the incidence of sailing over the edge and disappearing into the chasm below is higher than I thought.
Shortly after 7am the bus started it’s engine and we began our journey to Pokhara. When purchasing the ticket I was told 6 or 7 hours depending on landslides. It is monsoon after all. However it could take 5 hours if the roads are good and there’s no traffic.
Heading out of Kathmandu I realised it was looking more like 7 hours as 10mins into our journey we came to a grinding halt in rush hour traffic.
It’s called Kathmandu Valley for a reason and to escape you have to climb the high mountains that surround it. Chuck in monsoon and a very misty morning I soon realised this was going to be a white knuckle ride.
Navigating these hairpin bends is one thing, but with the lack of visibility due to the mist these drivers must possess some sort of sentience or are just utter lunatics.
It was at this point I regretted not shelling out the extra for a luxury tourist bus, as I began doubting the vehicle I was travelling in’s ability to successfully deposit us in Pokhara.
I was relegated to the back seat with the rest of the Westerners, like naughty children on a school bus, so every bump and pothole was felt with maximum force. And just for added fun the bus came equipped with individual roof mounted fans. Now I’m quite tall and every jolt meant being attacked from above by aforementioned fan.
But hey, it’s all an adventure, right?
I happened to be on the right side of the bus and was rewarded with some of the most breath-taking scenery I’ve seen.
Lush green mountains, the raging Seti river, settlements precariously perched on steep slopes, terraced rice paddies, locals using water buffalo to pull ploughs.
We passed through a number of roadside villages with colourful markets and it was fascinating to witness the more rural day to day life of Nepal.
Two stops were made. One shortly after the escape from Kathmandu for breakfast, which was more of a “have a cup of tea to calm the nerves” stop.
The second slightly longer for lunch at a roadside restaurant.
Feeling peckish and less frazzled I joined the queue for food. 35p later I had a plate of warm spicy comforting food in front of me and thought to myself “if the journey doesn’t kill me, this food might”. (I suffered no ill effects from the food, surprisingly)
The final leg of the journey was a little more relaxed. It appeared we were no longer on the major transport route and the mental truck drivers had all but disappeared. The potholes had grown larger and there were times I feared the entire bus would be swallowed up.
Into hour 8 it started to feel like an endurance test and you could tell fellow passengers were praying for the journey to be over.
Disembarking at Pokhara Tourist Bus Station you are instantly mobbed by animated taxi drivers all promising cheap fares, trying to grab your bags to carry them off to their vehicles.
Similar situation when arriving at KTM airport so not a total surprise. My guest house was kind enough to collect me and after a couple of minutes I located the sign and was on my way to my new home in Pokhara, in one piece but shaken bashed and utterly exhausted.
You know what the best part of all of this is … I get to do it all again on the way back.