Please, don’t get too excited by the title of this post. I know, Nepali buses, thrilling stuff. Try to control yourselves.
I’ve been trying to write a different post for about three weeks now and it is just not working so I thought I’d talk about something a little bit different. And I chose buses in Nepal. Only really makes sense to me to be honest.
Two things need to be made clear at the beginning so that you can fully understand how I feel about buses in Nepal. Number one is that the first long distance bus I travelled on in this beautiful country (approx. 8 hours, Kathmandu to Chitwan) I was extremely hungover. Having gone out the night before to enjoy my last evening in the capital, I drank far too much tequila (Tequila Sunrises, tequila shots, a tequila blend drink called Yak Attack), I was feeling more than a bit fragile. The second is this: I hate heights.
If you are thinking of heading to Nepal and are planning on doing a bit of inter-city travelling while there, keep this in mind. In a country made of mountains there are terrifying drops everywhere.
The Man in Seat 61 tells me there is one train in Nepal, a small line that leads to India. Other than that there are no trains. It just isn’t possible; there are too many mountains. The roads are small and windy – again, it’s in the middle of the Himalayas. I would also recommend to anyone thinking of driving through Nepal to already be a very confident driver in what are frankly chaotic driving conditions.
These are not critiques of Nepal, just facts (the driving is crazy, that is the truth). While I do prefer to travel by train, there is something quite amazing about the inability to have a railway system because a mountain is in the way. And I love the craziness of the driving, here and in other countries I’ve visited where it’s a mad game, but I don’t think I would be brave enough to drive in Nepal, especially with those sheer drops I mentioned earlier.
So, I need to get from Kathmandu to Chitwan. I have limited options. The bus it is.
Now, imagine being severely ill (read: hanging) and terrified of heights, travelling in a bus and there is a sheer drop down your right hand side. You’re on the left hand side of the road so you’re coping just fine even if you are a bit groggy. There is an oil tanker ahead of you painted a lovely bright colour as all lorries are in Nepal. This is still good. Then your bus driver decides to overtake the oil tanker. On a blind corner. Remember that sheer drop on your right? It’s suddenly a lot closer. And then there’s a car coming the other way.
Of all the things I remember about travelling by bus in Nepal, this is one of two moments that stands out. The confidence with which everyone drives usually reassures me, but in this instant I was not happy. I can’t really remember what happened next apart from the bus driver emergency stopping and me closing my eyes. In my defence I usually don’t get scared that easily, but I really, really hate heights, and I thought we were about to plunge off the side of a mountain. I can’t say it was my favourite part of my trip.
However, this experience didn’t put me off travelling by bus in Nepal, partly because there is no other way to travel from city to city, and I still had to go to Pokhara before heading back to Kathmandu (lovely long journeys there too).
I said before that I best remember two things about travelling by bus in Nepal. The first was my near-death experience (while that is written sarcastically it didn’t make it any less scary at the time). The second is also the main reason I wasn’t put off travelling by bus in Nepal despite almost falling off a mountain. Quite simply, Nepal is absolutely stunning. I have never seen views that even come close to rivalling those I saw in Nepal. As you sit on the bus, travelling through the tallest mountain range in the world, it doesn’t matter that the driving is erratic. It is so peaceful to sit and watch the beauty unfold. The views are awe-inspiring, even when hungover having been defeated by that most evil of all liquors.
I loved Nepal and am desperate to go back. I loved the people and trying to navigate the traffic. I have some great memories, and I would like to try Yak Attack again (though not the day before a 8 hour drive). But what I really need to return to see are those views again. It was breath taking.