It's Saturday morning just past 7am and Kathmandu is busier than ever. We are on a bus driving through Kathmandu on our way to Pokhara. The fruit merchants are all out on their bikes and some set up on the sidewalks, the horns are honking non stop, the burning piles of rubbish adding to the haze of smog are building up, children are playing football at the local park, or playing with the stray dogs on the sides of the street, women are pointlessly sweeping the dust from their store fronts (which we are sure will return in no time), butchers are chopping up the raw meat on the sidewalks in front of their shops (great place to allow the fumes and dust to catch onto the meat), and the locals are all running around a dirt track getting their morning exercise. As the bus stops to fuel up, children come on the bus to try and sell the passengers chips, another man comes on to try and sell newspapers, other men knock on our windows to try and sell us other goods through it. All this at 7:30am on a Saturday- the local day off. Well you never would have guessed it with so much going on!
As we depart the Kathmandu Valley, the smog is beginning to thin out, the mountains are becoming more visible, and I am looking forward to not having to constantly clean black muck from the inside of my nose.
Despite the almost intolerable pollution (to the westerner anyways), Kathmandu is definitely a city I recommend visiting just because it seems like a whole other world. Everywhere we look, there is something to see, something to capture a photo of, something to make your jaw drop, something that seems completely uncivilized to us but is the norm to the locals. No wonder I went through THREE camera batteries in just one day! If you are looking for a culture shock, this is definitely a place to be.
Another bus just overtook our bus when going around a bend. "Is this a one way road?" I ask Perry. The answer is no. Oh boy, we've got a long ride ahead of us! But as we drive on the windy mountains out of the Kathmandu Valley, it's already starting to look like a beautiful ride to Pokhara. Although with the swaying from side to side it feels more like a boat ride on choppy waters rather than a bus ride. I don't know what is louder: the frequent honking of the cars and buses that are overtaking us, or the constant loud screeching of our buses' breaks? The honking is not just a "beep beep" sound either. The horns have a somewhat musical sound which makes it quite comical rather than annoying. Each one is unique as well so they do not all sound the same. Even with the comical horns, this is still one of the scariest rides I have been on, but also one of the most beautiful.
We reach the Gorkha province and drive along the Tishuli River. As exhausted as I am, I don't want to fall asleep (Perry is already there) because there is so much to see. Farmers cultivating land, tons of cafe and fruit shacks on the side of the road, little villages with children running around, some playing a Nepali version of pool and others playing football (right next to the highway which is very narrow) or washing clothes or running across the road itself as buses, cars and motorcycles whizz by, women walking along the highway (some with large baskets on their backs), men carrying logs the Nepalese way (with a rope attached to their heads and taking some of the weight), clothes hanging on rooftops and on barbed wire along the road and basically from anywhere a rope can be tied to, a man running with a cow, rapids on the river with kayakers attempting to ride them, men loading logs onto an inflatable raft, people crossing the river via a suspension bridge, goats and dogs simultaneously roaming around the shacks and homes, a man making dust brooms out of straw, and just the stunning scenery itself is hard to take my eyes off of. I just want to ask the bus driver to stop so I can snap some photos! Don't think the rest of the passengers would be too impressed though. Perry is already unimpressed with me reaching over and snapping a photo every 5 seconds! I should have chosen the window seat! At least he is awake now and can witness this amazing setting.
Suddenly we come to a traffic jam. Bus loads of followers of the Hindu religion are being dropped off. There is a cable car that takes passengers up to the top of a mountain to a Hindu temple. This is a pilgrimage for them. As we wait for a cop to direct our bus, some men knock on the windows of the buses, including ours, in an attempt to sell us cucumbers and papadom style crisp bread. Very tempting but we have already eaten.
This area marks the halfway point on our journey from Kathmandu to Pokhara.
I find it difficult to resist turning my camera off and putting it away. We pass plenty of rice and wheat fields that look very beautiful with the mountains in the background. I see a bus ahead with passengers on TOP of it! I quickly stumble to the back of the bus to snap a photo from the window. There are four young Tibetan monks sitting back there. One is wearing a Chicago Bulls hat, one is wearing red Vans, one has a dog on his lap, another has his headphones on, and they all seem to have smartphones. They are about 18-20 years old. One starts a conversation with me and asks me where I am from. I tell him Canada and he get his phone out and shows me photos of the monastery they live in which also houses a guest house. It is in Pokhara. Then he shows me a photo of him in his Canada shirt that a volunteer brought him. He seems very excited to show me this.
We see a lot of straw huts in the area which seem to provide a shelter for the cows, goats and other animals. The scent of campfire fills the bus as locals burn compost. We pass along the Madi river which flows from the Annapurna mountain. Women and children are bathing themselves and washing their clothes and hair in the water. We soon stop for lunch. All the restaurans have signs that say "highway restaurant" and there are plenty of them. It begins to lightly rain but it feels almost tropical as it is quite warm. Over lunch, we find out that our trekking guide, Bijay, is into football. Perry and him will get along just great!
Following lunch, we continue our journey to Pokhara with about an hour and fifteen minutes to go. We continue passing through many wheat fields with lots of men and women working, and even cows ploughing the fields. One of the men operating the cow plough whips the cows with a stick. Poor cows. We feel as if we have gone back in time. As we pass by the children that are playing along the highway, they wave at the bus. Perry waves back.
This whole journey has felt like we have been watching a film. Our window is the screen and it has captivated our attention. We cannot take our eyes off the screen. It is not a film though, it is 100% real and we feel so lucky that we are here experiencing it. We wish we could bring everyone we know along with us to experience this. If you do get the chance, one thing is for sure, and the nearly 300 photos I have just captured on this one bus journey alone will agree, this is one bus journey you definitely do NOT want to fall asleep on!
We have now reached Pokhara in a lovely guest house that is 1,000 times better than the one in Kathmandu...and the best part: the tap water comes out clean, not brown!
Unfortunately it has started raining quite heavily but we are hoping it stops soon so that we can go explore the lakeside. If not, then this may be an evening to upload the photos from our trip thus far and just have a relaxing evening before we set off for our trek tomorrow! We still cannot believe the bus journey we went on today. Perry says his neck hurts because he just couldn't take his eyes off of the window. It seems like it was all a dream. Completely surreal! This trip is just getting started and we can't wait for more experiences like this!