Shuttle: Shivalaya to Kathmandu
November 15, 2018
Distance: 137 miles
Accommodation: Thamel Hostel
I arrived at the bus early this morning to get a front seat. I boarded and sat down, but the driver aggressively ushered me to the back. Little did I know that my seat was assigned on my ticket. Wish I'd known to request a front seat when my host got my ticket yesterday, but I'm guessing the more comfortable seats are reserved for local riders. As we set out all I could do was hope I wouldn't puke on the long, bumpy, winding, gnarly drive.
I was anticipating a downright miserable ride, but I noticed advantages before we even pulled away. I had far more leg room, for example, than I'd had in the jeep last month. But then, there were naturally disadvantages too. I had to ride with my pack in my lap, and before long the bus was filled to capacity. There were only about a half dozen of us to start, and there was no one in the seat next to me, though I was sure that wouldn't last long. It didn't. Within the first few stops, maybe fifteen minutes, the bus was packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder in the aisle. It was a scene. Then about an hour and a half later, a bunch of folks emptied out, but there were still a handful of folks standing in the aisle. People hopped on and off throughout the day, but the bus was generally more crowded than not.
Within minutes of pulling away this morning, I'd had my fill. I knew I was in for a rough day. I was so grateful to have a seat, and the Dramamine knocked me out for a few hours here and there. The worst part was the first few hours. After that, I did ok. Being in the back, I could feel every bump and stone. It was a rough ride, indeed. A few times my head hit the overhead compartment above me. The driver seemed to be racing down the winding, broken road. Part of me was hopeful that might mean we'd get back sooner. Another part of me cautioned against such far-fetched hope.
I was the only white person on the bus - another opportunity to experience being different. All of those opportunities for growth and empathy have come far from the well-trodden paths of the Three Passes and EBC treks. One of the great advantages of travel, but it can only happen where we take risks and embrace discomfort.
About four hours into the ride, we got a flat tire. Fortunately we were going through a town, so it was a relatively quick fix. Took about forty-five minutes to pop it off, patch it up, and pop it back on. I was surprised they let riders stay on the bus while they jacked it up. But that seems to be Nepal: quick and dirty fixes. Anyways I was grateful for the chance to get off the bus. Picked up some snacks and hit the bathroom. When we stopped for lunch a little later near Mudhe, we'd been traveling for over six hours and only covered about 46 miles according to the mileage on my map app. That was a demoralizing realization.
We hit reasonably well-paved roads after about nine hours of miserable driving. The ride was still bumpy but not nearly as bad as it had been. Finally arrived in Kathmandu after twelve and a half hours. They didn't drop me at the expected location, but that's Nepal for ya. The driver ushered us all of the bus, taking my pack from me and leading the way when I tried to ask where we were. I pulled open my map app and found that I still had four and a half miles to walk to my hostel. I'd expected to be within a couple miles. What a day. But I'm here now, and I've earned a good rest.