Kathmandu, March, 2018: The Prithivi highway for $7 or fly for $87, That’s the choice once faces when travelling to and from Pokhara. I chose the tourist bus for $7, a decision I came to regret. Here’s how the story unfolds….
7 am at the tourist bus park in Pokhara and the place is a frenzy of activity. It’s the height of the spring tourist season as trekkers and natives head back to Kathmandu. Despite this, our bus isn’t full, well not yet anyway. So, subject to pickups on route I could be in for a row to myself which is a great bonus on a long journey like this one I’m about to embark upon – 8 to 9 hours!
It’s a journey not for the faint of heart that’s for sure I’ve done this several times and just close my eyes, but first timers may arrive at their destination feeling somewhat thankful to have survived! The road is narrow compared to developed nations like Switzerland and Austria. The surface at best rather bumpy, at worst it’s simply nonexistent as blacktop is replaced by dirt top. Driving standards are dubious to say the least – risky manoeuvres are the norm around here such as overtaking on corners with just an inch or 2 between vehicles. On the positive side, theses drivers are skilled at getting their passengers at least to the first meal stop – breakfast.
Holdups, not uncommon on the Prithivi Highway, but so early in the journey doesn’t bode well. Just after the breakfast stop and it all grinds to a halt. An excellent opportunity for susu, a photo of the hills and another stretch of the legs. And then that sinking feeling when one realises the bus has departed. Yes, without any warning the bus has left the scene minus 2 of its passengers. Oh dear, this isn’t a good situation to be in, with passport and money still on the bus doubtful I’ll ever see them again…..
Oh what luck! by the grace of god the other passenger had a phone number for the bus driver. My angst slowly turned to relief as we jogged along the highway, and sure enough there was the bus after a few minutes, waiting patiently for its 2 idiotic passengers! The relief of being reunited with my belongings is somewhat indescribable. The possibility of being without a passport sends shudders to my core – police reports, missed flight, embassy visits not to mention the cost of it all. I’ve no doubt had this been India or Cambodia my situation now would be very different.
So, settled back on the bus, nerves settled lets hope the journey to Kathmandu continues without further incident….
Well, to cut a long story short as the saying go’s….
the rest of the journey was stop start all the way to Kathmandu. A journey that originally took 7-8 hours in 2014 now takes 10-11 hours. Its just the shear amount of goods vehicles that travel less than 20 mph causing holdups and bunching. There’s bugs on this bus to – biting bugs, damn it!
And i’m just going to gloss over Kathmandu – not my favourite city and I picked a pretty bad guesthouse too. Noisy till 2 AM with drunk Nepalis and then the bed bugs came out. they’r light brown, about 1 1/2 millimeter long and run fast. they bite with ferocity but can easily be squashed if caught in time. Yes, its fair to say i didn’t get the best nights sleep. Nevermind, Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.
Always keep your passport with you when in transit, and secure when not. Its a good idea to take a few images of your visa, and passports front pages too.