Chitwan – Kathmandu – 3 May 2017

Eva Sifis

Reached the bus that would leave at 7.30am this morn and as they loaded our bags in the back I bought a little book of paper made from Elephant Dung from a vendor next to the bus. I guess the past week of lovely lodgings left me feeling magnanimous and free. It’s remarkable how healing a resort can be to a battered soul.
I’ll say it here, i may have achieved little actual trekking but there is so much more to Nepal. And even if I haven’t taxed myself on high altitude tracks, I have taxed mySelf completely in demanding challenges of mind, body, values and expectations. There are facets to each journey that are unpredictable and cause deep reflection. I am returning to Oz from a changed place within.
The bus transferred to a completely unsealed and deeply rutted highway when just out of Chitwan city limits. At times jostling whichever other vehicles were at the same point for the part of road that is usable, my dream of laying back and closing my eyes died a quick death. Aint no resting happening here!
Quite evidently a country perpetually under construction, we had begun our journey on the busiest highway in Nepal. The East-West Highway, cannot close for work to happen so the widening of the road has to be carried out around the unceasing traffic.
As we juddered along, my eyes strayed to the water flowing in the gutter beside the road, it was as clear as crystal. A little further on, I smiled to see rivulets running from springs deep within the rock face. A special and alien sight.
Mum, sitting on the opposite side described to me a man
riding his boat like a scooter in the shallow river below highway.
I salute the drivers in this country for negotiating the many obstacles in their path and most particularly the many many bus drivers. Being the main form of public transport, there are undoubtably innumerable souls to be responsible for. The driver was desperate to clear the rough part of highway as it was only open for 2 hrs for one side to have right of way, after which it became open to other side.
Standing waiting in line at one of the few stops for the public loos, I was shocked to have an older Indian lady and her adult daughter (kinda like mum and I) waltz past and take control of the door mum was using. I arked up. The daughter cooly looked down her nose at me while her mother smiled kindly. The door beside opened and I slipped inside before they got their licensed wits together. Stuff that. Bladders dont wait for racial superiority.
Or so I thought. When I described the situation to Mahesh some hours later he told me people here don’t wait in line because there is literally no concept of order. It’s a paradigm shift the entire culture is presently going through that is evident in the surprise people are feeling at having slips issued to them at the chemist’s to wait their turn. That is how new it is. Freaky huh?

I can see clear slips of rock in the wall beside the road and piled shards at the base where the face has land slid.
Can not type as bus is jumping about like a side show! Thank god we are on a 5* tourist bus and not a local one with windows open to the dust storm outside. I would not be able to cope. This makes it do-able.

Evidently no trade unions here as all the young and old guys building the road have no masks, helmets or safety wear and are wearing thongs whilst doing hard yakka. Inconceivable!
Can i just say a good suspension system is absolutely vital on this bus because this is some thermomix!
There are giant machines drilling holes in a percussive manner like some mad dentist in the rockface.
We keep passing and being passed in turn by the same trucks.
2.5 hours later we are through the construction zone and on to regular asphalt. That was some joyride.
I promptly pass out for some minutes.

Following are a collection of observations.

-Wending, winding and snaking up and down tall hillsides. This is slow, breathtaking work.
-Sided flat bed trucks, open to the sky, flying flags and blaring tunes, filled with boys and men on the political propaganda/promotion trail
-Small shacks/houses verily hanging on to the hillside by their nails on the far bank of the river
-Buildings half built or crumbling in disrepair. At times is hard to know the difference
-Another political convoy blocking up the road with a white ute truck in front and many many motorcycles following behind – rider and pillion passenger on each bike. All men and boys.
-Undulating centipede of trucks and buses ahead. We make one abdominal section, bumping over ruts and potholes slowly
-On the facing hillside red dirt almost as Australia’s heart and bright almost fluorescent green tree tops
-Passing thru another small town the streets are thronged with men and beneath the tibetan prayer flags fluttering from the rooftops are flags of red and white, the shiny red motorcycles glinting in the sunlight. On the road leading away from the town I see more motorbikes, this time there is the odd girlfriend riding pillion and cars tooting their horns
-For some reason Dirty Dancing’s ‘I had the time of my life’ is playing on repeat through my mind from about 11am
-Big old truck with the somewhat ominous moniker of Titanic written above the drivers door
-Local bus painted a rainbow of colours. Photo is taken from the back seat of the bus out the windscreen
-Truck coming on the inside curve within mere cms of steep guttering verge
-Long minutes stuck behind laden trucks inching along til a small gap is garnered, whereupon our bus sneaks past on the inside
-Came over the last hill and suddenly ‘Dustmandu’ was there/here. A staccato chorus of coughs immediately echoed thru the bus. I’m not sure it was intentional or necessary as it could well have been a subliminal trigger.
-Rocked into town as we had rocked out with one last heave back onto sealed asphalt.
-Strange to see pictures of their sports stars, cricketers I think, arranged like husky footballers on a cloth sided truck (only they’re not husky)
-Small vans smaller than a Tarago, packed with people as a style of local bus
-Cows scratching their heads on concrete plinths in the middle separating the sides of the main road

And now, back in Thamel after an 8 hour bus ride, we sit in the courtyard of the Kathmandu Guest House, a true oasis removed from the madness on the streets outside. As we stayed in a KGH hotel whilst in Lumbini, I am very glad to have made the decision to stay here for our last three nights. Western style luxury feels like balm to my bone-tired soul.
Hospital tomorrow morning to get my noggin checked out.