The Road to Pokhara

The alarm was horrifyingly set for 5:45am and while I fell asleep quickly, it was a very disjointed sleep with dreams blurring with reality, including a man outside yelling, I’m hoping at the loud music which was still going at 2:30am.

We were picked up at 6:30am to be taken to the bus departing for Pokhara at 7am. As five of us followed our driver with all our bags, we stopped short at seeing a tiny car. I know the Nepali are small, but there was no way we were fitting in that car with our luggage.

He must have seen our faces, because he laughed and explained the car was just for our bags, we would be walking to the bus, following him in his car.

This was fine until we hit a major road and we were having to track our driver while navigating four times the density of cars and motorbikes than the smaller streets.

Fortunately, we only had this for a short period before turning onto a street to see a number of buses and at the first bus we walked past, someone holding tickets asked “Pokhara?”

Our driver did not stop however and we continued walking. As far as the eye could see, there was a line of buses. How many buses could possibly be going to Pokhara?

It turns out, hundreds or at least travelling the same route. After leaving Kathmandu, we started descending a mountain. I was sitting on the left hand side of the bus and being that they drive on the left, for some reason, I figured I would be close to the mountain inside edge and therefore wouldn’t have to look down and see how close we were to the edge of the valley below.

Wrong conclusion. For the first part of the journey, I was looking straight down to the valley below that appeared to be only 20cm from the edge of the bus!

As we were winding around, I could also see a line of buses, trucks and cars ahead of us and beside us, as well as motorbikes weaving in between the lot. Imagine every single bus in Australia in a line down a mountain and this will help give a visual of the trip ahead. I could see this line all the way to the bottom.

There would be periods where we sat at the side of the mountain for so long, the driver would turn the bus off. This was obviously normal because street vendors were set up at regular points and young children would walk along the side of the buses holding up drinks or bags of food to sell to the passengers.

Even when we started slowly moving, you would suddenly see another vehicle make the bold decision to overtake us on a windy, mountain road with barely enough room for two vehicles.

I realised when I could no longer feel my fingers from clutching the seat in front of me so hard, I needed a distraction, so chatted a bit with friends and family at home. Thank goodness for internet access.

After 3hrs and probably not going more than 5kms from the start of the mountain descent, we stopped for a 5min toilet break (the first squat toilet I’d encountered) before another stop 90mins later for lunch.

For approx $2, I was able to have a plate of vegetable curries and rice. There was a frenzied energy in the entire roadstop and for good reason. Our alloted 30min break turned into 20min when the driver started tooting his horn to get back on the bus.

Toilet stop
Lunch stop

What is sad, especially when thinking of the Himalayas is the level of smoke haze that blankets everything. If people remember what it was like following the 2019/20 bushfires, this will give you an understanding of what it is like. I feel worried that I may never see the Himalayan mountain range through the haze.

From this point, we were able to pick up speed and the driver took this literally, speeding around the windy road, tooting wildly if he came around a bend and there was a vehicle facing us to overtake a vehicle on their side of the road.

Everything and everyone was bouncing around wildly as we drove at speed on roads that were currently dirt and rocky piles while roadworks were being done. I’m pretty sure my watch thought I’d walked 5,000 steps while on the bus.

A bottle of water rolled at my feet and the woman sitting next to me looked at me and asked if it was her water. When I tentatively replied “possibly?” as bottles were flying everywhere, she asked me if she could have it back and looked at me like I’d stolen it!

The further we went, the more tropical the landscape became, with ferns and banana trees. But everything was covered in thick dust.

We stopped again at 3pm. At this point, we’d been travelling for 8hrs. You can imagine my horror then to discover we had only gone 140kms and still had 60kms to go!

Dan, one of the other volunteers equated it to a Mad Max movie and honestly, he wasn’t wrong! So much of the road had been straight out of Mad Max Thunderdome.

But amazingly, in amongst all that dust and desolating landscape, this amazing butterfly perched right in front of me.

It was the reminder I needed of how I came to be on the bus in the first place and that Bree was with me always.

At one point, rice fields provided the first bit of genuine colour in hours, but it was very short-lived.

After 10 and a half hours to travel 200kms, we finally arrived at Pokhara, covered in dust from head to toe. Our bags looked even worse when they were pulled out from the luggage compartment.

After not knowing where we were supposed to be getting off the bus or who was meeting us, it was with relief after such a long trip that there was only one stop and our homestay host Krishna, was waiting for us, holding a sign with our names.

As we navigated the streets to the home, I wondered how on earth we would find our way to and from the school each day.

But then, it didn’t matter because we had arrived and were warmly greeted by family members and other volunteers.

It was a blur of names and people, with Krishna’s family of seven and three volunteers. Given how bad I am with names, I need name tags!

Over toast and chai tea, Krishna welcomed us to his family, explaining we were now part of his family and this was our home. Krishna has been hosting volunteers for 23 years.

We still had dinner to come, so I went to my room – the penthouse – to wash off the day.

Dinner was a delight of vegetable curries and pickles with a spicy chutney. I need to learn how to eat with my hands though.

Following dinner, a tradition of the homestay is a D&D show – drink and dance for when new people arrive, leave or because it’s Friday.

We were all up dancing with everyone choosing a song with dance moves. I chose the Nutbush by Tina Turner and discovered no one knew that song, which helped me win best dancer of the night for teaching everyone a new song!

Although the heart was pumping, I knew I was fading and needed sleep. It will be nice to be settled in one place for a little and experience Nepali home life.

Much love x

4 thoughts on “The Road to Pokhara

  1. Thank you so much Karen for sharing your experiences with us. Your trip to Pokhara sounds so much like the trip Kelly and I made 10 years ago. It was frightening but also exhilarating and I feel so honoured that you have Kelly with you in Nepal again on this trip. Enjoy your stay in this amazing and spiritual country. Love and hugs to you.xx

    1. I have loved how amazing Nepal is and have learned to just turn a blind eye to all the frightening parts! ūüėÜ

  2. Highly emotive and beautifully written Karen . Thank you for sharing and such a beautiful reminder that our angels are always around us .. ūü¶č x

    1. Your welcome Mena. I think it was also a nice reminder that there is always beauty around us if we take the time to look. xx

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