Thoughts on transportation in Nepal

Public transportation is the best way to meet people. It’s also the near equivalent of putting a revolver in your mouth with all chambers loaded and playing Russian roulette; I am not dead.

On my last bus trip to Kathmandu, I saw one head-on collision, two buses that had fallen off the side of the road (which is a cliff), one collapsed bridges, and one massive landslide. I am so impressed with myself for simply seeing things, I can only hope someone will punch me in the face.

Granted, this day was obviously a chancy day to be participating in public transportation, but this isn’t Peace Corps/Germany and there’s no Deutche Bahn. The closest thing is a Makalu bus.

You’ll recognize the Makalu office in Birganj because outside of it is a small, punchy man without shoes, wearing short raggedy pants, and chanting endlessly, Makalu, Makalu, Makalu, Makalu, Makalu, Makalu, Makalu, hey! Hey! Makalu, Makalu, Makalu . . .

Avoid the local bus unless your travel plans include meeting as many people as possible.

Avoid the local bus unless your travel plans include meeting as many people as possible.

He’s there every morning, hopefully earning something of a wage for his necessary function in these difficult economic times in Nepal.

Makalu is also known for having bus drivers who have come to terms with their lives and who are willing to die. Makalu drivers should all believe in reincarnation, and those drivers should also believe that being a bus driver will earn them mounds of karma, for no Makalu driver has ever decided for any reason not to pass a slow moving truck or bus, nor does a Makalu driver exhibit two staple human characteristics: fear and caution.

Wherever I go, I travel Makalu Yatayat.

You may ask, Why do you take the Makalu? The drivers are edgy and the salesmen are insane. Why don’t you take the Greyhound? Well, my friends, Greyhound has closed their Birganj branch offices. And I imagine that in this whole Peace Corps business I’ve earned some karma.

When I was coming back from Kathmandu this past Monday I decided to stop over for a night in Narayanghat. I could take the next morning’s early bus back to Birganj and be back in the inferno well before my first class. I also needed to see my tailor about some pants. I needed pants.

I got into Narayanghat and had lunch at one of the old haunts: the Rhino Hotel. This is the place I spent nights before moving in with the host family. We go way back. It was still early morning when I finally made it to the tailor’s. His name is Sagar and he’s a character.

He was educated at an English medium school in India. His English is great, and I love talking to him because he’ll say the strangest things. When I was there, he had a ready-made shirt that read Hellowi. Figure that out.

One time I was asking him about his school and he told me what a bad student he was, he told me, At night, we would go to the graveyard. Me and my friends. And there we would go to fag. Always we were at the graveyard to go to fag.

Naughty indeed.

I stopped by later again that evening on my way to the store to get Nescafé. I was desperate. Anyhow, Sagar is renovating his place so I stopped to check on things and chat with him for a while. Some how Sagar asked me when I was returning to Birganj and I said the following morning.

Oh, saathi, that is no good. Tomorrow is Maobadi bandha. You must not go. So very danger, he said, looking quite concerned.

I didn’t quite understand, but Sagar explained to me that the Chitwan district was having a bandha all for itself. I hadn’t heard about while I was in Kathmandu. Suddenly I was spending another night in Narayanghat.

What’s really funny is that Shana and Matt didn’t know about the bandha either, and they live in Narayanghat (pretty much). So we all stayed in the next day.

Shana made raisin pancakes, and I ate them. I took a walk up along the Narayani River. Things are cooling off enough in the Terai to make early afternoon walks bearable.

But the lazy days had to come to end and with the next day arrived safe transportation and an early bus back to Birganj. I knew the Makalu wouldn’t have a scheduled bus until 11:30 a.m. to Birganj (it was coming from Kathmandu), so I needed to take something earlier. I found a bus just nearby Pulchowk in downtown Narayanghat.

I got a good seat towards the front, which means that I would get ample breeze in case the day was going to be excessively hot. The one thing I did forget to do was check to see who I was sitting in front.

Even though the road to Birganj from Narayanghat is as straight as a ruler, people here seem to be able to get voraciously sick. Especially, in my observations, women.

So about an hour out of Birganj the nice lady in front of me began producing what seemed like an endless supply of vomit. I didn’t get any of the splatter on me, but the vomiting did cause the windows to be closed, creating a stuffy environment. Plus, it’s no fun to look out the window when streams of puke are whisking by, splashing along the sides.

My advice? Go Greyhound.