It was all of just five days….
It wasn’t supposed to have been an adventure; it was supposed to have been a normal, average trip in Nepal. But then… when’s a road trip into the Nepalese countryside anything but?!
In those five days, I had taken two different buses, three different jeeps and a car, while covering no more than 600 km but spending about 25 hours on the road! I had the atrocious conditions of the roads in the countryside, the kind of public transportation vehicles that ply these roads, the terrain and the driving to thank for the adventure! Who doesn’t like an adventure?!
The early morning of Saturday, January 18, I left Kathmandu in a “Tourist Bus” to swap the chaos and madness of this city for the tranquility and peace of Pokhara and to pay a visit to Bishnu and her family living outside Baglung.
After sharing Bishnu’s story on a blog post back in October, COMMITTED has been able to keep her and her siblings in school through the generosities of a number of people. However, since the funds run out in April, I wanted to see how the family was faring to decide how best to continue assisting them.
The bus ride to Pokhara was as uneventful as was the weather atrocious. Mind you, I am not complaining one bit about the uneventfulness of the trip–that’s the best kind of ride on that highway! My only worry was the bridge past Mugling, which according to the last report I had read, was on its way to collapse. When we reached there, I noticed they were working on it! While the bus took me to beautiful Pokhara, the weather transported me to good ol’ England! It was cold, grey and drizzly!
The following morning was the second bus ride. While the weather was still nothing to really talk about, the way the bus trip began was. At Baglung bus stop (in Pokhara), I discovered that there was a “mini” bus leaving within fifteen minutes. No sooner had about fifteen minutes passed since buying my ticket, it showed up and off we went!
Having taken enough of bus rides in, and among the stunning hills and mountains surrounding Pokhara and elsewhere in Nepal, I went promptly to sleep instead of taking in the scenery. Besides, it was English weather anyway!
I didn’t even feel it when the mishap occurred! It was only after I had gotten off the bus following a fellow passenger waking me up telling me to do so that I learned what had happened. It had a flat tyre! Very luckily for all of us, the driver had managed to keep control!
What should have been a three-hour ride on the 70-km or so road–to begin with–ended up lasting four and a half hours or so!!!
The next vehicle–from Baglung to Bishnu’s village–was an old Indian jeep. Along with a horde of other passengers, Bishnu, who had come to pick me up, and I jam packed into the jeep at three in the afternoon for the hour-and-a-half long ride. Reaching Bishnu’s house the sun had long set, and we had done so walking downhill on a narrow and windy and tricky footpath using our mobile phones as flashlights from where the jeep had dropped us off!
What happened was the jeep got stuck on the road! The problem had been the road, which wasn’t much of a road but that’s what the Nepalese bureaucrats build in the countryside, with left-over funds–after all the “commissions” are paid/extracted–from the budget earmarked for such infrastructure developments. It had taken about two hours to get it moving again.
(I recently heard that the real funds spent on a fixing a small section of the road from Melamchi going up north, towards Thangpalkot and beyond, was just a measly Rs. 6,00,000 (about US$6000), from the allocated total budget of Rs. 60,00,000 (US$60,000). The rest–a whopping 90% of the funds–they say went into the pockets of different people.)
What’s more, getting out of the jeep when it stalled at an awkward angle on the road, we noticed it had come pretty close to the edge! Bishnu, sitting next to a window, had observed everything that had happened, which had given the poor girl a bit of a fright!
Monday morning, I bade the family farewell and followed Bishnu’s nimble brother Laxman, in his flipflops, down the hillside to catch the second jeep for my trip back to Baglung. Apart from my skinny ass suffering from repeatedly bouncing over the wooden plank that served for a seat in back of the jeep, there was nothing eventful about neither the trip to Baglung, nor the following trip, in another jeep, to Pokhara…except for a cat…which crossed the road right in front of the jeep!
I didn’t think anything of it, and wouldn’t have, had the driver not stopped the vehicle on the side of the road and waited. It took a while for me to realise what was going on: he was waiting for another vehicle to go past! Given the recent spat of bad luck I had had, I didn’t argue with him!
Maybe, somehow, that’s what brought me the series of good luck that I did have upon my arrival to Pokhara! It started with my running into a good buddy of mine who had driven from Kathmandu with a guest. That good luck meant that I would have a much comfortable ride back to Kathmandu–in his car!
Wednesday morning at breakfast, talking about ourselves, I shared my reason for the trip to Pokhara and Bishnu’s story etc. with my buddy and his guest. At the end of the journey, when my buddy dropped me off outside my gate, coming after me and placing an American hundred-dollar bill in my hand, the lady says,”This is for Bishnu and her family.”
I guess “All’s well that ends well!”