Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 19: Pokhara to Kathmandu

What a day of contrasts. A slow start while we waited for our Rainbow tourist bus was proceeded by a frantic rush to the correct bike stop to load bikes on the roof before it left without us.

Then, defying our expectations of a 2PM arrival time, we were subjected to traffic congestion from hell coupled with the best spine jarring ride that Nepal’s decrepit roads could muster.

Ollie smiling after failing the bottle drink on bumpy bus challenge
At almost 12 hours long for a 200km journey, we are confident we could have ridden our bikes faster (and probably in more comfort) although heat may have been an issue as we were sweltering inside the bus. Boredom was the word of the day, and not even a book I’d picked up from our hotel could keep the itch to jump up and do something at bay.

Roof mounted goat heading for Pokhara
View from the bus in an epic queue
When what seemed like an eternity of start-stop driving had passed and we had crested the final hill into Kathmandu at the pace of a one legged Cheetah we decided to cut our losses and mount bikes for the ride into town.
Bumper to bumper congestion stretching across a distant hill
Immediately our boredom switched to excitement as we readied packs and lights for a daring assault on the bus roof. If stationary this wouldn’t have been a problem, but with the bus still crawling Michi clambered onto the roof, throwing down bikes and bags in the smoggy haze.

With only our fading headlamps for illumination it was a thrilling ride into Thamel, arguably the most nerve racking of the trip. Our senses were flooded with smells, smog, honking and the jarring road but not the sight that would have made the journey less of a hazard.

We dodged speeding buses swerving on the wrong side of the road, and throngs of pedestrians who jumped clear as we burst from the night. Safe to say pulses were racing and hearts were in our mouths.

With luck and some navigational kill on Michi’s part we chanced upon our hotel, relieved beyond belief that we’d made it through the dangerous but thrilling experience of a Kathmandu rush-hour night ride.

It took more than a few lemon teas to settle our nerves but looking back I’m proud of how we handled to situation. Plus, if we hadn’t bailed on the bus we’d probably be still sitting in the traffic queue outside Kathmandu.

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