The morning of our ride another holy man managed to splotch yet another bindi on my forehead and with this blessing and the conspicuous prayers of some of the passengers aboard I was confident we would arrive in one piece as the busses engine spluttered then roared to life. And with the brightly coloured tassels adorning the bus with upbeat Nepali dance music pumping the whole way any end we met couldn't have been too grizzly anyway haha.
I had seen enough of the highways linking the mountainous landscape of Nepal by this stage, to know to expect an adventure on our nine hour bus ride to our next trek but this one even exceeded my expectations. Nepali highways are thin and often with sheer drops of 100 meters or more on one side but masters of geometry Nepali bus drivers tend to be casual about the whole affair weaving between minute gaps and using horns to say hello rather than to avoid collisions. There are accidents though and we saw many wrecks, flattened busses and cars halfway down mountains which added the adrenaline and reality of the situation as did the occasional rough road crossing over rocky waterfalls that had washed parts of the roads away.
We were lucky on the trip as we had booked ahead and as foreigners had seats. Many locals boarded and departed along the trip and the bus was constantly crammed beyond capacity with standing passengers with another ten or so riding among luggage and market produce for the mountain villages on the busses roof. Among the market cargo were also several trays of live baby chicks, their chirping adding to the ambience of the scenario. A few hours into the ride the rope securing these trays came loose under the constants swaying of the bus allowing for the escape of random chicks along the ride popping up under peoples chairs from time to time. Adding to the livestock at some stage along the journey someone had boarded with a goat which now sat nervously under my legs. The poor w*** had good reason too as I saw him led off to a man sharpening a large bush knife by a chopping block when getting of in a village later in the trip.
I hope I have built a good picture of the chaos of this ride so far but it was far from over. Midway through our trip it was clear that the bus was overloaded but people continued to board as is the need in the area and as more and more mothers boarded with young children it was clear we tourists should free up some space. So the girls became babysitters for the drive nursing and exchanging random babies for the duration of the trip. Well it was all a bit crowded for me and when one of the girls got peed on I had to laugh and give up my space. Unfortunately I couldn't physically stand in the cramped bus so I thought, well I'm only here once, why not join the guys on the roof.
On the roof, most of the occupyable space was taken so I navigated my way past some luggage and market produce being careful not to sit on what I could feel through the tarp to be melons and bananas. I found a place on some bags of rice and settled in. So there I was perched on the roof of an overloaded bus winding its way up the sheer faces of the Himalayas with a full beard courtesy of three months in Africa and the wind in my hair, those were irreplaceable moments of freedom from any responsibility and cares of the world. I was eventually snapped of the bliss however by the casual comments in Nepali from a man not far from me, I had no idea what he said but he gestured toward the road infront and as I turned in the direction of his hand I saw the approaching cable at my neck height just in time to duck! Another downfall to being 6'7, I was propped a good foot above the Nepali passengers so I thought I had had my time in the sun then and best leave the rooftop for the locals returning to the cabin.
What a day though, all in all fantastic memories created and we arrived in one piece.