It seems that in Nepal, like a lot of the developing world, road safety takes somewhat of a backseat. And by taking a backseat I mean it is kicked out all together and is basically nowhere to be seen…like honestly, you permanently feel like you are in a episode of Wacky Races…except in this case if you smash into a wall and burst into flames you are a lot less likely to be ready to shoot the next scene, real life is restrictive like that! What a bummer!
Actually come to think of it, it was the exact same in China when I went on a trip to see the Three Gorges Dam…you wanted to be excited for your destination, after all you’d invested so much time scrolling through Wikipedia, but were more focused on saying your hail marys and promising yourself that if you make it through you will become a missionary and set up your own orphanage…
Somehow, some way, you get through largely unscathed, and suddenly forget all of your over the top promises…
But if I was concerned in China, I was absolutely SHITTING MY PANTS in Nepal. I had to do three of these death-defying journeys – a seven hour one (Kathmandu to Chitwan), a six and a half hour one (Chitwan to Pokhara), and finally…and worst of all…the eight hour one from Pokhara back to Kathmandu. The price for each bus journey? Well, under ten dollars! So at least if I was to die, I wouldn’t have wasted a tonne of money doing it. Is that good logic? Hmmm…probably not, but these little words to yourself seem to add a small layer of comfort when you are trying to analyse just how close to death you may be…which appears to be very, very close indeed. At all times.
The final leg of the journey was by far the worst. The only positive was that we had already endured two of these trips, so ideally we should be more acclimatised to its charms…unfortunately this wasn’t the case! Instead what was in store, was a thrill ride of DEATH. And no, I don’t think that is an exaggeration! I was basically entombed in a sweaty, sticky casket – along with the rest of my stranger inmates (as well as whatever foul smelling food each individual chose to bring with them…I mean come on man?!), there was some respite once we got on the open road…it meant that the vehicle could pick up enough speed to allow a refreshing breeze through the window, which was great! Oh wait…no…scratch that, the exhaust is continually spewing out a thick chalk black fog cloud – still cools me down, but it looks like a cartoon style TNT crate has blown up in my face. Yet another example of how this was just an episode of Wacky Races!
Hours pass. You kind of get into the rhythm of the rickety bus, and then WHIRRRRRRRRRRRR! A near collision with oncoming traffic! BREATHE IN , BREATHE OUT, BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT! Every bump was felt by the whole bus – at one point a middle aged Chinese lady crashed into my lap as her seat completely gave up under duress and threw itself backwards – at the same time, one of the curtain rails fell off and on to someone’s unsuspecting head…everything was literally falling apart!
It’s strange that on these crazy bumpy narrow roads, with no barricades at the sides – just a sheer drop to certain death; the Nepalese bus and truck drivers still feel that it is a fantastic idea to blaze around corners and effectively push other road users to their (highly) possible deaths!
Surely, surely, SURELY – if you were in these conditions you would be more cautious? Not still speeding around corners, scratching your sweaty armpit with one hand while halfheartedly steering with the other…I MEAN COME ON?!
In these moments I wish I could say that my life flashed before my eyes…that old chestnut…well, no, it didn’t. Instead the potential news headlines spun and spiraled in my imagination – brightly colored capital letters on TV banners – headlines like; “YOUNG ENGLISH MAN FALLS TO HIS DEATH IN NEPAL”, “THE WORLD MOURNS”, and “THE QUEEN IS REPORTED TO BE ON HUNGER STRIKE UNTIL ANSWERS ARE GIVEN.” But then I started to consider the possibility of escape…perhaps I could wriggle free, get out of this burning wreckage just in time to save my life…perhaps…wait…I had spotted a possible way of escape! With both hands I began to desperately tear open the stubborn window, sliding it along slowly but surely, dirtying my hands in the process as the unwashed surface met with my perspiring fearful fingertips…the gap was just enough to probably get through…I’d have to be quick though, as soon as the bus flew off the edge I’d probably only have a second or two to gymnastically flip through to safety. Better get prepared. Okay, so phone in my pocket, everything into my bag…aaah alright, passport and everything is in there, good, good…errr…right, seat belt off, that will cut down on ejection time…errrr, I think I am pretty much fully prepared…so I’ll hop out, probably cry for a bit I should imagine – and then stick out my thumb and hitch a ride back into town…or head down into the jungle and try to do my best to live there – possibly be found years later a transformed Tarzan creature that people both marvel and fear…all I have to do is jump out of a tumbling bus. No big deal.
Ahh…dammit…my sister…err…well I suppose my Mother wouldn’t be too pleased with me leaving her behind…she’d slow me down terribly, I guess I could grab her…argh, but she’d probably shriek loudly and pull awkwardly on my arm as I tried to hop out, she’d pull me to my death – God…SHE’S GOING TO FUCKIN’ KILL US BOTH!
I slunk back into my chair, there was no way we could both get out in time…I just had to make my peace with the fact that my life was in this driver’s hands…his unsure…erratic…and…OH GOD, LET ME OUT! LET MEEEE OUTTTT!!!!
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