Sunday, January 15, 2012

the long ride to Pokhara, Nepal

                                          Jimi Hendrix Up From the Skies

January 14th-15th, 2008

The past couple of days was the longest bus journey of my life.

We left Varanasi early in morning and headed north, towards Nepal. It's only a 300 km journey to the border but we didn't get there until almost 11pm.

I didn't realize that the two Korean girls I'd met also booked the ticket with a whole crowd of Korean guys. They were all really nice to me, but it made things uncomfortable with my original friends, since they would have looked bad to the Korean guys for hanging out with the Western guy. We were dropped off in the dark and had to find the Indian immigration office to get our passports stamped and fill out forms. I was glad to have the Korean guys for company. It was a really sketchy feeling on the Indian side.

Once through with the Indian paper work, we crossed the border into Belahiya and headed to the Nepalese immigration office for more paperwork. One of the Korean guys, trying to be friendly, nearly started a fight with a young Nepalese man when he refereed to him as "clever" and I somehow got pulled into the middle of it. I told the Nepalese man that the Korean guy wasn't aware how the clever could have a negative meaning, and he dropped it after making a last disdainful comment about Koreans. I've noticed several times in my travels that Koreans aren't seen very differently than Americans when they travel, except the nice ones can't lie and say they're from Canada!

I'd expected that we'd cross the border and get back on the bus, but instead the tickets we'd booked included a night's stay in Belahiya and a rundown hostel. There was a curfew, but we were all hungry, so we found the last open restaurant near by then had to climb the outside wall of the hostel to get back in...

In the morning, we found our bus and started another long journey north, towards Pokhara, tucked in a valley just below the Annapurna range, one of the most beautiful stretches of the Himalayans.

After a few hours, we stopped for a break in a small market place. I got out and bought a snack and notice two young Nepalese women coming towards the bus. One of them had that special something about her that made every guy notice her. Another young man quickly rushed towards her to help load her bag on top of the bus and I sort of figured it was her friend. I got on the bus, and returned to my seat in the back of the bus. After a few minutes, her and her friend got on the bus and sat in the empty spaces beside me, and the other guy I'd noticed helping them sat on the edge of the next seat, eagerly talking his head off to her.

I usually find the best way to get through long rides is to sleep, so I dosed off for a while and when I awoke, the guy was still talking, but the girl was pressed tightly against me, even leaving a big space between her and her friend. My first thought was to make sure my money belt was untouched but when she noticed I was awake, she was glad to start a conversation with me. I got the feeling the guy had been driving her crazy!

Her name is Durga, after the Durga, the supremely radiant goddess, and she's from Lumbini, Buddha's birthplace, but lives in Pokhara with her sister and goes to university there. We talked most of the remaining hours of the way, until she got off a few kilometers before the last stop. She gave me her cell phone number and said to call her and she would show me around Pokhara.

There wasn't much left of the day when we finally arrived but we squeezed into a couple of taxis and found our guesthouse. It felt good to be on finally off the bus, but I didn't have the energy to do very much. Instead, I got cozy in my really nice room on the second floor, over looking the courtyard, and read another big chunk of the Ramayana.

1 comment:

  1. I just realized, now, that Jimi (on the Cover of Axis: Bold as Love) is actually a depiction of Durga. Hmm!