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  • Writer's pictureVoita

The final trip to KTM

Foreigners consider riding mountain buses as a suicidal adventure, while locals see it as a celebration during which they have the opportunity to showcase the best of themselves to their neighbours. It's a festive occasion, a journey into the large world.

I used to feel similarly; an hour-long trip to Prague used to be an adventurous journey for me.

leaving the teahouse

Nowadays I can endure 5 to 8 hours on a local bus, depending on whether my personal space is measured in square centimeters or millimeters. The concept of "full" has not yet reached here. However, I must admit that mountain buses don't follow the logic of the hawkers; every ruppee counts, but it's based on the logic from Shantaram - what is necessary? When a granny needs a ride along the way, she gets it. And everyone is happy to see her and cheerfully gossips.

leaving the mountains

There are two key seats on these buses:

First one is right behind the steps into the bus, if the partition isn't filled. Then a person can stretch their legs over the steps, sparing their knees from bursting like a ripe watermelon. Sometimes the steps are stacked as well, but there'll always be a little space left for an aching leg.

The second one is in the corner of the driver's cabin because that's where the best views are. You pay for them with your knees wedged under your chin and tears of suppressed pain. The cabin, separated from the rest of the vehicle like in our long-distance buses, can easily accommodate twenty people and all the cargo that didn't fit in the aisle. The shared lack of space creates the most communal atmosphere, full of enthusiastic chatter and laughter.

Are you starting to grasp the local logic? Granny has to get a ride and it's essential to be friendly; otherwise, it could end up like in the west - with everyone angry. And nobody needs that.

gangster momma

The less touristy the area is, the greater the effort of the locals to include the foreigner in the general merriment. Therefore, in most of Nepal, foreigners are pushed aside like unwanted furniture and left to their own melancholy. White faces (I can't speak for Asians or Africans) don't attract anyone anymore, perhaps quite the opposite. The attitude towards Westerners is, at best, ambivalent.

preferred sales point - and a shopping spot

I was reminded of this again yesterday during lunch with Bhujung. He told me how the village is completely dependent on foreigners for income, how they have to send their children far away for school, and how the young ones end up with no jobs regardless... It seemed to me that he half blamed Westerners, half expected them to bring money (through Tourism). And he's not alone in this sentiment.

It reminded me of how many people commute or relocate in our countries - for work, for their children's education.

impossible to explain

civilization

So, during those 9 hours back, between the pages of Shantaram and reflections on the futility of writing about foreign cultures, time passed quickly. Let me know in the comments how this carefully dosed form of sharing my adventures suits you... :)

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