Kathmandu bus station, Kathmandu, Nepal

Trekking Annapurna Day 0: Hell Bus

Mar 21, 2015 - Julie

Day 0 had a very early start – get up at 5am, taxi at 6am, bus at 7am. We packed last minute items, stored our leftover bags at our guesthouse, and boarded a previously arranged taxi. In no time, we arrived at Kathmandu Bus Station where our driver pointed towards some booths and left. The whole place was a big mess with zero English – we couldn’t even read the numbers in Nepali. A lot of people immediately hounded us to follow them, which immediately made us suspicious and raised our guards. The heckling throughout Asia has been so persistent we usually just ignore everybody and keep walking.

Kathmandu bus station, Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu bus station, Kathmandu, Nepal

We had purchased bus tickets with our guesthouse the day before for 800 rupees each, but it seemed like we had to trade the paper we had for actual tickets. At a random counter at the bus station, we handed over that paper. The man behind the counter frowned at it for some minutes, while other men around the counter all spoke Nepali to each other. As expected, the price we paid was overpriced and somehow we got back another ticket that said 360 rupees each.

Thoroughly confused, we headed to a beat-up and dusty vehicle that was smaller than a regular bus but bigger than a van. The bus was burning incense – always worrisome because the strong incense smell could only be covering up something equally pungent. We were the only people who boarded the bus at the station (always a bad sign). Crammed into two seats near the front, we settled in for a long ride as the bus took off.

Julie in front of the local bus, Kathmandu, Nepal
Julie in front of the local bus, Kathmandu, Nepal

Of course, the bus spent the next hour or two picking up people along the way. Usually we were one of many buses stopping by the side of the road as bus workers hung out of the door and hollered. They even ran out to heckle locals into becoming passengers sometimes. All kinds of sellers came on the bus in the meantime to sell everything from water to snacks to fabrics (?). At busy places, our bus was forced out of its position by other buses who yelled at our driver for hogging the spot and potential customers.

When we finally stopped stopping to pick up people, there were 7-8 people piled in front of us around the driver, where there were only supposed to be two seats and a cushioned area over the engine. Everyone else was a local and it’s questionable how often they showered. I had never seen so many people with consistently dirty fingernails. We wore masks the whole time because it was super dusty and weird-smelling without. The driving was ridiculous. We overtook every single vehicle we followed until we were following no one… on mountain roads!

The biggest lessons of the day was that Nepalese people have even less personal boundaries than others in Asia. Locals on the bus had no qualms about using us as handholds, stepping on our things, sitting on us to temporarily make room for someone else to pass by – all without warning! I’m pretty sure Carlos will never forget feeling a Nepalese man’s butt crack on his knee.

Throughout the ride, we became convinced that we were somehow wrongly transferred from the tourist bus to the local bus. Our 800-rupees tickets were tourist bus prices – you know, the ones that actually look like a bus, that don’t stop every few minutes, that are only meant for foreigners? For some extra money in someone’s pocket, we were jipped into the awful local bus, which only costs a fraction of the price with ten times more suffering. At least we got an authentic experience?

Locals sitting on us during the bus ride to Besisahar, Nepal
Locals sitting on us during the bus ride to Besisahar, Nepal

I managed to fall asleep for parts of the trip, until one lady boarded and was instructed to sit on a very small cushioned area in front of us right behind the driver. It was not meant to be a seat so we had placed our bags there. Not only did we have to hold our bags on our laps, the lady essentially leaned on our legs for support. She practically sat on us for the latter half of the ride. I was really annoyed and asked her to move in the first opportunity. It still bothers me that people here don’t feel bad about sitting on other people.

The entire ride was unbearable. We cursed our choice to be on this hell bus. In times like this, we couldn’t be further from the fancy, resort-filled, vacation-like days that some people think we live (which we never do). The only thing that kept us going was reminding ourselves how every second that passed by was a second closer to arriving in Besisahar. At the end of eight miserable hours, we fell out of the bus. Agreeing that was worse than even the worst buses in Laos or Vietnam, we swore to avoid local buses in Nepal in the future if possible.

Besisahar had one main road, from which jeeps departed up the mountain. We saw some tourists board jeeps that afternoon, but those were only going a short ways, such as Syange or Chamje. We planned on taking one straight up to Chame the next morning. As the starting point for the Annapurna Circuit, some choose to start trekking right at Besisahar, or a little bit after the giant hydroelectric plant construction site by a Chinese company. A jeep to Chame would save us quite a few days of walking as we were looking forward to the higher altitude scenery the most.

View of Besisahar, Nepal
View of Besisahar, Nepal

With a first few glances of the mountains, we had another grueling transportation day to look forward to on Day 1. The early start to the day meant an early end as well. Plus we wanted to begin getting used to the trekking sleeping schedule of getting up early and sleeping early. We went to bed hoping today was the most miserable day of many great days to come.

Continue to read Trekking Annapurna Day 1: Death Jeep…

For more pictures on the bus ride, please visit the gallery!