So after our (mostly) luxurious stay at the Karnali Lodge we were feeling pretty smug and glam I must admit. ‘We can still do this backpacking malarkey’ we thought, ‘we just have to stay at nice places occasionally too’. Well, let me tell you about our very next experience following the lodge: the night bus to Pokhara.
There’s something about night buses that always fill me with dread.
I’ve had some pretty bad bus experiences over the years, from a near-death moment barrelling down Bolivia’s ‘world’s most dangerous road’ in a rickety old bus teetering on the edge of doom and driven by someone seemingly insane; to getting pecked in the head by Peruvian chickens; to nearly losing my toes to frostbite on a night bus in Cuba; to having to endure 3 Nepalese urchins wailing Justin Bieber at the top of their voices for 6 hours on a long-distance bus. But roll ALL of the bad experiences into one, and you still don’t get close to the horrors of the night bus to Pokhara…
It started off pretty badly – we were squeezed into an already-overflowing bus 2 hours after we were supposed to get on (puncture, not their fault I suppose), into seats obviously not designed for two long and wide Westerners. I strongly suspect that the whole bus had been full of goats a couple of hours previously, partly because it STANK of goat, and partly because they were all by that point tethered to the roof rack and stuffed into the underbelly of the bus. I’m not kidding. We drove for 17 hours to Pokhara with a herd of live goats on the roofrack.
It was however the most prettily decorated bus I’ve ever been on:
Even the metal window casements had been punched with little patterns.
The entire bus was filthy, and I somehow managed to not let a square inch of skin or hair touch anything for the whole trip (harder than it sounds) for fear of bedbugs. There was no suspension to speak of, and Nepal’s roads are not known for their smoothness. The driver played Nepali wailing music (this is the best way I can think of describing it) for the duration of the trip - I actually really enjoyed it for about the first 2 hours, but then when he inexplicably cranked up the volume to about 2000 decibels just when everyone was settling down for the night, it became intensely frustrating. And lastly, because the underside of the bus and roofrack were full of goats, we had to pack all of our luggage into the inside of the bus – by the time night fell and we were on our way, getting into or out of our seat was like some kind of Ironman obstacle course.
But aside from the jiggling, the goat-stink, the cramped conditions, the noise, the general filth and the threat of bedbugs, the worst moment of the entire journey was when the chap in the seat in front of me opened his window very wide very quickly, and an eeny weeny little drop of goat pee landed on my forehead.
That, ladies and gents, was significantly less glam and significantly more gross than the Karnali Lodge.