"We take a seat and start to discuss what we should do. Everyone is staring at us. We feel really out of place."
The room feels cold. I’ve been awake for around ten minutes already, squeezing my eyes tightly together hoping that it’s still the middle of the night. Jason is stirring next to me. I’ve got that feeling you get when it’s winter at home and you can not bring yourself to get out of bed. It’s around 15 degrees but it feels much colder, at least I know it will be hot by 9am. I wonder how I am going to cope when I return home. With no choice but to get up I do and start to pack our final few bits. I’m still cold so I wrap my scarf around my neck and add another layer. The rain and hail in Pokhara over the last couple of days has brought the cold.
Before leaving for breakfast we both neck a travel sick tablet, I take mine with the smallest amount of water. We have a long bus journey ahead of us and I have a very weak bladder! By 6:30am we are out the door on our way to our favourite breakfast place. With barely a soul in sight we head down the main road in Pokhara, nowhere seems to be open. Jason is marching through the town, aware that we only have a small window of time to eat. We arrive, the tables are already lined with the locals. Everyone is wrapped up warm, wooly hats and scarves, they all look so cosy. The area where the food usually lays is almost empty, my eyes only see the boiled eggs, the doughnuts and potato curry are missing. The lady makes us a milk coffee and black tea, steam rises from the pans no kettle in sight. She tells us the food won’t be long. As we hug our cups with our stomachs rumbling we realise we are not going to have time to have this breakfast one last time. Disappointed we get up and pay. The woman looks confused as to why we are leaving. I tell her we have a bus to catch at 7:30am. We are back on the street, Pokhara is starting to feel more awake. Even the Himalayas are up this morning the usual morning mist has been shaken off early today. Jason runs into a bakery, he exits with icing sugar around his mouth “its all they had”he says as he places the last mouthful of the cake into his mouth. I manage to find somewhere open selling banana curd. I am really tempted to get another tea but I don’t, worried that I will need the toilet on the bus. Whilst I am sat there, children come and go. Handing the woman 15rupees and leaving with a napkin filled with soft delicious bread. They hold it close to them, breaking pieces off and savouring every mouthful, as if its their weekly treat. In the mean time Jason in his usual glutonous fashion dashes back to the bakery for another slice. We grab our bags and wave down a taxi. “how much to the greeline stop?” “200 rupees”. Too tired to barter we agree and hop in. As we exit the taxi my jaw is on the floor. The Himalayas really have woken up for us today. Before Jason has chance to know what I am doing, I have disappeared. I am running up the street to try and catch an even better glimpse of these magical mountains. The Nepali people are out sweeping the streets and getting ready for the day ahead of them and I am running up the road like a mad women.
Knowing the bus is leaving soon I run back down the road. Jason is stood in the street looking annoyed. “Can you come and tell these guys where we are going because they are saying we need to take a different bus”. I walk inside and I am greeted with smiles from the bus drivers.”Bharatpur” I tell them. “ahhhhh” they say “he said Bandapur” we all laugh and realise everything is fine. They instruct us at lunchtime we need to change buses.
“Free seats” the driver instructs us. With only six of us onboard we have the choice to sit anywhere. We sit our bums down and unpack our things ready for the journey ahead. Jason’s impressed, there is a plug socket and wifi. When we woke this morning we realised the electricity had gone off so the tablet failed to charge. Now we’ve been saved by the bus! and did I mention it has wifi! When you are traveling wifi becomes almost like a life line. “are we really on a bus in Nepal?” I ask Jason, remembering this is a country with constant power cuts. Within moments of the bus departing neither of us can keep our eyes open, my eyes lids are so heavy. I feel like I have taken a sleeping tablet.
I am groggy and my head feels fuzzy when we arrive at the lunch stop. I look at my watch, it’s only 10:30am and we are already at the lunch stop. Again I am impressed, I thought the bus travel would be much worse in Nepal. We’d been told the roads are terrible and especially after rain, but much to my relief this is not the case. “45 minutes” the driver tells us and then we come back and change buses. Two hours later we are on the move again. This time the bus is rammed, it’s much smaller than the last one too. No plug sockets but hurray we’ve still got wifi! Jason is asleep again, unable to fight the affects of the tablets. I drift in and out of consciousness. The driver asks where we are going “Madi” I reply. “You’re going to Madi?” “Yes” I say, he responds with a grin. He tells me he will drop us in Bharatpur where we can take the bus to Madi. By 1:30pm we are getting off the bus. The driver points us down a road and tells us the buses to Madi leave there. Worried this is not the right place we ask him again to show us. He repeats the same hand gestures. We start to walk down the road. Neither of us think this is the correct way but we keep walking, dodging the traffic. We stop where there seems to be some sort of “bus” stop. Its chaotic. Make shift wooden shops with people surrounding them, rubbish, food cart sellers, shouting and vehicles everywhere. Neither of us have a clue what to do. All we know is that someone is coming to meet us. We don’t know what they look like or if we are even in the right place. We take a seat and start to discuss what we should do. Everyone is staring at us. We feel really out of place. We sit and wait hoping someone will turn up. I leave Jason and go walk down the street to see if anyone is looking for us. We both kind of blend in because we are quite tanned at the minute and have dark hair. Well I do, Jason stands out with his bald head. Realising nobody is looking for us I quickly turn around. When I return Jason has a women sitting very closely to him. “she keeps touching me” he says. I just laugh, she does look kind of shifty. People are sensing we don’t know where we are or what to do. No sim card or anyway to contact anyone I get up and ask a girl if she has a phone. I am only able to ask her this by doing the world wide symbol for telephone and by showing her the phone number I have. She nods with a smile on her face and calls the number for me. After passing the phone between us, with the line going dead a couple of times we think we have managed to communicate where we are. For the next hour we sit and wait, feeling like total fishes out of water. At least we know the girl with the phone will help us. We also escape the shifty lady by moving into the shade next to our new best friend. Through the crowd of people I see two smiling faces heading towards us. Dipika and Dinesh aged 12 and 6 with their auntie! They are so cute! Dipika and I talk about what time they left their house today and how long they’ve been waiting. “3 hours on your own?” “you’ve been waiting for us since 11am?”, Dipika’s head bobs at the end of each answer to my question, her eyelashes are so long. Dinesh is shyly and cheekily peeking at us every now and then from behind Dipika. Dinesh orders some fresh peanuts from one of the sellers, you can tell he really likes them. he offers them around but we say no, not wanting to take his treat from him. They are also selling something that looks like fresh bombay mix, Dipika tells me its called Chorepot. With her head bobbing she asks “do you want some?” “sure why not”. I hand the guy 20rupees whilst he prepares our food. Dried noodles, rice crisps, green chillies, lemon juice, onion and peanuts. He hands it to us on a sheet of paper with a scoop made from cardboard. Dipika shows us how to eat it by flicking the food from the scoop into her mouth, she is careful to not let the cardboard enter her mouth. Feeling like total amateurs Jason and I have ago. We’ve already had eyes on us the whole time we’ve been sat here and now we have an even larger audience. People love to watch you eat! The snack tastes good, we share it between us all. ‘The bus is here” Dipika shouts as she runs towards it, we quickly grab our stuff and follow. The bus is full already but we manage to find three seats at the back, Dinesh sits on Dipika’s knee. Our bag is thrown on the top of the bus.
Though the speakers on the bus Nepali music is played loudly. It brings such a big smile to my face and fills me with a great feeling of happiness. To you guys at home the music sounds like beautiful bangra. Alll the way to the village I feel like I am in a scene from Slumdog Millionaire. Ten minuets have passed when Jason looks at me and asks “how long s this journey” I laugh and tell him he doesn’t want to know.
It’s not long before we hit the village “road”, it’s basically just a dirt road. We bounce up and down on the backseats. Poor Dipika has got Dinesh on her lap, he is fast asleep ad he keeps head butting her, she can barely move.
The bus comes to a stop, I see people heading off to use the toilet. I'm used to this now in Asia, so I sit relaxed and wait for everyone to return. Then out of nowhere a mean looking army guy gets onboard. He heads straight for us. It feels like someone has just turned the temperature up. He points at us to open our bag. I feel nervous now knowing that we have a brand new Mac inside there(yep after twelve months of blogging from my iPhone I am finally writing this one from a laptop!) He takes a quick look and then goes and finds his next target. Dipika tells me they are looking for weapons and bombs! The guy then heads onto the roof of the bus, 10 seconds later there is someone at our window telling us we need to open our bag. Finally the search party is over and I back in my Slumdog Millionaire scene. The scenery is so beautiful. We are now in the heart of a national park, where the landscape is filled with forest, small villages, rice fields and dry river beds. We drive over a bridge where the river is full, we eagerly look out of the window to see if we can see any crocs. My movie scene is cut again, another search is conducted, I’m still as nervous as the first time. This search is over quicker. As we turn the bend I see something big in the forest, it takes me a while to register. My brain is moving much slower these days. Then I see a finger pointing from the seat in front. It is what i think it is, it’s a black rhino. All this happens in a matter of seconds. I manage to tell Jason and he gets a quick glimpse too. I can not believe we have seen a rhino already! We have not even been out on our walking safari. Excited and alert I do not take my eyes away from the window. I feel like I am in The Jungle Book.
Five and a bit hours from Pokhara, 50kms of bumps and dips for three hours from Bharatpur and we have finally arrived at Shanta Ghar. This place is beautiful. It’s surrounded by farm fields, the hills of India are on the horizon, the sun is setting, it is just perfect. Hari and his wife Dipa greet us with some delicious black masala tea. The room we are saying in is beautiful! Filled with traditional Nepali furniture and artwork, burnt orange covers line the dark wood bed. I can’t believe how big it is. I look at Jason with a grin, pleased that we have chosen this place as one of our final destinations.
The link above is where we stayed. You will not be disappointed. I know on a travelling budget it may seem expensive but it is so worth it! He does have cheaper rooms than this but he's not been able to list them yet on airbnb. If you email him he will be able to book the lower prices ones. Please contact me if you need help contacting him or need any tips on how to get there.