one step forward, two steps back

That’s how it feels with transportation here.  Perhaps it should be 2 steps forward, 1 step back because you do EVENTUALLY get there.

There are many forms of transportation to get places, so that is definitely not the issue.  The real issues are 1) the traffic, 2) figuring out which is the best/easiest/fastest/least annoying way to get where you are going, and 3) squishing into a space made for a two year old along with twenty other people (into a vehicle that should only fit 8 of course).

When I first arrived in Nepal I relied completely on walking and taxis to get everywhere I needed to go.  This was partly because I liked walking so I could get a feel for my neighborhood and the city and get my bearings.  This was also due in part to the fact that I was terrified to get on the various modes of public transportation having very limited language abilities and not really knowing anything about the transportation system here.

After 2 weeks of walking in the very humid heat and spending too much money on taxis, we decided that it was time to try out a bus or a tempo.  Having had a few language lessons under our belts and having been e-mailed the bus map (which we’ve learned is not comprehensive  AT ALL, it only shows about 30% of the actual bus system here) we decided that we could handle an adventure.

My very first ride was on a tempo (or tuk tuk) to go to the grocery store (see photos).  You may remember an earlier post of mine about heaven in Nepal being a grocery store.  This trip was to one of the other locations of that grocery store, so you can imagine my excitement of riding a tempo combined with going back to heaven for the day.

All in all, the trip went well, so we decided we were ready for bigger things: leaving the city limits.  I recently blogged about my adventure to Nagi Gompa but I left out the stories of our travels getting there.

We headed out relatively early so we could get a number 5 tempo down to the area of town called Ratna Park.  Ratna Park is where all the busses and tempos start and end.  It is a large park that is partly for military use and partly for city use and on either side are two 1 way streets, one going north and one going south.  On each side are big bus stops, depending on which direction you need to be going.

We got off on the southbound side as this is the bigger bus park side and most of the busses leaving town depart from here.  We wandered around asking everyone we passed “Buddhanilakantha?”.  Mostly we got blank stares in return, but finally one nice person informed us that we were on the wrong side of the park and that we needed to go to the other side and look for a 5 bus.  It’s a bit of a feat to get to the other side as the park is HUGE and we had to cross the two major streets (with no cross walks of course).

When we get to the other side we start asking every 5 bus going by if they are going to Buddhanilakantha.  The answer everytime of course, was no.  As we’re doing this we’re starting to realize, “hey, isn’t this the same 5 bus that goes by our apartment?”.  After 15 minutes of failed attempts, a bus comes driving by without really stopping and we SWEAR they yelled that they were going o Buddhanilakantha.  So we ran after the bus and jumped onto it while it was still moving.

Once we were settled, we decided that we should probably check to make sure we had made it on to the correct bus.  It turns out, that we actually got on a bus going to Boudhanath an area to the east of Kathmandu (we’re going north).  Definitely not the same thing.  The guy who takes the money kindly let us off shortly after and pointed out where we needed to go back to in order to catch the 5 bus.  Luckily, when we got there, the next 5 bus was actually going where we needed to go.  And, yes, it did go directly by our apartment.  So an hour and a half of wandering around figuring out the bus could have been solved by just standing on the street near our apartment.

Once on the bus, it was bout a 30 minute ride (and only 20 rupees!) to get to Buddhanilakantha which is the stopping point for getting up to the entrance of the national park.  We get off at the square and start our trip to the entrance.  This would have been fine and dandy, but it turns out it was actually a 40 minute hike up hill and it was very hot and humid.  Once to the top we see our bus driver sitting up there—apparently the bus we were on could have taken us to the top and we could have saved our energy for our actual hike to Nagi Gompa.

Even with the overcrowding, the heat, the lack of organization (or atleast compared to what i’m used to) and the bumpy roads it’s nice to have a cheaper (than taxis) and sometimes faster (than walking) alternative.  Though, on really bad traffic days it can definitely be faster to get out of the crowded tempo and walk the rest of the way.

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photos (c) Bethany Meuleners

One thought on “one step forward, two steps back

  1. I’m forwarding this post to our students in Bangalore, India – they will not feel so alone in their transportation adventures. This is one reason why one task can take up most of the day and nearly all of one’s energy 🙂 All of the surprises and discoveries usually make up for all the frustrations. – E

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