We didnt get much sleep last night. The only alarm we have is on my phone and the battery was dead. Simple solution: charge it, right? Wrong! As mentioned before, in Nepal they only have mains powered electricity for about ten hours a day. The time that it goes on never seems consistent and varies from place to place. Well it was 10pm, and still no power. We were absolutely exhausted and were taking turns shutting our eyes as we wanted to make sure we would be up in time for our bus to Lumbini. Well, at midnight (when everybody is already asleep and has no dire need for electricity, except for us), the power finally went on and we were finally able to set an alarm and try and get some sleep. We figured we could sleep on the bus, Right? Boy were we wrong!
Just when we thought the bus rides couldn't get more interesting, here we are in the most rickety bus to date which doesn't help the bruises on our rear ends from wiping out in the snow during our trek! It is also the most "local" bus we have been on with just us and one English/Bristolian man named Richard being the only tourists. We still managed to get completely ripped off though on our bus tickets even though we knew it at the time we just sucked it up and figured its part of the experience.
So this bus is absolutely packed. There was no room in the trunk of the bus for our backpacks so they are hanging on for dear life on a rack at the top of the bus. My eyes are glued to the window so I can spot them If they fly off. There aren't enough seats for everybody either so the driver pulled out some footstools and put them in the aisle for some passengers to sit on.
In addition to the rickety-ness of the bus not allowing for any shut-eye, there just so happens to be a flat screen TV playing Nepalese music videos (which seem to be heavily influenced by Bollywood). The bus itself may need an update (and maybe some breaks and suspension) but they don't skimp on what sounds like a state of the art sound system that allows for the music to reach all areas of the bus (and not at a low volume either). The TV is also the nicest and most modern TV we have seen in Nepal. Nice to see they have their priorities straight!
The sights from the window are just as interesting as they were from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Again, it's a Saturday but you wouldn't have guessed it because when we left at 6:30am, the lake was the busiest we have seen it with all the locals getting their morning exercise, the cows roaming the streets looking for their breakfast and there were numerous butchers ripping apart animals on the sides of the streets.
We really feel like we are in a movie, with the music videos acting as the soundtrack. Actually it feels exactly like the scene in the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" when they arrive in India and take the local bus to the hotel, except that we are in Nepal. We can't help but laugh at it all. I would rather the local bus than the tourist bus any day (except for the getting ripped off bit...it's apparently a lot worse in India so we just have to learn to cope with it).
They have now put on a film called "Race 2". I was really enjoying the music so hopefully I will enjoy this film as much, even though it is not in English.
We stop for lunch. These places that we stop at are just little shacks on the side of the roads that are meant for the locals. They do not cater to the tourists (ie, no "western" toilets or food) but the good thing about that is that they offer the local prices! It is not like the places we stopped at on the bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara which were very tourist oriented and had at least one western toilet in addition to the holes in the ground. The ones we stopped at today had no western toilets but that didnt matter as we are getting quite used to squatting.
Suddenly, we reach a patch of road that seems as the paving has been destroyed by a landslide. We are not on a bus anymore but river rafting through fierce rapids. Unfortunately, we seem to be hitting patches like this a lot more constantly and I am wishing I had packed some motion sickness tablets. I am guessing the lady sat in front of me is wishing the same as she projectile vomits out the window. I am very thankful that my window is closed. They must get a lot of passengers with motion sickness on these buses as there is a stash of plastic bags in the first aid kit (yes, believe it or not they have a first aid kit in here).
We are sitting at the very back and it's really amusing watching the bus and all the passengers sway from side to side. I can't see anything ahead because I am in the very corner. I tell Perry it is quite frightening not seeing what is in front especially when it feels like we are going 100 miles an hour in a rickety bus on bumpy roads and all you hear is horns honking every ten seconds and the screeches of the breaks (or lack thereof). Perry is in the aisle seat so he can see out the front window ahead. He says "trust me, it's more frightening being able to see!"
We can't seem to take our eyes off the music videos. They are so cheesy but so catchy and funny. I hope I can find some of these online!
We suddenly stop in the middle of nowhere and about 15 men get out. We look out the window and it looks as though they are all finding a bush to go pee in. I wonder what they would think if I went out there with my "SheeWee"! As we start driving, we see a bus on the opposite side with all the men scattered about, their backs to the road. I guess they had the same idea.
We are nearing our destination of Bhairihawa. Most of the passengers emptied out at the last stop in Butwal so we moved up to the front. The driver has all the windows open...and the door as well. Lets just hope we don't roll out!
Once we reach Bairihawa, a swarm of taxi drivers and cycle rickshaw drivers try to lure us in but we find the local bus to Lumbini....which seemed to move at about 5 miles an hour but I can't say for certain as the speedometer was not working! I was lucky enough to be offered a seat next to the driver and again, it felt like watching a movie from the windshield. The road to Lumbini was one long stretch with lots of locals working on the farms, lots of cows and goats roaming around, and many many many cyclists. The funny thing is, none of them seemed to be in a hurry. They were all cycling as if they were daydreaming.
We eventually get to Lumbini and follow Richard to a guesthouse he has booked. Unsurprisingly, they are overbooked so we find a guesthouse next door that we are very happy is only for one night. We quickly change and brave the filthy sheets and flies squashed to the walls and head over to see the birthplace of Buddha.
The grounds that the birthplace is located on is 2.5 square km. We begin by visiting a Buddhist temple and garden dedicated to Buddha and then making our way to the Mayadevi Temple, Ashoka Pillar and Sacred Pond. It is quite a neat and peaceful sight to visit. There are lots of groups from various countries and it is a real pilgrimage for them. We are going to walk around the rest of the grounds but decided we would come back in the morning as it is getting late. I also have quite a headache from the 9 hours of travel and from bumping my head on a very low door frame so we leave to get something to eat.
We feast on Nepalese delicacies since it is our last night in Nepal and also have our first beer of the trip (which seems to go straight to our heads). Richard joins us and we have a nice conversation about Nepal. When it is time to retire to bed, we put our mosquito net to use for the first time! It feels like camping! In the middle of the night, there seem to be all sorts going on! The merchants shutting the garage screen doors in front of their shops is a very unpleasant sound (similar to a dump truck unloading something very heavy) but worse is the barking dogs that are going hysterical. We are actually quite scared as It sounds like packs of wolves and the barking goes on for hours. We did get to bed early though so we have given ourselves time to have our sleep ruined!!
In the morning we went for breakfast and invited a lady we briefly spoke with the night before to join us. Funny enough, she is from Vancouver and her name is Cheryl! She gave us lots of tips about India and if it wasn't for her, we would not have guessed that the bus to Ghorakpur (where we take the train to Delhi) takes 3 hours! It is 70km from the border so we thought it would take about an hour! So we decided to get a move on sooner than expected. This meant that we couldn't return to the gardens where Buddha's birthplace is but we were happy enough to see the main sights the day before.
So we had to take a bus back to Bairahawa in order to take a cycle rickshaw to the Indian border (a bit over 5km from Bairahawa). Just when you think the bus rides can't get any worse or scarier, they do! Our bus to Lumbini seemed to go about 5miles an hour yesterday, this one seemed to go 105! It was VERY scary as the driver swerved us in and out of lanes nearly crashing into every oncoming vehicle, pedestrian, cyclist that we passed. Perry mentioned that it seemed to have a lawn mower engine and we wouldn't be surprised if it did because it seemed to break down for a few minutes at one point. The driver lifted the cushion beside his sit and low and behold: there was the engine! Crazyyyy
We made it to Bairahawa in what seemed a quarter of the time as it did to get to Lumbini the day before. When we got there, we were swarmed by the cycle rickshaw drivers where we bargained one down to 100 rupees to get us to the border. We have no idea if that is a good price but we felt quite bad as we had two heavy backpacks in addition to our body weight and it did not look easy. It was our first rickshaw ride of any kind and it was damn scary. I asked Perry if they call them "rick"shaws because they are rickety! We thought we were going to collapse at any point because they seemed to be made of wood. It was really funny to see other rickshaws and cycles pass us. Ours moved so slowly because of the weight.
We made it to the Indian border and Perry makes a good point when he says we could have walked accross with 20kg of cocaine in our bags and they wouldn't have known. There seemed to be no checks whatsoever. People were just walking through and we could have easily passed right by immigration but luckily we questioned it and found a little hole in a wall with a curtain in front of it in between shops. We sorted out the entry forms and now we are in India! We found a bus to Ghorakpur which is very obvious that its a local bus. Perry says it feels like one of those massage chairs which is very true: except it feels as they are set to the rocket launch setting and with an "ejector seat" capability. Not comfortable in the slightest. The windows are made of plexi glass (which is probably a good thing) and it seems to be the fastest one yet which does not help my bladder in the slightest. Yes folks, all this could be yours for just 80 Indian Rupees!
So far, India seems slightly more busy than Nepal but we have not hit Delhi yet, which apparently is like Kathmandu on steroids. Makes us kind of nervous but really excited as well. Here's to hoping that we don't get Delhi Belly! There also seem to be a lot more cows in India but again, we've only been in the country for about an hour so it it hard to say for sure. A couple of passengers seem to have puked out the window so it's not too different from the buses in Nepal! We've been told that Ghorakpur is very unpleasant and to get in and get out so we are looking forward to getting on our first ever Indian train and the 13.5 hour journey to Delhi (which will probably be longer as there seem to be a lot of delays on the trains in India). But first, what I am (or rather my bladder is) really looking forward to is a toilet! Oh and the fact that this is our last bus for a while as we've got trains booked for the next two weeks! There is only so much "rocket launch" speed setting massage chairs, unstoppable honking and men peeing on the sides of the road (with visible pee streams) I can handle!