After spending 5 days in Kathmandu, I hopped on a tourist bus to Pokhara early on Tuesday morning. Hundreds of Nepalis die every year in public bus accidents, so my program pays the extra money to send us on a tourist bus. The bus consisted of me and around 10 other Nepali men who also were afraid to take public buses.
I quickly realized why public buses are so dangerous. The road to Pokhara is 120 miles of mountainous roads filled with potholes, motorcycles, cars, buses, and hair pin turns with no railing. If a vehicle is moving faster than the vehicle in front of him, he immediately tries to pass that vehicle. It does not matter if you are going uphill around a blind turn-- there is never a lost opportunity to pass someone else.
The problem with the local bus is that it is too small-- if the bus is hit, it will be pushed off of the road and go rolling off of a cliff landing hundreds of feet below. The tourist buses are much bigger, so if they are involved in an accident, the buses will probably stay on the road.
We only had a couple near death head on collisions, but they were saved by both vehicles slamming on the breaks as hard as they could. One involved a truck trying to pass a bus uphill around a blind turn. We were coming from the other direction, and my bus driver slammed on the breaks so hard that I was violently thrown into the seat in front of me. We also almost hit a truck that was flipped over in the middle of the road. Our bus was not involved in an accident, so the trip was a success!
Throughout the bus ride, I made friends with 5 of the Nepali guys on the bus. They spent the whole bus ride trying to teach me Nepali-- it didn't work out too well. Around 10km outside of Pokhara, the bus stopped because of a road block. Everyone got out to see what was going on.
A mile up the road, a truck had run over a little girl and killed her. The people of the town started rioting in protest by throwing rocks at any policeman they could find. Nepal trucked in over 100 policemen in full riot gear to stop the riots, and they held their presence on the road for the next several hours blocking any cars that wanted to go buy.
My new friends convinced me that the bus was not going to move for several hours, so I should take my bags and walk 2 miles with them through all of the policemen to the other side of the road block. I took there advice, and on the other side of the road block a brother came to pick us up. 6 of us piled into the smallest 4 wheel car I have ever seen, and they drove me to Pokhara!
I arrived safe and sound with a beautiful view of the Annapurna Mountains. I started working at the orphanage the next day.