At Bagloon Bus park the fruit vendors weigh out half kilos of cauliflower as quickly as they can. The next bus is just about to leave. But then the bus sits there for quite some time and the snack vendors offer five-rupee cones of chana through the windows to all the people crowded inside. Teenage boys with greasy hair flopping into their eyes are leaning against crates of spinach and sacks of grain near the front seat. A latecomer presses his fingers against the ceiling of the bus for balance and the crowd forces him to lean over a mother and a slender man in slacks, who is seated by the window for air—but the man in slacks does not want chana. A young child further back begs for chana and his mother relents, handing a five rupee note to the first mother, who hands it to the man in slacks, who passes it through the window. An old lady tells a young man to stand up—she is old and she wants to sit down and she will not bounce up the road in this bus for two hours if she has to wait so long for it to get going. The bus is late—late late late!—and there is work to do, the rice must be cooked, it will be dark when we arrive, where is the driver?—he is having his tea.
When it leaves Bagloon Bus Park at eight in the morning, or eleven, or four, or five in the evening, the bus makes only two turns: a right out of the lot and a left onto the switchbacked road that climbs up to Kaskikot.
And now it’s important to tell you about the road, because there is going to be a lot of going from here to there and there to here and most of it, when it’s not up and down and down and up, will be back and forth and forth and back along the road, which is paved from its origin in Pokhara all the way up to Sarangkot. There, it turns to dirt. Its deep ruts, carved by heavy tires during the monsoon, cause the bus to loll from side to side as it heaves and climbs, and the knotted ropes hanging over the front windshield swing like drunken metronomes. The route snakes higher, following the crest of a ridge until it reaches its pinnacle at the Peace Land Guesthouse in Deurali, where a straw umbrella is cheerfully perched over a picnic table on Bhim Subedi’s patio.
Just a few dozen yards later the Shiva Lodge marks the last bus stop. The metal beast huffs to a halt, spent, and stays the night near the Lodge’s green picnic tables. But the road keeps going, dropping now, following the ridge until it intersects the paved Bagloon Highway in Naudanda.
There, in Naudanda, you can turn right or left. I don’t know exactly where left leads, because I never followed it any further than Machhapuchhre Campus half a kilometer away. It’s to the right that we always went: down tight smooth-paved switchbacks, over a small bridge, and back to Pokhara, where we’d started.
Going down was much faster.