As most of you know, I do not own a car so travel by foot or public transit most of the time. I’ve had my share of unique experiences on public transit …. I remember a guy on the #257 express to Horseshoe Bay who had a rifle attached to his backpack and was a tad surprised once we got over the Lions Gate Bridge into West Vancouver when he was hauled off the bus by a swat team. Nothing quite like that here, but different all the same!
Buses seem to me to be private enterprises, no public transit authority to speak of. The drivers look like they are not yet 20 yrs old, I doubt they have licenses either. They have one or two of their pals hanging out the door of the bus looking for customers. My trip of about 5km is 10 rupees (about 12 cents) and you pay during the trip or as you get off. The young lad at the door shouts out for customers as he sees people gathered along the road. He either bangs the bus a few times to alert the driver to stop or start, or whistles. I have not figured out the procedure yet but for some buses two bangs means start, on others two bangs means stop. The whistling is a whole other complexity. There are no formal bus stops, you just holler when you want to get off and push your way through the packed bus to the door. Invariably the bus continues to move while you hop off (and on) so you have to be pretty decisive getting on and off.
I must admit I have a little anxiety using the buses but the young Australians are here 3 weeks now and are quite blase about it. I’ll get there! Friday seems to be market day somewhere in between Banepa (where I live) and Kathmandu. I know this because I arrived at the bus to get to work on Friday, and found two goats with their owner ahead of me. Hmm, I wondered how this was gonna work. Simple! Tie their legs together, toss them up onto the roof and tie the rope onto the guard rail. The goats did not even blink, they must be used to this mode of transport.
Once I got on the bus, people started piling on. An old man got on with a bagful of roosters as you do. He sat up right at the front of the bus next to the driver and the roosters were given pride of place. Far away from me thankfully! Mid way through the journey one of the roosters decided to make a dash for it. In one sense I was cheering the little guy on for being so daring in his burst for freedom, but in another sense I realized the very young bus driver was trying to get the squawking bird out of his face with his hands ….. that should have been on the wheel. We swerved for a few seconds as the rooster flew back along the bus. City slicker that I am, I just ducked.
Someone somehow got hold of the rooster and it was handed back up the bus to the old man. I got off soon after and while I caught my breath, I looked to the roof to check on the goats, sure they were lost back along the road. Not a chance, they were standing straight, head held high facing the road ahead, like as if this was all in a day’s work. I smiled to myself, braced myself for crossing the road and headed up the hill to work.