During our time in Kathmandu we stayed with some of B’s friends. They rented the bottom floor of a house a little way out from the centre of the city. The house was on a small hill so we could go to a viewpoint and see the city.
To get to the centre of the city we had to take a mini bus and that was a bit different experience. We had to walk a short while to the bus stop, or what I should call it. There was nothing to indicate that it was a bus stop or that it was the start/end of this bus line. So if you’re not a local you’d have no idea where to find a bus.
When the bus arrived you’d have to try to be quick to get inside and get a good seat. No point in queuing or letting the person who had waited the longest time get onboard first. The bus had a bench in the back, originally for three people I would say, and then two smaller benches in front of that, some small seats on the side close to the side door, and of course the driver and front seats. Sometimes there was a small bench just behind the driver seat also so that a few people were riding backwards. We were usually four people travelling together and tried to get the seat in the back of the mini bus, where we could fit all four in one seat. That way we didn’t need to jostle (?) with other people so much.
I’m really glad that we got on the bus from the end station because it seemed very difficult to get a seat when you wanted to get on down the road. When I counted the seats I would say the bus was for approximately 10 if you want a normal tourist standard seating, or 15 if the side and backward seats also were used. However that’s not the limit on this kind of bused. People sit 3-4 people on a two person seat and trying to stand up if there’s no seat available. Remember that this is a mini bus I’m talking about, so you can’t really stand up normally, you have to stand crouched. To take as many passengers as possible (and earn more money I guess) they let people on even though the bus looks like it’s full. Amazingly though they always seem to find a place to sit or stand. I tried to count how many people were on the bus several times, it wasn’t easy since it was so crowded, but it could be 30-35 passengers or more. I was impressed by how people acted in these crowded buses. They were respectful and helping each other, no one complained or seemed angry, not that I could understand what they said but I guess I would have heard it on their tone if they were angry. I guess they have no choice, they have to get to work or where they are going and every bus is full so no point in waiting for the next one either.
To me it seemed like there were no fixed bus stops that people used. When someone wanted to get on they stood at the side of the road and waved their hand at the bus. And when people in the bus wanted to get off they just shouted and they bus stopped soon after. Perhaps there were some stops that were decided about unofficially but to me the process seems completely random.
The bus drove through small roads with a lot of turns, using the horn to make sure there weren’t other vehicles around the corner that they might collide with. We also had to cross a small stream of water, I guess that there’s a lot more water there during the rainy season. The so called bridge over the water was just a big block on concrete that they put from one side to the other. There were no other support and the bridge was only big enough for one car, not even a pedestrian could cross at the same time (and I guess they wouldn’t want to either since the cars were driving quite fast). It seemed a bit difficult to get up on the bridge because there was a 10 cm difference between the road and the bridge. I guess it was like this since there roads were not paved and because they had just put the bridge there and made it as easy as possible with no extra work to make it more convenient for the vehicles to cross. The way the bus took could change depending on the weather also. If it had rained a lot so the road was muddy and cars got stuck then the bus took a little detour to avoid that part of the road.
All in all it was good that there were buses so we didn’t have to walk everywhere but at the same time I wish there were better roads and bigger buses. It didn’t really feel that safe and wasn’t very comfortable, but at least we got to where we were supposed to. Kathmandu is a city that’s growing fast so I can understand that it’s difficult to keep up with the road building. I hope it’s better next time I visit. 🙂
I don’t think I have any pictures of the buses or this road but I’ll look around to see if I can find it.