Refining the Art of Patience
Men stand with arms crossed outside the row of parked buses at Kathmandu’s Gongabu Bus Station. The occasional figure smokes a cigarette. Time pass.
Buses toot their horns for departure, leaving a long trail of beeps as they leave, to beckon any straggling, potential passenger. The ‘conductor’, usually an older boy, hangs out the side door. One hand grips above the inside door frame, the other waves, while he shouts out the bus’s destination, as it inches its way out of the bus park. During the trip the conductor must also collect fares, retrieve luggage atop, pay toll fees, etc.
Heads stick out singly and in pairs in parked buses, quietly watching the slow-motion activity. On the bumper of one bus a sticker reads ‘WE WANT PEACE’. For a period of over ten years, the Maoist Rebel group slowly took control of the rural areas of Nepal eventually becoming a legitimate part of the government in the year 2006. Over 12,000 people died and over 100,000 were displaced during this decade of conflict.
Another two buses have the slogan, PLEASE HONK HORN, painted on the backside. Horns are the preferred method to inform other drivers of overtaking on the twisting Nepali roads.
Large plastic sheets cover personal belongings and cartons loaded high atop buses in case of rainfall. The bus tops also serve as an overflow, passenger section for the often, overcrowded buses.
Piles of brick lay scattered around a partially built, future bus stall site. Curbs serve as benches for waiting passengers. Food stalls sell last minute snacks of chips, cigarettes, mango flavored drinks and chocolate. Baseball caps adorn many young men’s heads. Older men’s head are covered with the traditional dhaka topi hat. A mother holds a child forward with no pants on, to pee near the construction site. Another child screams from inside a bus.
Solo foreign travelers meet up and hang at the rear of a bus sharing stories of their independent travels. Many other upgraded options are available for tourists in Kathmandu, but local travel hits the heart of Nepal and is very budget friendly.
A young boy approaches the group of westerners asking for a few rupees for food. Looks are exchanged amongst the travelers with this common request. One digs into a pocket and drops a few rupees into the open palm. The boy tries his luck with the others, but is unsuccessful.
On the dashboard of all buses sits statues of Hindu deities, adorned with dusty, plastic flowers, providing safety and protection on the road.
The bus starts to toot its readiness for departure. Still have at least half hour to kill.