All good things must come to an end, especially if there are other good things waiting to be experienced. Due to internet connectivity problems, I’m about a week behind on reports so will hope that I can catch up. )
To taxi or not to taxi? that is the question. My “tourist bus” connection is around 11:30 a.m. in the town of Dumre, some 8 km. down a torturously-winding road. I’m at the Bandipur departure area at 10:45, where two rattletrap buses are taking on passengers. No taxis. People say we leave at 11, but at 11:10 there is still no motion. I exit the bus and start asking about a taxi, which will cost me 500 rupees I’m told. At that point, the bus driver says we will leave, and so five minutes later we do…although there are still passengers to pick up en route. Nepali music is blasting over the buses’ six loudspeakers, covering the squeal of brakes as the bus heaves and pitches through the hairpin curves. (That evening at my hotel in Pokhara, I will read about a local bus that went over the edge of a cliff and plummeted 400 meters, killing 12 out of 17 passengers. No mention of the driver’s fate.)
I make it to the Bandipur gate at the edge of Dumre at 11:35, and wonder if I missed the bus. This being Nepal, probably not. I beg an old woman (probably younger than me) if I can use her hillside to pee, and she grudgingly allows me access. Then it’s a matter of waiting in a little gazebo by the gate. I pull out my thin bamboo cushion, purchased for $1.00 at a Japanese discount store in downtown Berkeley, and marvel again briefly at its functionality and comfort.
I start reading a book by the famous Paulo Calvino when, moments later, the same orange tourist bus that dropped me off in Dumre appears again, with the same greasy-haired young conductor recognizing me and welcoming me on board.
It’s about five minutes later that I realize my precious cushion is still on the concrete seat in the gazebo. It is 100% replaceable and yet I mourn its passing and simultaneously curse my absent-mindedness. I take the moment to heart and see it as a cautionary lesson. My last trip through Asia went well until I got to northern Italy and relaxed in the comfort and beauty of the Italian Alps. In a youth hostel not far from Lake Lugano, I was robbed of my shoulder bag, camera, lenses, film, journal (of Greece), and about $1000 in travelers’ cheques.
This happened because I failed to lock a window at night, and some stealthy thief came in to the room, cut the strap wrapped around the bedpost, and absconded with a bag full of treasure. Bastard! I managed to survive of course, but always wonder if the person who caused me so much grief ever suffered karmic retribution for their predatory ways.
The forgotten cushion serves as a talisman in this trip to continue to be vigilant as Turkey, Greece, and Germany approaches.
About Pokhara and a return to the LakeStar Hotel, I can only say that I plan to bounce out of here in a couple days, and end up on a mountain ridge.