Horn sound made me see to left when I just walked out of a noodle food stall in Tashiling. Yes, that shrill sound came from Mr. Tirtha’s taxi which I never knew since when it had been parked under a tree right out of Tashiling area.
“I think we don’t need to go to Devi’s Fall because its water discharge is low now. So you can see the beauty of Devi’s Fall from a cave”, said Mr. Tirtha while turning steering wheel to left and entered Shital Path Street. I just agreed with that information.
Devi’s Fall often had been nicknamed as David’s Fall since decades ago when a Swiss drowned in current at this waterfall.
“OK …. We are arriving“, joked Mr. Tirtha while snapping her fingers when he had just turned right following Siddhartha Rajmag’s Street flow.
I started to enter the gate of Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave, which at its top stood the dashing Lord Shiva holding his trident in cross-legged position. Through it, then walking in tarpaulin-covered entrance route with a row of souvenir stalls on either side. Then I was greeted by the presence of Lord Vishnu statue which sleeping next to the main building.
It was time to head to a concrete balcony to bought a ticket for 100 Rupee. Before descending the stairs to cave mouth, for a moment I paid attention to details of staircase walls which were regularly spaced displaying Gods carvings which might implicitly feature a certain stories.
Temperature difference had begun to be felt on first foothold at cave mouth. Now I was ready to explore the longest cave in Nepal.
“Cow Shed“, I was stunned to see a cow shed with blue iron fence. I asked a local person who was talking in front of it. He briefly said that this cow protected Lord Shiva. I nodded as if I understood.
Going down the stairs through right side of cage I felt my breath getting heavier. The damp dark cramped space made it so. Then I saw a bright light again at a temple which dedicated to glorifying Lord Shiva.
It was said that this cave was found in 16th century with cave mouth closed by grass. Local people named this cave as Bhalu Dulo. When found, there were already carvings of several Hindu Gods such as Mahadev, Parvati, Nageshwor and Saraswati.
Now stairs to cave bottom were getting sharper and slippery. Water continued to drip from stalactites which were spread evenly on cave roof. The lack of lighting made my downward journey very slow.
Finally, the appearance of cave bottom was amazing. A very large room was in basement. Then on a side appeared a natural gap which was the only hole to enjoy the beauty of Devi’s Fall.
Check out the situation of Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave here:
I already understood before Mr. Tirtha told me that my next destination was Tashiling, A Tibetan refugee settlement in Pokhara. Nepal itself provided access to this migration because since ancient times, Tibet and Nepal have had close close relations in economy, diplomacy and culture. They have repeatedly signed various cooperation agreements in their history as two mutually sovereign nations.
Departing from International Mountain Museum, my taxi drove towards east and it was about 3.5 km in distance. This time Mr. Tirtha who changed to interrupt the trip, he stopped at a pharmacy to buy a some drugs. He steadfastly said that his father had a liver problem which required him to set aside his income from driving a taxi for his father’s treatment.
“Namaska“, he shouted at his friends on the street. He explained a little to me that Namaska was a greeting similar to “Namaste“.
Then, he emphasized that tourism was like a gold for his country. So many people in his age struggled to have a small car and fuctioned as a taxi. And English was the key for them to attract tourists …. “Sorry Mr Tirtha, if in Jakarta, I prefer to be a salesman with a commission” …..Hahaha, he broadly laughed.
15 minutes later, the taxi exited from Siddhartha Rajmarg main road. Stop on a dirt road. “Welcome to Tashiling“, said Mr. Tirtha.
My steps were immediately drawn to a row of souvenir stalls. Yesss…. That was where Tibetan people earn money to survive in their refugee camps. On the way home, Mr. Tirtha regretted Tibetan migration because China has paid more attention to Tibet welfare now.
Entering this 56 year old village, I could get a peek at a little Tibetan culture. The way they dress and worship was an easy thing to grasp during this brief visitation. The hospitality of the tiny residents with brown skin and slanted eyes became something unforgettable. According to a confession from one of them, there were about 700 Tibetan refugees in this village. Even in the early days of their migration, there were about 2,000 residents.
Tashiling itself was only one of 12 refugee camps across Nepal. It was well known since Dalai Lama resistance, many Tibetans migrated to Nepal on 1959-1961.
Satisfied in seeing Tashiling’s face, I took time to sit at their small restaurant. I ordered a bowl of noodles for lunch. Simple menu for 150 Rupee which made me ready to continue the journey to next destination.
Mr. Raj nicely prepared a special dish for me. Two bull’s-eye eggs served together with a banana, two layers of toast covered with mango jam and a cup of hot Nepalese tea. While Mr. Tirtha seemed to say goodbye and went home to enjoy his breakfast which made by his wife in his own home and then he would come back to pick me up and go around Pokhara until afternoon.
Precisely on 11 o’clock, he came. Then we were joking for a moment in lobby while waiting for another trio backpackers to appear. One thing that I kept from our conversation last morning that I had to try a Nepalese typical culinary called Nepali Thali.
Yups, time to explored….
This 3 km trip to southeast was only interrupted once when Mr. Tirtha stopped and waiting for me to exchange dollars at a small money changer at Phewa Lake edge.
I started to enter a courtyard with a sandy ground base. Dust spread in all directions when cars passed by. Then at a ticket counter in the form of a small stone-patterned building, I got an entrance ticket for 450 Rupee.
It was necessary to pass a special pedestrian path to reach museum’s main building. The path was lined by a row of towering trees but not so shady.
Arriving at front courtyard, a small monument welcomed me. A monument dedicated to Himalayan climbers who never descended again because they had their souls resided in a blanket of Himalayan snow.
Stepping stairs to reached museum front gate, then I was greeted by a simple x-ray gate. In early hallways, museum displayed photographs of world’s iceberg peaks. Also displayed the typical clothes of countries concerned.
Entering next corridor, the museum introduced ethnic diversity throughout Nepal. The tribe name and its distinctive clothes were nicely displayed. It should be noted that this country, which covering no more than 8% of the land area of the Republic of Indonesia, had 126 ethnicities in it.
Entering central hall, museum displayed names of Himalayas peaks. The Himalayas alone provide 18 main peaks which challenge hikers from all over the world to climb them.
Finally, at the end, the museum presented heroic stories of the Himalayas conquest by first-class climbers. In this section also described a number of tragedies which they have experienced with their various climbing missions. Very touching and heart wrenching.
Visitation in this museum was ended by walking along second floor towards museum exit gate. Here was a destinations in Pokhara which were eye-opening about Nepal and the Himalayas.
It was still quite early in the morning when I started leaving Bindhyabasini Temple. Back in riding Mr. Tirtha’s daily rental taxi, I along with a trio of backpackers from hotel started down Pokhara-Baglung Street heading south. Mr. Tirtha planned to take me to an old market which was more than 250 years old. He said, this old market was called Purano Bazaar, but public often called it as Old Bazaar.
It was true that said by Mr. Tirtha that this temple and market are close to each other. Only 1.5 km away with 5 minutes of travel time. Quickly arrived, Mr. Tirtha dropped me off on a side of market and he threw his index finger in a corner as a sign that I should meet him there when my Purano Bazaar exploration was over. He wanted to enjoy situation in his own way. All I knew was that he hadn’t been exposed to coffee aroma since early morning.
My stomach which started to feel hungry, automatically led me down market corridor to find street food as a breakfast. Before long, white smoke which rising from three furnaces caught my attention.
“Namaste”, said old merchant who was busy frying. Before answering, my heart laughed when it was the first time in my life to see Jalebi’s appearance. Yes, it is a kind of typical Indian street snacks which I got to know when Saroo and Guddu couldn’t afford to taste it because their money from stealing coal in a mining wagon was only enough to pay for a few bags of milk for their poor family in Ganesh Talai. A touching scene in a film which titled “Lion”. Since then I have been determined to taste Jalebi in India, although I was tasting faster in Nepal.
That old merchant who was initially stunned watching me when I spoke English to buy his food suddenly laughed and raised his hand while frowning. Then a young man in blue jacket who was enjoying his meal got up from his chair and with his fluent English helped that old man served me….Great.
Going back down to market corridor, while munching on snacks, I enjoyed the classic Newar architecture which were shown by many old buildings. Each building always featured visual strength of red bricks which were integrated with distinctive carvings on building wood.
It was said that Newars originating from Bhaktapur in far east of Pokhara were skilled traders. Short story, King Kaski invited him to trade in Pokhara in 1752. And at that time Pokhara had also developed trading activities with Tibet as well. My mind agreed, because there was a Tibetan village in Pokhara….I would visit it later.
Market beauty could be felt because there were still no activity that morning. Himalayas sight was still an idol just down the road. Two bonus destinations which were well presented by Mr. Tirtha, a tall, thin Nepalese, has brown skin typical of South Asia but has slanted eyes like a Chinese.
I said goodbye to Mrs. Celesse, a Belgian woman who still had a beautiful face. Maybe she was a photo model when she was young. Mrs. Calesse, who had shoulder-blonde hair, using a red jacket and a white scarf, still chose to pretty sitting in Sarangkot fot watching Phewa Lake expanse which shining blue when hit by the sun.
Meanwhile, at the botton of hill, precisely in a car park, I had been waiting by three other backpackers who had been heading to this place since early morning with me.
—- **** —-
Me: “So, we returned to the hotel for breakfast and taking a bath“, I said on taxi front seat to Mr. Tirtha-our taxi driver-.
Mr. Tirtha: “Sure, but before it, can I take you to two places which are located along with our way back? “, His smile held mystery and surprise.
Me: “Oh, yeah …. Is it one of International Mountain Museum, Tashi Ling, Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave or Shanti Stupa?“, I think we were still time there after breakfast.
Mr. Tirtha: “Oh No, Hahaha….These were different places…. Two places were close together, Sir“, he deliberately made me curious.
Me: “Oh yeah….Nice to hear that. How about you, bothers?“, I asked to other backpacker’s in the backseat asking for their approval. Finally we agreed to go to those place.
Heading east, the taxi slowly crept down Sarangkot Street. Riding it for 20 minutes, I arrived at a T-junction. I found several school buses which looked like have yellow colour all over the world, then the journey continued with passing the crowd of cyclists and motorbikes. The taxi was slowly uncovering their way until finally it was parked on the edge of pavement.
Visitors were free of charge when they took turns entering temple area through stairs on a side of courtyard. Having finished climbing the stairs, the large temple courtyard was in front. Some congregants began queuing to perform rituals at a white stupa on the left, while others made offerings at a cow statue which overlooking a temple building. And right in the center of courtyard stood a main building with three levels of roof which were no less crowded with congregation. It was in this building which the statue of Goddess Bhagwati was located.
Goddess Bhagwati herself was believed to be the Protector of Pokhara who was purified in the temple. Congregations regularly made offerings to Goddess by slaughtering various livestock. And Pokhara people should be grateful that their king Siddhi Narayan Shah contributed to building this temple in the 17th century.
Temperature was starting to warm up to spoil anyone to linger sitting on the edge of courtyard with 900 meters high above sea level. Then while breathing the fresh air, I enjoyed residential areas view with the blue background of Himalayas.
Visiting Nepal is synonymous with visiting the Himalayas. And all travelers know that the Himalayan gate is in Pokhara. It has been a long time since this city, nicknamed as “Gem of Himalaya”, has opened itself to show its beauty around the world.
This had put Pokhara on the top list in my visitation to South Asia region. Not Kathmandu, but Nepal’s second largest city which is located in northwest valley of Pokhara, this was what made me hurry for a moment to leave the capital city of Nepal even though it had only been arrive a day before.
Here were seven tourist attractions which I visited in Pokhara:
Being the closest vantage point to enjoy the Himalayas had placed Sarangkot as a special place to visit for travelers who didn’t have much time to hike that famous mountains.
Early arriving in the morning and sat at the viewpoint ahead of dawn. Enjoying colors gradation which hit ice layer at Machhapuchhare peak. Undoubtedly the golden color would fascinate you.
2. Bindhyabasini Temple
Descending from Sarangkot with its background of iconic Phewa Lake, I immediately headed to a Hindu temple where the Goddess Bhagwati worshiped, which was 7 km east of Sarangkot. Exactly at 08:14 hours. the temple was already so busy with visitors and also congregants who had come to pray.
Temple location which was on a hill made me freely gaze in observing dense residential housing with Himalayas background which turn blue with white ice at its peak.
3. Old Bazaar/Purano Bazaar
Now I was moving about 2 km southward down the road to a commercial place which dated back to the 18th century. The market was dominated by Newar architecture with red brick motifs with a lane which was only enough for two vehicles passing each other.
9:15 am….It was too early for Pokhara people to trade. As far as the eye could see, my memory was spoiled with market streets view which were flanked by classic buildings on either side of road, then at the end of road, there were dammed with Himalayas face whose timeless beauty.
Because the market was so quiet, no one bothered me in enjoying Jalebi in the middle of street.
4. International Mountain Museum
After returning to hotel for breakfast. Then, I continued visiting a museum which was dedicated to Himalayan climbers who never again safely descended.
By paying 450 Rupee, I was treated to a gallery which displayed a photos series of snowy peaks around the world which was followed by the peculiarities of various ethnic Nepalese inhabitants, then closed with several heroic stories of Himalayan climbers.
5. Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Camp.
For those who haven’t had a chance to visiting Tibet, then feel its nuance by visiting Tibetan people in Tashiling. This village was inhabited by Tibetan refugees who migrated because of political intrigue.
They made a living by trading in their new home. Many travelers shopped for souvenirs at this place. I myself took time to lunch with a bowl of noodles for 150 Rupee at one of their food stall.
6. Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave.
Located near from Tashiling, the cave which was located right on a side of Siddhartha Rajmarg road, its ticket fare about 100 Rupee. Circling down the stairs in red main building, I came to the mouth of this cave. Continuing along the curves of narrow humid alleys which lead to the main cave room with a view of swift waterfall which was peeking out from longitudinal slit on a side….Very beautiful.
7. World Peace Pagoda
Late in the afternoon, I arrived at my final destination. By another name, Shanti Stupa, this pure white pagoda was a painstaking climb on Anadu Hill. A Japanese heritage site of worship symbolized peace which uphold silence. Not allowing a slightest noise was a norm which must be obeyed during a visitation.
A natural decoration in the form of Himalayas with the ground of Phewa Lake in a view side became even more perfect with appearance of Pokhara City which was seen from above.
So, if you visit Pokhara, make sure to visit these cool places.
Ending a transaction and grabbing a Pokhara-Kathmandu bus ticket, I intended to hurry to hotel. Clockwork seemed to move fast and dark slowly but must have enveloped the city, until then I agreed to a taxi driver to take me to New Pokhara Lodge.
A little white taxi was agile cutting through small alleyway. Once he looked confused and forced him down and asked to young man who was drinking a cup of coffee and sucked a cigarette. Then his pointing hand made the driver understandably nod.
—- **** —-
I sat and watched banknotes from various nationalities neatly arranged in a lobby gallery. One of them is a banknote with Tuanku Imam Bonjol’s image.
After a while, a middle-aged man appeared, he already had slow movements but was trying to keep smiling. Furthermore, I knew him as Mr. Raj, a hotel’s person in charge who was very good at providing services to his guests at New Pokhara Lodge.
I was placed at second floor of this U-shaped hotel, three-story orange hotel. A room which I redeemed for 900 Rupess had now become my base camp while traveling in Pokhara.
—- **** —-
Mr. Raj briefly advised me, “Don’t worry about your security in New Year Celebration !. Don’t drink too much and back soon!…. Enjoy your night and Happy New Year ”.
Walking 650 meters to Phewa Lake edge, I followed a small path which only two-wheeled vehicles could pass. Only two minutes to arrived at the bustle of Lakeside Road. A stage was set up at lake edge.
Street food scent in the midst of groups of Nepalese youths was a perfect blend in the cold air of Pokhara. Temperature of 8o C slowly intimidated stomach. And it felt like I couldn’t afford to eat and sit for long time in sidewalk, cold night temperature had made my unprotected hands and face stiffen. In the end, footsteps led me into AM/PM Organic Cafe. A cup of Masala Tea with vegetarian fried rice would warm the body towards midnight which was being awaited by all people in the world.
Food which was finished with had no leftover, tea cup which had dried up and waitress who kept paying attention, made me feel bad. My hunch tell me to get out of the cafe because of course the owner hoped that the table which I was currently occupying could be sold to other visitors.
Now I was trying to sneak into crowd to avoid cold wind which was blowing from the lake. The Nepali-like stature and facial features made me looked like a local all around the stage.
Local artists took turns in giving their best performances, elementary school age children didn’t want to be outdone by their dances, all of them were guided by MC with ideal features, smooth hair without mustaches and worthy looked as Bollywood actor.
That night, Pokhara people seemed to be the happiest people in the world.
I wasn’t sure that it would celebrate fireworks. That belief made me slowly withdraw from crowd. Slowly walking and echoing Mr. Raj’s advice who warned me that whatever might happen because there were indeed many young men who drank too much on streets.
Having yet to turn into an alley, the crowd began to loudly countdown then fireworks shot into the air and exploded right in the center of Phewa Lake. The moment which I had been waiting for was almost interrupted by cold. I turned around and enjoyed the atmosphere. The lake, which was originally dark and appeared to be black, now reflected fireworks light spectrum which were exploding above it.
An admiration which I didn’t even get at the same moment a year ago in Osaka. A beauty which made me forget to capture the moment itself. But never mind, my brain was still recording it well until now.
Check out a situation ahead to the new year at Phewa Lake edge:
Enough with 300 Rupee for 10 minutes, riding a taxi from Thamel to Kanti Path Road. If you weren’t afraid of getting lost, you could also walk for 20-25 minutes.
My imagination told me that a bus which I was chasing would standby at a travel agent office. But the reality was far beyond presupposition. All buses from various travel agents lined up along Kanti Path Road.
48 minutes before departure, I took time to have a light breakfast because this was a long journey which I myself didn’t know how the travel time management was.
I already ordered the ticket via email from Jakarta for 750 Rupee, it was just the payment was do at departure location. It was a strange transaction which I encountered for the first time abroad. Now the problem was only one, I had to be transferred to another bus because according to ticket seller, a bus which I ordered was fullseat (it seemed that this was their strategy, catching passengers via email first and regarding which bus would be placed on, that was the next business….Hahaha, smart).
Amazingly, I was only given a ticket and then asked to independently find a bus along Kanti Path Road based on a number plate on the ticket. I confidently executed his order. It was just that, just walking for 5 minutes to looking for it, I started to get overwhelmed….Yes, it was puzzling!….Nepali numeric was different from Latin numeric!.
Worse …. Now half an hour to departure began to be count down. Armed with no communication access, I returned to starting point of searching to ask ticket seller who seemed to be concurrently as bus coordinator. Dizziness was made by him because I couldn’t find him. I showed my ticket to several people around, they just shouted “wait!…. wait!”. Trying to disguise my panic with 15 minutes remaining to departure time, my eyes closely watched crowd one by one to find the person who I was looking for. Yes, I recognized green color of his winter beanie and a polyphonic phone necklace around his neck. I approached and asked him to help me in finding the bus which was referred to in the ticket….Yes, he only briefly said “Looking for light green bus….Row number three from the front”. Seeing her busy and impossible to accompany me in looking fo the bus, I immediately ran towards front row.
Finally, a light green bus departed at 7 o’clock. Armed with a liter of free mineral water, I sat in the back seat with Korean students who would then have a friendly conversation throughout 8.5 hours journey to Phokara.
Along the way, the bus would stop four times.
Twice for toilet breaks for 15 minutes, i.e 1st break stop on 9:30 hours and 4th break stop on 14:30 hours.
Apart from toilet breaks, bus would also stop twice for meals, each with a duration of 20 minutes. 2nd break stop for breakfast on 10:30 hours and 3rd break stop for lunch on 13:30 hours. I paid a little attention to restaurant cashier table. It was seen that if how many of food was taken, passenger would pay for 450 Rupee.
During the trip, I was really fascinated when I was presented with views from right side. Leaves were turning white because of thick dust from streets, giant billboards which were displayed in the middle of rice fields, suspension bridges which connecting hills, rafting along river and bustling Chandragiri Cable Car tour. Even I could be made to smile by residents behavior in sunbathing in 9° C air while playing carom or some of them surround fire which was lit in house yard.
Slowly bus climbed, descended and circled mountains with ravines on the right. I wasn’t too worried because bus was slowly running. A thing that then made me realized that most of cars, trucks and buses in Nepal came from Tata Motor manufacturer, India.
I thought bus which labeled with “Tourist Bus” word wouldn’t pick up passengers on streets, it turned out that its little conductor had picked up passengers twice, but the better ting was no one stood up in bus.
The trip was stopped due to a wheel leak on 15 minutes before reaching Pokhara. The conductor was a teenager who struggling to change bus wheel, luckyly three taxi drivers came to help. In this condition, I still managed to do transactions at a street market to get a bag of oranges for 100 Rupee. But repairing took too long time and didn’t fast finish, so I was finally transferred to another bus.
In Pokhara, bus would stop at Tourist Bus Park with a view of the Himalayas behind it…..pretty amazing.
Ignoring many offering from taxi drivers, I rushed to a travel agent office, not far from where I got off. Yup….I took initiative to immediately order a return ticket to Kathmandu because later I would fly to New Delhi via Tribhuvan International Airport. This travel agent offered three types of ticket prices, ranging from 650 to 850 Rupee depending on bus quality. Not taking it long, I chose the cheapest price.
After Fajr, I rushed to find flight information board to make sure my connecting flight would be on time or maybe it would be delayed. I found it in main transit hall corridor.
As a follower of eating on time, by 06:00 hours, I was busy to looking for halal food. Now only halal which would be the my requirement….Because I couldn’t choose a menu with street food price, of course. Exploring 3rd floor of Suvarnabhumi, I finally stopped at Silom Village.
I closed breakfast that morning by sipping a cup of warm tea which was able to expel the wind in my body after a night of cold sleep in the main corridor of transit hall and continued at prayer room.
Then I headed to gate C10 to wait for Thai Airways TG 319. This time I only needed to step one more floor via escalator to reach the gate.
While waiting for boarding time, it was better to charge my smartphone as the only documentation tool which I carried….As usual, I was the amateur backpacker. I also tried to reread an itinerary which I was ready to use for my exploration in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
My boredom in seeing planes in Suvarnabhumi International Airport runway was broken by presence of Thai Airways, BOEING 777-200 type. Paid close attention to loading process so that I didn’t feel boarding time arrived on time.
Entering aircraft cabin and in a blink my eyes became fresh. Apart from the beauty of flight attendants, also because airplane seats have colorful seat covers. Plane cabin looked like colorful candy.
I sat at right side of cabin and flanked by two young girls. On the right, a Chinese girl who I didn’t know what her name was and a Japanese girl on the left whose her surnamed was Kawaguchi….Very beautiful with her ponytail.
I sat down while feeling a little sorry for being unable to quickly choose an airplane seat after online ordering ticket. This caused my opportunity loss to sit in a ideal position for photographers, i.e window seat. Because this flight would be very close to some of peaks of Himalayas which would show off their snow blankets.
When that moment happened, almost half of passengers stood up and faced to right window. It was the position where I sit. I couldn’t take pictures very well and prefered to still sit and recorded brief flight sessions right over Himalayas in my brain memory. It was still beautiful memorized, until this article was published….Amazing flight.
The landing process was equally attractive. The view presented residential building of Kathmandu residents which were dominated by brownish square shape. Now I was ready to set foot in Tribhuvan International Airport which had become a gateway to Nepal for the last few decades.
Aviation security: “Hi, Sir. Please, directly stepping to airport building!”, He said, forbidding me to take a selfie image under Thai Airways.
Me: “OK, Sir….I’m sorry“, I answered with a little annoyed….Hmmh.
The arrival hall which wasn’t too luxurious and was only equipped with an old screening gate, made me smile because I felt like on Indonesia’s 80s era.
Then I submitted a Visa on Arrival application at visa issuing machine and then paid for USD 25 at a counter which was guarded by elderly female staff, I finally entered Nepal.
Cukup dengan Rp. 40.000 untuk menunggang taksi selama 10 menit dari Thamel ke Kanti Path Road. Jika tak takut tersasar, kamu juga boleh menempuhnya selama 20-25 menit dengan berjalan kaki.
Imajinasiku mengatakan bahwa bus yang sedang kukejar ini akan standby di sebuah kantor travel agent. Tetapi kenyataannya jauh diluar perandaian. Semua bus dari berbagai travel agent berbaris menyemut di sepanjang Kanti Path Road.
48 menit menjelang keberangkatan, kusempatkan bersarapan ringan karena ini adalah perjalanan panjang yang aku sendiri tak tahu bagaimana manajemen waktu perjalanannya.
Tiket sendiri sudah kupesan via email dari Jakarta seharga Rp. 92.000, hanya saja pembayaran dilakukan di lokasi keberangkatan. Transaksi aneh yang kujumpai pertama kali di luar negeri. Kini masalahnya hanya satu, aku harus dioper ke bus lain karena menurut si penjual tiket, bus yang kupesan sudah fullseat (sepertinya ini memang strategi mereka, menjaring penumpang via email terlebih dahulu dan perihal akan ditempatkan di bus yang mana, itu urusan belakangan….Hahaha, cerdas).
Hebatnya lagi, Aku hanya diberikan selembar tiket lalu diminta untuk mencari bus secara mandiri di sepanjang Kanti Path Road berdasar plat nomor yang tertera di tiket. Penuh percaya diri kuiyakan perintah itu. Hanya saja, baru saja berjalan 5 menit mencarinya, aku mulai kewalahan….Ya puyeng lah!….Numerik Nepal kan berbeda dengan numerik latin!.
Parah….Kini setengah jam menuju keberangkatan mulai dihitung mundur. Tak berbekal akses komunikasi apapun, aku kembali lagi ke titik awal pencarian untuk bertanya kepada si penjual tiket yang nampaknya merangkap jabatan sebagai koordinator bus. Kelimpungan dibuatnya karena aku tak menemukan batang hidungnya. Kutunjukkan tiketku kepada beberapa orang di sekitar, mereka hanya manyahut “wait!….wait!”. Berusaha menyamarkan kepanikan dengan 15 menit tersisa menuju waktu keberangkatan, mataku lekat mengawasi satu persatu kerumunan orang untuk menemukan orang yang kucari. Yes, aku mengenali warna hijau penutup kepalanya dan kalungan handphone poliponik di lehernya. Kuhampiri dan memintanya menolongku menemukan armada yang termaksud dalam tiket….Beuh, dia hanya berucap singkat “Looking for the light green bus….Row number three from the front”. Melihatnya sibuk dan tak mungkin menemaniku mencari, aku segera berlari menuju barisan terdepan.
Akhirnya armada hijau muda bertolak tepat pukul 7. Berbekal seliter free-mineral water, aku terduduk di kursi paling belakang bersama mahasiswa asal Korea yang kemudian akan bercakap akrab sepanjang 8,5 jam perjalanan menuju Phokara.
Sepanjang perjalanan, bus akan berhenti empat kali.
Dua kali untuk toilet break selama 15 menit yaitu break stop ke-1 pada jam 9:30 dan break stop ke-4 pada jam 14:30.
Selain toilet break, bus juga akan 2 kali berhenti untuk makan masing-masing berdurasi 20 menit. Break stop ke-2 untuk sarapan pada jam 10:30 dan break stop ke-3 untuk makan siang pada jam 13:30. Aku sedikit memperhatikan meja kasir rumah makan, terlihat bahwa sedikit banyaknya makanan yang diambil, penumpang secara merata membayar Rp. 53.000.
Selama perjalanan pula, aku sungguh terpesona ketika tersuguh pemandangan dari sisi kanan. Dedaunan yang memutih karena tertutup tebalnya debu jalanan, papan-papan iklan raksasa yang terpanjang di tengah pesawahan, jembatan-jembatan gantung penghubung antar bukit, kegiatan rafting di sepanjang sungai dan ramainya wisata ChandragiriCable Car. Bahkan aku bisa dibuat tersenyum dengan tingkah warga yang berjemur di tengah hawa dingin 9°C sembari bermain karambol atau beberapa dari mereka mengelilingi api yang dinyalakan di pelataran rumah.
Perlahan bus menaiki, menuruni dan mengelilingi pegunungan dengan jurang di sebelah kanan. Aku tak terlalu khawatir karena bus berjalan pelan. Satu hal yang kemudian membuatku tersadar bahwa kebanyakan mobil, truk dan bus di Nepal berasal dari pabrikan Tata Motor, India.
Kupikir moda bertuliskan Tourist Bus ini tak akan mengambil penumpang di jalanan, ternyata dua kali kondektur ciliknya menaikkan penumpang, hanya saja tak sampai ada yang berdiri.
Perjalanan sempat terhenti karena terjadi kebocoran roda pada 15 menit sebelum mencapai Pokhara. Kondektur belasan tahun itu pontang-panting untuk mengganti roda, beruntung 3 sopir taksi datang membantu. Dalam kondisi seperti ini, aku masih sempat saja bertransaksi di sebuah pasar tumpah untuk mendapatkan sekantong jeruk seharga Rp. 13.000. Tetapi perbaikan yang terlalu lama dan tak kunjung usai, akhirnya aku dioper ke bus lain.
Di Pokhara, bus akan berhenti di Tourist Bus Park dengan pemandangan pegunungan Himalaya di belakangnya…..cuannteeekkkkk luar biasa.
Tak mengindahkan serbuan para sopir taksi, aku bergegas menuju sebuah kantor travel agent tak jauh dari tempatku turun. Yup…Aku berinisiatif untuk langsung memesan tiket balik menuju Kathmandu karena nantinya aku akan terbang ke New Delhi melalui Tribhuvan International Airport. Travel agent ini menawarkan tiga jenis harga tiket yang berkisar dari dari Rp. 80.000 hingga Rp. 105.000 tergantung dari kualitas bus. Tak ambil pikir panjang, aku memilih harga termurah.