Walking the trails is one thing; riding a bus down through them is something entirely different. Along certain points on the Annapurna Circuit, a well-traveled trekking route, buses carry hikers and locals to their destinations. Jomsom is an important stop. Coffee shops, restaurants and guesthouses line its single street, catering to weary adventurers. Many will need to head back to Pokhara, where they likely started their journey. Though it may not seem possible, there is indeed a bus that can take passengers straight to Pokhara from here.
If you’ve been to Kathmandu, you’ll recognize the small, private city buses by the whistling conductor shouting out the destination while hanging out the door and inviting pedestrians in for a 15 rupee ride. These buses are small, slightly rickety, and colorfully decked out in religious imagery. I wasn’t expecting a bus like this to take me around the curvy edged, unpaved roads on the sides of some very steep mountains. But that’s exactly what I had to get on one early morning in Jomsom. I boarded the bus nervously, having little faith in how it was going to be able to navigate the roads. Ducking into my tiny seat, I hit my head on a low, overhanging storage compartment. A great start.
It took a while to get settled and get going, as we had to turn around a couple times to pick up people who hadn’t shown up on time. But once we got going, my nerves were slightly calmed by the sight of the sun rising over the mountains. In fact, the entire 12-hour ride was a mixture of awestruck gazing at the beauty around me and anxiously gripping my husband’s arm every time the bus rounded a corner or got painfully close to the edge.
Bollywood tunes blared through the speakers. We followed the Gandaki River that gushed below us. When I wasn’t worried about ending up in its current, it was nice to stare at and reflect on our trip. The best part about road trips is the potential for daydreaming. But I was usually snapped out of it by the bus running over a rock and being launched out of my seat (hitting my head, again). The bus drivers, who take this road all day every day, aren’t the most cautious, but they certainly seem to know what they’re doing.
The best part of the journey were the snack stops. As the bus was a local one, not catering to foreigners, we stopped at restaurants that offered the most traditional and authentic Nepali cuisine, dal bhat. We ate like Nepalis, with big heaps of rice, lots of spice, and with our hands.
On we went through tiny villages and windy roads. We ran into the occasional landslide repair, which we gladly took as an opportunity to unravel ourselves from our seats and wait while tractors shoveled the mess away. Over the twelve-plus hours together, locals and foreign adventurers grew bonds, swapped stories, and made memories they won’t likely forget.
We were happy to end up in Pokhara late in the evening, safe and sound if not a little sore and banged up. The journey may have been more than I bargained for in the moment, but it’s an experience that won’t be easily forgotten. If you don’t have the luxury of walking for a week, know there’s probably a bus route wherever you’re going in Nepal. Proceed with caution and watch your head.
Article by Taylor May
Top image photo credit ActiveSteve/Flickr
If this interests you, you might like to have a look at some of the other treks Royal Mountain Travel can offer in the area:
Inspired to learn more about this area? Have a look at Inside Himalayas:
10 Frequently Asked Questions about the Annapurna Circuit Trek; Tips for Photographing the Annapurna Circuit; Respecting Annapurna and its History; Manang the Jewel of the Annapurna Circuit; Lower Mustang, A Land of Lamas and Buddhism; Mountain Biking Around Lower Mustang; The Road to Jomsom; 9 Reasons to Travel to Lower Mustang This Season; Upper Mustang: Travel to the Hidden Kingdom; Exploring Lo Manthang, Capital of Upper Mustang; Ice Climbing and Winter Adventures in the Annapurnas; Alone But Never Lonely: The Annapurna Circuit in Winter