It had been this way for a couple of hours. Occasionally there might be a murmur, or accidental nervous laugh. Some couple trying to keep their spirits up.
It is impossible to know what we were all thinking, yet, it would be hard to imagine anyone’s mind anywhere else. Were we going to make it out of this?
The armrests were under constant pressure from thirty sets of shivering white knuckles. I almost felt sorry for them. The incessant bouncing wore on my nerves. Bouncing is a poor word choice. Perhaps, thrusting-skyward while slamming-groundward with a side of wonderful neck-whipping is more appropriate. Bounce!
If I looked towards the faces around me, I likely saw a mirror image of my own reaction. Absolutely nothing. The definition of deadpan. Except it wasn’t humorous.
I debated how I would react if we ran into trouble.
Unfortunately, in this particular scenario there would be no reacting. You see, a bus of people rolling off a cliff edge simply doesn’t allow, or care much about, whatever your reaction may be.
It just rolls to the bottom. Maybe explodes. Bounce!
With a top-heavy vehicle like this, you forget to look at the scenery. You play ‘which-way-will-we-tip‘ instead.
Maybe you hit too many potholes in a row or try to pass another bus on this single lane. If so, a tip to the left occurs. A tip to the crevasse bottom where the roiling river meets you, hundreds of feet down.
Option number two, we simply tip to the right. Into the sheer cliff face or flat on our sides.
I prayed my brains out for number two simply to be done with it all.
Why was I even here? Shake bounce!
Why We Were Even There
My two friends and I had toyed with the idea of visiting Nepal after reading an article online. It was enough of an excuse.
The premise was that the locals were continuing to build more and more roads to accommodate wannabe tourists throughout the Himalayas.
In particular, the Annapurna Circuit was slated to have new roads that would shorten the seventeen-day trek to less than a week. For self-proclaimed purists like ourselves, this simply would not do. We would have to experience it before it was “ruined”.
We dreamt up the trip during a frigid, snowless, useless winter. A pleasant spring put it to the recesses of our minds, and shitty summer jobs brought it back to the forefront. By the time the leaves were a’changin’, I was changing my addresses for traveling.
Getting there was no simple task. Prep beforehand included training, research, visas, shots, meds! Traveling included planes, trains, AND automobiles! Of course, then there was Kathmandu.
Finally on the trail, inch by inch, I trudged to the highest elevation of my life…there was no cake and I thought I might pass out. The Thorong La Pass did not disappoint. But hiking it in real life is different than the REI classroom presentation.
Downhill would be simple. We could take a bus. Bounce!
What does it feel like when you realize for the first time, that Death is a not-so-distant character?
I found I came to grips with its presence quite quickly. This bus ride was too cheap for a guaranteed cliff dive, nothing that exciting for tourist at this price point. I simply put my fait in those around me. No way was the driver getting paid enough to take one for the team. Or maybe that’s why he didn’t care about throwing this dusty rig around every, single, FUCKING corner. BOUNCE!
Any wandering thoughts of survival were soon dashed. We were suspended in the air. Was that whoosh the sound of strangers exhaling in unison? Am I high right now? The right wheels were off of the ground and we were balancing, a luggage-heavy top load pulling us towards the edge.
Broken glass exploding around me came to life in my head. I melded to the seat, becoming one with the bus. I would survive, the soft bodies of others would surely shield some of us. Should I even think it…would the wheels on the bus go down to the ground, down to the ground…
We slammed back down so hard that we nearly tipped the other way. Without pause, the driver took a sharp, blind corner very fast.
No big deal.
I will time and time again, recommend to you an adventure in Nepal.
Just don’t take the mountain bus.