This is an intense ride. In fact, you could replace the word “intense” with the word “terrifying” and you would be more accurate. While I was on the bus from Kathmandu to Shivalaya in Nepal, the back wheel slipped off the edge of the road; I was looking out my window at a 100 meter drop and other burned buses at the bottom. This was the closest I have ever come to accepting my death.

Now, let’s recap how this terrifying trip took place, and how this was almost my last bus ride.

Bus from Kathmandu to Shivalaya

Finding the bus station in Kathmandu

The days before had been spent stocking up on gear and supplies, withdrawing the money I needed, and figuring out the permits. It was time to find the bus station and figure out how to get to get from Kathmandu to Shivalaya.

After asking around, and almost being scammed numerous times, I eventually heard to head to the old bus station to buy the tickets for 8am the next day. The old bus station is walkable from Thamel. If you look on a map and have a decent sense of direction, then it’s no problem to find.

I arrived early in order to secure a good seat. This was probably unnecessary as my level of comfort was lowered throughout the trip.

The total bus ride was quoted at 8 hours by the wide man who sold me the tickets. The total trip time of the bus from Kathmandu to Shivalaya was closer to 14 hours. A pretty intense 14 hours at that!

Turning down the friendship of a local eccentric on the bus from Kathmandu to Shivalaya

As I left Kathmandu towards Shivalaya, the roads seemed ok and the bus, although slightly over-packed, wasn’t too bad considering. This changed quickly.

As we left the city we made many stops; we picked up more people, packages, animals, and who knows what else.

I was at the very back of the bus beside a drunk old man who enjoyed trying to speak to me. Usually, in cases like this, true FTF protocol would dictate befriending the local eccentric.

Unfortunately, his general level of filthiness and degrade made this a rather unappealing mental proposition, and I chose to keep to myself this time. I stand by my choice; the world is full of eccentrics. 

The beginning of the bus ride, before I nearly died

As the other bus passengers and I travelled from Kathmandu to Shivalaya we mainly hung to the edge of a cliff on a narrow road, hardly wide enough for a single bus. When we had to pass another truck it was literally heart stopping.

We switch-backed through the mountains of Nepal from village to village.

We stopped in the village of Jiri, where I bought a sim card and was able to hook it up rather quickly. This came with data and was actually a very valuable little tool during the trek.

After leaving Jiri, it began to get dark, and this is where the trip gets a little rough and a lot scary.

By now we had well over 100 people on the bus. Most were inside, some on the roof. I’d estimate a 70/30 split between the people on the inside of the bus and outside roof riders. The roof riders were perched high up on the various cargo that was being transported along with us from Kathmandu to Shivalaya.

This, of course, made our bus into one large, top-heavy, beast that drove into the fading sunlight at unsafe speeds. We wobbled back and forth; the heavy weight above our heads causing our beast to sway.

This is when it happened. When I almost died.

Q: How safe is the bus from Kathmandu to Shivalaya? A: It nearly killed me

I thought we were going to go over that cliff. As our bus rounded a sharp corner, we were head-on with another large truck. The rock wall of the mountain was to our left, this meant we were to pass on the right. The cliff side.

We slowed almost to a stop as the two huge vehicles tried to pass each other.

The driver leaned out the window to pull in the mirror so we could get as close as possible. We were almost past when the back passenger-side wheel slipped off the edge of the cliff, and the bus slowly started to tip.

During the bus from Kathmandu to Shivalaya, I sat in a window seat overlooking the edge of the cliff. This was a sheer drop over hundreds of meters, and every so often, more often than not in fact, I would see an upside down burned out bus smashed up on the rocks below. Not comforting.

It felt like I was in slow motion as the bus was tipping, and I was stuck against the drunk old man. Nepalese men began jumping from the top of the bus.

Were talking a serious jump here; they were high up. Everyone was silent.

I was looking for an escape when the driver sprang into action. He yelled “YOLO” at the top of his lungs, cranked the wheel and gunned it. We slid around a bit. Our grip tightened. We caught the road and away we went.

All of this took place in less than a minute, but felt it like a lifetime. What about those that jumped off the bus? They were left behind. The driver had no time for traitors.

The bus continued on to Shivalaya where we rolled in around 10pm. This would be my first taste of tea-house sleeping. A very thin mat on a plywood box of sorts. This was split 2 ways, a cost of about 33 cents each.

I would spend one night here then begin my solo trek to Everest Base Camp.

This is the first in a series of posts recapping a solo unguided trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. 

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6 Responses

  1. Ellie Crowe

    Great to read about your hairy scary adventurous travels — I’ll try them if I ever reincarnate — at the moment my travels are a lot less scary, though fun and fascinating — try Hawaii sometime too.
    aloha Ellie

    • Alex

      Hi Ellie,

      As long as your having fun, it doesn’t matter the kind of travel right?

      Enjoy Hawaii

    • Alex

      It’s one of those glad I did it but not in a hurry to do it again! Gotta give it a shot at least once.. 🙂