It was time to leave the lake, the mountains and my new friends at Peace Eye. Melissa met me in the morning, and after I said my farewells, we called my Sarangkot taxi driver to take us to the bus area. After haggling our way onto a bouncy bus that was every shade of brown imaginable, we were raring to go to Bandipur, the hillside town I was originally meant to volunteer in. I had read of Bandipur's beauty, and the students confirmed that it's a gem of a town, nestled atop green hills with a spectacular view of the Himalaya. Bandipur boasts some of the best preserved Newari architecture in the region, and we couldn't wait. Our excitement however, began to wane as we realised the drivers were hanging around until the bus filled, which was a stuffy and sticky forty-five minutes later.
I had been beaming all morning, pure happiness inside my chest, but as we got to the junction town of Dumre, something inside shifted. For the first time during my entire trip, I was in a rotten mood. I was exhausted, my cough was irritating me, and I was tired of feeling cheated by bus drivers. I have the patience of a mountain, but it was worn thin that day, and I'm embarrassed to say that I was less than polite with the driver of the microbus that took us up the hill to Bandipur.
A spiky-haired young boy hoarsely demanded 400 rupees for a twenty minute jeep ride up the hill. When we scoffed at the price, he offered us a space on a nearby microbus for forty rupees each. We had been under the impression from the research we did that the ride should cost twenty-five rupees per person, and stood by this number firmly. After trying to negotiate with the scrappy youth, the driver suddenly barked, "Forty rupees with bags! No twenty-five!" He then began to mock us for bargaining, gesticulating and imitating our voices, and I felt my mood turning foul. I asked a fellow passenger what she was charged for her ride, and after she reluctantly mumbled "thirty rupees," I presented the driver with this fact, which did nothing but annoy him further. Feeling we had no other option, we handed the kid the cash, who was of course, laughing at us. For the next twenty minutes I could feel a boiling inside. My face had twisted into a grimace. Where did that simple happiness go? I went silent and tried to bring it back by staring out the window at the greenest greens I have ever seen.
We soon arrived to discover that all the prices of the guest houses were much higher than we had anticipated. Melissa and I decided to share a room at The Old Inn, a charming Newari-style guest house, and head back to Kathmandu a day earlier. The staff at The Old Inn were so kind— they offered us a heavenly snack of bananas and curd with grilled cheese sandwiches to quiet our empty bellies. That needless ball of frustration began to melt with each bite and every smile I received. When I felt the warmth of contentment inside me again, I decided to ask one of the staff members out of curiosity and a need to let go, how much a ride up the hill should cost.
"Forty rupees with bags."