First Day In Nepal

on Wednesday, 31 March 2010

We arrive at the border at 3:30am and are just dropped in the bus car park. One of our fellow passengers tell us we will have to wait till 6am for the immigration office to open, but I have read it is supposed to be open 24hrs a day. We luckily find our way to the crossing through a maze of dark alleys, when we reach the border there is a sign that says “All foreigners need to have their passport stamped and just two blokes lying asleep under mosquito nets next to the sign. We decide not to wake them and walk a little further where a guard says we should wake them up. We wake them up and have our passports stamp and also have to pay 200R as a leaving present. We then walk up through the border and there is just no signs or information on what to do and nobody stops us, I know we need to get a visa, so go and ask a young customs guard what we should be doing, we could have easily just walked through unchallenged though. The guard points out the building which we had noticed when we came over but looked closed, we tell him it’s closed so he grabs his gun and takes us over. All the lights are off and there doesn’t seem like there is anyone there, we knock on the door and there is no answer, so the guard says we will have to wait till 6am. I am not waiting 3 hours so have a look round the back and there is a window with another man sleeping inside under a net, I tap on he window and call to him, I have seen him move, but he ignores me so I go grab the guard and amazingly he wakes straight up. He comes round the front and wakes a few other people up, I feel a bit bad as we have had to wake 5 people up early in the morning to get our stamps, but I don’t want to be waiting around 3 hours. We have to fill in some forms and it costs 40 dollars for the 30 day visa. We are all done and finally cross over into Nepal, meaning our time in India is officially over.

We walk through and instantly have offers of a bus to Kathmandu or Pokhara, we arrange a bus for the almost 300km journey to Kathmandu which should take 10 hours. Amazingly this bus is even worse than the one from Varanasi, it looks as if it is designed for dwarfs, I have to walk down the aisle ducking and the only seat I can fit in is the centre seat at the back. The leg room is so cramped, I can’t believe any normal sized person would be able to sit comfortably, especially for a 10 hour journey. We get going and as the bus is not very full, Tom has two seats and I end up lying on the back seat which is actually quite comfortable and the roads are much smoother so I manage to sleep. After about 2 hours on the bus and an hour sleeping I wake up and the bus is completely full apart from the back 5 seats which I am sleeping on and people are standing up in the aisle with no seat. I squash up into the corner and let some people sit down but it is so cramped I can’t imagine spending another 8 hours on here. Especially as the conductor and other passengers are constantly trying to squash us into smaller and smaller areas, which is just not physically possible.

We stop after about 4 hours of travel and it is just unbearable, we are starting to wish we had bought some of the Valium from the onboard drug dealer on the previous bus. We have something to eat and Tom comes up with a genius idea to sit on the roof, I think there i no chance of us being allowed but amazingly the conductor says we can. We think he is just happy he has two more seats he can cram people into. We grab our bags and climb up on the roof, there is so much space and it is nice to be able to stretch out, but on the other hand we have to sit on metal bars which are pretty uncomfortable but it is still much better than being inside.

The views from the top are amazing and we also manage to get a bit of a tan sitting on the roof, although it doesn’t feel too hot, because of the breeze my thermometer is totally off the scale and read about 65 degrees Celsius.

I decide to have a look on my laptop for some information on Kathmandu, but I turn it on and the screen has been smashed, so being in a foul mood after travelling in conditions I wouldn’t even subject cockroaches to, I am now really annoyed.  After about 280km and about 9 hours on the bus we think we are almost there when suddenly the traffic turns to gridlock and we are barely moving as the ridiculously overloaded trucks try and climb the mountain. The last 20km of the journey take about 3 hours and as we work our way up we come across truck after truck that has overheated and is causing the traffic to be worse and worse. None of the vehicles handbrakes seem to work and they all have to stick rocks under the back wheels to stop them rolling backwards, but on the way up we see several trucks which have rolled back and crashed into the cliff side or in one case into someone's house which had only just stopped it falling of the edge of the cliff.

Further up we see a truck that has actually driven clean of the edge of the cliff, somehow managing to squeeze through the bollards lining the edge of the road and fallen about 400 foot down the side of the mountain.

When we get up to where it has come of we find 3 guys trying to winch it back up just using a couple of hand winches and some poles to wedge the cable in the drain. Just after this the traffic finally clears and we have a clear road into Kathmandu. Just as we arrive we see some clouds coming in and it looks like in the distance there is some serious rain. We are dropped at the bus station and first things first we need to get some money as we only have 15 Indian Rupees between us. We then decide to find a cyber cafe to locate a hostel as all the ones nearby seem to be very expensive for what they are. We find  a hostel on Lonely Planet and go to try and find it, but as we step out of the cafe we realise it is absolutely tipping it down accompanied by huge lightning strikes and claps of thunder. The taxi quotes us 300R for the journey to hotel which we think sounds very excessive, although we are still working in Indian Rupees which are 67 to the pound whereas Nepali Rupees are 109 to the pound, so it’s actually not that bad. We jump in and he takes us to the Thamel area of Kathmandu where the hotel is located. Along the way it is still raining hard and the rubber from the guys windscreen wipers is non existent and the windscreen is steaming up like anything. I have no idea how he could see anything an we actually come within inches of smashing into a railing on the side of the road because he just can’t see anything. We finally get to the Thamel and are glad to see that everything is much busier and there are many more tourists around, as the area we came from nobody spoke very good English and nothing was written in English, unlike India. It was nothing like I had expected, but this is obviously the area to be. Our driver had no idea where the hotel was so we ended up just getting out. We had no chance of finding the hotel so ended up getting a room for 400R(£3.70) and going to find some food. We are recommended a local Nepali restaurant, so decide to give that a go and have a rice dish with some chicken and a couple of sauces and also a local Nepali beer called Gorkha. The food is nice, but the chicken barely has any meat on it and is full of bones, so seems a little odd. We have been sat on a table with a French guy who tells us that the Nepalese actually eat the whole chicken including all the bones, which explains it. We get an early night as we have been travelling for 24 hours non stop and plan to sort out our activities tomorrow.


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