11.04.2011 - 11.04.2011 30 °C
It was time to stop lazing at the lakeshore and get our groove on back to Kathmandu to pick up our Indian visa this morning. I was a little reluctant to leave our Harvest Moon retreat and return to the chaos of the city, but it had to be done. Good bye beautiful poinsettia garden and relaxing roof terrace, we must depart for the smoke! As we were loading our bags into the Reed ‘Tourist only’ bus at 7.30am, the mighty Annapurna range, after 5 days of hazy skies, finally revealed its snowy peaks to us. They were faint and virtually imperceptible through my camera lens and so it was an awesome scene to be kept only as a memory. I took a virtual photograph.
When boarding the bus, I caught sight of something familiar sitting on the front seat. It was Ste’s pillow! The one he had lost on our way over from Kathmandu, five days prior. The driver, obviously taking shine to it, was using it to cushion his rump, but not for long. “This is my pillow” Ste cried, snatching it from under the guys nose and clutching it to his chest. “I left it on here last time!” At first the driver looked a little confused, but he soon caught on after seeing Ste’s genuine joy at being reunited with his long lost friend; a travel pillow is everything to a traveler on these long, arduous journeys. But looking at the state of it, it was better off in a plastic bag for this trip “I hope he didn’t fart on it” was my only comment.
The rejoicing didn’t last long. We had been appointed the back seats. “I specifically requested NOT to be on the backseat!” Ste growled at the guy with the clipboard. “I said ANYTHING except the back seat!” He then offered us the front which had about enough leg room to accommodate a munchkin. We turned up our noses and huffed when he came up with the excuse “I want you to have most comfortable so I put you in the back seat.” We took our seats…on the back. “I do what I can” he called down, I gave an abrupt “Thanks” accompanied by a pursed smile and squinted eyes. We continued to have a muffled grumble through mouths of Danish pastry while the rest of the bus boarded. The engine started and the man with clipboard came to the back “You can sit there for one and half hour” “There’s no point” we snarled.
“You booked a certain seat?” The guy next to me asked and we explained the dilemma. It may seem so trivial to anyone reading this, but if there is anywhere you don’t want to be on the back seat of a bus, it is Nepal. The roads are littered with huge pot holes and the surface is cracked and extremely uneven which means you will spend more time out of your seat than it. We took off and it was worse than expected, the vibrations wobbled our speech and with every rut or bump, we were tossed 10 inches into the air. “Don’t open the window too much!” I cried “we will be thrown out!”
The first hour out of Pokhara was the worst, and even though we were engaged in travel conversations with our new Swiss friend Sven, none of us could really enjoy the ride. “My boobs are going to be down to my knees!” I proclaimed. But we only had to endure it for a couple of hours. A few people hopped off and we clambered into their seats before the other two people with us on the back had a chance to! It was like heaven in comparison, we could even recline our seats!
After four hours we pulled over at my favourite service station by the river and grabbed some tasty noodles. We had a fleeting conversation with an old couple from Australia. The wife was originally from Market Harborough of all places! Small world! There was only half an hour to soak up some sun and down some Mountain Dew before we were back n the bus.
Sven showed us some of his marvelous photos from his 9 day trek to ABC camp at Annapurna, which had me really jealous. It looked so stunning, but I know I would have never made it up there with my chest in the condition it was! I never imagined I would be coming to Nepal and not seeing the mountains, but this is just the way it had to be this time.
The last two hours was ipod time, as we made the hairy ascent up to the Kathmandu valley. The views are phenomena,l but I wished the road conditions could have been a little better when we teetering on the edges of the cliffs. It also didn’t fill me with great confidence when bus filled with a burning smell part way up and the driver jumped out to check the wheels. Sven glanced back at me with raised eyebrows. The engine revved as we crept up the mountainside. We passed a small car filled with a family of 11 and the local buses hurtling the other way had people clinging to the roof. There were trucks pulled over at the side and men tacking showers in the water that is piped off the mountain. There were concrete barricades crumbling down the Cliffside, which had either been taken out by a vehicle or a landslide! Our bus held out to the summit and then it was back down the other side and into the city.
As usual the streets were teeming and the traffic was insane and so it was a good 45 minutes before we reached the bus stop. As we approached I could already see a mass of people waiting to offer us their services, but Sven had been informed that Thamel was just around the corner and we were more than happy to accompany him to the guesthouse he had stayed at previously. He forewarned us that it looked a little strange from the outside which I was glad about, otherwise I would have been a bit worried when we disappeared up the dark little alley.
He was right, the rooms were spacious, bright and had decent clean bathrooms. Another plus was that they had 24 hour power, unlike pilgrims. The woman initially wanted 15 dollars a room, but when Sven insisted he was not paying more than the first time, she settled on 10 dollars for him and 12 for us. “But it is the same sized room!” we laughed “you don’t pay by person, you pay by room and if you won’t do it for 10 dollars then we will go elsewhere!” – “Okay 10” she replied. We moved our stuff in, showered off the dust and then went up to the roof terrace.
It was a glorious evening and we pulled up a pugh with Sven and his friend who had just completed the Everest Base Camp trek. Of course he had some great stories to tell and his Sherpa even showed up to join him for a beer. It was good company and great views on the hotel roof terrace. We even had some entertainment; a group of men building a flat, Nepali style, no safety equipment, nothing to stop the bricks dropping down into the street and no fear of heights. There is never a dull moment in this city.