Our journey out of Nepal was the longest that we have experienced so far, with it taking an epic 26 hours from start to finish, with enough drama for it to merit its own blog post.
Following our farewell to the Funky Buddha cafe we walked the 45 minutes up to the bus park, pre-booked deluxe ticket in hand. Our preparations in sorting our bus earlier in the week were met with some confusion as we presented it to the bus office and a long phone call later we were given a different ticket and directed towards not the most deluxe looking bus in the world. I have a feeling that we may have just been shoved onto the next available bus, rather than our designated one that was probably full with tourists enjoying their deluxe travel.
It took the bus over two hours to just get out of Kathmandu, the majority of that time spent stationary as multiple boxes and bags we thrown in the bus, tied on top and generally squeezed in wherever. To the buses merit it did have fairly big seats, (although my back rest was broken, so I only had the reclined option), and we had the front two seats with more leg room and no-one leaning back on us.
As I mentioned in the previous blog post Nepal is currently experiencing protests due to the upcoming elections and I had been warned by some travellers that they were targeting transport, but not to worry as tourist buses were being left alone and only state buses being targeted. On our deluxe bus Joe and I were the only white faces to be seen; very touristy. Luckily our journey was not impeded and were reached the border safely. Evidently it had been the bus company’s ploy to sit Joe and I in the front so that our bus appeared touristy and received safe passage. That, or maybe the armed police escort that our convoy of buses had throughout the journey in Nepal.
I confess that I am dramatising the journey slightly. We never once felt under threat on the journey, despite passing through several demonstrations. I have to say that I have never felt threatened whilst travelling, even in locations where protests are going on. Locals are normally airing their grievances against the government, not the lowly traveller who just wants to see the world and you are left well alone!
Despite Nepal’s evident security concerns they didn’t seem in a rush to get us to the border, with the convoy stopping almost every other hour throughout the night to ensure that you never managed to drift off. With that being the case it wasn’t until late morning that we finally arrived at the border and started our journey across into India.
Nepal has been a delight for the past two weeks and I would strongly recommend it, so it was with some sadness that we set out across the no man’s land bridge back into India. Crossing back into India we realised how quickly we had got used to the relative straight-forwardness of Nepal and the lack of common sense and general confusion that India can provide. Heading into the border town we searched for the immigration checkpoint where we are legally required to have our passports stamped. There was a plethora of chai sellers, a place to check in any tropical plants we may have brought with us, but no evident border point.
After being pointed in the wrong direction twice, we eventually found the small building tucked down a dusty track behind a falling down shack. After filling out the required forms, answering some questions from the hugely intelligent official, (have you entered overland or by air?.. Well as this is a land only crossing with the nearest airport around 200 miles away, that would be overland), and waiting as he excruciatingly verified our details via single finger typing everything into his Windows 95 computer, (yes I’m aware my full name is rather long), we were finally stamped, ready to walk back into India, again!
Before jumping on the local bus we grabbed some street food chowmein, and were further culturally realigned back into Indian mode, with Joe almost losing his cool trying to ask in about five different ways for a second portion of food. Finally, two chowmein portions later, we got on the bus that would take us to where we could commence our finale of this 26 hour epic, the jeep ride up to Darjeeling.
We managed to barter the front two seats in a jeep (they fit 10 in them :o) and eventually set off up the winding road, through tea plantations towards the hill station. As we climbed higher the landscape opened up, and on the cloudless day we could see miles into the distance until the land hazily blurred into the skyline. The journey took us the rest of the afternoon and we arrived into Darjeeling just after the sun had set. As Darjeeling is fairly high and at the Northern point of India, when the sun sets the temperature drops to a similar level as the UK in November so it is rather chilly!
Unperturbed by the cold we set off to find a hotel. Normally a swift process, this time it took us around 45 minutes of traipsing between places as we were shocked by the general price in Darjeeling – a bank balance shattering 8 pounds a night! Luckily our perseverance paid off and we were rewarded with a £4 a night place – our usual price point. Our 26 hour epic journey was over and with stomachs rumbling we dropped our bags and went in search of food.
Now where Darjeeling may be costly, (for us), in terms of accommodation, when it comes to places to eat it exceeds. The town is aplomb with local places providing great food at great prices, with sweeping views across the panorama of the Himalayas. As a result of this my day ended with a hot chocolate and a doughnut sat looking down over the twinkling lights of Darjeeling excited for our long weekend here!
Welcome back to the Indian Adventure.