The fateful day arrived. I woke up after the leaving party with a hangover – but, to be fair, not as big of a hangover as I deserved – to hear that the Chinese visas had been approved and the group would be moving off the next morning (as it turns out, this was wishful thinking – the visas were delayed again and they were stuck bush camping in the Borderlands, which makes me feel marginally better about the state of the accomodation I had for the next few days). Time to get my arse in gear, desperately, especially since I had spent much of the previous evening drunkenly wailing about the fact that I still had no plans. My only vague plan was to get back to the border we came through and head…somewhere in India. I had made some tentative enquiries in town over the past few days and wasn’t very impressed as most people either looked at me blankly or tried to sell me tickets all the way through to Delhi or Varanasi (which by the way don’t exist and is one of the biggest scams around here. It’s not possible to cross the border by bus no matter what anyone in a tourist office says). I made the decision to take a local bus to the border and asked the hotel manager for advice and he said he could book it for me for about 1100 rupees. Now, this is a very nice helpful guy who helped me make a doctor’s appointment the other day so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t trying to trick me, but I’m also pretty sure he thought ‘LOCAL BUS? Is she crazy? I’ll book her a nice comfy air conditioned one’. But me being stubborn little me I still wanted to prove to myself I could do it so I made the most of having wifi to track down the local bus station and go get my own ticket. One highly unpleasant walk (almost literally wading through a rubbish tip), and one very confusing search through the bus station later and I scored myself a night bus ticket for the next day for 550 rupees.
Next morning was the real end of the end – I woke up early with the rest of the team to head down to the truck park at 7am and wave them all off as they abandon me for more exciting prospects. *sniff*. I think they were all hoping for some drama queen sobbing, particularly when Lauren started singing ‘All by myseeeeelllllf’ out of the window.
Bye bye truck family!
It seems that Kathmandu gets even more depressing when you’re by yourself. I wandered around the Garden of Dreams for a bit (landscaped. pretty. quite dull without someone to enjoy it with), then around the shops, then around Durbar Square again, then back to the shops (possibly the same ones, difficult to tell here) and was about to collapse into a puddle of miserable goo when an angel called Kobi descended on me in Crazy Burger. See, i know he was an angel because he started talking to me in Hebrew. Apparently I look like a kindred spirit to other Israelis (and yes, he laughed when he found out I had a Jewish name). Anyhoo, long story short, he had just arrived in Kathmandu to go trekking so we only got to chat for a couple of hours, but I feel much better and less socially inept about meeting people outside the Madventure bubble now!
And then it was time for The Bus. In retrospect I really should have been less stubborn and gone for the tourist bus. It is unsurprisingly quite difficult to get any sleep on a night bus when the bus is packed so much that people sitting in the aisle keep dropping their heads against your arm, the TV is blaring on music channels all night and the bus keeps stopping and turning all the lights on every half hour.
My home for the night – that person you can see in the middle is sitting on a small wicker stool in the middle of the aisle. FOR TEN HOURS.
Luckily for the limited amount of space we had my first task when we got to Kathmandu was sorting out all my rubbish, posting my camping gear and souvenirs home and part exchanging my old rucksack for a 40litre one. Oh yeah, I am now packing like a boss.
I decided I didn’t want to head over the border for more travelling immediately so I took a side trip to Lumbini, a small place an hour up the road from the border famous for being the birthplace of Buddha. I checked into what looked like it might be a reasonably ok guesthouse. I was wrong. In the 24 hours I was there they had 8 power cuts. Not entirely their fault as Nepal isn’t particularly reliable on electricity, but every time the power went out something started beeping really loudly so I got woken up to enjoy the fact that I no longer had a fan. Oh, and my back is now an enormous red constellation of bedbug bites from neck to thigh. Lovely.
Anyway, I did get to see the exact spot where Buddha was born (how do they know that?), and the pool Maya Devi – his mother – bathed in, and the tree she clung onto for support (or at least a tree grown from a cutting of the original tree). Other than that I mostly sweated profusely and wondered why no one was selling water.
Very appropriate sign for the day I had
Maya Devi temple, housing the holy birth spot – kinda looks like a prison with a spire stuck on top but I guess we can’t all be supermodels
Very devout and spritual looking baby statue – especially considering a big part of Buddha’s life story was that he was a pampered prince for the first 29 years of his life before he started questioning things. But I guess a spoiled baby wouldn’t make a very powerful image.
The site is also surrounded by Buddhist temples from all around the world in lots of different styles. I saw about 3 of them before I gave up. I do not have Buddhist feet. In most of these temples you have to remove your shoes at the entrance to the grounds rather than just the temple itself and they are almost all paved. The soles of my feet have not forgiven me yet.
So after hobbling home for the aforementioned horrible night’s sleep, I headed back to the border the next morning, walked across (way easier than it is with 40 people) and hopped on a bus to Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. Just a transit stop, so it’s a bit of a hellhole again, but I’m hoping for better things in Lucknow!
P.S. Got asked by a Nepalese guy in a shop if my skin condition was infectious. I don’t think he’d seen freckles before.
P.P.S. Was anyone aware this was how espresso was made?