Ups and downs. Breathtaking views. Road-side eats. Where the hell are we.
When you last left our travelers they were happily leaving Varanasi, heading towards the Nepali border...
After we arrived at the border of Nepal and India we walked to the immigration checkpiont to sign in. We got all stamped up and made official-like, and now had to make our way to Kathmandu. We'd missed the regular bus since our train was about 3 hours late so we were now faced with the prospect of taking a 10+ hour and reportedly dangerous overnight train to Kath. Not sure if it's dangerous because of the roads at night or for some other nefarious reason, but either way we didn't want to find out. So we found a few other travelers in the same dilemma and decided to hire a jeep to take us the rest of the way. There are no shortages of guys willing to drive us so after some haggling we found a trustworthy fellow with a reliable looking rig to take the 7 of us the 7 hours to Kathmandu. Thrilled at the fact that we weren;t going to have to sit on an overnight bus, subjected to god knows what evils we'd been cautioned of we were in high spirits as we got moving. the drive was really quite splendid, the scenery was as beautiful as any we'd seen thus far. It reminded us of the hilly climbs we'd taken in Uganda on the way to the gorillas, beautiful forests and valleys that kept my nose pressed against the window for the better part of the trip. About 5 hours along we stopped at a small roadside village high in the hills to have a refresher. There were a few ladies and kids running the little cooker and I just couldn't resist the samosas that they had prepared. They were so tasty that I had to have a few more and a cold beer to wash them down. After our thank you's OI snapped a couple of shots of our hosts and they shyly giggled and hooped when I showed them the shots.
On the road for a couple of more hours and as darkness fell the trip became more of a roller-coaster ride, which thrilled me, but not so much for Nicky. We finally crested a hill to see the lights of Kathmandu, our trip was finally coming to an end! As we hit the streets of the city it was about 10 pm and the place was pretty deserted and had a slightly apocalyptic feel to it. Well it ends up that Kathmandu is very different by the light of day, and in fact is an excellent town, Bob Seager has never been more right, that clever bastard.
The contract between India and Nepal was stark and immediate to say the least, a wholly welcome change. The city itself was still pretty chaotic and fairly filthy but the energy was so much more welcoming and navigable that it let us take a deep albeit smoggy breathe and get to some unmolested exploring before heading off on our of Tibet.
We were in the Thamel area of the city which is the touristy section which was fine since we had to get some supplies and grab hold of some familiarity before the mysteries of Tibet took hold.
As we walked down the streets the next morning, the first thing we noticed was the relaxed style and attitudes of the people as they went about their fairly Western-style lives. Gone were the stares at uncovered shoulders saris and men's clothes that looked like they were collected from a thrift store in 1976 were replaced by skinny jeans, t-shirts and hair gel, shit we were back in Williamsburg!!!!! Well not really but it felt much easier for a few days and there was actually "Mexican" food in a few spots that were owned by Westerners,hallelujah!
So all was good on our first visit to Nepal, off to Tibet, more on that later.