Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Goodbye India, Hello Nepal!

Our dash to the border was a slightly frantic one. Jon and I were keenly aware that our time in Nepal was on a ticking clock—we were aiming for a 3 week visa—and India's many offerings pushed back our arrival date by a couple of days. Thus, we were more than a little tired when we boarded a train heading North, where we could catch a bus to the Sunali border. Although the train trip was during the day, we were able to secure sleeper bunks that allowed us to lie down and nap the whole trip. That is, after Jon booted out the previous occupant, who did his very best to convince us that the 16 over the bunk did not, in fact, actually mean 16. (I say Jon, but actually our fellow travelers got in on the act, and our foe was soundly routed.)
We transferred from a train to a bus in a town whose name escapes me, but my joy at escaping from it remains undiminished. It was a complete hole. With the border a fair distance away and desperation at our backs, we boarded a bus. Or at least a moving vehicle that bore a vague resemblance to a bus, one with a scant 7 inches of leg room, which left Jon to swivel sideways into the aisle while I tried to do something to my legs to fit them into the allocated space whilst ensuring they remained attached to my body. Fortunately, I had a whole three hours to figure out where the legs should go. Alas, my journey did not leave me illuminated on this point. 
When we hobbled off the bus, we found a older man—a cyclo driver—who offered a 'complete border crossing service.' This essentially meant he told us where to go, who to see, what documents to produce to what authorities, took us to only store that offered currency exchange, pedaled us over the border (“Goodbye India, Hello Nepal!”) and watched our bags when we got all our paperwork in order. All for the bargainous price of $1.50.
If one has read the blog to this point, it should not surprise one if I said things were less than easy leaving India—as it turns out there is always time to have one last argument with the highway robbers who run the currency exchange office on the Indian side of the border. On the Nepalese side of the border, well, things were easy as apple pie. Really friendly, very smiley apple pie that offered favorable exchange rates and directed you to the appropriate transport. 
After a short jeep ride, we took the local bus into Lumbini, which was a bit of a mistake due to the fact it traveled approximately 4km an hour. Since hitchhiking on tortoise-back would get ensure a speedier arrival, it was strange that the bus was absolutely rammed, creating a sweaty inferno that was rather less than pleasant. We arrived at nightfall, into a small sleepy town that was so quiet, I found the silence overwhelming. During our time in India, I became so desensitized to the sound of car horns that on our second trip through Mumbai I realized I could no longer hear the horns unless I specifically listened for them. After a few months of the honking, it seems that my mind had simply translated that terrible cacophony into white nose.
It was about that time that I really started to worry that we did not have sufficient time in Nepal. 

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