Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Into Nepal

Woken at 5am by the lovers on the opposite bunk, who wake just in time for their stop, then jump down, throw on their shoes, and leave the train before it departs with them still on it. Two more hours till our stop, but there is no more sleep to be had, so I wait for Michael to fold up the middle bunk and join him on the seat down below.

We don't see much at Gorakhpur other than a glimps of the world's longest platform, and what can be seen in the two hundred or so meters between the station and the bus stop; and that's probably the same as in any Indian city, lots of touts, rickshaws, dogs, cows, street food, rubbish and shit. We pick our way through it all, and after seven different people direct us to seven different busses we find ourselves climbing aboard one. There our only a few seats left at the back but no sooner have we have squeezed ourselves into them than we find ourselves being moved forward to some freshly vacated seats nearer the front. We work out that this is because they want to fit 6 people across the back, as we were simply taking up too much room. We stow our bags overhead, and after a few more people are loaded we start the familiar crawl away from the bus station with many stops where more people are loaded. We don't have much room, as the seats are tiny and close together; my knees are rammed into the seat in front, and Michael has it worse having to sit at an angle and leave one of his legs in the isle, which is soon so full he has people leaning on his shoulder and practically sitting on his lap. There is a stop half way, and I use the time to count the people on the bus and the number of seats, needless to say that there are more than double the number of people than seats! It's only a two and a half hour ride but it seams much longer. I sit with my head out of the window till we go too fast and it gets too cold to get my last few glimpses of India.

The border is fairly easy, and I am convinced that we could have just wandered across without getting stamped out of India or into Nepal. When I say easy, there is a bit of confusion but everyone is helpful and not really any queuing or waiting around. Once on the Nepal side we take a break in a restaurant and then change some money over before getting a peddle rickshaw to the bus. We negotiate the price really badly and are massively overcharged, he even changes his price once we are on the way but we don't argue too hard. On reflection I think it's because while we end up paying four times over the odds, it is only $4 and he works really hard to cycle us the four kilometres to the bus stop, in the sweltering heat. He is wearing old torn dirty clothes and it seams like such a hard way to make a living, and it actually doesn't seem like an unreasonable price.

We get Michael a SIM for his phone and pull out some cash, and as we are wandering to the bus we are suddenly ushered aboard with a great sense of urgency, as it is about to leave. Once again it is already full, and once again some girls are moved out of their seats or make room for us. There is even less room on this bus, and there is no where to stow our bags, so they end up wedged on our laps. In the rush Michael nearly knocks himself out on the low door frame, I scrape my legs on a random piece of metal under the seat and Michael, and I quote, 'wrenched his ass sideways' on the rigid armrest on our seat. More and more people board till we actually can't move, my arms high up and resting in the backpack on my lap. We stop and queue for a one lane bridge and it is so hot and miserable; it's only a 20 km ride but it is terribly slow, though by some miracle I actually get in a quick nap, my bag forming quite a convenient pillow. I think the lack of sleep for the last two nights is finally catching up with me.

Lumbini is full of tourist restaurants and guest houses and we take the first room we see, too exhausted to look any further. Michael is pretty delirious at this stage, it's a combination of his giardia and lack of sleep, after setting off at midnight the previous evening, not much sleep in the train and no food apart from a delicious 10 rupee samosa at the border.  I force him out for some food, as I am famished despite his lack of appetite, and he forces down half a bowl of thukpah. I am feeling adventurous, so I order some new exiting looking Nepali food; the fried egg and spinach are ok, but the fermented pickle and flakes of I don't know what are not at all appetising, so I finish Michael's noodle soup and we then head back to take a nap.

I force Michael out again later, as he needs some food to have with his medication, and we share some momos then head to bed once more.