Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Update from the last fewdays

Its been 3 or 4 nights since we had had anything like decent Internet, so heres a long update from our last night in Kathmandu up to today. Sorry that it is so large, but a lot has happened!!!


Day 49 Continued........
We all met up for the evening out just after half 7 and headed to the rooftop restaurant that had been booked. The newbies seemed to be getting on well with the group and I had a good chance to chat with Jennifer Anne Parsonage as we walked and then sat together for dinner. It was a really good night. Barry was presented with a t-shirt with all his abuse that he has given out to hawkers over the weeks – 'No I don’t want a fookin carpet' , 'No rupees' and 'No I don’t want to buy........etc. etc.'.

It was a really sad occasion because we will all really miss Barry. He may be a grumpy old man sometimes, but he does his grumpiness with a glint in his eye and a wry smile. He has some of the best stories I have heard and I hope that when I get to be a grown up, I can be like him!! Barry, if you are reading this, you are a legend mate!!

The new girls were also formally welcomed to the group and Lana was presented with a really nice birthday cake and T-shirt, emblazoned with 'Leader', signed by all of us. Plus a new Pashmina from Yadu.

After the cake, (which me and Jennifer Anne Parsonage had to eat with our bare hands!!), we headed off to a bar where we sat around on the raised floor for a couple of hours, drinking the night away and generally having fun. It closed at midnight though, so we headed back to the hotel and one final drink before bed.

Day 50 – Kathmandu to Hetauda

At breakfast in the morning, there were a few thick heads from the night before, but everyone made it up and were ready to head the short walk to the bus just after 9am. Today’s journey isn’t very far, but the roads were expected to be a nightmare.

The first hour or so was OK as we headed out of town. I spent most of it watching a movie with Lisa, but about mid morning we headed up into the hills and out of Kathmandu. The road seemed to keep going up and up and getting thinner and thinner, till it was just a dirt track through the clouds.

After a short stop for pictures of the mountains and a massive coloured spider spotted by Lana, we continued upwards into the hills. The drops off the road were spectacular – sometimes you could see the next bit of road a hundred feet below, sometimes you could see it a mile below and know it would take half an hour to get there.

Lunch today was atop a hill and we were handed a packed lunch of cheese sandwich, boiled egg, fruit and 4 chips. Yes, that's right, 4 chips, wrapped in foil!! It was made even weirder by the fact that we sat on top of a roof of a concrete hut with our legs dangling over the cliffs below.

Yadu managed to get one of the locals who live here to let the girls use the toilet and then we were on our way again, continuing through the hills, up and down, hairpin turns and steep drops all afternoon. It really was a hair-raising ride and I feel for those on the bus that don’t like heights. Personally I loved it, even when we had to back up the hill, to let a bus full of locals past. There were little communities of 3 or 4 families perched on hills in the middle of nowhere and everyone who saw the bus go past gave us a wave. Finally after a long days travelling we reached the valley bottom and drove the short distance to our Hotel for the night -Motel Avocado in Hetuada.

Its a bit of a mix between an old posh hotel and the hotel from 'The Shining.' Although we are currently describing it as a 'Mental Institute'. Its not bad overall though. It has beds and electricity, sometimes.

After getting changed quickly, I had a run into town. It was my first run in a few weeks and I did quite well. Hetuada is a strange little town with lots of people everywhere but not a lot going on. After 25 minutes or so, it started to get really dark, so I headed back into the Motel. I was rooming with Chris for the night and as I got back he went outside for a quick ciggie. A minute later I heard a loud crash and the sound of smashing glass, so I looked outside through the window. I couldn’t see anything, but later found out that Mills had knocked a bottle off her balcony and it had nearly killed Chris!! (It wasn’t actually that close, but it does make this blog sound exciting doesn’t it!!? The motel itself is OK, but the internet wasn’t very good, the TV's didn’t work in the rooms and the showers were cold, so after having a quick cold shower we headed down to the restaurant for dinner.

A few of us sat around talking whilst we had a bit of scoff. I went for the healthy option of Chips and beer. We then noticed that we were in the quiet part of the restaurant and that the rest of the group were in another building across the garden, so after paying our bills we went across and joined everyone else whilst they ate their dinner. After eating we just sat around chatting and after a while we moved into the Hotel reception ans spent a while trying to get onto the non existent internet, which was being hogged by a local who obviously had some kind of special link into it, the bugar! I tried to log onto the router to cut him off. I could get to the log on page, but the administrator passwords I used didn’t work!! He finally knobbed off just after 10pm and so me and Jennifer Anne Parsonage stayed behind and tried once again to contact the outside world!

We weren’t very successful however and so after watching a bit of the best and worst movie ever – 'Taarzan, The Wonder Car', which is like a spaced out Asian relative of Knight Rider (Less any driver). This souped up purple sports car, that basically fights other cars and baddies and when gets damaged can repair itself to look like new. It had really really poor but funny special effects and I am going to have to try to get a copy of it somewhere.

It was then time for bed, so I said goodnight to Jennifer Anne Parsonage and got my head down.

Day 51 – Hetauda, Nepal to Siliguri, India

In the morning I woke up early, but stayed in bed until I could bothered to get up. After a quick hot shower, (Yes, there was hot water.) I got my kit packed, chucked my stuff on the bus and went in for breakfast. It was a pretty good spread of scrambled eggs, potatoes, toast, jam and little sausage things. Everyone was sat in a darkened room eating, so I took my plate outside and stood in the sunshine eating. Lana came around with a birthday card to sign. Its Helens turn today -Happy birthday Helen. (I will have to break out the retirement watch again tonight!!) We all signed it and climbed onto the bus, which left just after 8am.

The first leg today was pretty short as we needed to refuel the bus. However, I did have to point out to one of the smokers that even though we aren’t in the UK, you still shouldn’t smoke next to a working petrol pump. I wont tell you her name though, but lets just say that she was wearing purple and should know better!!

It was then all back aboard the fun bus and off towards the Indian border.

The journey was a lot faster than yesterday when we averaged about 5km an hour. Today our average was at least 25km an hour! Which for us us really fast. We even managed to get some air at one point, when the driver must have missed a bump or hole in the road. The front of the bus all laughed as us at the back were all thrown out of our seats. There were a few squeals from Becky, Frankie and Laura who bore the brunt of it on the back seat, but it was all good fun and nobody was hurt.

The rest of the journey was quiet. Most people found time for a sleep and a chat and in between the odd toilet stop all was quiet. Around 1pm, we were all ready for another break, when we started to cross a long modern bridge, with a river flowing underneath it. Becky looked out of the window and saw a head bobbing around in the water. It looked a lot like a dolphin and she spotted a few more as we crossed the bridge. It was then one more stop in a small but busy Nepalese village where we got a cold drink and mellowed out in the shade of the bus, whilst the girls used the local toilet.

Apart from when we cross the border later today, this is due to be our last stop here in Nepal.

We all agree though, that it has been a fantastic week. Most of this has been our fantastic Nepalese guide – Yadu. He has taken us to his home and given us lunch, he got his father to bless us during a Nepalese festival. Everyday he turns up with a smile on his face and seems to love what he is doing for us. He has spent time chatting to everyone in the group and enjoyed Lana’s birthday night out with us. Ever since he met up with us on the border last week, he has been there to help every step of the way. Him and Lana have worked brilliantly as a team and that has allowed everyone to relax and enjoy this brilliant country. Last week when we left India, we were tired of it and needed something different. Nepal has given us exactly what we needed and we are all now refreshed enough to head back to India for 3 days on our way to Kolkata and the plane to Bangkok later this week. Everyday has been good from the Crocodiles and elephants, through to Mount Everest and the monkey temple.

Nepal has made a few new friends in the last few days and we don’t really want to leave. But we know that we will be back one day.

We arrived at the border at about 6pm and started the procedure to get into India. First we had to get our departure stamps from Nepal, which was pretty easy. After queueing a few minutes and filling out a simple form, we were back to the Nepal bus, picked up our things and put on our backpacks and we wandered intro no-mans land between the two countries. We were really happy when we saw our new bus. It is very spacious with more seats than the old one and has loads of legroom. We al piled on board and set off into India.......but stopped after no more than 20 feet. There is a bridge between the two borders and it was controlled by the Indian police who checked every vehicle as it passed through. It took ages to get over and at one point we even had to reverse back towards Nepal to let someone through.

Once over the bridge we had the challenge of getting into India. You think that having all got new visas in Kathmandu, it would be easy, but there were more forms to fill in and two Indian border officers who would do anything to make it take longer. There was also a weird Indian soldier who wanted everyone to take photos of him and he kept playing with Becky’s earrings for no reason. While I was waiting there just happened to be highlights of premiership football on a TV in the office, so I waited till the end of the queue and saw Arsenal beating Man City. The two officers were still being funny and questioned Jennifer Anne Parsonage about why she had glasses on in her passport photo and not now!! I wondered if they would ask why I was wearing different clothes than in my pic. Finally though, we were al through and we got back onto our new luxury bus and drove the hour or so to Siliguri and Hotel Heritage.

The Hotel was quite nice from outside and the rooms were pretty good, with hot water too~!!

We had all had a long day and as it was getting on for 9pm, we headed down to the restaurant for some dinner. Everyone spotted Fish and chips on the menu and after a bit of confusion with the waiter we managed to get our orders in. I had another healthy option - Carlsberg -for my dinner and sat waiting with Chris, Mark, Linda and Michele for their food. They couldn’t believe trier luck that they were to get proper fish and chips for dinner!!

However, when it arrived it was a big surprise. The two 'fish', were about the size of a small goldfish and were very very thin and crispy, it did have chips though....4 chips!! Haahaa! It should have read – 'Skinny goldfish and chip'. It wasn’t bad though and after Lana managed to get a big plate of chips to share, we were all happy! In the room next door a few of the group had their dinner and after a while a cake , made of rice was brought out to celebrate Helens birthday.

After everyone had eaten some drifted off to bed whilst some of us sat around for a while chatting and enjoying another drink.

Day 52 Siliguri to Murshidabad. HELL DAY!!

The next morning we had a strange breakfast session. The food was OK – toast and jam , with a dodgy banana and boiled egg. But the seats were arranged in a circle, like you would expect to see at an alcoholics anonymous meeting! It had good coffee though, so we all enjoyed it. It was then outside for a quick walk to get some water and then onto the bus for the day.

It is going to be a long day today, not only because we are doing about 280km, but as we are back in India we are expecting a return to really bad roads.

The day didn’t start too badly – The roads were OK and everyone was enjoying chatting, watching movies and generally having a good time on a nice bus. But it all started to go downhill early in the afternoon.

We had stopped for a toilet break about lunchtime and after the breakfast this morning, we were all getting hungry, but there didn’t seem to be anywhere to get food except for street food, which only a few wanted. So it was back to the oz-bus diet of crisps, biscuits and pop and then back onto the bus. There are 3 bus dudes – one the driver, one seems to be a guide and the other we think is a guard. The guide told me that it was going to be a long afternoon and when we stopped 2 hours later for another toilet stop in the middle of nowhere he told me there were still 3-4 hours left. By now the open road of this morning has been left long behind and replaced by the bumpy, unmaintained, dirt tracks that we had feared. The bus seldom got above 15kmh and when it did, it was only for very short periods. We crossed a number of bridges where we had to wait for traffic coming the other way and then through more and more towns full of people, vehicles and police road blocks. The journey seemed to be going on forever, but about 7pm, we pulled over and thought we had arrived – but it was just a fuel stop. People trudged off the bus and you could see that they were tired, hungry and getting more and more stressed with the day. We were then told it would be at least another hour!! Back on the bus and the slow driving and bad roads continued. It took over an hour to reach the town of Murshidabad, where we were to stay the night. We saw some nice Hotels as we drove through the town -Hotel White House looked really nice and there were many others, all lit up and looking really comfortable and modern. What we really needed after such a long day and no decent food was a nice modern hotel, with comfortable beds and a bar with cold beer. Donna was starting to get a bit of cabin fever and along with most of us just wanted off this goddam bus. So when we did finally pull over at Hotel Sangam, we were all happy.......For about 2 minutes. It wasn’t the worst hotel we have had (It would take a lot to beat Hotel Alpine in Agra) but it wasn’t what we needed. I was sharing with Chris and although the room was cool from the air-con, it had more things living in it than Chester Zoo. I don’t even know what some of the bugs were, but they obviously liked the Hotel more than we did. We eventually found our bathroom, which was hidden behind a curtain and saw even more thingys living in there.

We went down to the 'restaurant', to get some food and I was even more annoyed to find there was no cold beer!!! Aaaaaaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!!! Luckily, Lisa grabbed me and took me out to the back garden where she had seen a local dude drinking beer. It turns out that there was another restaurant on the other side of the Hotel that did serve beer, so she ordered a couple of bottles and I calmed down a bit!!

Dinner was OK – Me, Jennifer Anne Parsonage, Chris and Mark sat drinking beers and ordered some cheap food, which was acceptable. We chatted about the day and the opinion of us all is that the journey from Kathmandu to Calcutta (Kolkata) has been a waste of time. I don’t know of the plans of Oz bus in the future, but after the highs of India the first time around and then Nepal, it is a real let down to just spend 3 long days on a bus. We know the idea is to go from London to Sydney on the bus, but we need a good break after two really tiring days travelling. Maybe for future bus's the Itinerary can be changed to break up these days, or even just fly from Nepal to Bangkok direct. I don’t know if this is possible but anything is better than the journey we have just done.

After eating then we paid up and went to bed – It was after 11pm and we had achieved absolutely nothing all day.

Footnote:- I know we are on this journey as an adventure and I always wanted things to go wrong. Experiences like we had today are good for you and remind us how lucky we are to be doing this kind of trip. But at the time it was just a nightmare. Looking back now, it is something that I don’t want to do again. It was a long uncomfortable and stressful day, but things can only get better.

Day 53 – Murshitabad (Yes, I did mean to type Murshitabad, not Murshidabad) to Kolkata.

I was really happy this morning. Even though the shower was cold, I was on a mission – to get out of this Hotel and onto the bus. Nothing could be as bad or as long as yesterdays journey and we were at least heading out of India and to Thailand in a couple of days. I grabbed some toast for breakfast and decided to get some fresh air outside. In the garden of the Hotel there is actually a swimming pool, but like the rest of the place it was disappointing. I didn’t want a swim, but even so, the pool was a mess. The water was full of algae and had 'things unknown' living in it. I think I know where my creepy-crawly friends from the hotel bathroom go for their daily workout!! I stood watching the wildlife do a couple of lengths of the pool for a while, accompanied by the sound of a local man being sick at the side of the garden. This place just oozes class!!! Then for no apparent reason, everyone managed to get onto the bus early and we were off on our way. Less than 2 minutes and 100metres later we stopped again for no apparent reason and sat there for 5-10 minutes by the side of the road. I still don’t know why we stopped as nobody seemed to get off or on the bus , but it seemed to me that someone just didn’t want us to leave.

Finally we started moving again and headed slowly but surely down the road towards Kolkata. We stopped for a fruit break at a local market and as we got off the bus were surrounded by hundreds of locals. We are used to being stared at and almost feel like animals in the zoo sometimes, but this time there were so many people around the bus it was unreal. A few of the group ended up right in the centre of loads of smiling locals and loved the experience. A few photos were taken and then it was back on the bus again, armed with bananas. Today is already an improvement on yesterday!!

The first stop today was a bit unusual – Firstly the blokes toilets consisted of 7 or 8 urinals (with a low one for short arses like me) against a brick wall, over looking a lovely field full of workers bringing in the 'harvest'. We all lined up and used them while the girls were upstairs overlooking. Lana took some photos which will surely appear on facebook soon. Then there was a shout from Amanda upstairs in the queue – 'Photo Opportunity!!' she shouted and pointed behind the bus. We all ran around to see what was happening and saw a 3 wheeled motorbike laden with sheets of metal, which was so overloaded the front wheel of the bike was now 10 feet in the air. There were 3 men trying their hardest to get the wheel down by jumping up and down on the bike. We felt a bit bad and after taking a few photos some of the lads went over to help out and got there just as the metal all fell off into the road and the bikes wheel lowered back down. The blokes with the bike seemed more amused that we were taking photos than being bothered about what had happened to them.

Back on the bus we were having a better day than yesterday. Everyone knows that India is now nearly over and in a couple of days we will be in Thailand, so we were all happy. However, there was a bang heard from under the bus and we pulled over at a garage, where the driver and his mate discovered that the rear inside wheel had blown. They proceeded to spend a while changing the wheel and we had the opportunity to sit in the sun and have a chat. I had a good talk with Natalie, who only arrived the other day and has spent 5 weeks travelling around India. She even had some grapes to offer me which was nice! Once the wheel was fixed we climbed aboard the bus again towards Kolkata. We are hoping that this is the last leg of the day!!


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