Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Border #23

The train arrives late in Gorakpur - it's dark and we're tired. Ed, who we met on the platform in Varanasi, has booked a room at the Hotel Ellora. "They said they'd pick me up at the station", he tells us. But what they failed to tell him was that the Hotel Ellora is right opposite the station. We cross the road and take a grim-looking room on the same corridor. Everything is dingy and the bathroom is stained red with years of paan spittle. Ed has no running water. "I think this is the worst hotel I have ever stayed in". We make reassuring coments like "Oh well, it's just for one night" and "it could be worse" and head to the roof for a quick meal overlooking the street scene of rumbling trucks, dust, chaat stalls, rubbish. In other words the usual.

We're heading to the Nepalese border and get up earlyish, jumping onto a rackety bus going our way. We know we've arrived when we enter a town just full of trucks. The border crossing is very straightforward if you actually notice the Indian imigration office - just another shack in a street overcrowded with shacks. Luckily, they see us and call us over. On the Nepali side things look vaguely brighter and quieter. Here we say goodbye to Ed and book a ticket on a comfortable bus to Kathmandu. Or at least that's what we think we do. After a long wait we are hustled into a jeep, run down the road to a bus park and delivered to a typically rusty big bus. It's clear we've been ripped off and we act angry and outraged. Our shepherds act surprised and indifferent. After a bit more huff and puff we get some refund and "favoured seat" status, near the front.

The journey to the capital takes us through the lowlands of the Terai on smooth straight roads before eventually heading northwards into the hills on a winding broken road. The bus stops frequently and for long spells and it's clear we won't arrive before nightfall. At one stop, around midnight, another bus pulls up behind us and half the passengers jump ship. In the end we arrive at about 2am at the deserted bus station. We get off but no-one else does. This confuses us, but a man explains that most people will sleep on the bus until the morning. After dawdling a while we decide to get back on board and do the same. We are absolutely knackered and can't bear the thought of wandering around in the small hours trying to find a room. Gayle hums an old Cat Stevens song "Kathmandu, I'll soon be seeing you............"

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