The Friendship Bridge to Kathmandu
As I cleared Chinese customs, a customs officer pulled me off to the side, shot a ray gun at my forehead, and pushed me aside one he had read the digital dial. I took me a while to figure out that he had taken my temperature to see if I needed to be quarantined before leaving the country. We hired a taxi to take us the 8k to the border. He dropped us off just shy of the Friendship Bridge, which separated China from Nepal.
Junior in Nepal, Geert in China, and me in both
We found the buses were on strike and so we got screwed and picked triple what Lonely Planet had said it would cost. I was still travelling witht he Dutch brothers. Junior wasn’t pleased. About an hour out of Kathmandu a bunch of teenagers formed a human roadblock and stopped the car. They started banging on the windows, yelling, and pulling on the door handles. Our guide got out and talked to the armed military officer (or at least I assumed he was military). After a couple exchanges he hopped back in, looking terrified, and the driver sped off. I was kind of lost in the moment and didn’t realize the severity of it until about 10 minutes later.
A random little town we stopped to have lunch at
They carve flat areas out on the hills to keep the rainwater from rolling down the hills
About 30 seconds before we got harassed
In Kathmandu, we stayed in the Thamel area. It was like Disneyland on crack. Tourist, trekkers, and hippies everywhere. It was the cheapest place I’ve ever been. At one point, I check my email for 15 minutes, bought a bottled water, and got a slice of pizza, all for less than 80 cents. I have to admit, I was pretty much cultured out from Tibet and spent the majority of my time planning for the coming weeks, emailing with Lauren and the family, and buying cheap stuff. I was still travelling with the Dutch guys and we went out and had some beers together (we didn’t drink the entire Everest journey because of the altitude). I added another 10 DVDs to my collection ($1 each) and got some custom made linen pants ($2).
Thamel, Kathmandu (I promise that is my shirt blowing in the wind, not a beer gut)
Geert and I while touring the city
The local brew, Everest beer, was pretty good
The last day there I decided to get out of the city and did a one day white water rafting trip. The whole day was an adventure. The tour agent picked me up at 630 and slapped me helmetless on the back of his motorcycle. We tore through town honking at anything that moved. From there, he stuck me on a local bus headed in the direction of some river whose name I couldn’t remember. Some guy on the bus finally pointed to me and told me to get off. I obliged.
I got the standard safety briefing and headed down to the river. Two local guys from Kathmandu were on my trip as well. They were both young professionals who spoke pretty good English and were about my age. It was their first time rafting and it was entertaining to watch them practice paddling air. The rapids were pretty good, nothing crazy though, mainly Class 3s and 4s. There was one that was a 5. A kayaker in the group behind us flipped over in the 5 and we had to go rescue her before she floated into the next rapid boatless. We pulled her up on the raft and dragged the paddle and kayak in. She was lucky we had been able to get to her quickly. A sack lunch and couple hours later, we were climbing up the river bank to the local town to catch the bus back to Kathmandu. The local guys were hungry and asked if I wanted to join them for a bite to eat. I wasn’t really hungry but figured it would be a good idea to have to locals on the bus back with me.
Taking a breather during the lunch break
We dined on local food, a bowl of dried, flattened rice with a side of fish from the river simmered in spices. As we were finishing up a bus came around the corner. We paid quickly and ran to the street. When it stopped we found that it didn’t have seats, we were going to have to stand. I wanted to get back to Kathmandu to get my passport back from the travel agent and pay for the rest of the flight. I lobbied for standing until someone got off then we would take their seats. They talked me out of it, saying that most people wouldn’t get off until Kathmandu.
Ten minutes later another bus came by. It had plenty of seats so we got on. About 30 minutes into the ride, it started raining. A little later the driver slowed down and everyone started moving to one side of the bus to look at something. There was a wrecked bus on the side of the road. It looked as if it had tried to pass around a blind corner. When it tried to recover it turned to the outside, crashed through the concrete barrier, and stopped just shy of going off the cliff with the front of the bus hanging off. When I got out, I saw it was the bus that I had tried to get the three of us on earlier. So much for safe travels in Nepal.
Sanat (right) and I on our safe bus (the other guy didn't write his name down and I can't remember it)
No one had been hurt so we loaded luggage and a couple passengers onto our bus. Between the rain and the accident, the 2 hour drive was on course to take 4. Traffic slowed to a crawl as we approached Kathmandu. It was still raining, but since we had only moved 200 feet in about 45 minutes, the two local guys and I decided to make a dash for a taxi. Apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea and we had to run for 20 minutes before finding one. The next day I would fly to India.