Saturday, August 29, 2009

India to Nepal - January 4, 2009

We are off to Nepal on another cold, foggy day. The driver insisted that even though for once we have a nice tourist bus, it has no heating system, so despite everybody's being dressed pretty much in all the clothes we brought, we huddled and shivered through the morning.

Breakfast was in a huge, cold, unheated and unlighted dining hall of some sort of camp. Eggs and hot chai helped somewhat, and then we were on the road again through farm country on a two-lane highway that was actually just a series of potholes joined by bits of macadam. A typical Indian highway, which is why our previous long travel has been by train.

The fog finally lifted and it warmed enough for us to stop shivering, but not take our coats off.

Basically an uneventful day, watching wretched poverty and rotten roads morph into aspirational and more prosperous cities as we approached the border. [Over the next few blog entries you will see that we discovered a whole different lifestyle in Nepal, and this was the bare beginning of it seeping across the border.]

We left India with our last glimpses of dung art (pyramids constructed of the dried dung people use to heat their homes), and my favorite Indian mystery: goats in coats. There were lots of goats running loose everywhere we went, but some of them were wearing knit coats--and I was never able to find out why.

Because of the morning fog, we were one hour late arriving at the border, perfect timing as it turned out. It seems some Maoist leader was murdered today, and the border was closed till about an hour before we got there. So the backlog had cleared, and we had an easy time clearing immigration, as these things go. Most of us had gotten Nepal visas before the trip, but the two people who hadn't had no problem getting them at the border. There seemed to be no customs at all--we weren't asked to open our luggage, or tell what was in it.

It felt as if we were there in the middle of the night, walking through the darkness as a group because there were very few dim lights, but really it was only evening at midwinter, when the days are short. We had to walk probably 500 yards and meet our bus on the other side of the border. Still, the cold damp darkness and the trek over uneven footing, plus having been told about the assassination earlier that day, made it seem exotic and dangerous, though it really wasn't.

At the hotel, which looks beautiful, the cable kept going on and off, and there was no hot water. Weary from the day on the road, all I wanted to do was take a shower and go to bed. No such luck!

I called the desk, they fixed it, and an hour later the water was warm enough to stand to shower in. Welcome to Nepal!

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