We entered Nepal from it’s southern border, crossing at Sunauli from India by bus. We had left twelve hours before from Varanasi, a city worth experiencing. We shared the bus with a friendly Israeli stoner named Niv, two 19 year old German boys who were unpacking beer after beer from their backpacks, a pleasant Englishman named James, and two quieter young ladies from the Netherlands.
The scenery was breathtaking as we left Varanasi, crossing over the great Ganges river at its driest, with all of the floodplain exposed and being farmed by the locals. It was the end of the dry season, the monsoon was to be upon us in a few weeks or so. Everything was dusty and you could not see very far. I smiled at my wife as the Sun set into a red haze on the horizon. We were fast approaching Nepal.
At the border we avoided our friends from the bus, just in case they were trying to take anything across. We were quite cautious about these things. We had to sleep at a hotel in between the borders for the night according to our tickets, and we ate our first Nepali dish there. Lentils and rice for the win! We were enjoying meals and conversation when the creepiest looking local slithered his face to the centre of our table.
“You like some Manali Hash?” He asked.
Our facial expressions must have been enough for him to slither off. And when I say slither, I actually mean that.
“Was that not the creepiest way you could ask a person if they want drugs?” James professed, visibly creeped out.
We all laughed it off and continued eating. We turned around to see that the German kids had decided to follow the very creepy guy into the dark to buy 60 grams of ‘Manali hash’ at a discount price. Not only were they too drunk to remember that they weren’t quite in Nepal yet, but they were also drunk enough to be professing how awesome of a deal it was in loud voices, inviting everyone to party with them all night.
After failed attempts to convince them not to go ahead with their excellent plan, We decided to go straight to bed to avoid getting involved. The uniformed guys walking around with automatic weapons were enough to convince us of that. A quick set up of a mosquito net in a dingy and dirty room and we were off to an uneasy dreamland for a few hours.
We were up for breakfast at about 5:30 am. Our bus was scheduled to leave just after 6. We were destined for Pokhara in the central West, as was James. The rest of them were heading to Kathmandu. Only a few of them were awake, and there was no sign of the German boys.
Even if they got on their bus, ours was thoroughly searched by the army and their dogs. Not sure how they managed, but wouldn’t you think that anyone who can get drugs in between the borders of two countries is in cahoots with the enforcement officers? That is the kind of corruption you will see here, unfortunately. I’m sure those boys, or their families, paid big money to be let go without charges.
We had a pleasant bus ride up through the foothills of the Himalayas towards Pokhara. I took the outside seat, as my wife is uncomfortable with heights. I, on the other hand, am the kind of guy who will hang my head out of the window in order to get a better look down the side of the cliff that the bus is straddling. The vegetation changed from big jungle trees to smaller deciduous varieties as we climbed up.
Eight hours of cramped seating later, a sign on the side of the road welcomed us:
“Welcome to Pokhara, Nepal’s first open-defecation-free zone!”