Saturday, September 30, 2006

A very smelly arrival

It was terrible. I mean the stink that was upon me would have made even the most polite company wince and take three or four steps toward fresh air. But what can be done? When one travels for two and a half days on public transport, showers are not really a top priority. Arriving with all your belongings, or simply arriving at the destination is "first most important".

To begin at the beginning of this somewhat adventurous tale...

I departed a once shared hotel room in the afternoon of the 27 September. A typical sunny Indian day was waiting for me outside. The well dressed porter had deposited my hulking backpack into the summoned rickshaw, the driver of which then proceeded to have an argument with the front desk man about the price I was to be charged to get to the train station. I found it quite amusing and was in no hurry, so let them carry on whilst I enjoyed the sunshine. A price was agreed upon (which of course I didn't have) and then the wee porter demanded a tip. Well the poor chap was out of luck. I had no small change and was buggered if I was going to part with 50 INR for a service I neither requested nor wanted. Yes I know, I'm a scrooge. He attempted to chase me in my departing vehicle but his boss chastised him and he let the matter drop. Whew!

The driver deciding I was obviously fluent in his native toungue, started a conversation. My translation:
Driver: "hindi hindi hindi 70 rupees, hindi hindi hindi"
Me: "Old Delhi Station"
Driver: "hindi hindi hindi 70 rupees, hindi hindi hindi. Ok? hindi hindi"
Me: "Old Delhi Station"
And thus it continued for most of the journey. Sigh.
But he got me there, well he got me opposite there. I had to cross the most congested road I had seen anywhere in the world, with perhaps the most kamikaze drivers of the universe, with my backpack, hoping like hell that no bugger decided they could squeeze past me and knock me flying. I chucked him 100 INR, way more than was necessary (mostly 'cos I was happy to be away from the incessant babbling) and ventured across the road.

I made it. Huzzah! However beads of perspiration were already trickling down my body and I was seriously looking forward to my AC berth. With plenty of time to spare I ambled round the station looking for my platform, ignoring the stares and the heat.
One thing I have discovered about Indian train stations is that if someone (a man) is wearing a uniform and looks officious, chances are he can't help you. Or, he can send you in the wrong direction. With my written Hindi skills being not up to scratch I enlisted the help of a family gent to point me in the right direction. He honestly couldn't help me but did give me the best useful advice I've received at a station; "Check the number on the train, its between the destinations". Man! Where was this guy a few train stations ago? Anyhoo to double check I asked the uniformed contingent. One chappy even got out his spectacles to scrutinise my ticket. After much discussion they decided the train opposite the one I was fixing to board, was the one I should be on. So off I trundled to find my carriage. Perspiration was so heavy now that my shins were leaking.

I breathed an incredibly audible sigh of relief when I found my berth and the AC cooled my heated flesh. A kindly Nepali chap befriended me and let me sit on his berth for meals and a chat (I was on the top berth where sitting is a luxury only the under 5's can enjoy). It was a most uneventful train trip, passed mainly horizontly in the fast asleep position.

Arriving in Gorakhpur (3 hours from Nepal border), the heat blasted us once more, resulting in yet more perspiration rivlets. The kindly Nepali chap showed me where to catch the bus to Sonauli (the border town) and hurried off to meet his business colleagues. When the bus arrived there was a mad dash to be first onboard. I soon realised why. There was nowhere to store your luggage. Accordingly it was piled whereever it could fit. I plonked my now quite pungent self next to a quiet couple and settled myself in for what I assumed would be the sweatiest ride of my life. I really should learn to stop with the assuming. Aside from looking at bollocks and arse for three hours, and getting more arse rubs than I ever would have wanted, it was an endurable event.

My kindly Nepali friend beat me there, and ushered me through immigration and put me on a bus bound for Kathmandu. At which point we parted company, he leaving me with an invite to partake in the local major festival with his family, and me agreeing to call him. Bag stowed beneath the rickety rusty bus, I collapsed into my front seat and prepared for a long dusty and uncomfortable journey. Long it was. Dusty it was not. Uncomfortable, only for a short time. And it was crowded. Three to some seats, masses on the roof, the leftovers sitting or standing in the aisle. It was great! But the Aussie couple behind me were getting PO'd. Not getting that everything on this continent runs on a "bums in seats" mentality for public transport or that time is relative. ie. You get there when you get there, don't believe people when they say it'll take X amount of hours. It won't. I was settled. I was poo. But I was happy. I had a seat and a hotel room waiting for me. It had been promised. It was in the bag.

It was a lie. We got to Kathmandu at five in the morning and arrived at our hotels (the Aussies 'n me) to find them locked. After gaining entry to the Potala Guesthouse, I was told that there were no budget rooms left. But after two and a half days of travelling in stinking hot weather, do you think I gave a toss? Not on your nelly! I took the room on offer and jumped into the shower. It was cold! Which would have been nice if it was the middle of the day, but it was early morning. I was dog-tired but I was clean, so I dragged my flagging body to the bed. Omigod! What a bed! Comfy, clean sheets, a huge blanket, after trains and buses it was pure endulgence.

After counting sheep for all of 2 seconds, I slipped into la-la land. Heavenly.


mkpawin said...

kia ora
hopefully your digs will be comfortable for your sojourn in Nepal. At least your 'smell' will be on the better side of up from this day forward. Keep up the writings and the photos, love them all, so does Nana & her friends.

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