First of all, our last few days in Nepal. Staying in Pokhara another couple days, simply because it’s such a beautiful and relaxing place, we do next to nothing beside wandering the streets, relaxing and renting a canoe to paddle the lake for a bit. The only really important day was making a trip to the post office to send a package.. four hours of walking later, and we finally box up, address, and pay for our package to be sent home…. whether it makes it (or even gets sent for that matter) is unknown.
Though sad to leave Pokhara, leaving is just another part of the adventure. Heading south on another ‘tourist only’ bus, though besides Kylee, myself, a German, American and a Chinese couple, the entire nine hour bus ride was full of locals being picked up and dropped off, many times including their farm animals. At one point the aisles of the bus were so packed, the goats were lifted onto the roof. We get to the dusty boarder town late in the afternoon, but before leaving Nepal, we’ve got a little side trip an hour away by local bus. Given the opportunity, we jump on the chance to ride on the roof of the bus with most of the luggage… a pretty rad way to see the countryside, and hopefully won’t be the last time. Arriving in Lumbini early in the evening, we find a cheap little place, eat, and crash for the night. The next morning we spend checking out the ruins at the birthplace of Siddhārtha Gautama, the prince who would later in life become the Buddha. The very hot afternoon was spent looking around at the many monasteries built around the area by many different countries.
Both evenings were terrible sleeps, crappy beds, mosquitoes, and a Hindu festival that blasted chanting and music until late, and started before dawn. Tired, we get up and hop the local bus back to the boarder town, grab a rickshaw to the Nepalese Immigration office, get our departure stamps, and hop back on the road. We wind our way through the masses of dump trucks, haulers, vans, cars, motorbikes, people and animals. At one point, a group of women push past us with sacks on their heads, followed by a policeman who runs behind them with a knife and slices open all of their bags, rice spilling everywhere. We don’t stick around to see what happened, or why, but the last thing I saw was a young girl, seven or eight, on her knees trying to collect the spilled rice into her sack. About 100m later, we realize that the mass of people and vehicles was the actual boarder crossing, as we come across the Indian Immigration ‘office’… a tiny room wedged between two little shops. Only a table and a few chairs, with a couple of officials sitting there.. we fill out the standard forms, get our stamps, and we’re in India. No questions, no bag checks, no hassle. One of the most bizarre land crossings I’ve ever encountered. No complaints.
Easily finding the bus to the closest main city, we spend the next five hours traveling through terrain that reminds me of Cambodia… rice fields in every direction, dotted with trees and the occasional half built, abandoned to nature, brick buildings slowly turning from orange to moss. The main city is a dump. Two hours later, we eat a nice snack, and wait for the night train we booked earlier to the bigger city of Varanasi. Another six hours pass, and the train is set to arrive. Waiting in the train station, amongst the hundreds of other bodies lying around the place waiting for their trains, our train fails to show on time.. not surprised. When it does show, around midnight, there’s an unknown problem, and a replacement train is on its way. By around 2am, it finally arrives, and we board, falling asleep almost instantly… awakening every half hour or so by the deafening sound of the horn the conductor (as everyone else in this part of the world) loves to blow so much.
Varanasi, 10am.. feeling jet lagged, hungry, thirsty, absolutely exhausted and incredibly excited. It’s quickly clear to me why most travelers head to Nepal after visiting this place. We’ve arrived in India, and this place is like no place I’ve experienced before.