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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Nepal 2

Right, get the Nepal visas.
The immigration office was a stone's throw from where we were dropped off. It is lucky we did not throw a stone though. Things were still going to be pretty bad. There was a tall muscular man wearing a baseball cap. He was behind the counter. He shoved some forms our way, with nothing being said. Oh, well. They may employ mutes in the office. We filled out the form. I had a passport photo, but not Daniel. I handed my passport over.
"Where is the Indian visa?"
I showed the transit visa. A nice colourful sticker. The one we had paid for at the Indian embassy in Thimphu.
"Yes, but it has not been stamped in India."
We had not got it stamped when we went across the border in Jaigoan, and we had not got it stamped when we left India. The bus had not stopped.
"Do I really need a passport photo?" Daniel asked.
The officer, the tall one built like a Cyclops, but with an extra eye, did that head nodding thing that Indians do. You would have seen it in Bhutan. Sometimes it is circular, a yes and a no. That is what he was doing.
Daniel was confused, so he asked again.
The same response.
Nar came to our rescue, suggesting to Mr Cyclops that he should treat foreigners better. Up until then he had looked like a Nepali, and with his Nepali name, he had hoped to get through without showing his passport. But he let on that he was a government official from Bhutan.
Cyclops did not react well to the reprimand. He grabbed Nar by the arm and hauled him towards a small office out the back. He was talking now. Shouting angrily. Nar did not translate. He was white with fear. Nar is about 5 foot tall. A dwarf. It was like he was being spun around and around by the giant.
Daniel stepped in before blows were landed. He was brave. I watched from a safe distance. Two other men in civilian clothes came over. I am still not sure what there job was, but they helped to calm things down.
In the end, we headed back to India to get our passports stamped by a rather confused Indian official. He could not see the stamp from when we entered India. Neither could we. I was worried that we were going to have to travel all the way back to Jaigoan. And once there, they would ask us for the Bhutan stamp from leaving Bhutan, which was also not in the passports. The Indian just muttered under his breath, and kindly stamped our passports.
Then we walked back over the bridge to Nepal. I forgot to say that Cyclops had shouted to Nar that he was not going to be allowed in anyway. Before attempting to get our Nepal visas, Daniel had to get a photo. Nar too, as now he was having to get a visa. I opted to wait by the immigration office while they set off. A local guide who was touting business gave them directions. They headed off, and the guide starting working on me. He was very plausible. His father was a Limbu. That is the cast that makes up the army. He had a hotel in Kathmandu that was in the Lonely planet. Highly recommended. His uncle was the head guy at Bhadrapur airport. He could get a good discount for us on the flight to Kathmandu. Guaranteed tickets. Seats together and by the window. He gave up, and left me to wait. I started to worry that I had lost Nar and Daniel, and would be left to fend for myself. I was thinking that my decision to come was not a good one after all. I should have trusted my intuition.
Then Daniel and Nar appeared. Cyclops had calmed down, and gave us our visas. Nar was charged more than he expected. But he was wise enough not to quibble. We were not given a receipt, so Mr Cyclops must have made a pretty profit.
Then we headed out to catch a taxi to the airport. Mr Limbu reappeared. The price he quoted was about twice what we expected. But Nar had checked other travel agencies, and they all had the same price. Limbu promised a discount. Quietly. He did not want the other touts to hear what he was offering. Probably because they would offer lower. But he told us that he was the boss and he could not let others hear how low he was going. Just for us.
We got in the taxi, and headed to the airport. After 20 minutes we were still in the taxi, and there was no sign of any airport. We did reach a bunch of travel agents though. One with Yeti Airlines on the window. Limbu went in to the office with our passports. Phew. Things were improving. Then he told us the details. We had just missed the flight, and had to wait until 6pm for the next flight. What was worse, the next flight was from another airport that was another 90 minutes away, by taxi, that would be another 1500. We were a little angry with Limbu. But we had little choice. There were no hotels around. Limbu said he was very sorry, and would pay the 1500 for the taxi. Daniel huffed and said there must be quite a profit on the tickets if he could still pay the taxi for us. Nar had to pay the same as us. Later he would find out that he should have had a much  cheaper rate. The local rate.
Back into the taxi and off to Biratnagar airport. We were not looking forward to another 90 minute drive. But we were a little consoled by the fact that we had lots of time for the journey, and that we would be in Kathmandu fairly soon. Originally we had planned to spend the night in Bhadrapur. Things were not so bad. Apart from poor old Nar was was feeling like an animal after being manhandled by Cylcops.

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