Sitting on a broken seat of an antique bus, I looked out through the window to see the glimpse of snow-covered Himalayas. A long-cherished dream of world’s highest mountain and its valleys were realizing through my first journey to Nepal. A thick maroon sweater wrapped me tight and kept me warm; thanks to my one day old friendship with Shyam Thapa, a Nepali who worked in Mumbai as a choreographer. If not Shyam’s sweater, I would have died with pneumonia before even reaching to the royal city of Nepal.
A week before my trip to Nepal, I was working in Bangalore (India). When I received the offer from the kingdom on clouds, due to my love for Himalayas and due to some unrevealable reasons, I did not think twice but grabbed the opportunity. Acceptance was quick and the journey was quicker; I grabbed a bag full of items and started my journey to Nepal on one of the longest running trains of India Trivandrum – Gorakhpur Express. Train journeys never bored me, and so the 52+ hours of journey from Kochi to Gorakhpur. I enjoyed the changing landscapes and the weather; varying languages and dressing styles; colorful food delicacies and lifestyles. India, from south till North, has a lot in common yet there exist countless variations.
Unlike my expectations, Gorakhpur was not so welcoming for a traveler from south. Probably my language was the primary barrier. After roaming on the streets for sometime, I have checked in at a small and not so decent looking hotel. The young manager at the counter was not so particular about getting a customer – he even shut his ears to my humble bargaining attempts. Paying an amount of Rs.300 as advance against the tariff of Rs. 150 was not so digestible for me, but had no other option.
The narrow room with walls closely built around the bed reminded me of the hutch I had made for my pet bunnies during schooldays. The white bed-wrap projected every dirt on it but the dimness of light subdued the effect. After a journey of 3 days in a coupe, I needed a nice shower and some good rest. To my surprise, the attached bathroom was slightly bigger than the bedroom with comparatively cleaner floors and walls. By the time I finished my shower and reorganized my baggage, it was already dark outside.
My decision for enjoying a stroll on the streets did not disappoint me. The narrow streets of Gorakhpur was busy, yet colorful with fast moving cycle rickshaws, daily commuters, hot and spicy street food vendors, and many more. I was tempted to taste at least a few ‘pani puris’ from an inviting seller, but disciplined my mind to conquer a long road journey ahead.
The restaurant I chose that night was not so big, but looked clean to me. While sitting on one edge of a bench and dipping a small piece of ‘roti’ (Indian flatbread) in a bowl filled with hot ‘daal’ (a soup prepared from pulses in India), I was starting to enjoy the traditional cuisine that matched well with the cold weather. The special massala chai (spice tea) was a good way to conclude my dinner.
Gorakhpur was not the end, I had a long way to go. As per the information I gathered from my new organization, I had to catch a jeep from Gorakhpur to Sunauli (India-Nepal border) and then continue by bus to Kathmandu. I wanted to book my jeep and bus tickets in advance, and I found it best at my hotel itself. My aim was to board the jeep from the nearest spot. However, during the enquiry in the hotel that night, I met Shyam Thappa, who guided me through the journey.
The jeep that we hoped on from Gorakhpur stopped somewhere near to the border. We walked with our baggage to cross the boarder – first the Indian check post and then the Nepali check post. Formalities at the Indian check post was easier, but could have been tougher at the Nepali check post in the absence of Shyam.
At the border we met a German couple, Alfonso and Emma, who were also on their journey to Kathmandu. The couple made friendship with us and we quickly became a team of four. A night at the borders, on the Nepal side, was cool and relaxed. We sat outdoors listening to the travel stories of Emma. Nepal was her 72nd country to visit while Alfonso followed her only in 8. The excitement Emma had in her eyes while explaining the exquisite sight of Iguazu falls and the natural habitats of Gorillas in Rwanda, were just as much as the excitement Alfonso had on his fingers while playing on the strings of Lute he carried with him.
Though 6:00 in the morning (next day) was too early to have breakfast, I didn’t mind to enjoy the tasty soup and toasted bread with butter and jam. Alfonso was so particular to leave a testimony in the hotel’s guestbook. While leaving the hotel, Emma did not forget to collect a few bright yellow flowers from the garden and tuck them in to her curly hairs in auburn shade.
I occupied one of the front seats in the bus while Shyam sat besides me. Alfonso and Emma joined us on the seat immediately after ours. The bus moved slowly through the initial plain landscapes and then started climbing the Himalayan altitudes. After several kilometers and several minutes, the driver stopped the vehicle for a short break.
My suppressed need for relaxing my bladder was bursting out as I rushed for searching a facility. When failed to find one public toilet in that place, I did not worry much but followed my Indian practice to stand on one side of the road. During my rush for accomplishing the need, I overlooked the naughty boys standing not so far from the place. They screamed at me in a funny slang, but I couldn’t stop the work which I had already started.
My newly found friends could do nothing at my awkward position but laughed their socks off. Even after an hour, the incident haunted me. My cautious mind forced me on a fake nap to escape the stare that threatened me. However, I couldn’t stop my eyes gaze out through the window to snap the green sideways and the giggling blue waters of Narayani River. The sand beds on the banks of the River Narayani was clean and white, as polished sugar. When the bus stopped for the next time (for lunch), I made sure to find a restaurant with proper toilet facilities to avoid further embarrassment.
If we had a continental breakfast, the lunch was absolutely aboriginal – the famous Daal Bhat Tarkari. The sound of river that run behind the restaurant could only inspire our appetite. And by accusing the weather, we filled our stomach with the tasty Daal Bhat Tarkari. Tipping is not a formality in Nepal. However, while leaving the restaurant Alfonso appreciated the chef with a note of Indian hundred rupees.
My journey to Nepal was not yet completed. We continued on the curvy roads, but suddenly the backrest where I supported my body throughout the day broke and fell on Alfonso’s lap with me in it. The poor friend of mine from the land that terrified the entire world during the rule of Hitler held that partially broken seat for the rest of our journey.
The winding roads, the exotic mountains, and the wilderness of woods diminished as we neared to the capital city of Nepal. Our journey to Nepal was almost coming to an end. Mobile phones being uncommon during those days, we exchanged our physical addresses and e-mail addresses to keep in touch. I was in a hurry to reach Kathmandu and find my reporting organization, but the Sun was even quicker. As the bus entered the station at Kathmandu, sunlight was too feeble. Shyam comforted me by offering his companionship to find my organization which was located on Bag Bazar Sadak, and so the German couple.
Finding my new workplace was not so difficult, but leaving my two days old friendship was hard. We hugged each other and said good bye as my journey to Nepal concluded at IEC Bag Bazar. I continued staying in Kathmandu for another six months. During these six months I surely experienced some good destinations and cuisines in the country. However, my early days in Nepal were exciting. Nepal is one of those countries I wish to visit another time as a traveler.
I did not own a camera during those days. The snaps used in this blog are the contributions of others. Credits are given below to those contributors.
- Ernakulam Junction Railway Station – Indian Railway Info
- Gorakhpur Railway Station – Indian Railway Info
- Gorakhpur City – Photogoroda
- Sunauli (India – Nepal Border) – Danny Nordentoft’s YouTube Channel
- Narayani River – Wikipedia
- Kathmandu view – The Hockey House
That was my journey to Nepal and there are a lot more about Nepal to come. Keep tuned and enjoy with Jaunt Monkey.
Author: E Jey
Just a passionate traveler who loves scribbling his expeditions @ www.jauntmonkey.com, www.outonroads.com, and www.blogthatall.com