So long, India: Hello, Nepal!

(Emily) We pretty much couldn’t leave Varanasi fast enough and 7am on 1st November saw Fabian and ourselves packing up the bikes with an air of giddiness. We’re heading to Nepal, baby! After the debacle of getting into the city, we followed James’ non-GPS route to exit and, to our relief, soon found ourselves on the road north to the border. We’d left in good time to do the 300km stint but, as Fabian had predicted, our progress was considerably slower than the previous few days’ riding as we were back to single lane road and the suicidal overtaking/cars coming in the opposite direction that we loved so much. Deep joy. Several stretches were badly pot-holed and neither I nor the bike enjoyed that very much; I was suffering from a pulled muscle in my shoulder which jarred painfully with every bump and my poor bike was bleeding again (fork seal leak still not fixed… ) We stopped for some roadside samosas around 11am (despite the unsanitary conditions, there’s no getting away from the fact that the samosas in India are goooood) and, somewhat optimistically, projected that we might reach Gorakhpur (two thirds of the way to the border) by noon. Hmmm. The cows and goats and kamikaze drivers continued to conspire against us and it was actually more like half past two when we entered the chaos of the city (the bypass was only available if coming from the west so we found ourselves in the thick of things). It was, to use Fabian’s favourite phrase, ‘a living hell’!! Hot, sweaty, dirty, congested and, forty-five minutes later, I had a serious case of clutch-claw going on. Still, the end was nigh and, after a little ‘detour’ through an army barracks (Fabian’s GPS again….), we found ourselves on the right road for the final 80km to the border. The traffic had thinned out a bit so we hurtled along, minds fixed on the target. Ironically, the scenery became a lot greener and there was noticeably less  garbage lying around for our final stint in India… it didn’t make us any less desperate to leave though!

Darkness was falling as we approached Sonauli, the border town; somehow it had taken us ten hours to do the 300km (185 mile) journey!!! Even as I write that, I think ‘surely, it can’t be possible…’, Then again, a 30kph average sounds about right so there we are. The ‘border’ at Sonauli was a complete joke; we rode along a busy bazaar/high-street that had basically turned into a parking lot for trucks and lorries and, seeing an archway come into view at the end, realised that this was it – the border. We’d have ridden right on and through had someone not beckoned us to pull into the side of the road next to a shack about 100m from the end, half hidden behind the parked trucks and camouflaged amongst all the stall fronts. This was customs , wasn’t it obvious?!! I stayed with the bikes, trying to protect them from knocks by the trucks that were inching through and the motorbikes and rickshaws weaving in and out of them, while James and Fabs did the relevant paperwork. We could not actually believe this was the border, it was ridiculous!! Immigration was the same deal – a non-descript shack – though it did actually have a front entrance rather than being open to the elements like customs! When finally the endless rigmarole of paperwork was over, we were told to go through and seek the customs house on the other side… this was it, we were about to cross into Nepal – yee-ha!!!

Okay, so it wasn’t quite the revelation we were anticipating to leave Indian soil. For one thing, it was dark so we weren’t exactly able to take in our surroundings. Also, it would be foolish to expect things to change straightaway; we were still on the same road after all. However, enough subtle changes were detected to verify the entry to a new land, not least the fact that people were already noticeably warmer and friendlier in country number 20. We were met with a hearty greetings of ‘Welcome to Nepal,’ and big, genuine smiles abounded from both border officials and the soldiers. We were all so tired and hungry that, after a little friendly negotiation on price, we booked into the nearest hotel and having persuaded the manager to let us park all three bikes inside the foyer, agreed to meet downstairs for something to eat half an hour later. As overjoyed as we were to be in Nepal, we were somewhat alarmed by the plague-like presence of insects; the walls of the corridor outside our room were thick with winged inhabitants and we literally had to seal our mouths shut as we descended the stairs lest we inadvertently inhale a bug or ten (pre-dinner snack, anyone?) Apparently, our arrival had coincided with an annual creepy-crawly fest, unique to the border town. Bummer if you live there! As for us, we were too tired to really care and once we’d brushed some offenders off the pillows and put a side light on to attract them away from the bed in the night, we slept like babies! (James: It seems to have slipped Em’s mind that I ended up with an insect stuck deep in my ear. It was flapping away, and not even tweezers could reach it. You’ll have to trust me when I say it was a deeply unpleasant experience which only ended when, some half an hour later, it managed to work its way out!) Okay, so then we slept like babies!

8 Responses to “So long, India: Hello, Nepal!”

  1. M&M says:

    I’m relieved you have finally left India! Bet your Four Seasons honeymoon minibreak is a very distant memory! Marcus is having a ‘duvet day’ off from work today and I managed to drag him away from the rugby (the joys of Sky+) to read this blog and James’ description of Varanasi. Mind boggling, especially the bit about the dead bodies in the Ganges – how come people are still alive after bathing and drinking the same water?!! Great pictures too, keep up the good work! Love M&M xxxxx

  2. Martha says:

    p.s. Marcus has a new watch that has different time zones (he is an international business man don’t you know!) so he proudly keeps telling me the time in different places!! So now we imagine you are both tucked up in bed (hopefully with clean sheets and no insects burrowing in your ears!) xxxx

  3. Jess says:

    Bug in your ear??! Its like a horror story! Hope it didn’t lay eggs which will hatch in a few days time! x

  4. Mama/kate says:

    Ahhhh……I bet you long for that time when all you had to tolerate was Wilbur purring in your ear – even the whinging at the window is but a distant (fond?) memory!

  5. Jackson says:

    ha ha, i echo what Joke says, I was just gonna write to watch out for the hatching scene from Alien in a few days time!
    marcus’ watch – is it a – made by ferrari, b – contain a lot of titanium? like the (not so) smart phone he has, i’d ask him how much that one cost Marth!!
    I am working hard for my first command assessment flight and desperately missing Brazil, my head and heart are still there. :-(

  6. Jackson says:

    oh, the mystery of your meandering lost ways is explained. i just saw a photo of Fabmeister’s “sat nav”….that’s a phone. ‘Ah

  7. Dan and Dad says:

    toughen up James, it was only a bug…

  8. Mary says:

    Seems to be a distinct thread of sadism from the L-H’s with regard to the enormous crawling insect that fancied your ear, James. I’m with you on this subject, it must have been horrendous……so brave! Glad to read you are on what should be safer territory now after the self destruct attitude of the sub-continent.
    Love Mary

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