Posts Tagged ‘public transport


Sikkim part1

I took an overnight bus from Pokhara to the border, quite a routine affair, practice Buddhist patience squeezed in a seat designed for Asian shortness and not for legs like mine (actually I am not that tall but in comparison to the locals I am). Arrived in Karkabhitta early in the morning surprisingly fast, despite the puncture we had along the way (safety first, one tire had a whole as big as a human fist in it and they changed it wisely). Quickly made it to the border post for check out of Nepal. The Immigration officer was obviously very unhappy about my overstay and demand very rudely an excuse, I told him some alibis (punctures, strike, unreliable public transport blablabla) which satisfied him or he was simply to lazy to do all the paperwork which is necessary for cases like that, even he didn´t fine me for that (which I was expecting and also prepared for, as it is an offense against the law without question). Lucky bastard I am. Nearly missed the well hidden Indian immigration, which was a very quick affair done by the most friendly Indian official I have ever met. Later followed the only road leading away from the border and into the state of Westbengal. I wasn´t exactly sure what to do, going direct to Darjeeling or have a rest day to recover from the bus trip. Decision was made after I missed the turnoff to Mirik, along a minor road up to Darjeeling. So I ended up in Siliguri, a typical dusty, crowded, chaotic town in India. Got a room for a good rate and enjoyed Hollywood propaganda on HBO (watched some movies in a row, some CIA commercial, another about genderism and one about the importance about having a mobile phone which can track you down wherever you are) . The night was ok but got fast remembered that India is a country of inconsideration while other guests made noise like a wildgone school class on vacation. Wanted to leave the plains as fast a possible but decided to go to Sikkim first instead of Darjeeling just to avoid that I´ll get stuck there as it happened many times to me, wasting time in a convenient place. So I ended up on the Highway for the first part of the day and reached the first mountains soon. It was a steady up and down and the Teesta bridge was reached fast, actually I wanted to stay here the night but it was still early and I went further to Rangpo, the gateway into the small Himalayan state Sikkim. In Rangpo itself the first thing to do was to get an Inner Line Permit (ILP), Sikkim is a sensitive area caused to the closeness to chinese occupied Tibet. To get the ILP it’s rather a routine thing and issued very quickly and actually wanted to check for a hotel there. Somehow I found myself out-of-town and to Singtam the next town was only 10km away so I went on. Suddenly strong wind appeared and big branches of trees fallen down next to me gave me a kick to pedal much faster to get out of danger, before the heavy rain began I was in Singtam bazaar road confronted to find a place for the night. Why all bars and restaurants call themselves hotels is a big myth to me and it was not so easy to find a real hotel suited for accommodation. A conversation I had while looking for a room:

Me: Hello, do you have a room?

Girl: no we don´t have rooms at all.

Me: Ok, but you have a sign that says here is a hotel.

Girl: Oh, yes we are a restaurant.

Still didn’t get it…

Finally got one in a real hotel, a nice one and HBO was already there…

My hopes from the afternoon became true as rain in the mountains mostly cleans the hazy sky and a blue one greeted me in the morning. The view was nice and lifted my mood a little bit, as the first feeling of Sikkim was not a pleasant one for me. Also it was time to gain some altitude. The road went high and higher following countless of hairpins and the views down the valley were nice if one can ignore all that constructions which are going on there: Waterpowerplants and distilleries for the nation seems to be the parole here. In the distance my planned destination could be seen already but it was still a long and sweaty day, all uphill while the road winds into every hidden corner of the mountain range. Two boys accompanied me on their way home from school for some 5km or so and they had not big trouble to walk next to me the whole time and after all it was a funny conversation as they didn´t ask the tons of same questions which every Indian has in store whenever meeting a foreigner and they also kept the barking dogs at distance. The climb went long and longer and I  drown myself in endless litres of any kind of soft drinks in so-called fair price shops. The last 10k´s was such a mess and I was more than happy to reach Ravangla (aka Rabongla) in the afternoon. This day was an ascent of more than 1800m in less than 40km, if this will be every day maybe suicide will be a better way to life. Ravangla is a small town which not much to do, I searched a telephone shop got sent from one shop to another and ended in an Internetplace where I sent some mails instead of doing phone calls. No telephone but internet, strange, but what to do.

to be continued…


Kagbeni and Muktinath- vacation, a pilgrimage and a bus trip

Arriving in Kagbeni was a pleasure, we checked in into the ´the Green Kitchen Guest House´ (a little posh but we got a special offer because one of the children is in that school TY sister is working for). We checked out the hostel (were the schoolkids and her sister stay) got filled with black tea and biscuits by the cook and enjoyed the familiar atmosphere.

Strolling around Kagbeni is like time travel, of course there are many Lodges, Guest Houses and a so called German Bakery of course (a German bakery can be found in almost every Himalayan place in Nepal and India were even tiny tourism occurs, but mostly has nothing common with genuine German baked items), but there are still corners were local people follow their daily routines which did not changed over centuries, apart from that trekking circus of neat clean Gore- Tex. This is a very Tibetan influenced place and also the gateway to Upper Mustang (officially only allowed to enter with a special permit). We passed the days with strolling around the scenic surroundings, searching for fossils on the river (we found some), visiting the old monastery, watching locals preparing their fields for winter or picnicking and munching the delicious and famous Mustang-apples which are growing here (though it was not easy to get some, as harvest season was already over).

The other day we went up to Muktinkath, one of the holiest places in Nepal for both Hindus and Buddhists. It is said that Guru Ringpoche, also known as Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism meditated here on his way to Tibet. There are 108 water-taps were holy water is pouring out and we collected a dip of every tap of it, drunk a sip and washed our heads in some ritual order with that ice cold water. Nearby is an old small monastery which shelters a spring and a natural gas source, where a flame is permanently burning. TY was fascinating by that natural event and could not stop to watch that ever burning fire. Here the five elements are found in its purest form, fire, water, sky, earth and air (I would also add ice, as outside some water got frozen and even here TY could barely contain her enthusiasm about it, as she grew up in subtropical climate and natural frozen water was rarely seen there). We strolled around, hung up some prayer flags, enjoyed the unique scenery once more and chatted with some nuns selling religious items and souvenirs. This area has its special atmosphere, nor to say a spiritual one (the famous saying about the Himalaya: ´surely the Gods live here, this is no place for men´ would fits). After we went back to Ranipauwa, the nearby village which is nothing more than an ugly and dirty collection of Guest Houses, Restaurants and Shops. We took a jeep back down to Kagbeni.

The way back home to Pokhara was a more or less unspectacular thing. A jeep to Jomson were we stayed the night, and caught a bus early next morning. The bus was filled with porters (why we always get buses were I am the only foreigner in it is quite a mystery) of some expedition and there was hardly space for my bike on the roof. Somehow we managed some for my vehicle and tied it carefully, yet not carefully enough. At the first stop I went out of the bus and realized that some electrical wires which are low taut over the road in many places must teared the ropes it was tied with. Now the cycle was hanging upside down nearly falling down from the luggage carrier. The young conductor obviously could not handle the situation- a shouting, quite furious tourist (me) who complained about his indifference which suddenly disappeared after I told him the cost of my bike, then he got quite nervous and did not know what to do. One helpful porter got some climbing rope and we tied it once more and from now it was fine. The bus trip was a shaken not stirred affair, filled with all time classics of Nepali music and funny drunken Nepalis on their way home after a hard job in the mountains. Later on we also got eyewitness of corruption in its ridiculous way. Along the way we got stopped at a police check post and our go on was refused for no reason. I watched the situation and it was clear that this was a planed act of boredom or something else from the officers (need to mention again, this bus was filled with locals, I was the only tourist, a tourist- bus scarcely would stopped to keep the illusion of a clean corruption free country). The police demand was 7000Rs (approx. 70Euro) , phone calls were done and the stuff still refused to pay that high price as it was clear that no receipt would be handed out. The passengers waited for a solution at a small restaurant behind the check point and all over sudden we got moving again. It turned out that the ´fine´in the end was only 200Rs (2Euro) and the police were waiting for our bus because one officer took this bus the day before and had to pay the regular passenger fee as everybody else, that was the reason we got held. If this would not be that annoying, the arrogance of people in uniforms, it would be very funny. The rest was straightforward, we arrived at Beni took a Taxi to Pokhara and in the late evening we were back home in our daily routine.


Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport among the 10 most hated airports

Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) — the only international airport in the country — featured in the CNN’s world’s 10 most hated airports.

“For a small airport in a pretty country, TIA has it all: the interminable weather delays of Boston Logan, the shoddy restroom maintenance of a Glasgow sports bar, the departure board sparsity of McMurdo Airfield and the chronic chaos of a kids’ soccer match,” it said, adding that some airport improvements have been underway for Nepal Tourism Year 2011 campaign.

However, it claimed that the most hated airports in the world are not the worst airports in the world.

But the most serious beefs with Nepal’s only international airport revolve around its primitive yet officious check-in procedure, starring a roulette wheel of underpaid security agents, according to the CNN. “Departure is an endless game of body searches and silly questions,” it quoted a passenger.

“Those who didn’t have their e-tickets printed out had to argue their way in,” another passenger has been quoted, who was checked seven times and scolded for not having a baggage tag on a carry-on before eventually boarding.

The two US international airports also feature in the list apart from Heathrow of London and Perth Airport of Australia

The CNN has rated the 10 most hated airports and it is no wonder that the Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) is among them! As stated above it is the worst International Airport I´ve ever been. Arrivals are quite annoying, the immigration is an old fashioned low tech procedure (the immigration desks are understaffed, while arriving a few planes at one time it is a pure chaos till the visa is issued, all is still handwritten, no computer in sight, unbelivable while hundreds of tourists queue up and waiting for immigration procedure). According to that the luggage will be uncontrolled downstairs as there are hardly controlls while leaving the arrival area and no need to mention the chaos outside where touts are looking for the unware weary tourists.
Same for departures, the check in is as worst as possible, the security check is ridicilous, once after checked in my luggage it was easy for me to stroll beetween in and outside the airport without any security check anymore, but later on further inspections seem to be paranoid ones (or the security staff is overbored). The duty free area is as primitive as a dark busstation barely providing resting areas. Luckily those never need to see the bathrooms. Before boarding it is neccesary to pay high attention because it is very easy to miss boarding (there are only two gates, if to name them) also sparse displayed when and where to go, the always absent helping staff will do the rest. Even the Manila (Philippines) or the Dhaka (Bagladesh) International Airports spread much more charme than this infirm brickstone piece of shit.
For most people the TIA is the first idea of Nepal, and why give them another hint than reality?

There is only the hope illusion that officials will improve this situation soon, tourists make a very important income of the national budget, and how they will be attracted with a non charming welcome like this?

This airport is a truly experience


From Pokhara to Shimla

Before I reached Shimla, the starting point of my cycling trip through the Himalaya this year, I had to challenge a 48hours bus trip all the way from Nepal to India. My empress and my very good friend Tsetan brought me to the bus station where the first leg, a 22hours bus nightmare to the border town of Mahendranagr, the most western point in Nepal. During this 22hours there was only one driver (yes one!), and at one point he seemed very tired, while I hoped he knows some ‘keep awake medicines’. After the food break, just ten hours after departure, he became very active, as he drove this vehicle as a wild gone   that winding roads in a pitch dark night.  I think my hopes became true, but here I found myself praying that he will become sober as soon as possible. The bus was not in a better condition than his driver, as it rained outside very strong, it started pouring through the bus ceiling inside. At one point it felt like in a cave, but I took this as a welcome refreshment because of the heat from outside. But it became even worse, as the viper was not working at all, and driver and one conductor ended up pressing their noses into the front window, while the second one was hanging out of the door to give instructions about what is coming ahead. After all suddenly we stopped in the middle of nowhere with an engine problem. The staff discussed a while, and a cooper wire was taken out of an electrical thing, one head and the belonging arms disappeared in the engine room and one minute after we kept going again, thanks to a small cooper wire. A very drunk man also wanted my attention while shouting out loudly into my direction, but after he recognized that I am deaf to his nonsense talk, he started complaining out loudly about the snoring man behind him, what was very annoying because he make more disturbing than that deep sleeping man, but not enough, as he also fell asleep he cut the whole rainforest even louder than that other one, but for sure he did not complain at all now. After we reached Mahendrangar I got familiar with the topatops of Nepali music of the last 50years (quite a few nice among them), and know how many porn movies the man behind me stores on his cellphone (quite a few), he was watching in full volume during the entire trip. I made the last five km to the border very quickly and was very confident to change my last Nepali rupees into Indian one at the changing booth in front of the Immigration, but here I was told that they don’t have Indian bills and I have to go back to town to the bank offices. I went back, begged in three offices the last Indian bills, it seemed that there is a shortage of Indian money over here. Maybe all the other tourists came after me made a long face, but sorry guys, first come first serve. The border crossing was as easy as always (I took this for the third time), only the Indian official was not very happy about my one day overstay on my Nepali visa, which was no problem at all. they even didn’t fined me for that. After he told me in a very strict voice ‘in India not possible’ , I got my passport stamped and here I am back in India, the country of impressions, positive as negative. The further upcoming trip was more straightforward than supposed. I got a direct bus to Haridwar, another 9 hours. I arrived there around 10pm and it was still damned hot as i directly jumped into another bus to Shimla and avoided to stay for one night in that holy Hindu city. To Shimla it took 12 hours more in a rattle trap, but finally i reached Shimla dead tired, went straight to the hotel where i got stacked last year with a Guardia, but it is still the cheapest in that overpriced hill station. For the next two days I recovered from that trip, got prepared for my cycle trip through the Himalaya this year…

bottom line: did I tell that I hate bus trips? As riding the bike I mostly have the control of everything, but taking puplictransport I give my life in the hand of a not trusty looking driver. This thought doesn’t make me feel comfortable. Now any die-hard cyclist would say, why he don’t cycle all this way, well I did this stretch, even some parts already two times in 2008 and 2009, and I can say it is quite boring one…

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nilam e.V.

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July 2018
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