Thursday, 13 September 2012

A Few Days in Kathmandu

A rare empty tuk tuk - soon to contain 18 people!

We’d completely lost track of what day it was and despite our long, sleepless layover we were up at 7.30am so we could be at the Indian embassy by 8.30am. We’d read you need to be in the queue before the 9am opening time otherwise you’d be there all day. So we found a tuk tuk and climbed in, already there were 8 people inside so we figured we were fairly full… Umm, nope! By the time we arrived at the embassy stop there were 16 people inside!  It made getting out without stepping on people a real challenge and it quickly became a daily game to see how many people they’d manage to squeeze in, somewhere around 18 we had to stop counting as we lost visibility of half the tuk tuk… 
Kathmandu Durbar Square

Anyway, we made our way to the embassy only to realize when we arrived that it was a Saturday and the embassy was in fact closed until Monday.  This was a slight problem as we’d already booked our outbound flights to India, but we firstly needed our visa and that meant sating in Kathmandu until at least Tuesday and then starting our trek three days late.  This put us behind our schedule and meant we’d miss our flight, but since we really wanted to hike the Annapurna Circuit we had no option but to pay and move our flights to India to a later date which thankfully wasn’t too expensive.

View from our tea house over Kathmandu square
With our day’s plans foiled, we set about exploring the mad town of Kathmandu.  There was so much to see, do, eat, drink and buy that our day flew by and before we knew it we’d shopped up a storm with the various supplies that we needed for our trek (water bottles, camel backs, bags, shoes etc) and it was only just passed 3pm.  We wanted to organize our trekking permits so we hurried over to the conservation office as they closed at 4, however it was 4.03pm when we arrived and even though the staff were all still there, they were 100% not interested in helping us and told us to come back on Monday.  

Our retro bus to Behisahar
We spent the next couple days exploring Kathmandu and managing to get ourselves organized, permits and all, for our trek.  We even managed to successfully apply for our Indian visas (despite the well organised queue turning into mayhem as soon as the gates opened!)  With any luck we’d have two permits waiting for us when we returned from the trek in two weeks.  We really enjoyed our extra few days in Kathmandu and the time passed quickly as we wondered the streets, looked in the 100’s of shops, talked and bargained with the owners, visited the temples and ancient squares and sampled almost all of the local foods and drinks.  We did not however enjoy the pollution, and after three days we were both beginning to get sore throats and the idea of wearing a face mask like most of the local population was beginning to become appealing.  Needless to say the call of the fresh Himalayan air was starting to be very tempting by Tuesday morning when we woke up early to catch the public bus to Behisahar!

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