Day 64 – Location: Kathmandu; Nepal
I woke up pretty late and found Camille, the Belgian girl I’d met yesterday was just getting up too. We decided to hang out. She had a few free days before her sister was arriving from Belgium for a holiday. Cam’s been travelling for a few years all around Asia, and this was her second time in Nepal. We went for breakfast and then walked up to check out a hostel Sophie had stayed at, which she’d recommended. We also popped into the nearby KEEP office, which offers independent trekking advice. Inside they have diaries with trekking accounts and advice from other travelers. A great resource. Out on the terrace we met some French guys and Camille chatted away to them whilst I kind of got the gist of their conversation. They were going trekking and had found the KEEP to be a great help.
I parted ways with Cam to walk up to the British Embassy nearby to find out what to do about my passport replacement. I got through some heavy duty security there into the office. The lady I’d spoken to on the phone was on the other side of the bullet-proof glass at the counter. There were two big buttons by the window on her side saying BOMB and PANIC. I guess if there’s a bomb you should hit them both? We discussed my options. A temporary emergency passport would let me leave Nepal immediately and enter other countries, but I’d have to specify dates and countries in advance and it expires in a few months. The other option was to apply for a full passport replacement, which is processed in Hong Kong and could be sent to the Nepal embassy. She advised me my next port of call would have to be the Nepal Immigration Office to see if they’d extend my Nepali visa long enough for me to receive the full replacement passport. Unfortunately that office was already closed today. I thanked her and left, pondering what to do about the situation.
I spent some time on the internet at the hotel researching the replacement passport. The passport and embassy websites all linked to each other with contradicting information about what documents and procedures you have to follow in my situation, really confusing. Camille appeared and I gave up, hanging out with her for the rest of the afternoon. We went to the Yak Tibetan restaurant where I’d been before, to introduce her to the warm millet beer there. A Russian girl met us there who Cam knew from on earlier travels. As usual the place was packed and we ended up waiting for a while for a seat, whilst an annoying beggar boy shoved his hand in our face shouting “MONEY” – ignoring us telling him to get lost, clearly out of his mind on drugs.
We eventually got a table shared with an old German chap, who was a bit odd, but friendly enough. He’s a mountaineer and has climbed peaks all over the world. His latest trek in the Everest region had to be cut short due to altitude problems. A few years ago he’d got a condition when climbing where too much pressure had built in his brain due to the altitude, a problem which has plagued him since. He now has to acclimatize very slowly or it starts affecting him so badly he can’t continue. I felt sorry for him, unable to pursue his passion due to his health.
We stayed quite late and then went up to the hotel roof before bed, watching the stars and listening to music wafting over the rooftops. Its great chilling out above the city like this, everywhere should have rooftops you can relax on!
Day 65 – Location: Kathmandu; Nepal
After a terrible night’s sleep I packed up my stuff and joined Camille to move to a hotel she’d found south of the Durbar square. She wanted somewhere nice to share with her sister for her arrival later tonight. We walked down there with all our things and checked in, just off Freak Street, which is where all the hippies used to stay back in the 60s and 70s. You can tell that the longer term travelers frequent this area, lots of older travelers and vagabonds kicking around, with little cafes, restaurants, cheap guest houses and internet cafes lining the road.
We didn’t have anything to do so we set off for a photo walk – we both like photography and so we wandered the streets for most of the afternoon. Camille was quite inspiring with her inquisitive nature and interacted with the locals way more than me, especially with young children. We investigated a lot of little backstreets and hidden courtyards.
We had fun seeing how we each interpret the same scene in photos. We found a bustling food place hidden in a tiny courtyard where they serve samosas and other goodies, packed with locals eating their food out of bowls made from leaves. Pretty cool. Camille showed me a lassi (milk drink) stall she’d found before and I tried it out, it was tasty.
Later in the afternoon we returned to the hotel to chill out and I rested for a few hours or two. After a beer I walked Camille to the bus station, she was heading to the airport to meet her sister. It was dark now and Kathmandu has a lack of street lights. People bustle past each other to the lights of passing vehicles and stalls. The bus stops at the main road were chaos with loads of people milling around, mini buses and tuk tuks honking incessantly. Camille was asking people where the buses for the airport were and we kept getting different answers. We were getting sent in circles around the streets whilst time was running out for her. Eventually we got a solid answer for where the bus station was, which revealed we’d been given the wrong information the whole rest of the evening! We finally found the right place, dodging racing traffic in the dark to cross the roads. You can’t even see the pavement here in many places. Luckily the first bus we found was going to the airport and I bid Cam goodbye. I walked back to the hotel and discovered a direct path cutting straight through the park to the bus park from the direction of the hotel. If we’d been given the right info we would have arrived in minutes, not half an hour. That’s travelling for you! I spent the rest of the evening chilling out.