Travelling is freedom - Basti´s global journeys

The Gorkhaland

Hey guys

I am in Darjeeling now, northeast of India. The way to get here was rough, veryrough, but to that later! I have quite a decent internet connection and the weather is shit anyway, so let´s write some news!

Punished carnivours

When I left you last time we were still in the capital of Nepal after having just returned from a 10 day trek in the Himalayas. Kathmandu is great for shopping, as I might have mentioned already 10 times. Clothes, souvenirs, tailors, sweets. Moreover, we thought that after 1 month of vegetarianism we should start eating meat again, and we found this place which makes incredible meat Shawarma, and we went eating there 3 times, baaaaaad idea as it will turn out later. The second stupid idea was trying to find any kind of party in Kathmandu. We were strolling around, going into every bar which had live music just to find out that the only tourists in Kathmandu are very alternative over 40 years olds. So after hours we went home and got the bill of the Lafa Shawarma: let´s put it this way: if your digestion is in paradise because you put only organic vegetables and rice into your belly for a month and is then faced with 2 kg of pure beef, the outcome is very obvious. Also the trek was more tiring for our bodies than we thought.

After a night with fights of who was actually allowed to sit on the toilet and fights over every single piece of toilet paper, we woke up and felt horrible. I forced myself outside to buy a bunch of bananas (I am a regular at the Banana guy now, 1st day 5 for 80 rupees, 2nd day 7 for 60 rupees, 3rd day 8 for 50 Leaving Kathmandu rupees, logic huh?) and 6 litres of water. The decision was made unanimously to stay in bed, drink water and try to reduce the frequency of going to the toilet. I also got a huge rash all over my belly, don’t know why. We couldn’t move as we felt so tired. And I got a devastating allergy, all in all we felt absolutely horrible. Also we decided to be a coward and switch to vegetarianism after a single day of meat-eating. So veg Thukpa (Nepali noodle soup), veg Momos and veg Chowmein. And as spicy as possible.

As we didn’t have a lot to do we thought we might as well prepare ourselves for Thailand. New country, new hair look: American marine: 2mm on the side, 5 on top and back. We thought we could never do that in Europe, so might as well try. I brought my electrical Argos shaver and we use it to do that stuff, David you won’t be spared J. One thing is sure now; nobody would try to mug us anymore. Two tall white guys in Asia with the toughest looking haircuts ever. I think it actually does not look that bad, but you forget it when you talk to people and the moment you pass a mirror or window you are reminded of The one and only Narayan your appearance! I also got a lot of time and reread animal farm by Orwell, as I liked 1984 o much, both great books and as me and Yassin have kind of the same taste, we can buy books and just pass them along. Now it’s the turn of Rousseau’s Social Contract, sounds interesting.

Exploring Nepalese culture with Narayan

The Thukpa, veg, water, banana and toilet cure had worked and we felt better. Then we were woken up in a special way: I was kind of awake, and saw someone coming towards our door, but couldn’t recognize him, and then I realized it was Narayan! Dee Besh’s driver! We didn’t expect him but Dee’s sister was so kind to send him over with the stuff we had left before going trekking. He brought everything and told us then that he was at our disposal for the entire day. So you have to picture the image for a sec. Yassin and me, dressed in our obligatory FC Bayern Munich shirt, with an American marine haircut and sunglasses xxxxl size driving around Kathmandu in the most luxurious car you can find, with our own driver and basically lying in the car with ac at full A holy site in Kathmandu where locals burn the deceased and drop the ashes in the river (and then they go swimming) power – standard. The people looking into the car must have thought, well I don’t even want to know, but the fact is we didn’t pay a dime for this and Narayan is just the best. Once I told him that Yassin and I could walk a certain short distance, he looked at me, raised his shoulders and was like: “walk? Why walk? Drive!” Ok Narayan, then we will driver.

Well it was amazing. He drove us to Bhaktapur, one our outside of Kathmandu and we strolled around there. Then he brought us to a temple in Kathmandu, where the Hindus burn the dead bodies next to a river and throw the ashes into the water. You can see it and it quite struck me not having been to Varanasi Kathmandu seen from above in India where that is done to a large extent. Moreover you had an amazing view of Kathmandu and it was just nice.

Then he helped us with our tickets and we bought our deluxe bus (please remember the “deluxe” part for the story) for the next day, and finally he brought us home, and the two, as I would say in German “Assoziale” got out of the amazing car right in front of their cheapest-hotel-in-Kathmandu. Standard. To feel even better we went to the tailor to pick up our, wait for it, custom made pure silk shirts. I have never worn neither a custom made shirt nor a silk shirt, now put those two together. That’s all part of our party in Phi Phi look, only the wive beater and custom made shorts are missing now. Haircut, shirt and sunglasses are ready. I got a black one and Yassin a purple one. They feel like a piece of heaven on your body and were like 8 quid each, but best quality. You can imagine. And then after having felt so shit the day before we put them on and walked around Kathmandu in the sunshine. Good stuff.

What a breakfast

Our sleeping habits haven’t changed and we might look like two Assoziale American party tourists, but we go to bed at 8 pm every night! I mean even if we try to stay awake, after 9pm we just can’t stand up straight any longer. We have to change that before Phi Phi. At night we  wanted to meet up with Best breakfast of the trip Georgian Georgi, but when we went there he told us his plan for that night: “I am having date with most beautiful Russian woman, and we are going to most expensive restaurant in town.” Ok fair enough, have fun, then we go to bed…

Last day in Kathmandu. We had far too many rupees left and thought we might as well treat ourselves properly! So we went to Giorgio’s hotel and had amaaaaaaaaaazing breakfast. Really really good and expensive (well that means 3 euros for a huge full set breakfast, standard). We saw Giorgio again, and spend our last hours with him. He told us about his plan for that night: “I will find 25 roses, 1.5m long, and give to beautiful Russian woman. That is the way to make a woman´s heart melt, and 300 dollars only.” Ok Georgi, fair enough. Russian standard. He is just great and I can’t wait for him to be back from his Brazilian shaman drinking hallucinating cactus trip, if he actually will, and stop by in London. Great guy!

Deluxe bus ride ahead!

From Kathmandu to Kakarbitta – Nepalese Formula 1 race

But now let’s come to the bus ride, there is no way around it. Well I told you guys lots about bus rides in Nepal, this one was different. We thought before taking it, how the hell should the bus do 600km in 15 hours if before it took us 10 hours for 110 km. The deluxe bus is a normal bus without music (which we found very disappointing, as we hoped to get some more Nepalese cheesy-romantic-techno tunes) and without people in the corridor. Material, size, drive, everything is the same. We took off at 3pm yesterday.  First thing that happened: smoke, inside the bus. Everybody out, waiting for 1 hour without knowing what was going on, then back in. Apparently sorted. That’s standard, you have to get out, back in, wait for hours and you never know why. But to be honest, we didn’t even bother about this, that’s just standard after a month of mountain buses and this time we were fully prepared!

Sunrise on the road But now it gets nasty. It got dark, and the driver apparently wanted to catch up time. The road was fairly well built (this means it had some parts of concrete), full of turns, up and downhill and voids. In Europe when you want to overtake, you look if somebody is coming and if not accelerate. In Nepal you just drive on the other side full speed and if somebody comes on the other side either he brakes, or you find a way to fit 3 buses on two lanes, or you have a crash. But the overtaking car does not break! He would speed and overtake 3 buses in a row, uphill, in a turn. Standard. At the beginning we thought that looking out of the front window would reduce our fear. Then we thought of not looking at all. And then we found out that the funniest and most helpful attitude was to comment the journey like a car race. Good fun. Then: rain! Usually that means: fuck, less visibility, slippery road. That’s not your main problem in Nepal. The problem is actually: it rains! Cover yourself, the rain gets inside everywhere in the bus. But hey, we were well prepared; I had my poncho in reach and put it on. Deluxe bus btw. Very nasty bus ride.

We also realized that the bus driver was talking, singing, whatever 24/7. But I trust these people, really! Then dinner stop, only stop in 15 hours. Eating time: 5min.t he food: rice and the spiciest curry ever. But we are used to that like I said, nothing can shock us, eaten in 4 min 50 sec, 10 seconds smoking for Yassin, off we go! The guy right next to Yassin started looking at him around 11pm; he ceased doing so around 8am. Straight, to finish with the only sentence after 8 hours in broken English: you can come to my house. Night time: sleeping time. We were well prepared, so blanket ready, everything ready. Us and our little friend Only problem: a pothole every 2 m. we don’t know if we slept, I think we did, but if we did never longer than 5 min. pothole, baaaam, hit the window and so on. Standard. In the morning we arrived finally, at 9am, after 18 hours in Kakarbitta, border town in eastern Nepal. We met this guy in the bus who was really cool. He works in Shanghai, is from Kathmandu, 28 and was accompanying his dad to his brother´s funeral near Darjeeling. We spoke about the culture and history of Darjeeling and he organised everything for us.

Before passing the border we decided to stop in a restaurant. I think the owner regretted letting us in and especially letting 4 adult men use his toilet after an 18 hour bus ride. In total the four of us spend more than 1 tiring hour in there, which was not only alleviating, but simply essential for survival! Then we passed the border and our new friend organized everything.

The town in the clouds

A little bit of knowledge on the history of the place we are at now. Once upon a time, the Nepalese had a massive reign, which their fearsome warriors, the Gorkhas (the ones which are employed now by the British in Irak, Afghanistan and so on) conquered. It stretched all over the Himalayas from Pakistan to Goodbye Nepal, hello India Bhutan. Then the British came, wanted everything, and to prevent a war, the Nepalese king gave certain territories to India and therefore British rule, one of these being Darjeeling and the area around it. The people here are Nepali, they speak Nepali, they eat and dress Nepali, but they are officially Indian. A bit like south Tyrol in Italy. The nature is also very similar (to Nepal I mean not Tyrol).

But coming back to the trip. Raju, the 28th year old, didn’t want us to pay for anything and we ended up paying 8 euros per person for 26 hours of traveling and 700km. Because with his help we got the Nepalese tariff. About our choice of the place. As always, Yassin and I didn’t have a clue what we were going to do. We thought Darjeeling, sounds nice, something to do with tea. That’s it. When we took the jeep up here and it started driving uphill for 4 hours and we realized it’s a little bit more than that. It´s actually on 2200m, which we didn’t know, and it´s an amazing town on the top of a very steep mountain. Darjeeling, mystical place in the clouds Usually, but not today due to the clouds, it is dominated by the Kanchenjonga, the 3rd highest peak of the planet, around 8550m, which is very close to here. On a clear day you have a 250km view and can see Lhotse, Mt Everest, Manaslu and Kanchenjonga from here. This won´t happen as it is monsoon, but we want to see one of these bad boys at least! Also Darjeeling is of course famous for….. Darjeeling tea! For the first time in my life I have seen tea plantations, before I didn’t even know what they looked like. And here it is full of tea farms and we will visit one probably. We have 3 days here, then take a train to Calcutta and theeeeeeeeeeeeeen Phi Phi, party party party. Although we don’t know how that will work as we haven’t sipped alcohol in a month, are 100% vegetarians and haven’t heard music (what we intend as music) in a long time. But hey, the outfit is nearly ready.

Ok guys that’s it! I survived the 26 hour bus ride and am out of Nepal, an amazing country I will visit again, although I hope by then the attitude of the drivers and the condition of the roads will hopefully be different!

Hear you soon, either from Calcutta or from THAILAND !!!!

Namaste

Basti

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