. After numerous occasions of forcing myself to drink it out of politeness I had actually grown to like the stuff. Eventually, at about 7:15 our bus arrived. We were expecting some kind of comfort for the long journey but the bus was your bog standard Nepali local bus. From the moment we left it was obvious that there was some problem with the bus as it was crawling at a snail’s place. We pulled into the public bus park and a few moments later noticed that the bus was being jacked up. I got off to see what was going on. The guys were changing the back wheel and also doing some repair work to the steering. It was hilarious that we had not made it 2 km before repairs needed to be made to the bus. I thought it didn't bode well for the long journey ahead. It was about 8am before we actually got on the road to Sonauli, almost two hours late... This is Nepal.
About an hour into the journey we stopped for a few minutes for a pee stop. I also think the driver wanted to have a quick check how his repairs were holding up. All the guys, myself included just opened flow at the side of the road while the western girls ventured out of sight into the woods for some more privacy. I was wondering about Nepali women and underwear... since you never see them washing any, or see any out to dry with the other clothes. This question was answered in no uncertain terms when a Nepali woman went to the side of the road just squatted right down and got to her business
. Of course she had privacy to do this provided by her Sari dress. As we continued towards the boarder the scenery was great, as it always is in Nepal. Eventually we came to a small village where we stopped for lunch. There wasn't much there but a small empty restaurant where I didn't really want to chance the food. Instead a grabbed a large bag of crisps to keep me going. I did wonder around the place a little bit and found a lovely quiet riverside spot to munch them down. After a few minutes I got paranoid the bus would leave so ran back to it. I got talking to a few westerns including an American couple who were studying in Delhi and returning back after a week’s trekking in Pokhara and a Danish guy and Ozzie girl who were touring India for a few months. As we neared the end of the journey it all of a sudden became really flat, like the kind of flatness you would find in Holland. We arrived in Biharawa, about 3km before Sonauli, at approximately 3:30. I had a bit of nerves building knowing that India was just on the horizon. I was made even more nervous when I saw how the rickshaw guys were running towards the bus fighting each other to bag themselves a gullible westerner. I got off the bus, said best of luck to the others and composed myself as I turned down numerous guys eager to get me into their rickshaw. They are mostly touts and the want to take you to a hotel. They get a huge commission for this, up to 80% of the hotel rate, which of course you end up paying. Wise to this scam I happily turned them down and went to find a hotel on foot
. Birahawa appeared to have a selection of hotels so I decided to stay there for the night and head for Sonauli in the morning. Without too much difficulty I found a place called Pacific Palace. It’s funny, a lot of hotels in the area referred to some sea or ocean when we must be 1000 km from the nearest mass of water. The place didn’t look like much from the outside but the room itself was totally fine. It had a TV and a hot shower, more luxury then I'm used to, all for just 400 rupees.
I ventured out to explore the town. There wasn't much there but I did find an internet cafe. That was lucky enough as I had forgotten to write down the location and phone number of the place I would be staying in Varanasi. It seemed like there wasn’t a single westerner in the town and judging by the stares I was getting it wasn't really a place that saw so many pasty white skinners like myself. I kind of liked that. The food on offer was only from street traders and small dinghy restaurants so I grabbed some skinned fruit and biscuits to keep me alive for the night. The sun was starting to set at that stage so I hurried back to the hotel before the armies of mosquitoes came out to greet me. Reminded by my itchy bites I started taking my malaria medication. Actually it was the first time I put a pill of any kind into my mouth for almost three years. I wasn’t too keen on going on these antibiotics for three months, but the idea of contracting a disease which is referred to as the great killer of the subcontinent was motivation enough to put aside my abstinence from medicine temporarily
. In any case I had already had so many vaccine injections that my pharma detox was already well and truly broken. After munching my dinner down I chilled on the bed watching Al Gisere, the only English channel that the TV had. It was a great novelty to be watching TV for the first time in a long time. By about 8pm I dosed off on the bed... fully clothed. Thank god I was fully clothed as when I woke at about 2am the bed was just covered in bed bugs.
I tried to kill off a few of them but there must have been 100 of them there so it was a losing battle. Instead I folded triple up the duvet and slept on top of that, again fully clothed.
Since I had slept so early I woke at about 6 am. I thought I should get to the boarder as early as possible to give me more options for getting to Varanasi. I showered, packed up and was ready to go by about 6:45. As I was leaving the hotel one of the guys at reception was very eager to help me across the border. At first I refused but after 10 minutes failing to flag down a rickshaw or tuk tuk I caved and agreed to go with him. He offered me a ticket on a comfortable bus including rickshaw and his escorting me across the border for 400 rupees. It sounded less stressful so I decided to go for it. Rickshaw was a nice way to leave Nepal. The boarder is just an open road with a few army guys hanging around not paying attention to anything
. At the Nepali side we stopped and the escort guy asked me for the money for the ticket. I wasn't going to be that gullible so I said 'sorry mate, not until I get on my bus'. I went into Nepali immigration to have my exit stamped on my visa. Finally that was it for Nepal and as we slowly rickshawed through the gates under the sign saying 'Welcome to India', I braced myself. There was nothing on the Indian side except an immigration office at the side of the road. It seemed optional to go there as there was nothing from stopping us from continuing on and entering the country illegitimately. I went in there and filled a number of forms. Stamp stamp and that was it, easy as pie I had entered India.
On the Indian side on the boarder there was nothing too overwhelming. It was a bit busier and dirtier but apart from that it felt much the same as Nepal. We hung around for about half an hour after which my 'escort' informed me that we had missed the tourist bus. He told me was sorry but I would have to get the government bus instead. He said that the tourist ticket was already paid for but not to worry as he would foot the bill for the government bus. I'm sure this was a lie and some scam so he could pocket an extra hundred rupees for himself. I would have tipped the guy, but in this case I thought not. I didn't mind too much getting the government bus. It was a real piece of crap, even worse than the ones in Nepal
. I was the first person on the bus and had to wait another half an hour before it left. A girl got on and sat beside me in the front seat even though all the other seats were vacant, which I thought was a bit strange. I soon discovered why she has sat there when the bus was packed full of Indians, all male. She was friendly and we chatted for a bit in broken English. As soon as the bus started moving talking was impossible with the noise of the engine and the bus crashing along the rough road. The 250 km journey was long. The bus progressed at a similar rate than in Nepal. Here the road was straight and flat, the slow pace was due to the rough surface and the volume of traffic and pedestrians on it. The trip took about 11 hours so it was just after 7:30 by the time I arrived in Varanasi.
Sunday morning I was rising before the sun, at 5am. I had already packed so it was just a case of having a quick shower putting my final things together and I was ready to go. As I was just heading out the door of Pashupati's house he came out and told me to wait there, he called the cab to get it to come directly here rather than to the compound around the corner. He also came out and negotiated a price with the Taxi driver which was nice of him. I arrived at the bus stand at 6am giving me plenty of time to catch my 6:30 bus. Even before I stepped out of the cab numerous boys came running towards me with trays full of pastries, eager for me to buy one. To escape from the eager bakers I took refuge in a small coffee shop and sat with a few westerners, some of whom were also waiting for the bus to Sonauli. We learned that our bus would not be leaving until 7am so there was time to relax and sip a cup of Chai (milk tea). I really hated this tea at first it is very milky and very sweet