The Long and Winding Road to India
Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
122Trip End Ongoing
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Feeling better, we started our trip down to India. Glenn decided that we had seen way too much of "tourist" Nepal, and thought it would be a good idea if we made a stop over in a smaller town on our way down to the border.
We decided on Tansen, a small town perched on the top of a ridge about halfway between Pokhara and the border. But first we had to get there...
So on went the packs, and Glenn thought we would make an early morning start by catching a local mini bus to the bus station
The road to Tansen was steep and windy, a bit difficult to manage in a full size bus. Also, being a local bus, the driver would stop for any passenger that was going in our direction. The drive was beautiful though and it was great to see some of the country side.
Some six hours later, we arrived in what we thought was Tansen. The bus driver dropped us off and helped us with our bags and pointed up to the top of a hill "that's where you need to go!". After asking one of the military guys at a nearby checkpoint, we found out we would need to catch another local bus to the top of the hill. As we were making our way to the bus, a few of the local kids (who were touts for the local taxi drivers) were screaming at us not to get on the bus and chanting: "no, no - don't go", which we found hilarious as did the locals, who actually stepped out of our way so we could get on the bus - which was packed to the brim. We both had our packs on, along with extra bags, and we literally had to squeeze ourselves onto the bus - Christie having to stand on a bag of rice, and Glenn having to kneel because his pack was too tall
Arriving in Tansen, we were both feeling pretty tired and decided to stay in the hotel closest to the bus station. Being recommended by Lonely Planet we thought it would be okay (big mistake! - filthy with no running water), but we just didn't have the energy to walk up the hill any further with our packs, so we decided to grit our teeth and stay.
This gave us extra incentive to get out of the hotel as soon as possible and spend the afternoon checking out the town. After seeing a couple of temples, we decided to take a walk up the mountain through the forest to see Tansen's view of the Himilaya's. We met a couple of local characters along the way, and as with most of the people we have met in Nepal, when they find our we are Australian the response is: "ooooohhh! - world class cricket team, Ricky Ponting, Ricky Ponting!". We did meet an interesting old guy though, he told us that now was a good time to get out of Nepal as there are elections being held in March which most political parties, including the Maoists, are opposed to, so they are expecting there will be bad and possibly violent times ahead for Nepal. Made us glad that we were heading for the border the next day
After running into all of these people, we were worried that we might not make it in time for sunset, but we did, and the views of the Himilaya were amazing, just as good as we had seen in Sarangkot and definitely worth the effort. Unfortunately we spent so long here that we had to find our way back in the dark - not easy when you have just arrived in a new town. With the help of a few locals we finally got back to town and found a restaurant for dinner (seemed to be the only restaurant in town), but it looked really nice and clean, so we were happy: until we saw a mouse run past our table! But we were hungry so we stayed and the food was good: then we had a power cut! out came the torches (thankfully we had them with us) and we had to find our way back to the hotel by torch and star light. The amount of stars in the sky were just amazing, more than either of us had seen before, which is when we realised how lucky we were to be out of a polluted city for a change.
The following morning we found a bus to take us to the border without much hassle. As we drove down from Tansen, we spotted what the locals call "The White Lake", a big valley that fills up with clouds in the morning which really does look like a white lake - very impressive. The bus trip was supposed to take about 3 hours (so we expected 5), but our bus driver was so fast we made it in 2
After having to deal with a few touts and managing to change our money, we got through Nepali and Indian immigration within half an hour and then had to try and figure out how we were going to get to Varanasi, about 10 hours away by bus. We couldn't find any buses that didn't want to charge us the earth and we finally managed to negotiate a deal to take a taxi to Varanasi with a few other travellers, a Korean couple and an older Spanish guy. Fitting all of us plus our luggage in was a struggle, and Glenn had to think twice about keeping the bottle of beer he had in his pack in fear of it breaking, but we eventually managed to fit it all in and we were on our way (oh, and of course Glenn kept the beer!).
The drive to Varanasi was great, we all got on really well and the scenery was fantastic, it was funny to see flat green land again after Tibet and Nepal. During the trip we asked the driver to stop for lunch. His first choice wasn't appealing in the slightest, so he said he would find one in the next town. The next town never materialised, and we made it to Varanasi very hungry travellers. Once we got into Varanasi, the rest of our travel buddies went on their way, the driver not able to take us all the way into town because of the tiny streets in the old city