Boredom & Bullshit in Kathmandu
Our final day in Kathmandu before going north to Syabrubesi and the Langtang Valley was marked by minor annoyances. We had arranged for the porter to come to the hotel in the morning and verify how he intended to carry the bag and to check we packed it OK for him. That was pretty quick and simple, my bag is lightweight and comfortable and Annemarie had packed it well. We then asked for the bus tickets to be arranged for us. Having had the pleasure of walking to the bus station a couple of days before we didn’t want to experience it again and we were willing to pay to avoid it. We told the manager we wanted the 7:30am bus. He made the call and the seats were booked, we had requested seats in the middle of the bus as numerous people on the Lonely Planet forum had recommended that. A 5 minute phone call was so much better than the 40 minute walk each way.
We went back to our room to look up what to do in Kathmandu. I remembered that I had posted a message about a sharing a Jeep on the Lonely Planet forum and decided to quickly check on it and probably update it. A few people had replied and they had all said get the express bus not the local bus. The express doesn’t stop on the way so it isn’t overcrowded like the local bus, it also gets to Syabrubesi far quicker. The express bus leaves at 7am from the same place as the bus we had just booked. I quickly ran downstairs to change the ticket, but the manager was adamant there wasn’t a 7am bus. We went downstairs together and told him there was a 7am bus and it was the express, he said there wasn’t, but if we wanted he could easily cancel our tickets if we found an alternative. There was nothing left to do but go to the bus station ourselves and buy the tickets, so off we set. We quickly jumped in a taxi and negotiated a return price (which was still a rip off) and after a short but terrifying journey we were at the bus station again. Unfortunately all the seats were taken for the next day, and the day after that. Dammit, we should have known about this bus and had it booked well in advance. It’s another thing which in hindsight we could have done better. Now we were definitely taking the local bus which everyone had said was an horrendous experience and one best avoided if possible. We went back to the hotel in a less than joyous mood.
Back at the hotel the facts had changed. Instead of there been no 7am bus, we were now told, “I told you there’d be no seats on that bus”. I’ll let that little lie slide. Now it’s time to pay for the bus tickets which had been booked earlier. 500 Rupees per ticket. No commission or markup. But we’ve already been to the bus station days before and bought this exact ticket ourselves, we know what the real price is. We tell him that we know the real price and expect a markup (obviously, they are a business and need to make money). Oh no, guaranteed no markup. Annemarie produces the unused ticket from 2 days ago, 680 rupees for two. That’s fine though, we expect the markup. Again, guaranteed no markup or commission. Another lie which is just easier to stop arguing about. Then comes the price of the porter. We had read that most places ask for 1/3rd to 1/2 of the money upfront and the rest after. Here they wanted it all up front, 15,000 Rupees ($150, £90). That’s annoying. We also ask about the porter, is he insured? Does he know what he’s doing? Does he have the correct equipment? We are told not to worry, he is well paid and knows what he is doing. I get the feeling he’s going to carry our bag to 3,800m wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a leather jacket. And only take a spare set of underwear for the whole 10 days! Not what I would class as the correct equipment, but the manger assures us all is fine. We get the feeling he’s not telling the whole truth and after the earlier lies we don’t trust this man anymore. He could be telling the truth but he’s lost our confidence.
Back in the room it’s time to finally look up something to see in Kathmandu. Almost everything is temples. The number one temple is described by many very bad reviews. Crowded with beggars, children asking for sweets and people wanting to be a guide and following tourists around. Animals everywhere and the best bit… human cremations! It didn’t sound pleasant and the description of the shells was even worse, burning human flesh isn’t high up on my must do list. The other temples didn’t appeal to us either. On our return to Kathmandu we decided we’d to a day tour of the city and surrounding area. With that decided and little else to do we went out to eat.
The afternoon was spent lazing around in the room and doing very little. We researched more about what to expect on the trek, rough idea of costs and how to choose accommodation. Armed with that knowledge we decided we didn’t have enough money for the trek (well technically we did but it was a bit tight with no contingency) and as we had maxed the usage of our travel cards for the day (limit on number of withdrawals in a 24 hour period) we had a problem. It’s not exactly a big problem, use the debit card (high fees), use the credit card (high fees) or convert some of the dollars we are carrying into rupees. We choose the latter and head out with $100 to convert into 10,000 rupees. One of the $20 bills had a small hole in and they refused to accept it, this was a bit annoying considering the state of some of the Nepali banknotes I had in my possession, but he refused, so we converted $80. We now had the top end of the budgets we’d read and had a reasonable contingency amount. It was early evening now and food time again…
Posted from Kathmandu, Central Region, Nepal.