How do we find these people?
After the horrendous bus journey to Syabrubesi we decided that there was no way – absolutely no way – that we were taking that bus back to Kathmandu. That left us with three options, get the Super Express Bus, a tourist bus which costs a bit more but doesn’t stop (so no locals and no stopping in every village). The second option was to find the local Jeep, in reality a 4×4 which drives the route and picks people up and drops them off along the way, the guides we spoke to knew about the Jeep but didn’t know foreigner prices or even if we’d be able to get on. The last option was to hire a Jeep, either hire one from Syabrubesi or grab one which had just brought some trekkers to Syabrubesi and was about to head back to Kathmandu.
We had made good time and we were in Syabrubesi just after midday. Our first port of call was the bus ticket counter. It was closed. A guy told us that the next day was a holy day and there would be no buses. We could buy tickets tomorrow for the day after. The hotel was $5/night, the porter was $15/day (the next day was the last of 10 days we’d paid for, the day after would be an extra $15) and food there was about $7/ meal. So an afternoon and a full day would cost us around $70, not to mention we would lose two days in which we could be in Kathmandu getting ready for Annapurna.
That made the Jeep a viable option. The prices we had heard and read about were in the $120 to $140 range. Stupidly high prices to drive about 130km. We went into the hotel we had stayed in the night before we started the trek and asked about a Jeep. They quoted $120, predictably high. We decided to hold back getting a room and instead ordered some food. That way we could sit out front in the sun and watch and wait for the Jeeps bringing people from Kathmandu to arrive.
To cut a long story short a couple of Jeeps (Toyota Landcruiser actually) arrived just as we started eating. I went down to one of them and asked for a price. $120 was the predictable answer. Would he take $60? No, how about $80? I was joined by a Dutch guy who was also looking for a ride back to Kathmandu. At this point he announced that he wasn’t going to bother today, too tired from the trek and was going to spend the day resting and see about a Jeep the next day. Maybe my price was too high? I don’t know… I left the negotiation too, $80 for just us two was a bit high when the bus would be about $15. I sat down and continued to eat my plate of chips. Whilst eating I thought about it a bit more, I was pretty sure the guy would take us for $70 (in hindsight he would probably have accepted $60 if I’d been more forceful), and I knew it was going to cost almost that amount to hang around in Syabrubesi. So I offered $70 and he accepted. A bit pricey, but it saves time and money and is also a LOT better than taking the bus back.
Whilst paying for the food and getting the bags from the hotel an American and her guide had also had a chat with the driver. They would be joining us on the journey back to Kathmandu.
At this point we thought that having someone else was a good thing, she would be helping to split the costs. Instead of us paying $70 it would work out at just under $24 per person (porters and guides are free), so we’d have the trip for under $50, a reasonable price. How mistaken we were! Upon arriving in Kathmandu we were dropped off and paid our share of the price. The driver said no, we owed 7000 rupees, not 4,800 rupees. Annemarie asked the woman what was going on, her guide explained they were paying $30 for the ride, separate to our fee. The driver had agreed to take the two groups independently for independent fees, making a load more cash!
I can’t decide whether:
a) the American woman and her guide were stupid enough to pay the separate amount and not just split the costs which had already been agreed (they knew we had agreed with the driver a price back to Kathmandu) or
b) we were setup by the guide and driver.
If it’s a then I’m very annoyed. That’s a very stupid way of negotiating. In the end she paid only slightly more than she had to $30 instead of $24 but still… It hurt us and is just a very annoying way to do things. B is just as annoying, but I doubt this is the case. How the hell do we find these people and just end up on the bad side of every deal?
Posted from Kathmandu, Central Region, Nepal.