– ODO- 14052-14162km
– Location- Mahananda Wildlife Sanctury, East Bengal, India
– Weather- 21-34 Consistent headwind
For my last night in Nepal I chose a hotel. It was around five pm and the heat began to get to me. I stopped more and more often. Water flowed right through me soaking my shirt, my helmet, my socks. My legs ran with sweat in rivers of dust from the road like the satellite map of a river delta.
The hotel I picked was really just a house with high concrete walls topped with barbed wire. Chicken and fish were hand painted on the windows in white. As I entered the gate I called “Namaste”. A young boy of about 18 came out to greet me. I asked for a room and he lead me upstairs. The room was stifling and the shower simply a pipe sticking from the wall. I went down to negotiate on the price. India had shown me clearly how bad I am at haggling. I started with 1200 rupees. “No sir, 1000 rupees” came the response. That’s the first time I’ve been haggled down.
I went down for food and sat with Salim and his two friends. He showed me photos of his motorbike, his girlfriend and a selection of funny videos from an app called ShareIT. They offered me rice and to chill together on the roof. I declined. I needed to get some sleep to head to the border the next day before it got too hot.
The next morning I woke around five. The road outside was quiet, as was the hotel. I brought my bike downstairs, then my bags. All set up I went to the gate but it was locked with two padlocks. I knocked on the reception shutters to no response. Looked around the side of the building. There was no way of getting over the eight foot of concrete even without the barbed wire on top. Finally I went inside the house and found the guys sleeping uncovered in the heat. I tried to wake them with a knock and a Namaste with no effect. Luckily one of the guys phones went off and he was shocked to find a lanky white guy standing in the doorway miming a key in a lock. He woke his friend with a few shouts and in five minutes I was away.
The forth day is over the hump. When your body first starts catching up with the aches upon aches upon aches. I was feeling better about being back on the road and a good chapter or two of Mein Kamp (not that one, the one by Karl Ove Knausegaard) on audiobook with the “cool” 26 degree air brought me to the border around 11am.
I’m still getting used to this style of border. Indian and Nepalese citizens have freedom of movement between their countries so there are few blocks or checks along the road. As a foreigner it’s down to you to hunt out the immigration office on both sides. On the Nepalese side the building is uncharictaristically grand for this pgenerally poor country. A compound with pastel blue gates houses customs (not that I needed it) and immigration. I handed in my passport, filled in a small departure slip, and sat looking at photos of Everest on the wall for ten minutes until I was given my passport back and waved on.
After waiting two weeks for my Indian visa in Kathmandu, the process of getting it validated was faster than the departure in Nepal. I struggled to find the immigration building for a few minutes. Asking here and there. There was a building marked with an immigration sign but inside was a woman prepairing lunch on an open fire. She waved me behind the building and I found the office as last. A small police station with the Indian flag raised. Nobody came up to me right away and the window was closed against the heat but a guard finally popped out of a side door and gave me an arrival card. Once filled I got a stamp and I was away. Back in India.
The difference in wealth was immediately noticeable. The new smooth highway lead right from the border straight into a traffic jams of Suzukis, rickshaws and scooters. As the heat became unbearable again I stopped for lunch at a Dhaba for some malai kofta and roti. Oh how I’ve missed this food.