Here we are in Nepal!
We found our way to the Tourist Information Centre in the train station at New Delhi (apparently the only info centre in Delhi you can trust…) and they said you’ll be fine to get on the train, might have to share a berth.
Feeling reassured we headed to Qutab Minar for some rather pricey sight-seeing (but worth it to feel like we were on holiday for a bit, and not just the mission of our lives.) Qutab Minar is stunning, a huge ruin of a mosque from one of the earliest Mughal incarnations of Delhi, with a huge tower that had Ben gawping for a good half hour. Having wandered round and lounged in the garden for a bit, we caught the wonderful cool metro back to New Delhi station to await our train.
In the end we had a berth each, but all through the night dudes just kept sitting on Ben’s, which meant no sleep for him. Not much for me either with the screaming babies and the chai wallahs wandering up and down yelling “chai!” But I was out cold long enough for a mosquito to wander up my sleeve and bite me all over my hand and elbow.
Arrived in Gorkhpur the next morning, and after a fairly poor thali opposite the station, we hopped a 3 hour bus to Sunauli and the border crossing. The bus trip was amazing, sat up front beside the driver and watching the sub-tropical landscape and monkeys (!) whizz by. In Sunauli we chatted with some Danes on their way to Chitwan National Park, and set off a bidding war between rival bus companies to take us to Pokhara. We didn’t believe the other company’s claim that our chosen bus would take 10 hours. In fact it took more like 13…
Once we were on board and had handed over our cash, the bus filled up with locals, including half a dozen goats, who were shepherded to the back where the seats were taken out. Another herd of goats were installed on the roof, letting out terrified screams as we negotiated the mountain road. Several locals got on, took one look at the goats at the back and started swearing at the conductor in Nepali.
After a few hours the novelty of the goats wore off as the smell worsened, and we spent the night cursing our bus driver and conductor (especially when they parked in the middle of nowhere and disappeared for an hour to have a snooze).
Still, we arrived in Pokhara at about 4am, walked around lost for a while trying to find a guesthouse, and our poor map reading skills were rewarded with a sunrise view of the Annapurna range, golden in the dawn sunlight. Once installed in a guesthouse we slept for most of the morning, grateful to lie down and be still for the first time in 2 days. In the afternoon Ben went out and explored whilst I nursed my swollen bites.
This morning we went down to Phewa lake and hired a boat to row out and admire the surrounding peaks from the water. After some ‘momo’ for lunch (little boiled dumplings) we picked up some fleeces and coats and various drugs for our trek (antihistamines for me, amoxycilline for Ben). Now we’re back at our guesthouse and I’m being eaten alive again. Heading out shortly to watch the football in town. Pokhara is very touristy, but also rather pleasant and laid back after the strain of Delhi.
Tomorrow we’ll have a mini-hike to prepare ourselves, then the next day we’ll head out on the Annapurna Circuit for the best part of a month. No internets up there, so until next time dear reader!