Suitcase and World: Back to Nepal. Zhangmu to Dhulikhel to Kathmandu.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Back to Nepal. Zhangmu to Dhulikhel to Kathmandu.

This was the day we would be leaving China and entering back into Nepal. It was also the first time I've ever crossed a country border on foot!

I woke up well rested despite the fact that the bed I was sleeping on was a straw mattress - lots of things poking up at me all night long and that Margaret, Claire and I had stayed up late - chatting and giggling the night away. We all met up at the breakfast table and soon enough, we had to get our backpacks and get going for the day.

We piled our backpacks into the back of the LandCruisers and took a five minute walk to Chinese immigration. The line was l-o-n-g but I think that either Baikuntha or Toni had arranged for stand-ins for us because we got spots pretty much at the head of the line. This was one of those situations where you just go with the flow - no questions asked.

Since we were travelling through China on a paper visa, we had to go through immigration in the order that our passport information was listed on the visa. I was the last on the list.
Once through immigration (oddly enough, no departure stamp in my passport), we then had to wait for the LandCruisers to meet back up with us. The two cars arrived a few minutes later and we all piled in for a short ride out of Zhangmu.

Since we had arrived late last night, it wasn't until this morning that I could see the landscape which looked and felt very much like tropical highland.

The Chinese border town of Zhangmu hugs the hillside.

Lush vegetation covered the hillsides. It was a bit overcast.
Narrow road + lots of vehicles = traffic jam!
A short ride later and we had arrived....don't know exactly where but we all got out of the cars and retrieved our packs from the back. Apparently, we would be continuing the rest of the way on foot. Huh? We're not in walking distance from Kathmandu. Go with the flow.

We said goodbye to our guide and drivers. Left them a few things (including a tip) to remember us by.

Claire, Toni (our Tibetan guide), Margaret, and our driver.

We strapped on our backpacks and set out on foot down a switchback set of unpaved roads.

After 10 days in Tibet where there is little vegetation (except that which is planted by man) covering the landscape, it was nice to see "green". It was cool and there was a nice touch of humidity in the air. I'm enjoying Nepal!

A short walk and we crossed the Friendship Bridge (about 60m long) that separates China from Nepal. Part way across the bridge is a line that demarcates China from Nepal. For a moment, we were stereotypical tourists - straddling the line with our feet so we could claim to be in two different countries simultaneously. Sometimes, you just can't help yourself :-)

We also had to reset our watches back by 2 hours and 15 minutes - the time difference between China and Nepal. According to Nepal time, I would just about be getting up for breakfast!

We arrived at Nepal immigration and did the needful to enter the country. We continued on our walk and stopped at a point to wait for our bus to come and pick us up. Whew! We weren't having to walk back to Kathmandu :-)

Margaret, Barry, and Claire waiting for the bus to arrive.

All seven of us boarded the bus which was large enough to accomodate at least 20-30 people. Such luxury so we all spread out - me in a front window seat so I could take pictures as we drove along.

We passed a lot of small villages and got a sense of the poverty of the area.

I have no idea what river we were following but as it wound its way through the hills, so did we. The rivers here offer good opportunities for kayaking and we saw many a group along the way.

Land here is a precious commodity so much of it is terraced for farming. At the higher elevations, wheat is the main crop while rice dominates farmland at the lower elevations.

It was two days before the highlight period of the Dashain festival and people were making their way home - many from the cities to the villages that they grew up in. Bus is a common form on transportation here and they fill them up - riders and animals even sit on the roof!

Village streets were congested with people out and about preparing for the upcoming festivities.

In some villages, the streets were so congested with people, cars, animals, motorcycles, etc, that we had difficulty getting our bus through. What a challenge it was to get through without injuring anyone in the process!!

At some points, the streets were so packed that one of the guides who was accompanying our driver had to hang outside the bus door to help clear the way of pedestrians. Yikes!

Before we knew it, we stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant. With the time change, it was now early afternoon in China so we were all ready for food. We ate on the veranda and from there we had the view of a small river flowing by. There was fish on the menu which the waiter told me was caught from that same river. I believed him so I ordered the fish and it was just about the freshest, sweetest tasting fish I had had in a very long time. It was simple fare, the view spectacular and everyone was in great spirits. You couldn't have asked for a more enjoyable meal!

After lunch, we got back into the bus and continued our journey. Soon, a gentle rain started to fall. I put away my camera and was getting ready to catch a short nap when we pulled into the outskirts of Dhulikhel - a resort town in the Nepalese highlands. Before I knew it, we were at the front steps of the Mirabel Resort - absolute paradise compared to any of the places we had stayed at in Tibet! From the upper veranda of the hotel, we could barely see the rolling hills of the Nepal countryside - with the rain, everything was shrouded in fog. Standing on the veranda, I decided to put my camera away and enjoy this place and its lush surroundings. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading with the gentle sound of falling rain in the background. It was the perfect way to unwind.

We left the next morning and drove the 35 km back to Kathmandu.