After the literal and emotional high peaks reached in the past week, I discovered once again that when when the low points come, they are very low. I have often thought about how when travelling, life’s emotions seem amplified, and have sometimes described it to people, suggesying that it is “like living life with the volume turned up to eleven!” The highs are wonderfully high, but the lows are pretty tough to take sometimes.
And once again today I found out how quickly things can go from being well planned, running smoothly on coutse, to all going horribly and disastrously wrong.
I have been in Kathmandu for over four days now, and while I have enjoyed relaxing with little to do, other than work on upcoming plans, I can think of much nicer places to be stuck with little to do. With a permanent supply of electricity I could have managed to do so much more, and would have welcomed the time to get on with writing some of the book, or even watching a few movies, but long periods without electric mean either sleeping, or wandering the noisy, chaotic streets. I do enjoy this, but have been in Kathmandu long enough, and feel ready to move on now.
I have been pretty tight with my money for these days, as I spent a little more on the trek that I originally budgeted for, and wanted to get through these final days, changing the least amount of extra money as possible.
So it was with a feeling of relief that I finally headed for the airport, just four more days of third-world chaos in India, before looking foward to the calm oasis of a couple of weeks in England.
I joined the line to check in at the Jet counter, and after half an hour, got to the front, only to be told, “No, you are booked on Jet Airways, that line over there. This line is for Jet flights.”
I looked up at the board above me. “Right, so Jet and Jet Airways are two different companies?”
“Oh yes sir,” I was happily told, and had to join the end of the most enormous check-in line I have ever seen. An hour later I made it to the front, and was asked “Where is your visa?” I pointed out my Nepal entry visa confidently, knowing I was leaving well inside the alloted 30 days. “No, your Indian visa, sir?”
“I’ll just get that at the border,” I answered hopefully, my heart beginning to sink. Apparently that wasn’t possible. I suggested I would simply use my UK passport rather than my Austalian one – after all, India used to be part of the Empire – surely a British passport still has some advantages there?
Not at all, India, it would appear, requires that all visitors have a visa in advance. I was not going to be allowed on the plane at all. I tried expalining that I had an onward ticket from Delhi to London, and would simply transit through instead, hoping to resolve the issue on arrival there. But because my London ticket is booked for over four days away, I would be sent back to Kathmandu, as a transit departure has to be within 24 hours of arrival.
What could I do, I asked, and was told my only option was to go to the Indian Embassy here in Kathmandu and get a visa first. What about my flight leaving in a couple of hours? All I got was the address of the Jet Airways (not Jet!) office in Kathmandu, and an uncaring “Good luck!” All very reminiscent of the LAN airlines fiasco in South America.
Now I do appreciate that I have no one to blame but myself, and what is particularly frustrating is that I have had four empty days when I could so easily have resolved this. But in almost two years of travelling, only one other country has been awkward enough to require a visa sorted out at an embassy in advance – China. I have travelled through Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Africa, and in every place I have been, have either not needed a visa, or have paid the requisite amount of dollars, and simply got a visa at the border. Why would I expect India to be any different, especially with a British passport in my pocket?
With the last dregs of Nepali rupees in my pocket I negotiated with the owner of the dodgiest looking taxi outside the airport. At the Jet Airways (not Jet!) counter, I had been informed that the embassy would be open until 5pm today, and from 9 ’til 12 tomorrow. In the taxi, as we sped through dirty back streets I still harboured visions of a quick visa issue, and a dash back to the airport just in time to catch my flight
At the embassy it was obvious that this was not how it was going to be. It doesn’t open at all on Saturday or Sunday, so it will be almost two days until I can even get in there on Monday morning! This is going to make it extremely tight to get from Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, then back to Delhi to get my flight to London on Wednesday.
Despondently, I got the taxi to take me to the Jet Airways (not Jet!) offices. Ah, but of course, it was Saturday afternoon and they had just closed at 2pm. Completely at a loss, and with no Nepali cash at all on me, I got the taxi driver to take me back to Thamel, where I changed one of my last US$10 notes and paid him his 100 Rupees. With my bags I wandered back to my cheapie hotel, and booked back in for the night, unsure of what to do next.
I had a chat with the owner, who offered some helpful advice, but basically there is nothing at all I can do about a visa until Monday, and the process of issuing the visa can take some time. I have to sort out a new flight, but daren’t do this until I have the visa in hand. Time is against me, and a goal as simple as seeing the Taj Mahal looks like it may now be slipping out of my reach.
I went out for a cup off coffee, and then back at the hotel, found the electricity off again, considered brushing my teeth and decided against it, and simply crawled into bed, my mind shying away from trying to resolve the problems, and closed my eyes, just wishing for the world to go away for a while!