Saturday, 14 April 2012

Well, I got Malaria in Nepal

Hence my lack of posting for the last two weeks.

We passed into Nepal from Sunauli, and having been warned about the various scams in place, managed to successfully dodge the thousand and three rickshaw drivers and head for the immigration post on the Indian side. It's a short walk, so no need to waste your money. The Indian Immigration booth is on the right hand side of the road as you're walking to Nepal, which can be difficult to spot from the long line of trucks waiting to cross.

Now, a note about the 2 month waiting period before re-entering India. By Indian law, any multiple entry visa cannot re-enter India for 2 months after leaving it. There are many ways around this, but we were lucky in that when we applied for our visa, we included an itinerary, stating we were leaving for 2 weeks and then coming back into India. This means our visas had "Max two entries allowed within 60 days" typed on them. If you have this, you are allowed back in within 2 months. If you do not have this, then when you leave India they will stamp you with a 'Not allowed back into India within 2 months'. Some people have reported being able to pay the border guard to not stamp it, or if you want to stay fully legal, head to the embassy in India and pay $10 to have it bypassed.

Back to my story, we crossed into Sunauli and paid a rickshaw driver a hundred Nepali rupees to take us to the Bhairawa bus stand so we could head to Lumbini, birthplace of Lord Buddha. Lumbini is tiny, about a hundred feet of shops and hotels, then the temples about a kilometre away. They have a vision of a massive temple complex which is slowly being built as money comes in, which means they charge a silly amount to see the main temple. Rickshaw drivers around here too charge Rs 30/40 per kilometre, which is crazy.

Anyway, the next morning, after staying at the Lumbini Village Lodge, I woke up feeling quite awful. Soon after, I was violently vomiting and lets just say it wasn't pretty. I stayed like this for a day, then the hotel owner called the local healthcare worker to come and give me some anti-biotics, which managed to make me feel a little better, at which point I caught Malaria. We think.

So, it was back to Bhairawa in a taxi and off to the teaching hospital there. To make a long and painful story short, I had three inch long needles stuck into my veins, had multiple litres of IV fluid dropped into me, and Aya got sick from the dirty restaurants outside.

We escaped on our anniversary, the fifth of April (not how we wanted to spend it), and boarded a bus to Pokhara, which was a painful journey for me -my stomach played up a few hours in and I had to mutter a mantra in order to stay on the bus- but when we arrived we dropped onto the bed and slept for a good 12 hours. The restaurants in Pokhara know how to make you feel good, and after multiple big meals I felt a little more human.

In the 5 days I was in hospital, and the week in which I didn't eat, my weight dropped from 60 kilograms to 51 kilos. I was so dehydrated that they had to put 14 litres of IV fluids directly into my vein, and I had to drink a further 12 litres of Oral Rehydration Salts before I could walk without feeling dizzy. At points I was so dehydrated I couldn't focus my eyes and I was so dizzy I couldn't stand. I think the worst was when the Malaria hit me and my body started to shiver so it could get up to a fever of 102 F as quickly as possible. So I'm still trying to get enough food into me to give me energy.

Pokhara.

We pretty much just rested for the week in Pokhara, watching TV and emerging from bed just to put some food into us. Luckily the restaurants nearby were happy to provide take away food, and sometimes we just curled up and ate pasta as we tried to recover.

Aya is just now recovering, she got sick from the dirty restaurants outside the hospital as she was looking after me. Talk about bad luck. Sadly, the drugs she was given didn't kill it, so we had to get more before we left. Luckily, thankfully, she now seems to be on the mend.

We boarded a 16 hour bus from Pokhara all the way to the eastern border crossing of Kakabhitta, which thanks to the bus drivers insane driving only took 13 hours. Both good and bad, good due to the fact we arrived early, bad because the number of upside down and smashed buses by the side of the road was numerous. For a while as we sped around the tight corners of the Himalaya, I thought we were minutes away from death, but somehow we managed to dodge the oncoming trucks and miss the side of the road by inches.

We emerged at Kakabhitta as a thunderstorm hit, and sadly trudged through the pouring rain across the bridge into India once more. If you cross here, get a rickshaw. They can take you right across the border and it saves you the freezing cold, soaking wet kilometre walk. After that, you can look forward to another few hundred metres before you arrive at the crossroad where the buses wait. Expect to be pulled, pushed and yelled at to get on 'THIS BUS, NOT THAT ONE' as the bus owners try and fill up their respective vehicles as quickly as possible. The hour long journey to Siliguri, soaking wet and cramped inside the bus (standing of course) as the thunderstorm raged outside was not comfortable, and we made the decision to sleep overnight in Siliguri before heading onto Darjeeling the next day. We had only received 3 hours sleep the night before, and were exhausted.

From Siliguri, share jeeps leave pretty regularly from around the bus station. The rickshaw drivers will try and fleece you, we got offered Rs 150 for 500 metres, to which I walked away in disgust from. I found another honest rickshaw driver a minute later, who took us to the correct jeep for Rs 20. You can expect to wait for an hour or so before enough people fill up the seats, and then with a lurch you're heading up the Himalaya, through twisting roads and steep hills at a scary speed. I managed to take over two hundred pictures of the spectacular view, but haven't sorted the good from the bad yet, so here's a couple I uploaded quickly:

The view over the mountains.

Our first view of Darjeeling.

Darjeeling is a cluster of buildings on the hillside. Busy, noisy and incredibly cheerful, I've pretty much fallen in love with it. The smells drifting from the cafes, the views over the valleys and the bright red sunsets (see below) are just wonderful. The one thing I don't like is the constant steep hills! My legs hurt already, and we've only been here 24 hours.


You can see the mountain ridge if you look closely, poking through the clouds. I'll try and get some better pictures tonight.

And that's about it for the last two weeks! We leave for Malaysia in one week, kind of scary to think we're leaving India again for another country. We've decided to rest around here for the next few days, before taking the toy train along the mountains to reach Kurseong, where we'll head for Calcutta.

Next update in a couple of days. Thanks for reading!

Andy

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