Monday, 12 May 2008

Nepalis strike again!

This is a picture of our Dutch friend Vincent with some political protesters at a small border town in Nepal. You see, we just had a very frustrating encounter with the political maelstrom of this small Kingdom (soon to become Republic). Now that the newly elected Maoists are in power, we were hoping to avoid all of this unrest, but Nepal is just not that simple.

So we crossed the border near Darjeeling into Nepal, psyched up for a 16 hour bus ride from the border to Kathmandu only to be told by immigration that a strike had been called that morning. A senior Maoist leader had been killed in an accident on a bus when he fell out if its doorway and was run over. The family of the deceased are currently demanding 1.5m Nepali Rupees from the bus company for funeral costs and have blockaded the road from this border town into the rest of Nepal until they are paid.

So having just entered the country we were stranded in a tiny border town with nowhere to go. Luckily we found a hotel room and we stayed in this miserable, dusty town last night hoping that the strike would be lifted this morning and we could catch the first bus out of town (at 4.30am).
We rose at 4am and threw on our backpacks and headed out on to the dark streets only to find out that the strike was still going on and that things had taken an ugly turn (or so we were told) - the protesters had kidnapped a bus driver to increase their bargaining power.

We decided, with this indefinate situation on our doorstep (literally) , to splash out and catch the first flight to Kathmandu (on Yeti Airlines!). The only problem was that with no cars, buses or motorbikes being allowed on the roads, we had to burden two poor bicycle-rickshaw drivers with a two hour ride with us and our bags on the back to the airport. Poor fellas.

Anyway, our 16 hour bus ride was replaced with a 25 minute flight (with excellent service) through the Himalayas and we're now in Kathmandu and are very excited by the prospect of affordable wine.

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