Nightmare checkout - 8 cases/bags plus packing bikes - the ordered very large taxi inevitably did not turn up (Delhi style) but two small ones did so, Mikey and bikes in one and Alan, Tricia and Polly and bags in the other, we set off to the airport. Amazingly, this airport was clean, slick and well organised and the first thing we saw was a Costa!! All got through check in ( no extra charge for 50kg of bicycle) and through customs without being arrested and before long the flight had been called - even gave Mikey and Dan time for a Mcdonalds. The Jet Airways plane was only an hour late for take off and then we soared on our way to Nepal ( Dan's birthday treat). Very pleasant and quick flight then off we tipped into Katmandu and the No visa queue. Money, a photo and long wait while the official chatted to his girl/boyfriend on his mobile, finally got us our 15day visas and off we went in search of a large taxi. Inundated with boys and men all wanting to supply us with the best taxi and only about an eighth of all of them anything to do with taxis
. The prepaid taxi stand quoted us $200 and a half hour wait, so of course Dan felt he could do better than that and set off in the melee and returned with an offer of $140. The driver had a wonderful old Toyota Landcruiser (memories of the Gog mobile) and Dan jumped on the roof and secured the bikes while Pols and I perused the most comfortable seats and Mikey and Alan stowed the luggage. Should have been so easy - but suddenly it all started to go wrong. The price had gone up to $180 and our driver was being shouted at and beseiged by numerous chaps and he finally said that his car was not up to the hazardous six hour journey and we would swap for another car on the way (???) Starting to sound a bit suspicious... Just round the corner from the airport we joined a sweet Jersey cow by the roadside and a red off roader drew up alongside and we were supposed to move into this. Mikey happy with the situation, but Dan and Alan thought it not big enough and after much altercation we forced the driver back to the airport and to the original $200 dollar man. Off with the bikes and luggage and into a red van which was to take us to the super duper large people carrier. The traffic beat anything we had previously encountered in India and we crawled into the noisiest, smelliest, most crowded area of Kathmandu - fish, chickens, raw meat all displayed amongst the flies in dingy little shops. After 45 minutes of Mikey haranging the taxi man who kept insisting it was just around the corner, we drew up outside a gaudy fabric shop and there was the van - true it had lots of seats and a roof rack - it was gray and that's all that could be said about it! Nevertheless, our options were limited - time was racing by and the sun had gone down and we had been warned against the journey at night time. Bikes and bags were transferred and the $200 dollars paid and we finally set off back the way we had come. There did appear to be another passenger in the front seat - explained away as a spare driver
. The traffic had not abated and we were stuck with filtering our way through to the Pokhara road - or so we thought. NOT! One more stop and a step too far - we came to a stop and a girl then started to get in!! Alan blocked the way and handed the other passenger his bag, Mikey took the driver's keys and Dan phoned the dodgy dealer and explained we had no intention of giving free lifts to his mates when we had parted with $200. By this time, the car was surrounded by a huge crowd of onlookers and 'helpers' and there was a enormous amount of shouting and pushing and shoving. All very alarming and scarey and I suggested the police. Mikey went off the call them and, to our amazement, one appeared quite quickly (with a stick) and more shouting ensued. They attempted to explain the girl away as a mechanic, at which point, Dan declared himself as a mechanic and we told the policeman we wanted one car, one driver - he went along with that and a complete stranger jumped in the car declaring himself the driver and at 6.30pm (three and a half hours after the first taxi), we thanked the policeman and set off.
What a journey ...what a road.... bumpy wasn't in it and, by this time we were all bursting for a pee. Determined to make a bit of headway before a stop, we crossed our legs and urged the driver on out of the city. Time stood still and it seemed interminable - so bone shaking and so cold. Of course the heater didn't work. After an hour we had to stop for relief at the roadside - forget about dignity - we all piled back in, wrapped up as best we could and forged on
. Winding up and down pit holed roads, behind huge lorries, in the darkness we went on and on and on. Three hours later Dan was hungry, so he and the drive stopped for a very dubious curray and Pols and I crossed the dark road to some parked lorries while Alan stood guard as we had another pee in the road. Fortified, the driver and Dan returned and with a further three hours to go, we journeyed on. Sleep was tricky with the turbulence, but we dozed on and finally, finally, we saw a huge sign saying Pokhara Paradise. Could have fooled a frozen, bad tempered and tired mother - darkness all around (midnight by now) and no hotel booked. The town had obviously had some celcebrations as there were stalls, signs and bunting all around, but absolutely no sign of life. I prepared to doss down in the uncomfortable and freezing van, while the driver, Dan, Mikey and Alan tried to knock up Hotel owners - no joy - it all looked so very, very, dead and grim. At last we spotted a chap and rushed to ask for a room or two. Despite Alan's protestations that it was horrid, we decided we would have to go for it and all piled out. Better rooms were found and joy of joy - there was heating. There were also soft, clean white duvets and that was it - crashing out time (12.30 am). Good Night all.