Back home

Ah Ireland, you greeted me with a bit of sun and a bit of rain, it’s like I never left! I can’t believe it was only 2 weeks ago that I left on my Nepali adventure and that it’s already over. Tomorrow I will be back at work as if nothing had happened. It’s going to be a rough week.

My flight from Kathmandu to Istanbul was unremarkable. I lucked out and got one of the newer planes so I had an individual screen and the flight just flew by (see what I did there? 😉 ). I got to Istanbul at 2pm and debated whether to brave it by myself or do the touristy thing and book a hotel from the airport. I decided to be a sucker and try out the hotel booking places in the airport. DO NOT DO IT. Especially with a company named AVRO tours. It was one of the worse decisions of the whole trip.

I thought I had gotten a decent enough deal at 85 euro with a return taxi for a single room. This was after some serious haggling and it was the best offer out of all the places at the airport. Turns out there are shuttles coming back from the Sultanahment for €5 every hour or so. I could have saved a bunch on my return.

The hotel they booked me into was supposed to be called the Garden Rose. When I got there it was called the Rose Bouquet. The only way the hotel resembled a Rose is in that it was also fed by piles of shit. The staff were horrible, the room was dingy and had leaks in the ceiling, the hot water was not working and the electricity went out a couple of times. Not really worth the 60 euros a night. Overall very bad.

That was the bad part of Istanbul, the good part is the city itself. I had been waiting almost 20 years to see Hagia Sophia. I studied it extensively in my last year of high school and did many sketches of it and it had always stuck in my mind. It was a blast to finally be there even though half of it was covered in scaffolds. I took the full tour and even bought the audioguide! I loved it.

Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia

By the time I finished it was almost 6pm so I headed over to the Basilica Cistern before it closed. I had heard it was worth seeing and I figured if I could only see 2 things, those were good things to see. Let me say it was definitely worth it.  There is a magical feeling being there under the city in a place that is thousands of years old. I only wish I had had more time to spend there as they were closing and I only had 30 minutes to see it.

Cistern
Cistern

When I got out the sun was setting and it was time to grab a bite. My camera battery died at that moment and my charger was in my backpack which had been checked all the way to Dublin so I have no pictures of that evening. I had a nice cheap Chicken Shish and some lovely Baklava. Not a bad way to end a great afternoon.

Dusk over Istanbul
Dusk over Istanbul

I slept in the next morning and woke up to have my horrible free breakfast. I won’t dwell on it, I’ll only insist: AVRO Tours and the Rose Bouquet: STAY AWAY. The car was supposed to collect me at 10 am to take me to the airport. By 10:20 nobody had shown up. I asked the hotel and they told me off because it was not their problem. I called the company and they said not to worry, the car would get there. I was worried as I had a plane to catch but just waited. The car was 40 minutes late and I was rather stressed out. On top of the Ataturk airport in Istanbul has to be one of the most secure airports in the world. I got Xrayed twice and passed 2 more controls before I got to my gate. Suffice it to say I got to my gate just in time. 🙂

The flight to Dublin was on an older plane so I read a book all the way. I couldn’t see the screen as it was behind the curtain protecting the business class passengers from us economy rabble. I did get a first row seat so I had plenty of leg space.

I am now in my apartment writing this and planning out my next trip. I can’t wait to leave again. Tomorrow is work and then acting class so at least I’ll have something to look forward to!

This round’s almost over

Once gain I apologise for the delay in posting but there really has not been too much to report. I did leave you in a bit of a cliffhanger but they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. 😉

As I was saying, poor Sarah was not feeling too well in my last post and I asked her to let me know if she was feeling any worse so we could head to the doctor. I spent a restless night as every sound I heard I thought it was her knocking on my door asking to go to the doctor. I can’t imagine how I’ll be if I ever am expecting a child! Well not me, the person I would be with at that moment… you know what I mean!

Anyway, I got up around 7:30 and went to see how Sarah was doing, she was feeling worse so we decided to head to the hospital. The Lonely Planet guide recommends going to the public hospital but the guy at  the hostel said the metro City Hospital was better so we trusted him and went there.

Nepali hospitals are very different to what we are used to in the western world. The entrance to this place looked like any other shop or shopping mall. We walked up to reception and luckily one of the receptionists spoke english. She charged Sarah 1000 rupees and told to wait upstairs for the doctor. We proceeded to the upstairs waiting room which was a corridor above a courtyard with a bunch of plastic chairs. The doctor was not in yet so we sat down to wait. After about an hour and a half I went downstairs to see what was going on. You may ask why I went downstairs, well it turns out that the girl in the waiting room didn’t even have a telephone so she was not the most up to date source of information.

As luck would have it the doctor walked in at that very moment. Sarah asked me to stay outside and after 2 or 3 minutes the doctor came out to fetch me and informed me that she had to stay in observation. I tried to ask what was wrong with her but all the doctor would say is “Don’t worry, I will take care of it”. He gave us a list of tests and directed us up a floor to speak to a nurse.

Once upstairs things got weirder. The nurses asked me to sign some sort of consent forms but didn’t want to explain what was on them, they refused to call Sarah’s insurance company and kept on giggling every time we spoke to them. Between that and the lack of information from the doctor, we decided to go somewhere else. We managed to recover the receipt of aren’t from the doctor’s office (don’t know why he had kept it) and we left. The doctor followed us asking if we were coming back, it felt like he was desperate to get our money, not the most reassuring of signs.

I suggested that we go to the public hospital and Sarah agreed so we jumped in a cab and headed over there. It’s a bit far away but when we got there it looked like a real hospital. One that had been built 50 years ago and rarely been cleaned but a hospital nonetheless. Sarah went to reception and got her papers and we waited patiently outside magic door number 4.

The waiting corridor was very crowded and everyone looked at us as if we were aliens. When the door finally opened there was a flood of people waving their papers around and when Sarah finally got their attention they said we needed to go to door number 7 which was the maternity ward! We decided to follow the instructions and went over there. The guy at door number 7 was really nice and walked us back to door number 4 where we were refused entry again. He then proceeded to sneak us in the back door to room number 4. 🙂

The consulting area was one big room with 4 doctors and 4 nurses and you sat next to the doctor and explained all your symptoms. We got a nice doctor that spoke very good English and he quickly diagnosed Sarah, prescribed some pills and explained to us very clearly what was wrong. We left feeling much better and went to the pharmacy to fill the prescription.

Sarah now has to take like 8 pills every day to get better but if it works, it is worth it. Overall cost of consultation plus prescription was just under 10 euro.

Walk by the lake
Walk by the lake

We got in a taxi back to the hotel and spent the rest of the day being lazy. We prepared a trek for the next day with Gus and Anna and we went to the freedom cafe for a beer and dinner. The freedom café is north of lakeside and is a very hippy place where a band, with the most out of tune bassist ever, massacres pink Floyd on a nightly basis.

Yesterday I woke up early only to find Gus really sick as well. We stayed around the guesthouse and played cards most of the day. There is really not much to say, it was a nice relaxing, rainy day by the lake. Not a bad way to say goodbye to Pokhara. We had dinner at out favourite place in Pokhara, Shivana restaurant. Great food, lovely people and your host Samjhanna is the nicest and liveliest girl in all Nepal.

Great people
Great people

Today was a sad day as I had to leave all my new friends and head back to Kathmandu as my flight back to Ireland leaves tomorrow. I will miss Nepal and all my new friends but I have realised that I had forgotten how much I love travelling. There will be more to come soon.

hard crossing
hard crossing

The trip from Kathmandu to Pokhara was not remarkable. This time the bus was worse than the last time but it was cloudy all the way so I didn’t miss the AC. I managed to get a seat on the left hand side at the window so I had great views all the way. The ticket guy tried to move me but I refused and he gave up. 😛

take me to the river
take me to the river

in the meantime I will continue to post about my adventures in Istanbul tomorrow as well as loads of pictures, tips and practical information I have gathered during my trip . Stay tuned and please let me know in the comments if there is any particular aspect of my trip you would like to know more about!

Biking into the hillside

Today was the day we were supposed to rent bikes. We wanted to all go together and pedal our way to Begnas Tal, which is a lake that is around 10kms east of Pokhara. We had heard that it was not too touristy and we had bought a map to find an alternative route to get there as we didn’t feel like biking down the main road.

We all gathered at 8am in our hostel and as soon as we started moving it started to rain. We therefore decided to take a slow breakfast to see if it would clear up. It was a slow drizzle and didn’t seem to be likely to quit any time soon so we resigned ourselves to another lazy day and headed back to the hostel. We all split to our separate rooms and, of course, 15 minutes later it stopped raining.

Lazy breakfast
Lazy breakfast

We tried to gather the troops again but Sarah was not feeling too well and Max and Claire wanted to say in. We decided to head out just the Spanish group. We rented our bikes in a place near the hostel. The bikes were not great but they braked and had bells on them. Seemed good enough for 1 euro per day.

We trusted our destiny to Gustavo as he was the map bearer and headed out into the Nepali countryside. It was stunningly beautiful. We rode through rice paddies at the edge of a huge ravine. It was sort of a smaller, tropical grand canyon. After about 2 hours of riding up and and down a chappy road we decided we were probably lost. We needed to find a bridge across the ravine to head to the lake as we were on the wrong side. Luckily, we stopped to ask at a local school and they pointed us towards this tiny pathway that led into nowhere and assured us that it was the way. We were not so sure but didn’t really have a choice.

Gus admiring the view
Gus admiring the view

The path was barely walkable and we had to push our bikes for about 30 minutes but in the end we caught site of a cable bridge crossing the ravine. It reminded me of a 21st century Indiana Jones bridge. It seemed safe enough but it swung and bounced all over the place. Suffice it to say I loved it. Was one of the highlights of the day.

On the bridge
On the bridge

By that time poor Anna was struggling to keep up. She is not used to riding a bike and was in a bit of pain due to the seat. We checked the map and saw we were only about 2 km away from the lake so we tried to make a push for it. I started o go ahead o the group and wait for them at each intersection to check the way. In this two-tiered way we finally made it to the lake. It was indeed beautiful and worth the trip.

Begnas Tal
Begnas Tal

We could only stay there for 5 minutes as it was already 4pm and we only had 2 hours to get back to the entail place before dark. We also did not want to ride after sunset as we had no lights on the bikes. We headed off again but soon realised that at Angus pace we would not make it. In one of my scouting mission I discovered we could stop a bus and put the bikes on top to get to Pokhara. The look of joy on Anna’s face when she heard the news was priceless.

We flagged down a bus, loaded up the bikes and 30 minutes later were in Pokhara. We rode the bikes to the rental place and made it just in time for the sunset.

After leaving the bikes we checked on Sarah. She was feeling worse and did not want to come for dinner so we went for dinner just the three of us and brought her back some rice in case she got hungry.

Tune in tomorrow for a trip around Pokhara’s hospitals!

Lazy day

Monday was a lazy day. We had many plans to do things but nothing worked out so we decided to do nothing. not a bad plan overalll.

The morning started at 8am with Gus and I searching for places to rent a pair of scooters. This sounds like a simple endeavour but nothing is simple in Nepal. The first place had one good scooter and one scooter than kept on stalling, the next one had 2 scooter that started fine but would not brake. The third place didn’t have helmet for my watermelon head and the last place had good scooters and big helmets but needed a deposit and us to leave our passports behind.

Hawks on the prowl
Hawks on the prowl

All of that took almost  3 hours so we decided not to get scooters in the end. When we were walking back Sarah spotted us from the restaurant where she was having breakfast and I joined  her for a coffee. We then went exploring around the lake to see if we could find a nice place to chill. After walking through rice paddies for a while we though we had found a spot but it was too hot to lie there without tree cover. In the end we walked back to town and met up with the rest of the gang for a long lunch.

Walking to lunch
Walking to lunch

The afternoon was spent lazily writing my blog entry and reading a book (The dresden files, in case you are wondering). I had met the owner of a Spanish restaurant in the morning and we decided to go for some Spanish food. It ended up being quite an experience.

Not much to do
Not much to do

We ordered tortilla for everyone and some red wine and tapas. We had understood that the wine was European but it ended up being sweet Nepali wine. It was not good at all. Tasted of powder and chemicals and all sorts of strange stuff.

We had ordered some tapas and tortilla to eat. The tapas were 2 open bags of crisps and some peanuts while the tortilla was nothing to write home about. On top of that the owner kept on complaining how much he hated working and how he wanted to return to Spain. But the best was yet to come.

After a forgettable dinner (expensive too) the owner joined us at the table and proceeded to talk for almost an hour about how the world was coming to a change and the schuman frequencies and how now we were passing from the age of intellect to the age of wisdom and bla, bla, bla…. As you can imagine he killed our mood and we will not be returning.

As I said overall it was not a bad day but it had a very strange ending.