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October 6, 2016

LAST DAY IN NEPAL

Last Day In Nepal

By: Samer Moussa

March 26, 2016

One of the best, worst and unique experiences of my life. I woke up in the Pokhara region of Nepal. After a pretty underwhelming breakfast (so many flies) and a coffee which repeatedly spilled on my shirt, we kicked the day off by taking a boat across Fewa lake. We were told that the famous Shanti Stupa was reachable by the same boat, so we decided to go for it.

Our boat paddler was under the age of 15 and was paddling slower than most of the other paddlers on the lake. He seemed like he had a cold, so Joey and I helped him out (though, it was mostly Joey). We reached our destination and saw the Shanti Stupa looking down on the lake (later realizing that it was 1,100 meters above sea level). We began hiking towards the entrance to the Stupa, completely unprepared and not knowing what to expect. Sadly, the skies were hazy and we couldnt see much of the supposedly incredible views but nonetheless, the experience was pretty great. I began Googling facts about the Stupa and noticed an article highlighting the amount of muggings that occur on the same trail that we took. I also noticed that there was a guy creepily following us around as we toured the Buddha temple.

On the way back down to our boat, I saw the same creepy guy trailing us. He eventually moved past us and started walking very slowly, turning around every few seconds. This creeped me out so I kept saying things like “I have my knife” (which I didn’t) and Joey kept talking about how he would beat the guy up with his camera lens in Arabic. Finally, the man stopped to say “I am not Nepali” with a smile on his face. We both panicked because suddenly, he looked like he was from the Middle East and probably understood all of the Arabic comments we were making. He continued, “I am from Iran.” Phew. He turned out to be a pretty friendly guy (still, with a level of awkwardness beyond most encounters with strangers) named Mehdi who was studying for his Phd. He thought we were Persian and was basically following us until he had the courage to introduce himself. He walked with us the entire way down and Joey answered all of his questions while I pretended to be exhausted so I wouldn’t have to participate. We reached the bottom of the trail exactly two hours after we got there. Mehdi asked to take a selfie with us, which we did. Who knows where that selfie could end up?

On the way back from the Stupa, our boat paddler was just as slow as earlier. We had about 30 minutes before we needed to head to the airport for our 1:30pm flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu. We were trying to figure out how to get back to our hotel in Pokhara, pack our stuff, checkout and eat lunch…all within the same 30 minutes. Joey and I split up: he went to get our bags and I went to a nearby restaurant to order food to-go. We hopped in a cab with a man named Raju and we made it to the airport around 1pm. As we approached the desk for check-in, our perfectly timed day was suddenly ruined. In the least helpful way possible, we were told “your flight is probably cancelled.”

The day before, our flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara was delayed by 4-hours; which is why we extended our stay in Pokhara from the originally planned six hours to an overnight stay. We enjoyed Pokhara and found it much cleaner and more tourist-friendly than Kathmandu. The plan was to get back to Kathmandu by 1:45pm, do some more sight-seeing and then take off to Abu Dhabi at 8pm (and catch a flight to Jordan eight hours later).

When the airline employee told us that our flight was probably going to be cancelled, I explained our situation and asked about our options. He said “you can drive back to Kathmandu.” I asked, “how long is the drive?” As expected, I hated his response of “five hours.” However, this would get us back to Kathmandu by 6pm, just in time for our 8pm departure to Abu Dhabi. We found Raju waiting outside, as if he knew this was going to happen. He said it would cost $120 for him to take us to Kathmandu. We found another young man from Singapore (named Fan Ho) that was stuck in the same situation and asked if he could split the cost of a ride with us. We figured, why not and we hit the road around 1:15pm.

The drive was a great way to see the parts of Nepal that you wouldn’t see by following the standard tourist path. There were so many different things to look at and some really nice would-be views, but the haze persisted throughout the trip and limited our visibility. All was perfectly fine and we were making good time until we hit a complete standstill on a two-lane curvy road along the cliff (think of the Amalfi Coast). We thought that the traffic would quickly pass, but we were so wrong. We moved inch-by-inch for a grueling two hours until we finally approached the cause of the unbearable traffic: two somewhat over-turned tractors that were carrying some kind of soda can crates in the back, safely held in place with bed sheets and rope…yes, really. The crates were all over the place. The traffic in both directions was trying to weave around this mess on a two lane road along the cliff.

By the time we passed the scene, it was 7pm and we were still 30km away from the hotel. Though it was a short remaining distance, the actual remaining travel time was over one hour, which ultimately caused us to miss our 8pm flight.

As we continued our drive back to Kathmandu, we dropped Fan Ho on the side of the road, near his destination. There were many strange things about Nepal but one of the strangest was witnessing an open fire lit directly in front of nine propane tanks.

Then, we approached one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my life. I noticed a bunch of police officers failing to grab a motorcyclist while on foot and then trailing him via motorcycle. As I looked at the scene more closely, I saw a man lying face-down on the floor. He looked so small but the closer we got, the clearer it became. He was an older man that was struck by the motorcyclist and thrown to the ground. His nose was gushing blood at devastating rates and it seemed like no one knew what to do. His body was completely lifeless when police tried to move him. Sadly, I don’t think he made it. We were the closest car to the scene and we saw the police successfully catch the young motorcyclist and drag him back to the scene. We slowly continued on our way, as a small crowd started to form around the man. I feel terrible for him.

We checked out of our hotel in Kathmandu and headed straight to the airport. After much confusion, we were finally directed to our airline’s office. One of the agents there dialed Etihad’s travel desk for us. During this phone conversation, I reached my breaking point and lost it on the man because of my frustration with the entire day and his repetitive and incompetent nature. The should-be 20 minute call lasted over one hour and we ultimately got both our flights changed to the next departing flight: 6pm the next day. We went back to our hotel in Kathmandu to re-checkin. Most of my frustration was with the fact that we were going to miss our flights to Jordan the next day (me for work and Joey for fun). Thankfully, Joey’s flight to Jordan was refunded and no one from work made a fuss.

During our bonus day in Nepal, Joey and I roamed the Thamel region of Kathmandu and got a bite to eat. We headed to the airport and were once again, delayed by one hour. Thankfully though, I wrote this final sentence while on the flight from Kathmandu to Abu Dhabi.

The End.

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