F. Communication Issues
Now you can make your calls to India up to Darchen 'so the period you are really out of touch with the world is only 3 days when you are doing Parikrama. And since it is not difficult to find phone in all your stops along the way, you really do not need to carry your mobile phone or get your home operator switch to roaming for making out going calls. But it will be a good idea to keep your phone on roaming for incoming emergency calls (but no idea about whether you will get enough signal strength ' ask pilgrims who have taken their mobiles about costs and signal strengths).
You can also purchase Chinese telecom SIM card in Zhangmu and use it to make your calls ' sorry -no idea about costs.
I can give you costs for the phone calls at various stops in 2007 for guidance (the rates go up as you ascend towards Kailash). All rates are per minute in Chinese Yuan and they charge you for any unused part of the minute ' so for e.g. : if you are overshooting a minute it is better to talk 1minute and 55 seconds.
Zhangmu -2.5-3/Nyalam-3-4 /Saga-4.5-5 /Paryang- 6-8/Darchen-7-8
In Kathmandu per minute will cost you about 35NPR which will go upto 40NPR in Kodari.
It would be also a good idea to get the Chinese telecom number of your tour leader and convey it to your folks back home for any emergencies.
G. Should you take Insurance
We think you should. Your normal travel insurances would not cover Kailas Trip since this would fall under the category of adventure tour. Since we travelled from Gulf, we do not have an idea how much it costs in India. For us 22 days cover including adventure sports from AXA costed 440dhs per family or roughly 4900 Indian Rs (2 adults+2 children- this was cheaper than taking individually). The insurance covered also emergency medical transportation upto 60,000$ -but I am not sure whether any of the tour operator have the means to arrange evacuating by helicopter in case of an emergency.
H. Visa issues
For Nepal Indian visitors do not need visa. However for Tibet visa you need a passport with minimum 6 months validity. When you are flying into Kathmandu, make sure that you get the entry stamp on your passport at the airport arrival immigration counter- apparently the some additional cost would be involved if you do not (not very sure about this).
Chinese embassy in Kathmandu operates only 3 days a week ' Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If you are joining the tour from India and handed over your passport for visa purposes before hand the Chinese embassy opening times in Kathmandu is not an issue. But if you are an NRI flying into Kathmandu and joining the group this becomes a critical issue. Make sure with your operator that your schedule is planned in such a way as to facilitate the issuing of visa in Kathmandu.
In all cases Chinese embassy does not stamp your passport and issues the visa on a separate piece of paper. You cross the border at the Friendship bridge and at the immigration post there (do not photograph the immigration post 'they can get very nasty about this) a retina scanning is done and your name in the visa is matched up against your passport. The main immigration is at Zhangmu- there they enter your passport details in the computer and ensures that the visa is in order. They have got their own system of working at both these posts and here you would need the services of Chinese guide to get you across because none of the immigration officers speak English.
During return at Zhangmu, they just exit you and cancel your name in the computer- this procedure is simple and they don't even check the visa or any other paper. This part can be done without any assistance from Chinese guides.
The visa validity is apparently for the exact duration of the travel and the group has to be brought back to Zhangmu before the visa expires (this is what the Chinese guides say- since you don't get to handle the visa there is no way to verify this). The implication is that you cannot stay extra days in Tibet if your group runs into any difficulty during the yatra but catch up with the schedule and report back to Zhangmu as originally planned. The fine per person for late arrival (again 'can't be confirmed) is US 500$ per day.
If you are part of a group visa it is also not clear about whether you can exit from Tibet and return to Kathmandu in case of not performing parikrama.
On Nepal side during your way up to Kailas the operator would have got your exit stamped in the passport. On the way back it is your duty to visit the Nepal immigration post at Kodari and get your entry stamped. This is a simple procedure and does not involve any form filling for Indian passport holders.
I. On line Information
A. All tour operators provide detailed information on the itinerary, things to pack and tips for travel. While you should definitely follow the guide lines given in your operators website it would be a good idea to look up the information provided by other operators as well as by people who have done the trip before. We are providing you below the links to websites we found more useful (this list is not exhaustive or definitive. The order of preference is ours)
1. Dr. Sethu foundation website ' by Dr.Sethu who did the trip in 2006. www.drsethufoundation.org
2. www.kailashmansarovar-yatra.com and www.mansarovaryatra.com maintained by Dr.Manoj Matta, Oriental journeys.
3. www.trektibet.com maintained by Earthbound Expeditions
6. http://travel.sulekha.com and visit blog of indu-ram who did the travel in 2006.
B. If you need information on high altitude mountain sickness, you can look up these sites (don't get paranoid though)
3. www.high-altitude-medicine.com - check out their AMS worksheet in English and Nepali!
I. Can this tour be arranged independently
Theoretically 'yes practically for the time being no. Basically, the Nepal side tour operator subcontracts his operations on the Chinese side after arranging the logistics and sherpas. So you should be able to cut him out and his margin if you are able to negotiate directly with Sherpas and they are able to do the logistics for you. Also if you negotiate directly with Chinese guides you should be able to get a better deal in the Land cruiser and Chinese accommodations by cutting out the margin of the operator. The only issue that would remain for you to attend is the Tibet visa ' I am not sure whether this can be done directly and whether they will issue the group visa to individual groups. So for the time being, I think the answer would be no- you should stick to the regular tour operators from Kathmandu and try to negotiate the best deal taking into consideration all the issues highlighted earlier.
J. Tour Itinerary and Travelogue
Since our tour itinerary was totally messed up by Mr.Pradhan and because we do not expect such irresponsible behavior from most of the tour operators, it would only confuse the reader if we were to give a day by day account of our journey. Therefore we have stuck to the original and usual itinerary and given you an account of what you should expect on each day. In a separate section titled 'What can go wrong?' we have given an account of the mess Trevelorg and Sresta Holidays (of Mr.Pradhan) landed us in.
Day 1- If you are flying in from India you would be landing in Kathmandu International airport mostly in the afternoon. Kathmandu International airport is housed in a small building. You should not have any difficulty in immigration ' just fill in a form, get the entry sticker on your passport (it is important to get the entry marked in your passport or apparently you have to pay extra during Tibet visa issue) and you should be out and in your tour operators vehicle to the hotel. In any case when you come out of the airport you would be surrounded by a lot of taxi drivers and their side kicks who would want to know in which hotel you are put in and who would want to take you there in the event of your tour operators' vehicle not turning up. In case your coach did not turn up (which is what happened to us), you can make phone call to your hotel or operator from shops outside (you can pay in Indian Rs in case you do not have Nepali Rs) and wait till your transport turned up all the while getting pestered by the enthusiastic and hopeful clan of taxi drivers.
With all the Marutis , two wheelers and Hindi sign boards and the chaos on the roads you won't feel like you have come out of India. You could go out in the evening, make any purchases which you might have scheduled in Kathmandu - suggestions and tips on sightseeing in Kathmandu in our Kathmandu blog.
Day 2- This would be the day when you would be mostly be taken on the half day sight seeing tour. Pashupathinath being the most renowned temple in Kathmandu would definitely be on every tour operators list. We were taken to Budhaneelakant temple also and not taken to Swayambunath Darshan as promised in the itinerary.
On your way to Pashupathinath the tour guide would warn you strongly about the pick pockets in the temple. Not that you should not be careful but we felt it was overdone a bit and felt perfectly safe in the temple. Also it was not very crowded that particular day and we all had a good darshan and people who wanted to do the abhishekams could do it without too much of a hassle. Within the Pashupathinath temple complex there are a lot of small temples and the atmosphere is somewhat different from Indian temples- particularly South Indian temples.
Around Pashupathinath there is a lot of shopping ' rudrakshas, curios, trinklets etc. From Pashupathinath we were taken to Budhaneelakant which has an unusual and large Vishnu idol in a sleeping position. There is a fascinating story about how the idol was found which would definitely be narrated by your tour guide 'so we will not spoil the fun by reciting it here.
In the evening you would have your briefing session where the tour operator will outline his programme and you can clear up your doubts. You also will have to do the final packing of your bags& backpacks, transfer things from your regular bag to the duffel bags provided by the operator and decide things which have to be left behind at the hotel.
Day3 ' It would be an early day 'how much early would depend on the group size. Our operator had us up by 4.30 but by the time he assembled 122 and got on the way it was 6.30. Breakfast was a packed affair. The road to Kodari -the border town is not that bad and quite scenic. Once you arrive in Kodari you would be surrounded by money changers, kids wanting to carry your back pack, and beggars. Kodari is a poor border town with all age categories of the population engaged in some sort of cross border trading and even very small kids and aged men and women carrying really heavy loads across the border. And there are lorries- lots of them forming lengthy queues on both sides of the border.
It takes approximately 6 hours to cover 145kms distance between Kathmandu and Kodari. We had lunch in Kailas hotel in Kodari ' a small outfit with a restaurant overlooking the river. Thereafter you will cross the Nepali outpost (no formalities to be completed here although you should be careful not to get caught in the rush of Nepali carriers) on to the Friendship Bridge. The immigration post is manned by very young boyish looking Chinese army personnel trying to act tough on tourists who try to shoot them or their immigration outpost- don't attempt it- it is not worth it. After your immigration formalities (retina scanning and checking your passport) you cross into China. Right away you go forward by 2 hours. You will be transferred to your Land Cruisers and the immigration counter at Zhangmu is a short ride away. At Zhangmu, your passports and visas would be cross- checked again and your details entered in the computer.
The road from Zhangmu to Nyalam (your first overnight halt )is being constructed now 'the land slide prone areas are being shored up and so they are allowing only traffic in the evening /night and that too one way. So the vehicles going up to Nyalam have to wait till 2300hrs. Zhangmu is a relatively big town with quite a few hotels, restaurants, bars and some shopping (mostly tourist oriented). But you will be able to cover the town in about an hours' leisurely stroll. If it is not raining spend some time walking around. If the weather is bad, you are better off sitting in some restaurant. Our operator did not provide us any accommodation/resting area in Zhangmu 'so other than having dinner and walking around there was nothing much else to do than wait for the traffic to start.
It was raining heavily with thunder and lightning by the time we started to Nyalam at 2300hrs. A word about Chinese drivers- they have the reputation of being rude and unfriendly (our experience was different though- we got a simpleton novice driver who was friendly enough although very dirty and unhygienic), but boy, do they know driving- they may seem to be reckless but actually it is just that they know exactly how much they can push their 4WDs. Also they are good mechanics and can get your car to the next destination even if it breaks down and they take care of each other in times of distress- so relax and try to be friendly with them.
It was our first long distance trip with our driver and since it was raining very heavily we could not see much on our way up- this was good in a way because if we were to see the road or the sheer drops on both sides we would have been shit scared. We could hear the sound of a gushing river most of the time and could make out that there was not much of a road in this sector and the ride was very bumpy throughout.
It takes approximately 5hours to cover the 60kms to Nyalam (so you can imagine the traffic jams and road blocks) and we reached there at 0400hrs with practically zero sleep. So imagine how tired you would be if you woke up at 0400 in Kathmandu you hit the bed after 24hrs almost- but this first day travel would become much more easier when the road works between Zhangmu and Nyalam gets completed and the restrictions on vehicle movements are lifted.
Day 4- Nyalam is a one street town (12,142ft) where you stay back for 1 day acclimatisation. You start feeling effects of the altitude here and can start taking Diamox if required. Although you should rest well to catch up with your sleep, it is also important to move around and keep yourself hydrated. It is also colder and windier at this altitude.
There is nothing much to see or do in Nyalam 'so rest, take a walk , make friends. The toilets are very basic (ours was extremely dirty too) and if you fancy a bath or a cleaner WC you could spend 10Yuan to take a bath or 5Yuan to have a relatively cleaner WC. If you are not that desperate, we would advise waiting till Saga which has got better facilities.
Day 5- This day you would be doing a 235km 7-8 hour drive starting in the morning around 0900hrs with a packed lunch on the way (we reached Saga around 1800hrs). Your dust masks need to come out and as you are ascending the sun can scorch your skin 'so put on your sunscreen and moisturiser. There are tracks and the drive is not very bumpy. The scenery is desolate, stark but stunningly beautiful. You climb upto 16081ft (Lalungla Pass) and pass through a Nature reserve during your journey. The other spots to highlight in this section are Milarepa caves (we did not stop and visit but I understand that some operators include it in their itinerary), beautiful Paiko lake, spectacular views of Himalayan range (Mount Shishapangma -8021mt, Mt Gaurishankar)and just before you enter Saga you cross Brahmaputra.
Saga (N 29 19.793 E 085 13.912- these are GPS coordinates alt-14450ft) has a couple of hotels and well stocked super markets. You could also get a cheaper deal on bathrooms and WCs- we bargained as a group and paid 8Y for shower (hot/cold) and 2Y for WC. Make sure you get accommodated in hotel rather than in dormitories or lodges where the toilets can be extremely dirty. Although the water in hotel comes at only scheduled times, the facilities are much cleaner.
Day 6- This day also you would be doing 285 kms -7/8 hours drive (we reached at 1600hrs). You will be at 15000ft almost all day driving through Tibetan plateau, crossing couple of streams/rivers on the way. Paryang (N 30 02.598 E 083 27.977/14500ft) ' your overnight stop just exists for the yatra pilgrims and although there are a lot of houses being constructed, there is nothing much to choose between the lodges except for one which we saw near the post office. The place where we stayed had a deep well and the water was extremely cold and refreshing. No paid showers or WCs in this area. The toilets were dirty and it was better to go to the open rather than the toilets.
Day 7- Today is the first day you are going to have a glimpse of Mt Kailas. Like the days before you start after breakfast and it will be afternoon by the time you cover 275kms in 8 hours approximately. On this day we touch the highest point during our drive 'Mayum La pass (17000ft) and then descend to Mansarovar (15,052ft). We will not attempt to describe the beauty of Lake Manasarovar and the mental fulfilment we had when we got a good clear darshan of Kailas throughout our stay in Mansarovar. Do take the trouble of getting up early morning 0300hrs- 0400hrs and have a view of Mansarovar if you are there during full moon on a clear night. Also try to catch the morning sunrise and the late sunset while you are there. Having a dip in Manasarovar is also a must- it is not as cold as you would expect. But getting into the lake involves crossing some muck on the banks and there are quite a lot of flying insects around ' but all said and done having a dip facing Kailas is a must do.
We were free till the next day afternoon for doing Poojas and Havans and although we had not carried any pooja materials we participated in poojas of our group members.
Accommodation in Manasarovar would be in tents and to spend one night in tent is also a good experience particularly if the weather is not too bad. There are bigger tents with cots available at a higher price and limited number of rooms also.
Day 8 - This day also morning the group is free upto 1400hrs to do pooja and havens. If you are planning to collect Mansarovar water, either go far into the lake (it is not very deep) to avoid silt and dirt or wait till you are doing Mansarovar parikrama later in the afternoon to fill up water. After lunch, the Manasarovar parikrama (90kms) is done by jeep. Throughout the day and during Parikrama we had good views of holy Mt Kailas.
Each face of Mt Kailas is different (borrowing words of Dr Sethu) and reflects different moods- The southern face fully covered in snow reflects majesty or splendour, western face is enveloped in an aura of compassion and benevolence, northern face is stark, forbidding and daunting and the eastern face only visible from a long way off is mysterious and distant.
During parikrama you will also be covering Rakshas Tal ' an equally beautiful lake about 50miles in circumference- connected to Manasarovar by a channel called Ganga Chu. Ravana who is said to have danced holding the weight of the Mt Kailas had done great austerities on the banks of this lake and hence this is called Rakshas Tal. It is considered inauspicious to take a dip in Rakshas Tal.
Darchen (N 30 58.646 E 081 17 321 /15400ft) is the base from which your Kailas Parikrama will start and is very much like a bigger Paryang. There is a better choice of accommodation than Paryang. Your group representative would have ideally reached Darchen before you and arranged the ponies, yaks, porters required for the journey. You would need to pack your back pack specifically for the parikrama- limit yourself to absolute necessities as you are restricted to 1 bag to be carried by your porter.
If it is a clear day and there is enough time before sunset after you reach Darchen try and do Astapad trip (see below)
Day 9- Some groups take a break in Darchen for a day and this will provide a bigger window to do the Astapad trip. However most groups would start parikrama this day around 1100hrs. If this is the case do the Astapad trip early in the morning if the weather is favourable. You would need 4 passengers and pay 300yuan to the driver for making this trip. It takes about 45mnts each way and about 2 hours to climb upto the point where you can see Mt Kailas clearly. The climb is steep and attempt it keeping in mind that you have to do Parikrama walking later in the day. However if the weather is not clear do not do the trip as it would simply be a waste of time. Astapad is particularly important spot for Jains who believe that Rishabadeva attained Nirvana here.
The Kailas Parikrama starts on this day. You are driven 8kms to Tarboche, walk through Yamadwar, and then walk 12kms (some sites put it at 15kms ' I think 12 is a more likely figure) to Diraphuk (16500ft/some sites put it closer to 17000ft). You will be given a packed lunch to have on the way. The walk is not very tough and it takes about 5-7 hours to do the 12 kms. Maya managed to do most of it by foot although towards the end she took the help of a pony to do the final ascend. Although the legal ponies at the govt rates have to be booked before hand, there are black market ponies available within each sector for bargainable rates. We paid 30 yuans for about 15-20mnts of pony ride. Depending on the distance and bargaining skills you can fix up ponies along your way. However you would be very fortunate to get illegal ponies for 3 days together 'so if you come across one and if the rates are not too high you should not hesitate to take it. In Tarboche as soon as we set out one pony guy came to us with an offer of 1500yuan for 3 days (govt rate is 1050). Considering that we had to pay 800 next day for just the 2 hours ascend of Dolma La pass this was not at all a bad deal although we did not realise it at that time.
There are a couple of shops midway. If you are not too fussy about clean cups, try out the black tea concoction they brew 'they sell it only by thermos -6Yuan for 1 big thermos). We had the tea rinsing and washing the cups with the tea and shared it with whoever wanted it in the group- the warm tea did perk us up for the balance distance.
The accommodation would be in tents but there are limited rooms (very basic, crowded and no toilets) available at an extra cost of 40-50 yuan. It rained very heavily with hail storm the night we were there and being the room made us keep warmer than in the tent. Although we got 2 beds, we could not use one since water was dripping from the roof on to it.
Day 10- This is the toughest day of the parikrama. You will be walking almost 10-12 hours today. I started at 0830hrs and reached camp at 1930 hrs walking at my wife's pace who did the tough Dolma La Pass on a Yak starting at 0930hrs.The fittest guys in our group made it in about 10hrs. It does help that the sun sets at about 2030hrs. But you need to start around 0800hrs to reach the camp by nightfall.
Right after you start you would cross bridge across Lhachu river and begin the taxing and most difficult climb to Drolma pass (18600ft). Do not stay at Drolma Pass for too long ' at these altitudes your risk of getting mountain sickness is very high. While descending you would pass Gaurikund (you can ask sherpas to get the holy water for you. Do not attempt to do it yourself- it is much tougher than you think it is). The descend is also tough and you would also be crossing a frozen lake (do wait for some sherpas or Tibetans for the crossing 'if you slip and fall it can cause you a lot of problems). There are couple of shops immediately after the descent from Drom La pass.
There are black market ponies available in this sector also. The going rate for Drolma La pass crossing was 800yuan and till the camp at Zutrul Puk 1200yuan.
Some sites put the total distance covered from Dira Puk to Zutrul Puk at 18kms (considering that 32 mile or 52km is the total distance) - I would put it more than that closer to 24kms. Anyway keep walking enjoying the stark scenery and try and make it to the camp before nightfall at around 2030hrs.
Again the accommodation is in tents and again there are limited rooms available at around 40-50 yuan cost.
Day 11 ' It is a very easy trek today with only a couple of steep ascents. The distance is also short. Started at 0900hrs and just in about 3-4 hours time you are at the point where the jeeps would be waiting to drive you back to Manasarovar. The distance trekked on this day is put at 6kms. I do not know how this adds up to 32 mile or 52 kms.
Again if you have not Astapad yet and if it is a clear day, head there directly before you go to Manasarovar.
Day 12- Drive back to Paryang
Day 13- Drive back to Saga
Day 14- Drive back to Nyalam or Zhangmu (depending on the road opening time)
Day 15- Cross back to Kathmandu via Kodari. You would be treated to a good lunch at a very scenic and beautiful resort (unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the place). You should be reaching Kathmandu by evening. The operator will treat you to a good dinner.
Day 16- Take the flight to your destination. If there is one thing you should do, try and do the Mt Everest flight. Yes- it is steep at 100-110$- but you don't get to see the highest peak everyday). The flights take off from Kathmandu domestic airport (adjacent to the International airport) between 0630 and 0745 and takes about 45mnts. They reimburse you if the weather is bad. So if your flight out of Kathmandu is later in the day 'do the mountain flight. There are lot of choices available. We used Buddha air and they were good and we have read only good reviews about them- definitely recommended.
What went wrong with our trip and 10 Lessons from our Trip
We made our booking with Travelorg (www.travelorg.in/ www.kailshmanas.com) ' a Bombay based Travel Company. They are basically a commission agent who arranges your ticket from Bombay to Kathmandu, provides you with duffel bags in Bombay and once you are in Kathmandu transfers you to their subcontractor Shrestha Holidays (www.manasarovar-kailash.com ).
Shrestha has got offices in both Delhi and Kathmandu. At present Shrestha has two directors- Pradhan and Ashok Kumar. Although they are using one address and company name, the 2 directors have their own totally different style of operations and for all practical purposes their groups operate independently. Travelorg uses the group run by Mr.Pradhan. Mr.Pradhan and his office staff (in particular Mr. Gautam) do not believe in customer service or customer satisfaction ' you just have to bear with whatever happens. There is practically no attempt to make your yatra comfortable and if it is not for the basically good nature of the accompanying sherpas and their attitude to serve and please you, the yatra would have been even more uncomfortable. Mr.Gautam who handles the Kathmandu logistics for Mr.Pradhan is quite a thick skinned character- he got blasted a couple of times by our group for his inefficient handling of airport transfers but to no avail. You could tell him about any issue for any number of times and you could always rest assured that he would have either forgotten or just ignored about it. By the time we were through with our Yatra , we were so sure about his character that I did not have any hesitation to double check about my airport transfer to the Hotel desk to learn that he had not made any arrangements (which I knew from my previous experiences anyway).
The other group is operated by Mr.Ashok who seems to be running a much more efficient and satisfactory operation- he accompanies his group right up to Manasarovar (Mr.Pradhan disappeared from Nyalam) and does not take on big groups. (firstname.lastname@example.org ). He is planning to split up from Mr.Pradhan and start his own independent company.
Now to specifics - this is to give an idea of how things can go wrong so that you can check with your operator and avoid similar situations.
Our experience started going wrong right from the time we landed in Kathmandu airport. Although our pre-trip correspondence with Travelorg would run into almost 5 pages and we had specifically checked and received confirmation that there would be somebody waiting at the airport to transfer us to Hotel Himalaya when we landed up at 0700hrs there was nobody. After looking around and waiting for some time getting pestered by the taxi drivers and their side kicks, we called up Hotel Himalaya (who did not have any booking for us) and were given the mobile number of Mr.Gautam. Mr.Gautam who turned up shortly did not have any clue about our arrival and it was then that we came to know that the Kathmandu operations of Travelorg are being handled by Shrestha holidays. It was evident from the fact that Shrestha did not know about our arrival that the communication between Travelorg and them was very poor. Lesson 1- it is better to avoid operators such as Travelorg who basically are commission agents subcontracting their operations to other operators.
Obviously since Shrestha did not have any clue about our arrival, Hotel Himalaya did not have any booking but this luckily did not cause any problems and we were accommodated without any delay.
It is during the night briefing session that we came to have an idea about the size of our group (although at that time we did not have any clue about the problems that it would cause). The briefing session arrangements were itself handled very poorly and we had to wait for almost an hour before the Hotel staff literally forced an ongoing Rotary club meeting to come to an abrupt end and vacated the hall for our meeting (can't say whether the problem was due to Shrestha or Himalaya).
As soon as the briefing session started, Mr.Pradhan dropped the bomb shell- he was taking us for Yatra the next day morning itself instead of the day after as per the schedule (so much for planning and scheduling your yatra to get full moon night in Mansarovar). Needless to say that all hell broke loose and there were lot of arguments. But Mr.Pradhan has got an easy policy for solving issues- it is either my way or highway. He just stated that he has taken the decision for the good of everybody and whoever wanted to stay back in Kathmandu could do that and sort out the issue with Travelorg ' in short he is not discussing the change of schedule anymore 'you take it or leave it. According to him the change of schedule was informed to Travelorg 2 weeks back and if we were not aware of this it was not his problem. Needless to say nobody had a clue about change in schedule ' we do not know who is lying ' Travelorg or Shrestha. Anyway finally the crowd settled down and decided to take up the issue with Mr.Haresh Trivedi of Travelorg who was scheduled to arrive the next day (nobody from Travelorg was anywhere in the sight that night ' we do not know if it was deliberate). The changed schedule was distributed and the sales talk for money change (see money issues) and down jacket hiring (see Things to pack) was done. We collected our duffel bags and backpacks from Shrestha (90% passengers had already their duffel bags from Travelorg in Bombay itself 'so they did not have to do any packing) and since we had to do our packing on a short notice we retired to our rooms while Mr.Gautam was busy making a packet for Mr.Pradhan through money 'exchange operations. So much for the communication between Travelorg and Shrestha and between Travelorg and their customers ' moral of the incident- see Lesson1.
The time for departure the next day was given as 0500hrs and so quite a few (including us) got up at 0400 and was ready by 0445. The coaches turned up after 0530hrs and by the time the whole group assembled and got on the road it was 0630hrs. Lesson - Go with small groups (see Lesson 10)
At the Friendship Bridge, the passports were delivered in a heap. The guy who brought in the passports did not know to read ' so I took it upon myself to read out the names and then distribute the passports. That was when I got the shock of my life- Our passports were not there in the heap. The guy who delivered the passports did not have any clue about anything and there was no one from Shrestha or Travelorg in sight. There were a few more 'to be exact 11- in the same situation. After some time Pradhan sauntered in and when I confronted him about my issue, I could see that he did not have any clue about the 2 of us 'we had arrived from Abudhabi directly into Kathmandu as Travelorg passengers and because of their inefficient communication he had no idea about us. After calling his office, he did not pacify us and instead stated that we could get our passports and visa the same day or next day and if not we could just go back and settle with Travelorg. Just imagine our situation- after all the preparations our trip was falling apart even before it started. Meanwhile our luggages had gone over to the other side of the border and after a big scene, Mr.Pradhan said that he would make arrangements to get our luggage back (eventually we got our luggage back and that was because I managed to liaise with the chief honcho of the porters who were handling the cross border luggage handling). When almost all the passengers who had got their passports had crossed over, Mr.Haresh Trivedi and his wife (the senior representative of Travelorg) made his appearance. Although I confronted him with my case and lost my cool, I could make out that Mr.Haresh had no grip on the situation and could do little else than assure me that Mr.Pradhan would take care of my situation .Furthermore he was in a hurry to cross over.
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