|Eventually when everyone else had crossed over, the 11 of us ' an NRI group of 7, Mr.Ajay 'again an NRI, 2 of us, one Andhra passenger of Shrestha- and Mr.Haresh Trivedi and his wife (who could not cross over 'to our immense satisfaction- due to some visa problems) was shifted back to Hotel Kailas where we had earlier taken our lunch. The issue that was bugging me was that although Mr.Pradhan was aware of the visa issues of others, our case was not in his antennae. Eventually after shifting the time of arrival of our passports from afternoon to evening to night, we were given dinner and accommodated in Hotel Kailas itself. It was raining heavily that night and there was no sign of the bike which had left Kathmandu with the passports. Mr.Pradhan and his gang of sherpas were having beers while we were stewing and worrying about our passports and later in the night search parties were sent out to look for the bike since they had lost all communication with them. The luggages of others also had gone over, and all retired in the same clothes they were wearing 'except for us and Mr. Haresh (who had managed to get his bag back- VIPs get different treatment!).
In the meanwhile there was a sub drama- one of the members of the NRI group had gone over since he had an Indian passport. The others were supposed to follow him in 2 hours time initially. Since the passports were not appearing even after 5-6 hours another issue developed ' the medicines of the passenger who crossed over was with his wife and although they requested Mr.Haresh to contact the group leader on the other side he was not taking any initiative since he had no mobile with either Nepal or Chinese SIM Card!!!!After loosing their cool with Mr.Haresh , the drama ended with another twist- the NRI with the Indian passport returned back to Kodari from Zhangmu because of visa problems. Lesson 2- Make sure your group leader and the operator representative has at least a mobile with Chinese SIM card and Nepalese SIM card and confirm he has the numbers of the Chinese guides and drivers once you cross over.
Eventually the passports and visas arrived at 0200hrs next day morning ' I had not slept and confirmed this in the night. So next day we all crossed over and joined the group in Nyalam. Meanwhile the people who had crossed over were having their own problems. Because none of the sherpas had crossed over with them, there was nobody to cook or take care of them. The Chinese guides arranged their accommodation in Nyalam and did not take any initiative to feed them. So after arriving at 0400hrs in the morning they had to get up the next day and manage the whole day without their luggage and without food because the Sherpas went over with us the next day. That really was the height of Shrestha and Travelorg inefficiency. Lesson 3- Do not go unless you are accompanied by the Sherpas- let me stress this 'come whatever may and whatever your operator tells you. Also beware of the problems that schedule changes can cause.
The problem with our passports had occurred because, unlike the travellers who joined the tour from India, we had joined in Kathmandu from Abudhabi directly and so the visa for us had to be issued by Chinese embassy in Nepal. Travelorg had forgotten to inform that there are 2 cases of 'Visa issued in Nepal' cases. Normally this would not have created a problem, but since Mr.Pradhan took the decision to pre-pone the schedule by one day we were stuck in Kodari for the visa. Since he knew that the visas for 11 of us were getting only processed that day, the decent thing would have been to keep us back in Kathmandu in the better hotel and taken us together once the visas got ready. Instead he made us stand in Friendship Bridge, made us go through all the tension and put us up in the much inferior accommodation in Kodari. Lesson 4- If you are joining the tour in Kathmandu, make sure that you are matching your itinerary to the Chinese embassy opening days (Monday, Wednesday and Friday), your operator is aware is that you are a 'Visa issued in Nepal' case and you do not leave Kathmandu until you see your passport and visa (or at least make sure that your visa is processed).
At least 4-5 people got sick in Nyalam in our group and Mr.Pradhan had to get his operations organised 'so we stayed in Nyalam an extra day (which fortunately resulted in us matching the original schedule to reach Mansarovar on full moon night). Although this allowed the group to rest and recuperate after the foodless 1st day, nobody from Travelorg or Shrestha remembered to shift the booking in Saga 'our next stop- with the result that instead of staying in Saga Hotel with clean toilets we ended up in a place with really dirty toilets. Lesson 5- If your schedule slips due to any reason remind the operator to reconfirm accommodation or make alternate arrangements. If your operator is as inefficient as Travelorg or Shrestha you will regret if you do not take this initiative.
Hotels such as Saga International requires some money to be advanced to confirm reservation. We had to force Mr.Haresh Trivedi to shell out the advance money for the reservations on our way back or we would have had to stay again in the shit hole where we were put up on our way up. Lesson 6- Check with your hotel or hostel or lodge about your reservations on the way back. If you smell any trouble, confirm with your operator and make necessary arrangements.
Couple of times on the way, some cars in the group dropped back due to breakdowns (one time one car got stuck in the river and almost got washed away). While these incidents are unavoidable, what really was frightening none of the group leaders (from Shrestha, Travelorg or Chinese guides) had any clue about who was in which car and had no idea of the car drivers' telephone number. Lesson 7- Insist that a master list with the Car nos , distinguishing marks, Driver name and telephone number and the occupants is prepared once the passengers are distributed in Nyalam (if the operator is not doing this basic thing take the initiative and get this done)
This same inefficiency was evident during Parikrama ' no one had any idea about how many passengers had started, had returned midway etc. So if one had not got to the camp at the end of the day, it was only his friends/ families who would have been aware of their plight. See lesson 6 and make sure a similar list gets prepared during parkrama also.
Also during parikrama, we could see that other operators had arrangements for one of the sherpas to go early and book accommodation in the rooms for people who wanted to avoid staying in tents (the younger and faster members of our group took this initiative- our sherpas were short in number and they were doubling as porters). There were also Sherpas bringing up the rear with oxygen cylinders, helping and herding the slow movers. Lesson 8- Both these (sherpas going in the front and bringing up the rear) are essential and insist on this if your operator is not already doing so.
In our group of 122, only 22 could do parikrama. Primarily it was due to the sheer large size of the group and due to inefficiency of Shrestha. On the day we landed in Darchen, the person who was supposed to have organised the porters and yaks/ponies announced that he could not manage anything and so we could not do parikrama as scheduled. That was the last straw- all hell broke loose. The money collected for the ponies was returned back and it was left to our initiative to force the Shrestha guy to organise at least porters. After confirming the number of porters and consulting Sherpas how many Kilos they could carry, we finally decided around 35 could do the parikrama by walking. The Sherpas would double as personal porters and carry our back packs. So porters took our tents and eatables and Sherpas doubled as porters and around 45 people started the parikrama (although no one had a clear idea about the numbers). The result was that the elderly people who were planning to do the parikrama by pony did not go. If some of the people in our group (including me) had not taken the initiative of starting out with the porters to carry the tents and eats, none of us would have done the parikrama. Lesson 9- If you are an elderly person planning to do Parikrama on a pony, avoid rush days following new moon nights in Mansarovar and stick to small size groups.
Throughout our trip, we had to force our way into rooms. Because we were with a large group with a sub group of 55 and there was some one to take care of this 55, we 'being only 2-always had to fight our way into rooms. Also since we were in the group that got delayed in border, unfortunately we got grouped in the car with Mr.Haresh Trivedi and his wife. While we did not get any special privileges for being with the Travelorg Representative (although others in the group thought so) the downside was that our peace was disturbed almost every night when the group members came and had show downs and shouting matches with Mr.Haresh. Lesson 10- Avoid travelling with groups having more than 40 members.
Comments on this Article
Excellent and well written. I was confused on this trip.|
Your review has helped me a lot.
Thank you very very very much !!!
Thank you for the paintstakingly written article.I am planning to take up the Yatra next year and this article is so exhaustive that I do not need to search anywhere else.|
Thank you once again and if possible,I would like to talk/chat with you as I near the departure date.
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If you dont mind, I would like to talk/chat with you once as I am planned to travel for the same trip in next 10 days. If so, please provide me your email id or contact number and I will contact you.
But even if its not possible for you to talk to me, I have only one thing to say, again: THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH.
Thanks and Regards,