Monday morning, 6am I rock up to the Indian embassy to find there is nobody there. I get given the no. 1 token and told to return at 9am. So I go have breakfast, come back when the office opens and so get to be right at the front of the queue. Only it turns out this is not yet the application part, I have to fill out a telex form which is sent to the UK Indian embassy for clearance then I come back in three days to apply for the visa. So I walk back to Thamel extremely annoyed as my trekking plans have now gone up in smoke and I have days to kill in Kathmandu. An hour later I have gone and booked myself on a trip out to a safari tent style resort near the tibetan border called The Last Resort to have a day relaxing and then a day’s rafting. I’ve also run into a Kiwi guy called Waz I met on the bus in the guesthouse and he’s invited me to come for a ride on his motorbike he’s just rented, around the Kathmandu valley and up to a view point called Nagarkot.
So we head off out of the city with me holding on with one arm and attempting to map read on the back (and we all know how much of a sense of direction I don’t have!) and eventually we make it out onto the highway and head to Bhaktapur. Having last been here for the craziness of the Cow festival it was nice to walk around in the peace and quiet. We had lunch overlooking the temples in Durbar Square before heading up the long and winding road, through villages and terraces of rice paddies up to Nagarkot, where we sat drinking lemon sodas and eating apple crumble overlooking a beautiful view. Back in Kathmandu Waz took me out to Thamel’s premier steakhouse. Where they get the meat from in a country where the cow is sacred is beyond me! It was, however, fantastic steak, beautifully cooked and Waz is a lovely guys, runs trekking trips, rafting trips etc mainly in South America, in the three countries I want most to go back and visit; Venezuala, Colombia and Ecuador!
Tuesday morning I head off at the ungodly hour of 5.45am with about 40 other backpackers to The Last Resort. Most people it turns out are here for the day to go bungee jumping as the resort is reached by a 160m high suspension bridge over a stunning deep canyon. Nutters I think. Now I have no problem with heights but bungee jumping has never appealed to me in the slightest. I get chatting to a few people and end up going to see the first group do their jumps and to take a few photos. Twenty jumps later I still think the whole idea is utterly ridiculous and have no plans to join the other group. About half an hour after lunch, however, a treacherous thought pops into my mind that maybe if I go back to Kathmandu without doing a bungee jump I will spend the rest of the trip regretting it. Wondering if it is covered by my travel insurance, the thought occurs that actually, if something goes wrong, I’m not going to be needing the travel insurance! Angela, my new American friend finally pushes me over the edge as I bring the subject up, and the next thing I know I’ve handed over 75 US dollars and am getting weighed before heading out to the bridge with the last two jumpers. On the bridge I feel pretty calm, they put on the harness, the sky is blue, flecked with white clouds, the river churning away 160m below me, I stand on the edge, excited and totally fine. Then I jump.
For the next 30 seconds my blood curdling screams of total unadulterated terror rang around the canyon. I have never been so scared in my whole entire life. The second my feet left that platform and I felt myself just falling into oblivion, I was certain, beyond all doubt, all reason and all logic that I was falling to my death. Even after the cord pulled me up again I was still screaming.I didn’t in fact stop screaming until I began to be lowered down to the bottom, and only once I was lying and getting unhooked, did I finally accept that, maybe, I wasn’t going to die after all. It was brilliant, and incredible and I am so, so glad that I did the jump and now I never, ever want to do one again! Of course I had to by the DVD, seriously it was priceless, everyone else’s had them silent or whooping with exhilaration. Everyone listened to mine and said, Wow, you sounded really, really scared!
After a shower to wash away the stench of fear soaked into the sweat of my clothes, I ended up in the bar sitting on low cushions in the lovely surroundings of the Last Resort with my new found American friends; Angela, Andrea, Mat and Eric. We did the only sensible thing you can do after jumping off a 160m high suspension bridge, we got drunk! From 5pm to midnight there was a lot of drinking, drinking games, more drinking games and finally we all peeled off to our safari style tents with oil lamps to get some sleep before rafting the next day.
Rafting, it transpires is an excellent hangover cure. We had our own raft called Bad Seed and after getting briefed on all the rafting commands we head off down the churning Bhote Kosi. For the next three hours we paddled, paddled faster, soared up and over white foaming waves, avoided the holes and sped over the rapids. Really good fun and really (this word is coming in for a spot of abuse) exhilarating!
Back in Kathmandu I went to the Indian embassy this morning to find my telex came back okayed and everything went through without so much as a question. I pick the visa up this afternoon which is such a huge relief. So now I am heading down to Pokara with the American girls (maybe after a spot of rock climbing!) and finally sorting out my trekking into the Himalayas!