13.04.2010 25 °C
As you can guess from the title of this chapter I made it back to India through boarder control just outside of Darjeeling. But not without issue of course, after all this is India. Mark, who's Visa was issued before 2010 and does not have a green stamp next to it stating the conditions of the Visa, was waved through and I, having received my visa in January this year WITH the conditions stamped in, was told I have to go back to Kathmandu to get the re-entry stamp we feared in blog 'Nepal'. It's so complicated an issue based on the authorities all being fairly confused over what this stamp means that I cannot even begin to explain it here, if anyone goes to India call me and I'll run you through it. DO NOT ask an Indian official, they don't know. Ask me.
Going back to Kathmandu because of being wrongfully advised and because the official in a wooden disheveled excuse for an immigration office was on a power trip simply wasn't an option. No way. Not just on principle either, I had just arrived from Kathmandu after a 17 hour bus journey which I could not afford to retake in both monetary terms and terms of my own safety. Our tourist bus ticket turned into a local bus ticket somewhere between the various travel agencies trying to make a buck and Mark and I reluctantly climbed aboard the over crowded sweat box that came to pick us up instead. I say 'reluctantly' but Mark turned a deeper shade of frustrated and I just stood there with my mouth open for about 10 minutes before agreeing we just had to go along with it. The journey was over narrow mountain roads where you're 30 times more likely to die in a crash than anywhere else in Asia, therefore a tourist bus would have been more reassuring and this also meant, Mr Immigration Official, I was not about to go through all that again.
So. I start telling the guy that the Consular Office in Varanasi had said it was OK to cross the boarder and come back in without this stamp, so why is there conflicting information? He wobbles his head as a form of communication: it can mean yes, no, maybe, I don't know and basically anything else you want it to mean. I wanted it to mean 'please go through the boarder with no problems', but it didn't. Boo.
OK, no answer there then. I then ask what there is I can do to help him help me. Head Wobble. Oh right then. Is there anyone in charge I can speak to? "No". This continues for an infuriating amount time all the while Mark and I have a taxi of 8 people (in a standard sized car by the way) waiting to take us to the next part of our 24 hour journey. Finally a Man In Charge comes into the shed. We go through the same arguments and thankfully the senior official starts to budge. Phew. Apparently not letting me through would mean I'd be a woman left on my own so for once being female over here works in my favour. Stamp received after mountains of photocopying and paperwork and off we went to get our jeep that would take us up to the mountains of Darjeeling. Can't wait for a nice cup of tea!
At the risk of sounding like a Lord with a double barreled surname from the days of The Raj, when we gave India cricket could we not have suggested introducing common sense to the bureaucratic system? And queuing.
So now we were on our way to Darjeeling. The town is 2500 meters above sea level and was blissfully cool during the day. We found some cheap accommodation for the 3 days we'd be there and spent our time seeing the sights. We took a train ride to one of the highest train stations in the world complete with uninspiring museum that sold nice cakes. We spent time just chilling in cafes drinking tea and looking at the beautiful surroundings and at night time this was especially magical with all the lights and sounds of the valleys below. Ahh.
Next stop Calcutta.