At 4am every morning a long line of buses stand revving their engines at Kakarvitta bus station, waiting for the two or three non-Nepali reading westerners to work out which bus goes where. A guy runs around, pointing at different buses and shouting names: Kathmandu, Janakpur, Pokara, Dharan. Dharan rang a bell, and half way to the Kathmandu bus I remember why. It’s the home of the Ghurkha training centre, the place where – as a former Ghurkha commander – my dad had suggested I go to meet them. I took a split second decision, and turned round and got on the Dharan bus instead.
Five hours later I woke up in a small, hot, dusty town with little to look at besides the central clock tower. I wandered around for a while ate some breakfast and tried to decide how to go about meeting the soldiers. ‘My dad worked with some people who trained here once’ seems a pretty thin pretext for an interest in Nepali soldier recruitment, but what was the worse that could happen? So I went for it.
The training office is a tiny room, signposted heavily throughout the town, covered with British military information and staffed by a Ghurkha fitness instructor and a girl who looks about 16. The two of them seemed to be the only people in Dharan who spoke more than a word or two of English, and they were incredibly welcoming. After I explained my background, they told me all about the selection procedures, which involve running up an 8km hill carrying a bag full of rocks in less than 40 minutes as well as various other insanely challenging physical feats. I had a go at a few of the written test questions too, which were surprisingly difficult considering they’ were all done in what to the locals is a second language.
The fitness instructor’s brother is visiting Kathmandu right now, and normally lives and works in Maidstone military base (where I used to live), and says he knows my dad well. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet up in Kathmandu.
The attitude difference between Indian and Nepali people, as you may have gathered from my last entry, is incredible. I’ve felt so welcomed here, and people have really gone out of their way to make me feel at home – the exact opposite of how India often made me feel. The bus from Dharan to Kathmandu was 14 hours, but I spent it chatting away to locals about different aspects of our culture, drinking a few beers and eating together at every rest stop, and generally finding it infinitely more enjoyable as a journey than they ever have been in India.
I’ve arrived in Kathmandu exhausted, but happy and excited about what Nepal seems to have to offer. The guesthouse I’m staying in is incredible, it has a beautiful courtyard, useful shops, restaurants, bars, even a sauna on site, and seems to have a great travelers vibe to it.
Looking forward to exploring a city that’s made a fantastic first impression!