So, Bryan Adams was coming to town.
I made enquiries. Tickets appeared to be in the vicinity of $70 Australian Dollars. For my new Nepali friends, this was steep, and priced them out. For me, I thought the budget could be stretched.
But where to buy them? I had access to sporadic internet and was able to identify a phone number. However, I was staying a little out of town, and had no way of getting about, unless by taxi. I made the call.
Yes, they said. They had tickets. I did not need to go anywhere to buy the tickets, they would drive over to my hotel and give them to me personally. They would collect the money from me when they arrived. Now that is service.
Great, but now I was at a bit of a loose end. After the field trip I would have a week to kill in Kathmandu, but I had already seen the usual sights. I asked my comrades.
It turned out that a few of them were drifting off in different directions, for treks and suchlike, and that they also had a few lazy days, during which they had ethereal plans to travel into India. Why didn’t I come with them?
The difficulty was that no-one had bothered to get a tourist visa, and noting the efficiency of the bureaucracy in Asia it became clear that attempts must be made forthwith lest we be stranded in the country for the remainder of the decade.
That was all very well – there are embassies with long queues that can be attended if one only has the time. Oddly enough, there were more problematic formalities, the first of which was to obtain a set of passport photos for the visa. I wasn’t carrying spares, and neither was one of my companions.
Now, digital developing stores are not in high rotation in suburban Kathmandu, but fortunately, we had noticed a photography store about 3km from our guest house, along the main road. We set out after dinner with a fistful of rupees and a generous helping of optimism. If there is one thing that can be said about Nepali businesses, they’ll open up at any hour for a sale.
As usual, road works were underway. Pipes were being laid, electrical conduits installed, sewers dug. Streetlights, such as they were, stayed stubbornly off and would remain so until the suburb’s scheduled power rotation. Some roadside businesses provided their own dim illumination through small diesel generators. Smog and dust blanketed out any light from the heavens, and the passing lights of vehicles further confused the path.
My friend and I chatted amiably as we walked up the street, keeping an eye out for the promised photographic land.
All of a sudden the ground fell out from under me, and I dropped a metre. I found myself at the foot of a ditch, my limbs all messed up, jeans torn and marked with skids. A wave of pain rolled over my body from my shoulder. Tobias called out in surprise, dropped to his knees and grabbed me by the arm, helpfully trying to pull me from the pit by my injured arm. The wave became tidal.
With his help I scrambled out, dusted myself off and took stock. Apart from my arm, I was in reasonable shape. That appendage, however, was troublesome. It didn’t appear to be broken, and I could move it in all of the regulation planes, but the pain was extreme, although difficult to pinpoint.
After a minute or two of composure, I was able to resume the journey, but the required store stubbornly refused to come into view. I must admit that I was no longer as keen on India or Canada’s favourite rock star.
After an age it appeared. Yes, they had the equipment to take visa photographs, but it would be a few minutes. The problem was that they were on the wrong side of the power rotation, so they’d need to fire up the generator. That would be ok, but it was a little … temperamental. I looked over and saw a young fellow randomly tweaking the nipples of an ancient oil-stained contraption. They could take the photos, but couldn’t print them, not yet, not for another ten minutes….
(Next week – A long ten minutes, and an open sewer.)