On arriving back from our wonderful trek we received the news that it was not going to be possible for us to go back through Myanmar to China. There had been an uprising by an ethnic group in Shan Province and as a result of this no permits were being issued to transit through that section which was next to the Chinese border.
So now what to do? We had two choices. Ship the truck from India or drive it through Pakistan to China. The only problem was that Pakistan would only issue a visa to British citizens in London unless they were residents of another country. The shipping option did not look attractive, we didn’t want to ship and the routes and timings weren’t ideal either so we took the decision that I would drive the truck through Pakistan. Gilly and the girls would fly over from India and meet me in China.
So as soon as we got back I booked flights to London for the following day. We had been told by the visa company that dealt with all visa applications for Pakistan in London that a visa usually took 2 weeks to issue but could be longer. So it didn’t make sense booking return flights, I would just have to book them as I went.
The following morning I said goodbye to Gilly and the girls. It was really hard as we have spent the last three and a half years all together so going away was a real pull. At least they were in a nice spot just outside Pokhara with friendly local people and everything they needed close at hand.
The first flight was Pokhara to Kathmandu on a little prop plane. It was only a 25 minute flight but it was to cause untold problems. First we were told all flights were delayed because of flight congestion at Kathmandu! Then we were told our plane had a mechanical issue and an engineer was coming on a flight from Kathmandu. When he arrived he promptly proceeded to kick the front wheel, then pull at it before declaring everything as being ok. It didn’t exactly fill you with confidence.
I had allowed over 5 hours between flights at Kathmandu but we were been further and further delayed. Eventually 5 hours late we took off. But the 25 minute flight ended up taking over an hour, again because of flight congestion over Kathmandu. The views of the mountains on the flight were wonderful but to be honest I was too busy looking at my watch to enjoy them. We eventually landed at the same time as my flight to London via Mumbai was due to leave.
I dashed between the domestic and international terminals in the hope my flight had been delayed but to no avail the desk was already closed. Ok I was travelling very light, I had an iPad and a credit card I just needed to book another flight. The only problem was there was no wifi in the airport and my SIM card chose just that moment to expire. So off I trooped to find the Oman Airways office as I knew they had a flight out later that evening. At the office they told me they only dealt with operations and didn’t sell tickets. For that I would have to go into town. They kindly provided me with the address so I flagged a cab and dashed into the evening rush hour. Fortunately the ticket agency was still open and they were able to get me on the flight leaving that evening that would end up arriving at Heathrow at the same time as my original flight.
There was just time to grab something to eat and sort out cancelling the flight I had missed before it was back to the airport.
Fortunately things got a lot easier from then and it was a smooth flight via Muscat to London. On arriving at Heathrow I jumped straight on the tube to head over to the visa company and submit all my documents. Everything was in order but when I asked how long it would take I was told at least 10 working days and possibly longer, not a good sign.
Since I would be waiting around and as I have 2 passports I thought I would jump on another flight and head to Spain to see my parents. So first I jumped on a bus to Gatwick checked into the airport hotel and booked a flight for the following morning. It was my birthday but not much of a celebration just me, a burger and a pint of bitter in the hotel restaurant.
The next days flight to Spain went smoothly. After not having flown for nearly 9 months I had now taken 5 flights in 4 days. I used to fly a lot for business but can’t say I have missed it.
I spent a lovely week with my parents in Spain. The weather was good and we just relaxed apart from taking a few walks.
The day before I was due to fly back I received a text saying my passport was ready to be picked up. Fantastic and after only 8 working days. So as soon as I landed at Gatwick I caught the train over to the visa office where I received my Pakistani visa. Result.
As it was the start of the Easter holidays and as I had already arranged to go and visit my sister and family I caught another train to the South Coast. We had a lovely weekend catching up as well as eating and drinking well.
On the Saturday evening we popped for a few pints in the local pub followed by a curry, just how I remember a typical Saturday night out in England. Then on Sunday we went over to some of their friends for a lovely afternoon and evening. Rob, Gill and their kids were great hosts and cooked us a lovely meal as well as keeping us well watered.
But it was time to get back to Nepal and Gilly and the girls. Nick my nephew kindly drove me back up to Heathrow to catch my flight back to Pokhara via Bangkok and Kathmandu. It was going to be a long time on the plane.
Whilst it was not great the family been split up for 2 weeks at least we now have a route out of the sub continent and it was great for me to have the unexpected opportunity to catch up with everyone in Spain and England.