Many had speculated that the Myanmar-India crossing would be the most challenging, if not impossible, but we made it. There was no time to congratulate ourselves for we realised that there was a new problem. Visas.
We thought that our Indian visa is valid for 6 months from the time of the stamp, and not from what it says on the visa. How dumb was that.
Our Indian visas run out on the 24th of this month, and we found that out on the 20th when the border official mentioned we only have 4 days in India. We had no idea how to renew them and there was no Internet in the border town so we decide to head to Kohima, the capital of Nagaland in hopes of figuring something out.
As we had managed to sell our bicycles the night before the minivan was much easier to hire, because here they really are MINIvans. Our first leg was from Moreh to Imphal, the capital of Manipur, and we started out at 7.a.m.
The van smelled of shit, literally, and after 4 stops and 2 u-turns we had made it a total of 100m. What had originally been a little leg and arm space was suddenly packed full of clothes and people, and there would have been no chance of fitting our bicycles. At 8 a.m. we finally departed.
It was only 100 km but it took 3 hours. We rode over a few mountains and army checkpoints were everywhere. Once we got to the Imphal bus station (or the place where the buses leave to Kohima), India hit us in the face.
Before we even touched the door handle it flew wide open and ten men were pulling us and our stuff out of the van and shouting different things. We stayed adamant and didn’t let them touch anything, and we listened to nothing. If we would have given them the slightest chance, our backpacks would have scattered in ten different vans to ten different directions.
Staying put and taking a breath gave us a chance to start bargaining. Juho wanted to relieve his Bombay Belly, but we found one Bus that was surprisingly cheap and left right away. It was another 100Km, this time 4-5 hours, so we figured they would stop at some point for a rest because the bus had no toilet.
In the end it took some time to set off as the driver and his cowboy hat buddy got a quick, Bus Driving for Dummies lesson. They seemed to be first time on duty and it didn’t take long for us to realise that this was actually true. Juho stupidly didn’t use this chance to go to the toilet.
We took off and the driver drove the bus like there’s no tomorrow over every single pothole and cared not for the suspension or anything else for the matter. His idiot buddy sitting next to him tried to fix his mobile phone by testing it with his tongue wether the connections were good. He had of course connected to the phone to the car battery before doing so. To his luck, the connections were broken.
At one point the back door hatch opened because of the force from the bouncing, and all of our stuff nearly flew out. It took a few minutes of shouting from the back for them to realise the back door had cracked open and was held only by sheer luck. Ten minutes they tried to figure out what to do and in the end Pyry went to repack everything and close the doors, because all they could do was scratch their heads and poke the bags.
At the first pharmacy that came on route the driver stopped. There was no toilet in sight so Juho still couldn’t relieve himself, but the driver got him and his buddy some pills and then the fun began. The duo popped them in their mouth just before the most beautiful serpentine mountain road started and off we were.
The road was high and narrow, and it was still full of bumps. Dumb didn’t seem to care that much about anything except driving fast and passing everyone, even if he couldn’t see around the corner or sometimes clearly seeing that someone was coming but trying his luck anyway.
Dumber made everything even more exiting because he took double or maybe triple the pills since he didn’t need to drive. He was high as a kite, couldn’t sit still and his mouth blabbered non-stop. The pills were obviously some amphetamine based drug that gave a good speed.
At some point he started washing the clean windshield from the inside with a wet cloth and made the visibility worse. He kept talking continuously and I’m sure if the driver had not been on speed also, he would have gotten frustrated, lost his concentration and driven off the most beautiful cliffside we’ve ever seen. We were starting to get a bit scared, but all we could do was trust that things will go well.
On the road between Imphal and Kohima, the small towns seemed idyllic with their beauty and they clearly treasured knowledge. Schools and public libraries were everywhere and all of the children had a glow of inner beauty that shone out like the setting sun. Most of the adults shared this same phenomenon. All of this beauty, and the clearly visible good heartedness made Pyry cry, but not for long.
With Beauty comes the Beast, and all of this was contrasted by the most corrupted hearts we have ever seen.
Nagaland and Manipur are not properly under the central government so there were numerous ‘tax collection points’ or military checkpoints as they like to call them. Some of them were official but mostly they were unofficial, run by local mountain gangs. It’s not like there’s another road people can take because there’s only one mountaintop road through this area.
An experienced driver would have known not to stop when someone shouted stop, but Dumb and Dumber made it very easy for them to collect their money, and their loss of spirit could be felt at every stop. Having taken drugs they were nervous and guilty, and no matter who yelled stop, they stopped in fear of being caught and did exactly as they were told. The wallet was always first to open and as there were two of them, both had to pay every time.
At most of the checkpoints some passengers used the chance to the visit the local stalls to buy chips or something to drink. Tweetle Dee and Tweetle Dumber never realised that people had hopped off the bus and always after paying, they wanted to leave asap. It wasn’t until passengers shouted for them to stop and let them back on the bus, or sometimes we needed to shout it from the back, until they realised some passengers were missing. The act of messing up time after time, being on drugs, the military, and the gangs, made them more and more nervous as the journey went on.
It didn’t help their fear when one of the unofficial tax collectors really put the fire under the duos seats. One guy with a t-shirt yelled stop, and Dumb of course stopped, even though the locals in the back told him not to. The idiot thought they wanted to ask something, but as the man came closer he took out his huge knife and demanded money. He too wanted his own share.
Chip and Dale both looked at their wallets in despair and gave the man more money than the regular checkpoint people because this guy had a knife instead of a stick. We witnessed this whole show closely, as Pyry sat right behind the driver with his elbow out the open window about 50 cm from the blade. The gang member was obviously scared also, but our super duo didn’t notice as they were shitting their pants.
After this episode the driver really started driving fast. This was probably the 15th time he had needed to open his wallet for corruption and he was running out of money. Also the paranoia was starting to kick in. He just wanted to get his day over and done with and there was still many miles to go.
After 6 hours of the fastest, most beautiful and thrilling journey of our lives, we finally arrived in Kohima where things really started to get hilariously lucky.
Dumb and Dumber didn’t know how to get out of Kohima, and by this time Juho was really sucking up his mula banda because of his Bombay Belly. Luckily some passengers had taken the same route before and they yelled directions and tried to teach the driver to go down the steep downhill in 1st gear. The driver was shitting his pants going down the steepest downhill in Kohima, and Juho was very close to literally doing the same.
Kohima was the most beautiful mountaintop city we’ve seen so far, full of people and full of trash. I guess it’s just impossible to separate the love between Beauty and the Beast. But Kohima quickly came and went.
Juhos hopes of going to the toilet vanished as the thank you, please come again sign passed and our journey continued without a stop. In the end the daring duo never stopped in Kohima for reasons unknown, and decided to continue straight to Dimapur. This ended up being the luckiest thing that happened to us, because later on we realised that without going straight to Dimapur, we would have been screwed.
The road kept winding down the mountains for the next 70Km and the sun was already setting. There were no more checkpoints except two official ones and Dumb and Dumber were glad to be on the final leg. Juho was happy to be going all the way to Dimapur, but slowly his limp back leg was growing.
Then a stroke of luck hit Juho, as tweetle dee and tweetle dumber didn’t realise the engine overheating sign had been glowing for over an hour. Cowboy was now really down and so immersed into his phone that he didn’t even realise the side mirror hit a truck we passed and nearly broke off. Soon the driver boiled the engine and the bus stalled on the uphill. This time Juho jumped at the chance and ran into the woods.
It was an amazing moment of Indian Spirit to witness that nobody was angry at the daring duo even though they had forgotten to wait for passengers, almost lost half of the luggage, drove like crazy, forgot to stop at Kohima and overheated the engine and got us stuck in the middle of nowhere. Everyone seemed to think this is normal.
Once we continued our journey it had become dark already and the idiot driver couldn’t turn on the lights. After some shouting from the back to turn them on because it was a safety issue, we stopped again so one of the passengers could fix the lamps and the rest of us got a small bite to eat. We finally ended up in Dimapur on the 21st at 10.p.m. We were exhausted after 2 days of continuous rigorous travelling.
We decided to look for a hotel with a wi-fi to check out what to do about the visas and to rest for a few days. There was one hotel with wi-fi and it was expensive, but this time we were fine with paying extra to have a good rest.
After a shower and dinner we started searching the internet. We found out that overstay in India is not as easy a matter as it is in Thailand. It not just a fine, but possibly jail time, and getting an extension meant we needed to be at the Foreign Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Kolkata before the visas run out.
This meant being in Kolkata by the 24th, except the office is closed on Saturday, so we had to be in Kolkata by the morning of the 23rd and Kolkata is 1244Km from Dimapur. We had just over one day to get there.
Luckily the idiot duo had taken us all the way to Dimapur, since this is the first train station from the east after the Naga mountains. If we had not accidentally been taken there we’d never have made it in time. The train from Dimapur to Kolkata takes 28 hours, and that meant we had to take the first possible train and it just happened to leave that same night at 2.30 a.m. So no rest yet.
We repacked our bags, slept for 20 minutes and headed to the train station. Naturally there were no sleepers left, but Pyry went Indian Style and conquered some Indian Army Rifle Boxes and went to sleep on top of them. After we piled all our stuff on the boxes to keep them safe, there was barely space for a midget to sleep, but we were happy. At least we had something.
We took turns on sleeping and mingling with the locals so that both got at least a little rest. Everyone wanted to talk to us, take pictures and help us in every possible way, except letting us sleep.
We made it in time to Kolkata and we went to the FRRO, but were denied an extension. No exceptions. The man on the counter encouraged us to take a visa-run to Nepal because by sheer luck, the earlier restriction of two months visiting gap has been lifted just over a week ago, and as Finnish citizens we get a visa-on-arrival when flying into Kolkata. This too has become valid only this year. So we booked ourselves tickets to Nepal for the next morning and went to sleep.
Pyry is ecstatic because he finally gets to see the mountains of Nepal and without all of this idiocy, this dream would not have been fulfilled and we would not have a chance to rest for 3 days in the serenity of the Himalayas. Today we fly to Kathmandu only to return in 3 days to meet up with our beloved tuk tuk. Oh the joy of having our own vehicle underneath once again. We will never depart from it again.
Here we are, the other Dumb and Dumber on our way to see the Himalayas.
PS. Photos have been updated into the Past, Present and Future Blog. Others will be updated soon also. Because of technical difficulties more photos for this blog will also be updated later. Now we will board the plane.