LOG ENTRY 21
A perfect looking day turned into a series of bad luck, money wasting, extra trips and eventually our bikes got locked down and confiscated by the Indian custom
We left Hungary on the 23rd of June for a round a World trip and with smaller problems but we managed to reach the Pakistani-Indian border without having a Carnet de Passage but we couldn't enter India and stranded at the Wagga border post on the Pakistani side for almost a week. Thanks for my Mom's and other friends help we managed to obtain an official letter from the Hungarian embassy in Delhi which would act as a substitution for the Carnet and it is accepted by the Indian custom.
Welcome to the Worlds largest democracy
Waking up today was sweeter than in any other day so far on this trip. Knowing that today is the last day stranded here and finally we can continue our trip to India made us forget about the angry mosquitoes deep diving Stuka style all night or the unbearable humid and hot air stuck in our room after the last fan broke down last night. For those of you who just started to follow our trip after the holiday break let me some up the situation.
Our perfect looking day did not have a good start. We knew that the paper from the embassy will only arrive to the Indian side of the border in the afternoon but just in case we checked out from our hotel, make sure we have enough time for everything. It was a great decision as it turned out we don't have enough cash to pay the bill and they didn't accept our cards so one of us had to go in to Lahore to pick up some money. I volunteered for the trip and let Dad pack the boxes and do some checks on the bikes.
I took the usual overcrowded bus and headed to one of the biggest city in Pakistan to pick up some rupees. We needed an extra 2000 rupees so I headed to the Citibank ATM to withdraw the money. Whether because of the heat or my silly happiness or I am just stupid but instead of 2000 I withdrew 15,000 rupees. Great, I spent another half an hour to exchange the extra rupees for dollars. Silly mistake, paid the price for it.
In the meantime Dad fastened every possible bolts on the bikes, adjusted the chains, packed all the panniers and got everything ready to leave. When I arrived back to the border he had a big grin on his face from the satisfaction of getting everything smoothly done. Well, that smile was off immediately after I told him my little accident with the money. Nevertheless, noon turned into afternoon when we received the call from the embassy that they faxed the paper to the Indians and also to the hotel where we stayed. At this point we agreed with Dad that since the border closes at 4.30 pm we will cross just a little bit before so in case anything go wrong with the paper we still won't be able to come back.
Leaving Pakistan took longer then we had anticipated at first. The border guard who we spent the past week started to ask money for many little things such as storage fee for the bike, exiting tax, stamp fee and other extra charges. We didn't have enough rupees so gave them what we had and finally said good bye to the damned border station. As we crossed over India the first thing they asked is the Carnet. They knew us and our problem already so we wasn't surprised. As we entered the custom office the highest ranking officer was already holding the paper from the embassy in his hand and telling us that this paper is not good enough and we wont be able to enter India without the Carnet. No matter what they said earlier to us and to the consul at the embassy, now they changed their mind. As we were unable to produce the Carnet they asked us to leave and go back to Pakistan. By the time this happened the border gates were closed. The Indian soldiers tried to convince their Pakistani counterparts to let us back, rule is rule, also our single entry Pakistani visa was used up so we didn't understand what they are all about.
We didn't know at that point but the longest afternoon of our trip was just about to start. Endless phone calls to the embassy where numerous people tried to convince the custom officers that they agreed yesterday that this paper what we have is sufficient enough but no luck. After hours of discussion we had a few options. The Indian officer wanted 10,000 USD at first as a deposit. He said that after we leave India, fax him the exit stamp and he will send the money after us by post. This amount later reduced to 3000 USD but this is still laughable. Other funny solutions came up to, of course all involved a few thousand dollars in cash for them which the embassy warned us not to do so, not as we even considered it though. In the meantime the custom officers locked down the bikes, searched our panniers for drugs and any illegal substance and allowed us to take a few clothes out. We received the documents that the bikes will be released when we are able to produce the Carnet.
Our big anticipated day turned out to be a disaster, nothing worked out as we planned, still can't use the bikes but at least we are on the other side of the damned Wagga border. We took a taxi to Amritsar to spend the night there. The time way passed 11 pm when we arrived to Amritsar and we had little power to argue with the taxi driver when he offered us a hotel of his "friend". Luckily the hotel was decent, right front of the Golden temple and they even had cold Kingfisher beers, the first alcoholic beverage since we had since Turkey.