There had been some discussion, as there usually is, about cash. How much to bring, what currencies, planning on where/when to get more, etc. These days, the discussion on cash for vacations is pretty limited because it’s easy enough to pay with credit cards for most things and to grab cash for little things at ATMs along the way. No more complicated travelers’ checks…so…we got into the plane to Nepal with around 15 Euros and 5 Singapore dollars in total in our wallets. The visas-on-arrival on the other side in Kathmandu would cost us 50 US dollars to begin with. But, no…..problem, there would be a machine or we would pay with a credit card.
Except…it was not…no problem. We de-boarded some 5 hours later. The flight had been uneventful and Andreas sat next to a really nice and chatty New Zealander shepard/crayfish diver who was travelling to Nepal to go on a bike-riding excursion with a group of people. Towards the end of the flight, as we were filling out immigration forms and gathering together books and magazines, he fanned out all the cash he’d brought with him (I missed the conversation, there was surely a point to the display), hundreds of US dollars for his month long trip.
We all trundled out of the plane and into the tiny terminal. It was mid-day, so no lights were on, the place was fairly empty. No line at immigration. A moneychanger stall with an ancient looking ATM cozied up next to it greeted us familiarly on a far wall. Andreas headed over and I began to fill out the visa forms. A few minutes later, he wandered back towards me. “The ATM doesn’t work with my check card – I would need a PIN number for my credit card to get cash.” We counted the money we’d brought with us again, digging through bags to see if there was spare change somewhere. We didn’t have enough. We discussed sending through one of us to the other side to connect with our travel rep and sort things out, but we didn’t even have enough for that.
Andreas turned on his mobile phone to call the rep. I hadn’t even brought a SIM card with me. His didn’t seem to work in Nepal. No phone. No cash. This is the stuff you have nightmares about (at least I do) and wake up from in a cold sweat, like dreaming about forgetting to put shoes on before going to work. Andreas went over to talk to the guards. They seemed quite laid back about the whole thing. They told him to simply leave his passport with them, exit the airport, get some cash, and come back in. Ok, so problem solved. I sat down to wait.
Ten minutes later, he came back in and hussled me back into the now rather long immigration line. “Did you get some cash?” I asked. “Yes – I ran into David, the New Zealander – told him what happened, and he gave me a hundred bucks. I told him we’d be out in a few minutes and would then go and get cash and pay him back.” So we waited….and waited…and finally about 45 minutes later, got through. Exiting the terminal, we found our rep and started to look for David. Nowhere. It had been over an hour at that point, and it was likely that David and his group had gone.
So what to do? We owed this guy 100 US dollars and he was nowhere to be found. As our car made its way to the hotel, I sat sulking in the back trying to figure out how to find the guy. We unloaded every fact we had on him (first name, nationality, a bit about his tour, the seat he sat in on the airplane) to our travel rep, a nice woman who was trying to comfort us and who seemed strangely quite positive that we (she) could really find the guy no matter where he was in all of Kathmandu with the little info that we had.
Skip to the end of this anecdote. After a half a day of sightseeing (how can you enjoy looking at temples when you are thinking you more or less made off with 100 bucks from a shepard/crayfish diver who might have saved for god knows how long to go on a month long bike trip across Nepal?), we got a call from our rep. She had found David. Had even spoken to him. And had spoken with his mother in New Zealand (I don’t know the whole chain of events…she found him in some crazy convoluted way and had to spend a good deal of time talking to his mother trying to convince her that we wanted to give money to David, not take it away from him, “WHY did DAVID GIVE MONEY TO STRANGERS?” she apparently asked a dozen times before revealing where he was staying.). We had his address. We jumped in the car and headed over to the guest house he was staying in and with GREAT relief, paid him what we owed him and apologized a million times. Turns out he had had a similar problem in Singapore the night before when he got to the airport – no cash, no way to get it easily, and someone bailed him out. So…I am waiting. Hoping that some random person needs to borrow a hundred bucks from me REALLY soon. ☺