Your passport is your most valuable item when you travel which sort of explains this story, although not in a manner in which you would expect…. Read on for an unbelievable story about a lost passport, a pile of poo and evaporating money!
So I was back in Kathmandu, Nepal with 2 friends and we had all just come back from 2 weeks in the Himalayas on the Mount Everest base camp trek. We got back to the city on the Tuesday afternoon – I had my first shower for 12 days (amazing!), and went straight to a steak house to eat some red meat after being stuck on lentils and rice for 2 weeks.
We were delighted that we all had mate it to base camp, altitude sickness hadn’t hit us too badly so it was celebration time in Kathmandu. We were flying to China in 2 days and the Olympics were on in Beijing at the time which meant the Chinese government were limiting visas and cracking down hard on any misdemeanours so we didn’t wanna risk turning up to the airport at 5am drunk! It had been such hard work to get our Chinese visas a couple of months ago that we treasured them with all our heart, we had family flying to China to meet us all for the first time in a year so it was going to be a big happy reunion – this left us with only tonight to party, so party we did.
We left our hostel and headed to the reggae bar in Kathmandu centre, went to the top floor, kicked off our flip-flops and the celebrations began. First round on me, 8 bottles of beer for the 4 of us, next round 8 more, next round 8more, next round 8 more – excessive? Perhaps, but come on we’d just seen Everest with our own eyes, we were entitled to get loose! The rounds kept coming, Bob Marley tunes were ringing out, people were smoking shisha everywhere when suddenly we realized we were pretty hammered. I looked around and Billy* (name changed) had gone, but quickly I saw him stagger out of the corridor as drunk as I have ever seen anyone, his hair all over the place but still smiling. “You alright mate?”, “yeah I’m fine, shall we go to another bar?”.
Off we went, the three of us (incidentally some b*stard had stolen my friend’s haviana flip-flops at the bar so he had to pinch someone elses to leave the place!) to another bar, and another bar, and another bar. It was now about 2am and we were singing songs that didn’t even exist, making up lyrics about us climbing Mount Everest – then I checked my pockets and said “I might be drunk but I’ve still got my wallet and passport”, my other friend said the same thing, back to Billy*… “sh*t, sh*t, sh*t – boys, I don’t have either”. Disaster! I mean a real disaster, so we went to every bar we had been to and pleaded with the staff, had they seen our mate’s passport (with Chinese visa) or wallet (with all his cash)? No? Ok next bar, same thing. We scoured the streets we had walked on but found nothing, until we got back to the reggae bar – upstairs we went, (stolen) flip-flops off again and asked everyone in the place had they seen anything. No, no, no. After a couple of hours of this we had to cut our losses and head to bed, drunk, around 4.30am. Billy* set his alarm for 8am when he and I would head down to the British embassy and Chinese embassy to help him get things sorted out.
8am, we groggily clambered out of our beds and headed to the British embassy “of course we can help, we can issue you with an emergency passport, valid for one entry to get home, do you have some ID”. 1) I am traveling, I don’t want to go home, I want to go to China tomorrow and 2) No, I don’t have any bloody ID because my wallet was stolen along with my passport, like I already told you. “Well then sir, I’m afraid we can’t help you very much”. Right, great, thanks British embassy, it’s been a blast.
We calmed ourselves down, made an appointment to speak to the boss later on that day and headed over to the Chinese embassy. One staff member in a little booth outside the embassy says “Give passport and you go in”, “lost my passport, that’s why I want to go in”, “no passport, no enter”. Wow, these embassies are great! After 20 minutes of pleading, explaining and groveling we got in and went straight to the consular section. Lost a passport, here’s a scan of the Chinese visa that was in it (very smart to do that), can you re-issue it please, I’m going to the Olympics tomorrow. “no, you have to go to home country and get a new visa” WTF?!? So here we were with a copy of the visa and they were refusing to give a new one without flying from Kathmandu -> London -> Beijing. Not helpful, we stormed out.
One last check of the bars then, our last hope. Billy* was stressing out hugely, his brother was flying to meet him in China tomorrow, he had tickets to Olympic events, hotels booked and it looked like he wouldn’t be going. One bar checked… nothing. Another bar checked… nothing. We finally get back to the reggae bar “sorry, I know we asked last night but did you find a wallet and passport last night, it’s really important”?. They tell us to wait…
Out comes a cleaning lady wearing two long plastic gloves (like the kind you see a farmer putting on before he has his way with a cow), she doesn’t speak any English but the barman translates, they talk a little and then out of her pocket she pulls a passport and a wallet, making sure to only hold the corners of each.
Billy* is jumping up and down with delight, hugs the cleaner, kisses me – we’re ecstatic! He grabs his passport and flicks through it, it’s soaking wet and there are brown lumps and stains over most of the pages, it’s giving off a pretty pungent smell. He grabs his wallet, same smell, opens it up and all the cash has gone (probably about $250+) but, although he’s not happy about the cash being gone, he’s still delighted with having his stuff back. So as the hysteria dies down, we ask why is his passport and wallet covered in sh*t?!
The cleaner, through the barman’s translation, said she doesn’t know why it was there but she came to work this morning and you could smell the toilet from outside the building. When she entered it she was nearly sick, the entire bowl was filled with crap. So she put on her gloves, grabbed the plunger and the poor lady went to work. As she bailed out the poo, she could eventually reach her arm into the toilet, to the U-Bend and feel the blockage. She fought with it until she got her hands around it, yoinked it out and you’d never guess what the blockage was – a British passport and a wallet!
FLASH BACK from Billy*. When we were in the reggae bar last night, we had been joking about how bad it would be to lose our passports, what with China clamping down on visas, and us missing the Olympics. So as we got more and more drunk, the thought had stuck with Billy*, as had losing his wallet. Anyway, he went to the skanky toilet because the steak from earlier was causing him ‘problems’, as he sat on the toilet he thought of an ingenious plan on how not to lose his passport or wallet. So… he stood up, took his passport and wallet in one hand, bent down and shoved his hand down the toilet, up to the U-Bend and stashed his passport and wallet there! No-one will find it now, he thought and he was sort of right. But he was drunk so he quickly forgot his cunning plan, sat back down and took a shit on the very same toilet. He flushed, stood up and left.
As we partied the night away little did we know that Billy’s* passport and wallet had blocked the only toilet in the reggae bar, so drunk backpackers being drunk backpackers, if they needed to go then they went! So the night went on and more and more people proceeded to shit in the toilet, on top of Billy’s* shit until the bowl was almost overflowing.
On discovering this, I’m cracking up at the story, doubled over in laughter when Billy* asks her what happened to all the money in the wallet, after a quick translation he gets told that they are not sure but that the money must have “evaporated” in the blockage!!! Brilliant! ‘evaporated!’ We both thought the cleaner had earned the money so we left it at that and went home, with poo-stained passport and Billy’s* empty wallet.
Incidentally, we entered Nepal a couple of weeks previously through a Western border crossing that nobody uses because the Maoists controlled that region then. So our visa was literally written in biro by the border guard, so unofficial looking. As Billy’s* passport had sat in a well of poo all night, the ink had run and was almost invisible now. Billy*, still in a panic about getting to China, thinks “f*ck it, I’ll just rewrite the visa myself, it’ll look the same” pulls out a biro and redraws the visa. To the airport we go, Billy* tries to get stamped out of the country, nope… he gets summoned to the interrogation room and questioned why his passport is in such terrible condition and why he has forged his Nepalese visa! After much explaining, he gets escorted by the police to the passport counter, gets escorted through the airport and is told to go to China, and never come back to Nepal. End of the story – brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Now you know where not to stash your passport next time you’re worried about it.