Archive for April, 2008

Fulfilling last tourist obligations

This morning my roommate (formerly tentmate) Evan and I decided to hit the last big tourist destination we haven’t seen yet.
We took a 30 minute taxi ride from hell (during Nepalese rush hour) to the medieval city of Bhaktapur, some 20km away from Kathmandu. Foreigners (other than Indians) are charged a hefty $10 fee to roam through the city and see more old temples than you can count. Lonely Planet says there’s no traffic in the main squares of Bhaktapur, but I think there’s just less traffic than in Kathmandu, just enough to get a false sense of safety before almost getting plowed by a motorcyclist.
Saw a couple more Shiva temples with nicely carved Kama Sutra art. Pornography in general is banned in Nepal, but that’s OK because you can learn everything from ancient temple carvings.
We did see a few white people wandering the streets, but most of the tourist crowds seemed to be nicely dressed Hindus (from India or elsewhere in Nepal) posing for millions of photos in front of every temple, the kids inevitably riding every lion or elephant statue.
The only remaining thing for us to do now is spend the rest of our rupees on dinner and souvenirs, to support the local economy as much as we can.

Add comment April 23rd, 2008

Back to the big city

After an early morning flight from Lukla (downhill takeoff, mints and cotton served after the takeoff, quite a bit of turbulence), we were back in Kathmandu, with all the smog, crazy traffic, and the relentless shop owners trying to sell us crap. Instead of dodging yak crap and yak horns on the trail, we’re back to dodging cars, motorcycles, animals and hash dealers.
Still, Kathmandu is very charming, and I found enough energy to actually shop for some souvenirs.
For dinner we selected this sorta secluded place that has “beer garden” in its name. At least half of it was true, because despite all of two crappy beers offered, the garden was quite nice, had excellent Tibetan/Bhutanese/Nepali food, and for a couple of hours I felt like we were somewhere in Europe.
Oh, I think when I was going through security check at the Lukla airport (no metal detector, hence they normally look through your bags), the police officer was trying to by my headlamp - when I pulled it out of a backpack pocket he kept asking “how much”. They also asked me “which country” as I think they were writing down in a notebook where everyone was from. I said “Croatia”, they repeated “U.S. ??”, to which I just said “OK”.

Add comment April 22nd, 2008

The official wrap-up

Not much to mention today, had a quick walk to Lukla where we’re spending the rest of the day. Needless to say not much happening in this place. The highlight of the day was a two year old girl on the street repeatedly shooting us with a water pistol, which was cute. Gave me a good opportunity to actually take pics of kids, which I’m normally not that good with (at least the unknown ones on the street).
We are also sharing a lodge (sleeping inside, with an attached bathroom, which seems like a real luxury) with some mixed expedition that will attempt to climb Makalu. Also found out form some trekkers that went to the Ama Dablam Base Camp that there’s a Croatian expedition there! Wish I had known before, but I will have to keep track of their progress…

Add comment April 21st, 2008

This is the last time…

Today was a day when we heard a lot of “this is the last time” - we’ll see Everest, sleep in a tent, etc.
As happy as I am to actually be going home soon, I am more than a bit sad to be leaving this place and the trekking lifestyle we enjoyed for the last two weeks.
We left Namche this morning (another place I really liked and will miss), and are now camping in Phakding again. We had a special dinner tonight (which was like a regular dinner, but with cake), we gave our tips to the staff of 17 that catered us these 2 weeks (a leader, sirdar, cook, 3 assistant guides, 4 kitchen boys, 5 porters, and 2 yak drivers). A short celebration consisted of some dancing and singing (tourist participation awkward yet obligatory). We did get to try home-made chhaang (rice beer) which came in a big blue bucket. I sort of liked it, and could definitely get used to the taste.

Add comment April 20th, 2008

Civilization (sort of)

This morning we found out the truth about the dogs - they were definitely not the same one. Apparently every dog in this region looks the same - black with a white spot on the chest, and the same size, we must have sen at least a dozen. My theory is that at least a bunch of them come from the same litter.
Tengboche monastery was interesting, but pretty small. Like all the Buddhist holy places, you can visit them as a tourist as long as you take your shoes off, don’t interfere with any ceremonies going on, and dress and act decent (seriously, one sign said “no kissing”). The monastery was established only a hundred years ago, but has since been destroyed in an earthquake, and burned down, so this third iteration is only twenty years old.
We got back to Namche today, where hot showers, Internet, and shops are readily available. Although the elevation is almost the same as last night, because this is Nepal, we had to descend about 600m first, so we can climb them again later.
Apparently there was a potential incident at the Base Camp (some Tibetans are actually in the Indian military climbing expedition), so Nepal now has soldiers in the camp preventing anyone from even entering the icefall (apart from Sherpas carrying gear up to camp II).
They also started searching trekkers’ gear at the national park entrance, I guess in order to confiscate any “free Tibet” shirts or flages. That’s too bad because you can buy them within the park in Tibetan owned stores.
Speaking of the national park, a couple of us picked up surveys in order to help with feedback about our visit. The surprising fact was that the entrance fee is only $15 and most of us would be willing to spend more. According to our guide, that won’t help, because the Nepali government harvests the money and doesn’t put nearly as much into this region or park services, as they advertise.
My main gripe (my group had similar thoughts) is tons of trash everywhere - by the trail, and in rivers and streams. Even when they “dispose” of the trash properly, like out trekking company does, it consists of burning anything that will burn, including used plastic kerosene containers, which can’t be that good.
Over the last two weeks we learned some basic Nepali words and phrases, but the one that gets the most usage in bad jokes is “dudh” or milk. So you can have “a little hot dudh” in the morning, or get “some chocolate dudh in you before bedtime”…

Add comment April 18th, 2008

A dusty descent

Took us 6 hours to the 1100m lower Duboche.
We can not freeze tonight for a change, and don’t need to stop for breath between *every* bite. The ccampsite is nice, with a view of Everest and Ama Dablam, and surrounded by pines and rhododendron. Tonight we dine inside of a lodge, and can maybe play cards without gloves on.
Right before entering the campsite we saw what must have been the same puppy from Phortse from 6 days ago! The other village is only about 2 hours walking from here, and the dog loked the same, had same puppy teeth, and was very playful and wanted to be petted.
Tomorrow morning we visit the Tengboche monastery, where our head guide Thupten spent ten years as a monk.
This day ended with quite a happy ending - several shots of sunset hitting Everest, and a return of appetite and solid pooping!

Add comment April 18th, 2008

Conquered the Base Camp

The night was long and the morning cold. My diarrhea woke me up at some point, so I knew it was snowing. Someone measured 20 degrees Fahrenheit in their tent during the night. We had about an inch of snow by the time we got up, but the sun warmed things up quickly and melted the snow.
A 2.5 hour “flat” hike gets us to the Base Camp (there is no such thing as flat in Nepal, even if the altitude change is minimal, there are many ups and downs to get to any destination). The camp is a little tent city, holding almost 30 expeditions, but nothing is flat either so things look somewhat chaotic. We heard that they have to move each tent every couple of weeks as the glacier moves and cracks form. The Khumbu Icefall was also very impressive and scary looking, but everyone has to traverse it to get to the next camp. We even saw (from a distance) a Puja ceremony for an Indian expedition, which gets them good favors with the gods of the mountains, and without which Sherpa clibers won’t go anywhere.
Overall, I was very impressed, and the whole thing was surreal and unbelievable, just like the previous days. After a total of 7 exhausting hours of walking, we’re back in Lobuche, and tomorrow we start descending.

Add comment April 17th, 2008

We did it!

Climbed the 5550m (18,200ft) Kala Patthar, that is!
The morning didn’t start off so hot, with more diarrhea which is not fun at all. After a rocky 3 hour walk to Gorak Shep, we went up the “hill” and 6 out of 7 of us made it to the top. It was a race against the clouds that were rushing to obstruct out view, but we made it just in time to still have some awesome vistats of the whole valley surrounded by the tallest mountains in the world. Our camp at Gorak Shep is also surreal, it’s on this huge sandy beach, although it’s snowing out there right now.
Temperature swings here are crazy, during the morning when it’s sunny and not windy, it’s almost short sleeve weather, but then by the evening it gets really cold that all my clothes can’t warm me up (I’m sure altitude and fatigue have a bit to do with that too), and in the night ice crystals form on the inside of the tent and on our sleeping bags.
Tomorrow is an even longer day with a trek to Everest Base Camp which seems to be quite a little tent city in the distance…

Add comment April 16th, 2008

Getting really high

Luboche - 4940m

We’re definitely in a different landscape now. Big boulders that the Khumbu glacier brings down, no vegetation, just rock, ice, and big mountains. The uphill climb wasn’t so bad, but we were still all wiped out when we reached camp by 1pm. It’s also getting significantly colder, which our bodies think is even colder due to this silly altitude. Unlike in the past 2 days in Dingboche, and some previous campsites, we’re not staying near a lodge, so our meals are not indoors. This means that any free time is passed either in the sleeping bag or in the dining tent. Right now there’s a mean game of hearts being played in the dining tent by a bunch of bundled up people with headaches.
The next 2 days are going to be really exciting and hard, we’re just not sure whether Kala Patthar or Base Camp comes first, it largely depends on the weather.
With as rocky and uneven as this surface is, I’m amazed they found a few spots even remotely flat to pitch our tents.
At this altitude we get only 55% of the oxygen as we would at sea level, which explains why I’m out of breath just putting clothes on, or standing up, or simply chewing.
Ahh, my winter gloves smell like Pablo!

Add comment April 15th, 2008

A shower with a view

Today we slept in until 5 (wakeup call is kitchen boys bringing us hot tea to our tents). Did a short hike up the hill to about 15,000′ and had a nice view of Lhotse, Makalu, and of course Ama Dablam.
People are feeling a bit better, but most conversations still revolve around words like diarrhea, stomach problems, Diamox, Imodium, Ibuprofen, consistency of poop, and similar.
Today’s highlight was definitely the shower - they set up a shower tent (a tarp wrapped around 4 poles, and a hand-pump shower with enough hot water). It is a bit chilly to stand bare ass naked and wet in the windy Himalayas, but in addition to the “almost clean” feeling, us tall people had an excellent view of Ama Dablam soaring about the shower tent…
I also visited the Internet cafe here, which felt more like a cave, with large gravel on the ground, plywood walls, tons of batteries ans UPSs powering several brand new laptops over a satellite Internet link. Two reasons to wrap up quickly - crazy prices ($1 per 3 minutes, as opposed to $0.50/hour in Kathmandu), and your fingers get cold since you’re just in this shack.
In other Nepali news, it’s looking like the Maoist party is going to win the majority and rewrite the constitution. According to people here, that’s a good thing, as these former terrorists (as classified by the State Department) will no longer lead guerrilla wars, but have a chance to fulfill their promises by being in power. The previous government didn’t do much in 13 years, so why not give these guys a chance, at least they won’t be in the woods, shooting people and scaring tourists. At least that’s the gist of the local sentiment, if I understood it correctly. I really would like to read what the rest of the world things of this, but will have to wait a few weeks for that.

Add comment April 14th, 2008

Dingboche (4400m)

Most of us had a rough night with multiple visits to the tiny toilet tent. The cook made us toast for breakfast, as most people can’t digest more than that.
The hike up to Dingboche wasn’t that hard or long (3.5 hours) but still wiped us all out. It must be the constant wind, the sun, and loads of dust blowing everywhere. Dingboche is a village that operates only during the trekking season, at other times people go back to lower villages.
Tomorrow we spend another full day/night here to acclimatize, with only a short morning hike, and we’re promised an opportunity for a warm shower…

Add comment April 13th, 2008

A rough climb to Pangboche (3930m)

Today’s “only 4 hour” ascent to Pangboche turned out to be pretty rough on the group. Five our of seven have so far had digestive problems (throwing up or diarrhea), and we’re all feeling really tired. My appetite and digestive system are still fantastic, but I do have some headaches.
Thupten took us to see the 600 year old Buddhist Monastery in Pangboche. Other than that there’s not much else to do, as the clouds are obscuring any views, it rains occasionally and it’s getting pretty cold.
Other than the views on the hike, the highlight of my morning was a happy, friendly puppy that followed us through the whole village of Phortse (which took us a while since it was uphill going) and wanted to be petted and played with. She even provided extra entertainment when she started chasing a baby yak…

7pm update
Make that 7 out of 7. I just hope the diarrhea doesn’t make me get up too often at night - it’s damn cold out there…

Add comment April 12th, 2008

Phortse Tenga (a village of 3 houses)

Today’s trekking was also mostly easy, it took us about 6 hours with a lunch break.
This is the first time we’re not staying in a yard of a guesthouse and eating inside. They set up a dining tent now which can accommodate about 10 people.
We started seeing real yaks on the trail, as well as some wildlife - wild pheasants, mountain goats, and musk deer.
The weather has been pretty consistent, clear in the morning, getting hazy around 10am, and cloudy by 1pm or so. Good thing most of our hiking is done earlier in the day. Still wearing t-shirts while hiking, but that all will change soon as I expect to be wearing thermals and full winter gear in about 5 days.
I’ve been bothered by what I think is a regular cold, worsened by all the dust and smoke from kerosene or yak dung I’ve been breathing 24/7.
Three of us out of the group are from also on Diamox, the drug that is supposed to help acclimatize to high altitudes. We bought it the night before the trip in a Kathmandu pharmacy for about $3. Not sure if it’s making a difference, but other than the cold I feel good. That still means I get out of breath when I take two steps up, but that’s to be expected. That’s why our hiking pace is pretty leisurely, but we still get to the camp fairly early in the day. Since Phortse Tenga is not a very happening place it provides an opportunity to rest and read. The sound of a fast Himalayan river and yak bells are very soothing…

Add comment April 11th, 2008

An easy day around Namche

Today we could even sleep in until 6:30, as our gear wasn’t going anywhere, but we all got up before 6 anyway.
After a very steep climb we quickly got to the Everest View Hotel, which is a pretty fancy place, built by the Japanese at 3880m, and as the name says it has pretty kick ass views.
You can see Kumbila (sacred mountain of the Sherpas), Nuptse, Lotse, Ama Dablam, and of course Everest with its signature plume of snow blowing from its top.
The Chinese government is responsible for stopping all climbing attempts until May 10th from the Tibetan side, as well as Nepalese past Camp II. This might make it tricky for our Japanese friend, as well as a host of other expeditions that now all have to rush the mountain after the Chinese are done getting the Olympic torch up there. Of course, they reserved the best window (weather-wise) for this, but we’ve heard that if they don’t succeed by May 10, they are likely to extend the ban even longer and completely ruin the climbing season for the rest.
In the afternoon we did a host of other things, toured Thupten’s house in Namche, I took a cold shower for 200 rupees ($3) which felt damn good, and I even wrote a couple of emails.
Some Sherpa girl shopkeeper tried to sell Jeff and I razors, we must look pretty hairy by now. Dinner had an unusual ending as the cook made a cake, since it was my tentmate Evan’s birthday. It even had writing on it, and tasted pretty good considering it was made in a shed with limited ingredients.

Add comment April 10th, 2008

Up we go

Namche Bazar, 3440m)

I just got done using a Sherpa toilet. It’s pretty decent, other than the smell. It’s just a raised shed with a couple of holes in the floor. It actually feels a lot cleaner than most toilet seats though.
We got up to Namche at 1:30 after a pretty decent constant climb. The scenery is getting more mountainous, but the hike was still pretty hot (as in t-shirts, shorts). the challenge was more dealing with the traffic on the trail. There are a lot of trekkers, and even more porters and yaks. Had some close encounters with yak horns on a couple occasions, but you just use your trekking poles to push on their horns and turn them away from you.
Namche is the biggest Sherpa village, with a 1000 residents, a ton of guesthouses and stores. Our main guide, Thupten, is from here, and is now enjoying his home. He will show us some of his art tomorrow, he used to be a monk in Tengboche for 10 years, then got into the trekking business. His dad was a climber on one of the ‘63 Everest expeditions where he helped save lives of fourr Americans, and got a medal from JFK. According to Thupten, he might have been the first Sherpa to visit the US.
Thupten is a brother in law to Mingma, the owner of the trekking company we are using. His dad was actually a climbing Sherpa on THE expedition in ‘53 when Hillary and Tenzing summited Everest for the first time.
Tonight we’re sharing a common dining area in one of the guesthouses with a Japanese expedition to Everest, which includes the oldest guy who will try to summit it. He already has the same record, as he climbed it at 71, now he’ll just attempt it at 76.
We’re also probably going to be in their video footage, since we passed each other many times on the trail, and Japanese being Japanese have a videographer and two photographers running around all day.
I’m more than happy with how my body’s dealing with the altitude for now. Although going uphill is definitely harder, I only have occasional mild headaches. We’re definitely eating and drinking enough, to the point that I’m afraid I’ll actually gain weight by the end of the trip.
OMG, one of the Japanese just turned on his laptop and I heard the Windows startup chime, and the Skype chime. Not sounds you’d expect to hear among yak bells and bog barks. But there is wired and wireless Internet in Namche…

Add comment April 9th, 2008

In the Himalayas

Well, I almost can’t believe it, but I’m here. I’m sitting on a rock by a cold river near the village of Phakding (2610m).
After an early breakfast we got to the airport, went through a few very disorganized lines and somehow managed to board our Yeti Airlines Twin Otter with all out stuff, and even left on time.
The flight to Lukla was short but sweet, with everything I expected - the flight attendant hands out mints and cotton (to stuff into your ears), and I was sitting next to an emergency exit that rattled a bit, and I could see the outline of the sky outside through the edges…
After passing through a canyon, flying really close to large cliffs, the pilot heads straight for a mountain. Then you realize there’s a village he’s aiming for, and then spot the short, uphill airstrip.

Today’s hiking was really easy and mostly downhill, and we were in “camp” by 2pm. The camp really is the village of Phakding, and our tents were set up on a lawn under one of the few guesthouses. We’re going to the bathroom and eating indoors. We’re also getting catered at every step, with washing water, tea, etc, and it feels really uncomfortable being served. More updates on that later as the situation develops, but as of now I feel like a lazy tourist pig who doesn’t do any work towards food and shelter, just gets catered to. For example, we had tomato and cheese sandwiches with coleslaw, whereas the staff ate daal bhat (traditional Nepali rice and lentils), which I would have much rather had. I hope dinner is a bit more local.
Other than that weirdness, the scenery is absolutely amazing. It’s warm and green outside, with some white peaks in the distance. Tomorrow we go to Namche Bazar, which is a pretty big Sherpa town, and we’ll also witness the elections as they happen there. We dodge many other trekkers, porters carrying enormous loads on their backs, and yaks which we learned are not really yaks. These altitudes are too warm for the real yak as he’s a very hairy beast, so they breed them with cows to get zopkios, which are the beasts that will be carrying our stuff this whole trip. We will see some yaks at higher altitudes, though.

A view from Lukla, first mountains in the distance

Add comment April 8th, 2008

Ready for the trek

Today we had an organized tour of three places, only one of which was new to me. Still, had a good time, took some nice pictures too.
We had a group meeting about the trek, and it sounds like our Sherpa organizers are really a top notch crew. It’s really a family business, and it seems like they known everybody in the region, and have some famous climbers in the family too.
As I was writing my last email tonight, the guy in the cyber cafe next to me was downloading his photos from the same trek. All I have to say is - if we see only half of that, I’ll be a really happy man. I could even say that without the trek, just experiencing Kathmandu was worth flying to the other side of the world.
Mingma, the owner of the trekking company, thinks that after these elections tourism will see another book, and things will get more built up and crowded, so now’s a good time to be doing this!

Add comment April 7th, 2008

Last day on my own

This morning I went to Pashupatinath, the Hindu temple that you can’t really get into, but can walk around the grounds and see into it partially from the hill on the opposite side of the river. On the temple side of the river there are constantly Hindu funerals in progress, which consist of first bathing the wrapped deceased body with the holy water from the river, then burning it on one of the pyre pedestals provided for that. I think I saw only one other tourist all morning.
Of course there are Sadhus, Hindu holy men who pose there for photos for a small donation. These guys might be totally fake, but I decided to take a few shots, since business was definitely slow for them.
An interesting thing about sightseeing here, as opposed to Europe or the US, is that the places you are seeing have more locals than tourists, as they are actually being used. There are so many holy sites since Hindus have so many deities, and religion plays a big part of everyday life for both Hindus and Buddhists here. In addition, they are used as gathering places for young people to hang out at, and for kids to run and play at.
When I was walking around the Kathesimbhu Stupa, which also has a Buddhist ghompa (monastery) and a school in the same yard, some Tibetan artist talked to me about his paintings, which I told him right away I wasn’t gonna buy. He’s 35, was a monk for 10 years, and now spends half a year here, the other half in Tibet, and paints these Thangka paintings. Very nice and fascinating stuff, just not for my living room (and probably not for my budget either).
Last night I ran into a couple of political rallies with lots of flags, loud music, and lots of police with machine guns watching the whole show. There are also chanting, marching people going through town a lot, normally also followed by armed police. The election is happening in 4 days, it’s been postponed twice due to violence by the Maoists. Now they are actually running for parliament as one of the Communist parties, and I thought they’d only have presence in the south of the country, but they seem to be one of the biggest parties, at least if judged by the amount of supporters here (and theirs is the only insignia I recognize with the hammer and sickle, one other large party has a green tree as a symbol). They also banned sale of booze in the next week, starting tomorrow.

One of the sadhus who patted his crotch cover proclaiming how he is strong!

Add comment April 6th, 2008

Getting better at this

Rooftop cafe at Patan Durbar Square

Had an early start this morning, I was on the road by 7am, so I could ease into the craziness of mid-day crowds. Since I feel so awkward looking at maps in the street, and at times that doesn’t help if there are no street names or landmarks nearby, I attempted to memorize the path I wanted to take to Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. I promptly got lost!
But I felt at ease though, I was just milling around with Nepali people who are trying to buy or sell all kinds of fruit, veggies, flowers, dead and live meats, and prepared foods. Saturday is their only day off, so there’s a lot of shopping to be done. I also ran into some kind of festival, but I didn’t know anything about it, other that there were more crowds and music.
After getting a permanent pass for the Durbar Square and checking it out a bit (some stuff was closed, apparently there are much less tourists than normal due to elections, and other than in Thamel, I see very few tourists around), I had a coffee at some hostel in Freak Street, made famous in the 60s by the western hippies, and sat around a very grungy crowd, ranging from college students to the decaying, original hippies.
As far as the “guides”, I learned to shrug them off or just shoot the shit with them until they realize that I’m not hiring them for a tour. I might change my mind by tomorrow and go back to one guy in Kathmandu Durbar Square who I actually really liked, and I wouldn’t mind paying a few bucks for him to tell me about the gazillion temples that all look the same to me, and I can’t remember much about them from the written guides. Due to these guides, the most frequently used word in my daily vocabulary is “Croatia” - their first question is always “where are you from”, and there’s no way I’m presenting my self as an American tourist. Reactions range from “huh?”, to “Davor Suker!”, to actual brief conversations about Croatia.
I’m off to explore a bit more of Patan, then take another scary cab ride to my hotel. NYC cabs are nothing on the scale of scariness compared to these. Driver’s one hand is on the horn at all times, and so many times I thought that we’d collide with someone or run over a dog or a child, but somehow they manage to navigate through them. Fortunately, due to the crowds, nobody can drive too fast…

Having lunch at Patan Durbar Square

Add comment April 5th, 2008

Kathmandu overload

As the dogtown outside keeps barking, and I’m trying not to fall asleep too early, let me try to describe the madness that was my intro to Kathmandu.

I mean, I read some books, some guides, saw some photos, and thought I was ready and knew what to expect. But I don’t think anyone who hasn’t maybe been to a similar place in Asia can adequately prepare for the culture shock. I mean, it’s not like your average US Joe going to Poland and wondering why the pirogies are a bit different, this is a totally new universe to me.
So let’s start from the airport: a really old and musty brick building, but being from Croatia, I was ok with all that, and recalled that we used to have handwritten signs, official dozing at their posts, ashtrays, and a general chaotic disarray, not too long ago.
Two guys that work for my trekking company picked me up, and that’s when the fun started. Traffic here is absolutely nuts (I think I actually saw 1 traffic light!). They are supposed to drive on the left side, but more often drivers just pick the best path and go for it. Smaller streets within the city don’t have sidewalks, are about 12 feet wide, and need to fit all the pedestrians, two way traffic of honking cars, honking motorcycles, cursing cyclists, and taxi-cycles (rickshaws?). Outside of the small tourist district, this is also made worse by playing children, roaming goats and cows, running dogs, and people carrying or pulling all kinds of stuff. Roads that are paved to begin with are so full of potholes that bicycles and motorcycles regularly get stuck in them. A bit of rain will turn dirt into just enough mud to make traveling these streets a true frogger, on the edge of your seat experience.
There are quite a few tourists in the Thamel district but we definitely stick out and I felt sooo out of place. You are so obviously a tourist, that no matter how determined you look, or how fast you’re going (which could easily get you lost since the streets are all tiny and have no names, but that’s another story), you’ll always be constantly approached by people trying to sell you their goods, offer you taxi rides, to be your local guide, try to sell you some hash, etc.
I’m afraid I’ll get much less photos than I thought, at least in the city, as I’m pretty damn uncomfortable even stopping, much less handling a camera or even changing lenses! That’s too bad because there are so many good photos of people in their everyday life on the streets of Kathmandu that would be worth taking. The city is definitely very alive with noise (human, artificial, animal), colors, movement, and smells…

So despite the ominous thunder I decided to walk to Swayambunath, or the Monkey Temple, which was to be about a half an hour walk from here. I started pouring soon enough, so I hid with a bunch of girls in some “not-safe-at-all-by-American-standards” house under construction.
Along the way, after trying to shake off some persistent kid who wanted to be my guide, I finally decided that it would probably be better to pay him $2 and listen to his 5-minute history lesson, then get rid of him. I think next time I’ll learn to be more of an ass, bu it is kinda hard to refuse these people who are actually trying to make a living in a poor country. On the other hand, he’s only slightly better than the guys in Croatia insisting on washing your clean windshield at an intersection, or the guys in Philly holding the door opened for you at the 7-11.
Anyway, the temple was really cool and pretty deserted, so I could enjoy myself for a few minutes with the great view of the city, and watch some dogs and monkeys play (not together).
Oh, the dogs! They’re everywhere, and they all look similar, I guess they evolved into a perfect mutt breed of just the right size and shagginess. Of course that none of them are spayed/neutered, which would explain their abundance. Some of them even had collars and followed the children around, but most are just searching for scraps of food, or playfully wrestling or chasing down the street.
I can’t imagine walking my Pablo here on his leash, after he gets fed his organic food, gets his expensive flea med, and picking up his crap in a baggy. I think he’d feel even more isolated and shunned in the doggy world, than I feel in the human one…
I don’t even fit in with most of the tourists. Hudin, this place is not for you! There are so many damn hippie wanna-bes around here, it’s almost impossible to spot a white person under 35 who doesn’t have dreadlocks or similarly shaggy hair, flowing flowery skirts, beads, hemp necklaces, and sandals. The over-35 group can be spotted by the North Face logo sign on at least one piece of their clothing, as they’re dressed like they’re on a trek at this moment…
Ah, the thought that I could perhaps go for a run while here is making me LOL at this point!!!

Kathmandu in the evening, from Swayambunath

1 comment April 4th, 2008

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