Back to Kathmandu

The bus from Pokhara to Kathmandu was nearly empty - just us and three Japanese guys. It was a so-called “tourist bus” which had been touted as amazingly luxurious but which, as far as I could tell, was identical to any other bus in Nepal except that it was reserved for tourists. It took a lot longer than I expected for the driver to start picking up Nepalis to pad his profit margin - an hour at least.

It was a quick trip to Kathmandu along the now very familiar route. I felt very sick the whole time and was glad that the bus wasn’t crowded and that the driver was as sedate as Nepali drivers ever are. I had to take pills for nausea. The last hour into Kathmandu was the worst, and when the bus stopped at a police checkpoint on top of the ridge that marks the entrance to the Kathmandu Valley and I looked out the window to see a woman vomiting her guts out right in front of my face, it nearly pushed me over the edge myself.

The taxi drivers and the hotel touts that met the bus were incredibly annoying. We had to fight through them to get away. I knew we were only a few hundred meters from the tourist ghetto of Thamel and I wasn’t about to pay for a taxi that would take me somewhere two minutes away even if they’d been asking a reasonable price instead of the usual ludicrous amount (i.e. the highest number they can think of). Even though I knew we were close, though, I didn’t know which direction to go. I picked a random direction just to get away from the feeding frenzy, and got lucky. It was a five minute walk to Thamel and another five minutes to find our hotel. Thamel was no longer familiar and it’s so easy to get lost when all the streets and corners look identical.

We’d left most of our baggage behind at the hotel while we’d been trekking. I’d been getting antsy about it, wondering if it was still there, and half-heartedly making lists of the things I’d have to replace if it wasn’t. It was unmolested, though, and we collected it and got settled into the very same room we’d stayed in before. My stomach was so bad that I was in bed for the rest of the day. I started yet another course of antibiotics - these things are going to kill me someday. I think we ought to talk to a pharmaceutical company about sponsoring part of our trip. I don’t know if it’s the Perpetual Food Poisoning back again, if it’s leftover effects from the rancid yak meat I’d eaten in Yak Kharka, or if it’s something fresh and different. I do know it’s getting very old. I’ve been more or less constantly sick in Nepal - an entire month now. Nepal is far worse than India ever was.

I did feel a little better in the morning. We hadn’t actually seen much of Kathmandu’s sights, due to paperwork and sickness the last time we were in town, and so we decided to follow one of our guidebook’s walking tours. I found Kathmandu really, really annoying after the peace and quiet of the Himalayas. Way too much noise, crazy traffic, insane crowds. I just couldn’t handle it like I could before. It makes me very worried about going back to India, because I remember thinking when I first arrived in Kathmandu how calm and relaxing it was compared to any given Indian city.

We spent the morning walking around. We saw again the magnificent Kathesimbu stupa, covered with radiating streamers of prayer flags and big Buddha eyes. We saw the Toothache God of Kathmandu, a big lumpy piece of wood completely covered in a coat of nailed coins. It looked like a demented Henry Moore sculpture. Everyone that passed touched their foreheads in respect. I was concerned about visiting it with Sheryl - I was afraid to bring her to its attention. She’s had enough trouble with her teeth as it is.

There were lots of little streetside temples and shrines. The temples were all double- or triple-roofed like Chinese pagodas. A surprising number of them were dedicated to Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god and one of our patron deities. Sheryl had to stop at every one, naturally. Temples were the theme of the day, actually. Durbar Square, Kathmandu’s tourism centrepiece, was full of them. We were immediately swarmed on our arrival there by men pestering us to pay for guide services. Very irritating. We paid for an overpriced drink in a rooftop restaurant overlooking the square so that we could take a moment to read about the Square and decide if it was worth the steep Rs300 admission price. We decided it wasn’t - we’ve both seen many, many, many temples in the last few months.

My abused and tortured digestive system was acting up again by the time we reached the hotel in the late afternoon, and I just wanted the entire world to leave me alone. Sheryl had decided that instead of leaving Nepal for India the next day as we’d planned, we’d go instead to Royal Chitwan National Park. The lure of a rhino-spotting safari on elephant-back was just too much for her. Even though she cloaked it under the justification of breaking up the long bus trip to Nepal’s eastern border, I knew it was really all about the elephants.

Flourish

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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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