Monday, April 4, 2011

Rest, Recovery, Everest Prep and The End in Sight

Ok, so when I left off there was a bit of uncertainty, but I am feeling much better and ready to leave for the Everest trek tomorrow morning!The last few days have just been spent here in Kathmandu resting, and as I felt better, wandering around, here is what I saw:

So after the night the sickness hit me, I didn't eat anything the next day, I simply couldn't. But the day after that, after I wrote the last blog post I ventured out of my room in search of fresh air, a little stretch of the legs and some easy to digest food. I ended up at a restaurant not far from my hotel where I sat down with the computer (it's so nice how easy wifi is to find here in Kathmandu, I swear free wifi is the best thing a place can have to make tourists life better) and got some steamed veggie momos and chai tea.

In the afternoon, I slowly wandered around the Thamel area exploring shops and buying a few little supplies for the trek. Because I lost my nice headlamp in India, I had to buy a new one here, and got some garbage bags for liners, bandaids, sunscreen, water purification tabs and other little things like that. I really didn't do anything else because just walking around was exhausting, and going up a few flights of stairs really put me out.

This photo is just something you see on the streets. People in the developing world have a much closer relationship with their food and where it comes from than we do in the western world. It may not be as sanitary, but I think it's probably a better system in the way that people understand what they are putting in their bodies.

The next day I was feeling even better, and needed to get out and see this city I've been in for a few days now. Being sick has really put a dent in my style, so it's time to explore! I walked south out of Thamel into Old Town. This part of Kathmandu is really cool and full of religious sites EVERYWHERE. This is a Ganesh statue maybe two feet high at most, and hundreds of years old, just sitting around between 'modern' shops. Kind of funny really.

Being 'old town' naturally this part of..... town.... is full of..... old.... things. New-ish multi-story homes mix with rickety old structures that are from the 17 or 1800s?? I really love the intricate wood-work that is on every one of these buildings, and the crooked buildings have a real charm to them. Granted, if you lived in it you would probably call it a hassle, haha.

The buildings in this area area are often laid out in a circle, with a small courtyard containing a religious monument in the center. You find these places by going through dark hallways of sort, that are brick, wood and maybe 5 feet high at most.

A little farther south on my walk I ran into some of the big streets and wanked passed Rani Pokhari (Queens Pond), nice to see water that is not full of sewage and garbage once in a while, haha.

I walked into a big park because there were thousands of people sitting and milling about, naturally I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The 'park' was really just a dusty fenced in area of packed dirt, brown grass, a few trees and some play structures, but it was nonetheless well used. As it was the early afternoon food was being cooked everywhere, and while it looked delicious and I'd usually be trying a few different things, given the fragile state of my stomach and my upcoming trek I wasn't going to take any risks. Another thing drawing a crowd in the park was a game of volley ball, which I found pretty strange.

Next to the park was the military Parade Ground and again people were gathering en-mass. The fenceline was packed deep with potential spectators, people were climbing trees, and all the pedestrian overpasses were clogged with people. On top of that, armed police were everywhere. Interestingly enough Kathmandu has a rather large armed police force walking around all the time, but this was more than normal.

I eventually found a taxi driver that spoke some English (boy, get a few k away from the tourist area and things change, haha) and was told it was some kind of celebration that would involve the president, prime minister, maybe some paratroopers and other military demonstrations. This got me all excited, but because nothing appeared to be happening yet I kept walking. I returned maybe two or three hours later, and the place was a ghost town. Dang it...

Where I did go was Durbar Square, the old center of Kathmandu political life and were a great collection of old Nepali architecture is located. It was nice, but I was sort of tired and not in the mood, so I passed through quickly.

One of the famous Nepali Gurkha soldiers (note the knife on his belt) in the square, talking to a woman.

I did keep wandering for a while and this is just a photo I liked from another temple. Again, the woodwork in these is so intricate it is amazing.

I wanted to get totally out of the tourist area, so I kept walking into the modern, busy Kathmandu. It really doesn't take long to get away and I was in neighborhoods, shops and the only foreigner around. I saw this guy drawing some people on a movie poster, and I guess he followed me, because few blocks later I was at a temple and he came up to me. I told him no and that I wasn't going to give him any money, but he insisted on drawing me. (he was also pretty clearly a bit mentally ill) I relented, and soon enough I had a crowd of 20 people watching me. Of course once he was done he gave it to me, and that forced me to give him a few rupees... you win this match, old man!

This was the temple I was trying to look when the 'ambush artist' caught me as the sun was going down. It's funny, just two or three km away from the main tourist areas is an old site like this which is every bit as nice as the others, but totally empty. Just goes to show the value of getting off the path and exploring on your own.

In the evening, I sat in my room listening to music and organizing my gear for the trek. Lots of warm synthetic cloths!

And since I was feeling better, I wanted to get out of the room and see some music. My room is right next to this place, so I hear it all night anyways, figured I might as well SEE it. This is the Namaste Cafe, and I had an excellent veggie burger that was actually a great value, as well as a beer that was predictably expensive. The band played western rock covers, mostly from the 90s, and was quite good actually.

This morning (right now as I am writing) I went out Shisha Terrace, and got a big breakfast of eggs, veggies, bacon, hash browns, cornflakes and milk, tea, juice and toast. Man it feels good to eat again.

While here, I did the frustrating thing of buying a plane ticket home. It took me about three hours, because I was trying to avoid leaving as early as the 10th, but didn't want to have 4 stops or pay $1200+. I ended up with the flight you see here, leaving Kathmandu on the 12th and paid about $1,060 for the flight... I get in Friday morning which is nice because I'll have a weekend right away to take care of some business and see friends.

Well, this really brings if to the forefront: the end of my adventure. Sure it's over a month off, but now the date is set, and the end truly is in sight. It will be coming up soon, with the next two weeks spent hiking, then a week or two exploring Nepal via motorbike, maybe a week of volunteering and then HOME. Home, I do miss it, and 6 months I a long time to be away. The trip has been amazing and I'm not totally sure I am ready to come home. As I was looking at flights, one passed through Pakistan, and I was thinking to myself “Hmm, maybe a short visit to Pakistan....” but nope, it's time to come home, and as the flight gets closer I am sure I'll be ready for it.


Tomorrow I leave for my Everest trek which I am pumped about. As I said last time I'll probably be out of communication, so have no fear, but if I can check in I will. Goodbye for now, take care everyone!