Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'm really in Kathmandu!

• Heard dogs barking all night - finally stopped around 4ish • Birds started singing their hearts out around 5:30 • Car horns blowing and bells started ringing along with gates clanking open and closed all heard from my little corner bed — time to rise and shine • Now to sort out why am I at the hostel? • Communal breakfast served on roof top patio which has full-on views of the city and the Ring Road • Hom, my volunteer coordinator in Nepal, told me it is a Monk festival and that they and my host family were away & would not be back for a few days • Who knew Monks went to festivals? • Found out the real reason we cannot stay at the monastery - we are women • Kitti, my friend who has already been volunteering here for two weeks, should arrive later this afternoon at the hostel  • Asked my fellow volunteer, Australian Chris,  just how to use this raised squatty toilet (truly a hybrid of east meets west) • Made my first trip into Thamel (the main tourist area of Kathmandu) with fellow volunteers while I await Kitti's arrival • The scary hill we drove down the night before, looked even worse looking up the next day • I'm sure it was paved once, but potholes and shifting and only wide enough for one vehicle has made it a menacing stretch to walk up hill to the main road, where Kaninki Temple was under the huge water tower (our drop off point for cabs) • Negotiations for the fare into town is a must (250 rupees for 4 to the Kathmandu Guesthouse in Thamel) • Hair raising drive into town • Lots of honking & our driver speaking across me to another cabbie in the car beside us all while driving • Old ladies sitting side saddle on the back of a motor bikes • Cows nonchalantly standing in the street • Dogs sleeping beside the curb • No such thing as safe stopping distance - merely stopping distance • Overwhelmed by the smell of garbage burning • Introduced to the Internet cafe (75¢ for 30 minutes) • Five of us were checking facebook, updating blogs and emailing friends (my how travel has changed since I backpacked across Europe 27 years ago, and spoke to no one from home for 2 months) • Yak wool scarves, cashmere ponchos, pashminas, Nepali tea and plenty of knock-off trekking gear • Learned that pashmina and cashmere are one and the same (different countries have different names they must be labeled as, by law - all are from the wool of the cashmere goat) • Learned about different grades of cashmere • Drank Everest beer• Local traffic police wearing face masks • Women doing back breaking working lifting and hauling gravel • The weather changed and we amazingly found a mini cab that would fit us all (two on stools) to take us back to Kalinki Temple & the hostel before we would be locked out • Now dark, and without any kind of light, the scary road up, was a muddy slide down back to the hostel • Thankfully Amit held back to guide me back to the hostel • Soaking wet, the gates were being unlocked by the time we arrived • Power was off in the hostel (I've learned the power goes off daily, without warning, for a minimum of 12 hours) • Kitti had arrived • Slowly we all donned our head lamps and were talking in the hallway, kind of like camping indoors, and it all became quite natural • Huge dinner upstairs on the patio terrace (where there was power generated by a back-up battery) under the canopy to shield us from the rain • Sitting in the dark in our room talking till 9:30, when a hush came over the house...

My first little place to call home. Note the candle and flashlight on windowsill. 

View from bed.

Spaghetti wiring, was the norm.

Local beauty parlour on the big climb up.

No picture could do justice to just how bad this road really is.

Side saddle passenger. Only the drivers must wear helmets.

One women lifts the gravel with a pendulum technique and  pours it into the basket,
worn on the back of another women. This was just beside the internet cafe, in Thamel

I bought the blue scarf on the left. Totally cozy.

Shea, Amit, Chris and myself at Cafe New Orleans, Thamel.

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