You wonder what the hell you are doing all the way from home. Bangkok made sense because it was like a gigantic reunion of old friends, while making new ones in the process, but Nepal?
You get off the airplane to a single-lane airport. No fancy Starbucks or restaurants. No big flat screen TVs that flash delays and departures or bars to get smashed at before or after a flight.
You missed India before, but this place, Kathmandu, made of pure noise and madness, reminds you a lot of what you experienced there. The honking of vehicles is back, a nervous sound that is the music of the city in all it's variations. A constant wave of dust sucks up into your lungs. You pray and meditate at every "crosswalk" (there are no crosswalks) and hope that "40% of all vehicle fatalities are pedestrians" is just a calculating error.
You take a taxi to town. Instead of a silk market, they offer hiking tours of every kind. You tell them that you are positively exhausted from spending the night playing Shithead in Bangkok and eight hours of stuffy flights on three hours of sleep with little legroom has worn you down to a nub. The streets are a zoo and the buildings are bright and adorned with prayer flags. The world is flooded with people and carts and life.
The hostel owner greets you in charismatic glee. He is happy you're here. All the people you run into today on your short walk (it gets dark and the city begins to unwind. These people go to bed pretty early, whether if by culture's hand or the fact that electricity is short and a scheduled power-outage is about to occur (this is called load-shedding, much like in countries such as South Africa).
You take a cold shower and remember why you love them so much in a city of dust and heat.
You grab a beer from the corner store to celebrate. Because you've decided to say, "screw it" with your budget and prepare for a two-week (or longer) hike in the Himalayas (the climb to Mt. Everest Base Camp is not advised during the rainy season).
You didn't prepare for this so you must search out equipment and medications for scary things like leeches (my God, you think, leeches are the worst thing you could ever imagine, and apparently they hop onto your feet as you climb, wiggling and burrowing to your toes. You buy a lighter because apparently burning them off works like a charm. They might also steal your soul, but that's just your worst-case scenario hypothesis [that is true]). You begin to look for trekking partners who are willing to hoof the bill, which will be expensive (guides go from $25-50 dollars per day). But it's monsoon season and not a lot of hikers, and none who are as ill-prepared as you.
You are wrong and find a new friend, a teacher from Texas by the name of Shelby who is ready to rock and roll up to one of the highest mountain passes in the world.
You wake to lights and sound of a city on fire. You're already sweating from the damp humidity hitting your tongue. You go deeper into it all.
You meet two nice dudes, Freddy and Edgar, from The Netherlands and Spain, and walk through windy streets through tourism shops gone amok with fake The North Face products and tea shops and wats. You end up going to a Unesco World Heritage Site, but it lies in horrible ruin from last year's earthquake. You buy underwear in packages that read XXL, but when you try them on later, in the safety of a private room that was strangely cheaper than a dorm, they cut off your circulation and literally blow apart like one of those Youtube videos of watermelons exploding after a million rubberbands are laced around it. You think about your Thai friends from Bangkok who, after not seeing you for a little over a year, say:
Friend: You look bigger.
You: Like fatter?
Friend: Yes. Much fatter. And whiter.
You vow to do a million crunches before going to bed tonight and decide to tell no one about your underwear. You also decide to get a proper tan to be less ghostly.
You wait to meet Kamari, a living Goddess, but she wakes up late, or something, and you need to go back to the hostel and meet with your hired guide who will make sure you so you don't die on the hike (you still think you might). His name is Lakpa and he will grow to become your favorite person that may or may not change your life a little/a lot.
This is it. You are here and you wonder how it is that life has led you here, pondering about hiking so high (close to 5,500 meters) that altitude sickness can kill you if you don't play your cards right.
In the hostel lobby you wonder just how the hell you can describe any of this with proper words in the right order. How does anyone describe a life and world that is so vastly different? You don't know, but you type anyways. You type because that's what has to happen. You have to get out what's going on in your head - an intoxicating mix of excitement, horror, love, curiosity, and wonder.
Oh, do you wonder.
You wonder why you're here. You wonder who you will be when it's all over. You wonder what tomorrow will bring.
Yes, you wonder.
But suddenly you're reminded that you don't have to.
Instead, you begin to walk out the door.
So glad your having a amazing adventure, can't wait to read the next passage in your journey.ReplyDelete
I love your writing Nick. So detailed one can feel and experience what you are describing along with you. What an amazing journey you continue to live. Thanks for sharing with those of us who only experience through your words and pictures.ReplyDelete
Keep writing those fantastic blogs Nick! Your adventures never tire with us. I liked the underwear story.ReplyDelete