Monday, June 16, 2008

Nepal 2.0

On Wednesday King Gyanendra of Nepal stepped down from the thrown. On Saturday the palace was occupied by those who had peacefully deposed him. Saturday was also the day we, a Tamilian, a Canadian, Georgian, Coloradan, and Californian, arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal on Yak Airways.

We had spent one previous day slicing through the misty green hills of Pokhara atop motos, occasionally catching glimpses at nearby Fishhook, and the wall of the Annapurna Massif. We had hiked to an incredible vista over Pokhara Lake up an arbitrary trail through small Nepali villages. 8000 meter peaks are globally rare, but they frequently loom in Nepal, sentinels that stand broadly above the clouds. A day along the beautiful lake shores, and we were ready for a return to the diversity and pace of Kathmandu. Visiting a friend's former host family on the outskirts of Kathmandu, we found local hospitality warm, and smiles wide. We meandered through Pashupatinath Temple, where wafting ash in the monsoon sky told of passing lives on the burning ghats.

We toured Bhaktapur, a preserved city on the outskirts of Kathmandu, and ate plates of water buffalo momos (steamed meat dumplings) off the street for less than a quarter dollar. For fifty rupees we helped a weathered Nepali man spin a pot from clay on a slimy spinning wheel. And we cashed in Starwood points to spend a night at Le Meridien Gokarna Forest Resort and Spa, utilizing the innumerable amenities and smoking hookah into the rainy night on sheltered wicker chairs by candle-light in the King's forest.

On our final day, taxi strikes meant that we had to convince a private tourist taxi to return us to the airport. We set off cautiously, but within 3km of the international airport, perpendicular busses, abandoned cars, and loitering locals blocked our path. Our driver refused to go on, and with circumspection I discretely slipped a wad of Nepalese rupees into his hand amidst the protesting taxi drivers. With an hour until our flight we began running through the protest until we eventually found a pioneering and capitalistic taxi driver who, for double the price, agreed to drive us on the other side. In a confident push through airport logistics (entry, airport tax, boarding pass, baggage, customs, and security), we made our flight.

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