Final Days In Nepal

Well, my days in this country are numbered, and I have mixed feelings. For about the past five weeks I’ve lived in the city of Pokhara, to the west of Kathmandu. It’s the longest I’ve spent in any one place on any trip. I did many things there – the touristy stuff: kayaking, paragliding; the less touristy: motorcycle lessons, both beginners, and advanced cornering school; and the hardly touristy: motorcycle mechanics class. In addition to these activities I spent a lot of time processing pictures that I’d taken on my trip, dating all the way back to Tiger Leaping Gorge in China.

This last fact made me realize I need to do two things in the future: think about composition and lighting more while shooting, and to be much more liberal in the use of the delete button on the camera. But much better than that, being stationary allowed me to get to know many locals, expats, and travelers in Pokhara, at least in Lakeside, the tourist hub. I felt like I was able to scratch the surface on life in a foreign country, if just barely, and I am sad to leave.

Now I’m back in Kathmandu and it’s been quite an interesting experience so far. I flew here Saturday, and immediately felt faster pace, the hustle and bustle, as compared to Pokhara, and of course the terrible pollution and air quality – though the air still beats any big city in China….

Things turned sour over the weekend. The Maoists called a country wide strike in protest of the killings of several people, who were part of a large group of homeless living in a national forest, by police officers. In places, public buses that attempted to operate during the strike were burned, as well as cars and motorcycles that attempted to drive the streets.

Closer to home, I was searching the streets yesterday for any restaurant serving food. There were a few shops here and there that were open, but no restaurants on the street. I started scanning the rooftops from the street and noticed one place with what looked to be a couple of tourists seated. I found the back stairs and sure enough it was open.

I took a seat near the rail so I could have a view of the street. A few minutes later, a mob of young men yelling slogans in Nepali came up the street, slamming doors and screaming at any shop owners who were open. The waiters ran over and made me, and the other customers move away from the rail where we could not be seen from the street.

Eventually the mob continued on its way, and nothing happened to the restaurant. By nightfall the strike was over, and businesses started opening as usual. This morning I found out that another strike is set for Wednesday.

I certainly don’t claim to know everything about the situation, or the goals of the Maoists here, but they seem to be doing more harm than good. Every time they call a strike to oppose the government, they just hurt the public. The police and military still function, but the local shop owners are forced to close their businesses for the day. It makes no sense to me.

Well enough politics. I’m moving on, flying to Thailand for the holidays, leaving Friday (as long as the Maoists don’t shut down the airport, as they’ve been known to do). Unfortunately I never made it to Everest Base Camp, so it’ll have to wait until I return to Nepal next year. For now, my plan is to spend a few weeks in Thailand, then fly to India to start the next big portion of the trip.