14 April – Kathmandu, probably the last post

Yesterday I was so excited about wishing you all Happy Nepali New Year, I forgot to tell you about our trip from Chitwan to Kathmandu. It took six and a half hours. Distance travelled 106 kms. No we didn’t ride mules. We travelled in a comfortable van driven by a supremely competent driver. That’s just how long it takes due to the narrow poorly constructed and maintained roads and the enormous amount of over-loaded poorly maintained poorly driven vehicles (mostly from India). We passed two serious accidents, both involving Indian trucks.

Today we’ve spent a quiet morning wandering Thamel and visiting the Garden of Dreams. We ate lunch in the European Kaiser’s Cafe there and people watched.

People watching can be entertaining. The narcism displayed by women and men alike is a phenomenon that intrigues me. The women are more flamboyant in their posing but the men are hilarious with the stances they strike. Hands stoking their own thighs, caressing their hair-do’s, adjusting collars and scarves. The women tie themselves in knots twisting their necks, flipping their hair and leaning against shrubs, statues and trees. The “smelling of flowers” posses are some of the funniest. Michel and I wondered if any of them noticed the pretty gardens.

We’re now relaxing for a couple of hours before heading to the airport and dealing with that madness. Those of you who have been to Kathmandu know of what I speak. If you haven’t had the experience – let me assure you – it is tumultuous and like no other airport. Once you manage to enter – and that is an exhausting ordeal, the check-in counters are lacking in modern amenities. The baggage is flung in heaps. The gate waiting areas are completely dysfunctional and the planes are loaded randomly from unannounced gates. Chaos. (That’s why we’re resting now.)

If all goes well we’ll be in Hong Kong in the morning and in Vancouver in the afternoon. The date line allows us to arrive in YVR before leaving HKG.

Thank you for reading along.

Kim and Michel, signing off from Kathmandu.

Happy New year – 2076

It’s New Year’s Eve in Nepal. Ringing in 2076. Yup that’s right it’s 2076 here in four and a half hours.

Like most of our age group, we won’t be awake at midnight. Especially as we are currently sipping high octane Nepali rum.

Good night from a festive, sultry Kathmandu.

13 April – Storm

We’ve just weathered the most ferocious lightning, thunder, wind and rain storm either of us have ever witnessed. This thing put the worst Ontario summer storm to shame. The mayhem started a bit before 5am. I woke to the beginning of a roll of thunder that lasted an hour. Sheet and forked lightning strobed the sky in continuous brilliant flashes. The wind trashed branches, dashing some to the ground. Rain was driven into our open windows and Michel woke to getting soaked. The power was out so we bumbled around in the dark pulling windows shut against the howling wind and driving rain. I had some laundry outside on the deck and retrieved it as it became airborne. Once we had the hatches battened down, we climbed back into our beds to watch and listen to the show. An elephant trumpeted either in celebration or fear. The drumming of rain on the roof and the grumbling thunder drowned out most other sounds. When we got up, as the storm abated, at 6am we discovered one of the resort’s dogs cowering under our outside couch. The dog was soaked and seemed grateful for kind words and a little pat. He’s now sitting beside us – under my chair while we eat breakfast.

Our ride should be here in about an hour. I hope the storm hasn’t damaged any parts of the road. It’s always an interesting journey getting back to Kathmandu from here.

My dad has asked about the young male elephant who was born here five years ago. This little fellow is well, he’s growing a fine set of tusks and is being kept out of trouble. As with all the elephants here, he has two keepers. Unlike the females, he will never be used as a riding elephant as males tend to be unruly and unreliable. It is most likely he’ll be kept here and when the sanctuary opens he’ll enjoy even more freedom than he does now. However, male elephants can be extremely dangerous when in must, so I don’t know how his adolescence and prime adulthood will be handled. These elephants are domestic animals, so setting them loose into wild habitats is not an option. Like horses and dogs and other domestic animals, they need and desire nurturing from their human companions.

That’s the last dispatch from Chitwan.

10, 11, 12 April – Hanging out in Chitwan

Decadent living at an all inclusive after the rigours of trekking is bliss. We’re soaking up the heat. There’s actually a bit too much heat mid and late day. We’ve been sleeping under just a sheet with a fan whirling in a lob-sided, wheezy spin a over our beds.

I’m writing – working on Soul of a Nomad. This is a perfect place to put pen to paper and that is exactly what I’m doing. My note book is filling with crossed out sentences and rearrangements of paragraphs. I usually write directly on my computer keyboard so this more traditional manner of writing is proving to be a messy but enjoyable business. Drafts I of a couple more chapters are complete.

We’ve also visited with Sapana’s elephants, going for a ride one day and walking with them while they wandered in the large meadow foraging for their breakfast the next. The goal here at Sapana is to create a sanctuary for elephants. There is already a lovely old dear, she’s 65, and enjoying a pleasant retirement. The space is available and the shift from riding to walking with and learning about Nepal’s elephants is under way. Michel and I have both been interviewed for Sapana’s Facebook page advertising their new focus.

While I’ve been writing, Michel has been exploring. Yesterday he discovered a crocodile snoozing on his path. There was a pair of pants on the ground beside the croc so Michel detoured around.

We’ve met a vibrant German judge who is passionate about restorative justice. She’s been traveling for six months attending seminars and giving workshops on the subject. She’ll be coming back to Kathmandu in the van with us tomorrow as her bus trip down here was challenging.

I’ll try sending some pictures in a while as the internet here is sometimes fairly good.

First though I’ll finish a second cappuccino. Good morning from Sapana Village Lodge, Chitwan.

8 and 9 April – Kathmandu and Journey to Chitwan

After hot showers at the Hotel Florid, to wash away the remaining trek mire, Michel and I embarked on a busy day. After a lazy breakfast in the hotel’s sunlit garden we went over to Arun’s money exchange for masala tea. He’d come over the evening before to invite us. We sat on stools in the sun, on the street, sipped tea, caught up on Kathmandu news and watched the street open for business. Shutters rolled up with rattles and crashes, items brought out for display, sections of the muddy street swept clean of garbage and the noise level escalating to its normal daytime din.

Tea done we did our gift shopping for friends at home. One of my favourite activities in Kathmandu. This took the better part of the day as we kept going back to the hotel to dump off purchases. Michel ended up buying three North Face duffel bags in order to find the right size in which to pack all his treasures.

We visited a sunny rooftop restaurant three times, the first for coffee, the second for lunch, the third for a before-dinner beer. I’ve bought a school exercise book in with to do some writing while in Chitwan as I find this mini IPad less than ideal for writing.

After dinner I kibitzed with Michel while he packed 50 litres of stuff into 25 litres of bag.

The next day we were downstairs and ready to go ten minutes early and Binod showed up ten minutes early. Binod is taking his family on a school vacation in Chitwan so we’re travelling together. This was a fabulous arrangement. We had a spacious van with seatbelts and excellent driver. We stopped at a pleasant place for early lunch and were in Chitwan before 1:30. Binod and family are staying in the village down the road. We have the bird and flower filled gardens of Sapana Village Lodge surrounding us. Elephants are grazing in the meadow. The steam is in full spate due to heavy rain. The sun is shining. It’s a pleasant 25 or so degrees.

I’m in full relax mode. Michel is off on an exploratory walk.