Three Nepali women in red
Q. How much fun can you have getting from Pokhara to Kathmandu?
Yesterday I needed to make said journey. One way to do it was to go on a direct coach from one city to the other. But the far better choice was to get a bus part of the way, then do some white water rafting and then get another bus the remaining way. Even better though is when you realise there is no organised bus from the rafting end-point to Kathmandu but that the Nepali guys are just trying to hitch a ride for you on a bus going there. And that there's no room inside the bus so you can ride on the roof! I'll admit I was a bit apprehensive at first seeing as the bus/lorry drivers here seem to have a mild death wish but riding on top of buses is definitely the way to go. Although my arse would not agree, I think it was suitably numb and bruised after 5 hours sitting on a roof rack.
Pokhara was also the place from where I'm now travelling alone properly for the first time as Haya has headed for North India, while I am going in a more southerly, beachy direction. Thinking about it I did have four days on my own in Byron Bay, Australia but I always knew that Nick would be waiting for me in Brisbane with both arms wide open.
So it's India tomorrow (touch wood, as I haven't booked a bus ticket down there yet) and off towards Goa and Mumbai. I'll probably leave Goa til last so that I can spend about a week doing as little as possible on a beach before I face up to coming home and do stuff like getting a j-o-b. Eeek.
Oh and now Mark is 23 too. Which means Mark can speak about himself in the third person. Mark had a fun birthday in Kathmandu and went out for an expensive meal (by Nepal standards) which was paid for very kindly by his parents on the now decrepit credit card. Then Mark and a bunch of other people went to a bar called Tom and Jerry's and had a drink or few while the DJ played "classic" tunes from the 70's and 80's. Most of the others were closer to 3o than 20 so while Mark could have pointed out that many of the songs were before his time, he also wanted to live to see 24 so thought better of it.
A note on cynicism. Of course a healthy dose of cynicism helps when travelling as not everyone you meet is always genuine. But too much non-trust can also lead to you missing out on something that you otherwise might not see or experience. A case to illustrate this point was me walking through Thamel, Kathmandu last week. I'd deliberately got myself a bit lost as I find that's one of the best ways to see a city, kind of semi-aimless wandering. Anyway, I'm taking a picture of a cow or something (they just walk the streets here as they're sacred to Hindu's so can do more or less what they please) and a Nepali guy starts talking to me about this and that and walking the same way as me. I'm waiting for him to tell me he's a trekking guide and ask me if I have any friends that want to do a trek. But instead he starts telling me about an orphanage he runs. He asks me if I want to go with him and see it. So I say sure, why not.
All the way there though I'm still waiting for some kind of sales pitch or spiel at which point I'll politely say goodbye and find my way back. But it doesn't come. We just walk to his orphanage, and he shows me round. The kids have just finished school, and it turns out they're all Tibetan children aged roughly between 4 and 11. We chat for a while about things like charities and government aid (of which there is little or none in Nepal), drink some tea and he asks if there's any way I know of in which I can help. I gave him my email address, took his details and said I'll see what I can do when I get home. And I fully intend to.
The point of this story is that I've met countless people while travelling that wouldn't have let the guy get far past an initial hello without cutting him off or saying they needed to be elsewhere. Maybe on a different day I would have done the same. Maybe on a different day, a different guy would have just been trying to sell me some crap. But going around expecting everyone you don't know that's friendly to be trying to screw you over is missing the half the point of travelling in the first place. How do you think Lenny Henry finds all those places that need his help every two years for comic relief? You think he has a large BBC research team doing all that work for him while he sits at home feeding Dawn French? Of course not.