Nepal Notebook – Part 1

Nepal Notebook:  Nepal is one of the poorest countries on the face of this earth. This is a possible reason why many of their bridges there sway when you walk across them.  This is also possibly why they fix the holes left by broken boards in the floor of the bridge with big rocks.  I’m proud to say that never once on our trek did I crawl across one of these bridges sobbing. I wanted to, but I was afraid that would just cause it to sway more.

Attention all Rotary Clubs:  Your good work is seen everywhere. All over Nepal are posters for your polio vaccine program. While we were in Kathmandu, our guide told us he had just brought his children in for their vaccinations. He was quite proud and happy to have them protected. Congratulations on making the world a little better for the children.

Fire and Darkness:  While on the plane to Nepal, I read a book about the Middle Ages called “A World Lit Only By Fire”. Little did I know that I was about to be plunged into one. Once we left the small town of Pokhara for our trek in the Annapurna region, we entered a world of no electricity. It changes your whole concept of day and night. When night falls, the darkness is complete except for the small glow cast by your lantern.  I found that a world lit only by fire was a difficult world in which to indulge my late night reading habit. I found that in a world lit only by fire, bathing was – at best – a hit or miss proposition. I was horrified when I returned to Kathmandu and electricity to find out just how dirty my toenails had become.

Speaking of toenails:  I must admit that my idea of trekking and their idea of trekking were two different things. I envisioned walks across the forest primeval with occasional hills to conquer. The reality was that each day we hiked up or down about 2000 feet over paths carved into the side of the mountains that were no wider than 3 feet and had to accommodate me and the frequent mule trains that passed.  Paths were rocks and stones that had been piled in some kind of ascending or descending order and at no point did you actually walk level for more than five inches at a time. Somewhere along the line I did some nasty things to the big toes on each foot. Since there was no way out but to climb back the way we came, I ended up with a Sherpa at my side who clutched my arm so tightly that he left finger mark bruises on it when we finished the journey out. Possibly he was worried about his tip being cut if he lost the overweight, panting white woman who kept insisting she was ok and he shouldn’t worry. Did I mention that he was carrying two of our duffel bags in a sling around his head while he helped me climb out? 

Holy Men:  I was never sure if these men were Hindu or Buddhist. I tend to think Hindu. They never cut their hair. They wear it in what can only be called an extreme Rostafarian hair do and spend their lives begging for food and water.  The begging business must be pretty good since many of them seemed to have acquired enough from begging to keep themselves in what smelled like excellent marijuana.  It took a day or two but eventually I figured out why they were all so happy to be beggars.

And speaking of marijuana:  Don’t get me wrong, I would never indulge in anything like pot or hash in a foreign country. I saw Midnight Express and it made a very big impression on me.  On the other hand, I would lie if I didn’t say that I was thrilled to know I still looked like someone it should be offered to.  I spent two days on the streets of Kathmandu shopping and received any number of interesting offers from men who would kind of sidle up to me as I examined a pashmina scarf for my mother and whisper “Hashish?  Marijuana?”

Next time – modern conveniences. Reality or myth?