I’m in a new city, in a new country. People speak a different language and eat different food. Everything around me is strange and overwhelming. Kathmandu is not like other Asian cities I’ve visited. Awkward moments abound as I struggle to practice speaking Nepali to blank stares. I always say I have a good sense of direction, but here I prove myself wrong, getting completely lost only blocks from my hotel. Horns are always honking, bike bells dinging, dogs barking. Wonderful smells of curry or incense waft from kitchens and shops, but are quickly overtaken by pungent fumes from defective engines or discarded food or tabocco. Shopkeeps smile and are friendly, but do a poor job of masking their desperation. People are still reeling from the devastation caused by the earthquakes, but are trying to get back on their feet. Understandably, they are concerned about reduced tourism in a time they need it most, working in a business that depends on it. I pass by one empty pashmina shop after another, and can’t help but feel sorry for the owners who each shoot me a hopeful glance. It’s still monsoon season right now, and tourism is traditionally low at this time, so I can only hope more foreigners will come to the city next month.
I am enjoying the opportunity to struggle and feel uncomfortable. It’s fun to observe my own reactions, to learn, and to grow. I honestly feel exhausted after walking around for only a few hours at a relaxed pace because my senses and mind have been buzzing with strange stimulations.
I met with my trekking company yesterday for final arrangements, and by the middle of next week I should be heading to the far west town of Darchula to begin my trek of the Great Himalaya Trail. But first, I’ll take a plane and then a ~17-20 hour bus ride. I’m looking forward to getting out of the busy city and into a more relaxed, remote area.
Here are some images from the last few days around Thamel, the tourist ghetto in KTM. I can’t upload images from my camera right now, so bear with the cell phone quality!