Protests and a Tortoise

I loved trekking. It was no surprise, really. I love hiking so it was only logical that I would love doing it on the relative long term.
But towards the end, I was burnt out. There was a time when I was sitting in the dining hall at Ghorepani and suddenly the mountains, lit a hazy orange by the setting sun, reappeared from behind the clouds.
It looked like how I imagined heaven as a child.
And I was so tired that I couldn’t motivate myself to go get my camera so I could take a picture of it. I told myself that the beauty would not be captured – and it wouldn’t have. But really, I have so many pictures of the mountains1 and I was just so physically tired that I couldn’t even motivate myself to move to a place in the hall where I could have a better view.

When we got back to Pokhara, Michelle, Tess and I looked for rooms together and we ended up back at the Butterfly Lodge – they split a room next door and I relished some me-time (Something I have been stockpiling for Europe). My plan was to recover on the 20th and go paragliding on the 21st. Except on the 20th, the first of several strikes happened so everything, including the paragliding offices, were closed. So I could not book paragliding, but I had pretty much decided that I didn’t want to spend €100 on it anyway. Pokhara was a ghost town with the strike – even the places that catered exclusively to tourists were closed or at least shuttered. I found places to eat, but they were usually shuttered ones where I had to find another entrance and ask if they were open.
I heard rumors of the strikes adversely effecting bus travel and the possibility of me not being able to get to Kathmandu if I waited too long.

So I booked a bus ticket to Kathmandu, to be closer to the airport so as to not risk being stranded on the other side of the country when it was time for my flight out.

The protests are against the Maoist government, which is taking its sweet time presenting a constitution. They have delayed its presentation once again, when it had been set for the 28th of May. (I am under the impression that the 28th will have the biggest protest and I am grateful that I fly out on the 27th). So everything was closed on the 20th. On the 22nd, I took a bus to Kathmandu, only to arrive amidst more protest.

Only here, it’s a bit more serious.

The bus dropped me off in a part of the city I was not familiar with, and everything seemed even less familar because all the stores are shuttered or gated and so few people were on the streets of Thamel (the tourist district of Kathmandu).
Except for swarms of police in their blue cameo and mob control gear.

I got a bit lost and acquired directions from a Nepali little person (as in, less politically termed as a midget) who gave me possibly the clearest directions I’ve ever gotten in South Asia (the people here are not very good at simply saying that they don’t know and would rather just point you in a direction, even if they haven’t the slightest clue). I took a cute little single room in the dead center of Thamel – my own bathroom, dresser, and balcony for 500 ruppes a night (something like $6.50. Which is a splurge, actually). My late lunch was an amazing grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup that I throughly enjoyed while watching a random tortoise lumber across the floor of the cafe.

Elsewhere in Kathmandu, “…thousands of people invaded the streets… cars were set on fire, and traffic was brought to a halt. Government buildings and businesses were forced to close.” (asianews.it)
But I, I had my helpful little person, grilled cheese, an out of place tortoise in a quiet cafe and later, steak2 and beer with Marius and Catalin.


1 Speaking of which, my SD card reader is having technical problems. It might be awhile before I can post pictures.

2 My first red meat since January. It was glorious.

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