Hello, again, this time from Kathmandu! All of you who responded to my last message… thank you! I just read your emails from this little Internet “cafe” (read: ten computers and a coke machine) in the colorful Thamel district. One rupee per minute for Internet access! (That’s about one and a half cents… let’s see PacBell match that!)
Kathmandu is as fascinating and lively as advertised. It is about 90 degrees, and quite congested. The new part of the city is nothing to write home about… so I won’t. The older part reminds me a lot of Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, with its narrow winding streets crammed with souvenir shops, gawking trekkers, beggars and bakeries. If you even stop for a moment to look at something, the vendor starts haggling with you, and if you say “herdaichu” (just looking) or say no, they assume you’re just bargaining for a better price and follow you down the street. Never mind that you really don’t want to lug an ornately carved scimitar to Everest with you… although it might come in handy if I encounter a yeti!
I am on my own at the moment, because the rest of the group has not arrived yet. I was met at the airport by a sherpa, Mingma Sherpa, who works for Mountain Madness, but now he has gone off, leaving me to fend for myself until the others get in. It’s a little daunting at first, footloose and guideless in a foreign land, but it quickly becomes easy and fun, and I have spent hours wandering about. I am careful to note which way I came and leave a trail of theoretical bread crumbs… I met some musicians in the street and ended up getting a lesson on a small sort of mountain violin, the name of which begins with an S and has just evaporated from my mind. I bought one of the wooden instruments and a bow from a guy named Raju, for roughly ten dollars. That also included the lesson, and permission to record him playing for me, and then me struggling through a C scale. It will thrill the KCBS listeners when I return, I’m sure…
There is some political unrest here, to my surprise. A Maoist insurgency, in the west. A local official was murdered yesterday and 13 of the rebels were killed in response. The British Foreign Secretary was here today, advising the government to learn from England’s experience in Northern Ireland… perhaps not the best example for the Nepalese to follow! Anyway, the Maoists, apparently frustrated by the results of democracy here, as best I can learn, have been making trouble but keeping out of the trekking and tourist regions, because they know where Nepal’s bread is buttered. Or yak buttered, as the case may be.
One last note…the Everest climb is going so well, according to Mingma Sherpa, that the team may summit before we trekkers even get there! The Mountain Madness team is leading the way, setting up the fixed lines at the higher camps, and will likely be the first to attempt the summit, which means they may ascend a few days earlier than planned. If that happens, they will wait for us at base camp, and we will simply celebrate their success with them, and then trek out together. Oh, well, better early than late, or never. They have to take their best shot whenever the weather allows… That is all for now, from Nepal. Isn’t this better than a postcard? (Imagine a pretty picture of Everest here…)