Tuesday, 2 November 2010

3. Kathmandu - Step by Step

After a leisurely breakfast we decided to walk further afield and follow the road that we had driven on from the airport. The problem is with no road signs, tiny wiggly roads and the fact that neither of us has a great sense of direction is that getting anywhere is having to be done with a general sense of "we might get there ... or we might not".

The walk was definitely a "might not". We found our way out of Thamel and started towards this great wall with massive bamboo behind it that both of us remembered from the drive. But about 20 minutes in we had a feeling we had taken a wrong turn. The problem was, which one? We decided instead to follow the wall around in a square knowing that that would lead us back to the start. What we didn't know was that it would lead us through a massive throng of people all waiting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The crowd was huge and there was an aggressive vibe either because of, or made worse by, the many police wielding long bamboo sticks and shaking them menacingly at anyone who was looking even slightly out of line.

We hightailed it back towards Thamel again and decided that without a better idea of street names, even for short trips grabbing a rickshaw or taxi seemed the best way to go.

On the way back as we were standing in a bookshop a young boy about 14 came up behind us and said "miss, miss, medicine?". I looked down at his hand and a rather large flap of skin was hanging off. He kept asking so Trish and I started looking through our bags. The closest thing I had was some disinfectant hand spray and Trish had one bandaid. He didn't seem to feel that our bodge job was sufficient as the bandaid was already falling off and kept standing there asking for medicine and talking to the bookshop owner.

I noticed that the bookshop owner didn't seem very pleased this young vagabond was in his store. Trish asked the shop owner what had happened to the boy and he said that another boy had cut him with a knife. He then explained that he was a "bad boy" and a glue sniffer. Ahh so that explains it. Often, especially during the night, we have seen little groups of young men, 14-18 years of age, sleeping on the ground or sitting looking stoned out of their brains. They always have chip packets and are inhaling stuff from inside. I had wondered about glue but Trish had seen them holding thin shoestrings of something black (which I now guess is rolled dried glue?).

After our interesting experience of playing nurse, I was reminded of how easily here small things like wounds could get very bad, very fast.

The children here are very sweet and vivacious. But they can also bring you to tears. We had seen so many naked children sleeping on the street in their mothers arms with wounds all over them. We saw one little boy sitting in the gutter of an extremely busy intersection while his father watched on. His little sister, who would have been under one, sitting away from them in a ditch playing with a shoe. Both of us walked past and had tears in our eyes. We wanted to just scoop her up and 'save her' but knew that she was just one of many children here who had lives ahead of them we could barely fathom.

We also had our first few experiences of haggling. Basically after you find out the price, you look quizzical and then say best price? They then knock a bit off. If you look like you are going to leave the shop, they knock a bit more off. If you still look at them quizzically they then ask you 'your' best price and on and on it goes. Trish is much better at this than I am (no surprise there). Mainly because she is purchasing larger items than I am but also because she has gotten her head around the currency much better than I have. Anyone who knows me knows I have enough trouble with numbers and conversions at home but here it is completely exacerbated by the fact that the shop owner is standing there staring at me while I'm trying to do the conversions in my head.

I have a currency converter on my phone and a little piece of paper with approximate conversions written on it. But it doesn't put me in a very good bargaining position to have to pull either out. Also I'm converting both Nepalese rupees and Indian rupees so I'm pretty sure I'm paying more for somethings than I should be. But seeing that normally it's the difference of a few bucks I'm not to worried.

We then spent a few hours shopping around and trying to find somewhere for dinner. It seems that we have found two of the best food places around because after looking into a few places from an older version of the Nepal lonely planet that Trish had copied we wound up eating in the same place we had the night before(I also bought the new version so we didn't have the same trouble again). Mainly because both of us were craving their 'Momo's'. These are delicious little pan cooked dumplings and the ones at the New Orleans cafe were soft and crunchy and so tasty that we were both exclaiming that they could be the dish we crave when we get back home. Never again quite finding something that comes near but always looking.

- Finally finding a toilet with no toilet paper and a little bum washing hose that you use instead. I know it seems strange to see this as a highlight but I was expecting it, so I feel like I have ticked a box for experiences I expect to have during this trip. Although I have a feeling that by the end of the trip the novelty of a cold vagina and bum shower six times a day will have worn off.
- The bookshops in Thamel are set up for two types of people. So even the largest has one half devoted to hiking and trekking and the other devoted to texts about spiritual enlightenment. With a tiny section of fiction books for light reading.
- Trish went to the loo and came out grinning. She said she had seen a cake of soap on the basin and began washing her hands with it. Only to realize that it was squeaky not sudsy and that she was washing her hands with a toilet deodorizing block. Hahaha...

Today we are going even further afield and planning a visit to Swayambhunath (the 'Monkey Temple'), Bodhnath and if time permits Pashupatinath. So wish us luck with taxis, rickshaws and generally finding our way home.

1 comment:

Jo said...

Hi girls! Glad to hear you arrived safely. Great idea to blog your trip Leigh, I look forward to reading all about your adventures x

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