March 4th, 2018
Arriving at night, I was instantly submerged in Kathmandu during the Tihar festival, with strange lights and noises, I was petrified. The next morning I caught a bus to Pokhara, which became my home for 3 months. The first week I kept thinking I miss home. Waking up everyday with clear blue skies and seeing the peaks of the Annapurna range never gets old, ever. The first 6 weeks was like a honeymoon period, trekking the tourist route to Poon Hill, amazing. But the longer lived there the more respect I gained for the people of Nepal. Going to remote villages in the Kaski district, spending a lot of time going up and down stairs always with each a new unique view.
Only after about two months could some of the everyday things Nepali people did start to make sense, many I’m sure I’m still oblivious to. Drinking water for example, people will share bottles but when you drink your mouth shouldn't touch the bottle so germs aren't shared, this took a few minor humiliations and a few sets of clothes to perfect. The constant road sweeping and pouring water on the road, seemed strange at first but in the dry season dust gets everywhere. As soon as you wash your clothes they’re dirty again and cleaning clothes is hard work, scrubbing and rinsing by hand. The small things I loved, eating lunch and dinner slow, savouring the daal and chatting to your friends about your day.
For about 3 months I only knew 1 westerner, it was so refreshing and really relaxed me. I was stuck in the time anxious western world, suddenly tossed into a place where meeting at 7 am became 8:30 (I learnt this the hard way, having an early rise of 5:45), not to say I didn't enjoy the sunrise walk into a lightly smoggy Pokhara along the dirt track, short cut through the rice fields and along the dry riverbed.
Transport became an issue for me at the beginning of my stay, I had to get into town by a long walk or haggle for a lift occasionally, after a week it was clear I could not go on like this. I gratefully got lent a bicycle, it had seen better days to be honest, but this gave me independence. The bike for the first couple weeks became a source of pain and unhappiness, to begin with I didn't enjoy theses journeys alone to think, thoughts came to me at this time of day more than any other time soon I learnt to savour this alone time, it was my own private time. Cycling up and down a dirt road on a bike with 2 working gears started badly, my hands suffered the most with blisters the bled everyday for at least 2 weeks, but now I’m proud of my scars, I went through that and eventually it became nothing, After 3 weeks the bike suffered a loss of brakes, luckily not when I was on a steep downhill. After a month I was used to the cycling, it was even fun and even offered a better bike, I stuck to the old one, I must have become sentimental about it and I felt safe leaving it anywhere in the city also. The reason I started to enjoy the cycling, even in the heat of the day was because anytime I went anywhere I saw people I knew and we’d say hello, this simple acknowledgement of humanity is what made my trip. Even when walking along the road I liked walking and talking to the children who were going home from school, I had the same conversation with so many children but I knew how much they appreciated the opportunity to practice their english and in some cases they took on the role of being my Nepali teacher, if i liked it or not. I will never forget walking between a couple villages with a couple of girls who made me repeat everything they said, I learnt a lot that day.
I didn't stop learning after I left. I kept in contact with many. And miss this place so very much like nothing else.
The language barrier did provide some comedic value, with questionable sign language sometimes necessary. It is very peaceful not understanding anything thats being said all the time, sometimes I tried to guess but this often did more harm than good, with not enough language to communicate properly but people really appreciate any effort made to learn the language, but even learning Nepali. Nepali and english are taught in school, many children then speak to elders in their mother tongue, so often children learn 3 languages.
The bus is an experience you cannot miss here, getting the bus stop involves some telekinetic powers sometimes. Not until my second trip to Nepal did i master the bus system. Once you get the hang of it, its slightly less crazy, comparably to the buses in the west I would take a Nepali bus home 10/10 times, you speak, communication is not a lost art, an instinct that both comes back to to you here and that instills a confidence regained in humans to not be dicks. Get there early to sit, 5 hours on the roof may seem fun, until you are covered in dust and sunburnt, to the amusement of many other travellers.
Another art not lost is adventure, to go on adventures in the west can be seen has running away, not living a normal life, conforming with expectations of western society. Life is not a competition to see who can become be the most opposed to the rules either, competition is part of the west’s rat race. Competition and entrepreneurialism are healthy, in moderation, but those who choose an alternative lifestyle which is qualitative not quantitive are the people I aspire to be like most.
A recent bike adventure riding the highway to Pokhara from Ktm, provided 8 hours to contemplate every peak we drove past. By bike, not bus, the hills and mountains beyond seemed to loom exponentially, you can do nothing but stare in awe, I felt like an ant, part of a much larger system. As inspiring as the landscape here is, the people again were the most important part, followed by the food. We travelled 4 bikes, 8 friends, I loved the new years eve street party in pokhara and going on the lake again. One thing I learnt and love in not only in Nepal but other places, when communicating with people with a language barrier just smile, also dancing is a language for all so make sure you are heard. But the reason I and many others keep coming back isn’t for these tourist experiences. We come back to drink tea on the dusty highway, playing with the cutest dog. We come to eat daal bhat with our friends, and love making them laugh with how we eat rice like a baby with our hands. We come back to see the infectious smiles of these gracious hosts of Nepal.
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