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The Journey to Kathmandu, Nepal and First Impressions

Last glimpse of Africa - Zambia

Beetle at the Livingstone Airport in Zambia.  My last glimpse of Africa.

Solo again, it was a long journey from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to Kathmandu, Nepal.

From Victoria Falls, it was a five-minute cab ride to the Zimbabwe border where I officially departed the country.  Next, I took another cab through the no man’s land between the Zimbabwe and Zambia borders.  I reached the Zambia border and got a visa.  Once processed, another cab took me into Zambia and to the Livingstone Airport where my first flight departed.

A huge beetle crossed my path outside the airport.  My last glimpse of amazing Africa.

From there I took flights to Johannesburg, then Hong Kong, and then Bangkok where I stayed the night.  Finally, I reached Kathmandu the next day – my head in a bit of a spin.  A week after arrival, I still wake up confused about where I am.

Flying into Kathmandu was an experience.  The terraced mountains and the ticky-tacky houses that seem randomly scattered inspired me.  I’d never seen anything quite like it.  What experiences await me down there?!

After landing, there was quite a delay before I saw a red carpet being rolled out onto the tarmac.  Nepal’s Prime Minister was on board.  He was swiftly carried away in a fancy car.  With an extensive entourage.

The cab ride into town was insane with traffic flowing in every direction, the cab coming within inches of other cars, cows, monkeys, and pedestrians.  Never have I seen so much vibrant color and chaos.  I love it!

My hotel sits across from a construction zone.  New hotels are going up all around.  There is no heavy equipment for building.  Men, women and children labor, carrying bricks, sheet rock, and gravel on their backs or on their heads.  I see a boy leave the construction site and sniff glue – I’m told it takes away the hunger and pain.

Kathmandu

Kathmandu

The hotel owner makes me aware of the energy shortage in Nepal.  Years and years of tumultuous politics has Nepal, a country so rich in resources, on it’s knees.

Every day, there are hours and hours without electricity during “load shedding”.  There is a schedule for this shut-off but it’s not always followed.  Fuel also frequently runs out.  Safe drinking water is in short supply for all but the tourists who can afford bottled water.

Over the next few days I walk around the Thamel district, which is the tourist zone.  Dirt streets without sidewalks ensure that walking is a thrilling and death-defying experience with cars, rickshaws and bicycles nearly running over my feet.

Dogs are sleeping everywhere.  Ancient-old women wash their blankets in a public fountain.  Rickshaws painted in vibrant colors whiz by.  I hear so many sounds I can’t identify.  Stimulation comes from every direction.

Oddly, amidst all of this chaos, I feel safe.

I got in touch with Kaji Sherpa, a guide who I have been communicating with for months.  I got his name from a couple I met in Cambodia.  During our first meeting I approached him with an idea of my itinerary and expected to get down to business planning – in a very Type-A, American style.

It didn’t take long for me to realize this was not going to work the way I had expected.

First, he suggested we talk at the local cafe, over tea.  Then we walked to a travel agent.  Along the way we stopped to visit his shop-owner friends, having a chat at each place.  Our time at the travel agent, to buy a plane ticket, took a looong time – coffee was served and silence as well as chit-chat was plentiful.  Then, there were other offices to visit and other chats to have and so many hours were passing and…

Never have I been so aware of my need for speed.  I need to change.  And accept what is.  Maybe the Nepalese are on to something.

Within days of arrival I got sick with cough and congestion.  The air quality in Nepal is ranked third worst in the world.  And I can feel it.  The dust and industrial pollution gets trapped in this bowl called Kathmandu Valley.

Tomorrow, Kaji Sherpa and I travel to Pokhara, Nepal by plane.  I’m hoping for better health and the realization of our plan: to trek for ten days in the Annapurna region before I return to Kathmandu and await my mother’s visit.   Exciting days ahead!  And behind!

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