I’m back. Lots to write, since my free time and Internet access have been limited for the last few days.
I’m back in Kathmandu, back staying at the Mountain Fund house for now, and back at the Rum Doodle for a late lunch of chicken momo (not their best work, honestly). This morning I read a bit then went to Pumpernickel for second breakfast. Breakfast at the house is always light, good for an initial snack but just that. From there, I did just a little shopping and visited the Garden of Dreams between the abandoned palace (now a museum) and the entrance to Thamel.
After I last wrote, feeling sunburnt and exhausted, I made up my mind to leave the farm for Kathmandu on Thursday morning, early. Then, this being Wednesday night, volunteers Morgan (UK) and Sam (Canada) showed up on the back of the local delivery truck. This is the same truck we loaded with gravel that morning, returning just after sunset with supplies of cement, rebar, corrugated steel roof and other building materials. Despite their youth and being a bit burned out on culture shock, their arrival changed my mind about leaving.
So Thursday morning dawned, and we prepared to get back to work on construction. Power had been knocked out Wednesday night by a wind/rain storm, so I boiled some water on my little stove to pour through the coffee machine (lest Scott go on strike for lack of coffee) and into my packet of dehydrated eggs and ham (lest I pass out from another delayed Nepali breakfast). While we were going through those Western morning preparations, we were ordered up the hill. Attempted to demur for a few minutes, but it turned out there actually was a rush this time: one wall had partially fallen during the night and needed to be repaired.
Actually, it had been pushed over, probably by a curious teen who really intended no harm but happened to push on a tall, completed wall that had gotten a little out of plumb as it was built and that didn’t yet have supporting rebar pounded into it. The rebar and upper concrete pour having been planned for mid day, we had to rush to rebuild the wall, fixing its alignment as we did so.
That went quickly. We moved on after lunch (5 pm) to concrete work, helping form up and pour the upper concrete ring beam. I’ll just say it wasn’t the size or consistency I was expecting, using temporary forms consisting of people holding up 2x6s on both sides of the wall while others mixed concrete and shoveled it onto trays, which were carried to the site and handed up to be poured into the “form.”
It was slow going in a way, torturously so. On the other hand, since the project wasn’t so much done in phases as sort of all at once, with many things going on at once in what seemed, to us, a haphazard manner, a lot got done each day.
Okay, I took an afternoon break from writing and visited Durbar Square. I had missed that last time around. Now I’m checked into the Hotel Nana, where we ended our trip then. It’s not great, but it’s cheap, in the heart of Thamel and features a killer rooftop deck that opens into common areas on the floors below. Also, in the same building is Tom and Jerry’s, where I’m enjoying Khukuri and Coke and waiting for cheese momo while listening to “I’m Not Ready to Make Nice” and now “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”
No mountains in sight, but I’m happy as hell to be here. Tomorrow is a citywide general strike, or bandh, that will cripple transportation. I’m best staying Thamel for a couple nights, probably leaving for Pokhara on Monday.
Back to the farm story: So we worked as much as white-humanly possible on Thursday, then set up two tents at the building site, which is some distance from the existing houses. We were hoping to dissuade any more curious kids from pushing on walls for another night til they could get the concrete poured, though the vertical rebar had been pounded into the walls during the day.
Night of tent camping was nice. I slept like a baby, of course. Tried to read but zoned out immediately.
In the morning I made some backpacker oatmeal for myself, then the two volunteers woke up, and the three of us headed uphill. We were heading toward mountain views rumored to be an hour and half above the village. However, the route we took was faster than that, and we sat our asses on the ridge about 45 minutes later. Manaslu and the Annapurna Massif were, supposedly, what we saw. They were impressive but obscured by heavy haze, there having been no rain on Thursday night, so I hesitate to identify them and took no pictures of their hazy apparitions.
We headed back by another route, a trail instead of a road. I activated my sat tracker at the top, so there may be a one-way track from there back to the Mountain Fund farm.
Goddamn…fried cheese momo is possibly the best food in existence.
Back at the farm, we packed up, broke down the tents and said goodbyes. The people with whom we could communicate, mostly Mountain Fund employees, we will see again. Since I’m not headed back up there, I will not see again the Nepali workers we got to know through smiles, nods, primitivly signed jokes and shared cigarettes.
Sam, Morgan and I then headed down to Mahadavbesi and the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway. We took the road a bit then collectively guessed our way down the shorter but steeper trail network. Success, and no backtracking necessary, brought us to the Namaste Cafe in Mahadavbesi. We drank as much Coke and Fanta as we could stomach, ate some pasta and stepped to the road to flag down a bus to Kathmandu.
The first one that stopped let us on but had no open seats. Nor shocks and struts. Standing in the aisle facing the rear of the bus wearing my 40 pounds of pack and watching the bus roll heavily on the smallest turns, I was relieved when the bus stopped for lunch a few minutes down the road.
Sam and Morgan, being braver than I, decided we would find another one rather than ride to Kathmandu like that. Good call. They found a bus, and I found the driver’s assistant and threw him some rupees for his trouble and so they wouldn’t run after us in our new bus.
The new bus was crazy. A dance party in the aisle. They made us participate, one by one, and seemed delighted to have us. The bus was full of Nepalis who live in Pokhara heading to Kathmandu for a class. They travel this route together once a month, and it’s always a dance party to make the hours go faster. Oh, and they’re a branch of some Japanese faith healing cult. I’ll upload some video eventually. Oh my lands it was crazy. Far better than standing in the beaten-down bus full of sullen Nepalis. Coincidentally, too, this bus took us not to the station, but to a place a couple miles from the Mountain Fund houses, so we needed only a quick, cheap taxi ride home.
A shower never felt so good. My laundry I had to hold until I got settled in Thamel, but that’s in progress now. This time tomorrow, I and my gear should be rid of the tremendous smell I built up in the days at the farm.
Good day today just chilling out in Thamel, seeing some new sights, writing this, booking a room and a roundtrip taxi ride to get my bags. Here I will just chill for a day or two, then back to the mountains.