Back in Abu Dhabi

Flight was on time, so I’m back in the desert for a layover. Hopefully that’s all it is. Working now on getting a boarding pass for my final flight back to Chicago, since they couldn’t give me that in Kathmandu.

If all or most goes according to plan, I should be on the ground in Chicago in around 24 hours.

Kathmandu airport waiting

After a delayed flight in the plane pictured below, I’m sitting in the ticketing area at Kathmandu TIA waiting for the Etihad desks to open in two hours. From there it’s another four til my flight leaves. I could run into Kathmandu for early dinner or something, but the thoughts of lugging my gear around and of getting more rupees when I’ve carefully run down my stash make me content just to sit here and follow the news from Massachusetts.

Saw most of one peak around halfway through the flight out the left window, thanks to open seating. I have no idea which one, and we were probably forty miles from it and just above it, but it was a beautiful pyramid rising above the clouds, more black rock than white snow and ice on the south side that faced the plane.

Walked over from the domestic terminal down a path alongside the terminal entrance road, though it turned out there was a dirt path between their parking lots where some of the locals walked.

So it ends…

I’m at the Pokhara airport waiting for boarding time. Nice second-story airport cafe here, choice of full view of the runway or partial view from the shade. Devendra drove me here on the scooter, saving a taxi fare but putting the fear of dying right in me. That’s my second ride on the back of a bike this trip, and at least this one was on a paved road — and we didn’t drop it this time. I just don’t sit steadily enough to be a good passenger. I warned him of that, and we made it, despite me flying up and nearly off when we hit one dip in the road.

Spent the morning packing and trying to interpret questions from the US parents of one of the other tourists here who had to spend the night in the hospital. He’s fine, it seems, but he couldn’t talk on his phone from his hospital room, and you can imagine their stress when calling his cell phone and the guesthouse staff answers. They speak English well, especially Devendra, but it takes a while to catch to the accent, especially over the phone and trying to ask medical questions.

All of my purchases fit into my main bag, and the Nepali backpack I bought here as storage during my trek makes a slightly more able carryon than the tiny one I brought. Main bag weighed in just under 20kg, so no extra fees for this trip, it seems. Of course, I jettisoned a lot of food during the trip, energy bars along with backpacking meals for my planned trek, and I left my little REI tent behind weeks ago. Since it became an unused pain in the ass swinging from the bottom of my backpack, I’ll gladly spend $100 back home to replace it. Most of my toiletries were expended, and the Tevas I bought here to rest my boots were trashed and smelly, so they stayed behind.

Just waiting now for a Yeti Airlines plane to land, then boarding, then back through security at the TIA international terminal in Kathmandu to wait for my nighttime flight to Abu Dhabi, where I’ll switch SIMs and see what’s built up in my normal mobile account. A somewhat lengthy layover there, then a final, fifteen-hour haul to flooded, Chicago, customs and immigration and the Blue Line home. Sad to be leaving…very much so…but I like the act of traveling as well, so here we go.

Beautiful, final morning

If anything, it’s even more clear out than yesterday. Lovely to get a clear, last look at my mountains before I have to go. They seem so much closer now, even from Pokhara, because of the trek. It’s no longer an interminable series of ridges that stand between here and the base of the mountains…it’s just a few, a known walk, a few days work. Done in health with a little less hurry, it’s even an easy trek.

I will be back. Can’t stay away from this much snow and ice and elevation for long.

This leaving thing

Last full day here, and I spent it seeing the mountains, breakfast, shopping at Bhat Bhateni (new, small chain of supermarkets), mom at Once Upon a Time, a walk along the shore of Phewa Lake, and a nap. It was a beautiful morning, and in the last couple of hours the clouds and lightning have rolled in again, with some light rain.

Yesterday and today I’ve gradually lost the settled peace of just being here, because tomorrow will come so soon. It’s happened in little fits of realization, which I try to push from my mind, with limited success but that have built to a strong knowing that this is nearly over. I wish I could find a way around it, but I have to go back. As long as paychecks kept being direct-deposited I’d be content just to go on living here, but somehow I doubt that would continue long if I didn’t show on Monday.

So, back to work, to the problems still in need of solutions and the backlog of tasks that could carry me through 2015. Back to the land of the constantly dinging BlackBerry — I even get an upgraded model when I get back.

Back to people I miss, the redeeming factor of returning, though the connectedness through this blog, Facebook, cheap cell minutes and mobile data that was absent last time I was here has kept me feeling close to that part of home. Homesickness certainly hasn’t been a problem, and I’m given to it, so I think I have global communications and readying this blog beforehand to thank, along with the quiet peace of this place.

Actually, living remotely most of my close relationships, those with my family, has made me used to telecommuting in that area, and most will attest that we’ve been more in touch for the past weeks with me on the other side of the world than when I’m back in busy real life with nothing much to report. Too bad it isn’t work, instead, that functions that way.

Visibility

I’ve given up the idea of flying in a small plane in the mountains here, because visibility has been really poor for the last several days, morning til night. Even the evening showers haven’t revealed the mountains the next morning, beyond a hint of their shapes if you know where to look. It’s been humid, but also there has been a rash of wildfires burning uncontrollably, on top of agricultural field burning.

But today is clear, and I’m back on the roof. Everything is out, from Dhaulagiri through the Annapurna range. If this is my last good sight of them before leaving tomorrow, I’m satisfied.

Edit: Seems like cheating, but by the time I walked there the haze and clouds would move in. Taking a taxi up to Sarangkot right now to see the whole range before it disappears.

Edit again: Added a photo taken from Sarangkot.

Loving it

No rain to speak of today, but a lightning storm has been moving overhead for hours. Just sitting here at Peace Eye, dinner finished, enjoying the sounds of thunder. The people here I know at least somewhat now, from Devendra the manager and Rishi (sp?) the owner to the tourists from Switzerland, Sweden, Bosnia, England and Malaysia — the ones here for a while with, like myself, no real agenda and at least a passable grasp on behaving themselves in this society.

The last keeps me from despising them as I do so many tourists that cross my path, sitting with the soles of their feet up, eating with their left hand, wearing clothes that would be more appreciated in Europe or California, complaining about everything — most annoyingly, about Nepalis speaking Nepali in front of them (“oh my god, I know they’re talking about me, and I can’t understand…I won’t stand for that…no tip!”). I can’t excuse such a minimal amount of accommodation nor the apparent failure to read or appreciate even the first chapter of any fucking guidebook on the country. How does one justify such a self-centered failure even to attempt cultural understanding or, at least, compliance?

Along with the local Khukuri Rum, I had tonight my first glass of racksi, the Nepali village liquor. Rishi brings that out when his friends visit, and tonight I rated a glass. Would have rated more, but I’m a little scared of the stuff and don’t want to be hungover on my last full day. It’s a little sweet to my taste, and I’m the only westerner drinking it, so I switched back to rum after putting down a glass. Cool weather due to the clouds and quite a friendly mood among all of the recent regulars here tonight — very nice.

Finished shopping today and maxed out the Chase daily ATM limit paying for that and prepaying most of my final hotel bill. Lesson learned…do those things on separate days.