It sure does. Which is why its so important to get up here. There is nothing back home that equates to the sort of experiences you can immerse yourself in here. Walk up the empty streets at 6am and meet folk getting their day underway. Sleepy people collecting water from the community cisterns set deep into the ground. Similarly sleepy people standing under a tree brushing teeth with their fingers. A class of martial arts students who have been exercising since 5.30 am, though some students have been given a reprieve – they get to paste up posters for their school on the walls along the road. Walk up random lanes and watch milk being delivered in tin cans, and the devout attending to their devotions. Some worship at a community shrine, others stand like Daniel in their windows and lift their hands skywards. It is an experience in slow immersion as we wander along that is profound and moving and uplifting all at once. There is a wonder in uncovering how others live.
We meet someone who has the air of the local mayor. He walks though the shop lanes greeting and being greeted by everyone. He is pleasant company and quick to chat. He is tailed by his wife who has dressed for the occasion in bright red laced with gold. They disperse goodwill and good feeling as they drift along and we are blessed by the smiles and good humour they leave in their wake. Sleepy stallholders open up their stalls, but well after the small cafes where everyone grabs a small breakfast first. We join some of them and cram into a tiny café and order chi and a deep fried bread in the shape of a donut. The chatter stops as we squeeze in – we are off the beaten track after all and western tourists don’t usually dine in the street. But the conversations light up again very quickly and we are lost in the swirl of the day.
Our “mayor” had suggested we head to a temple, which we did after a fashion, tracking through the suburbs to an occasionally glimpsed high piece of tree covered ground. It gave us a great view of town but also a glimpse into a wedding routine, the ceremony for which being about to get underway. It’s a colourful event to be sure.
All of this before 10 am. We take a thirty minute walk through the rain to the Tourism Board and get our permits to get into the Annapurna region. A classic piece of south Asia bureaucracy though nothing quite as bad as the mess you find in India. On our return we speared into a local café for lunch – vege curry and chapatis cooked on the spot. He didn’t make chi but shot up the road for us and we enjoyed a spicy chi to wash everything down. All for a ridulous price of less than two dollars each. Oh, and there was a Coke in there as well.
So far we have done a reasonable job of pacing ourselves. I am sitting in a garden down the street from the inn. It’s a landscaped oasis and we have dined here and created a little bit of mayhem in the solitude and calm of the place. We arrived here by rickshaw much to the amusement of the drivers and the slight consternation of some of the team. But they all loved the experience. I suspect the drivers are waiting outside the high brick walls that enclose this place. Its raining quite heavily now and we may be tempted to use them to get back semi dry. We have an early start tomorrow and are off to Besisiihar. In fact that is exactly what we did – there was a queue of rickshaws waiting at the gate and an excited clamour of drivers. Dang, word has clearly gotten around and there are more drivers here hoping for rich pickings than we can offer. Some of the group walk back in the rain, the rest of us jump in the rickshaws and we have a race back in the dark and wet. Its exhilarating and just a wee bit dangerous – which is precisely why we have to do it. We are creating stories after all.
We cast around the table over dinner and asked everyone what the highlights were: the breakfast and lunch meals with the locals feature highly. So too the martial arts class. Interesting that the highlights are the people we meet. I guess it all really does have to stay in Kathmandu. Which is a shame really isn’t it?
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