You've probably read about my experiences as a medical volunteer in Nepal earlier in my blog! As hectic as my visit probably seemed, I assure you it wasn't completely stained with sweat and blood! I saw some very remarkable things in Nepal, in both its landscape and cultural philosophy.
So I had arrived in Nepal, ready for work, on the cusp of a September dusk. I nervously waited as my documents were checked, and claimed by rucksack in good time. I smartened myself up in the reflection of a marble wall, ready to meet the charity agents outside.
I was met by Raj at the arrivals exit. He looked extremely smart, and he is! He is one of the few lucky Nepali people who studies Law. University students in Nepal almost always study Management, which I was told was the only course that is subsidised by the Nepali government to encourage natives to attract business to the country.
We winded through the streets to the hostel. I could barely see through dusty car windows. All I could see was lights and shadows dancing in every direction. All I could hear was the clap of motorbikes and assorted chatter. It hit me that I was on the other side of the world - very very far from home - in a country full of people I had never met before. It was extremely exciting and surreal for my 20-year old self!
I got to the hostel and was introduced to the rest of the gang. If there was one thing I was nervous about, it was this. Not being abducted, or mugged, or losing my passport, but meeting the gang. As somebody who used to have crippling social anxiety, anticipating the meeting of new people for months in advance is still nerve-wringing! But we got along instantly, and went out for supper. I got shown around the hectic streets of Thamel, which was alive with activity on every turn. Not only were there shops and commerce spilling onto the streets, but the party continued upwards, high up into every building and onto the rooftops. The place was so crammed, there was nowhere left to go but upwards! There were disturbing sights, as I saw stray dogs on the street-side that were bleeding, tick-riddled and rabid. Strangers whispered in your ear and tugged you into alleyways, and small teams of prostitutes patrolled, most of which were no older than 13. The streets were wild and untamed; it was a very different, untamed world.
The rest of my Kathmandu stay, which was only two days, consisted of seeing a few other sites. I met Bibas, the translator, whose family I'd be living with for the next 3 weeks. We had some bonding time before we travelled to his home, a good 60km into the mountains.
Now, the buses are a must-see. They're adorned with religious deities and dressed colourfully, like Hindu shrines. Drivers in Nepal are extremely careless, especially so bus and taxi drivers. The Hindu people do not believe in consequentialism. They don't believe that A + B = C ; it is up to the gods to decide your fate. Because of this faith in karma, they will drive recklessly. A motor accident would be the gods' dealing, perhaps due your religious negligence or just being a general cunt.
The bus journey was full of views. The foothills of the Himalayas are extremely fertile and bursting with greenery! The bus ride grew more and more dramatic. As we alighted at the raging river town of Trishuli, we had to catch a bus to Gerkhu, where I was to live for the next 3 weeks. There were complications, as the bus was too full. Of course this isn't a problem in Nepal. You sit on the roof. And we did. We soared into the mountains, clinging onto a strapped-down wardrobe and dodging vines and tree branches.
It was an adrenaline-draining journey, as the bus turned sharp corners on the mountainside and leaned over plummeting cliffs. An elderly man anchored onto my pale, fleshy thigh for dear life as the bus pivoted wildly around pot-holes. We disembarked on a muddy mountain road, and had a short trek to Bibas' home, where I was met by his family. His family decorated me with flowers and tikka dust as the skies began to spill a lengthy rainfall. Because of this timely event, it had spread around the village that I was visiting them as Indra, the god of rain. Neighbours invited me into their homes and provided me with a broth as a holy offering. I was told was made of out mushrooms, which filled me with concern! I passed around photographs of my family, which were a hit with the locals! Thankfully I had no hallucinations the rest of the evening, though I did have extraordinary lucid dreams that night!
The next day I was to start in the medical centre. You can read all about that in my previous blog post HERE! The home was peaceful and completely embedded in nature. It was a haven to return to after a day of work. As soon as I returned I would be greeted with a bowl of juicy guavas grown on the farm. The family had mastered sustainable living! They grew rice, corn, potatoes, mushrooms, millet, squash, pineapples, bananas, pomegranate and even goji berries! They also had their animals for milk and occasional meat, including many goats who loved to jump into my lap for a nursing!
Life was about to get very interesting here, as I explored the beauty and the culture of the local people, and really began to taste their philosophy.
I will tell you about the rest of my adventure in Part 2, where I navigate the mountain jungle and river rapids to find the mysterious King's Palace ruins!