Archive for September, 2008

16
Sep
08

I can be a tourist too!

I am a tourist

I am a tourist

I can! Really I can! I’ve been here since the end of February and I’ve been fighting tooth and nail against going on trips, seeing temples or doing anything smelling like fun, except for sports or going to the occasional party. God knows why. Or does he? Well, last weekend I did something wild: I actually did something!

Not on my own initiative of course. God forbid. Or would he? I went to Pokara. Which is a town. Dev thought up this therapeutic trip, and we got dutch girl Anoek along as an extra chaperon, so we would have some extra muscle-power along in case this experience would prove to much for me and I would have to be restrained against myself or my fellow beings. She has worked with mental patients or something, so she was a wise choice, even though she seems a bit bonkers herself. It rubs off I guess.

Pokara is about 5 to 6 hours away by mini-bus, and it’s outside the valley. It’s got some pleasurable features: It lies by a huge lake, you can see the Anapurna mountain range on clear days. But most of all, Pokara is quiet and relaxed. Which is a feature one appreciates very, very, very much, when living in Kathmandu.

Dev lived there for a while, while setting up wireless networks in the surrounding hills. When we arrived on Friday night he brought us to the hotel he used to use as a base. One can’t help but love the way it was run. When we arrived we were welcomed by a teenager/twenty-something dressed in a Guns ‘n Roses t-shirt. He was soon joined by his soft spoken colleague dressed in tank-top and sport-shorts. He clearly spent a lot of time in the improvised gym, right next to the reception.

As you might expect this whole tourist business took a lot out of me, so we went for a drink in the tourist/bar area. Which looked basically the same as the main tourist area in Kathmandu, Thamel, but then unravelled into a big string and then laid carefully as one street around the lake.

For the next day we had planned tons: watch the sunrise, row a boat over the lake, perhaps do some trekking… But even wording these plans of touristy things brought my body into wild spasms which left me twitching on the floor like a fish, while my hands were clawing at my throat. After my companions calmed me down with some cigarettes, we decided to do something which was at least related to work: we went to pay Dev’s old boss/OLE’s board member Mahabir a courtesy-visit and watched him being busy with wireless stuff.

That calmed me down, and after that we took it easy: drinking some coffee in this bar, eating something in that cafe. Meeting up with Dutch people we knew from Kathmandu. Familiar faces and routines are important for someone who was the state I was in. Not so much fun for Dev though, who is developing an allergy for Dutch people in general. But it was a worthwhile sacrifice in my opinion, and I thank him for it.

On Sunday, the last day of our stay, I decided to be strong, so that this therapeutic trip wouldn’t be in vain. We went to see a waterfall leading straight to hell, called Devi’s fall. Which is actually not named after a Hindu god, but after a western woman called Devis, who fell into it. Figures.

That escapade was a wild success! I did just about everything right I think. I took pictures of the right thing; namely the waterfall. I also got that half-empty ‘is this it?’ feeling that tourists get after seeing the thing they went to see and they’re not sure if they should linger around longer. We even went to the cave on the opposite side of the road and saw an underwhelming statue of Kali. We weren’t allowed to take pictures there, which defeats the whole purpose of a touristic outing in my opinion.

On the minus side I DID forget to buy a trinket at one of the surrounding stalls, and I’m not sure if I was ripped off properly. You live and learn.

That was it! Mission accomplished! We took a micro-bus to Kathmandu at around one, and the driver was everything I was promised before the trip and nothing like the one on the way to Pokara. He looked like a gangster and he drove like mad. <ALERT!! Animal cruelty > First he hit a chicken and then stopped so he or the crew could have it for dinner. He was really proud, you could see. A bit later he hit a dog, of which he was less proud, but thought was funny non-the-less. Goats and Buffalo’s were left alone for some reason. Cows were spared for obvious reasons. </ALERT!! animal cruelty>

Now I’m home again, and in relative good health. I feel this experience has strengthened me, and I’m confident that in a few months I will be able to attempt another outing, perhaps by visiting a few temples or something. Remember kids: if it doesn’t kill you it will only make you stronger!

03
Sep
08

Bike

Dev got a new cycle today. A crappy-cheap Chinese one, like me. And while the state of mine has stabalized a bit over the months, his problems are just starting. Now I don’t want to piss over Chinese mountainbike makers, but in the 24 hours that Dev had his bike, he broke his back spoiler, and his bike stand became so loose, it moved to stand position while riding; which can have fatal consequences when taking the wrong turn.

Compared to me though, he has a bit to go. In the few months I had mine, my left paddle broke off, my chain broke about 8 times until I got it replaced, my handle turned upside-down every few days, front- and back tire got punctured, I had to replace my back-brake cable, my gears in the front refused to go all the way up, my gears in the back refused to go all the way up, my back-brake connection broke, I had to recalibrate the sensitivity of my brakes a couple of times… that’s all I remember at the moment.

I know all the bike mechanics in the neighborhood intimately now. There are about five from home to work. One tried to rip me off by demanding 150 rupies (1.50 euro), but usually I pay about 10 to 20 rupies. Anyway, as I said, my bike is stabalizing. Nothing happened to it for about 2 weeks. Just this disconcerting noise in the chain. My biggest problem now is the incredibly dusty air, which gets between my lenzes and makes me cry out in pain.

And the other road-users of course who don’t give a shit about cyclers. Point in case: last week, when some guy decided to ram his motorbike in my back tire. With had as a result that me, my cycle, he, his motorcycle and his girlfriend rolled over the road like bowling-balls. My cycle’s only gripe was that its steering wheel was off-centre. My only defects were some blood on hand, arm, knee and foot. My blood unfortunately. From my wounds. I queried my assailants a few times about their state, but they didn’t react. Why I still don’t know. Not because they were unconscious, I’m pretty sure. The driver was trying to fit some piece of his cycle back in place, but motorcycles aren’t made of Lego.

More and more bystanders were gathering around, and I thought it was a nice time to get away, before it turned into one of those demand-money-from-the-foreigner charades. I’m ok now, thanks.