Words that call you to action, a return to Pokhara

Travel Journal Overview: On any long journey you change. Sometimes you realize it, sometimes it has to be said to you. Here both happened. I was tired of listening to other travelers and their monotonous tales. I was reaching the stage of been there, done that. But, I was about to hear some words that would have be crashing back to reality.

Dye's of color in Nepal (click to enlarge)
Dye's of color in Nepal (click to enlarge)

Dante’s goodbye party had been a success. He even managed to escape the country unscathed. Life continued on as normal at the guest house. New volunteer’s and travelers arrived. Some like a flowery dressed yet funny Italian arrived and were excepted into our little fold. We sat in our thrones of ridicule and passed rulings on all those who entered the guest house.

Hippies would be banned, aside from our new Italian Giovanni. He was too funny to take seriously as a hippie. Any remotely attractive female groups that caught the eye of Madu would also come under loud verbal ridicule. Couples were allowed, but no noisy old gay French men. Anyone arriving late at night could stay. But would have to pass our ridicule over breakfast in the morning. Sangi never seemed to care at our sometimes loud and verbal comments. She had no fondness for hippies either, and always approved of out choices. Mainly because those that were excepted into our little fold stayed for longer than expected.

Independent travelers who made it past the initial screening from our seated positions often times became regulars in our nightly movie sessions. Our core group remained steadfast.

Masses of trinkets and items for sale, Kathmandu, Nepal (click to enlarge)
Masses of trinkets and items for sale, Kathmandu, Nepal (click to enlarge)

Stephi still took as many days off due to a lack of work as Kathy did running from her hillside monastery in disgust at her living conditions. Anna had still done nothing in regards to her study work other than claim the money back from the Nepalese agency she hired to get her here. Giovanni had decided to sign up for meditation retreat. And we were now joined my an other young girl by the name of Rose. A sweet free spirited blond that was as innocent to life as one could could hope for if you were an 18 year old male student.

We insulted the world with our shared sense of humor. At least that’s what Stephi and I had, a similar sense of the world, life and laughter. No one was immune to our daily barrage of verbal assaults. It was a case of if you can’t beat them, join them. Kathy surrendered to countless jokes on the state of her single pair of pants and the host of usual German jokes. evidence aside Anna became labeled as a man hunter and matched up with anything that came through the door.

Stephi and I were fairly immune to ridicule, we backed each other up with fast comebacks. We were all going nowhere. Somehow our core group’s initial plans at volunteering, travel and study all managed to get stuck in the same guest house.

Like all good things they have to end. It’s what makes them good in the first place. We all new this as well. We often put off things that would take us away from the guest house and each other. The non volunteering girls could easily have found new jobs. Anna could have started her studies anytime. It somehow hinged on me. I was the one who was waiting on the weather to change in China. And change it did.

The snow had melted and the news headlines were reporting less on the thousands stranded. On line fourm searches revealed a small group of travelers moving freely once more.

Whats more, Stephi was about to change volunteer jobs. She may actually start to work soon. Kathy was running out of her list of preconditions at the monastery and was planning to move back in next week. And Anna. Well Anna was finally beginning to piss everyone off about starting her studies and never actually doing so. It was a good sign that it was time for me to leave.

Knowing it was all coming to an end, we headed off to Pokhara for a long weekend with the new French arrival Nichole. It was good to be back in the city of Oh Madi Padi hom. We stayed at The Dharma Inn, and thanks to Chubby I got my old room again. Narayan, my old guide, was out on a trek so I was not able to introduce him to the group. Mamut the the young helper at the Dharma Inn did make an appearance though. He had great news as well. He’d been excepted on a working visa to Australia.

A return to Pokhara, the place that gave me the feeling of home
A return to Pokhara, the place that gave me the feeling of home

It was his dream to leave Nepal. On my previous visit to Pokhara he had told me he wanted to work as a waiter in Saudi. This I could picture easily. Mamut was had a big smile and a humble friendly outgoing personality. The Saudi hotel would take him on board and look after his immediate needs in order to put him to work straight away. In Australia though I wondered how the naive Mamut could survive by himself. He needed to get his own apartment, and secure a job quickly. I offered some practical advise, but saw in his young eyes that he was already over there and taking none of my words in.

For the most part the girls headed out rowing on the lake or climbing up to the still closed World Peace Stupa while I sat reading the last few pages of Shantaram in the sunshine. I was still reeling on what Stephi said to me on the bus journey there. While I knew we had a connection, and as any male would I often thought more of it than I probably should have. She announced to me that she saw me as an old guy. Not so old as in creaky old, but old enough for it to have me back down.

Nepalese Pig painted orange - a lot of the meat is
Nepalese Pig painted orange - a lot of the meat is

It’s true. Since starting out on this journey 3.5 years ago it’s been a factor that I was having to deal with. Before Nigeria I had blown it aside. Morocco with the Slovenians and then Portugal with Melissa was enough to distract any man from the age factor. Nigeria had aged me, I knew that. Whether from illness or living there in itself I saw the changes. Or more to the point I felt them.

The wrinkles, were they there before? Why am I wearing shirts instead of t shirts? The chili will make my stomach hurt. Was it age or practicality. Experience. My self denial selects the latter.

What was more evident was the boredom and irritability factor. Meeting people was no longer so much fun. Being taken to a bar was a painstaking experience to say the least. The Busy Bee with the girls was a prime example of good acting on my behalf.

“Let’s get up and sing!” Announced Anna as we arrived through the main entrance.

Bodnath Stupa, Nepal (click to enlarge)
Bodnath Stupa, Nepal (click to enlarge)

An instant fear of singing gripped me to my core. I looked at Stephi for instant support.

Her dark brown eyes squinted at me as if to say you owe me one. “Non, non,” she said pointing and distracting the others. “Let’s sit by the fire before the seats are taken.”

We gathered around the open fire, sitting on ornate chairs and flicking through the drinks menu. Ten years ago I would have tried one of everything. I empathize the work try. Now I look at each drink and think what it’s effects the next day will be. While the girls ordered various multicolored and diversely named cocktails I opted for a Himalayan Beer, Nepal Ice was giving me a mild hangover.

As we settled in an English chap and two girls that Anna had met while shopping that day joined us. It was now that I felt where age was really effecting me. I took an instant dislike to the guy. His haven head and tiny goaty beard along with a loud talkative manner about all manner of subjects rubbed me badly.

The introductions always made me switch off. One m one people had to yet again tell the group where they were from.

As if accents could help the intelligent define a persons rough geographical upbringing…. and well who bloody cares where your from anyway?

Next up was the inevitable opener for further conversation, “what did you get up to today?”

Please goodness may someone say something more than, shopping, or the typical – not much, just hung out.

Kathy offered some hope, “I got some really nice photo’s at the lake.”

“Yeah,” I interrupted the new English guy as he leaned back. “I got some good snaps too. It’s too fucking cloudy though. You should have seen my photos from Dharam Sala…”

Oh bollox another backpacker in Asia going on about his unique time in bloody India. I switched off and played with my mobile phone. Was it my age, or had I heard all these conversations too many times before?

Again I felt the need to say it was the repetitiousness of the conversations we hear was travelers in every hostel, bar, or sight seeing activity that made me groan. It was the longest preamble to what we all really wanted to hear. Who has the best travel story?

We all want to hear from other travelers about the tidal wave of 360 degree toilet bowl torrents they are currently having. About the sacred temple off the beaten path that no one ever gets to see. We want to know about the great secret sights they have found out about, so that we may follow in their footsteps and pretend it was now all ours. And if all that is lacking, then at least we want to here about a cheap airfare website.

No, I had to put it down to experience and not age. If we can get bored of going to the park for a walk every Sunday back home, then we can get bored listening to how a backpacker found enlightenment in India.

Yak butter candles, Nepal
Yak butter candles, Nepal

Still, Stephi’s “You’re too old.” Comment got to me. Are we forced to except age and move to the next level more due to our peers precepts rather than natures law. At the moment for me it was surely the former.

Back in Kathmandu I let my self down again in the current battle with age. Stephi had arranged with the new French girl Nicole to go indoor rock climbing. The idea had me intrigued, the practicalities had me terrified. I had never liked heights, even looking out a two storey window can give me the heebee jeebes. The indoor wall was actually outdoors and at least 50 feet high.

The multicolored plastic grips that dotted the giant concrete slab were broken up into 10 vertical lines of difficult climbs. The two girls harnessed them selves up. My initial hope that there would be no climbing shoes to fit me failed as 3 pairs were places before me.

Buddha looking out at Nepal
Buddha looking out at Nepal

The fear of heights aside, I was about to leave. The idea of slipping and breaking a leg, or twisting an ankle had me wrenched fast to my seat. To risk the end of my journey just to prove my manliness to a girl who thought I was too old anyway?

I swallowed my male pride, ego and aspirations and flat out refused. I settled on the excuse that I did not trust Nepalese engineering and that the bolts holding the whole climbing range looked very rusty. I saw the look on the girls faces. They tried to hide the “are you a man” look, but I couldn’t help but see it etched permanently in their minds.

I sat back and photographed them as they both made it up the easy 1st section. The idea of climbing up 50ft feet with only a rope and a single metal hook to save you from dropping to the sound of a hearty splat did not seem appealing.

The second section was much more difficult for them and nether managed to make it. This was the only time I felt a desire to try, where others failed I wanted to succeed. It was too late though, the day was over and I had indeed failed. Whether I had failed either myself, or the two girls I didn’t quite know. A little of both I would say. All I did know was that my high on being in Nepal was dissolving all around me.

Because of the words, “Your too old.” I was floundering again in what I thought I had discovered years ago. Self discovery. Who was this ‘old’ guy I now saw in the mirror every morning?

Some related links on this website that  you might like: (including a lot more photographs from Nepal)

Stories: Talika the twelve year old miner from Nepal

Stories: NGO’s in Nepal & Developing Countries

Resources: How to Guide – Nepal to Tibet Overland

Resources: How to hire a guide in Nepal

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