First thing the next day, I bought a bus ticket to Pokhara.
I was totally done with Kathmandu.
The noise, the pollution, the dust and the touts — it was becoming too much. The city was bleak, inhuman, and lonely. I had not met a single other traveler in this city, and my mood was getting blacker by the minute. It was time for a change.
I was sure there was more to Kathmandu than the small slice I’d seen, but I wasn’t going to see it on this trip. The bus to Pokhara left at 7 a.m. the next morning. I started counting down the hours as soon as I held the ticket in my hands.
From Pokhara, I’d be able to see the mountains.
The mountains had drawn me to Nepal. My heart held images of tower mountain peaks, fluttering prayer flags, and monks in high Himalayan meditation. The biggest mountains, with the most rarefied air in the world. There, somewhere along the line, the pearl would be handed to me.
A stupid, romantic idea.
Surrounded by the honking horns and screaming salespeople of Kathmandu, it was hard to see the romance. Coming here just seemed stupid.
I canvassed Thamel for a shop which would rent me some hiking boots. This proved to be a surprisingly difficult task, as most shops flat-out refused to rent hiking boots, probably because the quality of boots on offer was so low, the chances of the product returning in good enough shape to be rented again was pretty low.
Eventually I found a shop with boots I liked. After some cajoling, I talked the reluctant shopkeeper into a rental agreement. She took full payment for the boots, six thousand rupees, with the promise that half of that would be returned in exchange for the boots.
I thought wistfully of my beloved Vasque hiking boots, sitting in a closet back in Colorado. I’d put hundreds of miles on those boots, tromping all across the Rocky Mountains. I would have paid an obscene amount of money to have those boots with me right then. Instead, I took off my sneakers and put on the knockoff North Face boots I’d rented.
Hiking in new boots – even new boots that were properly manufactured – is a sure recipe for blisters. I intended to put several miles on these boots, walking around Kathmandu and Pokhara, and hoped to avoid blisters on the trail. I was not encouraged by the fact that every single blog about trekking in Nepal urged you not to buy boots in Nepal. The quality was low, and blisters were guaranteed, they said.
But it was either Nepalese boots or my running sneakers. A toss up, honestly. I opted for the boots on the assumption that it was better to be over prepared, than underprepared. I bought some thick, padded socks, which I hoped would help alleviate the chafing.
I had the shopkeep write me a receipt. I scribbled some brief directions on the back of the bill about how to FIND the shop, so I could return and claim my deposit.
I took my first tentative steps with the new boots. They felt OK. A little loose in the toes, but well-supported in the ankle. They laced up well, and I was satisfied with the beefy rubber sole. With a little bit of breaking in, I thought, these will be fine.
I idled away a few more hours in Thamel, walking from one end to another, flexing my boots. I ventured into a few bookstores, and found them full of ancient treasures and obscure texts of the sort you could never find in the U.S. I would LOVE this, I thought, if things were different. So would Holly, who shared my love for bookstores. We had both been disappointed when the bookstores in Bali turned out to be full of nothing more than airport paperbacks, beach reading abandoned by backpackers.
That was not the case in Kathmandu.
I bought a book on Tai Chi, “The 16 Secrets of Chi,” for my father; a book about Tibetan Singing Bowls; and “Representations of the West in South Indian Fiction in Translation;” just because it seemed like the sort of thing I couldn’t get anywhere else.
I also bought a Jiri to Everest Base Camp trekking map, and a trekking map for the nearby Kingdom of Bhutan. I’ve always wanted to go to Bhutan.
For the rest of the day I…
You know what? I don’t even want to write about it. Walked around. Ate some food. Went to bed early in order to wake up for the 7 a.m. bus.
As I went to sleep, I had only one thought in my head: