I tried to keep a mental bead on the direction of Thamel as I wandered, but the narrow, winding alleys of Kathmandu soon made this impossible.
Add in the fact that everything looks the same shade of dusty and run-down brown, a the total lack of street signs or even street names, and it’s easy to see how I quickly became hopelessly lost.
[this is a serial feature. Read the previous entry here, or start at the beginning here. Thanks!]
The next day I resolved to escape Thamel.
I awoke with a sore throat and a cough — a common traveler’s affliction in Kathmandu.
The past two days had been exhausting; and without a trek to take, my motivation to go back and tangle with the shopkeepers and hustlers was low.
I strolled over to Himalayan Java, where I again purchased the big breakfast and two coffees. I brought along my computer and researched treks. Remembering the woman I had met in Himalayan Java yesterday, I expanded my search to include the Annapurna treks.
The streets of Thamel were even more menacing by night.
The shoppers, for the most part, had retreated to their guesthouses and hostels, but the touts and drug dealers remained.
With the reduced foot traffic, this made me a much more attractive target. A young male, traveling alone, I must have looked like a golden goose to these shady figures. With the coming of night, the offers had gotten a little more adventurous, too.
“Black tar, brother?”
“Cocaine, my friend?”
“Women? Young girls? Good price.”
[This is a chapter from my travel book. There are lots more chapters posted on the blog, but if you’d prefer to read them all at once, sign up for my e-mail newsletter and I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re available in a condensed form!]
I put the not-down jacket back on the rack, and turned my attention to some other items I needed.
I got a 3/4 zip polyester shirt for $2, despite the fact the sleeves only went about 3/4 of the way up my arms.
The lady also sold me on some glove covers for $1, which I never even ended up using.
I bought a few pairs of trekking socks, and was negotiating for a pair of thermal long underwear, when something began to cry. I looked around the dim shop, alarmed. There was a child laying in the middle of the floor, on top of some cardboard. I was shocked, both by the condition this baby was in, and by the fact that I’d been in this store for about thirty minutes without once noticing there was a tiny human in there with us.
The trek from Jiri to Everest Base Camp seemed too long to contemplate in my shell-shocked state. When I considered the prospect of trekking through rural Nepal for three weeks, alone, it sounded insane, bleak, and lonely. Not to mention, the trek would take at least 21 days, and I only had a 30-day visa. I’d eaten up a few of those days already, and I still needed to outfit myself almost from scratch. I’d been in the tropics for the past five months: I had only a single piece of the I equipment needed to venture into the high mountains — my hat.