I bussed back to Kathmandu.
I returned to the Annapurna Guesthouse, which was just as empty. The owner had kept my sneakers for me. When I asked, he smiled from behind the reception desk, opened a low drawer, and handed them to me, wrapped up in a blue plastic bag.
I would be a little sad to be leaving my blue ‘North Face’ hiking boots here in Kathmandu. We had some memories now, they and I. But, since I had worked so hard to negotiate a rental deal on them here in Kathmandu, I thought I should at least return the boots and reclaim my $30. That money could buy souvenirs for everyone back home.
I swapped the boots for my sneakers and struck back out into the maze-like streets of Thamel.
I had written two sentences of directions on the back of my rental receipt, but these proved to be woefully inadequate. I wandered the streets of Thamel for two hours, looking for the shop from which I had rented the boots. All the trekking outfitters looked the same, and none of them would admit to renting me a pair of hiking boots. Once, I was pretty sure I had found the correct shop, but the woman I had made the agreement with wasn’t there. The young Nepali men minding the shop said no, absolutely not, they didn’t rent boots.
That was as close as I got.
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.”
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.
It’s been a month of Nepal posts! I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to read my story (Read Chapter 1 here). It’s a really good feeling to have your work seen and appreciated. Extra thanks to those who have been sharing on social media and leaving comments. I read every single one, and honestly, they mean a lot.
I’ve been letting my words take center stage, but I thought you all might like to see a few more pictures from my time in Nepal. So enjoy this photo supplement, mostly taken in the Thamel neighborhood of Kathmandu. I will continue to post photo supplements as the story progresses. All pictures and videos were taken by me, shot on an iPhone 6S.
I told the agent thanks, and I’d think on it. I folded up the piece of paper with his budget calculations on it, and stuffed it in the back pocket of my slacks. We shook hands and he must have committed my face to memory, because for the next week, every time I passed his office, he would call out to me and ask about my plans.
But today, we simply said goodbye. I left his office, and headed for the main streets of Thamel.
The sensory overload was immediate, and total.