[From November 2007.]
Had a lovely chat with a blind Nepalese woman, perhaps 18 years old, who was being led around town by her friends. She was dressed and made up with great care, and her pals introduced her to us with respect and pride. She is studying history in Kathmandu, and spoke confidently and animatedly about her ambitions. And so I am struck by the palpable hope and optimism here.
After a late lunch we have a long climb out of the valley, our last before descending again into Kathmandu. The heat and our dallying pace, somehow a reflection of the languid embrace of Nepal, makes it so that we don’t even try to press too far. Nor, however, do we have a plan on where to stay. We’re near the top of the peak when the sun is setting. These are moments when I am usually happy to don my headlamp and go on, but the Poles prevail on me not to ride in darkness. Wild camping doesn’t seem on, with the cultivated fields along the road and unclear local attitudes. I smile and shrug; we four have an easy way about us, even when we disagree. As if on cue, around the bend we find a chi chi resort with exquisite gardens, verandas, and views of the Himalayas. It’s clearly for a different sort of tourist. My budget could in principle sustain such a interlude if somehow I could come to think that it wasn’t silly, but my companions are trying to make their funds go as far as they can. Thus I’m surprised at Agata’s brazen insistence that we stop. She disappears into the complex for an interminable span, leaving us to contemplate the ornate outer gates and the painstakingly tended flora in an increasingly inky night. Triumphantly, she emerges.
“We can stay for $12!”
“Each? That’s not too bad,” I lie, given that we’d been spending about $3 per day for the last two weeks.
“No, no, all of us!
Somehow she had persuaded the management to let us stay in one of the quite nice staff bedrooms. We drop our filthy gear on the floor and each claim a bed, with two left over. The hot shower feels like something from another world.