15 January 2008

Naughty Russians

I have just been informed that in 30 minutes, the Internet service in Pokhara will be shut down from the main server in Kathmandu, so I have to type fast.

After my last update, I headed to the next hot spring town on the agenda: Jhimu. The hike from Ghorepani was actually as difficult as advertised, so I took two rest days sitting in the lovely hot waters, set in three natural pools by the river. My next endeavor was to visit the Annapurna Base Camp (A.B.C.), a 4000 meter outpost at the cold, snowy end of a steep valley, and come back. One woman who hiked it in seven days (four there, three back) said this schedule was typical, but if I had to, I could probably go up in three days and come back in two. On the second rest day, I asked a guide--just out of curiosity, mind you--how long it would take to hike up to Macchupucchere Base Camp, an hour out of the A.B.C. He said it was impossible to do it in one day, that it would take more than 14 hours. Well, he didn't realize that I'm an American, and I don't know the meaning of the word "impossible"! So up I went (9.5 hours) and back I came (7.5 hours) in two days (with diarrhea!), and I'll never be able to tell him about it. While at the A.B.C., I enjoyed 360 degrees of outrageously stupendous views. The Himalayan mountains were so close, I was positive I could just touch the peaks from where I stood, a mere 2000 meters below. I felt this made up some for skipping the world's largest pass.

After another day relaxing in the hot spring, I returned to Pokhara (ah, semi-hot instead of only quasi-hot showers again!), where I have already prepared to escape again to parts south. I have finally traded in my China travel guide for India (Indian friends--I will be contacting you soon!), and I sold back my sleeping bag. Naturally, the guy who first sold it to me and promised to buy it back for 50-70% of what I paid only offered me 33%. He actually pulled down stuffing out of a small hole (can't you do that to anything stuffed with down, new or used?) to prove it was damaged, though I'd only used it four or five times. Rather than pull the stuffing out of him, which I'd have enjoyed, I suppressed my anger, pleasantly declined his offer, and ultimately sold it elsewhere for more.

At M.B.C., I met a lovely brother and sister team from a small village outside of Oxford (called Little Worth, ha ha). Uncannily enough, the brother's name is Steve. he studies Sociology, and he happened to have a book about Jacques Lacan by Slavoj Zizek, which he kindly permitted me to peruse. Even more uncannily, his last name is "Kurd" (mine is Polish for "cheese"), and his middle is James (mine's Joseph: is that uncanny?). Well, the Sociology and Lacan bits will only make sense if you know me really well. Anyway, we've met for drinks and chatting a few times in Pokhara, and the two of them (who live together!) invited me to crash in Oxford if I come round. This evening, I made up for days and days (can't really say weeks) of bland trail food with a blowout Indian dinner that cost me almost, but not quite, $10. This included a 2-for-1 cocktail offer, which I naturally took advantage of. Just as naturally, the drink I ordered two of from the list of ridiculously-named options was the "Naughty Russian." They weren't very good, but at least they got me half drunk.

It looks like I'm out of time, so I suppose I'll just half-drunkenly amble off to bed. I must wake up at 5 am to catch the bus to Tansen, the little town halfway between here and Lumbini (Buddha's birthplace), my next major destination.

Good night, my friends.

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