Back Alleys in Kathmandu: Part 2
For those of you just joining us, I’m in the back of a Toyota Corolla in Kathmandu trying to see some of the sites. In case you missed it, check out Part 1. Suffice it to say, what should have been a three hour tour is quickly turning into an undefined prison sentence on Gilligan’s Island.
I could tell something was wrong when the normally cheery guide suddenly grew serious, stopped speaking in English, and directed his attention toward the driver.
They appeared to come to some kind of agreement when the car stopped. As you would imagine, this was – for me – a bit disconcerting.
When the driver rolled his window down and yelled at a passerby, it was clear he was only asking for directions.
Oh, good! I’m not getting kidnapped. We’re lost in Kathmandu.
They’d decided to take a short cut some time ago, but failed to realize they didn’t know the shortcut.
Spoiler alert: They asked for directions on seven, separate occasions.
At one point, we were told to drive up a hill. As we (attempted) to do that, our tires couldn’t gain traction. Those sad, bald tires fought for dear life. The car used everything it had to simply hang on to the road. Despite the acceleration, the car slid backwards. We all leaned forward and that did the trick! The car slowly started moving in the right direction.
It turns out, the smell of burning rubber is preferable to body odor in a small enclosed space. Now you know.
Finally, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. It was apparent that we’d arrived on a street the driver recognized. He was back to his old lane-changing-traffic-dodging self. And then we hit another traffic jam.
I told the guide I just wanted to return to the hotel. I was ready for a bath, a beer, and a bed. He insisted that we had to stop at one final place. The Boudhanath Stupa, the most holy of all Tibetan Buddhist shrines outside of Tibet. It would be faster, he explained, to walk from there than try to drive back. I agreed and I’m glad we did. It was a very impressive sight, even in the rain. Did I mention the torrential downpour? Yeah, the heavens opened up as we stepped out of the car. My shoes are caked in mud. But I didn’t fall!
As we parted ways at the entrance to the hotel, my guide invited me to work with him directly to book another tour for the next day. He shouted over the pouring rain that he’d see more money if I paid him directly rather than going through the hotel. I politely declined.
Instead, I used the day to catch up on work, write this post, and rest up for the flight to Seoul. I’ll be in Korea for a day before heading to Ulaanbaatar!