Nepal 2: We're big in Nepal

We left off as I finally landed in the country I intended to get to.

I was exhausted and learned that I needed to traverse the airport by a crowded, slow moving shuttle bus that was filled with everyone in Nepal, including their women's soccer team (that part isn't an exaggeration -- apparently they'd just come back from winning some tournament in Pakistan so that part was kind of cool...had I not been so tired and squatting on top of my own carry-on at that point, it would've been even cooler.) It was then that I first started to realize that I definitely don't fit in Nepal. Physically. As in I basically tower over everyone like this:
Bill Murray -Lost in Translation
and I was blatantly stared at during the shuttle ride.

After finally entering the airport, there was a whole slew of things I needed to figure out I had to do involving forms and lines and photo machines and passport stamping and there were no pens anywhere to complete the forms with, and long story short at one point I directed all my exhaustion and exasperation at one single man when I approached him with what I can only imagine were Crazy Eyes and asked for his pen. He wouldn't give it to me.

That man is lucky to be alive.

I eventually do obtain a pen and make it through customs and find Kim and her husband patiently waiting, and we head to their house where Christin, the other girl who is on this adventure, has been sleeping because her flight from London arrived at a humane hour earlier that day.

I finally get to sleep myself and the three of us girls get up the next day to start our trip. Kim explains to us that we are arriving right as the SAARC summit is about to take place, which led to some unexpected hilarity for us because Nepal decided at the last minute to spruce the place up a bit for company.
Nothing to see here, just painting the curbs real quick before Bangladesh and Afghanistan arrive....

People were painting, broom-sweeping streets, power washing trees... at one point, our cab driver bursts out laughing and points to a large area of dirt partially surrounded by a makeshift fence of blue material. He explained that the government had intended to landscape that area but didn't get around to it in time so they just put up the fence instead. It's like the nation-state version of shoving your dirty clothes under the bed so your mom doesn't know they still exist.

The summit also caused us more than confused amusement: it changed our travel plans. For some reason no one could explain, Nepal shut down all air traffic during the summit so what should've been a less than an hour flight back from our trek was now going to be a potentially 6-8 hour drive back in an SUV.

Which, I must say, is a heck of a lot better than travelling by bus, as I learned.

And here's where I interrupt my own story to tell you someone else's. Kim explained to us that because most people don't typically travel in cars around there (most have motorbikes - if you saw the traffic, you would too), they often get motion sickness when they have to travel by bus. She went on to tell us of a particular ride she took once, wherein the person in front of her had brought their goat for the bus ride. And that's the day Kim learned that animals can also get car sick, as the goat began vomiting at regular intervals. The bus doesn't stop for vomiting (or defecating...) animals, so after awhile Kim had had enough and asked her friend to switch seats for a bit to get Kim away from Vomiting Goat. And what happens as soon as Kim changes seats? Well, her new seat is by an open window and apparently there are also people riding on top of the bus -- who are also getting car sick.....(you see where this is going)  and all of a sudden: Kim has vomit on her lap out of nowhere. It had come through the window from above. Like magical snow flurries of vomit. She should've stayed with the goat.... (incidentally, I also get motion sickness as seen here, so I took to using phrases like "I'm feeling a little vomiting goat-ish" whenever my fellow passengers needed to know to roll the window down or feed me.)
So we now had a long car ride to look forward to after we traipsed around the mountains. Before we headed out for our trek, we got settled into Kim's place a bit. Kim explained that we'd need to use bottled water for everything -- drinking, brushing teeth, etc. Which of course we had a hard time remembering so we were constantly plagued by the fear that we'd end up like Charlotte in the Sex in the City trip to Mexico. Kim also explains that the electricity often goes out without warning and that while there is a water heater for the shower, there's no way to control it so once you start using it, you better shower in a hurry as it will continue to increase in temperature until you melt your own flesh off. My final initiation into settling in was drinking coffee with buffalo milk as creamer. Kim stopped me before I added it to smell and make sure it hadn't gone bad. She said it was fine.

I sniffed and couldn't understand the difference.

But thankfully it tastes better than it smells and with caffeine in my veins, I was ready to take on Nepal.

Kim took us to all the favorite tourist spots in Kathmandu like the Swayambhunath (the "Monkey Temple"), Durbar Square, and hippie-mecca Thamel. We'd have some time to do more sightseeing after the trek so I'll post more about those places later, but for now I'll leave you with some shots from Monkey Temple because those guys were just so darned cute.

View of the temple from our drive up 

The actual "Stupa"of Swayambhunath 

Buddhist monks during prayer rituals
Our crew
Taken right before that little guy tried to steal something from Christin. The monkeys there are considered holy so there's not a lot you could do. Not that there's ever much you can do to a monkey thief. 

Because: Monkey Butts

Monkeys are a theme in my travel adventures so I was delighted to find some in Nepal right off the bat. We'd go on to see "street cows," mule trains, and Water Buffalo, but that's all later.

One last funny thing we encountered before starting our trek was: We're Big in Nepal.

Like, literally, and also as in we were like celebrities because we are giant pale women.

We were swarmed by what felt like paparazzi while touring the Monkey Temple and what started as a couple young girls asking for a photo with us ended up being a time-consuming full-on shoot where everyone switched in and out to take pictures with these crazy looking westerners.

I stepped away to document the madness

Next post: The Trek Begins.