Cut It Like Beckham

Trip Start Mar 11, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2006

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Flag of Nepal  ,
Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Just off the train in Raxaul, the town on the Indian side of the Nepal border, we had no idea what to do nor signs directing us until a man approached and asked, "Border?" Nodding affirmatively, he took us to a rickety cart pulled by the boniest, surliest horse ever, who tried to kick the driver each time he was whipped to pick up the pace. At the actual border, we arranged to leave India and gave the official some Malaysian, Japanese, and Hong Kong coins for his collection, got a visa on the Nepal side, and Mr. Barely-Alive-Ed got us to Birganj, the town on the Nepal side. A guy with a travel shop tried to sell us tickets from Kathmandu to Lukla (start of the Everest trek) on Buddha Air, but we declined because we didn't know what date we wanted to start the hike yet, and the fella did seem a bit shady. Good thing too, we found out in Kathmandu that Buddha Air doesn't even fly that route! We met seven Polish trekkers who were looking for two more to fill a minibus to Kathmandu and soon we were rockin' the bumpy trail to the capitol. Taking the scenic route, passing a schoolbus with most of the kids on top, needing to get out and push the van a spell up the hill, and straining our patience with the drunk Nepali man leaning over and telling 6 or 7 different times that he didn't like Indian people and why, we rolled in around 9PM and called Aru from Couchsurfing. Putting the taxi driver on the phone to get directions, we ended up a bit out of town at the home she uses the ground floor and her folks use the upper floor of. Twenty five, raised in Hong Kong, and having spent several years in Paris for college, we had a great time talking with and being treated so well by her family and an even greater time when she (no doubt to her later regret) told us the shower was available to clean our nasty selves.
First thing first the next morning was to book our flight to Lukla to start our Base Camp trek. Next thing next was to amuse ourselves with funny haircuts. We dragged Aru with us to the barber and, when the guy had no idea what a mohawk was, we had Aru translate the specifics into Nepali. The hawks turned out quite nice but at the end they were so befuddled that they had a hard time deciding what to charge and ultimately left it to us to decide. Believe it or not, long-time and loyal readers, this shenanigan was actually hatched by Ryan. I was more than game because I couldn't back at the Lair during the summer due to my Aerospace job starting soon. The idea is now that I cut it off by the fall, but it's kind of growing on me, especially paired with the mountain beard ...
We walked by the King's Palace right next to Thamel, the tourist district, and I tried to imagine what the scene had been like just two weeks earlier when pro-democracy demonstrators there shut down the country with the Janaandolan and nearly caused us to reconsider whether visiting Nepal might still be a possibility at all. Lunchtime arriving, Aru was amazed that we were able to order steak as cows are sacred in Nepal. In fact, earlier we'd have a laugh as two cows just decided to have a nap in the middle of a busy road and cars just steered right around then without even so much as a beep on the horn.
Getting ahold of the internet again, we finally settles on our New Delhi-Mumbai-Dubai-Moscow tickets (as prices had gone up $70 since just that morning!) and had a spirited yet ultimately disappointing search for a proper ATM (trying to obtain a cash cushion should the possibility of Maoist rebel robbery become reality) before heading back home for an all-nighter simultaneously watching movies (In Good Company-American Wedding-Awful Paintball Movie) while packing, considering each pound carefully as we still didn't know whether we'd be hiring a porter or guide for the trek. Three hours of sleep in and it was off to the airport the next morning, ready or not!

Moral of the Story: Add mohawk to monkey on the list of awesome in any language.
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