I'm getting way behind on this blog but to keep you up to date, since the last trek I've mostly been been back in Kathmandu. Had a chance to attend the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival which featured a couple of excellent documentaries about Nepal. Sari Soldiers was one in particular to keep an eye out for. It's the story of the Maoist uprising as told from the experiences of 6 women all on a different side of the conflict.
After that I had a chance to walk around the hills immediately outside the capitol. The start of this walk was a disaster. I walked to Kakani which turned out to be both the most expensive place I've been to so far but also more importantly the least friendly. I was so put off by the place I walked to a bar by the side of the road and put up with drunk police and electricians trying to kiss my hands and cheeks for several hours just to escape the surly hotel owners! Fortunately the woman who owned the place was nicer than her customers and let me sleep in the bar after it closed. After that the walk became a series people offering me nothing but hospitality.
Since then I've been back in town getting ready for the short-ish walk to the town of pokhara 200 kilometers west of Kathmandu. This is the heart of the beaten tourist path so I'm interested to see the differences between traveling here vs the eastern region of the country.
The various political parties have selected April 8th as the date for the next elections after they were postponed from this past November. This doesn't mean they will definitely happen on the 8th as they were easily postponed last time but it's an event that I'm trying keep abreast of as the general state of lawlessness in the country keeps getting worse. For example while I've been here they have had to pass a law making kidnapping illegal, as it has started to become a real problem. Actually it has always been a problem for women but that has been historically classified as "human trafficking" so until recently kidnappers faced ridiculously light sentences.
The far western region, the least visited area of the country and last section that I would be walking through has been for the last two months experiencing a severe food shortage that is causing people in remote villages to face starvation if they do not leave their homes. If the situation hasn't improved buy mid February when I am hoping to go I may have delay that portion of the walk until another day. Having already visited the far western region twice I know how little food is available even without a famine. We will see.
Otherwise the capitol chugs on with fuel shortages and power outages. I recently found out that a former U.S. ambassador to India had described the place as a "functioning anarchy". My impression Nepal is slightly different, that of civilized chaos. It's doesn't just function but is a pleasant place despite having the initial appearance of pure chaos.
1)Low budget historic preservation. The businesses can stay but they house may have to go.
2)Big budget historic preservation. The prince had to go but the house can stay.
3)This photo of a photo at the China-Tibet photo exhibit is of Lhasa, the capitol of Tibet but they could just as easily be of Kathmandu. The pace of development is almost exactly the same.
4)After biting me she stuck her tong out at me! The crazy cow of Naxal.
5)Dhal Bhat at it's finest!
6)Just another Buddhist monastery...