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A Comfort Oasis in Kathmandu

I’ve landed in a lovely hostel called Dorm Nepal in Kathmandu. The young people who are running it are simply amazing. Intelligent, well spoken and conversant on a variety of subjects. During the time right after the earthquake, they set up a facebook page, took in donations, bought food and distributed it to people in need. They housed people who came here to help for no charge. Al Jazeera came and did a piece on what they were up to and donations poured in – as did the area NGOs – wanting to partner with them, or flat out claiming a partnership with them without having one. Some tried to move in and take over distribution of what they had collected. Listening to their stories made me realize what a truly money grubbing, ugly business the “helper” business can be. They are pretty adamant that little or none of the massive amount of money donated to the victims of the tragedy actually got distributed to those in need.

The reality is, Kathmandu is a pretty fail city and I suspect most of the country is the same.  The earthquake struck a blow, but the real crisis is the ongoing fuel shortage. I walked for 2 or 3 blocks past hundreds of stopped motorcycles and cars to find at the end, a single gas pump doling out petrol at around $5/ liter. For cooking, a single propane bottle roughly BBQ size costs $80 usd to fill. Most simply cannot afford to do so.  Electricity is on twice a day for a total of 11 hours (there are phone apps to tell you when there will be electricity in your area). In spite of the fact that Nepal has extraordinary water resources from the Himalayas, there is an extreme water shortage and none of it is drinkable.

I haven’t had a chance yet to do independent research into the cause of the fuel shortage,  but the locals attribute it to India. Nepal seems to be tightly bound to India (in fact, it’s currency is locked to the Indian rupee at a rate of 1.6 npr to an inr). Nepal apparently passed a new constitution that resulted in a dispute over water on the India/Nepal boarder (I’m not even pretending to understand this yet…) so India has cut fuel supply to Nepal as a form of political pressure.

In spite of all of their struggles, the Nepalese people are smiling, happy and kind. I’m liking it here and I haven’t even gotten out of the big, ugly city yet.

The plan for Nepal involves a lot of trekking. There are multiple opportunities for teahouse trekking – walking from village to village and finding a teahouse to stay in overnight. Most people hire a porter ( $10/day) or a guide ($25/day) or both. If I had more money to go on, I’d happily offer someone employment. But, I’m not sure it’s necessary on the route I’ve planned. My roommate here is a young girl from Mexico who is here awaiting a visa to return to India. She and I will be undertaking a short two night trek starting and ending about an hour outside of Kathmandu (not set in stone yet but I think starting at Sundarijal, staying overnight in Chisapani and Nagakot then returning to KTM). Followed by a 7 hour bus ride to Pokhara, close to the Annapurna wilderness area. I haven’t committed to it just yet, but am strongly leaning towards an attempt at the entire Annapurna circuit trek. Apparently, it isn’t the epic trek that it used to be due to the building of a road to access most areas, but I’d still like to do it, and the road makes it a pretty safe venture for even a solo trekker. I will attempt to find trekking partners for as much of it as possible and might even hire a local for the most difficult part, Thorung La pass – at a height of 17,700 ft.

The net result of a country with poor infrastructure (Nepal isn’t even included in my US t-mobile unlimited text and data plan) and remote trekking is that I might be out of pocket quite a bit while here. Any chance I get, I will at least update Erik with my location and planned itinerary.

– Tara Hunter

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