I’m entirely convinced that Nepal, single-handedly, keeps the mothball industry in business. Literally, they’re everywhere. On the sink, in the cupboards, on the balconies, you name it — mothballs. It’s impossible not to get slightly drunk on the fumes, or it’s entirely possible that the copious supply of fruit juices given to us during our three-day mountain biking adventure had a slight hint of brandy on the side. Nobody’s complaining.
…you’d think that I’d be a little more profound in my observations of this country — and I agree: perhaps the most spectacular half-week of my travels just occurred. So perhaps I’m just compensating for something, who knows. ‘Magical’ is a word that comes to mind when I attempt to explain what I’ve observed here so far: out of the cauldron that is Kathmandu — a hodgepodge of quiet streets interspersed with fair-skinned tourists and smog-choked streets — spews a rainbow of landscapes and perhaps the friendliest people this world has to offer.
I’ve always been fascinated by the “niceness” of the impoverished countries I’ve visited, and it’s almost inevitable that the most cordial live outside of the capital city. Jamaica’s Hagley Gap was a little slice of heaven compared to the madness of Kingston; the locals in Bohol and Donsol offered more hospitality in their pinky finger than what could sometimes be experienced in Manila. The towns of Nagarkot, Nomo Buddha, and Dhulikhet were like small rainbows emerging from a torrential downpour of madness that Kathmandu harbored.
As we pedaled through small villages, elders stopped their daily chore to stare blankly at these two strange, hairy white guys being ushered by a local guide — their expressions suggested that their work need not be disturbed and an emotionless gaze was all that was needed to say Namaste. But the kids — oh, the kids! At every corner, we were greeted with a smile, a wave, and more often a thumbs up or a “hello!”. In between gasps for air as we ascended into the clouds, we usually obliged by offering a quick wave and a smile in return. And in all honesty, these little moments were slight packets of energy to keep me on the pedals.
But secretly, I longed to slow to an easy pace, grab one of their hands, and let them run along with me for a moment or two as I offered all the hospitality I could muster, me being a stranger in this completely un-strange land, and they being more gracious hosts than they could ever realize.