My trip to Ghyangphedi, in the Nuwakot district of Nepal with SASANE (the organization with which I volunteer) acts as easily the most meaningful, epiphanic and beautiful piece of my trip. It was also one of the most physically challenging and taxing aspects of my travel (hence the below titled section.)
Trip to Ghyangphedi Part 1: In Which I’ve Never Trekked / Sweat So Much in My Entire Life
Let me elaborate: for myriad reasons, that first day of the trip was the worst day of my life. Okay, I’m overstating the truth, but I think I have good reason to exaggerate. Let’s start at the very beginning: 5:45 am, I woke up to find I was sick and developed a sore, raw throat (I have a sneaking suspicion that it was due to screaming from this.) Another volunteer and I stumble exhausted toward a group of taxis to take us to the bus station, where we’re supposed to meet members of SASANE. At 6:30 we arrive at a chaotic bus stop called Balaju Machhapokhari, and the others were nowhere to be found. I should tell you that I was an extremely cranky puppy that morning, and I had zero patience for the screaming fruit vendors, the general confusion and stress of being alone in a crowded bus station 5 minutes before our bus was supposed to leave.
One of the first days I’d arrived here – I can’t remember exactly when – I decided I’d go exploring on my own. Everyone was still volunteering (either at their hospital, an orphanage, a Buddhist monk’s temple, a school, or a human right’s organization), and I hadn’t started my program yet. I was bored y’all! So I snatched up my camera and peaced out to wander around.
After having been pointed in the right direction by a seemingly kind shop owner in Thamel (who turned out to be a scary harassing grifter later in my travels – but that’s another story) I found myself turning in to a side entrance off Tridevi Marg and into this beautiful oasis located in the heart of the loud and dirty Thamel. Strangely that day I for the most part had the garden to myself – except I noticed a lot of Nepalis canoodling in shadowy corners of the grounds. I’d walk by and they would look over toward me with distrust and contempt. I only found out later that The Garden of Dreams is famously a hook-up spot for couples, realizing that, in hindsight, I was preventing like 10 people simultaneously from scoring. Happy to be a collective cockblock! Anyway.
From what I understand, Nepalis generally frown upon public displays of affection (“PDA”, for those of you who are under the age of 35), even hand-holding. In that way I liked the idea that The Garden of Dreams can act as reprieve from the social stigma, granted if you’re able to afford 200 Rupees for entry. Frank Ocean’s Nature Feels came to mind as I was walking through, feeling like a peeping tom spying on Nepalis making out. I would totally go again, but maybe next time with some friends and not alone like a pervert.
Til next time!
Part 1: Endless Rolling Hills
Hurtling forward through bleary-eyed pedestrians, past trash, underfed animals onward to the platforms of rice paddies, the tallest statue of Shiva, innumerable “mountain resorts” promising beautiful views of the hilltops (despite the rainy season contradicting such a promise with its accompanying fog.) We were on a bus, 6:08am, heading toward our adventure – swinging our bodies down through a canyon with nothing but ropes, elastic, some metal fastenings. The bus ride there would take 3 hours, they told us. My friends are sleeping but I don’t want to miss this ride, the small bits of Nepal beyond Kathmandu that I’d be seeing. I have seen children looking out the windows of worn, faded, crumbling brick houses. I’ve seen Ncell advertisements, its emblematic purple iconography, painted beautifully (in its own way) on the sides of small shanties. I have seen dark, lush green plants, my first exposure to these flowers, the trees. I have basked in their speckled shadows that bleed in through the bus windows. Houses built precariously on the edges of the earth.
I’m kind of doing these posts out of chronological order, but I decided to start with a good story from last weekend. The plan was for all of us (the volunteers living in the house) to make a trip to Bhaktapur, an old town resting within the larger bustling Kathmandu metropolis on our day off. There were no defined plans apart from this; we kept saying, “Let’s just take it easy today, we’ll just go with it.” Divided into two groups, we set off to find taxis which would take us to a main bus station nearby, and from there we established we’d find each other and carry on to Bhaktapur. No such thing happened! My group – myself and three other girls – arrived at the bus station, which was bigger and more chaotic than we’d anticipated. Naively I had believed that it was going to be manageable, that we would just immediately find our other group. Instead we stood at the mouth of tightly stacked old buses, fronted by young boys shouting in Nepali the stops and destinations for their vehicle in hopes of attracting more passengers.