Our return to Pokhara from the trek marked the start of a week long recuperation period, in which I medicated myself with the foul-tasting Megapen and its companions, and Ben likewise availed himself of the restorative powers of Nepalese cooking rum, and the powerful roadside herbs he’d collected on the trek. That is until the fateful day we decided to hire a pedalo with Pierre and Sophie.
Ben and Pierre took the lion share of the pedaling duties, and also the heavy burden of drinking a litre of rum between them. By the time we made it back to shore (having pedaled the back waters of Phewa Lake until we were sure we were in Vietnam) it was dark and the boys were convinced another bottle of rum was the best way to round off a good day’s piracy. I disagreed and retired to our hotel to enjoy the evening powercut. Ben appeared several hours later, minus his bag and the various useful things within it, and plus some nasty scrapes on his face and arms. Having lost his medicinal herbs and gone off rum somewhat, our final day in Pokhara was somewhat more sober.
And so on to Kathmandu! Now I’ll admit, that on first acquaintance, I wasn’t much disposed to like Kathmandu. Even before I got there, I’d heard numerous times what an unpleasant, noisy, crowded metropolis it was, calling to mind my dislike of Delhi. And once we’d arrived and checked into the cheapest hotel we could find (a two pound a night crack den, sporting de riguer student hippy graffiti) I was convinced that the naysayers were on the money. Having come from fresh mountain air, the pollution of thousands of motorbikes winding the streets was a physical slap. But much worse was their noise – horn-honking communication is a part of the highway code in Nepal and India, so much so that many buses and trucks have “Blow Horn” painted on the back as part of their fantastic paint jobs. Aftera day of wandering the streets I had a raging headache and Ben and I were plotting our escape.
That said, after the first tiresome day, we moved to a quieter and cleaner hotel, and started to find some of the city’s hidden gems. Practically every corner of Kathmandu has a small shrine or temple on it, littered with incense stubs and wreathed with marigolds. The soaring pagodas of Durbar Square had seemed on the verge of ruin the first time I saw them, but when the grey clouds finally broke and the sun shone, I saw the city in a happier light and fell for the steep buildings with their fluttering red and gold trims. Also, it may have helped that Ben found our new favourite cafe, Cameleon. The decor was cool, the food was tasty, and they played the best Hindi music we’d heard since arriving in the subcontinent (one tune with a kind of seventies car-chase music feel had us bopping in our seats for a good 5 minutes).
We also discovered the Snowman cafe, which served up slices of the most delicious cakes imaginable. We took Sophie and Pierre there for breakfast one morning, where Pierre indulged in two slices of cheesecake for breakfast, and Ben ordered the “Chocolate Love” – a rich, almost brownie-like chocolate cake that appeared to be iced with chocolate mousse. Now Ben is not really much of one for sweets, particularly rich chocolate, so naturally I thought I’d be getting a certain amount of that cake myself. I did not anticipate Ben polishing the whole thing off, and entering into a chocolate-induced hyperactive state that he insisted could only be cured with a slice of apple pie. I was worried his head would explode, but sure enough the apple pie seemed to set him on a fairly even keel again.
After breakfast we bid a fond farewell to Sophie and Pierre, and headed off to catch our bus to the border. With seventeen hours on a bouncing, spine-crippling Nepalese bus ahead of us, we felt that provisions were necessary. And those provisions were valium.