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Up on the roof

Sunday 23rd April
Chillin' in Kathmandu

The next thing I know, it is 6am, and apart from a slight headache, I feel fine. While Liz sleeps I investigate the bathroom facilities. Turn on the hot tap. Seems promising at first, but soon the lukewarm water turns icy-cold. Turn on the cold tap. Also feels promising at first, but then it also turns icy cold. I check out the bath / shower. The plumbing looks good if a little complicated. On the floor next to the pan is small pool of water. Fortunately this is caused by an overflowing cistern, and not something more gruesome. Back to the hand basin, the water from the hot tap is warmer! Try the complicated bath plumbing again. Hey, warm water!! I strip off, and jump in before it runs out. The temperature rises, and now I'm struggling to get the cold tap working before I'm scalded! Phew, that was good!

I look out of the window. The heavy rainfall from yesterday evening has soaked in or evaporated, and the children's toys in the garden, which were in the middle of a lake, are now on solid ground. I organise my gear in case we do leave for our trek this morning, as planned. The phone goes and it is Nurbu. We haven't seen each other for eight long years, and a curfew has kept us apart for the last 18hrs! Nurbu is now downstairs in the hotel lobby. I tell him I'll be down in five minutes. I reach the bottom of the staircase and see several Nepalese men hanging around; none of them Nurbu. I look to my right, and there he is; looking just like the last time I saw him. I don't know whether to shake hands or hug. We do both! Liz joins us and Nurbu gets more hugs. It's great to be all together again, after such a long time.

After exchanging pleasantries sufficient for the both of us, we get down to business. We can't do the Langtang trek due to the impossibility of arranging transport to the starting point, but as an alternative Nurbu has organised a trek in the Shivapuri National Park. This is on the edge of the Kathmandu valley and should be logistically possible during the current political crisis. We arrange to be ready to set off at 7am tomorrow morning. Nurbu has to head off now to get home before the curfew starts at around 9am, and we are keen to re-explore our old stomping ground. We all head off towards the centre of Thamel where we go our separate ways.

Relaxing in KathmanduNow the streets are very busy. There are many tourists around, just like the old days. However, this probably gives a false impression of the actual number of tourists in Nepal at the moment. Very few people have been able to embark on their treks, and many are just stranded here in Kathmandu while they wait for an opportunity to escape. There are many bicycles, rickshaws, motorbikes, and the occasional car. Everyone is shopping, just like in Dubai, only this time it's a matter of avoiding starvation! We reach the Kathmandu Guest House. These are streets we have trodden many times in the past. Very little has changed in the last eight years. The Third-Eye restaurant has moved across the road next to its sister establishment, Ying & Yang, and the perfumed garden at the back of the Pilgrim's Bookstore has now become even more perfumed. We buy some pastries and bottled water for the road journey tomorrow, and I even manage to buy a pot of Vegemite to replace the one I forgot to bring, and couldn't find in Dubai.

Liz now tells me she feels uncomfortable about doing the trek that Nurbu has planned. With my potentially weakened immune system, she feels that we should be going to a more remote area, preferably at a higher altitude, where there is less chance of me picking up an insect or waterborne infection. We return to the hotel and bump into Nurbu, who has popped back to collect the supplies we brought for him from Abu Dhabi. Liz tells him of her concerns regarding the itinerary, and we part with his promise to make another attempt to either get us a truck to take us to Dhunche, for the Gosainkhund trek, or a plane to take us up to Khumbu for a trek in the Everest area. If he can't do that then we agree between ourselves, that we'll just have to chance the Shivapuri plan. Nurbu promises to phone and let us know what he has come up with, but we both know that it will be incredibly difficult for him to change anything under the circumstances, and at such a late stage. And as if that wasn't enough of a handicap, the Curfew is about to start!

Relaxing in KathmanduWe have a late breakfast in the hotel dining room, and go to our room to pack our gear for tomorrow's departure. Liz dozes off, and I head for the roof garden to write my journal. It is so wonderful being up here. There are dogs barking, crows cawing, helicopters and planes flying around along with the raptors circling gracefully. There is a whole subculture up on the rooftops of Kathmandu. Tourists are relaxing in the sun, people are hanging out their washing or watering their pot plants, and workman are attending to the ever delicate plumbing systems. You are aware of so much going on down below in the streets, and yet up here there is a sense of peace. I'm getting to quite like this curfew business, especially as it means that I don't have to go shopping!

Liz joins me, and in the distance we can hear the sirens wailing, and the crowds cheering. Somehow though, Kathmandu seems a little quieter as far as the riots go, but it is difficult to tell; probably my wishful thinking. We go down to our room for a bit more of the dreaded packing, and then to the hotel restaurant for an early dinner. I order an egg curry. Don't ask me why! It's probably not the best choice to make given that we have a road journey tomorrow.

After eating, we notice that the curfew seems to have finished early, so we take the opportunity to go out for some more last minute supplies. I need some more reading material, and Liz needs some medicines for her medical kit. We are surprised to find all the shops open and the streets around Thamel busy with tourists. I get chatting to a group of Americans from Colorado. They're nicely enthusiastic about everything, and tell me about their adventures in the Everest area where they were hit by heavy snows. I notice that there are quite a few Americans around this morning. It kind of blows the myth that the yanks are afraid to travel to places like this. I guess 9/11 may have changed them more than we thought.

We have a beer on a roof terrace opposite the entrance to Kathmandu Guest House. This is a special place for us. It brings back memories of times spent with friends, and we get a little sentimental. I send a couple of text messages to friends using the satellite phone.

On our return to the hotel we have a message waiting. It is from Nurbu, saying that we'll try to go to Gosainkhund, and the plan is still to leave at 7am tomorrow. We decide to save time in the morning by settling the hotel bill now. It comes to a reasonable $88 for the two nights stay, and includes all the food and beer that we have consumed. We go up to our room and watch Middlesbrough get knocked out of the FA cup, on the tiny TV in the corner of our room. Before long we are both fast asleep.

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