Woke very early– still on Malaysia or maybe Wellington time. Actually I woke up a few times in the middle of the night as well. The Silver Home Hotel is cheap, so I’m saving money, but it’s also pretty low-rent. My room has a strange smell I just can’t quite get used to, the ensuite bathroom is a little rough (though I guess it’s better than the one I stayed in the Dolomites which had a board over the floor-level toilet where you stood to take a shower). When anyone else runs water at the Hotel Silver Home it sounds as if its flowing through my bathroom. So, to continue in the mode of overly fastidious American tourist, I’ll note that the city is full of dogs who eat the garbage piled in the streets. They are everywhere (as I’m guessing are the rats but I haven’t seen them just yet).
Most of the night the dogs were howling– first one, then another, and finally a third. They seem to prefer trios. Toward morning, when it just started to get light, they stopped, but then in started birds that sounded a lot like crows. I could not see them, but just like dogs, one would start, then the crew would join in. I left the hotel around seven to walk down Thamel Marge and get a feel for the city. No tourists were out, just people hurrying to work. The street was much easier to walk than later in the day when it gets very crowded, with constant honking from cars and scooters, so you have to jump out of their way. The streets are narrow with no sidewalks. People were watering the street in front of their shops presumably to keep down the dust (it doesn’t work). There is still plenty of rubble from the earthquake and dust settles everywhere. Many cook and heat with wood so the air quality is very bad, people cough a lot and spit everywhere. I passed a stupa where people feed the pigeons, great crowds of them (pigeons) circle amongst the prayer stones. On passing a fairly major intersection, the traffic was disrupted by a couple of cows wandering about. I made it down to Durbar square, then cut over east to the parks which are covered with rubble from earthquake excavation. There are large buildings that must have once been grand but now are in disrepair. I passed one with huge gardens in the front that have gone to ruin. Even the trees seemed dead. Circling back into Thamel, I passed a Himalaya Java, the local sorta Starbucks. Couldn’t resist what turned out to be a great cup of coffee, and a pleasant time with some wifi. It seems to be a gathering point for foreign trekkers or expats. Not tourists, but also not locals. Later in the day I toured Durbar Square, home to many temples and Royal buildings, most severely damaged by the earthquake. The wood carving on rafters and window casements was amazing, as was the damage suffered because of the quake. Most of the structures are brick masonry which vibrated into piles. All very sad. Later I wandered a bit in the area where all the treks are organized, going to have to make some decisions soon about starting the Annapurna Circuit, but want to get a good understanding of how things are here before committing to any course of action. Spent some time reconsidering my hostel– the electricity is almost never on, which might be a citywide issue but many of the places I have visited seem to have it more often. Continuing in fastidious mode, I opted to book an upgrade for the next two nights at what appears a nicer place– it has a great coffee shop right out front. Then went to the Roadhouse Cafe which is no way resembled any restaurants in America that might be called roadhouse, but it did have really good wood fired pizza. Pizza, a necessary food wherever you find yourself. I sat at a table in the window, quietly eating and reading Peter Matthiesson while two cute children who were obviously beggars tapped at the window only to be noisily chased from the front by the cafe maitre’d. An early night again, still adjusting to time change.
T. Hugh Crawford