Up 5:30am. Left hotel 6:15am.
Varun's bag was stolen/lost last night (there were several versions of the story) after he stayed out to chaperone the girls at the sheesha bar. If it had been protected under a pussy like mine was, he'd still have it. Laptop, money, passport gone. If someone wasn't too drunk to walk home, this never would have happened. (Just repeating what I read on TMZ about the incident. You established that you were not too drunk.) So now there's a weird vibe for the rest of the tour. The lesson here of course is that you should always keep your passport on your person. In your front pocket with your wallet. Never put it in a bag, or leave it in a hotel room, or leave it at the front desk longer than necessary. Your front pocket is the least-likely place it will get stolen from. Common sense. You can replace your money and laptop when you get home, but if you lose your passport you can't get home. Sew it under your skin if possible. People sound crazy when they get to a hotel and ask about a safe or safe deposit box for their passport because they don't want to risk carrying it. You really think you're likelier to have your passport taken directly out of your front pocket in a non-fatal assault (a fatal assault would render the passport issue irrelevant) than out of your room or from the front desk by a rogue hotel employee? Or taken by a random guy in a bar as part of your bag that you weren't paying attention to? I don't know...I'm old, so maybe I have special wisdom.
On the way out of Pokhara we stopped at a police station, which evidently wasn't helpful, and then a second one, which was, and Varun filed a report to get the replacement wheels in motion. Later on the ride we got at good look at the Annapurna range. Simply awesome, as Billy Ocean would say. Snowy rocks piled way higher than the regular mountains, and way higher than they needed to be.
At 8:25am we stopped at the Green Park Highway Restaurant. I remember that place! This was a breakfast stop but no one wanted food (we were sympathetic to the 1-hour delay on account of the police station thing) so a couple people just used the toilet. I agree, bad timing getting your period on the bus.
At 10:30am we stopped for lunch (which would have been later if we'd taken the full breakfast break) at the Hill Top Restaurant. The only good things that happened here were Jane's comments: "all the boomerangs I've owned never came back to me" and "we'll find you some cock in Kathmandu", both of which sound precious in a chipper Welsh accent.
But many bad things happened here. First of all, the burgers were supposed to come with "chips" according to the menu. Understandably, in places like the UK, "chips" means French fries. But under even the most liberal interpretation, if I order something with "chips" anywhere in the world, I expect to get some kind of fried potato product. The people in our group were each served 4 prawn chips with their burger. They all asked for a discount because they wouldn't have ordered the burgers if they knew they weren't getting fries. Then the waiter said they "found" fries in the back, but when they arrived they tasted like ass. And then when they asked for the manager, the waiter said he was busy. I worked in customer service positions (sort of) for 15 years at 3 companies, and I've been on the other end of the phone many times as a customer, and this was the first time I ever encountered someone not getting his supervisor. That's the customer service equivalent of raping a baby. An unspeakable offense. Ultimately the 4 people affected got 25% off their bills. While all this was going on, I waited an hour for a tuna sandwich. Everyone else had gotten their food, many were done eating, I'd finished my Coke 50 minutes ago, yet no food for me. The next time the waiter came by, I asked about the tuna sandwich. He came over and said there's no more tuna. Not when I ordered, not 5 minutes later after giving the order to the kitchen, but one fucking hour later. What a shithead. He offered fried rice or chow mein as a substitute. I said chicken fried rice, no charge. He nodded and walked away. The fried rice was good, don't get me wrong. But then when he came out with the bill he charged me for it! What an asswhore. I said I wouldn't have ordered it if there was a charge. He said the money would come out of his and his boss's pocket. I said they screwed up and he was irresponsible. I pointed out to the group that I've been to 45 countries and never had such bad service anywhere else, so it's not a cultural thing. Other places in Nepal and India told me right away if something I ordered wasn't available instead of making me wait an hour. This is just a horrible restaurant, the worst in the world. The waiter finally caved (after I also asked for the manager) and said he would bring me change for 100 for my Coke, which I think was 70. Jamie had a separate argument about his bill (wow, so out of character, imagine that) so I let the waiter keep the full 100 and apply the difference to any other pending squabble. And to make the whole thing worse, I hate the way he says "tuna". I hate it hate it so much.
Here's what the place looks like. NEVER GO HERE. If you're on this road by yourself or with a tour group, avoid it. Load up at the Green Park Highway Restaurant. Make a note to tell your tour leader that you refuse to eat here. You'll be happier hungry than angry, and we were all angry.
The Hill Top Restaurant is lucky it's in fucking Nepal. It should go out and get some more team speed. I don't know if the service was worse here or at at Joe's Crab Shack in Clearwater, but at least after 2.5 hours at the latter, they delivered our food instead of saying they were out of tuna. Plus the waitress was kind of a glamazon.
Near Kathmandu, we stopped at Swayambhunath (the Monkey Temple) from 2pm to 3pm.
These two were fighting just before I took this photo in the parking lot. It was like an interracial porn scene.
Reminds me of something we saw before or after this. All interchangeable.
So, there are a lot of monkeys at the Monkey Temple.
They seem to like fruit. Probably because it's the most colorful thing in the garbage they sift through.
I saw a woman replenishing this slop pile. The dogs ruled over it, and the monkeys would sneak in when the dogs went off to the side.
Monkeys on temple.
Scratch that thang!.
A non-monkey structure in the temple complex.
What happens when the dogs leave the slop pile. Also, a dog peed on the pile.
This place was like Varanasi, except with pigeons, monkeys & dogs instead of tuk-tuks, vendors & cows. There was always one of the three right behind you.
There was a giant dominant monkey here asserting dominance. It might be the one in the foreground.
What's he thinking?
I WANT MONKEYS ALL THE TIME!!!!!!!
Monkey tried to snatch that yellow package from under the dog. The dog turned around and the monkey flew.
But then he acquired a package of biscuits.
He was yelping to alert the other monkeys as to his jackpot.
"This is the greatest day of my life."--what the monkey was thinking, and also what my brother said out loud when he saw Andre the Giant's real name in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Female monkeys, even without babies, are scary. Speaking of Letterman, this. When a monkey opens her month in that menacing way, get out now.
As we were leaving Swayambhunath, the wind and thunder kicked up in advance of a storm. All the monkeys in the parking lot area scurried en masse up toward the temple.
At 3:45pm we arrived at the Fuji Guest House in Kathmandu. Very nice, proper hotel rooms with AC, and free use of laptops with Wi-Fi in the lobby. Most of us got our plane tickets here for the Everest flight tomorrow morning. Varun booked the flights from the Hill Top Restaurant, so that's another non-bad thing that came out of that stop. They're on Yeti, not Agni, which is a good sign. I sort of know of someone who didn't make it back from an Agni flight last year on her birthday.
From 4:45pm to 6pm I walked with some of the others to Durbar Square and back.
Queen's Pond along the way. Also along the way we heard a few guys hocking loogies. First of all, what is that substance they're expelling? I don't produce it. I hear Asian guys at work doing it a lot, so maybe it results from a common dietary or genetic flaw. I'd like to see a medical solution for it in my lifetime. Second, is it hock or hawk? I suspect it's supposed to be hawk but enough people suffering from the caught-cot merger (like LG with his caulk-cock joke that doesn't work in most of the US) pronounced it wrong and the spelling was changed in popular usage.
Turns out you have to pay to enter Durbar, which wasn't worth it given the limited time we had before dinner. This was really just for Kristal and Ryan's benefit since they were leaving the next morning and didn't have time for sightseeing. They didn't mind skipping it, so we went back to the hotel.
Determined that my razor battery was charged, enough to use, if not fully. Shaved and showered.
Left for dinner 7pm. We went to Rum Doodle. That web site isn't working well, so try this one that explains the name. Soon after arriving, Varun passed around a sheet for our names and e-mail addresses. I was expecting that, given that the original sheet was lost. [But as I type this 8 days after the tour ended, Varun hasn't sent the mass e-mail yet about the evaluation and whatnot. He sent the link to me privately. Come on, keep it fair and send it to everybody.]
I wore my gray striped short-sleeved shirt to dinner. The sleeves are slightly shorter than normal, so when I tried to wear it a week ago it looked weird because of my tan. But then I got color on my upper arms. Janie said it was a nice shirt.. Once previously I was told I looked like a hipster in the shirt. Then I got the Ed Galvez "cheek switcheroo" three times at the end of the night, so the shirt isn't a guarantee of anything.
To paraphrase Harry Kalas: "Check out those stripes. It's difficult to tell where Gabi begins and Abdulla ends."
Photo of the group at our official farewell dinner. Left: Gabi (empty seat, smoke break), Janie, Lucy, Jane, Jamie, Abdulla, Megan, Karen. Right: Elana, Izaak, me, Emma, Ryan, Kristal, Varun. It wasn't really a farewell dinner since most of us were in Kathmandu at least one more night.
Gabi back from her break, being sung to by the band for her birthday, which is actually tomorrow.
Gabi, Janie, Lucy and Jane. Lucy had to sit in an open drain in the floor, and the other 3 had to stand on small stepladders, in order for their heads to be roughly aligned.
I had fish & chips for dinner. First seafood of the trip. Very good. Also 2 beers. I caught someone sneaking a photo of me. Second of 3 times I noted in my journal, so it must have been happening a lot more.
Back at the hotel, before went inside, I gave my tip to Varun. The amount recommended by Gap. They don't get paid much, and rely on the tip at the end. He joked at dinner about getting bad evaluations, but I assured him that he'd get a good one from me, and that any whiners on this tour were out of line. I shook his hand on a job well done. [Found out later that some people didn't tip him. This is the first of my 11 tours on which I knew of anyone even considering not tipping. I really don't understand why people were such dicks to Varun, to the point of not paying him.]
In the hotel I used the Internet on one of the lobby laptops. Gabi and I got beers from the front desk to celebrate her birthday, which was probably official already on Sydney time, but no one else partook. The real birthday party will be tomorrow night.