I have fallen in love with Nepal, and it is going to be very hard to leave tomorrow afternoon. We will be on our way to Taiwan, which I am sure will not disappoint, but Nepal has definitely been a wonderful experience. I must admit that I was less than thrilled to be badgered by multiple taxi drivers trying to haggle prices on our arrival into Kathmandu two weeks ago. I actually lost my patience somewhat and began to wonder if I could handle being here for two weeks. This was worrisome since we hadn't even left the airport parking lot, but fortunately the following day I awoke from proper slumber and felt renewed and prepared to enjoy this fine country.
Aaron has written plenty on his blog, so I will keep this short, but I just wanted to jot down a little bit more about our wonderful trek guide, Manish. We first met Manish in the trek company office here in Kathmandu the day before departing. He stands about five feet tall and probably weighs around a hundred pounds when soaking wet. He also wears a very thin mustache directly above his lip, and he has one single hair in the center of his chin that he doesn't shave. My first impression was that he was very shy since he hardly spoke above a whisper and didn't make eye contact with us during that initial meeting. The following day we rode the bus together to Pokhara, and he seemed to be warming up to us slowly. We exchanged pleasantries discussing the weather and briefly talked about our upcoming six day hike.
Aaron and I were very impressed by his attentiveness from the start of our trek. His constant concern about our well being and enjoyment were very obvious as he encouraged frequent rests during intense climbs, and he was happy to stop for Aaron to take many many many pictures. It didn't take him long to learn of my birding tendencies, and he found all kinds of great species for me to gaze at during the week. He always provided warm cups of tea as we rested along the way, and he helped to cook our meals at the many guesthouses. He never sat down to eat his Dal Baht until he knew we were completely satisfied with our food. Before going to bed he always loaded us up with plenty of heavy blankets to keep us warm during the cold nights.
I really started to notice his personality on the second day when Aaron had a morning of multiple slips and slides on a muddy hill. His frequent reminders as he took up the rear and watched us struggle down the hill were, "Slowly, please Aaron. Slowly, please I cannot carry you." He would laugh, but I think underneath the smile he really was worried about Aaron breaking a bone and having to become a walking ambulance. Throughout the days there were many random moments of him breaking out into song and impressing us with how well he could carry a tune. He loves Hindi music. During the evenings he performed some excellent magic tricks making cards disappear in his sleeve and what not. We also had several serious conversations about life in Nepal, the poverty here, and the overall culture. He is from a small village towards the east. To get home he has to take an eight hour bus ride from Kathmandu and then walk for an entire day. He eventually told us about his home life and that he has a wife and two children back in Kathmandu. He doesn't love living in the overcrowded polluted city, but has chosen this as his home so that his children receive a proper education and have the opportunity to learn English. He is very aware that without English his children will have very limited options in their futures.
As our trek came to an end we were very sad to have to tell Manish goodbye. We so enjoyed his company, and he was one of our favorite things about the trek. I was becoming tearful and ready to give him a big hug when he mentioned that we should come to his house for tea when we returned to Kathmandu. My tears quickly dried while we exchanged contact information and planned to visit with him during the weekend. Such a fabulous idea! So, we called him yesterday after our long and bumpy eight hour bus trip and planned on meeting early this morning at our hotel. I think Aaron has written a detailed account of our day with him. It really was a wonderful experience to be invited into his home and meet his family. His wife really can prepare wonderful Dal Baht, and his two children are absolutely darling.
Yesterday on our return to Kathmandu we met several other backpackers who are getting ready to trek the hillsides. We talked about their various plans and none of them will be hiring a guide. We all agreed that this would most certainly save them lots of money. I am so glad we chose to spend a little extra and hire a guide because we would have missed out on lots if we hadn't met Manish. He has contributed so much to our time here in Nepal. You meet lots of people in life, but really only a handful of them stand out. Manish is truly an awesome person, and we are very hopeful to return to Nepal in the future and trek the Annapurna Circuit with him. And yes, tears flowed today as I had to tell him goodbye.