Two crows in a tree are fighting over a flattened rat. I don’t quite get the excitement – just how nutritious can that dried out piece of fur still be? Or is this just about prestige? But it’s an entertaining spectacle I’m watching from behind my regular breakfast – omelet on toast and black tea, on the roof terrace of the lovely Souvenir Guesthouse, in Katmandu’s tourist ghetto Thamel. The morning sun feels comfortably warm on my skin and around me, the flower pots are steaming after having been cared for by the gardener. Every morning he waters the large & colourful collection of plants on the roof terrace, picks the dead leaves, and today he’s painting the pots a nice teracotta. The daily smell of frying garlic drifts by – someone somewhere likes to start cooking early. Sometimes with a hint of peanut, other times coconut or chili. The House of Music across the street fills the air with happy Bollywood tunes or cheesy techno (including an inspired version of the lambada).
The air is chilly, getting noticeably colder every day. But the sun is still hot, up to 29 degrees yesterday. Every day as I walk out I realise I should have put sunscreen on my head. And every afternoon, when the shadows get longer, I realise I should have brought more clothes. More clothes would’ve definitely been welcome on my way to the Jazzmandu Festival in Gokarna (did you also think that was a South Indian beach resort?): it’s cold outside the smog! And never take the same road twice? Well, thanks for the advice ,Neil, but I don’t know how many times I went back and forth between one unknown village and another, it took me only two hours to get there. Reminded me of Gemma telling Clay of the Sons of Anarchy that he needs a gps to find the way from his home to the driveway. No problem though: I was having a fantastic time cruising around on unknown village roads on my two-wheeled sowing machine du jour, a 100 cc Honda Splendor. Fantastic bike for this somewhat chaotic traffic, small and light and manoeuvrable. It was my first ride in the country side, my first non-city, not-only-functional ride since I got here. Smells of cumin and sewage, the hills, the chills of the light rain. Even met some old friends of the Mercedes family, reminding me of my yellow friend who’s at home waiting for an engine transplantation.
Eventually I walked in halfway through the concert by Window Seat, a fantastic quartet from Bombay. Quirky, skilled, busy, nuanced… For me the highpoint of the day, though that doesn’t mean the rest wasn’t good. The green lawns of the resort and the comfortable company of Dutch travellers and expats formed the perfect environment. Despite darkness and pot holes and the just-met passenger, the way back didn’t take more than twenty minutes. (Until I was on my own again, of course.) A most enjoyable way to conclude my first week in Kathmandu, Nepal, where I came to find an Enfield motorcycle.