Date: 23 May
Location: the peaceful Garden Of Dreams, Kathmandu.
Notable sightings: you really don't want to know.
And then I got sick.
Oh, I've seen others suffer far worse in the last month: plenty of quick-call-the-exorcist-there's-a-demon-trying-to-escape-him episodes which, thankfully, this is nowhere near. However, it's enough to make me feel heartily, heartily sorry for myself. And turn me off food, an occurrence about as common as a full solar eclipse. At the risk of being indelicate, I must confess that called to mind is a comment made, in their characteristic prosaic and oh so delicate style, by the Lady Bogans: you can simply never trust a fart here.
Bravely (or perhaps foolishly, remains to be seen) I've ventured as far as the Garden of Dreams, a secluded walled oasis near Thamel which, I've been assured, has plenty of bathrooms.
It's a funny little place, built in the '20s by Kaiser Sumsher Rana (not actually a Kaiser), left to rot then finally restored recently, but given a Nepali makeover. There's a sphinx in one corner who seems to have lost her head. Unsure whether this particular kitty had the head of a woman, a ram or a hawk (all are true sphinx options) and unwilling to take a guess, those in charge simply selected the prettiest piece of plaster lying around the ruined garden and placed it where her head should be 'to suggest a mystical mask or headgear' (their words). She looks freaky. There's also a statue of Nike, the triumphant Roman goddess of victory. Knowing Nike best as a something you put on your feet, the Nepali have decided that she should instead be Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. Whack a lotus and a few coins in her hand and, voila, the Garden Of Dreams has one rather arrogant-looking Laxmi.
Tomorrow it's a heartfelt namaste to this strange part of the world — along with a sincere promise to return soon to do Base Camp, see Punjab, check out Tibet (provided the Chinese let me) and eat more momo — and a tentative konichiwa (that's not even close, is it?) to Japan.
And I'm concerned my appearance, wardrobe and grooming may not be up to scratch in Japan.
Yesterday I was pondering a cashmere purchase or two and strolled into one of the nicer textile shops. Let's be clear: the most expensive piece in this beautiful store would be beyond the means of most Nepalis, yet would be considered by most Australians to be about the right price for a Thursday night dinner at Chin Chin with a cocktail and glass of Chardonnay. Despite this, the staff (of which, in true Nepali style, there were about one per garment, sure to make even the most hardened browser feel uncomfortable) took in my dusty feet, ragged maxi skirt, scruffy hair tied back by a paisley silk scarf and make-up free face and barely gave me the time of day, making it quite clear that checking if any of the sweater styles might come in a pretty soft grey color was a colossal waste of their time and energy.
I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman as I slunk away.
When, today, I make aforementioned cashmere purchase elsewhere am tempted to swan back in with my bags to deliver the epic “You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Huge mistake,” speech. No doubt this would be lost on them, but I'd feel better.
Will also have to source some shoes that aren't men's flipflops (mine died a while back – rest in peace, dear Havis), hiking boots or Crocs. On typing that last I feel a tidal wave of shame and have resolved to donate the Crocs to charity before I go. If they'll take them.