After two months in Kathmandu, it is time to move on.
I received my six-month Indian visa yesterday, and am beginning to move toward the sub-continent. On Sunday I will take a bus to Pokhara, in Western Nepal at the base of the Annapurnas.
After a few days in this reputedly relaxed and picturesque town, I will head south to India - just the thought makes my spine shiver. I will cross the border at Saunali, near Lord Buddha's birth place of Lumbini, and bear south to Varanassi - one of the holiest cities of Hinduism.
After lingering in Varanassi 3 or 4 days to soak up the flavor, I will head roughly west to Agra, and the jewel of India: the Taj Mahal. After the few days in the shadow of this monument to lost love, I will make the 42 hour dash south to Bangalore.
No, I am not interviewing for a technology marketing position with an Indian software company. I will visit Morgan, a friend from Korea who is working on her MSC in Yoga at an institute about 30KM outside of the bustling technology hub - where peace and quiet is said to reign :)
I hope to spend some hours in discussion with Morgan to learn of her experiences and what she has learned, meet her fiance, and perhaps to join a 3 or 4 week therapeutic yoga session to try to set my lower back right and perhaps achieve some improvement on my as yet badly sprained left ankle.
I also want to check out the institute itself, as they offer degree programs in Yoga Therapy that I find intriguing. I always considered "back to school" as an option, and its possible that this is the right place - no commitments made, but I am definitely intrigued.
Fear and Excitement
I have to be quite frank: I am really pretty scared of going to India, and long have been.
I have never read a guidebook that is so explicit and repetitive about the dangers of being robbed, mugged, drugged, cheated, robbed, mugged, drugged, cheated, or even robbed!
I guess now I will learn one way or the other whether I have what it takes to face down India's touts, beggars, criminals and crowds. I can only imagine that Varanassi is nearly as bad as it gets, so I will start with a baptism by fire....
And really, this may be a good time to be moving on. The petrol shortage in Kathmandu is becoming more acute by the day, and could raise tensions significantly. Drivers are waiting anywhere from 10 to 20 hours to fill up their tanks at 60-70 rupees a liter - the only alternative being to pay 150-300 rupees a liter on the black market.Combine this frustration with the growing Maoist activism as the election approaches. Today the city center was virtually shut down by bus loads of activists unfurling massive red hammer & sickle flags and shouting slogans with raised fists - and me the ogling tourist with no camera to record the sight.
I don't know what will happen as elections approach, but have already seen tires burning, sat in the confused aftermath of public bombings, and seen the city fall silent at the insistence of the red-clad masses....maybe it is a good time to move on!