An hour into our bumpy, stop/start journey out of Kathmandu, we have finally hit a stretch of road that is clear and I realise I can start to take some notes. It is 8.50am.
Life here really is uncomfortable. Dirt and litter is everywhere. The Nepalese seem to have no concept of order, social or environmental duty.
Just a minute ago, as the bus began descending this hill, taking us out of the fug of dust, smog and god knows what else. At one stage we had 5 or 6 metres of visibility! Crazy town. Anyway, as we extricated ourselves from the apocalyptic atmosphere I spied from my window a couple trudging up a narrow track in an embankment leading up the hill. A woman, in her 20s, bent double under a huge basket of wood and sticks, fastened to her back via a strap around her forehead, leading the way, a male, also in his 20s, hale and hearty, holding a book in one of his hands. Now I’m aware I seem to be subscribing to the gender paradigm here but damn! It seems nobody here, male or female is exactly muscle bound but everyone must admit to certain muscular formations that enable men to weather greater physical exertions than women. It seems though, from my observations, women do the lion’s share of work, physical, domestic, agricultural and unseen while men by and large stand around, not doing much. The exception to this has been actually building houses and walls. Of course, women are alongside the men in carting and sorting bricks.
Yesterday, at 7 Women, Anita explained that circumstances such as being abandoned by a husband who has either died or left her for greener pastures, often with daughters/children to bring up, drew them to this work. They would get paid 600 Rupees – $8 a day. Men receive double that.
Women who clean offices, if they clean the toilets too, receive around 1000 Rupees – $13/month for one hour’s work a day. It is possible to have more than one job in this instance.
Agh it is not right to assume or compare but it is difficult not to in this case.
– Scenes – a man leaning a bicycle against himself while he hands a man holding a young child an icecream cone from the basket fixed to the back of the bike.
After 6 hours on the bus between Kathmandu and Pokhara, ascending and descending slowly, steadily, watching, with held breath, the vans/buses/cars passing or being passed in turn on these mountain roads. I am yet amazed at the trust/foolhardiness displayed on blind corners and understand why so many people must meet their end here. Please, not me, not here, not now!
Despite the bumpiest 6 hours ever spent, I actually slipped off before, lulled by the salad tossing of my brain.
One of my worst fears as a traveller has been latent the entire trip long; a child, perhaps 12 months old up the front of the bus. He looked calmly yet curiously at me over the woman’s shoulder that held him as we hopped off the bus at a stop. I commented that he hasn’t cried the entire journey long – Mum says it is the undivided attention. What do you reckon?
– Scenes – an older lady, dressed in traditional work clothes sitting on a low stool on a concrete slab splashing water up onto a girl, naked, knees knocked.
Petrol Stations are few and far between and have 1 or 2 bowsers. Have seen one only with 3. Petrol and electricity comes from India. Corruption is very high here.
Now I sit on my bed in Pokhara. Every hour on that bus was worth it. At last Mum and I feel we can relax. After all the Kathmandu experience we are taking great lungfulls of clear air.
There is thunder and lightning cracking outside and great torrents of rain are pouring down outside the door, open to the night time elements.
I will sleep well tonight, i know this.