Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stoned in Kathmandu


Yesterday we got up early in Kathmandu and decided to go return our rickshaws to the storage depot near the airport. So the five of us (Dave, Dave, Alex, Tommy, and I) got in our three rickshaws and headed over to the Rum Doodle Bar (40,000 ½ feet) to work out what we needed to do to return the rickshaws.

There we met up with two other teams Discovering Earth who we had ran into quite a few times and a team of absolutely insane Brits one of who decided to return their rickshaw with us. So the 8 of us started driving convoy style through Kathmandu following our carefully planned out route.

Random Fact: Less than a week ago the government of Napal raised the price of gas about 20%

We made if a few blocks when we hit the first protest. We looked at our map and rerouted. Made it a few more blocks hit protest number two. Rerouted again. and again.

Finally we stopped and after much work convinced a cabbie to park his cab and jump in one of our rickshaws and get us past the protests. He was certain there wouldn't be protesters on the big ring roads if we could just get out to them. We then ran into two more groups of protesters who the cabbie talked to briefly and they moved stuff out of the way so we could get through. Most of the protesters went out of their way to be nice to tourists and went through what appeared to be the last protest before the ring road my rickshaw was nailed in the back by a brick.

Random Note: Most protests we encountered were just folks blocking the road and burning things. Small bushes, limbs of trees, tires etc. and chanting something that I assume translates to "Down with the King" but I can't say I've learned much Nepalese since I've been here.

Logan and I were a bit put out by the rude folks throwing large rocks at our rather flimsy go cart but we were driving away from the at about 50km and hour and they couldn't catch us. We had less than 2km to go and we were finally on the "Safe" ring road.

Random Fact: At this point we are in position 4 in the convoy. It's order was (Tommy + Cabbie, Discovering Earth, Crazy Brits, Us, Lott + Slepak)

We came around a bend in the ring road and turned down a hill towards what appeared to be the largest protest we had seen that day. The cabbie told Tommy to go ahead that they wouldn't bother us. So all of us went heading right for the protest. Time compressed at this point and I'm not sure how everything that follows went down. The crowd caught up with us and they was a group of people throwing rocks at the rickshaw and kicking it while I was trying desperately to turn it around. Finally I just floored it and tried to make all 7hp of that thing take off even though I hadn't made it all around and there were protesters in front of me. They got out of the way though. Discovering Earth stalled and was the last ones out. Oddly Tommy was suspiciously the first one out and as we were flying up the hill in flee mode he was sitting out of his tuk tuk taking pictures of us getting attacked (Film camera, we'll get copies someday)

After that we ducked into the airport with it's significant military presence and parked our rickshaws to regroup and settle down.


After consulting with not less than 20 people including military, random locals, cabbies, UN Folks, and airport officials we came to the conclusion that we had to wait it out at the airport. They almost let us just drive across the cargo area to get where we were going but one of the chief types at the airport realized this would violate international air laws. So we did what we've always done in the face of adversity.

We went to the bar.

We got out of there about 3.5 hours later once the protests had broken up and drove to the drop off point.

Random fact: Team Dave, and I are presently at the airport getting out of this country. As a rule of thumb I don't hang out in countries where the locals have tried to kill me. Protests were still going today and a general strike also started. Lott and I are in the Thai Airways lounge which might be the best place in the city to hold up and wait to get out. Logan is downstairs working on getting a ticket but sadly the airport is closed due to weather and he can't buy a ticket until the weather lifts. But we expect him to join us here in the next couple hours.

Alex and Tommy have decided that they'll just wonder up to the Everest base camp in the middle of winter. We hope to hear from them again.


Keith said...

Jeez guys. Glad you're all ok.
I'm also glad that we got out of Kathmandu when we did (on the 18th)... suddenly being back at work does not seem so bad!
Good luck,
Keith (Tantric Tuktuk Team).

Anonymous said...

Down with the king! Down with the system, man! Just kidding, glad you guys got out safe- biju

Liv said...

I'm glad none of you got hit by the bricks! Maybe if you had learned how to say "Down with the King" in Nepalese they would have welcomed you instead of attack you :)

Rob said...

Hey Cy, Pretty exciting but a little too scary. Hope the beach in Phuket warms you up a little and lets you heal. Sounds like quite an ordeal. I know you must be ready to get back to good clean American Soil. I'm releived you are ok.