Limpy, Gimpy, Gomer and Zit

by Annalise on November 12, 2009

We have been full of anticipation about our first visitor to Nepal and last Friday, Shirley, Dave’s step-mom arrived for her 10 day stay. Robin especially, missing friends, grandparents and extended family was most excited to see Grandmama.

In the weeks prior, we’d really been feeling we’d gotten into a grove a bit with living here. Dave has been starting to provide training sessions and I’m teaching in two schools, working with the staff to improve their confidence in conversational English. To achieve these daily activities, many of the tricks to functioning here had to be resolved if not mastered. We’re out running regularly in the early morning; we actual see and recognize people we know in these crazy streets; I’ve finally found a fantastic source for yogurt (I know, you’d think it should be easy!) and I’m assertively taking no bluff from the cabbies on their rates now. I feel we’ve achieved a new level of competence as Kathmandonians. A visitor offers the opportunity to show our temporary digs and share all that we’ve learned!

Upon Shirley’s arrival, Dave was out of town doing some facilitation work so Robin and I collected her at the airport. The following day was a Himalayan Hash House Harrier run and we try to hit these as they’re such fun; the opportunity to run or walk in the surrounding valley beyond the city is not to be missed. Robin volunteered to walk the hash with his grandmother rather than run and it is a good thing that he did. We’d kind of forgotten the potential challenge of arriving at this altitude from sea level. The first stages of this run / walk involved dropping down many levels of terraced rice paddies which and been harvested. As I ran it with my group I joked that I felt like a bloody kangaroo hopping down these 3 foot drops repeatedly until we reached the lower plateau to run. This was just the start of a challenging walk for Shirley but she did make it through the 2 hours, however exhausting. She was most disappointed at her lack of strength in spite of a regular exercise program. It was only when someone asked where she’d flown in from and how long she’d been in Kathmandu that it dawned on us that the altitude was a factor… Oops… make mental note, mustn’t nearly kill the mother-in-law by placing her on a forced mountain march. In perfect Hash House Harrier fashion, at the finish the group had great fun with the newcomers and made special mention of Shirley’s effective but very goofy sun hat. Happily Shirley is a great sport and took it all in stride or at this point, limp.

The next day with David returned home we all headed out to a resort just 12 km south of Tibet on the highway (term used loosely) heading to Lhasa. The resort is called The Last Resort and it was absolutely gorgeous. The drive by ‘Tourist Only’ bus was 3 hours to cover the nearly 100 km. The highway is very narrow with extraordinary drops on one side or the other and at some places a very rough surface. It was both compelling and terrifying to watch out the side window as we drove. I opted to watch out the front and it resulted in tremendous respect for our driver who navigated the hazards brilliantly. The horn was well used each and every time we saw a person, animal, vehicle or especially other bus or big truck on the highway. Shirley asked Robin how he’d describe the sound of the horn and he though a squeezed, excited duck would do it.

The resort is perched upon the west shore of a deep river canyon which is reached by walking across a narrow bridge suspended high above. From this bridge, tourists are invited to go bungy jumping, repelling or ride the canyon swing. Th resort also provides river rafting, canyoning, rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking. Oh, and yes, massages! The grounds were beautifully laid out with stone pathways leading between facilities through lush flowering trees and shrubs with a splendid array of butterflies everywhere. Accommodation was provided in spacious and colorful wall tents with slate floors and fantastic, warm beds for each guest.

David had unfortunately sprained his ankle the week before on an early morning run as he rounded a corner to be surprised by a pot hole, a stationary man, a bus and his wife in passing mode (oops again) so he was taking full advantage of a few days of keeping his foot up and taking in some R&R. Shirley was quite stiff from her 2 hour walk the day before and the many steps between our tented accommodations and the bar and dining areas proved for her to be sufficient adventure sports on this stay. Both she and David immediately signed up for massages and then pulled out their books. Robin and I did the rock climbing and as it was our first time on outdoor climbing as opposed to indoor climbing wall stuff, it was a great adventure and quite an interesting challenge. I had also booked the massage but couldn’t resist going to watch all that was happening on the bridge.

As a kid, I spent many happy hours climbing the tallest trees on the farm. Besides trying to get out of doing dishes, I always loved the heights and the vantage point they provide. Whether up that tree, the mast of a sail boat or hiking along a ridge, I’ve always also treated heights with the utmost respect and presence of mind. I think I get this from my Dad. In his 60s he remained the one who would climb highest in the apple trees to pick the last of the crab apples. He was even still doing head stands for his grand kids in those years. That calm, balance and nerve he still possesses have always impressed me. Back at the resort, I was compelled to watch the bungy jumping although I had no interest in taking part. While there I learned more about the canyon swing. It’s drop is almost as extreme as the bungy jumping but rather than bounce vertically on a huge elastic cord, the person is pulled through the canyon first by gravity and then on the end of the swing line suspended from another series of cables running parallel to the bridge. The swing glides high above to the flow of the river in a large arching pendulum motion. It looked like too much fun to resist! And so, I signed up the next morning to enjoy the ultimate ride at the midway!

First the organizers recorded each participants weight in black marker on their right hands and then we were all briefed on how to step off the bridge platform. I had watched the preparation and asked sufficient questions from which I concluded it was safe enough to proceed. Nonetheless, I was quite relieved they moved from the heaviest to the lightest in their order for the jump. I did think to myself that this was crazy as my turn came but I donned my body harness in preparation for my swing jump anyway; the swing’s attraction over-riding. Once on the platform, I went. The step off and the fall were absolutely terrifying and thankfully brief; the swing was worth it! It flowed through its arch down the canyon past waterfalls and the lush green walls several times before they raised the line on which I was to haul myself in toward the exiting stairs. Robin, Dave and Shirley watched from the bluff but it just proved disconcerting as they could only see the drop and not the swing from their vantage point. When I’d hiked back up the hill, intact and with a big goofy grin to join them for lunch, we shared a very delicious beer and I resumed my adult role having exercised my inner 11 year old once more. Next time it will be the river rafting, I think.

The remainder of the stay involved a few more massages, lots of badminton and frisby, some hiking, yoga on the lawn and plenty of reading and relaxing. The all inclusive meal schedule was generous but still couldn’t quite keep up with the 13 year old. Robin did much to supplement the area’s economic activity when told he could run a tab for snacks and drinks. Who’d have thought they could do so many interesting things with deep-fried cheese, sausage treats, fruit juices and carbonated drinks!

The drive back was once again quite breath taking. The rural areas have been fully developed into farming terraces over the centuries where ever there was half enough space to do so. Up and down all the hillsides, you see the activities of farming and living in this poor but stunning area.

We’re back in K-du now and the shock of city reality is once again with us. But we know how to do this now! Even Shirley has stopped jumping or freezing at every sound of a horn. We will slip back in to this urban existence but already are planning the next get away; there is simply too much to see and do here.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

carla November 12, 2009 at 8:11 am

So by the title of this latest excursion…are you still Zit?
Sounds like a great time was had by all.. Hope Shirley enjoyed her massage after the daughter-in law almost did her in.. Have a great time Shirley :)

LeeAnne November 12, 2009 at 10:45 am

Sounds like a fabulous excursion with something for everyone. I admire your courage on the swing, Annalise :-)

Annalise November 13, 2009 at 3:35 am

Well, I was branded Gomer given the stupid-wide grin I wore as I returned from the swing. Robin adopted Zip after all the cheese balls he consumed but he’s cleared up completely. :-) Very fun!

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