The first several days of Nepal were spent in a haze of smoke. Not the normal yellow haze that hangs over every square mile of the subcontinent, but the dense sinister murk of seasonal wildfires. I was already consumed with a second bout of bronchitis, and I reeled at the cruel cosmic irony that drew me ever deeper into the smoldering Nepalese lowlands. We spent a couple of days at the Royal Bardia National Park, where we had been promised the chance of seeing wild rhinoceros and endangered tiger. Our jeep cheerfully bounced along through the burning jungle as if everything were completely normal. The staff were gracious, spirits were high, and it never occurred to anyone to protest. Our guide had to change our itinerary slightly when we discovered that a bridge on the route had burned completely the previous night. We couldn’t help but laugh. Ha ha. Get it?
One surprise on the trip thus far has been: It’s never boring. I had packed my knitting and yarn, sodoku puzzles, decks of cards, wind-up toys and juggling balls thinking that without a job I would often be twiddling my thumbs. These items quickly became dead weight and were found abandoned by happy hotel workers. Like Will says in “About A Boy” about jobs: “I really don’t know how people fit them in.”
For one thing, we spend a lot more time eating. Every meal (and three coffees/chais/snacks) takes an hour and a half. That time is just sucked into a vacuum. We wake up at 8:30 and go to the usually included hotel breakfast. Somehow, we’re always done at 10 or 10:30. Then sightseeing until 4 (with a2-hour lunch). Snacks and coffee until 5:30. Then we have a minute for some Internet and travel planning. Then it’s dinner. Now it’s 9 p.m. and we’re sacked out by 9:30.
That’s the other thing: sleep. Left to natural rhythms and no alarm clocks, we sleep from 9:30 until 8:30. About 11 hours. It does seem absurdly long, but so does an hour and a half for breakfast. But tourism is hard work and we need our rest. Of course, sometimes Eric is reading his Kindle when I fall asleep and working on his laptop when I wake up, so maybe it’s just me that needs 11 hours. I know right now I could use coffee and a nap.
I have never encountered as confusing an array of switches and power outlets as I have in Indian hotels. The Ginger Mysore is a great example of what you can expect from electricians almost anywhere on the subcontinent. As you enter the room, you will see a slot by the door to slide your magnetic key card in order to enable power in the room. Next to this there is a switch that apparently does nothing. Moving further into the room, there is a pair of switches in the hallway outside the bathroom. One switch turns on a bathroom light over the sink, while the other controls the hall light. Once inside the cozy little bathroom, there are two more switches which independently control two additional lights over the toilet and shower respectively. A single light would do the job just fine, but somebody at some point wanted to give me more granular control over bathroom illumination while splitting the controls into two locations, outside and inside. Hidden behind the television is a power switch connected to the outlet that the television is plugged into. Next to the bed is a sconce light set in the wall and next to that is a switch. Intuitively this switch would control that light, but the lighting designer was thinking outside of the box. The switch by the sconce activates the light above the window. To turn the wall light on and off, you need to locate the bank of four switches underneath the little desk in the corner. One switch is clearly marked “AC”, but the other three require experimentation to discern functionality. The first switch controls a light in the far corner of the room. Next to that is the switch for the wall sconce. And finally there is a switch to the ceiling fan. Something tells me there are other switches hidden somewhere, but we’ll survive.