It's late evening when I arrive in Bakhtapur. The sun has already set, and the streetlights illuminate the old cobblestone streets. To get into the old town, I have to pay a hefty entrance fee. Converted its 15USD. That's a lot of money in Nepal. Grumbling, I reach into my pocket. When the inn of my choice is full, I change to a hotel. It's too expensive for me and not good, but what am I supposed to do? I'm relieved to get off the road. Although I feel surprisingly secure in this city, I don't trust that feeling. As soon as I arrive in my four walls, I have a long and rare skype conversation with my big brother. It's cold. I cuddle into bed while I examine the familiar themes that connect us. As usual, my brother disagrees with me and, as always, I fail to verbalise my view of the world adequately. But this is also a piece of the puzzle. A piece that I pick up again and again. I hope that someday practice will make perfect. I have noticed how my ability to communicate increases with travelling.
The next morning I go out early to explore the city. At twelve o'clock I plan to start my hike to Nagarkot. I have three and a half hours left. The city wakes up, and in the side streets, women walk to the wells to get water for breakfast. Everywhere you see dilapidated gaps in the houses. The debris seems untouched. The dust is omnipresent. At one place I observe an elderly gentleman sorting rubble. A step that I know only too well from restorers at home. But even without restorative experience, puzzling is something very familiar. Somewhat ashamed, I steal a photo. Something I have sworn never to do and one of the reasons why on my blog, there are hardly any pictures of people. I don't want to photograph strangers, the other. I am fascinated by what unites, not what divides us. In Bakhtapur, the puzzler is not the only one who evokes memories of home. Around the corner, I see a man reading a newspaper. He does it with a nonchalance reminding me of my mother. She spends each morning with the local press, almost religiously. And like her Nepalese counterpart, she doesn't give a damn about her surroundings.
I am profoundly happy in Bakhtapur. The bumpy cobblestones playfully absorb the golden evening light, the old brick houses with the white or blue shutters and the friendly uninterested locals make it a place that seems worth living. And yet, something continues to pull me to sites higher up. I'm drawn to the mountain villages. I long to experience what others call the "real" and "authentic" Nepal.