After being in Kathmandu for two weeks (and half-a-year in 2007) I had come to the following conclusion: walking straight in Nepal’s capital city is an impossibility. I have tried to prove myself wrong on numerous occasions (maybe this street? No. Maybe that alley? No.), but failed miserably every time. Walking in a straight line, uninterrupted just would not work. There are pot holes, open sewers, dead and alive dogs in the street, piles of garbage, maniacal taxis and rickshaws, children, adults, food carts, and piles of poop, all of which prove to be obstacles to dodge while walking. I found this rather unfortunate because if I am to live here for any extended period of time I need to run.
Exercise, running specifically, is very important to me. Some people meditate or do yoga to clear their mind. I run. Running keeps me feeling good and energetic, but most importantly, it keeps me sane. I never ever run while listening to music because that hour while I am pounding the pavement is my personal time to sift through my thoughts. I usually finish a run feeling sweaty and inspired. Besides using running to maintain my sanity, the Kathmandu Marathon is looming on October 2nd (I’ll probably do the half marathon). I have yet to finish a half-marathon and I figured I might as well start with a bang and do the Kathmandu race.
While I was wallowing in my sorrows about the impossibility of running outside I woefully investigated gyms. This would be an absolute last resort, I told myself. Although I adore outside running, hiking and walking, I Hate (with a capital H) gyms. Running on treadmills is especially dreadful. I was at work, complaining about not being able to run, when one of my co-workers suggested that, in fact, it is possible! The catch: waking up at 5:30 in the morning.
An early morning wake-up didn’t seem too bad, so I decided to give it a try. My efforts were rewarded. I have now successfully run outside in Kathmandu for four days and will continue to do so almost every day that I can. I’m actually incredibly pleased with my morning runs. At 5:30 a.m. about 80% of the aforementioned obstacles are not yet on the road. I even pass by some fellow runners every now and then. I’ve quickly learned to ignore prying eyes (hard to escape in this city) and have charted about three routes that I quite enjoy. The first day I ran from my apartment to Ring Road, and followed Ring Road for about a mile. This was okay, but Ring Road is a very busy street (even at 5:30 in the morning) so it was difficult to escape exhaust fumes and gritty eyes.
The second day I found a much more pleasant route that actually goes into the semi-country outside of Ring Road. I can run up and down hills and through some rice paddy areas where there is exponentially less traffic and rabid-looking dogs.
Being up early gives me a nice window into the morning activities in the area. Here are a few of the sights I’ve seen while on my morning runs:
*One of my routes leads me to a bridge over a river (Bagmati? I’m not sure, maybe too small for the Bagmati). Now, forget Caddy Car Wash! Instead of a hose down of a mechanical car-wash, taxi drivers simply drive their vehicles right into the river, whip out plastic buckets and clean their cars with river water! I was so surprised when I first saw the gathering of taxis in the river that I stopped my run to watch.
*As I gazed at the goings on of the taxi washing, I noticed a gaggle of crows and vultures snacking on a gray, decomposing, headless pig, which was sitting right in the middle of a shallow portion of the river (about 10 feet downstream from the taxi wash area).
*First, I heard a thunderous cracking of glass, metal and plastic. I turned around just in time to see a pretty horrible motorbike crash. The two drivers quickly stood up and yelled at each other. Witnessing the early-morning accident confirmed that I will never ride a motorbike in Kathmandu (unless I am sitting on the back).
*Early mornings are the best times to witness the butchers at work. Butcher shops in Kathmandu are like nowhere I’ve ever seen: the chopped up pieces of
meat sit out in the open on a table. Usually the butcher shop owner hoovers over the meat chunks with a wand to dispel the flies. But, mornings are when the butchers actually slaughter the said animal (usually goat). My running routes take me by a number of butcher shops. On Friday I saw a spotted brown goat munching on a blade of grass, looking forlorn, and tied to a stake. His former compatriot was sitting in three pieces, completely shaved, on the butcher’s table: head on the far left, abdomen and front legs in the middle, and hind quarters sitting askew on the far left. I felt that the alive goat was not feeling so lucky and could most likely sense his impending doom.