Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Friday, 28 May 2010


Until now on this journey I’ve managed to avoid much contact with the freaks and geeks that make up the India-Nepal backpacker circuit, but here in Pokhara, the restaurants I regularly eat at is a big draw for them as well as me, so over meal times I get to hear the profound discoveries about the world they share with each other.

Most of the discussion tends to focus around how much they have paid for things, or “been ripped off” to use common parlance. There seems to be a genuinely held feeling that the whole country exists to service the needs of this naive flotsam with bulging wallets that do nothing but plead poverty.

Once in Camping Mousafir, the bottleneck stop for any overlander heading down the west coast of Africa, an elderly new-age-traveller, Fred, overheard some Quebequois youngsters telling a beggar that they had no money. Now it’s fair to say that the Québec accent is enough to wind anyone up, but Fred tore into them with gusto. “If you don’t have any money then fuck off back to Canada. Don’t insult these people by telling them you have no money. If you’re too tight to share your wealth with people who have nothing at least give them the dignity of telling them you don’t want to share it with them.”

It’s a logic that’s hard to argue with and since then I’ve never dared to tell a beggar I don’t have any money.

I ask a girl from Elephant and Castle if she is in Pokhara on holiday, “No I’m travelling” she replies without a hint of irony. I immediately and involuntarily adopt the most Brit-abroad stance on everything, including an overdeveloped cockney accent, and the urge to call her “darlin’” or “swee’heart” at every opportunity. “Oh yeah, so you more into all the culture ‘n that? Oh yeah, that’s swee’ darlin’. I like the culture stuff too, but me, I’m jus’ on me ‘olidays. I come for the cheap beer really.” She can’t get away from be quick enough.

Nuttiest of the lot is Catwoman. She’s maybe 20, shaved head from Bologna Italy, with an effervescent personality and a penchant for delivering eulogies on the merits of various diets. Just last night I had to listen while the entire restaurant sat enthralled by one of her lectures on the health benefits of Tofu Ice cream. She mixes Italian words in with crap she talks in English, making her sound so much more authoritative and worldly. I call her Catwoman because she carries a tiny kitten around with her in bright pink plastic basket, who she has christened “Meaowmeaow”. Meaowmeaow should actually be called Meaowmeaow the second, as Meaowmeaow the first disappeared after one of the local stray dogs (Woofwoof?) got hold of it.

Catwoman is only beaten into second position on the freakometer by the Ethiopian, who wonders around town with half a tonne of fabric wrapped in a beehive turban, and barely the tiniest stitch covering the rest of his skinny shinny black body. Sometimes he also carries a carved 2m stick which no doubt has some ceremonial importance, but more practically helps him hobble barefoot over the sharp stones. Now he might actually carry off a shred of credibility if it wasn’t for his unmistakable heavy Chicago accent. The fact that he stays in a lovely little hotel also leads me to wonder how he’s paying for his endless Pokhara sejour? I bet he sold a successful car dealership before the crash, or owns the franchise to a couple of McDonalds back in the US.

He is also a lecturer in the important things in life. “The dog is happy because he is not enslaved by the need to work in an office”. The lounging stray looks back angrily as the Ethiopian points him out with a prod of his ornate walking stick. I pray that the dog bites him back, but it seems it too is cowed by the Ethiopian’s aura of profundity.

There’s a trio of English Cougars here too patiently sitting out their 2 month Indian visa exile in Pokhara before returning to their homes in Goa. It’s not really fair to call them cougars, as I haven’t seen them with any younger men, but I think the only thing holding them back is their British reserve. They met in the restaurant and all 3 are radiant 50-somethings with beautiful long blond greying hair, smooth soft tanned skin and peaceful smiles. Very attractive, if it wasn’t for the fact that they sit each day transfixed by the Ethiopian, like devotees at the Ashram, slowly nodding and gently moaning in agreement with each new insightful revelation. “The sun puts heat in our bodies and warmth in our hearts” he says on a particularly hot lunchtime. Sounds like the horny Chicago car salesman is on the pull!

Last night, as I sit for dinner, Catwoman hands me a stapled menu of films explaining to me in Italian that there is a French guy who has collected all the best, most inspirational films in the world, and he’s trying to get to India but has run out of money, so is now offering to burn the films of your choice onto DVDs for a small fee. I flick through looking for a Steve Martin film where he plays a fake evangelist preacher, but I can’t remember the title. I’m also in the mood to watch The Wages of Fear in preparation for the drive back down the mountain but needless to say the films on the list are all far more worthy than my shallow search for easy entertainment.

The Scouse lads at the next table are curious about the list and not having understood the Italian explanation ask me what it’s about.

“Some lazy French chancer is trying to make a bit of cash by selling pirated DVD’s” I stop short of delivering a full lecture of my own to the restaurant which would have gone something along the lines;

“Not only is this weasel stealing the intellectual property of the filmmakers, people who he professes to respect and admire, but worse, he’s also stealing business from the Pokhara DVD shop 3 doors down the road that also sells all these titles. In the process, he’s depriving genuinely poorer people of their source of income. If this Dharma-wit really doesn’t have the money to get to India, then in the wise words of my old friend Fred, he can fuck off back to France.”

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