Wednesday 28 July - Katmandu
Before landing, the Boeing of Burma Airways is frequently obliged to circle for half an hour while waiting for a propitious brightening-up between two clouds.
At Katmandu, Cosette of the Misérables would appear like a little princess at the side of certain street scenes where children are involved. Here, a little hunchback girl, eyes lively, bows down in expectation of some alms. She patiently renews her little game and I hold out to her a key-ring - with the coat of arms of an aviation company - which she seizes without saying a word before burying it somewhere under her skirt. Then the child moves away and visibly does not dare beg anymore. Only at the departure of the minibus does she approach again, crosses her hands, inclines her head before bowing profoundly.
At Katmandu, as the aeroplane is rolling along the runway before immobilizing, one sees small stocky men outside stocky houses : it feels like being in Andorra in the 40s/50s.
At Katmandu, the cows stretched out in the road, are waiting for the motorists to wait.
Thursday 29 July, 6 o’clock
At Katmandu, yesterday morning, excursion to Dhulikel in order to see the chain of the Himalayas, but the horizon, blocked by the clouds of the rainy season, does not allow to make out the high summits.
At Katmandu, last night, dinner in the dining-room of the Hotel Annapurna which receives groups of American tourists, as the beach receives the tide.
At Katmandu, this moment, two enormous birds of prey sitting on the hotel roof, wake up, stretch their feathers and find themselves suddenly attacked by four or five of the most insolent crows. If the king of Nepal is Nepalese, the Queen comes from India.
The representative of the company Burma Airways, who came last night for a drink, advizes against one-hour excursions by air around the mountains. A father of seven children, he admits not having been surprized by finding himself stationed at Katmandu, that is “abroad”, for Professor X, a clairvoyant at Rangoon, had foreseen a job abroad for him in the years to come.
The grass of the lawns rectangulating the approaches to the hotel almost looks true and the lawn-mowers nearly mow something.
At Beirut, the perfumes of the night were rising from the orange-trees. At Katmandu, the market smells aggress the nostril to the point of making one feel vaguely apprehensive.
At Dhulikel, bought a rustic violin (20 years, 50 years, 70 years ? nobody can tell its age) from a local shepherd : the passengers of the mini-coach stick to one another in order to contemplate this nepalese “stradivarius”.
Saturday 31 July
At the hotel, I exchange a few words with the employee behind the counter, the one who served us as a guide on the excursion to Dhulikel. The conversation turns to Norgay Tensing, the sherpa-conqueror of the Everest who has opted for the Indian nationality and now lives at Darjeeling and whose feat is minimized by our guide - in a bout of chauvinist fury - who underlines that Tensing was born at Solosolo (just a name !), which means on the very flanks of the Everest, while he, at Katmandu, is only a guide of the plains.
The man of the counter also assures me that Nepal, a neutral country, entertains good relations with all its neighbours : China (in spite of the camp for Tibetan refugees not far from here), India (in spite of the economic pressures the enormous neighbour exerts), Great Britain (in spite of the sergeants who recruit its solid mountain people whom they send to the ghurka regiments stationed at Singapore in order to serve the other Queen, the British one.
Yesterday morning, waiting in vain for the Boeing 737 in order to return to Rangoon and Bangkok : the aeroplane had gone to land in Calcutta. Fury of the other passengers, among them a Greek physician and his lady-wife, who were continually cursing the slowness and deceitfulness of the autochthons (oh Ulysses !) and increasingly indignant voices from a few other deprived citizens of the occidental world.
At Katmandu, yesterday afternoon, walk through the narrow streets of the old part of town, lined with tiny shops (in the style of the Middle Ages in Europe ?). One has to zigzag if one wants to avoid the cars, the cycle-rickshaws and the ... cows who, with their heavy mass, block the pavements terraced by the heat.
Tuesday 9 December : Always the Everest
Concerning the expedition of 1922 which was ended by an avalanche killing seven sherpas, the survivors showed the film about it which did not interest the distributors because of the absence of a love-story. Bernard Shaw saw the film and concluded: “The expedition to the Everest was a picnic caught out in a blizzard”. “Mavrone,mavrone !”, as said the other one.
Claude d’Esplas (Le Petit Train d'Auteuil)
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