"Sir, Kathmandu is under indefinite curfew from today, you cannot get out of the hotel under further notice", the receptionist told me as I was coming down for breakfast. I couldnt believe it, and I slapped my face to be sure I was not dreaming. True, the capital chronic unrest was notorious and I have seen maoist slogans all over Thamel, the tourist area. Then, there was this matter of 12 nepalis workers kidnapped and killed in Iraq the week before, but as they were poor and from the countryside, the government didn't even bother to save them or pay the ransom. But I couldnt see the link with maoist rebels.
Conversation in the dining room was in full swing. Excited backpackers and "upmarket" tourists from the "expensive rooms" were now talking together about the news. Don't worry I heard, tomorrow we will be free and will be able to go to EBC (Everest Base Camp)!
Coming from a middle rate room (15US$), I inserted myself between the 2 groups. "But how to go to the swimming pool?" I asked. A friendly English guy, who wanted also to go swimming, cheerfully propose to do a tentative exit in the afternoon. I agreed.
Kathmandu Guest House, is a local institution, built in a former palace, it has now more than 120 rooms, and price range is from 5 US$ to 80 US$. It is so famous and has been cited in so many mountaineers movies and books that the square in front of it has been renamed KGH square, and KGH square is considered to be Kathmandu tourist centre.
Later, I called my "friend", the French Embassy consul, who advised me earlier not go to EBC by foot from Jiri ("it's full of maoists, a female japanese tourist just disappeared a month ago"). He told me to stay quietly in my room as Army deployed in Thamel was ordered to shoot on sight at everything moving!
Nonetheless, at 2pm, dressed in sporty attire, behaving like conspirators, with my British pal, we climbed KGH gate (pic) and walked creepingly along the walls in narrow streets to try to reach our beloved swimming pool, which was located in a large hotel, on the rim of Thamel. We managed to go unnoticed for a few quarters in totally empty and strikingly SILENT streets, but unfortunately a soldier spotted and shouted at us, menacingly pointing his weapon. We explained sadly we were from KGH and a group of 3 soldiers escorted us back to our hotel, where we were of course reprimanded like bad schoolboys.
Party time was from 6 to 7pm, when people, locals and tourists, were allowed to go out shopping,....Everyday, it was a 1h madness in the street, which we enjoyed like kids....
The day after, it was my birthday, and I decided to invite all the hotel guests to share a birthday cake and a few beers in the lobby in the evening. It was crowded! We had fun. I met there a Chinese girl, a backpacker from Guangzhou, with whom I decided to travel the rest of the Silk Road. She agreed happily. After all, I badly needed a Chinese translator! A backpacker from China! Hell, I didn't know this specie even existed. Sadly, her Nepalese visa was expiring the day after! I was devastated.
The Book (the China Lonely Planet I found in the lobby) warned me: from Lhasa to Beijing, you will probably not find ANY English speaker (that happened to be true). Well I had found one and I badly needed to put an option on her.
Two days later, curfew was lifted, Thamel tourist based economy has been damaged, and as it was a source of funds for the maoists, thats what the government wanted after all.
When will be the next curfew? We had so much fun!