Nepal, yes Nepal. Well… it isn’t Bhutan. If as they say, Bhutan today is what Nepal was 30 years ago, I think Nepal has lost ground. Yes, Nepal still has beauty and remnants of the beauty and charm of the place and its people still exist but they are harder and harder to find. Skipping Kathmandu, Pokhara, etc., for the moment, a trip to Dhampas. The arbitrariness of power—Trump kind of power. A couple of years ago, as Nepal was struggling to recover from the horrific earthquake, India placed an embargo on Nepal. Perhaps as a show of power (a billion people to about 30 million). Perhaps as political demagoguery (I’m betting on that), perhaps as a way to further the ultimate economic dependence—an economic colony—of Nepal on India (not necessarily mutually exclusive). Who knows? Who can know? What we can know is the result. Just as our own leadership has played such silly games, what was the result: the embargo pushed tiny Nepal in the direction of China. Now a 4-lane highway is being built between Nepal and China. Ostensibly to create more opportunities for Nepal-China trade, it will create a great 4-lane express route for China to do exactly what it did to Tibet: take it with tanks and trucks, while the world simply watched, hands wringing… like China is doing today in the South China Sea, just take it. Bhutan knows that it will then be next. The ol’ Domino thery: But, these two tiny countries do not have the oil and other resources that Vietnam had that propelled us into that disaster. Meanwhile, we drove the corridor of that new highway which is supposed to be complete in two years. It is barely passable. It is barely a road. It is a mess. The approach to building a new road is to tear up completely the existing road for tens of miles right to the very front door of the houses that fronted on the old road. The rock, broken concrete, ripped asphalt, dirt and dust completely obliterate the area for miles… looks like cities in Syria. 5 mph would be a maximum speed and the ride was like being in a washing machine…. Or tumble dryer—it was so hot. Meanwhile those poor people who live in this corridor are smothered every day with a sand storm. The sand storm together with the belching diesel from all manner of trucks and buses has so clouded the air for miles that when we got to our “rustic” 8-room lodge on the top of a mountain (Dhampas) where the great peaks of the Himalayas were to be seen, they weren’t. It was surreal. So, hoping that it would rain that night and wash the air some, we went to bed early-ish—after too many drinks and conversations with the other fun guests. It did rain. We got up at 5:30 just before sunrise to watch the sun slowly light up the mind-blowing Annapurna range. We had glimpses of what was ahead before sunset through the haze—white splashes in the sky appearing to float because nothing under those splashes was visible…. Like stationary lightening but pure white well above the forest that was in front of us. Just didn’t look real. Sunrise: first, the newly washed sky was now gray instead of brown. A light haze. Nothing was visible except the first rays of sun peaking out through lower clouds. Then, a splash of pure white above everything else. Then that splash grew, and grew to monumental proportions. Then more. Then Annapurna 1. Towers of stone and snow of shear height and steepness that you’d only expect to see in Disneyland. All in complete silence. Not even bird calls it was so early. Silent openings of incomparable beauty and force all in one. Then, as things “warmed”, the clouds rose higher on these monumental white splashes and full snow-covered mountain ranges across the whole horizon. Mountains disappeared. Other mountains came into view as if they were silently wakening. The wind carried the clouds away for a moment and the mountains came back into view. Now-you-see-em-now-you-don’t- mountains. The birds also now woke and gave a chorus to these comings and goings. We sat in silence with a cup of tea. There was nothing to say. We stirred when the mountains once again disappeared. The haze had renewed so we could look at what was in front of us: beautiful butterflies and huge bees. One of our new friends declared that she thought the bees were birds. Oh, now we have to have breakfast on picnic tables as we continue to search for white splashes. Back to this world. (Here are the only images I thought to take while watching this display–all from the same spot.)

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