Yesterday we flew from Kathmandu to Pokhara today – it’s sinfully nice here, the way Kathmandu must have been 30 years ago. Green, lush, clean air… our hotel has a pool, a massive garden, a full bar. Scott keeps warning me not to get comfortable – the rest of the trip’s going to be down and dirty, but it’s nice to have a couple days to relax, shake jetlag, and drink in Nepal.
The expedition is going to be massive – latest count had us at 29 ponies, 18 monks, plus the entire medical staff. “It’s going to be somewhere between a caravan and an invasion”, says Scott, and “It’ll be like the circus is coming to town!” A circus of major eye surgery, to be precise – I saw my first one today on a monitor at the Himalayan Eye Hospital. I don’t consider myself squeamish, but seeing someone’s eye get sliced up was enough to make me gawk. It’s terrifying – but also beautiful, as the little tubes and vacuums go to work pumping fluid in, sucking matter out, and slicing through the thin protective film. I’m looking forward to filming it, to be honest.
In Nepal, nothing is certain. Our porters and ponies are traveling overland to meet us at Jomsum, but we haven’t heard from them since they left days ago. We can only hope that they – and the vast majority of our gear – arrive safely.
We spent the morning at the Himalayan Eye Hospital, meeting the technicians who’ll be accompanying us on our expedition, and seeing a bit of them in action. The HEH is a beautiful facility – lush gardens and columned walkways. It’s incredible what they do with such limited resources – at one point Scott asked to see the Lab, and we were shown to a room three of us had to squeeze to fit inside, with one desk’s worth of equipment and a single microscope. We canned some good interview material with the Hospital Director and an intro with Scott – the first few little pieces in making this documentary come to life. The real story will be in the field, but it’s nice to collect some periphery, and start building the narrative frame.
After lunch in Pokhara, we headed to the monastery providing our monk entourage. We sat down with the head lama at the negotiating table and got to work – inevitably, every small village in Mustang wanted something: the clinic to stop in their specific village, involvement of their people, changes of schedule, money… and all a day before the expedition starts. I took off and palled around with some baby monks on their playground, and saw their new temple under construction.
Tomorrow we fly to Jomsun, fingers crossed that everything gets there on time. Soon after, we’ll be heading into the Mustang itself. If we can make it to the restricted area, it should be smoother sailing. I should be able to update once more from there before we hit the wilderness. Wish us luck!
You can follow my flickr set of the expedition at: