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Before the Earthquake: A Personal Look at Kathmandu and Gorka

Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal, 1988. Photo by Kathleen Goonan

As earthquakes continue to ravage Nepal, my heart goes out to the Nepalese people, some of whom are extremely isolated, without access to much of anything that we take for granted in the United States, including food, health care, and education.

In 1988, my husband and I spent three weeks exploring Japan and Thailand, with the help of friends who lived in both countries. We lived in Honolulu at the time, and when I went to look for guidebooks, I was surprised to find that my friend Joe Cummings had written a guidebook about Thailand, which we used with great success. That fall, we had dinner with Joe and his wife in San Francisco. Serendipity is a big part of my life.

While in Thailand, we impulsively decided to go to Nepal. We flew into Kathmandu, tossed our backpacks into a car for hire, found an inn, explored temples, and flew on a small plane for views of the Himalayas. I wanted to get closer, so our intrepid drivers took us on a bone-jarring trip to Gorka, which revealed the poverty of this exhilarating, deeply spiritual country even more starkly than did the narrow streets of Kathmandu.

In the fall of 1988, I published “The Jehu Road to Gorka,” the first of about ten travel articles I eventually published in the Washington Post. During my first years of writing fiction, I found that travel writing paid well, and I published quite a few in national newspapers and trade magazines. A few of my other travel pieces are on my web page, www.goonan.com .

All of the photographs in the piece were taken by me, and may only be used with my permission.

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