© 2009 Benjamin Chernivsky Guy reading a paper and sipping some real joe at Kathmandu's Coffee Chikusa

Back in Kathmandu, and dreaming of [food] [Chicago] [India] [???]

Incredible what being in the mountains for 15 days will do to you – it reminds me of being on a camp trip up in Northern Michigan or Canada again – always itching for food you can’t have, gummies, sunday’s ozzing with warm fudge, pizzas. Oh pizza.

Back in Kathmandu we find it all, unexpectedly. Our last supper in the country of Nepal consists of: pizza for appetizer and Indian food for main dish.  Desert:  gummies and Snickers back at the Kathmandu Guest House.  We miss the comforts of home, and India. In fact, most of the time we had discussions about how great Indian food is.

Guy Walker and I end up waking up early the day of our departure and going to one of now favorite Kathmandu locations: Chikusa Coffee. “Tired of Nescafe?” a sign says outside of the store – “REAL COFFEE.” Thank God. Northern India, I discover over these 3 months of traveling here, hasn’t quite discovered the joys of real bean coffee. Much like London (and a lot of the UK, which is wonderful when it comes to fresh teas), Northern India and Nepal has a fascination with instant coffee. Done right the stuff is great – but it’s like trying to get nose tissues right: there are SO many of them that lack the wonderfulness of comfort.

Nepal might be the exception. I discover that in the past ten years Nepal has started to grow its own crops of coffee beans: yes, coffee estates in the Himalayan hills. I first find out while scrounging for something warm to drink at a local food-store. The smell of fresh-roasted and well-packaged coffee beans sweating with caffeinated oils is hard to steer away from. Organic.  Shade-grown.  Co-op farming.  Heaven.  I’m sitting there on the bottom shelf of the market’s tea and coffee selection squeezing every bit of coffee-roast-sweetness from the one-way valve sealed bags. Mmm. Guy and I are in heaven.

While using the internet and sipping a few lattes at a posh coffee shop in Kathmandu (free wifi...) I cam across this wonderful bit of red composition.

I leave Nepal feeling like a coffee smuggler for my friends. Nearly 10 pounds of coffee and generic winter clothing is stuffed into a brand new (and generic) North Face XL-sized duffel bag. “Water proof” and extra durable. I’m sure. At only one of the many adventure outfitters on the streets of Kathmandu I actually saw a set of jackets and bags labeled with this patch: “The Hortn Face.” Yes, they swapped the ‘N’ and ‘H’ of North Face. At another shop we find Arc’teryx jackets labeled with North Face’s “Summit Series.” Um, no. Wrong. The shop owners wouldn’t even know either – all they’ve seen is knock-off brands their whole life. But the jackets and sleeping bags and duffels and pants all work in the mountains. Down and proper fabric will work wonders when put together, regardless of who manufactures them. At least for 15 days, that is.

The days of 150 rupee lattes and 70 rupee Snicker bars are over. India, bless me with your spicy food. Bathe me with 35 rupee plates of daal and lentils and potatoes and rices simmering in Indian spices. Toast some chapati, butter the roti. And most of all, ginger that black tea, pour masala onto my tongue and stuff me with a climate of peaceful and gritty rivers (of trash), fields of grass, deserts of dust and sand and golden things. Let me rest on your purring cars that glide down your smooth railway. And most of all: give me your golden dusking sunlight.

A Chicago winter can wait. At least for one more week. For now, India calls.


  1. Posted December 14, 2009 at 4:07 am | #

    Digging the coffee reflection. made me giggle!

  2. Posted December 14, 2009 at 9:05 pm | #

    Ah ya caught that! David – you’d love this coffee-joint. Just bliss after 3 months of coffee crystals. Actually, no. I just altogether shifted to street chai for my entire time in India…didn’t even give coffee too many chances with such a great warm beverage around!

    Anyway, when you’re in Kathmandu – Chikusa Coffee, check it out.

    Cheers, mayte!

    – Ben

One Trackback

  1. By Waldo Emerson [literature] and Photography on February 8, 2011 at 5:02 am

    […] by chance we spent about 4 weeks time together in India and Nepal back in the autumn of 2009 (see here).  I always appreciated our conversations on poetry and photography, as I was exploring a lot of […]

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