Saturday, 1 October 2011

When push comes to shove - and then some . . .

The destination was the Monkey Temple - a Hindu and Buddhist temple famous for its resident monkeys. Primed by our guide, Ben, I initiated the negotiation of a rate with the rickshaw driver. Ben told us locals would pay 50 Rupees but that tourists could expect to pay R200.

I asked how much it would cost and my enterprising drive put on his best poker face: R700.

The typical drama ensued - shock, disbelief, indignant protest - and after threats to walk away the acceptable fare of R200 was secured.

We were befriended by a local who was 'very helpful' in giving directions. The hidden agenda became apparent fairly quickly and a direct conversation was had. He assured us that he was not collecting for himself but for an orphanage. Hmmm. The added twist was that anything we offered would be very acceptable to him.

He was a super guide and looked after us for 3 hours with endless stories of Kiva, Ganesh, Rama and all the supporting gods and goddesses. We looked after him well at the end and sought a rickshaw to return. Our driver asked us what we wanted to pay. I suggested R100 whereupon he countered R150 due to the hill on the return journey.

Right enough the hill was nasty and in no time the poor Nepali, having strained valiantly for some time with his single gear rusty-chained rickshaw had to get off and strained to drag the rickshaw along.

My passenger happened to be a Vancouver lawyer specialising in defending human rights of First Nation clients. This time with my best poker face I asked how she felt about sitting in the back of a rickshaw while this poor local pushed and shoved the two of us along.

After an embarrassing silence there was only one thing to do - I jumped onto the saddle and pushed away with all my might. Locals hooted their approval at the unconventional reversal of roles and we got back to our hotel in jig time.

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