This is a post for those of you who don't know the history of my interest in Nepal, and wonder why I keep going on about it.
It all began decades ago. In fact I can't recall when I was first intrigued by the mysteries Nepal. But when I was working I did a huge research project and promised myself that a trip to the Himalaya was an appropriate reward for finishing the thing. This was long before my days of independent travel: I joined a tour group and visited many of the most well-known sights. I tramped in the foothills of the mountains, marvelled at temples - and met Tika.
So when I set off on my gap year it made sense, after getting used to being on my own and the mechanics of travelling, to go back to Nepal. But even though I'd been there before the heat and the dust and the chaos of Kathmandu almost had me scuttling back into the airport and heading home. Tika rescued me, led me gently (and with patient good-humour) into the mayhem. We spent five weeks together, travelling through Nepal and south across the border into India. By the time he went home I had learned the essentials of managing on my own in Asia - how to cross the road, how to buy a train ticket, how to keep clean and safe.
I couldn't leave it there. So when I went back to Nepal a few years ago I strode into Kathmandu with confidence. I understood the country, knew all about travelling, hoped simply to explore unfamiliar places with people I had grown to know and love.
Nepal, of course, doesn't take kindly to such hubris. I had to extricate myself from a scam. Then found myself being driven down the Siddartha Highway in the pitch dark after a cyclone (the most terrifying episode in all my years of travelling) and, shortly after that, I walked unnecessarily close to tiger. That was enough to remind me that, however, often I visit, Nepal will alway present me with the unexpected.
Meanwhile Tika kept the show on the road. He laughed at me whenever I was at my most alarmed, or tired, or bewildered.
And now I owe him - and his friends and family. Shobha, his wife, who has always welcomed me into her family, and cooked meals for me on a small stove on her rooftop. Ajay and Upama in Kathmandu - they have a child now, whom I've never met. Buddhi, who led me into the mountains and was so patient with my puffing. Jeevan, who took me to a small village and was helpless with laughter when (I still don't know how this happened) I ended up on the stage at a school prize giving.
I'm not claiming that Nepal is any more or less deserving than any other country. But it is important to me. In just over three weeks I'll be back - and this time I'll focus on what I can do for them. After all, they done more than they can possibly know for me.