Published: May 30th 2008May 18th 2008
Last we heard our intrepid travelers had flown from Macau, returning to Bangkok for a rest, and last chance sightseeing before venturing forward into the mountain kingdom, Nepal. Not only were we heading into a new climate but the religious/economic model we had become accustomed to in Asia was also about to change.
On approach to Kathmandu the visibility was a bit hazy or apparently we would have had stunning views of the Himalayas. We watched the valley rise to meet us already seeing the different housing style clearly. After settling in to Kathmandu we took a walk to get used to our new surroundings. By chance we had arrived on the long awaited Election Day. Stores and restaurants were closed; few people were out in the streets, with the notable exception of the local polling stations. We were advised to steer clear of those stations and avoid crowds just in case of disturbances... Apparently, this election has been postponed several times and the people were very excited, not to mention passionate about their personal stance on the candidates. It was an exciting time for us to have arrived in this strange new land.
We wandered through the ancient heart of the city, Dubar Square, and didn't even know it. Katmandu didn't really even show its face to us until we woke the next day and again wandered out to find food and set up our trekking adventure. The Thamel district was awake and crawling with activity, an entirely different city than the one we had seen the day before. Walking the narrow streets, packed with shops, rickshaws, salesmen, beggars, motorbikes blaring horns as they weaved their way between pedestrians, as well as faces from many different ethnicities. This was Nepal! The Thamel district is described in the Lonely Planet as a tourist ghetto. That may be the case, but it's wrapped in brilliant colors and exciting commotion contained in an ancient maze of old buildings and dusty narrow streets. At he Northern end of this district was the trekking Company we arranged our eight day Langtang trek through. Having concluded that bit of business we spent the rest of the day soaking up the vibe of the living streets.
The poverty was astonishing here, and the beggars were more aggressive than in any country we had traveled so far. The poverty
we saw in Cambodia was bad; however this seemed to be on an entirely new scale. It was astonishing how some people we saw were surviving, truly heartbreaking. The city in particular, was a tough place to be destitute, not having the option to farm food or raise animals. They were surviving though. The disparity between the rich and the poor here was astounding, with not much middle class at all, the "haves" avoided the "have-nots" like the plague, leaving the "have-nots" to accost the foreigners for money or "food for the baby".
Rising early and having packed the night before, our guide Rudra met us in the lobby of our hotel and we all headed out to the bus stand to catch our bus to the mountains. The ensuing bus ride was incredible. Rising slowly from the valley bottom up incredibly narrow rough roads, hours passed as we drove further and further into the hills. Scenery out the window changed; neighborhoods and businesses gave way to smaller huts and rice paddies complete with Water Buffalo trimmings. Higher and higher we climbed, crazier and scarier the roads got. One lane roads edged by rock wall and sheer cliffs
Roadblock of Maoist enthusiasts
with two LARGE vehicles passing on corners...lol, it was insane.
As the light fell we approached the last real hill town of Dhunche, believing finally...we were almost there. After seven hours of enduring sweltering temperatures, smelly humans and several chickens, we now entered the red cloud of Maoist enthusiasts. Elated by the recent voting poll, people covered the road like bees on a hive sharing their excitement, a Maoist victory in their district, while simultaneously blocking any traffic from passing through the town. You could cut the tension in the bus with a knife, tourists and Nepali alike unsure of what the excitement would lead to. We just sat their and smiled as the enthusiasts boarded the bus to gain more followers, marking each and every forehead with a red chalk line that accepted. Unsure really of whom we were supporting and whether our beliefs parallel theirs we took the red chalk in stride. Then as if God had an announcement the sky struck lightning and the heavens poured down upon the crowd with great ferocity. The crowd scattered like cockroaches from the light, giving way to a clear path. The bus driver needed no second invitation and
we charged on down the road. Not a second too late, as soon as we passed the rain stopped and the red haze of people once again congregated in the street.
Another two hours down into the canyon on a windy one lane road, we finally had arrived in Syabrubesi at an awaiting guest house.
The next morning we rose early to begin an eight day trek into the stunning Himalayas. For eight days we had a spectacular adventure hiking through remote valleys, quaint villages, old mountain customs, and welcoming tea houses. The high point of the trek was on top Kyanjin Ri at 4,773 meters, close to the height of Mt. Rainier, here there was true serenity...... after we caught our breath of course!
Each morning we were met with the smiling face of Rudrah our guide, a man that can not easily be summed up in one word, but if he could it would be humble. Imagine living your entire life in the mountains, what an incredible cardiovascular system it yields, impeccable knowledge of the mountains, a keen eye for wildlife, in addition to peace of the mind. His very presence was
If it hadn’t have been for Rudrah our perspective of Nepal all together would have been completely different. We hope that we can some day return his incredible hospitality by sponsoring his family on a visit to the States. What a joy it would be to share our culture and attractions with his entire family, whom have never even dreamed of what Disneyland entails. It's hard to believe that our mere passport from any western country holds more privilege then most of the world has ever known... the ability to travel....
After returning to Kathmandu, we spend our last four days visiting the "must see" sites in the valley including an uncommon animal sacrifice in Dubar Square, under the full moon. Luckily we were not sprayed with blood, feces, or intestines but the sight was disturbingly unforgettable!
After two short weeks in Nepal, we know for certain we will return for more trekking some day....
So once again we venture onward, this time, south to India. Where we will explore the Hindu sub-continent by plane, train and Royal Enfield.....Stay tuned boys and girls for the next installment of "where are they now?"
There are more photos below