Three male dogs picked up on the scent of our breakfast about a quarter of the way towards our destination. In need of human companionship and a bite to eat they followed us up the trail which undulated like a dragon's spine coming to a terminus at Smaug's 'head'; A large, igneous-rock outcrop. There we found a flat, breezy, alpine meadow shaded by tall, slender evergreens and carpeted in a thick mat of pine needles. All around our picnic site the earth fell away into picturesque valleys. Their floors quilted with agricultural fields. We are in Bandipur, Nepal and we love it.
I had flown back into Phokura 4-days earlier to make Karen's birthday. After the dressed-to-kill ladies fortified themselves with a couple of celebratory 'Cosmo' cocktails at Zorba's bar, we headed to a local dive for some Nepalese vegetable Thali. No birthday cake tonight but plenty of rice hit the table. Still, we made an early night of it. It is hot in Phokara. Sweltering, Florida in July hot. I walked the girls back to their room at the Traveler Inn and then I cruised back to the infamous KC hotel where the room may cost $6 but the
KJ With Our New Family
Very curious animals who took great delight when Karen unwrapped the boiled eggs.
views are priceless. Karen and Karlie joined me at the KC the next day. They spent three nights there enjoying the comfortable room temps and those aforementioned views of the Himalayas. We left Phokara having done all we could think of doing there short of paying $100 for a para-sail ride. We satisfied our exercise needs with morning climbs through cool, monkey-colonized forests to the World Peace Stupa. It's a white-conical temple atop a lakeside peak overlooking the city. We were sorry to leave the KC Hotel. Happy to leave the power outages and the lousy WIFI but not those phenomenal views of the mountains.
The public bus to Bandipur was grinding its way through second-gear up the steep, switch-back mountain road. All of our luggage, including Karlie's now 'Sherpa-Weight' backpack was on the roof of the vehicle along with any passengers who could either not fit themselves into the crowded bus or simply wanted to pay less than the fifty-cent price for an inside seat. It was a hot day and while sweating in the back of the stifling bus I made a pledge to ride on the roof the next time around.
Bandipur is an old
Chance The Wonder Dog
Listening in on Karlie and Karen on the opposite ridge.
trading town on the ancient silk road between India and Tibet. Today its population is about 10,000 Newar natives. When the newly constructed Nepalese highway bypassed the burg back in the 1970's, the town fell into an economic downturn. It boasts a beautiful mountain setting as well as some fine architecture. The town Fathers wisely decided to limit commercial development and to re-invest the flow of tourist dollars back into infrastructure; Repair of streets and buildings were at the top of the list. It worked. This is one of the neatest Nepalese settlements we have come across so far. The 18th-Century red-brick buildings are decorated with wooden porticoes. Overhanging slate roofs shade tiny balconies. The hand-carved eaves and roof treatments all have an organic look. Soft natural lines abound. These old shop houses are perched along a small cliff, overlooking a Tuscan-flavored, salad bowl of a green-terraced valley. In the evening, when the Swifts arrive in Van Gogh whorls to feed on insects; the whole scene vibes like Sienna, Italy. The people who populate these mountains are known as 'Magars'. They are the descendants of the 12th Century Tibetan armies that invaded and won the Kathmandu valley. They have their
KJ and Karlie In Bandipur
Early AM hike to the top of a ridge with a beautiful, picnic ready meadow.
own language; The cadence of which sounds very Italian. In the evenings, when the adults sit together in front of their shops to talk and laugh, I close my eyes and I ride the sound of their voices to Florentine Piazzas.
It's a small place and very walkable. We booked two rooms at the Bandipur Guesthouse for $17 total. Nice clean beds with en-suites and a very good restaurant one floor down. The hotel looks west over a valley. From the dining room we watch uniformed school children walk up the road to the Japanese-Catholic grade school established in 2003 by a group of dedicated nuns. Village women drive goats into high pastures while still other women harvest mystery foliage from steep hillsides with their Lion's claw-shaped 'Plateau-Knives' and then haul it home in deep woven baskets worn strapped to their heads and backs. In town, the wide flagstone streets slant to and fro; forming a maze of alleys, side streets and neighborhoods peopled with folks who seem to be as surprised to see us as we are to see them. They sit in front of their shops and stand on balconies shouting observations to each other as they
KJ and Karlie Catch Up On The World News
...and discover that NOTHING has changed.
watch the passing parade. Many families keep bee-hives outside their windows next to the columns of Royal-Purple Bougainvillaea that festoon their homes. Honey is a staple at every breakfast in Bandipur.
Small, trim temples and shrines dot the streets. Each has a large bell in front of it that worshipers can ring as they pray. Songbirds filigree the parochial din in this long-lived town.
Cafe tables nestled into cliff-side aeries offer panoramic views and cool evening breezes. Besides the temples there are a smattering of small Nepalese shops, a dozen restaurants and tiny guesthouses. In the morning Karen and I take a breakfast of milk tea and Tibetan fried bread with honey at an outside table. We watch hundreds of uniformed school kids straggle past our table on their way to class. Many will ring the temple bell next to our cafe and then touch their heads and hearts repeatedly with their right hands. In the evening the locals promenade up the main street, talking with friends, neighbors and the odd visitor. Young boys play Cricket in the lanes. It feels like Mayberry here and Sienna and Santorini and Peru and home. A medley of laid-back, beautiful haunts
Reminds me of Devil's Den in Gettysburg
from our past trips. Bandipur is another stunning jewel in the Asian crown that is Nepal.
After eating breakfast, exploring the rocky ridge and feeding leftovers to the dogs we headed back down before the hot, rising sun became an issue. The dogs leapfrogged ahead of us. Jack-Rabbiting up sheer ascents only to flutter back down to earth on twinkle-toed paws. Complete and utter show-offs.
We turned up the road to our hotel. Behind us, the hounds threw us a farewell wag and headed back up the hill. Their work was done. Their stomachs filled and their adopted guests happy to have made their acquaintance. I really need to think about getting a dog.... Maybe not.
Tips to travelers: Bandipur IS worth a stop. A long stop. This is not a bar town. It is a place to walk, talk, eat a leisurely meal, read a book or write a novel. The people are very laid back. There are lots of uniformed school children, friendly farmers and remarkable dogs. I cannot recommend this spot more highly. It is; A Keeper. Local bus costs 50 Rp from the bottom of the hill in Dhure. Private taxi costs 800
We're heading east to Everest if we can. Due to bad weather; Flights to Lukla airport (Everest) have been hard to come by. We hope to be able to secure passage when we reach Kathmandu. It would be a shame to come so far and not see the BIG ONE.
Congrats to Stace and Reed on the new baby. Are we there yet? Shouts out to Noah; who is sitting on pins and needles and to the Densons. I trek every day up here and there isn't a single morning when I don't catch sight of a sun-helmeted man in Denim shorts, far up the trail, beckoning me forward. No lie. Howdy to Karlie's brother. You'll love Prague. It is, indeed; One of Europe's great cities. Make sure to watch Vin Diesel's: XXX before you arrive. To my family in Chicago. I wish you could all be here to see this remarkable place. I carry you all with me so enjoy! To Greg: Have you finished digging yet?
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