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Published: December 31st 2010
The prayer flags add some amazing colour!
Kathmandu – Home Sweet Home
Its funny how a place that felt completely alien to us 3 weeks prior on arrival, now on our return seemed like our home. We expected cows to be patrolling the streets, we expected rubbish to be all over the place, we expected people to be trying to push tiger balm on us like it was the absolute business! We strolled around the streets of Thamel relaxed and feeling like locals; we knew where to get jacks paper and Cadbury's treats now... we were invincible! No amount of tiger balm or chessboard toting touts could put a damper on our day:-)
We were lucky to get to Kathmandu that day at all though as we had missed the tourist bus, which leaves Pokhara daily at the insanely early time of 8am. Our hostel manager was explaining to us that 'its festival time you know' and all the local busses wouldn't be running. Anything is possible when you got money we reasoned, so we decided to chance our arm and see if any busses were going to head to Kathmandu. Our hostel owner wished us luck, but looked confident we'd be staying in Pokhara
Look I'm a skellington
note the swastika symbol which is a very common religious symbol in Hinduism (not sure about Buddhism)
for another night.
We got a taxi to the 'bus station', basically a big stony field, and to our surprise no busses were to be seen. We cursed the pesky festival gods that had again thrown a spanner in the works, and had now cost us a day in Kathmandu. The taxi driver said we could chance another street to see if any enterprising locals were doing mini van trips, and with nothing to lose we agreed. There was about 10 mini-vans on the street ready, willing and able to go, so we were quickly bustled into one of the vans and off we went. It was surprisingly cheap at about the same price as the tourist bus, and it was relatively comfortable compared to the lively local bus. With no random stops to drop and pick up people it was also about 2-3 hours faster than the bus we had gotten from Kathmandu to Besi-Sahar, so we were fairly delighted with our luck!
After a fairly uneventful trip we got back to Thamel, the tourist area in Kathmandu, and collected our luggage we had left in our guest house. Richie was understandably anxious to see his $2000
laptop again, but myself and Kev just wanted some clean clothes. Ah the simple things in life! The guest house was full, but the friendly manager walked us to a sister guest house called Himalaya Yoga, which turned out to be much better and cheaper. I would highly recommend this place to anyone thinking of staying in Thamel! We were staying in a bright, clean, comfortable room for $3 dollars each a night. Yes, for the price of an ice cream in Ireland we had our accommodation sorted!
We checked out another impressive Buddhist stupa, called Budinath Stupa, on one of our first days back. The all seeing eyes are my favourite thing about these stupas as they seem to follow you where ever you walk, and they're on all four sides. Again the multi-coloured prayer flags make the place quite picturesque, and it was a nice place to spend the afternoon. Check out the picture of the most secure bell in the world hehe!
Off the grid for 3 weeks
After the stupa, we chilled out one day doing absolutely nothing but playing computer games, eating junk food, and watching movies. Sometimes whilst travelling, you
need these kind of days to switch off, and after 3 weeks trekking it was a well deserved lazy day :-) We had been off the grid for the longest time in my life since I'd been on it! The next day we met up with old workmates of myself and Rich from Melbourne, Bobby and Sujan, who grew up in Kathmandu and were back for the first time in years to visit their families and friends(we had met Bobby 3 weeks ago aswell, but Sujan had arrived when we were trekking). It was so nice of them to come out of their way to meet us in Thamel for lunch, but poor Bobby was dying with a cold! We had a good old chin-wag and caught up on all the happenings from Melbourne. Sujan, who was clearly feeling decidedly epic, decided on the spot to organise a trip to Baktapur for the next day, which is a beautifully maintained medieval part of Kathmandu. Legend!
Unfortunately, in the morning food poisoning hit me...I'll spare you the details but basically my tummy wanted everything out as soon as possible, and it didn't mind too much what direction... I was a
Everest here we come!
mess. Disastrously we had to cancel on Sujan and Bobby, who had gone to the trouble of organising a mini-van and some friends to visit Baktapur.
The Himalaya mountains: does big better than anything else on the planet!
Luckily, it seemed to be only a 24 hour thing as the next morning we were going on a flight around Everest. Not every day you get to see the tallest mountain in the world! We hopped on our morning flight in a smallish little Buddha Air propeller plane, which had been delayed for 2 hours for some unknown reason. A thick, cloudy mist hung in the Kathmandu valley, but the snow covered Himalayas pierced through the flimsy cover with ease resembling a big, long, spiky slice of Vienetta with layers of rock, then snow, then rock...mmm Vienetta. It was awesome to see such a staggering mountain range from the air, and the spiny backbone of the planet seemed to stretch along to infinity linking the east and west horizons. Everest, though ideally in the mind is the most awesome thing on the planet, is visually by itself not as impressive or dramatic, to me anyway, as Mt Fuji
Everest is the tallest one on the right (as far as I can remember) :-)
in Japan, because the mountains around Everest are so huge its hard to stand out. Emphasizing my point, you need to have it pointed out to you by the flight crew, as it lies amidst this colossal range. The Himalaya range as a cohesive unit however is amongst the most amazing things I've seen, like a massive impenetrable phalanx of spears and shields. It isn't 5 or 6 or even 10 big mountains, its 2400km long with over a 100 peaks higher than the next tallest mountain outside this range, which lies in the Andes (thanks wiki). In its drainage basin, a half of the entire worlds population lives. Its the Great Wall of walls, its the Ayers Rock of big rocks, it does big better than anything else on the planet. We got a chance to enter the cockpit of the plane to get a birds eye view of the range, but its all a bit too rushed to be able to enjoy it, as everyone on the plane wants a go... of course! It was nice though just to be able to just sit in the window seat, everyone gets a window seat, admiring the range and getting
Bobby and Sujans peeps
Top row from left: Bobbys bro, Sujans bro, me, Kevin, baby (not sure), Bobbys eldest sis.
Bottom row from left: Bobby!, Bobbys niece(i think), Bobita(Bobbys sis), Richard
lost in your own little world of fluffy snow and obsidian rock. The flight was about an hour long and cost $130, but I would easily recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in...anything.
Afterwards we met up with our friends Sujan and Bobby, who wanted us to meet their families, and show us around town the Nepalese way. Sujan somehow managed to borrow 4 bikes off his friends and family for us all to go on a trip to Baktapur with less than a days notice! Surely one of the most stressful days in Su's life hehe (see photo). We met their families who were all friendly and interested in what we were doing travelling. Nepalese have very close family units, with your cousins and uncles etc often sharing the same house as your own family. 8 of us went on the 4 bikes and I had one of Bobby's sisters, Bobita, on the back of my bike, with no helmet, even though back home I wouldn't dream of putting anyone on my bike without a helmet. In Nepal... its better you know.
We drove a fairly pleasant 30 km to a lovely temple called
Changu Narayan, where we strolled along an old, characterful street, with old men smoking and peering out of windows, and locals trying to interest us in Nepali music and local craft, on the lead up to the hill-top temple. It was cool walking around with our entourage, and whenever we wondered about any of the statues or buildings, our friends would explain. We went to a nice viewpoint at the back of the temple complex, where we could see a good stretch of the Kathmandu valley, beneath an overcast sky. We got back on our bikes and headed for Baktapur, but first stopped to admire the sun that had now broken through the clouds. We travelled on the unsealed, bumpy road for another 20km to the medieval city of Baktapur. The Nepalese luckily decided to preserve the cities uniqueness, and you take a step back in time seeing the stone-slabbed houses and cobble stoned streets. We toured about some impressive pagoda temples with our new found pals, and enjoyed tooling about on the lion statues lining the steps. Unfortunately, the lights that normally light the temples and pagodas were not working the day we were there, its supposed to be
a magical sight walking the stony streets in the dim glow of the street lights. A nice trip none the less.
Hands on eating experience
Afterwards, we drove back to Su's house where his family had gathered to prepare us a traditional meal of Dal Bhat. What an experience! It consists of rice, Dal which is like a lentil soup, chicken curry, vegetable curry, pickles, and afterwards you get some rice pudding or curd. To make it as authentic as possible they asked us to sit on the floor and eat with our hands, with hilarious consequences. Kevin was able to shovel food into his mouth like a seasoned pro, getting compliments on his technique from Su's father, but I was fairly hopeless, with the rice especially, spilling it all over myself. Su's family thought it was hilarious watching us, which made us enjoy it all the more. I ended up with curry marks all over my face, like a trip back to my young days eating spaghetti bolognaise and getting a loop of spaghetti on my ear! Drinking from the distant spout of the water jug was pretty difficult, you can't put it to your lips
The best waitress in town
because its communal, and we all ended up with suspicious looking wet patches on our crotch. At one stage I ate something very hot...VERY HOT! I shovelled in the curd to cool down my tongue, and became a pro at pouring the water into my mouth from the jug. It took about 10 minutes to neutralize the spice, and Bobby especially couldn't stop giggling:-) My tummy hadn't fully recovered from the day before so spicy food definitely wasn't what I needed, but it was for sure worth a bit of tummy rumbling to experience our pals hospitality.
The next day Kevo was flying home, so we dumped all our photos on his hard drive, and brought him to the airport to say our fair wells. The legend had bought us some going away pressies, Edmund Hilary's 'View from the Summit' for me, and a biker magazine and t-shirt for Richie. Not used to getting presents, it was a really nice surprise for us:-) Who knows when we'll meet our friend again. Hopefully in China in the summer ;-) C'mon Kev you know you want too!
Bobby invited us round to her house to meet her family and to
dine with them that night. We got to meet Bobby's influential father Jagatman Lama, who had been a guide on a number of important expeditions for various British dignitaries, including Prince Charles! He owns his own trekking company now, and he is full of stories and pictures of trekking, simply a proud and interesting man. We dined on some lovely not so spicy snacks and Dal Bhat, but my tummy was still not great so I couldn't do it the justice in deserved.. Sorry Bobby's mum! Twas a nice night, and we chatted to our buddies for hours, saying our final fairwells before making our retreat to our guest house and preparing for our trip to India. Thanks guys, and we hope to return the hospitality when ye come to Europe some day:-)
We had a day to sort out our affairs, send postcards and upload photos.. and play a quick game of Civ 5 before we left for India... I have my weaknesses ok ;-) Then it was time for our interesting bus trip to Sunauli.
Fairwell Nepal, I'll be back!
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