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Published: March 13th 2013
Climbing up to the gods
Personally I've never seen the attraction in leaping out of a perfectly good aeroplane, or climbing to the summit of a Himalayan mountain as high as the aforesaid plane's crusing altitude, but mountaineers and adventurers are a breed apart. In fact mountaineering in the Himalayas would have to be the ultimate test of endurance, will power and physical supremacy. So I guess that means you can count me out! There's much to admire, however, in these extraordinary people, and gripping reads such as Into Thin Air, No Way Down and Touching the Void leave an indelible impression on the reader down here at habitable altitudes. The perils climbers must overcome at extreme altitude can hardly be imagined, and taking on the death zone above 26,000 feet requires a special kind of person. In fact there are no communities in the world at an altitude above 6,000 metres, as these extreme conditions can prove fatal to humans.
So let's come back down to earth, dear reader, as the journal continues. We left off in gorgeous Pokhara, where my two day visit could have stretched a lot longer with time permitting. However, the tour of Nepal continues with Rajan and I catching
the tourist bus back to the Sparkling Turtle hostel in Kathmandu. The bus practically caught fire about half way to Kathmandu, and we all got off as quickly as possible while grabbing our bags. There was either an overheated gear box or brake pads and she started smoking like a chimney, but the industrious locals got her up and running again in a few hours and we arrived safely. I thanked my man for all his assistance, and was pleased to have a free day on the itinerary back in the capital. I took the opportunity to stroll to the monkey temple after a great lunch and chat with the friendly guests from the hostel, and I feel I'm right in the travel zone now displaying some peak form. Leave your inhibitions at home is the plan, meet people, see the world, and experience the culture. Wow, this is really living! But first it was time to overcome another hurdle. I was told a guest from the hostel got bitten on the bum by a monkey yesterday who didn't like her getting too close to photograph her baby, so I was more worried than normal climbing the steps up to
the temple. Monkeys and baboons have always freaked me out a bit, and I don't trust them for a minute. The traveller is off for her rabies shots, but I had a great visit and just stopped in my tracks when monkeys raced across the stairs in front of me. It's really wonderful up there on the hilltop, and a must see on your itinerary in Kathmandu.
I chilled with the guests back at the hostel that evening, and helped an Aussie girl post an excellent video to YouTube from her six months living in Africa. The video is set to music with a superb combination of video footage and wonderful photos, in fact it hit me like a thunderbolt when she first played it to me. So I strongly suggested she put it on YouTube to increase her exposure. She did a fabulous job editing the clip, and it blows me away how good her Fun in Africa travel video is. However, I could not stay up too late to fraternise as I was facing another brutal five in the morning start, for the next day's exploring here in wonderful Nepal!
The reason for the early start
was a booking on the dawn mountain flight over the Himalayas. This required being at the airport an hour before the 6:45am departure. The flight takes around an hour and the propellor plane hugs the Himalayas until we flew near the top of the world Mount Everest, before looping back so the single passengers on the other side get to enjoy the same views for the return. The crew also invite each passenger up to the cockpit individually where the pilot helpfully points out Mount Everest, not that there was any doubt in our minds! The whole experience is rather pricey, but is the only chance for many travellers to get a close up view of the Himalayas, unless you're game to embark on a long trek. So I'm glad I signed up for the experience. My driver was waiting in the car park after the plane landed, and drove me out to the ancient Nepalese capital of Bhaktapur. I decided to take advantage of a guide to get the most out of visiting this wonderful historic city, as there's so much to see and do here. A visit to Bhaktapur has been a highlight of the trip, and to
my thinking it's even more impressive than Durbar Square in Kathmandu. Plus it only takes an hour to get here from Kathmandu!
Then we headed up to a hilltop overlooking Bhaktapur, to visit Changu Narayan temple. It's an impressive pagoda style temple with spectacular views from the perimeter of the temple's walls. Once again it was a good experience to wander around at leisure, taking photos and enjoying the intricate wooden carvings that are a highlight of the structure. The final destination to cap off a busy travel day involved a long and windy climb up to an altitude of 2,195 metres, before we arrived at the wonderful hilltop village of Nagarkot. I checked into the fabulous Hotel View Point, and settled in amongst spectacular views of the Himalayas. A day visit is easily doable out of Kathmandu and takes only a few hours, but in order to see the Himalayas you have to rise up out of the Kathmandu Valley and it's appalling blanket of pollution. Only then can you glimpse the soaring mountains that make Nepal a beacon for travellers around the world. The view from the hotel's restaurant is staggering on a clear day, and the
meals in the restaurant are first rate.
I spent the afternoon in Nagarkot with an overnight stay at the hotel, and next morning it was time to drive back to Kathmandu, for a final day of rest and recreation before flying out of wonderful Nepal tomorrow. This is a small country, and a lot of the main attractions are easy to get to out of Kathmandu. It's possible to charge around and pack in the sights without losing huge amounts of time travelling on buses, and I was grateful to have a regular base to return to in the Sparkling Turtle hostel. In fact a visit to the top of the world could be just the ticket, basically all of you should be here now!
Those who travel to mountain-tops are half in love with themselves, and half in love with oblivion." Robert Macfarlane
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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