Namaste one and all
For those of you unfamiliar with the term -“Hello”- this missive comes to you from the top of the world (sort of), it is now 9pm and we have been in Nepal for 3 days and I am at a loss for where to begin. This is a country unlike anywhere I have been so far so I will struggle to describe it accurately – to put it simply it is a visual feast no matter where you look there is a person, a colour, a building, an animal which catches your eye. It is not like India but it is. In so many ways it is a contradiction but it is so fascinating, so full of colour, of life and of death. Nepal is a mix of Hindu and Buddhism and in many places the 2 share the 1 temple!! A living example of how 2 faiths can ignore their differences and co-exist peacefully!!
Our arrival in Katmandu involved a complicated and somewhat lengthy track through the mountain peaks before we entered a vast extremely polluted valley, visibility was quite limited however we did not spend much time there, just grabbed our bags and headed out to Bhaktapur about 30 mins from Katmandu. This is a UNESCO sponsored town with some very beautiful temples and stupas built around 2 squares, with lots of little narrow alleys, these are overlooked by many guest houses and restaurants and 1 fabulous café that serves real Lavazza espresso coffee!!!
After locating our guest house and dumping our bags we set off to explore the square outside our guest house – the first sight that met us was the sacrificing of a water buffalo!! Real knives, real blood and really quite surreal especially for the unsuspecting tourist!! However not to be deterred we took in the beauty of the architecture and continued on our way. It took little time to become orientated and our bartering skills soon returned!! Dinner that night was excellent with an array of spicy meat, vegetables and rice washed down with a fine red wine!!
We left Bhaktapur early next morning driving a short distance before setting off to walk the10kms to Nargakot, this also involved a vertical climb of 800m. We walked past beautiful temples and visited Nepalese family homes – a cooking room complete with open fire (virtually no ventilation), also doubles as a family room, a multipurpose room next to it and sleeping quarters upstairs and no I didn’t forget the bathroom, there isn’t one! All washing takes place outside using buckets and large bowls which are filled with water from the local well or if you are lucky there is a pump in the garden.
However this is changing as many Nepalese are now earning money and they are modernizing their homes. Money also means they are becoming consumers, which in turn means more rubbish and then the associated problems of getting rid of it. We also saw them fermenting barley to make the local beer – fascinating!! And apparently highly potent!
The last part of our walk was straight up!! And it was with relief we reached our hotel called Viewpoint, the highest hotel with the best view – unfortunately there was no view of the Himalayas as there was a huge blanket of smoke and pollution – this has been the case everywhere so far as it is the time of the year when they burn off the grass ready for when the monsoons comes and new grass will grow for both domestic and wild animals.
After leaving Nagakot we drove to this amazing holy area called Pashupatinath, there are temples, shrines, monkeys and holy men everywhere. It is also the place where the ordinary people are cremated and we saw several while we were there. They build a pyre using very thick logs, the body, wrapped in very bright fabric is carried in on a stretcher by family. It is then taken to the edge of the river and the feet are placed in the water (the river runs into the Ganges which is of course the mother to all) and the family pours milk and scatters barley to help on the journey. The body is then taken back to the pyre and placed on top, blessed by the holy men who then place a flame in the mouth the rest of the body is covered in straw and set alight. Afterwards the ashes are scattered in the river to join the Ganges. It was just a mass of colour and bells and drums quite spectacular and no you couldn’t smell anything!!
Next stop the domestic airport for a short flight to Chitwan Jungle Reserve – in typical Indian and apparently Nepalese fashion the plane eventually left over two and a half hours later and there is nothing to do in the domestic terminal!! And Chitwan will have to be another email
And yes we are having a brilliant time, it is exotic, and bewitching, the people are warm, smiling and so very friendly, everything we have done has been so interesting and of course there are already hundreds of photos.