|Stuck in Kathmandu
Chitwan NP, Pokhara, Bhote Kosi, Nepal
Apr 16, 2003 07:42
interesting palaces and temples, friendly people, stunning mountain
Cons: strange road law,
We first arrived in Kathmandu what seemed like an eternity ago on
16th April and now nearly five weeks later we are still here having
only just got our Indian visa in order to leave. The Indian Embassy
appears set up to prepare you for India with a simple visa issuing
process having numerous, unnecessary steps and queue after queue
after queue. It also did not help that twice we visited the embassy
it was closed - once for Good Friday and the other for Buddha's
birthday (2547th). In total it took us 6 visits and over 5 weeks
to finally be able to leave! How much we are looking forward to
India, especially since our time there has now been cut short and
the temperature is around 44 degrees - nice!
Still there is plenty to do in Kathmandu and the infrastructure
of the country means that where ever you visit you always seem to
end up back there. That also means travelling numerous times on
the same main highway, which loops around the valley causing near
misses at every turn, not helped by a strange Nepali road law which
states that you have to pass another vehicle only on a blind bend
or hill with your horn blasting for all to hear. Still we made it
in one piece.
We stayed in Thamel; full of backpackers, the whole of Israel, the
odd hippie, and plenty of decent restaurants and cheap accommodation.
It is a vibrant area of the city, very unlike the rest of Kathmandu,
except for the constant car and tuk-tuk horns. The old part of town
is completely different; full of narrow streets, markets, temples
and something interesting at every turn. Most impressive is Durbar
(or Palace) Square, containing the old palace and temples, some
of which date back to the 12th century. Worth a visit is the Swayambhunath
Temple, known as the Monkey temple which has great views over the
city. Close by is Patan, packed full of beautiful temples and another
Royal Palace and Square, again with many fine examples of the fantastic
Newari architecture. The Patan Museum is also well worth a visit.
It also did not help that when we arrived in the city, the students
were rioting (armed with bricks and anything else that could be
thrown). The police kept things in order although the shops and
restaurants of Thamel were sometimes forced to close their shutters
for fear of rampaging youths. Still don't let that put you off coming!!
It is a fantastic country and the last thing the locals want is
to scare more tourists away. We did however escape a number of times
from the hustle, bustle and pollution of Kathmandu. Pokhara, the
second city, is an altogether laid back place, set right on the
peaceful Phewa Tak Lake, and perfect for wasting a day or three.
Simon also rafted down the tremendous Bhote Kosi river (river of
Tibet), a fast flowing steep river packed full of grade 3 and 4
rapids. The boat managed to capsize at one point sending the whole
team into the freezing water. Somehow through a series of simple
commands (including 'get down!!')we weaved our way through the rocks
and rapids. It was great fun, and there we met two great French
chaps, Olivier and Louis. In the mean time, Jo was relaxing in the
nearby resort, still recovering from the excersion of the trek.
In the far south of the country is the Royal Chitwan National Park,
the centre of massive hunting trips by British Royals during the
early part of the 20th century. In one hunt of 11 days, they killed
39 tigers and 18 rhinos. Now the park is obviously protected and
slowly the number of animals is growing. Before the 1950's, the
park was rife with malaria although the local Tharu people have
an immunity, some say because of their heavy drinking!! We saw an
excellent range of animals both on foot, canoe and on top of an
elephant. The highlight was seeing the beautiful one-horned rhino
up close, although during the walk, a nearby rhino forced us to
take refuge up a tree. We also enjoyed bathing with the elephants
and getting soaked in the process.
What better way to end our time in Nepal than with a Mountain Flight.
It took us two attempts to go, having been cancelled off the first
flight to make room for a group of Indians. Instead, a few days
later we took the 6.45am flight across Kathmandu Valley and high
into the beautiful Himalayas. The view was stunning, the mountains
looking postcard perfect in the early morning sun. The highlight
was seeing Mount Everest (8848m) towering above everything - it
was quite an experience. Nepal has certainly left its mark with
us both. It is a beautiful country, packed with things to see and
do and extremely friendly and genuine people.