Posts Tagged ‘Kathmandu’

Goodbye Kathmandu and Nepal

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

The day after getting back from Lukla I had the tour of Kathmandu included in my trek package. There was just me and the guide and the taxi driver. We visited the large Hindu temple at Pashupatinath, the Buddhist temple at Boudhanath (claimed to be the largest stupa in the world) and the Monkey temple (claimed to be the oldest Buddhist temple in the world).

My guide, Kumud (which he told me means lotus flower) was a Hindu and pretty much taught me everything I know about Hinduism and Nepal and Kathmandu. Apparently the population of Nepal is about 26 million, 1.5 million people live in the Kathmandu valley, 1.3 million of them in Kathmandu itself and the other 200,000 in two other cities. Agriculture is the main source of employment and income in the country.

In adition to the 26 million humans there are 33 million gods in Nepal, one inside every person and another 7 million lurking around for good measure. The big gods at least get loads of sex as and when they feel like it. Apparently head god Shiva is currently shacked up in the deer park next to the Pashupatinath temple getting loads of deer sex. There’s plenty of phallic symbolism all over the temple.

In the temple complex there is an old peoples’ home conveniently located right above the funeral pyre points on the western bank of the Bagmati river. There are 2 sets of funeral pyre points, one for the “ordinary” people and a second set for the “important” people (royalty, prime ministers etc.). There were several cremations taking place on the ordinary set. These funeral pyre points are the most wanted in the city and the going rate is NPR2000 per cremation, firewood not included. Golden monkeys roam around freely, hawkers try to sell you assorted tat, beggars sit with any deformed limbs on special display and hold out a hand or cup as you pass. And people come to pray or just wander around and take in the sights. Admission is free for locals (possibly all Hindus) and NPR 500 (a little under £5) for foreigners. There are some photos in my RTW2011 set at Flickr.

Boudhanath claims to be the largest Buddhist stupa in the world, but Kumud said he was told by another visitor that there may be a larger one in Vietnam. My homework is to check this claim and email him the answer! In a classic example of mixed measures the blurb for the temple describes the stupa as 120 feet in diameter and 43 metres in height. I can’t complain having been using both feet and metres for elevations in my trek posts. There was a bunch of dancers on one side of the stupa shooting a scene for a Bollywood type movie. Again admission is free for locals and NPR 150 for foreigners. Photos at Flickr.

Our final stop of the morning was the Monkey Temple, correctly called Swayanabath, on a hill on the western edge of Kathmandu. This is the oldest stupa in the world and home to lots of golden monkeys. I got the impression there were more monkeys at Pashupatinath. Access to the site is via 365 steps up one side of the hill, or for the lazy or those in a hurry there is an entrance and car park at the end of a road up the side of the hill. Admission is free for locals, NPR 200 for foreigners. On a neighbouring hill is one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in the world. On a clear day you’d get a good view over the city and along the Kathmandu valley. It was a bit hazy when we were there. Golden eagles soared above and around the hill. There are photos at Flickr.

Yesterday was an admin day and today I’m off to Bangkok via Delhi and lots more sitting around before meeting Hannah tomorrow.

EBC trek 31 March

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

We had breakfast at 06:30 and then twiddled our thumbs until 08:30 waiting for a phone call to confirm we were actually on a flight today. Then it was a five minute walk to Lukla airport, check-in and sit around waiting for our flight to show up.

As the morning crept by loads of Tara Air and Sita Air flights came and went. Agni Air flights were conspicuous by their absence. I watched about five loads of the more affluent tourists arriving by helicopter (I heard the going rate is US$800 one way from Kathmandu to Lukla compared to about US$120 by plane) and took lots of photos of the planes and choppers.

It was cold in the departure hall at Lukla and rather warmer outside on the apron. We waited outside for most of the time except when chased back inside by the blue fatigues clad, gun-toting Nepali police officers. The cloud cover built up as the morning progressed and I worried that we might not get out today. Agni Air seemed to be operating only one plane and by 10:30 had flown only two return flights. Tara Air had flown almost a dozen in that time, and Sita Air about half a dozen. The moral of the story seems to be book with Tara Air or Sita Air if you have the choice.

Eventually at about 11:30 a different Agni Air plane turned up. Our plane at last! It wasn’t full, and for the return flight there were only four passengers. They can’t have made any money on that particular flight.

Kathmandu was hot and sunny and the traffic back to the hotel seemed a lot heavier than on my previous taxi rides. The first thing I did back at the hotel was take a long, hot, steamy, hot, very welcome, hot, much needed, hot, refreshing, hot shower. Having not showered in over a week (squat toilets I can cope with, freezing cold showers in cold mountain air I’ll just pass on) there wasn’t really much doubt about what would happen first.

Hints and tips if you’re thinking of doing a similar trek

  • Hire any bulky gear like down jacket and sleeping bag in Kathmandu.
  • Don’t bother with a (silk) sleeping bag liner;  the damn things are hard to get into, hard to get out off and get all tangled up in the night. I gave up using mine after two nights. Just sleep in your clothes.
  • One change of clothes is all you need.
  • You will smell, so will everyone else. Don’t worry about it. Even after a week I wasn’t that smelly.
  • You can do laundry any afternoon if you really want to. Stuff might be dry the next day, or just frozen. Best to do it in the morning on rest days. That way it has all day to dry in the sunshine.
  • One pair of boots, one pair of flip flops/sandals are all you need.
  • Make sure you have plenty of slack days in your itinerary. Flight delays are possible at either end of your trek and bad weather is always possible in the mountains. For a nominal two week trek I suggest allowing three weeks.
  • Bring hand gel and travel wipes, you can buy toilet rolls everywhere.
  • Get some diamox before you leave home, or in Kathmandu, or possibly from your guide.
  • Get fit and get some training in before you arrive.
  • Have fun.

Your mileage may vary.

EBC trek 30 March

Friday, April 1st, 2011

We were indeed the only guests at Pumori Lodge at Pheriche. We had breakfast at 07:30 and I persuaded Goki of the wisdom of getting to Lukla tomorrow. Basically it gives me the chance of being in Kathmandu a day earlier, or gives me three shots at getting there before my flight to Delhi and connection to Bangkok instead of just two.

So yesterday was a long and tiring “downhill” slog from Pheriche to Monju. I’d have been happy to stop at Namche but Goki was keen to get to Monju. I suspected he had a hot date lined up. We left at 08:30 and got to Tengboche at 11:00. The trail to here was a mixture of snow and ice, and from Debuche to Tengboche, slush. The rhododendron forest between Debuche and Tengboche was still asleep, Goki said they should be in bloom in a couple of weeks.

After lunch we set off at 12:00 with a hard-on-the-knees downhill to the river and then a long uphill slog to Namche. We arrived after three hours, had a cup of tea and twenty minutes later pressed on to Monju.

We reached Monju about 17:00. For a day of going downhill – 4270m asl to 2835m asl – there was a lot of uphill involved. It was really quite tiring.

Today we did Monju to Lukla in just over four hours, arriving in good time for lunch. The theme for the day was “Spring”. Whereas on the way up, a little over a week ago I saw only one rhododendron in bloom, today there were several open. And there were many more alpine plants in flower. Also the crops  had shot up and there were fields of solid green (wheat and barley) whereas last week they were just brown fields. The photos are all uploaded to Flickr.

I met an interesting Australian  girl in Khumjung Lodge in Lukla. She’s a teacher, here doing voluntary work for a year. Later in the afternoon a group of Americans arrived and we compared notes on how our treks went. Goki managed to change our flights so we’re in with a chance of getting back to Kathmandu tomorrow. I’m not sure exactly which flight we’re supposed to be on. After delivering me safely back to Lukla, and changing the flights, he had one or two celebratory drinkies. He offered me a glass too of some local distilled from millet fire water. One sip of the evil tasting concoction was more than enough for me.  I guess all will be revealed tomorrow. Fingers crossed for good flying weather.