Thumper…

January 24, 2018

Nepal day 7 – Nuwakot

31/3/17

Around the farmhouse are a few villages and plenty of hills. We went for a walk around both this morning, but at a much more leisurely pace. There is plenty of damage here from the earthquake, some has been rebuilt, much hasn’t. There are many temporary structures still, houses with tin rooves instead of the usual tiles and houses that were more than one storey now reduced to one. Partial structures that were once homes are still attached to the existing dwellings, but clearly uninhabitable. They are not fixed simply because they can’t afford to fix it. After the earthquake struck, the government gave the people 200,000 nepal rupee each to help rebuild. That’s about $2500 AUD (I guess that is home owners). Even though you can buy more for the dollar here, it still doesn’t go very far. They also toughened building restrictions, meaning many had to start again anyway. Many haven’t in the outlying villages and they still dwell in the temporary buildings.

Houses on the hill

Houses on the hill

There were plenty of goats in this village and surrounding areas, left here to roam free – nobody steals them either. The villagers live a simple life – there’s no roads to most of the houses higher up, they have water – not running, gathered from a well, an outside toilet and maybe a one or two roomed house. Most have a plot of land to farm, barely subsistence farming. A few have started to establish a bit more of a larger farm, particularly chooks, but it wasn’t so evident in this area. The main difference between the goats here and the goats in Uganda is their end destination. The males are more valued in Nepal and become a sacrifice at the temple and are not eaten. The males in Uganda aren’t worth much and all of them end up as food.

Local goats

Local goats

On top of one of the hills there’s a bit of a lookout tower (actually I think it may be the framework for a temple). It’s not finished, I suspect may never be, but you can climb 2/3 of it and get a good view of the surrounding area. Of course we saw a few hills dotted by villages and a little further in the distance, the usual fog.

Hindu shrine

Hindu shrine

The walk back to the main village and palace/temple area was down hill and fairly easy. We passed a school and hospital at Ashok Batika, the kids at the school more than happy to pose for photos (on the other camera). We all commented on the fact that you could wander through the school, it really had no fences at all and how different it was to home. The main street of the main village used to be a row of 2-4 storey houses. Now it’s a row of single storey houses with tin rooves, interspersed with areas of rubble that used to be houses and shops. The main temple and palace was damaged enough to make it unsafe, but not enough to demolish it. They both sit there until funds are found to restore it, although I think work had started on the temple.
It’s amazing how some buildings remain, some don’t, some get rebuilt, some don’t. I guess whether they’re rebuilt or not could also have something to do with who survived and who didn’t as well.

Main Street, Nuwakot

Main Street, Nuwakot

What was left of the afternoon was spent hanging around the farm house, enjoying the view, their vegetable gardens and having a bit of a rest.
The view from our small doorway was pretty cool and the pink rhododendrons, which is the Nepalese national flower, provided a perfect frame.

Pink rhododendrons at the Nuwakot Famous Farm

Pink rhododendrons at the Nuwakot Famous Farm

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January 17, 2018

Nepal day 6 – Nuwakot

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 3:56 pm
Tags: , , , ,

30/3/17

Today was a rest day. “Rest”. Just a leisurely drive in the bus a few km down the road (about 100), get to our accommodation and enjoy the scenery and comforts of a restored farm house. What could possibly go wrong?

Rice paddies at the place we stopped for lunch

Rice paddies at the place we stopped for lunch

It was still foggy in the morning, so unfortunately we still couldn’t see the mountains from the NamoBuddah Resort. This was the closest we were going to get to them and seeing them in real life. So you just had to use your imagination. The horizon partly obscured by cloud, but then clearing to reveal jagged peaks in the distance that rose high above the horizon, a light covering of snow, with the morning light causing the peaks to have a soft golden glow. It’s probably not too far off, because I did see the sun rise over the himalayas last year when I was in Darjeeling, just unfortunate that when I was closer and actually in Nepal, it was cloudy/foggy.

We left behind the Namobuddah resort, an almost mountain chalet, with it’s great food and low doorways – so low I even had to duck to go through them. Got stuck in traffic until we were able to get to the highway. We travelled along the Prithvi highway, a road I became fairly familiar with over the next few days. As we came down in altitude, the fog started to clear a bit, giving a view of the steep hills, looking lush and green from a distance, broken up by terraced patches of brown where new areas were being prepared for crops or had just been planted. Where land slides had occured due to the earthquake, clusters of mud brick houses, mostly with shiny new corrugated iron rooves, gathered together indicating a little Nepalese farming village. The road ran alongside the Trishuli River, which we rafted on later on. The river bed was often very wide and rocky, a lot like some of the rivers in New Zealand, but it seemed very low. Guess when it rains a lot, it fills up a bit. The banks were steep hills, suspension bridges often connected the two sides of the hill together.

Hills along the Prithvi Hwy

Hills along the Prithvi Hwy

Because it had rained a bit, the bus (it was only small, we had 11 in our group) was unable to get to the farmhouse at Nuwakot. Our luggage was put on a truck, which would hopefully meet us at the farmhouse…

We got dropped off to begin the walk to the farmhouse. Our tour leader didn’t really know what to expect or how long it would take. It was basically steps almost straight up, we took about 1.5hrs to cover 2.3km – the locals normally take 25 min. The view on the way up was quite good, the steep rocky stepped path lined with autumn leaves (its not autumn here, so are they still autumn leaves?) and as the day grew later, the setting sun became visible through the trees, giving off a soft orange glow. I’d like to say the view was worth it once we got to the top, but the fog was still there at the top, you could see as far as the next hill, the twilight light not helping the view either. This was a tough hill climb and there were plenty of stops to admire the view – so much for the “rest” day! I keep blaming the altitude, but surely by now I should have been used to it. Even my fitness levels should have approved after the last few days… so maybe it really was the altitude.

The autumn leaves, but it's not autumn!

The autumn leaves, but it’s not autumn!

By the time we made it to the top, there wasn’t much time left for much more than getting our room and enjoying our evening meal. We’d been warned the place was lower than the previous night – it was. We didn’t think it was possible but it was. All the doors were lower, to both the room and bathroom, but so too was the ceiling height lower. One guys room was so low he couldn’t stand up straight at all. The older Nepalese people are shorter, but I don’t think that explains the low doorways. We had a traditional Nepalese meal tonight, which generally consists of rice, curried chicken and then vegetables cooked in varying styles.

Glowing through the cloud

Glowing through the cloud

January 15, 2018

Nepal day 5 – Namobuddah

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:24 am
Tags: , , , ,

29/3/17

As I awoke this morning in Balthali, something was missing… not much, just a little ray of sunshine. Our view was rather limited by fog, the village a short distance away and visible yesterday through the clouds was nowhere to be seen. As we ate breakfast, the fog showed no signs of lifting, the sun was still nowhere to be seen and the rain started falling. Despite that, it wasn’t freezing cold, but it was cool enough for longer pants and a jumper.

A questionable plant at the resort - that grows in the area!

A questionable plant at the resort – that grows in the area!

When we left our accommodation in Balthali to go on a little 3-6hr hike, it was also still raining, although only light rain, but enough to start out with wet weather gear. We weren’t entirely sure how long it would take, but we pretty much had all day, so it was more likely to take 6 or longer. I think our guide was playing it safe with us and letting us know that we had plenty of time and could therefore take our time doing the hike. It turned out that way and we had plenty of time to rest (which you needed at this altitude) and enjoy the view.

Wet weather gear!

Wet weather gear!

We started out easily enough, down the hill, through the potato crops, down a bit more to a swing bridge. The swing bridge crossed a shallow rocky river, the noise of the fast flowing water over the rocks making the river sound immensely impressive. Of course when you go down, you have to go up. As we climbed higher, the view got more impressive, until again, it became obscured by fog.
We walked, or ambled, along, taking our time up those hills (or mountains to those of us from Aus).

Fog and rain clearing

Fog and rain clearing

As we got closer to the monastery where we were going to have lunch, there were a few ladies digging in the paddock. They stopped and had a little chat to us; they were weeding and digging the ground over to get it ready for the next crop. They did invite us to join them, I think they would’ve loved that, but we had a lunch appointment! I guess you would get used to working at that altitude, but walking was hard going for those of us from Australia…

The ladies digging near the monastery

The ladies digging near the monastery

Surprisingly there was meat available for lunch at the monastery and the meals were quite cheap. The Namobuddah monastery is a training place, where they train the young boys in buddhism and to become monks. They live on site, away from their families and most are sponsored to be there. The actual training room, or shrine hall, had about 200 desks and was easily the most oppressive place I’ve been in for a long long time.

The temple training room

The temple training room

The next part of the walk to our resort accommodation for the night was relatively easy compared to the morning. Along the way though, we saw a group of Tibetians, dressed in national costume and singing and dancing. They were on a pilgrimage tour and were at the local shrine to give their offerings.

An observer

An observer

Our resort for the night was Namobuddah Resort. From the resort, you were meant to have great views of the himalayas. We could see plenty of fog… The accommodation here was quaint, kind of like cottages you’d find in Europe in the snow areas. You had to duck your head to get through the doorways and the ceilings in general were fairly low, although you could walk normally no worries. We sat on low seats with a low table in the dining hall, I was short enough for my knees to go under the table, but most weren’t! My room was like a chalet, with an upstairs and downstairs. It had an indoor toilet, but a separate private toilet and shower room. We were welcomed with the room heaters turned on, which gives you an indication of how cool it is here (they stayed on all night).

At Namobuddah Resort

At Namobuddah Resort

January 13, 2018

Nepal day 4 – Balthali

Bhaktapur. Durbar Square. Morning. Still dark. The dogs hadn’t stopped barking most of the night. At around 4am the bell ringing started. Give or take a bit. It sounded like it was literally outside my window – even though I was on the second floor. It was actually on the street right below. It never ended (except when I tried to make a video of the endless noise). I’m not entirely sure why they need to ring the bell in hinduism; I know in buddhism it’s something to do with letting their god know they’ve made an offering for their sins. Perhaps it’s the same. If that’s the case, how come their god doesn’t know already? Get a real God! The God who created the heavens and earth just requires an offering of praise from us – Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and offering for sin once and for all. Saves a lot of animals! And bell ringing…

Stop ringing the bells!!  The bells outside the Bhaktapur hotel window.

Stop ringing the bells!! The bells outside the Bhaktapur hotel window.

So after the bell ringing and dogs woke everyone up early, it meant we had plenty of time to enjoy the views from the roof of the guest house and watch the city come to life. Fresh fruit and vegetables were available from the nearby stalls, shops were beginning to open, school kids heading to school and other heading to work. We started the day with another good breakfast, then headed out of Bhaktapur for Balthali village.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square goods for sale

Bhaktapur Durbar Square goods for sale

The first stop was a huge Hindu statue, the world’s tallest statue of lord shiva at 143 feet. The bus (large minivan) did well to get up the hill to it, then when we did get up it, we had some great views of cloud covered hills and the nearby adventure park.

Tallest lord shiva statue, 143 feet

Tallest lord shiva statue, 143 feet

Near the top were some shops selling buckets of red stuff, possibly a lolly type thing. I don’t really know what else to describe it as. I know we had a name for it, but I can’t remember what it was called. We came across a couple of ladies working there, making some kind of paper and these red lolly type things. The paper was hung on boards to dry, then taken off that and left to dry a bit longer. The lollies were all made by hand, mostly a bright red plum colour, then put outside to set, where the bees could also enjoy them. It was interesting talking to the ladies about how they lived and worked, and they were happy to chat (through our tour leader) while they worked.

Trays ready to eat

Trays ready to eat

A bit further on we stopped at a small town on the way, a little farming town, and took a walk through, observing daily life, which wasn’t that exciting… they were just doing what normal people would do (who’d have thought hey?) – watching with curiosity as the visitors walked through. There weren’t many people around, I guess they were all at work or school, or just staying away from the circus. They have a lot of farming industry around here, ducks, chooks, rabbits, vegetables and mushrooms.

Ducklings

Ducklings

A short drive down the bumpy road we left the bus for a "short walk" to our accommodation. The hills here are enormous, we would call them mountains. The altitude of where we were staying tonight is around 1730m. In comparison, our highest mountain in Australia is 2228m! They have huge swing bridges here, easily at least 70m long, crossing high above the river, joining the two sides together without the need for a 30 min walk down and back up the hill. The “short walk” to get to our accommodation was not really short at all and those “hills” certainly weren’t easy either. I think you can get a 4WD into the place, so that may be an option if you’re just in the area to stay and not interested in walking. But it was good to get out of the city and finally see some countryside and enjoy the fresh air. The locals are all very friendly and the kids all greeted us with a wave.

Passing years still bring a smile

Passing years still bring a smile

After we’d reached our accommodation at Balthali village, which was in the process of expansion and being rebuilt after the earthquake, we went for another short walk over to the next village – this one actually was short! I’m not sure how many people live here, but when I say little village, it is. There may only be a hundred or so at most living here, perhaps 30 houses tops. They are perched on the side of the hill (mountain), little goat tracks wind through the village, leading from one house to the next, which are almost on top of each other anyway.

The small village near Balthali

The small village near Balthali

The people here are a little shy, apart from the kids, but were happy with us winding our way through the village. Many villagers have goats here, not to eat, but to keep as an offering to their gods on a certain day of the year. Male goats are worth more, as they can be sold for more. Often the ladies will have a couple of goats each, sometimes in a nice pen attached to the house, sometimes tied up on 3 feet of rope out the front of the house. In this village, they (the goats) eat what is brought to them: dried mustard plants were common, branches, anything. Contrast this to Uganda where they breed the goats to eat and they can be tied up on the side of the road to eat whatever is there and the female goats are more valued. Most villages have a little hindu shrine and here was no exception. Guess it’s the equivalent of our little country churches 100 years ago.

Building a little outhouse

Building a little outhouse

Around this village were many temporary buildings to replace what was destroyed in the quake and also a surprising number of intensive chook farms, built since the earthquake. Wheat is a common crop, tiny patches of 3-4sqm in some places. A common water tank was at the top of the hill for the entire village to use as well as the usual pump like many other villages.

Chook sheds

Chook sheds

At Balthali Village Resort, our room had a great view of foggy mountains, which it had been like all day. We even had a balcony to enjoy the view from, but the workmanship of the building was poor overall, if the finishes were anything to go by. There were gaps between the window frames and the building, lines marking power points, the door didn’t close except by bolting it – and numerous other things. But the place was new and the beds were really nice and comfortable and the shower nearly had hot water!

January 10, 2018

Nepal day 3 – Bhaktapur

27/3/17
Headed to the historical area of Bhaktapur, within the Kathmandu Valley, and really not that far from the center of Kathmandu. It’s a short drive, I’d almost call it another suburb of Kathmandu, but apparently it’s one of the top 3 cities population wise within Nepal. We didn’t even pass any open space to get there! I guess after all this time visiting Asia I should expect that city boundaries aren’t as defined there as they are here in Australia, but I’m still not used to that.

Welcome to Bhaktapur

Welcome to Bhaktapur

At Bhaktapur, unless you’re a local, there is a charge to enter the area. This area was fascinating for looking at the damage from the earthquake. Because it was so old, the damage was easily noticeable, even nearly two years later (quake was 25/4/15). Many buildings have huge cracks in them, walls at weird angles or piles of rubble at the bottom of them. Many houses that were a few stories high are now single story, some buildings are standing while right next door there is nothing but rubble. The back streets are so narrow it would have been a nightmare after the quake trying to get around.
We spent time walking around the back streets, observing daily life, the kids going to school, the women working on the household chores and every now and then some building works. Every day, it is the woman’s job to be up around 4.30am to make an offering to the hindu gods; there’s trouble from the men if they don’t.

Offering bowls at one of the many temples

Offering bowls at one of the many temples

It seems a strange place, almost circular, radiating from the central square (it’s probably not, but it seemed that way). Plenty of temples and historical buildings are destroyed or partially destroyed thanks to the earthquake. The major difference in Bhaktapur though is that there’s evidence of building and restoration works under way and salvage works on some of the materials that were part of the original.

Salvage works

Salvage works

We saw pottery square, which has a kiln in it, but doesn’t really seem to be a square (more an area) and in Durbar Square Bhaktapur was the royal palace with 55 windows, because supposedly he had 55 wives. Next to the palace was a temple where some had just made live offerings – small birds (the birds had obviously been killed to be placed as an offering). So glad I don’t have to do that.

A potter in Potter Square

A potter in Potter Square

Dropped in to the Sweet Home Bhaktapur restaurant where the meal wasn’t too bad and the toilets were clean. Also in the restaurant were a group of possibly Japanese tourists. I’m using the toilet, had only just entered, when one of them starts almost bashing the door down (what was wrong with the other empty one?). I half thought of just letting them in instead and waiting, but that would probably have taken longer. But it continued, which is a little unnerving when you’re in a reasonably vulnerable position… Anyway, they can bash as much as they like, because two can play at that game. I knocked on the door back, but they kept going, so I just took my time – check the hair, clean the teeth, they had a great washbasin and mirror – and our group all had a good laugh after – they were harmless enough (just impatient).

Well in the city

Well in the city

The predominantly vehicle free streets are paved with bricks, cost is 25 rupee for street bricks, 50 rupees for building bricks. 50 rupees is about 65 cents Australian. Found an ice cream shop at Durbar square, where they just sold ice cream. There were a few young boys hanging around the ice cream stall, just waiting for people to buy them ice cream – basically begging. If they hadn’t had any for a while, they’d go around to the bin and grab the empty containers and lick them. Perhaps it was a ploy to get more ice cream, because surely if you were that hungry you’d be hanging around the restaurants for real food rather than ice cream. Again in the shops around the area you could buy anything – knives, swords, clothes, hardware etc and I’m sure they had a special price for tourists! The area has plenty of people living there and calling it home – vegetable gardens, shops and washing on the lines abound.

Veggie Patch, Bhaktapur

Veggie Patch, Bhaktapur

Our accommodation that night was at the Bhadgaon Guest House in the center of the city overlooking the hive of activity around the temples in the square below. Unfortunately “hive of activity” during the day translates to “hive of activity” at 4am in the morning… but that’s for tomorrow’s post! They do have nice meals at the hotel restaurant here – some sizzling chicken was my choice tonight.

Chicken and veggies

Chicken and veggies

Had a walk later on that evening and accidentally took a few steps (literally, that’s all it was) outside the old city limits. I’m sure the guy watched us leave, just so he could ask us where our tickets were. Our guide hadn’t given them to us, but thankfully I had the hotel key and showed that to him.
And no. I don’t want a chess set, but thanks for asking. 500 times.

More colours are available in Uganda!

More colours are available in Uganda!

January 7, 2018

Nepal day 2, Kathmandu

26/3/17
Went for a walk around the Thamel area again today, but there didn’t seem to be that much that we doubled up on from yesterday. Every now and then I saw a street or a sign I recognised from yesterday but it wasn’t often. Amazing that walking around the same area two days in a row didn’t see too many repeats. Either that or I wasn’t taking enough notice, which is possible, but I don’t think I’m that bad.

What's Pesting Pocketing?

What’s Pesting Pocketing?

The maze of streets and alleyways took us past tangles of electricity wires, strange english signs and everyday life of inner city Kathmandu residents. Maybe once, a visit to Kathmandu Durbar Square would have been a highlight. But the place is overcrowded with hawkers, rubble and flying rats (pigeons). It looks uncared for and what our entrance fees (to a public square) are spent on remains to be seen, because it’s not restoration of the buildings or care of the area. There’s plenty of scaffolding up and plenty of props holding up walls, but other than that, it seems like not much is being done.

Flying rats!

Flying rats!

We saw the royal palace and there were some before and after photos of the buildings which showed the damage from the quake. There were definitely buildings you didn’t want to enter (and weren’t allowed to enter) and I found myself looking up to check out the building before I entered. Parts of the palace were at a fair angle, not sure whether they were going to try and restore it or not. To be fair, even before the earthquake damaged it, the area looked like it would have needed some attention. All you could really do at the palace was walk around the buildings – you weren’t actually able to enter any, possibly due to it being unsafe. They did have a few historical information boards on the outside and some passable public toilets.

Royal Palace walls, propped up

Royal Palace walls, propped up

We saw the Kumari Gar, a building (supposed to be a palace, but a poor palace) where the royal kumari of Kathmandu lives. You are allowed in the courtyard of the building, but not inside. It’s always interesting being in a crowd of people and not speaking the language. You really have no idea what is going on, so you tend to ignore a lot of it until something in English comes up. This time in the crowd there seemed to be some excitement building, but I really had no idea what. But then, the kumari girl actually came out! Wow, the effect on most people was interesting as they turned to look – well stare really – at her. I’m not sure what her significance is, apart from being revered as a Nepali goddess, but you can’t take photos of her and she’s pretty much a prisoner in the building and is not allowed to leave it. She is only young, perhaps 9 or 10 years old. Apparently she only comes out once a week, for a few seconds and we got to see her sad face. She really didn’t look at all happy, like somebody forced to be there, doing what she had to do out of duty rather than enjoyment. But really, what could be enjoyable about doing that job? You’re a child and can’t leave the building to go out and play, but would be able to hear the shouts and laughter of children in the streets nearby. You’re held up as a display to gawking tourists and worshippers. You’re separated from your family. If you do happen to get out of the building, you’re carried around in a procession (I may have read somewhere that she was evacuated during the earthquake). You know that once your time is up as Kumari girl, it’s unlikely that people will want to marry you, so you’re destined for a life of loneliness. Yep, all of that could explain the sad look.

Inside Kumari Gar

Inside Kumari Gar

Bodhnath stupa was next on the itinerary – big white and dominating the skyline in that area. Really, a quick wander was all that was needed there, but we had a bit more time, which included lunch in the Boudha Stupa Restaurant and a visit to an art studio. From the top of the restaurant you got a good view of the surrounding area and nearly all the rooftops had solar panels and water tanks. I was noticing that because that’s one thing we were looking at for Mike when we were in Uganda. Again there were plenty of flying rats in the area and worse still they’re encouraged to be there by all the people feeding them. This area is especially significant and draws a lot of worshippers, evidenced by the abundance of surrounding shops selling everything related to offerings and worship – candles, spices, prayer flags, flowers, bells etc.

For the offerings, Boudha Stupa

For the offerings, Boudha Stupa

Pashupatinath is the central hindu temple in Kathmandu and one of the hindu sacred sites. I don’t remember too much of the outer courts, except that there were some restoration works happening here and monkeys everywhere. On the main temple side of the river is where the cremations take place and while we were there, quite a few bodies were brought down for cremating. Interesting the rituals that they do – take the body to the edge of the Bagmati river and wash the feet, walk around it, bless it then take it to the site for cremating, a little further downstream. It’s a little weird watching it, even though we were a fair way away – on the opposite side of the river.
From there we headed back to the guest house, just in time for an evening meal.

Preparation for cremation

Preparation for cremation

January 6, 2018

Nepal day 1 – Kathmandu

25/3/17

Started off today with a scenic flight over the mountains.
It had rained overnight, actually it was a huge storm and the windows seemed to have been made of paper it was so loud. That meant that it was really clear in the morning though. That is perfect for sightseeing over the Himalayan mountains!
The drive to the airport was relatively quick compared to the night before as the streets are fairly quiet at 5.30 in the morning. Despite the Himalayan scenic flight being an internal flight, it’s a good idea to take your passport. They do ask for it. Although, if you’re like me and didn’t have it on you, an electronic copy will do the job.
The sunrise was good, or what I could glimpse of it through the airport windows. I think it would have been better from the air though, but we were half an hour late leaving and missed it.

Sunrise at Kathmandu Airport

Sunrise at Kathmandu Airport

I think its hard to get an idea of the sheer size of the Himalayan mountains from the air, but they did look great with the sun shining on the peaks poking above the clouds, glistening off the snow and stretching as far as the small aeroplane window would allow you to see. The air hostess pointed out some of the different peaks as we flew by, including Everest. I actually missed it when she quickly pointed it out and when I asked again, she helpfully said “it’s the highest one”. Err… no, not helpful. The plane u turned as we reached Everest, but the hostess redeemed herself when she took a few moments to actually point out the highest peak to me, so I caught it as we came back.

Mt Everest!

Mt Everest!

They let us in the cockpit which was pretty cool and from there the pilot also pointed out Everest. The view from the cockpit was great – so clear – and you had a whole panorama view. To spend the whole flight from there would have been awesome! Too soon it was over, so it’s back to viewing Everest on photos and paintings again for me, unless I happen to catch a glimpse of it on another part of my tour. I was tossing up whether or not to do the flight, as it’s not cheap – around $300AUD for a short flight. But I thought I’d probably only be here once, so I may as well. I wouldn’t do it again, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to others, but I’m glad I did it.

It's the highest one!

It’s the highest one!

The rest of the day I walked around Kathmandu, in the Thamel area of town, which is where the guest house I was staying in was.
It’s very much like any other Asian city, although they don’t tend to hassle you as much to buy things as in other places, such as India or Vietnam.
There’s heaps of shops, each selling much the same stuff and you can pretty much pick up anything you like around here (including knives).

A quiet street in Thamel

A quiet street in Thamel

Around any corner you might find a small temple, either Buddhist or hindu, strange signs and there are still piles of rubble from the earthquake on April 25 2015 every third or fourth building. Many houses haven’t been rebuilt yet, some stand on a lean, some have rubble on the top floors while people live below. There was plenty of work happening around the place though and on a few occasions I noticed a rather odd way of shoveling. The shovel had a rope around it the neck of the shovel where the blade met the handle. One person pushed the shovel into the dirt, the other person, standing opposite them, pulled the shovel through the dirt. I don’t know how effective it is, but they seemed to spend more time standing around than shoveling.

The shovel and rope men just standing around

The shovel and rope men just standing around

One of the strange signs was one wishing us a happy new year for 2073. Thought that was a bit odd. Later learned that they have a different calendar. (Called the Bikram Sambat Calendar). How do they deal with dates in their calendar and our calendar? How do we make travel bookings and everything works? Some may argue it doesn’t work so well, but we’ll leave that for another day!

Welcome to the future!

Welcome to the future!

Came across a square where they were having a music festival, so there were different performers around the place. After spening most of the morning walking, we had lunch at a nice restaurant, the Aroma Café, which we stumbled upon by accident. The pizza was good, but not so easy to eat with the spoon they gave us. Watched some kind of hindu ceremony procession while eating lunch. Seemed a bit odd as they just took over the street and the cars just piled up behind them and patiently waited for them to clear.

Blocking traffic

Blocking traffic

Visited the garden of dreams in the arvo. The garden of dreams is an oasis in the middle of the city. The traffic noise disappears behind the tall stone walls, the gardens are well tended, the water features are looked after and clean and provide a welcome refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the Kathmandu chaos.

Garden of dreams

Garden of dreams

Met our group tonight, 11 people, good group size, then headed out for a traditional Nepalese meal and show.

It’s rather interesting how life works out sometimes. Around 5 months ago, I was on the India/Nepal border near Darjeeling after spending the morning looking at the sun rise on the Himalayas. I never imagined that less than 5 months later I’d be in Nepal and flying over those same mountains. I had no plans to ever visit Nepal, but yet here I was. I’m glad I’d been to Darjeeling first, especially as the story of Everest and the history behind its conquest really comes to life when you visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in the zoo area at Darjeeling.

January 4, 2018

Onward travel – Uganda to Nepal

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 11:39 am
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23/3/17

Departure day was today. I packed up a heap of my stuff that I didn’t need in Nepal and got Dave to take it home with him.
The 11kg I checked in with contained 1.6 litres of water! A bit different to on the way over with just over 30kg (most of which was gifts).
Left Mike and Shirleys around 9am. That’s 5pm Melb time. I eventually arrived in Nepal 5.30pm the next day Nepal time, or 10.45pm melb time the next day. That’s a long time in transit!
The trip to the airport wasn’t too bad. There was quite a bit of traffic, meaning that it took as long as we expected to get to the airport. Stopped off for a bit of lunch just before the airport, around 12. We take the ease of getting around here in Australia for granted. To get into the shopping center, the car is stopped, passengers get out and walk through and the car is quickly searched for explosive devices. Pretty similar procedure to actually get into the airport grounds. It’s just what happens there, but I could imagine if you had to do it every time you visited a shopping center or designated “target” public space, you’d quickly get tired of it.
Eventually checked in at the airport, cleared customs easily and discovered free WiFi in the entebbe airport! Who’d have thought!

The flight through to Dubai was pretty good, spectacular sunset, arriving on time, 9.30pm Dubai time.
This was where Dave and I headed different ways, him to Melbourne and me to Nepal, I had to change from terminal 3 to terminal 1 at Dubai, flying out at 6am the next day. They couldn’t check my luggage the whole way through to Nepal, so I had to collect it at Dubai. Just before l went through customs, I asked at the info desk about it. He suggested trying the connections desk before going through customs, just in case.
The lady there said no worries, they’ll reroute my bag to Nepal and just collect it there… why would you have any doubts, airports never lose luggage…
Found a place to sleep, all was quiet except for the TV in the room and the continual airport announcements. I wasn’t sure I really slept, except that I was woken with a start by a voice "Excuse me, excuse me". The airport patrol man wanted to know whether I had a flight to catch and if not, he was going to take my passport and stamp it. Essentially I couldn’t live in the airport. What a shame, they are such exciting places… I was going to move soon but he suggested I spend another hour there when he found out my flight time.
From Dubai to Delhi was a bumpy flight, then a quick transfer for the last leg to Nepal. It was a little cloudy as I came in, you could just see some mountain tops poking out.
Waited for ages at the baggage belt for my bag. Finally gave up, giving a last walk past the belt in case my bag had fallen off. Over next to a pole a few meters away from the belt was a pile of unclaimed bags, one of which was mine! Who put it there and why, who knows, but good job Dubai airport!

I had a free airport transfer back to the hotel (Kathmandu Guesthouse) and by the time I made it out of the airport after waiting for my bag, everyone else was loaded and sitting waiting for me. It’s not too far to the city centre from the Kathmandu airport though, so within about 20-25mins, we were back at the hotel. Ended up eating in at the hotel restaurant as it was suggested it wasn’t that safe to go out at night by myself. They had some decent offerings at the restaurant, so I didn’t mind too much.

It was a great time in Uganda, but it’s amazing how a few short plane rides can transport you to an entirely different world, where the experiences of just a few hours ago seem so surreal and almost like a dream. A couple of days ago I was sitting face to face with a lion in an almost desert like environment. Now I’m in a completely different climate, flying near the highest mountain in the world, which is surrounded by snow.

January 3, 2018

Last day in Uganda

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 10:03 am
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22/3/17
Another day around Mikes land, which turned into a hive of activity around lunch time. Headed into Bombo on the back of Victor’s bike for a few extra supplies/gifts for home. First time I’d ever done shopping from the back of a motorbike – literally pull up next to the shop owner and do the deal while on the bike.
Was down in the garden weeding for a while, before Abbey and David, a couple of pastors from Kampala, came out for lunch to see us before we headed off.
Was good to have them for lunch, introduced them to an "Aussie" lunch of sandwiches… David had eaten sandwiches before, and introduced them to his family and they sometimes had them for lunch, but for Abbey this was his first time. Judging by the sandwich he made himself, I’m not sure he’ll run with the idea. He’d never tasted mustard before, but slathered his bread with it, then put another strange combination on top. To his credit he ate it all though!
As well as David and Abbey, around this time we also had the guys out whipper snipping and some other visitors checking something else out.
Nice last day.

January 2, 2018

Around Kampala

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 9:33 am
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21/3/17
Into Kampala today to check out a brick machine at the university.
Watched it in action, it only takes a couple of people to use it which makes it really useful for small sites, but can still produce up to 500 per day. Good view of Kampala from the university hill.
Visited a craft market for Dave to get some souvenirs of Uganda, but most I know already have plenty from uganda, so there was no shopping for me. Except that I found the elusive flags here, so finally I have Ugandan flags for my workmates!
From there lunch, more farm equipment, dentist, food shopping and a trip home through the traffic with an ice cream stop.

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