A Travellerspoint blog

Chame (with some waterfalls and self-development)

rain 14 °C
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So, as I've described, trekking even in October in Nepal can be wet. Waking up in Tal was an unpleasant experience as almost everything we'd hung round the kitchen fire was still wet, and additionally smoky. The only reason not everything I owned was wet was because of a premonition I had whilst packing for my 'round the world' adventure that led me to include a bin bag. I put everything in the bin bag and then into my rucksack - so my rucksack was sodden and heavy, but everything else I wasn't wearing stayed dry. I also now appreciate some advice given to me by a friend: if you're trekking, take extra hiking socks. I have only three pairs worn in rotation, and they stink because they're cheap. Also, buy a decent raincoat. Mine failed on the first day of torrential rain! And just a note on temperature here - from about 2000m the nights started getting chilly. Whilst Rich is fine without thermals, I enjoy mine as a nice, dry warmish layer I can put on at the end of a hard day of walking. Some trekkers were bright enough to bring extra shoes - even just flip-flops - so that they could escape the hiking boots for a while. Mine are luckily very comfortable; I never got a single blister.

After all that rain, we woke up to find none and the odd patch of blue peeping through a sheet of cloud. The waterfall we'd walked through was no more. On the way out of Tal it seemed my camera was broken, and I had a little tantrum until Rich pointed out that it was just on the screen. As we navigated the stone pathway (to the river that had defeated us before) I apologised. I lean on other people too much. I know what reserves we have, not what I have. You imagine yourself travelling, and the image is one of aloneness - but could I have come to Nepal on my own? Would it have been safe? I think so now but I had no idea before. Nepalis seem a friendly, peaceful lot. They cry out cheerful "namastes" to all and sundry, and I've never felt a twinge of distrust - distrust that I know I will feel in India. The higher you get in the mountains the more Tibetan and Buddhist everyone gets: the poorer but also the more benign. Going to Europe alone - now I could've done that because I know enough about what Europe is like. I could not have made the leap to Nepal, but now I'm here I know it would've been fine. In the meantime I must find other techniques to grow.

Here is a pretty picture of a waterfall to aid your thoughts about how we all have the potential to grow. Or something like that.

Here is a pretty picture of a waterfall to aid your thoughts about how we all have the potential to grow. Or something like that.

The sun did emerge that day; peaks sidled into view, razor-edged and beautiful in the play between light and shadow. The cliff-hugging path we took passed over several waterfalls. Nearly losing my balance over one I grabbed a pink cord with a bead attached from a crag at the next as a souvenir.

The same waterfall, being more practically tackled.

The same waterfall, being more practically tackled.

We stopped early at Danakyu, where trekkers of multiple nationalities - French, German, Japanese, Austrian and even Israeli - congregated in a dining room to chat and toast wet socks and steaming jackets over a heater.

Trekkers bond over socks.

Trekkers bond over socks.

We met Jordan, an English guy teaching all over the world with a girlfriend called 'I' and a sister called 'You', whose approach sounded dizzyingly flexible - sometimes he felt the need to change jobs, change cities, change countries, so he did. The Israelis had done military service whilst I'd been studying books. We also met Mikhail and Sebastian, two Germans. I spent a lot of the walk the next day talking with the latter - about not knowing what to do in life, about not wanting to turn into one of those people whose lives are sofas and houses and money, about trying to rise above that.

Until now, this is how I have lived: as if life is a sea voyage, and one must stock up as many provisions as possible, in the best and most popular vessel, to sail a route clearly known and well-mapped, and without risk. We already know the end of the journey. I don't know if I can ever be 'the real me' as Sebastian put it, and whether that real me does want to write or do something else. The 'real me' is a fog of more confident people's decisions. 'Namaste' means 'I salute the god in you', and it feels right to me, according with a belief that is religious at times but is also more general: we all have the fiery vision of who we are and should always be, and yet we conspire with society to douse it, to throw a veil over it, a shroud over the fire.

From Danakyu the ascent was tough, up steep stone stairs, then up a sheer hill cut with tree roots and slippery with mud. Afterwards we passed through Temang, a village otherworldly in its remoteness, made up of brightly coloured houses on mud streets with postcard mountain vistas behind, a human nest in the treetops of the world. The slopes rise from there to ridiculous heights before descending gently to the picturesque town of Chame at 2600m, which straddles a river and has a white Buddhist temple at its top. We ate the best dal bhat so far at the same table as the Germans, and there was much talk about German food (and many fantasies about sausages in the midst of our vegetarian fare. Eating meat in the mountains is not only difficult after a certain point as it becomes less and less available, but it's also inadvisable).

Oh, so there are mountains in the Himalayas? Chame is our first real glimpse of peaks.

Oh, so there are mountains in the Himalayas? Chame is our first real glimpse of peaks.

Outside the rain is with us again. I worry about the pass to come in later days (the heady Thorung La, at 5600m, where the lack of both pressure and oxygen promises to make even breathing difficult). I'm not sure why this challenge is suddenly here, for me - perhaps 'the real me' would be proud of it even if I did not choose it. The 'real me' could do it. For plain old me it is a little scary.

Posted by wanderingwolf 23:15 Archived in Nepal Tagged trekking nepal Comments (0)

Rain and banana pie: Syange to Tal

rain 15 °C
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Rain, rain and more rain! An extremely wet and testing couple of days, both involving around six and half hours of walking through near-torrential rain, first up winding roads, then up steps of rock, each element poised to trick the ankle and disturb the knee. Even in the downpour the surroundings were beautiful: silver ribbons of rivers and waterfalls half lost in mist, and soft green plateaus of rice crop climbing up to cloud-smudged heights. On the first day we surprised a white langur monkey - Rich saw it before I did, leaping off the path ahead of us into the jungle below, its black face looking back at us. On the second day we made a long ascent through a ridiculous tropical landscape, past increasingly swollen waterfalls pouring from vast cliff-faces amidst almost luminous vegetation, including some stereotypical-looking palm trees (?) and ferns. Everything screamed continually with crickets. The first day ended with back ache and the suspicion that I'd never worn my rucksack correctly; the second day began with some furious adjustment.

What enabled all this walking? The wonder that is dal bhat.

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The first time we encountered this was on our lunchtime stop, at a small stone hut that seemed a palace for its advantage of having a roof. Dal bhat is basically a pile of rice, a bowl of largely potato curry, some greens, a bowl of dal (lentils boiled to varying degrees of soupiness), a papad (think papadum) and usually some spicy pickle. The average Nepali has it twice a day and later I heard stories of porters having it three times. It's usually the best-tasting thing on a lodge menu and the beauty of it is that you automatically get seconds - unhindered, your host will give you even more than the first portion. This is invaluable for hungry trekkers and I soon saw little point in ordering anything else as a main meal. Whilst we're on the topic of food, lunch Syange to Tal was the Tibetan treat of momos - pasty-shaped dumplings filled with vegetables, accompanied by spicy sauce.

And breakfast was banana pie with chocolate, just because.

Did I mention the rain? The second morning looked promising, with short light showers, but later the heavens opened with a vengeance, dousing us to the bone, drawing cold tears from the ancient faces of the mountains, beating the corrugated roofs of the restaurants and houses we passed by. Eventually we reached a crazy, steep and treacherous staircase of rocks that in the weather was a watery pyramid - I can now claim that I have 'climbed up a waterfall'. It felt quite exciting, quite dangerous and very, very wet. My feet squelched inside my shoes, and my only refuge was the bin bag I'd purchased in desperation the day before and which I wore as an absurd green cape over both me and my bag. I followed Rich's footsteps and got angry at myself for doing so, my breath short with effort and fear that I was going to twist an ankle or worse. Shortly afterwards, during another seemingly endless climb towards Tal, zigzagging over boulders, we saw more white monkeys, leaping from high above, briefly posing for us before swinging, lithe-limbed, away from the clumsy humans.

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Then, after all the huffing and puffing, and annoyed thoughts about how October was supposed to be 'the perfect trekking weather' and how unlikely it seemed we'd be seeing any peaks... when I reached a level and looked back, I saw how far we'd climbed through such humbling landscape, through a corridor of stone with walls vanishing into mist, walls carved by the currents of rivers - and where those had turned aside, unbreakable, immovable shafts of rock. The bones of the earth. One wall was green and brown, bearded with grass and plants, and rimmed with the path we'd walked, and the other was grey, touched with white, less friendly.

Tal was a fantasy village, a cluster of houses set ahead of a largely dried up lake at the foot of a mountain - a solid wall of rock that ended suddenly. The prayer wall at its centre was a homely, worn thing. I looked around and tried to imagine growing up there, somewhere so impossibly remote. What had TV done to the people here?

We walked through Tal to be confronted by a waterfall, a small one, pouring onto the path. Maria led the way through it - I rushed through, bin-bag over me, feeling wetter than I've ever been, ankle-deep in water, cold, exhausted, exhilarated, and then cold again. So tired, but when we pressed on we found an insurmountable obstacle - a river across the path at the foot of a much larger waterfall that buffeted us with its spray.

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We turned back, demoralised, trudged through Tal sodden, in quest of increasingly rare hot water. At the lodge three of us ended up in, the woman in charge (it is usually a woman running a lodge) kindly allowed us to hang our soaked clothes around the kitchen fire. We sat in what felt like the family dining room, discussing options - whether to turn back, whether to the waterfall would be passable the next day, whether the weather had something to do with the typhoon in India, etc. In the background, what I assumed was the daughter watched the most melodramatic soap I've ever seen, the funnier for it being incomprehensible, though a little disturbing as well (it appeared to show a wife being set on fire). In the kitchen an older woman, a grandmother, watched speechlessly as I hung my socks above her kettle, and I felt more than a language barrier... a time wall, a difference amounting to centuries. We sat at the table, and I thought: I want to do this, or more accurately, I want to have done it, especially if both pace and rain continue.

Posted by wanderingwolf 04:20 Archived in Nepal Tagged trekking nepal Comments (0)

Doomed goats and roadside drama: approaching a trek

rain 21 °C
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A few days after arriving in Kathmandu, a place I thought I'd never be, I found myself beginning an activity similarly unimagined – trekking in the Himalayas, without a guide or a porter, carrying my own festival-sized rucksack. More specifically, trekking the Annapurna Circuit Trek. I've spent most of my life sitting in a chair, not scaling steep inclines.

We chose the trek because an ex-housemate spoke highly of it, and the guidebook said it was great, and because, fool that I am, I just remembered bumbling around the Brecon Beacons and the Peak District in the UK, and somehow 'the Himalayas' didn't jog this cuddly idea. We did barely any research in advance, and the first guy we spoke to about trekking, in our hostel, seemed to think we'd be fine with just sleeping bag liners and maybe a fleece. Hours later, in a shop, a melodramatic Australian assured us we needed thermals, down jackets, hardcore sleeping bags, fleeces, serious hiking socks, etc. For seeing so many trekkers, Kathmandu spoke with strange inconsistency. Arguably this accords with the chaotic life I mentioned earlier, especially in tourist-trap Thamel, the most aggressively commercial part of the city, but looking back I increasingly see a hidden order in the mish-mash. Walking the streets is reminiscent of strolling around in an RPG – the characters you meet turn around and usually say the same sort of thing: “Hash, marijuana, pollen?” “Fancy something?” “Namaste! Where are you trying to get to?” “I give you very good price!” In fact, all people in Kathmandu are eager to give you a very good price. If only they could be as united in their advice for novice trekkers!

We rented sleeping bags, to be safe, and I rented a down jacket because I get really COLD, really easily. My entire strategy for travelling was to avoid COLD. Here the Himalayas began to nudge, troublesomely, into my consciousness. They can do that, mountains: nudge.

Kathmandu was actually emptying a little as we left – you could actually see some space between pedestrians and motorists. Another thing to be aware of as a novice trekker in mid October is that you might run into a festival, Dasain. This was explained to us as being somewhat like Christmas for Nepalis – everyone leaves the city to go home and be with family. I'm still a little vague on the symbolism, but it's a bad time for goats, with hundreds being sacrificed. A lot of living goats filed down the streets; elsewhere, a man coolly blow-torched a decapitated head.

Our taxi driver to the mountains, a young Nepali who drove in the same organic, insane but deft manner as everyone in Kathmandu, sped us through a city pregnant with the withdrawal and ritual of Dasain. The roads were still the same 'usual' mess of criss-crossing motorcyclists and brightly painted buses that performed a violent dance around each other rather than pursuing straight lines, all to continual blasts of horns, but there was less than there had been. Everywhere, orange flowers, crushed fruit and red dye peppered the street in little piles to indicate where Hindus have perfomed puja – a ritual offering at a shrine, with some portion returned to bless the families of the visiting women. Those women, vivid in gold-patterned salwars and saris, queued outside the temples, spilling onto the road. We passed intricately painted vehicles – in particular I saw buses with 'see you' written in English on their rears, outlined in many colours with Buddha eyes beneath. The roads were streaked with motorcycles loaded with couples like improbable filmstars – determined-looking men with women behind them, saris and scarfs streaming in the wind.

Getting a puncture, we stopped outside a ramshackle hut surrounded by the corpses of tyres whilst our driver organised a replacement. This apparently took time as he interrupted the family inside carving up the ritual goat (a scapegoat?).

I lost myself in the rising mountains approaching, blue and indistinct in an overlay of mist. For a while I stared at what I thought were the peaks – and then realised it was a lie; the mist shifted, and the white beyond acquired structure – edges and shadows – and what had seemed a mountain was merely the toe of something vaster beyond.

Drama struck on a weaving road that rose through incredibly green trees and over a gushing, rabid-mouthed river. I was totalling up spending figures in a notebook so didn't see the impact, but Rich did – as we rounded a corner, a motorcyclist careered into the driver's door, rebounding with an immense crash. A man, a woman and two children tumbled off onto the bridge we'd just crossed. Our driver exited as the younger child, a boy, began to wail. It was soon obvious that no one had been seriously hurt, but there then followed an extended scene of the motorcyclist remonstrating loudly, gesturing at the road and roaring angry syllables into our driver's face, whilst the latter dipped his head and chewed his lip. The spectacle invited comment from multiple passersby, ranging from an old man with a stick and knobbly knees to a group of male teens (one of whom had 'the only good fascist is a dead fascist' emblazoned on his t-shirt), who smirked, stared at the dent in the car door and then tittered at Rich and I as we stood by the roadside in a light rain, nonplussed. Our driver attempted to make some phonecalls, whilst the motorcyclist (and occasionally his wife) continued shouting. Eventually a jeep appeared containing some official-looking people – a man with a radio and his superior, a capped, stocky guy (who in appearance reminded me of Stalin, to the point where I keep imagining him with a moustache). This latter magisterial figure induced a measure of calm, even giving the motorcyclist a firm pat on the arm when he made a windmilling motion at our driver. He told us 'not to worry' and then, to our disappointment, drove off, leaving the radio man behind. We did eventually get on our way, and our driver explained that the motorcyclist had been drunk.

We were dropped in a very empty Besi Sahar (one road, lined with vacant hotels and restaurants), and ate lunch in a restaurant seemingly determined to play the saddest, most downbeat English songs it could find. The bus to Bhulbhule proved the perfect antidote: vibrantly coloured and tasselled inside and out, with a Buddhist symbol where you'd expect a TV to be and Rastafarian faces painted on the back windows, it roared up the crumbling track, shaking its passengers like beads in a rattle, to the soundtrack of joyful, thumping Nepali/Hindi dance music and beautiful visuals of the climbing mountains. I felt at peace.

We met some other trekkers on the bus – a French couple, Perinne and Jerome, and Maria, an Austrian travelling on her own. We booked the same lodge, the first we came to, and later we sat under a thatched shade at a kind of picnic bench and chatted, along with Sandra, an older woman on her way down to Kathmandu, and Petroshka, a Swiss-German on an impulsive holiday with new boyfriend Stefan.

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In Bhulbhule, the rain falls with a moist, tropical sound, very unlike the hard patter you'd get in London. In our lodge – more precisely what seems to be a glorified shed with 2 beds inside, and just enough space to get into them – a spider crawled across the wall by my head (Rich managed to sweep it out using his hat... why are we planning Australia again?). The power went out, and I wrote a lot of this by headtorch.

Posted by wanderingwolf 09:59 Archived in Nepal Tagged trekking nepal Comments (0)

Who am I, who's this 'Rich' guy? Why are we going anywhere?

sunny 27 °C
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'I' is a 24-year-old Londoner with some creative aspirations and a liking for wolves. Beyond that it's difficult to know what to say. It's common to describe yourself in relation to your job, but I'm currently unemployed, and one of the things I'm temporarily 'off the leash' from is a working life, and there's no guarantee that I will return to the profession I left. I'm really not sure who 'I' is. Another thing I'm 'off the leash' from, or trying to be, is the self I apparently was in London, who claimed to want to be a writer but didn't do any writing, and who spent far too much time cringing in an existential corner. Any readers should bear this in mind when encountering the more personal/esoteric parts of this blog, as I don't believe you can go travelling in the physical sense alone. If I come back and the only travelling I've done can be measured in km or miles, then it's been a waste.

Rich is far more practical guy into programming, and who I spent the last 3 years living with in London (along with some other fun characters :)). Neither of us know what we want from travelling, and our first stop, Nepal, was almost picked out of a hat. The stop after, India, came from a more longstanding desire, created by the book-born impression of a fantastical land of yogis and six-armed gods and 'extreme experiences', and cemented by other people going and definitely having 'extreme experiences'. I was on a contract role that ended just as the lease on our house did, Rich left his nice programming job and we spent a couple of weeks crashing at our ex-housemates'/friends' house, and packing frantically.

What do you take with you on a trip with no set time frame, with no return ticket booked? What did I take?

What do you take with you on a trip with no set time frame, with no return ticket booked? What did I take?

Clothes
3 x vest tops
1 longish skirt
2 x combat trousers
2 x bras
5 x knickers
2 x pairs of socks
Hoody
Rain mac
Walking boots (worn to airport)
Camping sandals
Wrap/hippy shawl thing
Sarong
Bikini
3 x bandannas - because I'm paranoid
Footless tights
2 necklaces and earrings (to keep my piercings open) in small bag

Documents/Equipment
Passport! With Indian visa sticker, and Australia e-visa linked
Passport photos
Photocopy of passport page
Head torch
X mini portable speaker
Filter bottle, with bottle holder
Kindle
Memory stick
Ipod and earphones, with pointless earphone holder
Digital camera
Padlock and key
Half-broken satchel bag
Sleeping bag liner
International adaptor/surge protector
Cables and chargers
Camping mug
Utility belt

Toiletries
Contact lenses (huge quantity)
Sunglasses
Suncream
Moisturiser (by accident)
Hair styling powder??? (by accident)
Shower gel/shampoo combo
Vaseline
Med kit – plasters, Ibuprofen, Immodium, laxatives, sleeping pills, earplugs
Universal sink plug
Laundry liquid
Mirror
Hairbrush
Baby wipes
Mosquito repellent
Annoying ear medicine I have to lug (no pun intended) everywhere
Sanitary pads
Condoms
Mooncup – this is actually amazing. See www.mooncup.co.uk for info.
Vitamins
Toothbrush and toothpaste

Misc

Journal and pens
Blank sketchbook and pencils
Notebook – theoretically for any creative writing urges
Rough Guide to India (with most of the pages for the unlikely states torn out)
Lonely Planet Guide to Nepal
Learn Nepali phrasebook
Poi – hilariously indulgent and silly. I've technically been spinning poi for years, but rarely practise and this is doubtful to change whilst travelling.
Graphics tablet – 'what the hell?' Yes, I know, I know. I had these nice ideas about doing some digital art on the go, using Rich's laptop. Mad.

Aside from the laptop, Rich also provides access to another guidebook on Nepal, a Hindi phrasebook and the ability to navigate and fix things. (In one hostel I have yet to write about, Rich first fixed the toilet, and then the hostel's WiFi by suspecting first the IP address of the router, then the admin username, then the password, then the problem. The hostel owners were none the wiser and never knew their benefactor).

In some places to come, I would regret not taking a sink, if not specifically the kitchen one.

Posted by wanderingwolf 09:09 Archived in Nepal Tagged packing Comments (0)

Yatri Hah: Kathmandu

From the diary

sunny 30 °C
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My first entry is a disorganised, impressionistic take from my diary. Hopefully I'll become more coherent as I go!

Confusing meals had: 2
Silly souvenirs bought: 1
Forms filled in: 6
Temples/shrines visited: 10+
Number of people who offered drugs to Rich: 5

“Yahtri hah. It means [in Nepali] 'I'm a traveller'.

“I think that'll be pretty obvious,” said Rich.

We were sitting in Mumbai airport during a glorious overnight stopover of 12 hours following an equally stimulating 9 hour flight (in which Jet Airways decided that the best treatment for sleep deprivation was copious amounts of food. The first 'exotic' thing I ate was a packet of spicy crisps, followed by a meal where we couldn't quite decide the purpose or order of different sealed containers). We were sweaty, exhausted and about to attempt sleeping across uncomfortable airport seats. Obvious, and we hadn't even recovered our festival-sized rucksacks yet.

Even more obvious when we finally landed in Kathmandu, and joined the long, many-headed visa application queue. Stepping out of the plane at 11pm in Mumbai felt like diving into warm soup; Kathmandu airport was similarly a sweat-bath. People have told me that India is a chaotic pile of red tape; the same is true of Nepal, where seemingly everything requires several passport photos and forms insisted on but barely glanced at by the authorities. I had to run back to the visa desk to point out that they'd written '2011' as my expiration date. I had visions of gun-wielding Gurkhas frogmarching me from a teahouse onto the nearest aircraft.

We emerged into lunchtime sunlight to find a line of taxi touts waving signs. One of them, whom I shall call N, got to us first and steered us towards the nearest ATM. Shortly afterwards we were waiting on a grass verge whilst N babbled about the peace and love of Nepal in a slightly stoned manner, and shortly after that we were sat in a battered taxi with no seatbelts, speeding through Kathmandu towards our hostel.

I'm here, I'm actually here. The place outside the car window beggared the descriptions of the guidebooks – 'hustle and bustle', 'colour', 'movement', 'crazy traffic'. If London is busy and crowded, I'm not sure what Kathmandu is. For every Londoner there seemed about eleven Nepalis, scooting insanely along on motorbikes, walking seemingly suicidally out in front of oncoming cars and bikes, carrying vast sacks and baskets on their shoulders like two-legged ants, standing outside brightly coloured shops that amounted to hippy caves of hangings and statues and incense, all in to an endless soundtrack of horns and shouting. One might say that London is a ghost city in which commuters proceed in orderly straight lines. Whilst I watched an old man wander nonchalently into a stream of buzzing mounted hornets, N tried to sell trekking services and drugs.

Our double turned out to be a twin room, so we spent a long, fitful, hot night in a single bed. Twice in the night a procession passed by, to the sound of seemingly metal sheets being clashed together.

After a quick breakfast at our hostel, we headed out to walk this crazy place. We were staying in Thamel, famously the tourist hothouse of Kathmandu, and within minutes we were in what seemed to be a hippy open-air department store, being greeted 'Namaste' by sellers, and I immediately exploded my daily budget with a hand-painted scrolled depicting the life of Buddha, the Wheel of Life and what the seller claimed was a 'mandala'. Crossing roads and intersections proved a more immediate leap of faith. The technique for crossing roads in Kathmandu is to walk blindly across and trust in the wiser atman of those oncoming to avoid you. Rich, as an atheist, is untroubled by these spiritual dilemmas; I'm surviving by leaping into the gaps he sees. Several times I baulked and then watched him dare-devil it across. All this happens in a smog; the air rasps your throat with fumes and dust; more than a few Nepalis sported masks over their noses and mouths. Close-up they became men with wary or curious stares, self-contained, silent women in saris and colourful dresses, red spots on their foreheads or dying the edge of their hair, children who carried bags and shouted 'hello, hello' at you. A street-child at one point seized my hand and waved a parchment covered in Devangari and an oversized pencil at me, mumbling 'money, money'. Their expressions to us Westerners was guarded or intrigued or, randomly, delighted. They are between India and China, sometimes one or the other and most in between. They sell fruit and trinkets in streets so swarming with people you have to half climb through them; streets hung with signs and banners, in which you can find vast knots of power lines over pagoda-style shrines to gods we had little idea of, bronze or gold images as busily decorated as their surroundings, or impressive monuments buried in housing and markets with adverts for San Miguel as their backdrop. So alive.

[img=http://photos.travellerspoint.com/635377/90_P1000019.jpg caption=Sometimes you glimpse part of a temple through the crowd, and there it is, half-buried in the surrounding market.

We wandered through and out of Thamel and took a very long route to the Tourist Office to fill in another batch of forms for a Trekking Pass and an Annapurna Sanctuary Permit. At one point a long main road became crowded with goatsellers and their herds, spilling out into the traffic. Escaping Thamel – and even in Thamel, other Western faces are rarer than expected – we found a true Nepali market, and battled through a lake of spread wares, bags and pots and saris and food. I wished aloud I knew the Nepali for 'excuse me', but Rich pointed out that it would've been pointless; there is no 'excuse me' in Kathmandu. You just press through.

The first 'confusing' meal wasn't that confusing. Starving, we found a cafe and ordered a dosa. We knew what a dosa was. But we also ordered an onion uppatum... The dosa was much larger than expected. The onion thing turned out to be onion pizza.

Durbar Square, Kathmandu's star attraction for monuments and shrines, home of the living goddess Kumari, we reached at dusk. At night-time this is a wonderland of lit temples and carved doorways, most of which didn't have a description in the guidebook we had. At the entrance we had to flee a man offering Rich mushrooms. At one end a golden, colourful Hindu-Buddhist temple, its top sides decorated with images of Ganesh and Shiva, awaited worshippers ringing the bells at its entrance, receiving tikkas and petals in their hair. In Kasthamandap, one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world, a woman touched my head and gave me my own red spot to wear – and then demanded a donation. Around us, Hindus rang the bells at each of the Ganesh statues in the four corners. I forgave the guidebook for not covering everything. It would take a War and Peace sized tome. In Kathmandu there is a shrine every few feet, or a temple offering tantalising glimpses of Hindus lighting candles and bowing before ornate many-armed images. At some points I felt like Indiana Jones; at other points I felt a confused, ridiculous tourist, like a bear in a dress.

We ate Thakali Thali, rice with meat and dippings, or Dokhi, a kind of wheat pate, in the evening. I hope tonight's sleep is not interrupted by religious processions.

Posted by wanderingwolf 17:00 Archived in Nepal Tagged cities nepal Comments (0)

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