Me and Reznas had a leisurely breakfast and were given a lift to the bus park, where we got on a tourist bus. It was the poshest one I’d seen in Nepal with padded seats and full size windows you could actually get a view from. The journey took about 8 hours with a lunch stop. It’s supposed to take about 5. Once we got on the road to Kathmandu I saw what I’d missed on the previous journeys along here, some impressive views of the big, rocky, turquoise river alongside the road, surrounded by steep forested hills. Occasionally you’d see big rubber rafts with tourists paddling along, or stopped at the side for a break. I’ll have to try it someday. On one rocky beach trucks had pulled into the water and men were loading stones into them, presumably for building.
Another interesting sight I’d missed before was the occasional set of steel cables passing over the ravines – usually with a metal basket attached. They are used to transport goods and people above the river as there are few bridges. In one place I saw a woman and kid getting winched along in a tiny basket. It didn’t look very safe, but I guess they make a similar trip daily.
A few hours from Kathmandu we hit a mighty traffic jam. With only a 2-lane road packed with trucks and buses, whenever something goes wrong it becomes a nightmare. A truck was broken down and a policeman was ushering traffic past. You could see the traffic jam backed up all the way up the hill winding up the zig zags. Eventually we reached Kathmandu and I said goodbye to Reznas, who was leaving for India the next day.
We got into Thamel around 5pm and I went to a hotel called Silver Home which was ranked number 8 on trip advisor, and I’d booked online the night before. In typical Nepali fashion though, when I arrived they didn’t have any rooms as no one had checked out. What’s the point in having a booking system if it doesn’t work? Even if you are already staying in the hotel and you ask if you can stay the next day, they tell you that you need to check after 12pm in case they have any bookings – so the two systems are at complete odds with each other! After a while in Asia you get used to this kind of unpredictability and you just shrug and find anywhere with a bed. Anyway, they still had beds in their dormitory (one of only three in Kathmandu), so I thought why not give it a try, it’s cheap after all.
The dorm was at the very top of the building and had a wee terrace outside. It was the first dorm I’ve stayed in since my travels. The attached bathroom was a bit grotty but the bedroom was clean and I took a bed in an adjacent room with a door so I could get some quiet at night. I’m a light sleeper so dorms aren’t a good idea for me with all the noise. There were only a few beds taken and out on the terrace I met a nice French girl who was also travelling alone. She was off trekking tomorrow. We went out for dinner at a local restaurant and had quite an early night, meeting the other dorm residents when we came in. Only one guy wasn’t leaving the next day, who was a weird middle aged French chap.
Day 62 – Location: Kathmandu; Nepal
I didn’t sleep too badly in my little side room and I got up early. I wanted to have a photo day and get more pictures of life around Kathmandu. The view from the balcony was nice, but up on the rooftop I found what must have been a dog or goat skin drying on a solar panel. That’s Nepal for you.
I grabbed breakfast at a local joint and then started a walking tour North of the Durbar Square which was in the Lonely Planet. It led me to a few places I hadn’t been and I explored other side streets. It was nice to get some info from the book about the little temples and places I’d seen before. It was. nice to have as much time as I wanted to take photos. In one of the nice temple squares a boy was racing around on a bike scaring all the pidgeons which was great for pictures.
I tried to take more pictures of shops and people this time and asked plenty of shopkeepers and locals for permission to photograph them. Nearly everyone agrees, Nepal is a friendly place for photographers.
The one guy I was disappointed in not getting a photo of was a sergeant at the Durbar square who looked impressive with his uniform, hat and gun holster. I even took a photo of a “holy man” for a tip, which I normally avoid – they’re basically beggars, the real holy men don’t go around asking people for photos and money.
From the Durbar square I took the south walking tour from the book taking in lots of little temples and nice old streets. I deviated to check out a local sight, Bimsen Tower, a tall, lighthouse-like building which you could pay to go up. It had over 200 steps to go up a narrow spiral staircase, and at the top was a very narrow ring walkway with a wire fence offering views over Kathmandu. It was packed up there, with barely room to squeeze past the people at the fence, but the view was pretty nice. At the very top was a little shrine. The tower had been rebuilt at a lower height following the big earthquake in the 1930’s.
I sauntered back to the hotel and spent some time in the communal garden which a few of the hotels share, using the wi-fi. I got a phone call from a British guy called Oli. I’d sent him my contact details on a trekking forum as he’d said he was in Kathmandu with free time, looking to hang out, which I was too. I went to meet him at a cool bar called Sams. The place had plants and the walls were covered in writing. Oli is in his late 30s or early 40s, lives in Wales and is a Nepal veteran, having visited for extended trips 8 times already. He works online and saves all his holidays to come to Nepal. He was a top chap and a wealth of knowledge and stories on Nepal. He’d been there during the revolution, he’d seen how the place has changed over the past 8 years, and he’s done most of the treks, some of them two or three times! Every time he comes back he has somewhere new to visit or activity to do. Also joining us was a Croatian guy who Oli had met trekking. He had done one of the lake treks up by Everest solo and had a great time. Him and Oli said it’s better than the Everest Base Camp trek as it’s quieter for tourists and you still get a great view of Everest from there, plus the beauty of the lakes. I’ll have to look into it.
We hung out for a few hours at the bar and then the Croatian guy left. We went to a Tibetan restaurant I’d visited before, which was Oli’s favourite eatery in Thamel. We drank warm millet beer (Tungba), and I tried Tendtuk, which is flat noodle Tibetan soup. It was great. We chatted away till late and I thanked Oli for the company. He even paid for the meal, top bloke. By the time I got into the dorm everyone was asleep and the place was nearly full.
Kathmandu street gallery – click a photo to see the gallery