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Nepal – Kathmandu – 23rd-26th March

For our final few days left in Nepal we spent the majority of our time recuperating after the trek. Once we had our Indian visas in hand there was little else for us to arrange and so we took advantage of a pleasant room at Pilgrims and decided to do a spot of sightseeing.

On our first full day back in Kathmandu we opted to take some of our trekking gear to The Porter’s donation charity based at KEEP, where we also wrote an account of our trekking experience in their 2012 Everest Region journal. We felt good about doing this as we enjoyed reading through the notes when we first arrived.

We spent a lazy afternoon in The Garden of Dreams where we enjoyed great food and a chance to sit and relax away from the busyness of the city. We vowed to come back before leaving Nepal. The only things that got in the way of our recovery and sight-seeing time were Helen’s sore throat and Dave’s lightening bolt effect food poisoning from the falafel stand in Thamel. Eek! We were however comforted when Joshua and Amata returned and decided to stay in our guesthouse too. We were also relieved to have access to over the counter antibiotics, we know this isn’t something that should be taken for granted but it was handy in this situation.

Helen enjoyed a fantastic Paneer-Dosa with friends at Pilgrim’s Bookshop cafe, they have a nice space out the back of the bookshop. Dave opted to stay in and recover and we arranged to sight-see later on.

We took a rickshaw out to Swayambhunath, the ‘monkey-temple’ as it’s also known at around 4pm to get the low light effect. It was packed with locals going up to say their prayers and turn the hundreds of prayer wheels, the site looks down on Kathmandu and is home to shrines, prayer flags, large Buddhas and a tall crowning stupa. There are some 365 stone steps to reach the stupa lined with trees and monkeys and hawkers trying to feel tat. There is a 100rs fee for tourist entry.

The following day Dave was still ill and so Helen ventured off with Joshua and Amata to Pashupatinah, Nepal’s largest Hindu shrine.

We couldn’t access much of the site but what you do witness are hindi’s on their deathbed’s, wrapped in orange cloth on stone slabs with their feet dipped in the water (this is to drain out the remainder of their life). From there they get taken to stone Ghat’s used for cremation and there is quite a stench in the air whist bodies’ are cremated on piles of wood for all eyes to see. It was an interesting and slightly voyeuristic experience, but it was equally intense and in some ways upsetting to watch people’s emotions being played out right in front of us. Dotted around the complex are fancily dressed male Saddhu’s who wait for tourists so that they can charge for a photograph, Helen managed to get a sneaky one without them noticing.

We walked from Pashupatinah to Bodhnath northeast of Kathmandu city centre. We could see the temple as we made our way down the hill and into the urban area. It was a really nice walk ambling through village-like areas with dwelling’s surrounded by some greenery, something you don’t see in Thamel. Bodhnath is 40m in height and is the largest Buddhist stupa in Nepal, marking the centre of the country’s Tibetan culture. Always circling stupas and mani-walls on the left here a few hundred people were walking around the base of the stupa surrounded by gompas and pilgrim rest-houses and tea lodges. We walked around the top of base of the stupa also before enjoying some tea and momo’s at Dew Drops Cafe looking out directly over the site.

We enjoyed good pizza’s at The Roadhouse along with some decent Thai food on the other side of the street, and on our last day in Kathmandu we returned to the very relaxing Garden of Dreams visiting the nice Patan Durbar Square.

Patan is around a half hour south of Thamel by taxi which was the first time we’d actually left the Thamel area since we’d been staying in Kathmandu. It’s hyped to be much nicer than the Thamel Durbar Square we didn’t visit, but those guys said it was way nicer and well kept in comparison. There are 3 main courtyards in the square open to public and in one of the old palace building’s is a very good Nepalise historical museum. Many people are drawn to the square to meet with friends or to sketch the wonderful Newari-crafted architecture. It was also nice to roam the backstreets of Patan and get a feel for the place, there are many temples and shrines dotted around and more locals are simply living there rather being constantly surrounded by people trying to sell you stuff as it often seems to be the case in Thamel.

Kathmandu is a mixture of several things, there is rubbish literally everywhere, the place is extremely polluted and it’s busy all the time. Having said this though it was exciting to be thrown back into a culture like this. We’ve really loved our time in Nepal and hope that the photographs and blog entries give you a glimpse of what it meant for us to be there exploring their rich culture and amazing country. Yes there is a huge problem with rubbish and infrastructure but we couldn’t help but feel a close connection to the people who really welcomed us into their beautiful country.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0, 18mm f4, 90mm Tele-Elmarit f2.8 processed in Lightroom 3)

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