Saturday, November 24, 2007

getting to Kathmandu


We had a decent bus for the trip from Pokhara though we started by backtracking over the rutted road that rattled our brains two days earlier. We passed the land slide with chunks of mud like small huts and over the same shaky single-lane bridge. There is only this one road to Pokhara. Monika began to get nauseous so when we stopped for tea she went to the front seat. Why not? There was room for three people and one was empty and it would be easier on her if she sat up front.

She called to me to look out the window because a man was riding a motorcycle with chickens tied to it. The guy had 30 very unhappy chickens hanging by their feet from the luggage rack and handlebars. And we thought our transportation was lacking.

We drove for a few hours eventually reaching a better road so Monika asked if we could stop for a potty break. We did but I want to say that I used the world’s highest toilet in Peru and now possibly the world’s dirtiest toilet here in Nepal. Happily we stayed at the stop to stretch our legs a bit and so photographed some of those great Nepali trucks as they drove by. The backs of the trucks have messages such as: push horn, horn please, honk please, please honk, see you and on the rare occasion one is decorated with heart love. The fronts are all flowers and vines and tinsel garlands. Very cool.

I just couldn't stop taking photos of these trucks

so I continued to snap through that break.

Monika wanted to get back in the front seat but Brahm told her that he had to do some work and needed space and she should sit in the back seat. She didn’t want to make a fuss so she went in the bumpy back.

We passed an industrial area with brick making and with large scale poultry barns and then the air became dust mixed with diesel fumes and I knew we were getting near Kathmandu.

Work was being done to construct a wider road but for now, loads of stone and sand restrict passage so that our movement was measured in dusty feet per minute.


Words escape me still but I’ll work on describing it. Perhaps I could just say it’s busy and crowded and as old as Buddha. We’ve traded cows and goats for monkeys. It’s more like Delhi than any where else except that people smile and remove trash here.

Our arrival was on Friday and while Friday is Pie Day in Alfred it is Party Hearty in Kathmandu. Near our hotel live bands played with ear-splitting exuberance from 2 am till after the roosters began to crow. It was louder in our room than we could bear and the band wasn’t anywhere near us so I there might not have been a way to measure the decibel level at ground zero. It was a miserable night.

Looking back

We like Kathmandu more than India. When we walked to a restaurant Sunday morning people swept the street and when we passed by later the trash was gone. It was, we later learned, spread out on a larger street for recycling, of sorts. People picked through it to find cardboard and useful things. Maybe it will be taken away later. There were no piles when we arrived so there must be some kind of system.

There are traffic lights and cross walks. There are sidewalks and few places that smell of urine.

In the old city, there is mass traffic and massive confusion but in the new part of the city there is order. We walked past the king’s palace and saw the royal carriage pulled by huge horses and guarded by soldiers. Our only major adventure was the monkey temple.

The monkey temple isn’t about monkeys but somehow they live there. Hundreds of aggressive furry families that mill about stealing food from people’s hands and messing with the offerings.

This man sat outside of the temple and patiently used his hands and feet to unweave this plastic sack and then wove the bits of plastic thread into rope.

There is a huge tree near the top and it wears more prayer flags than we have previously seen in one place. There are people praying and spinning prayer wheels, lighting candles and selling flowers, making offerings and asking visitors to buy their carvings. We didn’t stay very long.

Later we visited the Yak and Yeti, a famous old hotel built in part using an old palace. The room rate online is $86 per night including breakfast so we thought we could afford a pleasant dinner there. Dinner was closer to $86 per person so quite out of our budge but we did walk through the upscale shops and accepted the salute of the doorman.

In general, we may have had enough chaos, confusion, clutter and noise and might be ready for home.

Kathmandu post script

Our few days in Kathmandu left us impressed with the cleanliness of the city when compared with Delhi or Varanasi. We noticed a couple of large piles of trash around dumpsters but people were picking through it and we thought that it was some kind of recycling effort. While visiting with people in a non-moving custom’s line at the airport we learned that Kathmandu’s garbage collectors have been on strike for a week. Color us surprised.

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