Reunions, relics and road trips, back to the Kathmandu valley and time to explore… 198 days in.
Landing from the Khumbu mountains we could once again feast on cheap and plentiful food that we could only dream about during the nights of oxygen deprived sleep on our trek; momos, falafel, pizza and proper coffee instead of dal baht and the milk tea that became sweeter and weaker the higher we trekked. We also bumped into a few of our trekking buddies whilst in town, including our Belgian friends Sam and Anouk, who incidentally joined us to celebrate Pinto’s birthday on the eve of our flight back to Kathmandu. It was a night that will live long in the memory. Staying in Lukla, a mountain village ever expanding due to the influx of tourists taking and waiting for flights at its tiny airstrip, our options for a night out were limited. Deciding that the Scottish bar seemed the least dingy, we ordered a round of drinks and joined the game of killer at the pool table. Normally a round of drinks on such an ocassion (even back home) would include a cup of tea of two; however, the birthday boy decided to break his 17 year alcohol abstinence for the evening and a round of the locally distilled rum was ordered! We had a great evening, even busted out some moves on the dance floor to the barely aubile music being played, before returning back to our guesthouse at 10:30 pm, a late night in the mountains!
Back in town, having eaten our fill of momos it was time we ventured outside of Thamel and explore Kathmandu. First stop, Durbar square home to the old palace, temples and much hustle and bustle, although unfortunately badly affected by the April 2015 earthquake. Lonely Planet in hand Glenn was our guide for the morning, highlighting the important sights as we wandered; old trading posts, erotic wood carvings and one of the oldest woodern buildings in the world, although thinking twice that he had located it, it was third time lucky when we discovered it had been completely destroyed by the earthquake as we stood on the rubble that remained. Durbar square is also home to Kumari; a young girl worshipped as the living incarnation of the Hindu goddess Taleju and we happened to arrive just before she gave a rare appearance at a window. Being non-religious and a westerner, it was an experience that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable, to see an eight year old girl dressed as a woman, with the trappings of being a living goddess and looking unimpressed by the tourists stood staring in the courtyard below, quite how Save the Children haven’t got involved left Pinto especially dumbfounded.
Having heard about our previous scooter exploits and discovering that it only cost $5 a to hire one for the day, Pinto had the beginnings of a plan. With three scooters aquired (Glenn was unwilling to be pillion for Pinto) a rather brief training session began; ignition here, accelerator here and brake here, now go. The functionality of these was apparently not necessary for this occasion! Having Google maps loaded on our phones to navigate through the streets, some dodgy fuel gauges and probably not very much petrol, we braved the traffic and dusty streets to explore the outer parts of the city.
With the nearby hills in our sights, we thought we’d take in the view of the city from above and stop at any interesting looking places along the way, although our first encounter wasn’t quite what we expected, being pulled over by the traffic police! Hoping he didn’t want to see our driving licence, as we had left it back in the hotel, we stopped on the side on the road, we’re still not sure what it was for but he asked where we were going, after pointing to the hill and showing him our Google map pin point, he seemed slightly satisfied and waved us on our way, phew! It was great fun once we escaped the dusty and chaotic city centre as we wove our way up the hill side, through the pine trees with glimpses of the view below, stopping for a snack of samosas next to a temple. The more memorable days are always when you get out and explore a place, whether on foot or two wheels (pedal – or motor powered) and getting a little bit off the well beaten tourist track for a little while gives you the chance to see and experience every day life.