Above our cheap rooftop terrace (less than $100 for 3 nights for 2 rooms for 4 of us), beyond the dusty haze, tower the Himalayas. Supposedly. Because we never saw them from this busy, dirty, earthquake-cracked city, where pavements disappear, tarmac is intermittent, and power poles are a wire labyrinth.
We landed safely though, ate multiple samosas from a streetside seller, admired grafitti, and did a little mandatory sightseeing.
Just walking around the local tourist district of Thamel and older parts of the city was culture shock enough for my son ’18’, blessed as we are to live in a beautifully natural part of Australia:
And the power poles; I just couldn’t get over the power poles.
Nepal is in the Top Ten poorest countries on earth, with 29.3 million people squashed into a country 53 times smaller than Australia; almost a million live in Kathmandu itself, which sprawls through a valley my travel buddy can remember being full of rice fields 25 years ago…
Of course, the victims of urban sprawl are the environment, and the desperately poor families who cannot survive in their villages; the pollution was a confronting challenge for all of us, especially when you recognize that the majority of the inhabitants are just trying to get by, with no welfare system or reliable infrastructure.
People work hard. They move concrete, pile bricks, smash stones, scavenge for firewood, eat simply, wash in the river, and watch how the rest of the world lives now via the internet.
While everywhere, through every facet of daily actions, runs their faith. Prayer flags, altars, shrines, offerings, foreheads dotted red with bindi or tikka; it was impossible to separate the spiritual and the mundane.
Despite the constant haze, and the April 2015 earthquake, which killed almost 9000 people, and cost approximately 10 billion dollars, the Nepalese generally beam a kind, calm, humorous energy, never more so than when driving. But more of that later…
After 2 full days of last-minute trek preparations and touristy stuff, including deciding the itinerary with our guide, we were ready. We’d decided to splash out on a jeep to take us as far up into the mountains as we could get before beginning to walk, and so began our adventure. Two Mums, two sons, 4 backpacks, 8 walking sticks and boots, plus trail bars, drink bottles, and the most wonderful gadget you will ever take to a developing country: a SteriPEN, which uses UV light to sterilize as much water as you need every day.
Let’s do this!
But first we’d better check out of our hotel…
Although you know what? It could have been.
And we did end up staying in pretty rough places a couple of times on the trail… But more of that later…