Nepal

Having been in Nepal almost two weeks, I feel an account of my time so far is rather overdue.

Nepal it seems is a difficult county to pin down; is it at once a bustling metropolis, a haven of revered culture and a place of profound natural beauty, it simultaneously manages to be disorientating, exotic and enticing.

After missing my first flight from Bangkok I eventually caught a later flight straight to Kathmandu, my wallet feeling distinctly lighter but glad to be on my way. Tribhuvan international airport in Kathmandu is perhaps a taster of whats to come from Kathmandu itself; a miniature and somewhat aged version of most airports its unassuming terminal bustles with new arrivals and outside a ragged collection of guides and taxi drivers lay in wait to pounce.

Much like in Bangkok’s Khao San Road, travelers here seem to gravitate to one area, Thamel; narrow winding streets packed with guesthouses and trekking shops alongside restaurants and local shops, salesmen tout Kashmir scarves and local wares, rickshaws ride past drumming up business in broken English, others offer hashish in hushed tones with sideways glances, all to a soundtrack of blaring horns and roaring engines as taxis and bikes navigate the maze of shoppers.

I spent my first day organising and arranging my next few weeks in Nepal, aware that I had a limited time before my return flight and keen to fit everything in. I plumped for a bungy jump to start of my time in Nepal, the renowned 160m Final Resort Bungy seemed to present a flagrant challenge.

My second day in Kathmandu fell on the Hindu Holi festival, celebrated by throwing coloured paint and water from rooftops, with marauding gangs covering passers by in all manner of coloured powder and a jovial sense of festivity filling the streets. A short walk around town soon landed me with a smattering of powder covering my from head to toe and turned my hair a distinct red which is still pretty noticeable today.

The next morning an increasing sense of dread came over me as I boarded the bus and headed of for my bungy, as we climbed higher into he hills I began to question my decision and took solace in the company the equally worried fellow jumpers. Arriving at the resort we crossed the bridge from which we were to jump, giving us a chance to peer downwards at the ominous abyss into which we would soon be hurling ourselves, doing little to calm my nerves. After spending most of the day watching the others in the group launch themselves off the platform my time finally came to be harnessed up and strapped on. To say I was terrified would be a slight understatement, however for the benefits of the camera I tried to appear nonchalant and confident as I waddled towards the jumping platform with my feet tied together. With the countdown of the guide ringing in my ears I forced myself to lean forward and submit to the forces of gravity, all thoughts flew from my head as I plummeted downwards, arms flailing and expletives tumbling forth, the rocks rushing up to meet me, urging me downwards. After a series of terrifying ricochets and bounces I eventually came to a stop, hovering above the raging river below. Being lowered to a waiting mattress, amazed at my survival and with my heart in my mouth I stole a glance upwards at the bridge, seeing the next poor soul being strapped in, feeling relived, and awfully alive.

The day after my bungy I had booked myself onto a three day whitewater rafting and kayaking trip a few hours from Kathmandu. Teaming up with a group of Australians, Dutch and Germans on the first morning we took on the best the river had to throw at us, battling rapids and rocks we all managed to stay aboard and despite a few close scrapes managed to make it down alive. After a quick swim in the breathtakingly cold river we stopped for some much needed lunch, at which point the rest of the team headed off back to civilization while I continued downriver with my guides to our camping spot. After a spot of tombstoning from the surrounding cliffs we arrived at our campsite perched below a small village overlooking the river with a backdrop of rolling green hills.

I spent a fantastic 5 days camping there, accompanied only by the guides, Ashok and Imlan, alongside some of their friends who would pop in for a night or two and the various visitors from the village above. Spending my days kayaking in the nearby rapids, practicing Eskimo rolls in my kayak, walking up to the village and exploring the beautiful surroundings. My guides took exemplary care of me, providing me with a feast of food from the village; fresh organic vegetables, eggs and chicken followed up by homemade chips, curry and Indian bread, washed down with gallons of sweet tea.

Come sundown they would entertain me with tales of adventures past and we would talk all things Nepali, I quizzed them on Nepali Politics as I was reading Manjushree Thapa’s excellent Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy documenting Nepal’s turbulent political history. Their touching philosophy was that as long as they were enjoying life then all was well, money it seemed was no motivator for them, only a facilitator, allowing them to live the lifestyle they loved so much, they clearly adored being outside and were at one with the awesome nature that surrounded them.

Every afternoon as we sat drinking tea warming up from our misadventures on the river a group of goatherds would come down from the village bringing an assortment of goats and cows to graze by the river, speaking no English they would gossip with the guides giggling and stealing glances in my direction. Through translation I was told they thought I was very handsome and great laughter and much hysterics ensued as I brought out my camera and posed for photos with them.  I was also constantly entertained by the charismatic camp dog Tiger who who sneak into my tent when I went to bed and steal my shoes and chase the goats and cows if they came too close to camp.

 Some evenings we would walk tiger up the hill to the village and watch as the sun dipped below the hills,  and one afternoon they took me to a local festival at which the villagers were dancing and singing, playing handmade instruments and drinking devilishly strong home-brewed “Roxy”. When It came my time to head back to Kathmandu they persuaded my to stay for two more days, not as a customer but as a friend, their profound kindness knew few bounds and all told I spent 5 days by the river, my days willed with kayaking lessons on the river and fireside gossip and food dominating the evenings,  undoubtedly among the most enjoyable days of my trip so far.

Eventually time restraints forced me to leave however if I wished to fit in my trek, I packed up my bags I spend another final day rafting again with a new crew and ended the day with a sense of sadness as I prepared to leave the riverside camp that had been for home for what seemed like so long. Ashok invited me to return after my trek and join them on a hike to a nearby cave high in the hills, it will, I think, be a great regret that I will not have time to join them after my trek.

 

 

What struck me as I waved goodbye and boarded the bus to Kathmandu was not only  the sincerity with which they had taken care of me and shown me around but the love they had for their way of life, they were the happiest people I had met for a long time but also the most humble and open, they had very little but were willing to give everything. My stay at the camp also confirmed something I had suspected for a while; that despite our superficial differences people the world over are more similar than many would have us believe, we all smile, we all laugh and we all dance, everyone in their own ways holds aspirations, hopes and fears and differences of language, culture or religion do little to diminish the undeniable similarities between us.                                                                         A smile, it seems speaks in any language .

Tomorrow I leave for Everest base camp, I’ll be gone around 3 weeks and should be in for the adventure of my life. Will update you all soon.

Backpacking Jack

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Comments
2 Responses to “Nepal”
  1. peter firman says:

    Jack..what a wonderfully descriptive and sincere blog..I felt almost that I was with you there in Nepal, with yOur new found,happY,native friends..almost as if the world had passed them by an they were at one with the nature of the way they lived..the world could learn so much from lovely people like that. ones and oh how much we can learn from them.

    I feel that you have already learned so much about life and the kind people who inhabit our planet..forget the war mongerers and the greedy men who will kill for money..these people are the real human beings.

    In months and years to come remember them..and the lessons they taught you and life will

    become richer and have more meaning.

    LOVE

    DAD XX

  2. Roxanne says:

    Hi Jack,

    Thank you for sharing your stories about your Nepal experience. I stumbled upon your entry while Googling about backpacking in Nepal, hoping to get some tips to help me in my planning, but instead I read this wonderful piece that is engrossing, captivating and just plain wonderful. Your dad is right, this made me feel like I experienced Nepal already – which is doubly exhilarating knowing I have yet to embark on MY journey and this is what awaits. =) I’m also be traveling alone and I didn’t sense some security concerns in your write-up so that lessens my worry a bit. Thanks again and visit the Philippines! It’s beautiful.

    -Roxanne

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