At the foot of the Annapurna massif, on the shore of Phewa Lake, under the sunset sky with a view of the World Peace Stupa, we could continue like this for a while. We are writing this blog in Pokhara, three hours after we arrived here after an 8 hour bus ride with impressive canyons and bizarre overtaking maneuvers. And if you doubt, the canyons and overtaking maneuvers are no descent match as far as we are concerned.
Our heads are still buzzing after six days of Kathmandu, what a city! There is a lot of everything, a – lot! Except of organisation and structure. At least, the kind of structure that we as Europeans understand. Our hostel is just over an hour’s walk from the tourist district of Thamel and the historic Royal Palace Durbar Square. That means an impressive walk through the neighborhoods of Kathmandu where it is teeming with small shops, stalls and activities. The people of Kathmandu seem to be living in the streets all day, every day. Despite the fact that we needed to get used to the noise, the smell, dust and apparent chaos, a special kind of coziness is spread all over the place. People are friendly, seem satisfied and even the most pushy salesmen are a bit shy.
A day of strolling through the streets and squares quickly got us used to daily routines, meaning not giving a damn when you just ordered a portion of momos at a small food stall while three dogs are fighting for street rubbish, a group of children throwing a few plastic bags onto their fires and the motors, jeeps and taxies rushing by at less than a meter, almost continuously honking and consuming as much oil as gasoline. The electricity shortage is quite easily solved in Kathmandu: The city is divided into 7 sectors that alternate between planned black-outs. The more successful shops and restaurants then start their emergency generator, all the others light a candle.
Swayambhu was one of the highlights of Kathmandu and landmark to find our hostel. In retrospect it turned out not to be that handy, because during 3 of the 5 evenings the Swayambhu district was cut off from the grid and our landmark was not lit anymore. The temple complex with a large Stupa sits on top of a hill and is decorated with a huge amount of prayer flags. It is teeming with monkeys and is one of the few places in Kathmandu to escape the chaos. Furthermore, Kathamandu Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square were very worthwhile and it became a challenge to find alternative entrances to temples and squares to avoid the ridiculously high entrance fees. Admission fee seems to be more than once not to be made by official agencies but by a group of men that first conquered the entrance in the morning. To visit the corpse-burning place Pashupatinath 1000 Ruppees was charged, an amount that we spend on average per person per day on accommodation, transport, food and drinks in the city!
Dying and being cremated at the Bagmati river in the temple complex of Pashupatinath is considered the absolute highlight of all religious achievements. Hundreds of Nepalese people are sitting on the riverbank opposite the burning places, chatting quietly and reading a newspaper in the smoke of the funeral piles. The place kind of gave us the chills, more so when we were just about to leave and all of a sudden under a lot of noise the lifeless body of a woman was carried out of the temple right onto the banks of the Bagmati river. Covered in a small sheet, she was washed with water from the river. We stood there in silence, impressed and in a way even slightly shocked. The locals clearly seemed less impressed.
For now we are enjoying the quiet vibe of Pokhara and will prepare our Annapurna Trek.
Nadieh & Ruben