I wrote this in 2010 during my trip to Nepal.
September 26, 2010.
The second day in Kathmandu we rented a scooter and a motorbike with Lee. We went out of Kathmandu and drove to Dakshinkali, a hindu temple on a hill. It was nice to go around on a bike. Finally a bit of fresh air. Unfortunately it was Sunday. The temple is dedicated to Kali, a blood-thirsty goddess, and on Saturdays you can assist to processions in which chickens, ducks, goats and pigs are offered to the god, killed right there and grilled on the spot. It must be interesting. Once we got back to Kathmandu our bodies and clothes were covered in dust and pollution. Well, I’m getting used to it. It’s pretty much the same when you travel by bus, with the windows always open.
In the evening we met with J, and Lee brought to the rendez-vous two old friends, two weird Mexicans we met in Chengdu. 19 years old, they are traveling for 6 months before they go to uni. One speaks Japanese and Chinese, plus a perfect English of course. The other one is an expert in making an amazing fruit salad cutting banana, papaya, mango and dragon fruit with an attention to detail like a wood carver.
On Monday we all went rafting on the Trisuli, a river that runs from Pokhara to Kathmandu. It was quite boring. I had already done rafting in Chile somewhere, and I remember I was afraid I could fall into the waters, among the strong currents and the rocks. The two hours on the Trisuli were never ending. It was more a cruise than a rafting. We could have played cards. From time to time there was a part a bit more exciting, with big waves that covered us, but it was short. But apparently I drank enough water to get me sick a bit the following day. Like all waters in Asia it’s probably not really drinkable. So on Tuesday I didn’t do anything, I just relaxed.
On Wednesday Hilde and I went to Swayambhunath, the monkeys temple. On a hill, it’s both Buddhist and Hindu. Along the long staircase to get there, hordes of monkeys walk around you and above you (on the trees, and better be careful not to be pissed down!). I found them quite ugly, but these were less scary than those on Mount Emei, near Chengdu, in China. Those were bigger, with the face of a naughty old man, and they attacked tourists. In Swayambhunath they were among themselves cuddling and cleaning from fleas. They were almost cute.
In Swayambhunath a couple of children came closer to us while we were reading the Lonely Planet. They must have been about 5 years old. They asked for a rupie or two. A few minutes later two more boys approached us, about 14 years old, and asked if we had some rupies for the younger ones. It looked as if the 5 yrs old were working for the older.
I wasn’t expecting the children situation to be so bad in Nepal. Near Thamel there’s an area where during the day children sleep on the pavement. I’ve been told that during the night they sell drugs and have some other traffics. With the first light they sniff glue until they are dull. It’s terrible to see. There are NGOs working here that might help them, but I guess they like their independence, even if miserable.
After the monkeys temple we went to Durbar Square (Durbar means palace in Nepalese). It’s the main square in Kathmandu, full of temples and interesting palaces (editor’s note: I’m talking about before the earthquake in 2015 here, I don’t know how the situation is now). Other interesting Durbar Squares are in Patan and Bhaktapur. That day in Kathmandu there was an important festival taking place, the Indra Jatra. Indra was an Aryan god of the rain, arrested in Kathmandu because he stole a flower for his mother. During the festival a guy with a huge red wig that impersonates Indra, runs up and down around te square to run away from the people that had to arrest him.
In the meantime, a long queue of cars with ambassadors was arriving at the palace to watch the show from a terrace. I even saw the Nepalese presidente, but I don’t know which one he was. At one point Kumar Devi, a young girl that is considered a living goddess (until her first menstruation, at which point another girl will take her place), was carried on a throne around town. Kumar Devi never leaves her house, only in rare occasions (among them was this one) and her feet never touch the soil. There was a huge crowd on the steps of the temple, watching the show.
In the evening we had something cheap for dinner. Chinese spaghetti at 50 cents in one of those local restaurants (the dirtiest, the tastiest, says Lee) and a bottle of vodka from the supermarket, to drink on the roof of the guesthouse.
The following day we went to Patan, a town that has now been incorporated in Kathmandu, separated by a river only. It’s an old town. It’s nice just to walk around and get lost in the labirinth of its streets and hidden passages. With a beautiful Durbar Square, that we saw quickly to avoid the guys that wanted us to pay 2 euro (I know you think 2 euro is nothing, but I actually eat 4 times with 2 euro!).
In the evening back in Kathmandu we had dinner in another local restaurant, with two young kids super cute; later relax in a western style club where a sprite cost twice my dinner. Goodbye Lee, last time I see him.
Kathmandu is a peculiar town. It’s very chaotic. If I stayed one more day, I think I would have kicked some motorists down their motorbikes. I couldn’t stand the horn all the time. And it’s so complicated to walk around! I’ve learnt just those two streets around the Thamel, the tourist area of Kathmandu, enough to be able to go back to the guesthouse where I was staying. It’s also quite expensive, considering it’s Nepal. A beer is almost 2 euro, for example. But you can find street food for few cents (and still at a touristic price, usually double or three times what a local pays; but I accept this thing, as few nepali are lucky as we are and can afford traveling). I love “momo”, himalayan dumplings; with 30 cents you can get 10. Great snack. And there are shops for tourists, with western products (and western prices). No juice for me in Kathmandu, it’s too expensive.
In Kathmandu there are temples and statues everywhere. And courtyards, hidden behind tiny alleys, that you can enter only walking, surrounded by houses. Nice. They hide the best secrets. Yesterday, in Patan, walking around we entered these small alleys that brought us to a small square, from where another alley went to a new square, and so on. Like a labyrinth hidden from the cars. Peculiar.
I’ve been traveling with a girl for the last 10 days, because I would like to have a companion for the trekking on the little mountains that are here, called the Himalayas, and share the expenses to visit a National Park. But it’s difficult. I would prefer to be alone, and she probably feels the same because I realize I can be a jerk. It is true that traveling can test your friendship or fondness for the people you are with.
Next stop: Bandipur.