Day 17 (Wednesday, June 7): New Delhi – Kathmandu
We were delighted to leave grilling New Delhi for the cool Kathmandu. We set off at 2:30pm in a small propeller plane with some 20 seats.
The aircraft though as old as our grandparents, was sturdy and could still fly! It was a thrilling experience: the sky was clear and we had a scenic flight enjoying the magnificent Himalayan range of mountains. We could not believe our luck when we saw Mt. Everest!
We arrived in Kathmandu at 4pm. It was cool and rainy. What a contrast to the gruesome and dry experience in Delhi. The airport was tiny, dark and shabby. There were a lot of old cars and vans outside waiting for passengers. We were met by Shailen and Kali (both are young and handsome!) We cramped into a couple of old vans.
In order to save money, 12 of us shared two rooms in a cheap inn. We had a filling and delicious dinner in a Tibetan restaurant followed by an orientation seminar.
Day 18– 19 (Thursday& Friday, June 8 – 9): Kathmandu
I found Kathmandu a totally different world. Located in a basin, Katmandu is surrounded by magnificent mountains. I had never seen so many beautiful and atmospheric wooden buildings and quaint old squares. There was also something spiritual and captivating about the place.
On the first day in Kathmandu, Ceci and Paulina caught a cold and had to rest in the inn.
We visited many attractions in Kathmandu. The old town was exquisite and charming: there were few tourists and we strolled along the Durbar (Central) Square. We saw the Living Goddess at Kumara Chowk a small palace where a small virgin girl is worshipped as the goddess Durga in human form. She leads a solidary life and is replaced upon reaching puberty by another young girl.
We went to the Pashupatinath Temple situated on the banks of the Bagmati River. This sacred shrine to Shiva is said to be Nepal’s oldest and holiest place of worship. Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple. Bodies are cremated outside the temple and their ashes are thrown into the river.
We also walked all the way to the Swayambhunath Temple (also known as the Monkey Temple) located on a hilltop. We visited the imposing and impressive stupa at Boudha (or Boudhanath). We were told that the Chinese had built the first ring road for Nepal to mark the friendship between the two countries. It was remarkable to see trams running along green fields and mud and brick houses.
Outside Kathmandu, we visited the Durbar Square in Patan and in Bhaktapur; both are tranquil and beautiful old royal cities. There were few tourists and we attracted lots of attention wherever we went.
As for the community projects, we visited the Ishanta Bhawan Hospital and a community health project.
We saw a cultural show one evening and went to a hippy colony for dinner the second night. I still remember sitting on the second floor of a small restaurant watching many long-haired hippies smoking and drinking with dreamy eyes. (I thought they might have taken drugs!)
What I had enjoyed most was seeing the beautiful Kathmandu basin on bike at sunset. Sam, Rafia and I rented a bike and Sam gave Sandra a lift as she did not know how to ride a cycle. It was quiet and the golden setting sun was gorgeous.
Day 20 (Saturday, June 10): Kathmandu – Nagarkot
In the morning, we visited a village project run by United Nations Development Programme.
In the afternoon, we set off in a small jeep for a sunrise and sunset tour at Nagarkot. Some had to stay on the roof. Hela with a lovely and powerful voice sang all the way! We also joined in and had a great time. The scenery was fantastic with green fields under cultivation, villages with mud and brick huts with majestic snow-clad mountains in the background.
We stayed in a very basic hut at Nagarkot. We watched sunset and were mesmerised by the magical Himalayan range. The night was very cold. We sat round the fire made by our Nepali friends and chatted away.
Day 21 (Sunday, June 11): Nagarkot – Kathmandu – Decca
We had to get up early to watch sunrise. My friends did not wake me up. I got up just in time when the sun was just above the horizon. (Today, Sam still remembers my disappointment and frustration when running out of the hut to catch a glimpse of sunrise)
It was freezing and we had to take a blanket to wrap ourselves up. I remember the blissful moment when I saw Mt. Everest in a great distance behind six or seven ranges of mountains! The air was fresh and the sunrise with the Himalayan mountain range at the backdrop was unearthly beautiful and eternal. That serene and magnificent sunrise remains the most memorable sunrise in my life.
We departed Kathmandu in the afternoon and arrived in Decca at 6pm.