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Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
January 2, 2002
Locals will show you the southern exit that descends through forests, villages and
terraced valleys to medieval Bhaktapur - an amazing pedestrianised town showcasing some
of Nepal's finest art and architecture.
A Diary Extract...
It was dark and cold as we walked to the Mahakali Shrine in Nagarkot – (supposedly) the best place to see the sunrise on the Himalaya. A velvet sky was sprinkled with a billion stars. We were alone for a precious time but were soon joined by many of our new friends from last night’s sing-a-long ‘round the fire at the guesthouse. An enterprising local sold strong coffee for 10 rupee a glass and the mist parted to reveal a sky streaked with gold and amber and mountains of rose. Dew dripped from bushes and faded prayer flags hung forlornly. Temple bells rang and dogs barked.
After a suspect breakfast of rancid butter and rubbery eggs, we walked to the village and bought some supplies for the walk; oranges, bananas and chocolate from a talkative Indian fellow. The local bus ferried us halfway down the mountain to Telkot where we picked up the trail.
Rhododendron forests carpeted the hillsides, interspersed with hamlets of yellow and blue-trimmed mud brick houses perched on ridges overlooking the Sankhu valley and its backdrop of dusted Himalaya peaks. Terraced rice fields provided order to the landscape and there were crops of millet and corn. It took two hours to reach the hilltop village of Changu Narayan, where we stopped at a café for cold drinks, watching a woman scrubbing a buffalo in the dam below.
The village’s focus is its stunning temple, glorious in its detail and intricacy. Dedicated to Vishnu’s incarnation as Narayan, the beautiful carved doors, struts and an enormous brass conch shell (the symbol for enlightenment) inspire Karen to make a few sketches – ideas for future paintings no doubt. Children played around us in the courtyards. This place was inspiring, food for the soul indeed.
With the help of some local kids we found the trail down to Bhaktapur. It starts at the back of the temple and goes along a ridge downhill through forests and villages. Along the way we were greeted by dozens of children, women tilling rice fields, old men walking buffalo, hunched old women lugging stacks of fodder on their backs. Sometimes these stacks of fodder even had babies in them! The sun shone. It was a sensational walk and we voted it one of our favourite days in Nepal.
Two hours later we arrived in Bhaktapur to a hot shower at the Pagoda Guesthouse and large pots of Shamila’s (our hostess) magic lemon spiced tea...
From journal Not Trekking in Nepal
A diary extract...
From atop the Third World Restaurant in Patan we watched Durbar Square come alive as children hopscotched on the brick paving. At the Golden and Kumbeswara temples a festival to Kali unfolded, stalls of marigold wreaths, incense, candles, flowers and fruit offerings lining the entrance ways.
We found a school to pass on children’s storybooks we’d brought from home, the grateful headmaster leading us on an impromptu tour. Tiny hands were clasped in front of bright faces as children "Namaste’d" in unison. Namaste means "I salute the God within you" – so much better than hello or thank you.
We taxied to Kirtipur in the valley foothills to a landscape of crumbling buildings perched on a series of spectacular ridges. Chickens and dogs slept on slate steps and old men played cards, their stares following us as we passed. A Buddhist temple donated by Thailand interrupted the view across the valley and the town of Chobar on the opposite hill. This was our destination.
"You’re kidding," said Karen.
"It’ll be fun, it looks further than it is." She didn’t believe me.
A young guy called Simon showed us around Kirtipur, visiting some of the town’s old temples and a factory where his cousins boiled rice stalks to make paper pulp. This soft, handmade paper is made from many different plants and exported to exclusive shops across the world.
Kirtipur is a communist town and the scene of recent uprisings where five men where killed. We pass a wall emblazoned with a hammer and sickle and Simon explains that it’s still a volatile place. Back at the Thai temple we waved goodbye and set out for Chobar. It was warm, the countryside littered with mud brick houses and families tending their fields. Chobar is small, with a medieval atmosphere, a land-that–time-forgot feel, famous for its Buddhist temple loaded with hundreds of pots and pans nailed to its beams; offerings made to the Gods by newlyweds in the hope of a good marriage and many children.
Downhill, behind the village, we cross Chobar Gorge on a long suspension bridge. Eagles ride the air currents above the river, diving into the roaring chasm to pluck fish from its depths. On the bank dogs and children forage in mounds of rubbish, shrouded in fumes from the nearby cement factory.
This country is a curious paradox. Beautiful one minute, tragic the next...