Adventures in magical NEPAL
Kathmandu, Pokhara, Bhaktapur, Patan and trekking the Ghorepani circuit
Sunday 13th November 2011
I've been obsessed recently about the possible but improbable existance of the Himalayan Yeti. Maybe I can be the first person to find conclusive evidence that its not just a mythical creature but so far on this trip the Yeti is proving to be elusive, its early days yet though and to be fair Doha airport is unlikely to be their preferred habitat.
We have a long wait of 9 hours here in Qatar until our connecting flight to Kathmandu, there are flights sooner but in my search for the cheapest deal possible thats what I had to book. So we've got a bit of time to take advantage and experience a bit of middle eastern culture....... so far we've wandered around the duty free shops and soaked up the atmos in the airport cafeteria......
Monday 14th November
Cows seen on streets - 3, powercuts - 1
Well we're here! First experiences of Nepal mostly involve confusion. All the taxi guys are waiting to pounce outside the airport and because I didnt want to be mithered I just carried on walking up the road as if I knew where I was going, I dont know why because we do need a taxi and I definitely don't know where I'm going.
Anyway we ended up in a taxi that possibly wasnt a real taxi with two lads, one drove while the other tried to sell us things. The "big traffic" as the driver described was a free for all with no street lighing, no traffic lights, make your own rules while dodging bikes, potholes and cows.
Reach the Kathmandu Peace Guesthouse where we thought we'd booked a room, they seemed to have copies of my emails but didnt have a room for us. After a confusing hour of waiting in the dark due to a powercut it turned out there was now a room for us, however just to make things a bit more weird the manager called us into the office, sat us down with tea and coffee (in the dark- still a powercut) and started by apologising for having had "a few beers", he just wanted to sell us excursions but we've already got plans. Everyone is so so polite that its difficult to moan about anything, one of the staff even guided us to the restaurant we wanted to eat at so we didnt get lost. Had some dal bhat at a place called Thakali Kitchen and a Gorkha beer (comes in a giant 660ml bottle). Went back to get some sleep ready to start exploring tomorrow, have hardly slept in 24 hours with all the travelling. First impressions? this is gonna be a crazy adventure!
Amusing anecdote of the day
The fella's name at the guesthouse is Rat but he pronounces it "Raart" a bit like Mrs Bucket in that 90's comedy show who pronounces it bouquet
Tuesday 15th. In the morning
Currys eaten - 1, momos eaten - 19, yeti sightings - 0, rickshaw rides - 1, times lost -1
Went to a rooftop cafe called Helenas for breakfast, Bec had pancakes and I asked for an Indian breakfast not knowing what I would get although correctly suspecting curry. Yum, curry for breakfast with chapatis and roti bread, great way to start the day.
Went to find out how to get to Pokhara tomorrow which turned out to be easier than expected, bus tickets are 500 rupees which is about £4 and its a 7 hour journey starting at 7am.
Guided ourselves on a walking tour through the medieval looking streets of Kathmandu old town passing by rows and rows of little shops, temples and shrines with incense and butter lamps burning, holi men covered in red and yellow paint, scabby stray dogs chasing past, rickshaws rattling along and people carrying ridiculously large loads strapped to their heads. It feels like there's too much stuff for my eyes to look at, its a visual feast and my brain is gorging itself.
Right now as I'm writing this we're sat on a rooftop overlooking Durbar square eating vegetable momos (a plate of stuffed dumpling type things) and I have to say this delicious taste sensation may start a new obsession.
In the afternoon got a rickshaw ride to the 'Monkey Temple' or as its better known Swayambhunath. Riding a bike must be difficult on these roads but riding a one gear bike to pull two people up a hill, well that should be an olympic sport. The huge gold stupa at the top is reached by a long steep climb up stone steps. The nickname 'monkey temple' comes from the residence of monkeys that overwhelme the whole area, there's enough to see to make it a worthwhile visit including great views out across the city and watching the hordes of monkeys is fascinating too. Had some more momos at a cafe at the bottom of the hill and then taxied back to Thamel.
After having walked through old town and some local streets today coming back to the tourist centre of Thamel feels like being in Blackpool. Its a shame that the influence of Western tourists eventually rapes the local culture out of town and leaves it looking like......well Blackpool really. Don't get me wrong though, I already love this country, warts n all.
Went out at night to the Thamel Restaurant, a Nepalise restaurant where upstairs they had low tables and floor cusions. It was about twice as expensive as where we'd eaten before but it was a good quality place, nice setting, friendly service and although I was pulling a face at the bill coming to 1500 rupees I need to get things into perspective and realise that its still only £12. Went for a drink in Full Moon bar after, it says in our travel book there beer is 175 rupees, however this was written 2 years ago which is enough time to cotton on to a mention in Lonely Planet being worth putting the price up to 330 rupees. There we go, I'm moaning about money again, so time to stop witing, go to bed and wake up a bit less cynical tomorrow. Tomorrow we're off to Pokhara.....
Wednesday 16th. Bus to Pokhara
Yesterday I rang some prayer bells at a shrine somewhere in kathmandu old town, praying to the god of this particular shrine is said to be beneficial to your eyesight. Excellent I thought, took a moment to mumble a little prayer and rang the bells.....
I woke up this morning relieved that I hadn't disposed of all my contact lenses.
Up bright and early to get the 7am bus to Pokhara. Had to wake up Rat the guesthouse manager so we could pay our bill, oops maybe I should have settled up yesterday. Bus journey takes around 7-8 hours, its a bit uncomfortable with the road being so bumpy but the magnificent scenery more than makes up for it. Arrived in Pokhara and the manager from Hotel Nirvana who I had emailed in advance has come to pick us up from the bus park, Its probably partly to make sure that the gaggle of hotel touts waiting for the bus dont steal his customer but maybe also because he's a nice man. The hotel is good and we have a room on the 3rd floor at the top "with mountain views" which I imagine would be lovely if it wasnt so cloudy, seems a bit silly to be paying extra for it but maybe we'll wake up to blue sky and mountains in the morning. One thing we do have though is almost warm water, so what? you might think but it was impossible to shower in the ice cold water in the last place (normal due to powercuts etc.) aaaahhhh a slightly cold nearly warm shower, lovely!
Went for a wander and got food at a place called the Lemon Tree, had a dal bhat type Nepalise meal which consists of a heap of rice on a metal tray served with lentil soup, veg curry, sweet yoghurt and a spicy sauce, i really like it and even better is its customary with Nepali food that they offer you second helpings, apparently its rude to decline so obviously I'm polite as can be.
Went for a beer at a Tibetan place called the Rice Bowl, its a sit on cusions at low tables place and feels really cool, will maybe return tomorrow.
Nipped back to the hotel, gonna get them to arrange a guide etc. for trekking, there's not much haggling to had on price but I trust them to organise stuff for us, you can quote me on that when our guide has robbed us and left us stranded in the mountains with a family of yetis.
Went to the Lhasa Tibetan Restaurant for tea (yes we've spent the whole day eating and drinking). The place is decorated with prayer flags and has Buddhist chanting music playing, the waiter is funny, we chat and joke with him and he brings me a glass of tongba to try which is a warm cloudy beer made with fermented millet seeds served with the seeds sill in the glass. Just to lower the tone now thought I'd mention I had my first truely Nepali style poo tonight on a squat toilet, not the kind of thing most people would write about but if anyone ever reads this diary i suspect they've given up by now so sod it. They have no paper in the toilet but there's a tap and a jug to use for cleaning yourself, its usual to use your left hand to do this dirty business and that's why Nepalise only use their right hand when eating. That's your cultural toilet fact of the day.
Thursday 17th - Pokhara - World Peace Pagoda
boat trips - 1, cost of meal for 2 in rupees - 135, yeti sightings - 0.5
Thought I spotted a yeti walking through Lakeside East today, an unlikely sighting which did turn out to be a false alarm, just a very hairy man who's probably just got back from a long trek and not shaved.
Had a great day today. Started with a rowing boat across the lake to get to a steep trail through forested hills leading up to the World Peace Pagoda. About 45-60 minutes to hike up there and the reward at the top is an impressive white Pagoda with a huge gold Buddha and amazing views looking down to the lake and Pokhara on one side and paddy fields on the other side. Took a different route down to take a longer walk right round the other side of the lake. Some small children stoped us on the way down "hallo! chocla? chocla?" we didnt have any but they liked having their photo taken so they could see it on the screen and all burst out laughing. We stopped at a town at the bottom and had some samosas, pokhoras, curry and chapatis - very tasty so we asked for more, including some drinks the bill was 135 rupees (about £1), so cheap I thought it was a mistake at first.
Went to Devis Falls next, a big powerful waterfall hat has carved a deep vertical hole in the rock. On the way back to lakeside we took a walk through some rice fields where we found medieval fairytale like scenery complete with workers harvesting by hand, thatched huts, schoolchildren skipping by and a little red temple on a ridge overlooking the fields. The path then leads us to a high rope bridge over the river which swung about when we walked on it, Bec didnt want to walk over it but sorry Bec its the only way across!
Dark by the time we got back, spent a bit of time haggling in the tourist shops for a backpack for Bec to use when trekking, had momos and curry for tea then bed to get rested for trekking tomorrow.
Friday 18th - Trekking begins
Nayapul to Ulleri
Met our trekking guide Ram in the morning and chatted before we left, he's been a guide for 20 years so think we're in safe hands. Taxi to the start point along bumpy hilltop roads, i say its a road but its crumbling so much its better described as a collection of potholes linked by occasional strips of tarmac. The walking starts quite easy and gets progressively steeper and steeper. I'm sat right now at the Meera Guesthouse in Ulleri about 2200m high in the hills, its been misty today so no views of the high mountain peaks yet and now the fog has settled in we're literally in the clouds with visibility up to 10-20 metres max. On the route up here we passed through stepped rice fields, little farm settlements, footbridges, crashing waterfalls, men herding donkeys with packs, locals carrying loading baskets on head straps, forests, shrines, children scampering home from school and some awesome awesome views across the hills and valleys. It really is impossible to describe how picturesque and amazing it is up here.
Its very cold now its gone dark so we're wrapped up trying to keep warm. We've met a Dutch girl called Sanne who is very nice, she is in Nepal for 2 months by herself and is doing a 10 day trek to Annapurna Base Camp alone with no guide, very admirable. I told Bec I like the idea of travelling by myself but she doesn't understand why I would want to go without her. I enjoy travelling with Bec for the shared experience and although maybe I'll never do it now I understand why travelling alone would be a different adventure and an experience of real independence.
Enough writing for today, I'm tired.
Trekking Ulleri to Ghorepani
It was freezing cold last night so I slept with all my clothes on including woolley hat and gloves so was pleasantly surprised to be able to have a hot shower this morning. Started trekking at 8am, Sanne has joined us to walk today which is nice, its good getting to know someone with similar interests to us. Walked through lots of forest today, love the forest especially wild unmanaged forest like this. The trail takes us along high forested ridges, rocky waterfalls and river gorges, we pass occasional settlements where people are chopping wood, washing clothes and preparing crops. We pass a large herd of goats being guided down the path, i somehow got boxed in as they passed whilst stood precariously on the edge of a steep drop, the goats scramble past and one of them decides to leap from a rock infront of me right over my head, its hoofs missing my head by centimetres!
By mid afternoon we reach Hotel Snowland lodge and whilst sat with Bec, Sanne and Ram in the warm sunshine enjoying a some mint tea we watch the clouds drift away to reveal snow topped mountain peaks. We decide to climb Poon Hill to see the sunset, it takes about 45 minutes to the top taking us 3250 metres high and rewarding us with brilliant panoramic views of several of the worlds highest mountain peaks. Its cold up there but really peaceful, the air is the freshest I've ever breathed and the scenery some of the most incredible I've ever seen. We watch the sun go down painting the sky red behind a silhouette of trees and then race back down to the lodge to warm up with a big pot of mint tea. We're sat right now around the chimney stove in the middle of the lodge keeping warm with the family who run the place. Can the day get any more perfect? actually yes, I forgot to mention the mesmerising night sky lit up with thousands and thousands of bright stars, its too cold to stay out for too long but I've never seen anything like it, no light pollution, no air pollution and no cloud tonight, i could stare up there wondering all night but my fingers, toes and other bits were going numb.
Trekking Ghorepani to Ghandruk
snowtopped mountain peaks - 8, tigers encountered - 1, goodbyes - 1, fresh yeti poo - 2?, hours trekking - 8
The original plan was to walk to Tadopani today but we decided we wanted to trek further and take a longer route to Ghandruk. Sanne is still with us but needs to take a different path when we pass Tadopani on her way to Annapurna Base Camp. The sky is clear today and its really sunny but as we set off at about 8am its still quite chilly with frost on the ground especially in the wooded areas. The mountain peaks are visible in heir full glory, not a cloud in sight and once we've climbed up through the woods to a hill top we get more amazing panoramic views of all the snowy mountains complete with blue sky and densely forested valleys below, a couple of eagles are riding the air currents for good measure. We stop for some essential photo taking. We trek on through some thick forest which is tough going with steep hills and tricky footing, its chilly in the shaded forest and then really warm whenever we reach a hill top or small clearing. Further along we cross several rivers, some big waterfalls and then ridged paths along rockfaces with dizzying drops just when step away. Reached a small lodge around 12 and stopped for our daily helping of dal bhat, I found out why they always pile so much on my plate when the second helpings come round, its because your supposed to put your hand over your plate when you've got enough which I didn't know until now (although maybe i'll still play ignorant).
We will be parting ways with Sanne shortly so we decided to buy her a gift, a bracelet and some woollen sock slipper things to keep her feet warm at Base Camp. I will miss Sanne, it feels like we've known her for 2 weeks not 2 days. When we reach Tadopani we say our goodbyes, Ram gives Sanne some advice and directions and she heads off whilst we carry on to Ghandruk.
There's no other trekkers on this trail, only us, the forest now becomes more like jungle, the vegetation thicker, more sound of life, lots of birds, monkeys swinging through the trees and then completely unexpected Ram hears something and stops staring into the undergrowth "ssshhhh, a tiger, i see it". There's a strange deep growly purring, sounds a bit like a motor ticking over, I got excited but Bec got really nervous and ran on ahead. to calm Becci down Ram tried to persuade her "maybe it wasnt a tiger, there's no tigers around here". It was though.
We reached Ghandruk and wrapped up warm to watch the sunset behind the mountain peaks at the guesthouse with a nice big pot of mint tea.
Trekking Ghandruk to Dhampus
After nearly 9 hours of walking we reached Dhampus on a quiet hill overlooking a valley with views of the mountains. We arrived after walking the last few hours in the afternoon along a hilltop through what I described at the time as ancient enchanted forest. Really quiet apart from chirping birds, cool air with beams of sunlight peeping through between the trees, hardly any other trekkers just the occasional villagers passing by carrying baskets, elves meandering between the trees and druids collecting herbs for their potions.......ok so I made that last bit up but there's a unique magical atmosphere about the place, I really wouldnt be surprised to see a unicorn wander past.
Began the day in Ghandruk walking down to the bottom of the steep valley past several millet farms. We cross a river at the bottom then its a steep climb up the other side of the valley, its hard going and the hot sun has me sweating a lot and lagging behind a bit but Bec seems to finding it no problem. Eventually reaching the top I'm relieved to hear the next hour or so will be flat or as Ram describes it "Nepali flat" which means not too steep. Its a long winding ridge path across the side of a deep valley passing through stepped rice fields and traditional farms. When we stop for our dal bhat for dinner its blazing sunshine with a cool breeze blowing through the valley from the mountains, 8172m high Mount Dhaulagiri is watching us everywhere we go, its never out of sight.
More steep hills into a more wooded area, the going is tough again and kind of follows down, cross bridge, up, down, cross bridge, up. Its a bit more shaded though and around every corner is another amazing view so its not hard to keep motivated. Next we pass through the magical forest as previously mentioned and arrive at Dhampus. Last day of trek tomorrow but Ram has worked out an extended route for us so we can make the most of a good full day before heading back to Pokhara.
Dhampus to Sarangot
Another change of plan, we decided to trek to Sarangot, stay the night there and return to Pokhara tomorrow. From the hilltop of Sarangot there'll be more panoramic mountain scenery as well as a birds eye view over Pokhara and Phewa Tal lake. Even after a decent 9 hours sleep I feel tired today, my legs feel heavy and I feel like I'm trudging along, I was reluctant to go to Sarangot so maybe that's partly why, but I keep telling myself every moment is different, cheer up and be positive. As we get closer to civilization the scenery becomes less impressive but then that's understandable in comparison to the last 5 days.
A group of schoolboys follow us because apparently they think I might be an Indian movie star, I play along with it whilst daydreaming about how a better suntan could blag me into Bollywood. They show Becci a cute little letter they have written in English which says their youth club needs money to buy footballs and equipment, I gave them 50 rupees which maybe they'll spend on sweets but even if they do I still admire their entrepreneurial spirit.
We reach Sarangot at about 3.30pm and although I didn't enjoy todays walk so much maybe it was worth it for the views once we're here, the whole of Pokhara layed out below us surrounded by rolling hills and then the mountain tops in the distance, the views are good but its a shame most of the hill has been concreted over. Ram has brought us to a place called Lake View Lodge which without wanting to be negative again we're not that fussed on so we go for a walk around the corner and find a nice friendly little family run place called Tourist Lodge, sat there with an Everest beer watching the sky turn different shades of red behind the shadowy hills.
Overall the trekking has been brilliant, an amazing experience that I'm hoping to do again but now we've finished I'm keen to get back to the city, Pokhara tomorrow then back to Kathmandu and on to Bhaktapur and Patan, or at least thats the plan anyway........
Yeti news update
I have photographic evidence of a large footprint in the mud. Despite contrary reports it was definitely already there before I came by. Conclusion - probably a yeti
Back in Pokhara
Tibetan refugee camp and monastery
Wow! and interesting day taking in lots of different places. We got back from Sarangot, had some breakfast (Tibetan bread drizzled with honey is our new addiction) then hired bikes to get us about for the day. Bikes were 250 rupees for the whole day so didn't bother haggling the price. We cycled the dusty roads along an obstacle course of pot holes to old town Pokhara where I naively expected to find quaint traditional streets a bit like Kathmandu old town but after cycling around trying to find it we realised we'd already seen it. There's not much in the way of attractions and landmarks but its still interesting to see local life away from the tourist trappings of Lakeside.
I ate some dodgy food from a little fly infested cafe near the bus station, a samosa and some lukewarm chickpea curry, its a miracle I'm still alive to write this! The meal cost 30 rupees so for 24 pence i could afford to eat there everyday for the rest of my life and never work again although this calculation is made much easier by my significantly reduced life expectancy. Becci wisely didn't fancy anything and went hungry all day.
Next we cycled on to a Tibetan monastery, it was a uphill all the way and quite difficult riding with a bike that only has high gears which randomly change when riding over bumps. On the upside we both have a bell on our bike which keeps us amused all the way there, tring! tring! We reached what we thought was the monastery we were looking for, it wasn't but turned out to be a good find. As we reach the gates a young student monk in red robes lets us through and then guides us round the monastery's school. There's no other tourists here whatsoever so we feel lucky to see all the genuine goings on behind the scenes, we look around the classrooms, the library, tv room (strictly used weekends only!), the kitchens and then the newly built temple. The temple itself looks complete from the outside while the inside is busy with monks decorating the walls and celing with insanely detailed hand painted murals. There's a huge gold Buddha at the end of the chanting hall currently behind a curtain of plastic sheeting. We ask the monk boy lots of questions, he says his family are from Mustang, a 3 day trek into the mountains and since his father sent him here he will maybe only see them once a year, although he is only 9 its like talking to an adult, he seems very intelligent and philosophical. Afterwards Bec and me discuss the rights and wrongs of packing your child off to a monastery, our conclusion was inconclusive but then we never do agree. We head off up the road to the Tibetan settlement and the Jangchub Choeling Gompa Monastery. Before going in we spontaneously decide take a walk up the road and find a little farm village where they are busy making hay bales with hay spread all over the road. We have become the town attraction as we guide our bikes through all the hay, everyone we pass calls "Namaste!" and children are running out of their homes shouting "Hallo" and giggling, clearly tourists rarely come this way. We stop at the top of the road for a drink outside a little shop, the shopkeeper comes out to sit with us and chat, she wants us to stay at her house tonight and cook for us. It feels like we are from the future and have gone back in time 200 years, it feels strange but nice.
Back down the road we reach the monastery just in time for the afternoon prayer chanting. We are able to go inside with a small handful of other tourists and sit at the sides while they chant. As they chant their mantras two big booming drums are beaten and every few minutes long horns are sounded and bells are rung, the chanting goes louder then softer, faster then slower. There are other goings on which are hard to fathom, its an unusual but very fascinating experience.
Having flogged ourselves in the hot sun cycling up here its now downhill all the way back to Lakeside, wwwwweeeeeeeeee!!! No need to pedal as we bomb down the hills and somehow roll into Lakeside without getting lost. Found a place called the Asian Tea house down an alley off the main strip which must be the last place in Lakeside that has resisted inflating their prices for the tourists, we fill up on pokoras, fried momos and spring rolls, all very tasty and very cheap. Couple of beers at the Rice Bowl then back to pack our bags for Kathmandu in the morning.
Pokhara to Kathmandu to Bhaktapur
tourist bus Pokhara to Kathmandu - 500 rupess, local bus Kathmandu to Bhaktapur - 25 rupees
About 8 hours on the on the bus back to Kathmandu then we wanted to get a local bus to Bhaktapur rather than the easy option of a taxi not just to save money but also for the experience of doing what most tourists don't do. We walked across the city, map in hand to a local bus stop and jumped on what was hopefully the right bus getting in everyone's way with our backpacks. I'm sat literally next to the driver with my face pressed up against the windscreen and Bec is sat nice and comfy a bit further back. The bus is absolutely packed full but it still keeps stopping to let more and more people on. After about an hour we arrive in Bhaktapur and go in search of a guesthouse, we've spent all day travelling and its getting dark so we don't mess about and plump for one of the first places we come across. The staff at the Himalaya Guesthouse seem really friendly, they show us a room which is perfectly good and we agree a price of 1000 rupees, more than we've usually paid but its still only £8 and the room is good and has hot water. As I said the staff are really helpful and friendly and one of them, who calls himself Robin Hood, is hyperactively happy, when I sign the guestbook he says I write like a sparrow(??).
We go for a wander around in the dark, the streets are narrow and paved with red brick, the buildings have wooden shutters on the windows and overhang the narrow streets. The Durbar Square looks eerie and haunted in the dark, there's no street lighting here and Bec is too scared to walk across the spooky looking square with all its old temples and imposing stone statues. Everywhere closes early here, you need to have eaten by 8pm or you'll go hungry so we find somewhere quick then get back to the guesthouse to sup some lemon tea and try some of the curd Bhaktapur is famed for, its a lot tastier than it looks. So off early to bed and we'll explore properly tomorrow.
Bhaktapur and on to Patan
Up and out to explore Bhaktapur by 8am before all the day tripper tourists arrive in a few hours time. We started off in Durbar Square and checked out the impressive buildings, temples and shrines whils having to repeatedly brush off the wannabe guides
"I can give you all the good information"
"I will guide you for only 200 rupees"
"We dont want a guide so tanks but no"
"Right now you are in Durbar Square and infront of you is the palace built in...."
"No! stop following us! We dont want a guide!" etc. etc. etc.
Anyway, moving on, most of these buildings are many hundreds of years old and they're certainly not just relics for tourists posing for a new profile pic, its all still living and very much in use. The imposing grand size of everything is just as incredible as the fine detail of all the stone work and wood carvings that adorn the palace, the temples and all the statues and shrines. As we walk away from the square and explore the city we find shrines and monuments dotted about everywhere. a wrong turn down a dark and dirty side street is likely to be hiding an elaborately decorated Ganesh shrine. There's the usual scabby stray dogs, chickens pecking about, the odd goat rooting through some rubbish and even a few buffalo being herded through the edge of town, it all adds to the ancient but lived in feel to the place. Yes its old and dirty but it still feels grand and impressive. We take a look at Potter's Square where there's thousands of clay pots laid out to dry in the streets and then go in search of some traditional yoghurt shops. I try some proper local curd, its served in a little clay dish for only 30 rupees, tasty!
Late afternoon we collect our bags from the guesthouse (along with more hilariously confusing conversation with the genuinely nice but totally insane 'Robin Hood') and head off to the local bus station. local bus for 25 rupees or taxi for 500 rupees? gotta be the bus with the locals, its easy to do and i like seeing a bi more of real everyday life. Just like yesterday the bus is quite crammed but still a fella hangs out of the door shouting "Kathmandu, Kathmandu" and bang the side of the bus for the driver to stop so he can pull more and more people on, its amazing how many people you can actually fit in a bus if you try! Patan is a short journey just south of central Kathmandu, its dark by the time we get there which makes the task of finding a guesthouse a bit more difficult, we find a place near the centre called Cafe de Patan, they show us a room by candlelight due to a powercut just as we arrived, it looks fine in the dark and we're not too fussy anyway, just glad to find a room. Tomorrow is the last full day then we fly home on Sunday.
8am had breakfast at the Third World Restaurant, strange name but nice sunny rooftop overlooking the Durbar Square. Its good to be here early morning before its too busy, most tourists day trip here from Kathmandu so we've beaten the crowds by a few hours. We try the walking tour of the city from our Lonely Planet guide book, we like to play a game of spotting other tourists who are doing the same which is normally quite easy, just look for westerners clutching a book and looking confused. We take lots of wrong turnings from the map in the book but in Patan that only leads to new discoveries round every corner, there's a multitude of shrines and temples down every little side street and weird alleyways such as the one I accidentally led us down with an open air abattoir and blood splattered butchers stalls displaying every known animal part including ghostly looking goats heads, intestines, trotters and big chunks of meat being hacked apart by cleaver wielding butchers. If I wasn't already a veggie this would maybe tip the balance, we're probably a bit too fussy over hygiene in our country but when you see animals being slaughtered and skinned in a dusty alleyway next to the drains and stray dogs wandering into bloodstained butchers shops its a bit of an eye opener. Anyway where was I? Oh yes, there's a mixture of Buddhist and Hindu monuments which can be found everywhere, through every doorway, in every courtyard down every street, there must be more shrines and temples than there are people. After a good day exploring we sit in Durbar Square for a while, it seems a very social place, lots of local people relaxing and chatting around the steps to the temples. We chat to a boy who likes to collect foreign coins so we give him some loose change, he says he wants to visit London to see Big Ben.
Walked to an area called Pulchouk to find some cafes and restaurants we'd seen on our map, it seems a more affluent area with places serving European food, a popular place for expats apparantly. We have a cup of tea and a snack in the most typically Nepali style place we could find, a place called 'New Orleans'. The bill for snacks is more than any of our meals since we've been here. We check out a couple of places to come back and eat at tonight but I complain to Bec that they are too nice and don't serve enough Nepalise food, I'm like a reverse snob, I'd rather eat in a dark little cafe where I cant understand the menu but with it being hard to find places to eat in Patan we end up at a place called Yala Layeku Kitchen overlooking Durbar Square, a bit of a Nepali themed tourist restaurant but a good compromise. We had a Newari set meal which turns out is dal bhat on posh plates, its good food but doesn't beat the dal bhat we were eating up in the mountains. I was going to say its pricey but Bec reminds me its about £15 for a meal for 2 including beers and quite rightly tells me not to get hung up about it on our last night. By about 9pm nowhere is open and nothing is going on so there's not much else to do except go to bed.
Paws for thought
For all the stray dogs on the streets you'd think there would be canine chaos with barking, biting, chasing, fighting and pooing. Infact the dogs just calmly mooch about or sleep on the roadside. Tonight I watched 5 dogs casually strolling around together occasionally stopping to chat, looked like they were whispering at times, maybe planning something. A doggy revolution is brewing, the scabby dogs are plotting to take Kathmandu.....
Haggling our way through Patan
Today we fly home so the morning was spent emptying my wallet of all remaining cash. We haggled hard for wood carvings, bought woolley hats, masala tea and incense. Got some dinner at a place just outside the city gates, turns out to be another one of these 'posh' westernised places. There's a group of Nepali teenage girls there, rich kids spending daddy's money and talking to each other in English. I suppose its naive and a bit ignorant to think that everyone here is poor, where there are poor people there will always be rich people too!
So the adventure ends in the afternoon with a taxi to the airport.
We've had a brilliant 2 weeks, have really enjoyed doing everything off our own bat and having the freedom to turn up somewhere with a backpack and change our plans as we go along depending on where we fancy staying. The trekking was the highlight and my only regret is that we're going home