Beginning of the end...
We are now on our last stint of this epic journey. We had an amazing and busy two weeks in the mother country, catching up with a lot of people, but sadly not everyone and not for long enough. We did make it to Gemma's wedding which was a great day and we were so lucky to be a part of it. We got to see Mum and Dad's new house for the first time and James had a great BBQ/engagement party in the North! It was lovely to be home and to be looked after by people we love. We miss everyone terribly but we only have one year left of travelling now so we hope this year will be as great as the last two and I am sure it will fly by just as quickly!
It was another teary farewell to Gail, Chris, Jenny and Nan in Harlow and then again waving Mum and Dad off at Heathrow this time bound for Kathmandu. I am not sure whether it was easier to say goodbye this time knowing it is only for a year or harder as we were getting accustomed to the life we know in England. I expect it is always hard to say bye to loved ones but it is not forever and modern technology makes it easier!
Anyway, enough with the sad stuff, or I'll start crying again and let me tell you about the wonders of Kathmandu. Our flight with Air India left a little to be desired, I think we had been spoilt with Malaysia airlines. We had a short stopover in Delhi airport and through tired and weary eyes we noticed that it was a GREAT airport; very clean, modern shops and a comfortable floor to nap on. If M&D don't like the Indian cities I think we will have to stay in the airport for two weeks! We had a short flight to Kathmandu and after a few touts we managed to find our free airport pick up into the Thamel area of the city. Immediately you are immersed into a different culture with exotic and often awful smells, brightly coloured clothing, people and animals strolling next to the cars and motorbikes, a constant symphony of beeping horns and the obvious interest of the local people simply because we are white. Countries such as this are amazing and intimidating at the same time but are the reason I love to travel, to get out of my comfort zone, to explore other cultures and to enjoy the cheap food and beer! Our hostel is nice enough and we have (finally, after a lot of toing and froing) decided to book the Everest Base Camp trek with them when we return at the end of September.
We have only a short stop gap here before we start our volunteering in Delhi so we wanted to see the main sites of the city. We hired a driver to take us to the Kathmandu valley where we went to a Tibetan monastery called Boudha. It is a grand white stupa where Buddhist monks come on a pilgrimage. The whole 'complex' was really nice with shops and restaurants surrounding the stupa all with a tranquil atmosphere. We walked around the stupa, on the stupa (this is allowed we weren't just being rebellious) and went into some of the smaller temples. We spent some time people watching, trying to work out the rituals of Buddhist prayer and soaking in the relaxing ambiance.
Our next stop was the most sacred of Nepal's Hindu temples, Pashupatinath. We were surprised when we were asked for the whopping entrance fee and I was sceptical that we were being ripped off until we had a guide included (or so we thought!). The temple is a UNESCO world heritage site and wherever you are in the world when they get this status the price goes up! We paid the fee and started wandering around the temple before our 'guide' escorted us and gave us very interesting information about the cremations, the temples meaning and he explained about a few of the Hindu Gods, in particular Shiva who this shrine is dedicated too. We saw a lot of sadhus, religious men who have dedicated their lives to Hinduism and if you have seen 'An Idiot Abroad' you would have seen some of these men known as Babas. They are dressed, if they are clothed at all, in orange robes and usually have dreadlock hair, that represents the river Ganges. We did have the opportunity, if we were willing to pay, to see the Penis Baba lift 100kg with his penis, I am afraid to say we declined. There was a funeral of someone being cleansed by the river and then cremated, this was difficult and strange to see, something so intimate being looked on by lots of strangers. All in all it was a great temple with unique experiences but was marred by our guide at the end demanding money for his guiding and then chasing us down the street until he saw us getting into our taxi! We learnt a lesson, never accept a tour guide. Our next stop was outside of Kathmandu city called ????? It was a town within the city which also acted like a care home where poor, elderly or sick people could go for refuge. It reminded me of a North African market where the streets were windy and uneven, full of incense and crammed with textiles and pottery. We both thought it was a great place to visit and could've spent the whole day just there. We just beat the rain as we jumped into the taxi and headed to Durbar square in the centre of Kathmandu. The journey took around 20 minutes and both James and I dozed off, I think the time difference caught up on us. Durbar square was also impressive but probably our least favourite. The location was mainly to blame, because it is the most accessible it was full of tourists and it was still raining whilst we walked around, so maybe that influenced our decision. Our last stop on this busy day was Swayambhunath otherwise known as the monkey temple, because there is a lot on monkeys! The views from the stupa were certainly impressive and we enjoyed looking at the monkeys, there was even one eating a Mr Whippy style ice cream. We attempted to throw some coins into a pot for what we believe is good luck but I missed by a good meter-very embarrassing and James rimmed it!
For the rest of our brief stop in Kathmandu we mainly stayed in the Thamel area, enjoying the variety of food both Nepalese and some good international cuisine. We bought a few things we didn't get in England and were a lot cheaper out here and enjoyed a lot of wandering!