Exploring Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
There was an upbeat feeling in the car driving to Delhi airport to catch our flight to Kathmandu, we had love our Indian escape but after 3 weeks it felt time to move. Both I and Edwina love mountain scenery and were very excited at the prospect of seeing some of the highest mountains in the world.
We didn't get off to the greatest start, after passing through security where the officer was bemused by the amount of cables and electronically equipment in my bag it was a thorough investigation. Then over the speakers we were told that Kathmandu runway was closed and the flight would be delayed by 2 hours. Once we arrived in Kathmandu we were met with complete chaos in the baggage collection area, it was 4 deep to the baggage belt, bags are parcels were being thrown around, people pushing to get to the front and a number of people shouting to get their bags passed back. Lucky most Nepalese are short and I could peer over them onto the carousel to look out for our bags, the conveyer belt was full of TVs for people flying in from the Middle East (apparently there is 100% tax in place in Nepal). After around 40 mins we were told that the bags from our flight were still in Delhi and we would need to return the next day to collection, half would come on the 8.30am flight and the other at 5pm, they advised coming back at 5pm as to only turn up once. So off we went to the hotel with only the clothes on our backs wondering if we would ever see our bags again.
The next day we had booked a mountain flight to fly up the Himalayas for a view of Mount Everest, this mountain has always fascinated me and considering and trek to Everest base camp was out of the question for our kids the flight was the next best thing, We had to check-in at 5.30am, we had to wake the kids early again after sleeping in the same clothes as we wore yesterday. For the mountain flights everybody gets a window seat, we were very lucky with the weather, we had a clear sky which was the first time this week and the service on board was excellent, the flight attendance handed out maps of the Himalayans and explained and pointed out each mountain as we flew past it, the highlight came when we saw Everest, without knowing it would appear to be a giant peak rising from the other Himalayan peaks, but knowing it was Everest gave it a magical feel. We could glimpse Everest from our seats but one by one we were all asked to go into the cockpit and view Everest from there giving extra joy to the kids who could now see the pilots flying the plane. I didn't think this was allowed anymore since 9/11 so it was a pleasant surprise.
After our return we went back to the hotel to have breakfast and check out. Today we were heading for Bhaktapur and ideally would head out with our luggage, so we thought we would try our luck and check to see if our bags arrived on the morning flight. As I entered the baggage hall again I was met with complete pandemonium, the lost baggage counter was around 20 deep it came to light that most of the people on the flight this morning hadn't received their bags, the bags from last night took most of the room. I managed to push my way to the front on the baggage counter and shout "Delhi, last night, where bags?", "carousel number 1 sir", so off I headed. There must have been over 500 suitcases and over 50 TVs stacked against the wall for people to pick up, I clambered of the bags and trolleys to carousel number 1 where there must have been around 150 bags piled up. Initially I only found my bag but after returning with Edwina (needed help searching as it was like where's Wally) we found all of the bags. So we headed to Bhaktapur really happy and content that we have been reunited with our luggage.
We had a guide to show us around Bhaktapur, on the drive out we saw miles of queues to the petrol station, a new constitution in Nepal has been put in place recently that India does not agree with and they have block fuel for Nepal. The airport had not been closed but we were in the middle of a political game being played out similar to Gibraltar and Spain. We were in the middle of Dasain Nepal's biggest festival and it was taking its toll on the Nepalese people as they were trying to get home, our driver had to queue for 4 days to get fuel before we arrived for our vehicle.
Bhaktapur was an old city that was one of the worst areas affect by the earthquake earlier this year, until this point we hadn't seen anything that would of lead you to believe there had been an earthquake at all. We loved the architecture and although similar to India had a completely different feel to the place.
Next day we were met by our guide again (Shuk) for another days sightseeing this would be the last day in Kathmandu as tomorrow we would be heading out of Kathmandu with our trekking guide. Although we had booked a private guide the choice of the Kathmandu sightseeing was left to the local guide except for us asking to visit an orphanage. First stop was visiting the Pashupati area of Kathmandu which was a bit of an eye opener for the kids, on the banks of the Bagmati river which eventually flows into the Ganges a number of cremations where taking place. The children were fascinated and couldn't help but point out the bodies, at one point only a foot could be seen from the fire with Luca repeatedly asking "Why is the foot still there", I wasn't really sure how to answer that. There was a stench in the air a smell that wasn't that offensive but certainly you were aware of what it was, the vibe around was calm and respectful and the guide was fantastic at explaining the ritual process. It is something that will stay with us I'm sure.
We then headed up the hill to the monkey temple, Luca is obsessed with monkeys and asks around every 20 mins are we at the monkey temple yet? All the kids love monkeys and they all wanted to do a kids blog from there, we found some monkeys on a staircase and proceeded to film the blog, after a little time one of the monkeys heads for Luca hissing and then for Arabella, the kids were quite taken back by the experience and probably now scarred for life from ever getting close to a monkey again, I found the whole thing quite amusing but watch the video yourself.
We then headed to the Buddha Stupa, this was the large tower that collapse in the earthquake with was shown on the news channels worldwide. The kids have been talking about singing bowls ever since one was demonstrated to them yesterday, they only cost a couple of pounds (if you barter hard) so I thought I would let them buy one just so we didn't hear anymore how they wanted to buy one. Around the stupa we found the sing bowl centre which sounded like the perfect place to pick up 3 bowls. We have found that the way to get the best price is to get the kids to barter i think they struggle and not sure how to take them Luca gets them down from 1700 NPR down to 500 NPR each.
After a spot of lunch we made a visit to the main government run orphanage. We arrived at the site to discover it was badly damaged in the earthquake and not likely to be repaired for a very long time (it was a large cream stately looking home with good grounds) totally unstable from the earthquake so the orphanage was split into two groups as no big enough sites were available. Greeted with warm friendly smiles from the lady in charge she requested that no photographs be taken. We visited the area with children from newborn to 10 yrs, there were 68 children housed there. Initially we headed into a room with around 12 babies in, Edwina, Arabella and Maddalena were engaged straight away, it was time for the babies to eat so a couple of staff were there feeding the babies some form of solids, Edwina cuddled some babies and Maddalena made sure all the babies were covered in some sort of blanket. It felt good to be giving these young children some contact. We then headed outside to see the older children and it was great to see Luca playing football with the other kids. All the children were so tiny and our kids found it unbelievable that they were the same ages as them and a good foot shorter and half the healthy weight you would expect. As for the conditions the children all had a place to sleep, food to eat, staff the cared but I would have to say especially with winter fast approaching the children's conditions would be far from warm and cosy and made us feel rather concerned for their welfare, more could be done. We just hope that with the charity of the wonderful Nepalese people, the international aid and government help, can consider improving the living conditions and provide a better place in the near future for these orphans to call home.
The orphanage trip was very emotional choking us up but we managed to hold it together. Even our guide and driver were taken back by it all and showed emotion as they had never been to the environment before. For us as a family it was great that we had provided something different for the children in the orphanage by seeing and interacting with a western family but it was very sad to see the conditions and the hard life these children have to live in.
Next heading to Pokhara for mountain trekking
Before I go there a couple of things I would like to clear up:
1. Although the Blog is written in Mauro tense it is actually written by both of us and expresses both our thoughts with extracts written by either Mauro or Edwina.
2. There doesn't seem a way for us to directly reply to a message so except via email