Hoorah! Finally I (James) was confident that I could stray more than 50 yards from a toilet!! Imodium, you beauty (other blocking agents are available).
It was time to leave Kathmandu. Although we were lucky enough to have had a fantastic host (Khem at Elbrus Home), we were both 'chomping at the bit' to get out and see some more of Nepal. The idea of a long bus journey west still didn't appeal to either of us, so we cast our eyes east. Khem, bless him, found us a taxi with enough petrol (more about that in a minute) and a good driver….
Wow, what a journey! It was basically straight up. I could see Podge's face already imagining coming down!!! Our driver had an alarming habit of turning around to face us when he was explaining things but that aside he was a 'good driver'. We wound our way up to an altitude of 2200m and arrived in Nagarkot safe and sound.
Our resting place for the next couple of nights was the aptly named 'Hotel at the end of the universe'. Walking up the steps to our room we got a feel for what altitude can do! We were both puffing as we got to the top whereas one of the waiters had carried both our big backpacks (30kg) up and barely looked like he was breathing. Give it time….
After finding our room we headed to the restaurant for some chai and grub. Buffalo sausages it was. Mmmmmm good. Cue many giggles about a dreadlocked sausage (think our mothers may need some help with this one, ask Ken). Where we were sat, we should have had the perfect view of the Langtang mountain range and further round the corner, Mt Everest…unfortunately, as will be a running theme for the time we spent in Nagarkot…it was cloudy.
After lunch we had planned on doing useful things like booking flights/hotels etc but as the wifi was not so good (or non-existent!), I (James) had a nap and Podge read her book.
After all that excitement it was time for dinner. A guy approached us in the restaurant with a wifi code (for the hotel down the hill!) and proceeded to hang around and start chatting with us. It turned out he was Oasis the owner of the hotel! We sat with him for the next few hours and discussed pretty much every subject under the sun/stars; from how the earthquake had affected the hotel and the area in general, religion (his wife has just completed her Masters in Bhuddism, family (his wife and 2 daughters moved back in Holland after the earthquake), travelling in general and amongst many other things a quick chat about footie, quite a 'deep' conversation!
He also explained how the Hotel came to be. His dad was a hippy in the 60's and came to Nagarkot to escape the hustle of the world, smoke a lot of hash and generally provide a place for like-minded people to come and stay. His father handed over control of the hotel 20 years ago but you'll be pleased to hear that father and son still get together often for a good old smoking session!!!
The next morning we woke up chilly! After a couple of confused moments we remembered WE ARE HALFWAY UP A BLOODY MOUNTAIN!! The famous Nagarkot Tower was our aim today, a 4km uphill (of course!) walk with supposedly spectacular panoramic views of the Kathmandu Valley and also, on a clear day, the Himalayas. I (still James!) struggled, a combination of the altitude and having a face full of snot! Podge on the other hand flourished on the mountain!!! She made friends with a dog (we named him Dave, he must have been one of those 'spirit guides' sent to look after us as he often ran ahead and then waited for us!) after 200m and it walked with us all the way to the tower 4km later. We'd catch occasional glimpses of the view when suddenly the trees/clouds parted enough for us to do so and with the thought of how breath-taking the view would be from the top we (!) battled on!! We made it to the top and were immediately underwhelmed - the view on a clear day would probably be breath-taking… we had a 360 degree view of cloud……we headed back down the mountain (Dave decided not to join us for the return leg - obviously didn't think we needed protecting on the way down!) to a bar where Oasis had said they have free wifi, armed with a coke we booked some accommodation for Bhaktapur, our next stop, and also our flights to Delhi.
Back at the hotel and time for some more of those Buffalo sausages (even as I write this now, I'm singing about them in tune to Bob Marley's buffalo soliders song!). Low and behold - the clouds dipped low enough to reveal a snow capped peak, just poking its little head out. Amazing! Mt Everest - in the flesh! However, upon questioning one of the waiters, we were politely informed that it was actually the Langtang range and not Everest - elation was short lived. Although still amazing to see one of these giants up close (ish). We held out hope….
Dinner back at the hotel had a similar theme to the previous evening, however, our little trio was joined by a couple of Indian women who were great fun although getting rather nervous about being able to get to the airport for their flight the next day. They had booked a taxi but had no idea when it was supposed to arrive or whether it would arrive at all due to the petrol shortage. Let me explain…..whilst we were in Chitwan a new constitution was brought in to divide Nepal into 7 federal states. 93% of the population voted in favour of this constitution. The 7% who didn't were from the far south/west of the country with very close ties to India, they felt they were being marginalised and would have no say in what happened moving forward, also, it would reduce the amount of money coming into those regions from India effectively making them poorer. Cue protests. The result of these protests was that India (we think) closed all land borders with Nepal. Now, across these borders come 500 cargo lorries a day laden with fuel etc, for the past couple of days not 1 lorry had made it. It was Monday night and our Indian friends had heard that Nepal had enough fuel to keep flying until Thursday (day of our flight!). No point in worrying about these things, so we bedded down for our last night of cool mountain air…maybe tomorrow the clouds would part enough to see the elusive Mt Everest!
Our final day in Nagarkot and…..it's still cloudy. Slightly more of the Langtang range was showing, but not a lot. Still, feeling pretty refreshed after our mountain retreat, we packed up and headed off to the bus stop for our journey back down the hill to Bhaktapur. We were getting the local bus…..
Due to the shortage of fuel, they had reduced the bus times to every 90 minutes rather than every hour, so we arrived in time to see our bus disappearing into the dust. D'oh! We sat down and had a coke and waited it out. There were a number of empty private taxis headed back down the hill, so thought maybe we could catch one of these, so paid up and went to loiter near the bus stand on the side of the road…not one private taxi passed us after that - typical. We were destined to get this rickety old bus down the hill… Podge decided that if she was going to die on this bus journey, she'd damn well die happy, so eventually started to enjoy herself!
Obviously, we made it down safely although it was a little hairy in places (twisty/turney…fastness!). Can't imagine how the guys on the roof didn't fall off! We were dropped off in Bhaktapur with no idea which way to go or where our hotel even was…a new adventure awaited!
(Written by James, Edited by Podge)