Our flight from Delhi to Nepal gave us a good view of the distant Himalayas as we approached Kathmandu and the surrounding valley. We arrived on a day in which the air was unusually clear, with blue skies and the tops of snow-covered mountain peaks showing behind the surrounding hills.Kathmandu is a crowded, noisy, dirty place - with a great atmosphere in the old parts of the city, dating back to the 15th century and earlier.
The traffic was as crazy as any we have encountered on our trip and the pollution a lot worse. Things reverted to normal the day after we arrived and dense yellowy smog set in, which hid the view of the distant mountains. I immediately felt that I was coming down with a cold, with a sore throat, congested nose and lungs. When I went to a local pharmacist and asked for a cold decongestant he said I probably had pollution allergies, which turned out to be the case.
We stayed in a hotel in between the old city centre around Durbar Square and the more touristy area of Thamel. It was a decent place - reasonably pleasant rooms, a good restaurant and full of trekkers. We stayed for 3 days while the Verver women shopped, explored and shopped some more. Our luggage must have increased by many kilos - though I do have to admit that they bought some good stuff - apparently at very good prices. Krista - normally such a sweet, gentle soul - has turned into our master, and very tough, price negotiator.
We quickly got used to walking along very narrow, rough streets, with motor bikes and cars weaving by - while we passed constant sights, each of which would have been very memorable, if there had not been so many of them. An old woman in striking traditional Nepalese dress standing in a 400-year old, less than 5' high, intricately carved wooden doorway; old beggars lying in front of a darkened entrance to a candle-lit shrine with traffic missing them by inches, while men in suits and sun-glasses made quick devotions as they passed; smoky fires lit next to a small and ancient temple; an old and dark alleyway - maybe 5 foot wide, along which I walked, while trying not to be hit by the stream of motor bikes that sped by in both directions, somehow avoiding each other. I began to enjoy Kathmandu, at least the old part, though much of the rest is tough to handle.
After 3 days we left Kathmandu, to set off on a guided trek with 2 guides and 2 porters - 2 guides on the assumption that the 4 Ververs would be going at different speeds. We drove to the edge of the city - an experience in itself -and set off up a long rough stone stairway until we entered a national park area. We passed through several hillside villages - inhabited by people whom our guide said were of a different ethnic group and "very backward". We climbed several thousand feet until we could see all of Kathmandu laid out in a valley below us. An unusual rain system came in and cleared the air so that we could actually see the entire valley. We missed most of the rain but were wet enough to chill in the wind and cool 6600'+ air.
It was good to get away from signs of urban habitation for a while and enjoy the surprisingly lush forest vegetation. Apparently, wild boar and leopards live in the forest - though it is very unusual to see the leopards, which normally keep away from the trails and human habitation, unless their diet of deer becomes in short supply.
As we approached Chisapani, our destination for the night, clouds came in and we could see heavy rain falling over the Kathmandu valley. . It was a tough sweaty climb at times, but before long some of the rain reached us - never heavy, but enough to bring a chill. The wind picked up and by the time we reached the high ridge and hamlet of Chisapani - at close to 7,000' - we were all cold. The small hotel looked pleasant enough from outside - but was pretty horrific within. Our floor had one squat toilet and bathroom - neither of which could have been cleaned during the past 5 years. Our rooms were small and unheated. We were once again glad that we had brought sleeping liners so that we did not have to directly touch the mattress or bed covering. Sue's objective was just "to make it through until the next day".
Just before dark the clouds began to clear and we had some tantalising glimpses of high Himalayan peaks among the swirling clouds. I woke early and climbed up onto the roof of the hotel, a while before sunrise.The view was spectacular. The sky was crystal clear, with the last star just disappearing. The long jagged silhouette of the Himalayas appeared against the changing colour of the sky. The sun began to light up a plume of snow blown off a distant high peak. At the western end of the range were the Annapurnas and some peaks of more than 26,000 feet - at least one of them among the 7 highest mountains in the world.The middle of the range was full of dramatic peaks and at the far eastern end lay, somewhere, the Everest range.We could never get the guides to be exactly clear about whether we could actually see Mount Everest.Some said you could see it as a very distant peak, others said that it was not visible but that you could see part of the surrounding range.
We were lucky that the previous day's rain had left beautifully clear skies and we set off along a high ridge with gorgeous mountain views northwards.
Our last 25km+ trekking day was long and tougher than expected - though most of it was along relatively undulating hills, the last 10km was a long and steady drop and then climb up another several thousand feet in high temperatures. The views of tiered hillside terraces were great - not many were in a growing state even though most had 3 growing seasons a year for millet, rice and corn.We made it to the high mountain ridge of Nagarkot and then drove to Dulikhel where we stayed in a very pleasant hillside resort. It was a very comfortable respite from the past 80 days or so with fabulous views, good clean bungalows and great food.
And then we were getting close to the end …… just a long flight back to Bangkok for a 48 hours layover and then onto London and Ireland………….