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And into Nepal

NEPAL | Tuesday, 1 April 2008 | Views [681]

Sitting in the café whilst trying to find Tom and Dawn and the hotel, both Thellie and I felt immediately relaxed after the chaos of India. The main tourist area of Thamel is packed with trekker's shops, travel agents, souvenier and craft shops; you can find pretty much anything you want here. We had a couple of days here before heading out to Bhaktapur, and old, intact medieval town just outside Kathmandu.

The town is a maze of cobbled streets, squares, temples, shrines, craft shops and craftsmen at work; a good step back into Newari culture. Our guesthouse was right next to one of the oldest temples in town and we were, somewhat surprisingly, woken up at 4am by people starting to pass by: walking clockwise around the temple, men in traditional Newari caps chanting, touching their heads and chests, everyone putting red tikka dots on their foreheads, women carrying leaf trays of offerings of tikka, flower petals and rice grains, and clanging of bells to make it known they're there.

For the next couple of days, we wore in our boots and trekked out through the Kathmandu valley, up to a temple, and across to Nargarkot, a well-known Himalayan viewpoint. Sadly the clouds stopped us from seeing any actual mountains in both the evening and morning, so we walked down to Dhulikhel the following day, down the valleys and past numerous villages, and up to another viewpoint. We were duly rewarded and were greeted with a sunrise view of the Langtang region of the Himalayas, Thellie's and my first proper view of the Himalaya (aside from a quick moment when flying into Kathmandu earlier in the week and catching a brief glimpse of snowy mountains poking through the clouds).

After a brief day or two in Kathmandu and Pokhara, we finally started our much anticipated trek in the Annapurnas. I've written a separate piece for this as it was an absolute highlight. The going was tough on occasion, more so for me as I fell ill on the way up and had to spend a couple of days recuperating and trying to eat again, but the view at the top at ABC, or Annapurna Base Camp, was just astounding – surrounded on all sides by 7000m+ snowy peaks, about a week's walk from civilisation and everything we're used to. No telephone, internet, email, newspapers or television; just perfect.

For the last few days we’ve been resting up (and getting pissed off) in Pokhara. We're surrounded by western-ities, which while useful and comforting at times, right now it's all making us angrier and more irked as the hours go on, definitely not the Nepal we wish to see so we're running off to the jungle and Royal Chitwan Park in the morning, hoping to spend a good few days trekking in the jungle and spotting the odd rhino, elephant and monkey, and maybe a tiger…but not too close hopefully;)

It's also election time on the 10th, which could spell trouble, so we're planning on staying well away from the main tourist areas, especially Kathmandu just in case there are problems with the Maoists, the army and any of the other parties. There are regular reports in the newspapers of candidates attacking and killing each other at the moment so it would pay for us to stay away…

Also, as you should've seen, the political situation in Tibet has taken a turn for the worse and at the moment, the border crossing from Nepal isn't even open, so our plans to travel onward and into China have been shelved. Even if the border did open soon, neither of us really wants to put any money into the corrupt Chinese government's hands, and any travel in Tibet would be severely restricted and monitored, so for now, it's a no go.

The silver lining is that we get to spend more time in Nepal, using our full two month visas, and for those at home, maybe!, I'm now heading home earlier, aiming to be back in Cambridge by mid-May.

Hope everyone is well, and see some of you very very soon!

Annie xx

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