Last time I blogged I was in Delhi, musing on my Indian experience. It seems a world away from Nepal, a troubled but incredibly beautiful country. The snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas and stark, breathtaking landscapes are in contrast to the warm and accommodating Nepalese. Despite political unrest, poverty and harsh living conditions the people are happy and smiling. Cries of ‘Namaste’ follow you down the street. I felt more hassled in India, the Nepalese are easy-going and it’s not in their nature to push an issue.
Probably the largest downside of travelling in Nepal is load-shedding, meaning that electricity is only available for a few hours a day, and sometimes not at the most convenient times. Having to charge up electrical items, or even grab a hot shower if your hotel is dependent on a water pump, means that you have to be flexible, planning your day around the possibility you might have to race back to the hotel to grab a shower and charge up the iphone. There are lots of reasons for load-shedding depending on who you listen to, but it seems to be political – to the point that the electrical company in Kathmandu has armed riot police outside the gates to protect the workers from the understandably disgruntled public.
Our first experience of Nepal was Kathmandu. The very word itself conjures up romantic images of dusty winding streets, but actually Kathmandu is a dirty, sprawling metropolis, surrounded by mountains which trap the haze of pollution. We landed two days before Holi, a Hindu holiday where people throw bags of coloured water or powder on each other. We were advised by our hotel to stay in unless we wanted to end up with bright pink skin. Apparently a lot of the powders used contain toxins and people have been known to go blind if they get it in their eyes! This didn’t stop the hundreds of tourists and kids who ran shrieking with delight through the streets like small flocks of birds of paradise, pelting each other with small plastic bags full of colour. Carolyn and I didn’t have any clothes we could just dispose of and having blond hair I was a bit worried about ending up like a walking rainbow. We watched the proceedings enviously from the safety of our rooftop at the hotel whilst kids on rooftops all around us targeted those below. By the end of the day people, dogs, houses and streets ran fuchsia. Two weeks on I still see the odd pink cat, or a blond tourist with a spot of blue in their hair.
We stayed at the Yellowhouse (not recommended) in the neighbourhood ofTramel, a hodge-podge of windy streets and guest houses with hundreds of hiking shops, bars and restaurants. Most people start and end in Kathmandu, and it made a nice change to be surrounded by a plethora of tourists in every shape and size, all in Nepal for one reason: to get their slice of the Himalayas.
Our next stop was Annapurna - more on that exciting adventure next!