Varanassi to Katmandu, by taxi. This was one of those trips that will be remembered by us not for the scenery, but for the "events". A few hair raising near misses and a bit of excitement when the tire went flat all led to a long day's journey. For the complete story, click here. But, we arrived at the city we had been anticipating for several weeks, KATMANDU!! We arrived in the dark and spent the first night in a non mainstream area, but the next morning we found accommodation beside Durbar Square. No mom, we are not in Kansas any more. Check out these structures in the square!
We thought we had died and gone to heaven. Katmandu is a very friendly town with all the western amenities available. Plus, so much history surrounding you, everywhere. Just one warning though, even the food looks like something you eat at home, be careful to stick to restaurants that ARE clean. Bad stomach's pop up in Katmandu as well when you let your guard down to much. We also discover settlements/towns on the outskirts of Katmandu - the Tibetan people. Also a much anticipated experience. At this point we had been told that our chances of getting into Tibet were slim to none. A very disappointing and frustrating experience. We were just to early in the season - no planes running yet, no jeeps trying to go overland. So we saw the local Tibet.
Young Monks at a new years ceremony we went. Well, really it was the end of the year ceremony, to scare off the evil sprits so they would not follow them into the new year. The Tibetan new year occurs in March and everything shuts down for 2 weeks! Many boys are given to the monasteries by their parents,,,, at the age of 3! That's where they are raised and educated. We also encounter Tibetan stupa. This is the Bodhnath Stupa, built sometime after 600 AD. One of the largest! It's a solid structure said to contain a holy relic.
From the top they hang prayer flags. Cloth with prayers inscribed on them - to pray as the flutter in the wind.
The stupa's are also a gathering place.
And what trip to Asia would not be complete with out seeing snake charmers. We saw a lot of fakes through our travels, but these guys were the real thing!
We meet up with two other travelers, a girl from Germany (Patty) and a girl from Denmark (Stine). Both are interested in getting to Tibet via the overland jeep trek. Patty has found a contact that says he can organize it, but will take a few days to get the permits and visa's organized. We had planned on staying in Nepal longer, but the 2 girls are keen to go to Tibet as soon as possible. We compromise and agree a 4 day interim. John, Kristine and Don then fly to Pokhara to see the Himays. We get a spectacular view from the airplane! In Pokhara we are disappointed that the peaks of the Himays (the Annapurna range) are obscured in clouds. The next day we do a days hike to enjoy the scenery, but by mid morning they are again enshrouded in clouds. We decide to do the viewing must, up at 4:30 am to catch a taxi 2/3 up a mountain then hike the rest of the way to get the sunrise pictures. Judge for yourself -- and this is only the camera's view!
And of course, the "I've been there" picture.
We also so what life was like in the country. These women were carrying this firewood up this "little" mountain as we were on our way down. Life is easy in the west.
And we also rediscovered the rules of the road, even on a walking path -- everything gives way to a water buffalo. This guy was steaming up the trail and we just had to jump out of the way!
We ride on a bus back to Katmandu, passing through spectacular mountain scenery. We also pass by the several famous stretches of rivers where tourists are riding rafts down them. Back in Katmandu we do a bit last minute shopping and the buy provisions for our 5 day jeep trip from Katmandu to Lhasa Tibet. But, the departure is delayed by a day as the high pass is still shut due to a land/snow slide. We finally load up and head for the border. As we climb our way up the valley to Tibet the river is slowly decreasing in size and strength as we pass more and more water falls feeding it. We stop to admire the view and get out picture taken with a local Nepalese family.
We are traveling on the major "road" between Katmandu and Lhasa. The road has steadily been degrading until it no more than a single lane mud track.....
We hit a bit of a snag for a while whilst a broken down truck blocking the road is slowly moved out of the way. There is a lot of trucks on the road - it's the major transport route. There are "wide" spots for you to pull over and let them pass. We continue on until we reach Kodari, the last stop in Nepal. This is the friendship bridge into Tibet, guarded by the Chinese Red Army.
Though, why it was called a friendship bridge I'll never understand. I took this picture from the toilet of a restaurant, best view the town. We stamped out of Nepal and were expecting to be handed over to a Tibet jeep with a guide. But, no jeep and the Nepalese driver has no permit to continue on into China. We are expected to walk up the hill to Zhangmu and wait there for out guide (60 lbs worth of backpack, snowy, muddy road, up hill for 5 miles! -- ha). After an afternoon of shouting and lots of arguments our Nepalese guide shows up with the border guards jeep and takes us the rest of the way to Zhangmu. The Chinese Immigration department is closed, so they take our passports and tell us to come and see them in the morning -- give up your passport and sleep in China for the night! For the complete story about the way to Zhangmu, click here. We do and proceed into the city. Our guide and jeep now show up. "Sorry I'm late, the high pass is still closed so it was a 30 km walk through the snow" -- this is with a group of Germans going overland from Lhasa to Katmandu! He expects us to do the same route tomorrow with our backpacks. After discussing it further, he agrees to hire porters for us to carry out backpacks. We sleep 5 to a room, in a sleeping blanket, under a duvet, in our long underwear ~~~ this will be the norm for the next 5 nights, there is no more heating. On into Tibet.