15 days travelling and still talking to one another.
It was strange being back in Kathmandu after our trip into the Nepalese countryside. It’s full of strong smells (some more pleasant than others) and so incredibly busy – almost the complete opposite of Pokhara. Still, it had an air of familiarity to it and there was so much that we were yet to explore.
On the first morning we made our way over to the Garden of Dreams, making sure to get there early to avoid any crowds. It’s a large garden consisting of three pavilions, an amphitheater, ponds, pergolas, and urns – recently restored after years of neglect. There was hardly anyone there and it turned out to be a beautiful place with lots of little secluded spots to relax and read a book. Unfortunately it is situated on a busy intersection, but peace and quiet on this scale is a bit of a luxury – especially in Kathmandu.
Once we’d had enough of reading in the morning sunshine, we decided to venture out for a massage. Just around the corner was the popular Seeing Hands Clinic – a social enterprise providing training and employment opportunities for visually impaired people. It peaked our interest and was certainly something we wanted to get behind and support.
As I lay there on my stomach, boxer shorts crudely wedged into a sort of ridiculous half thong, my masseuse went to work kneading my right buttock like a piece of dough. So this is what it feels like to be part of The Great British Bake Off, I chuckled to myself. I’m a ticklish person and once I start, there is no stopping me. I gritted my teeth, stuck somewhere between pain and laughter. It might not sound like it, but it was actually a very pleasant massage and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. A leg massage after our torturous trek turned out to be just what we both needed.
On our second to last day, we were torn between visiting two popular tourist attractions that had the same entry fee; the famous Durbar Square and Pashupatinath temple. Having only budgeted for one, we jumped in a taxi and made the 30 minute journey to Pashupatinath – a sacred Hindu temple complex. After paying the entry fee, we quickly realised that we were completely out of our depth – the temple complex was sprawling and there were certain areas we weren’t allowed to go to as non-Hindus. Without having done much research and looking pretty lost, we were quickly spotted by a local guide who offered to show us around the temple complex. We were reluctant at first, but he turned out to be a fountain of knowledge and it was clear afterwards that we would have missed so much without him.
I have no shame in admitting that we dove head first into the whole cliche “pose for a picture with the Holy Men“. It made for some good photos, although they did spend the whole time trying not so subtly to pry more money out of us.
Located on the bank of the Bagmati River, the temple is well known for its open air cremations. We watched the initial preparations from afar with morbid curiosity, but decided to leave before any ceremony officially started. Our guide was kind enough to have given us directions to Boudhanath Stupa, our next stop – which was a pleasant 30 minute walk.
Boudhanath Stupa took me by surprise. I am not sure what I was expecting, but the sheer size of it coupled with its unconventional beauty had me a little mesmerised. We spent a good hour walking around it clockwise (very important) taking it all in. Sure it was a little touristy, surrounded by shops and restaurants, but they faded into the background easily enough and it quickly turned into my favourite place that we visited.
On our final morning we woke up nice and early, skipped breakfast, and made the 40 minute walk across town from our hostel towards Swayambhunath – a sacred Stupa located on the top of a hill. I’d read somewhere that there were around 300 steps to get to the top, a small feat given the trek we had just endured. It is easy to see why it’s so popular with tourists, with its panoramic views of the city and the fact that it is inundated with monkeys (some of which were unnervingly big). Thankfully the monkeys kept their distance, although we weren’t so lucky with the weather. We had picked an extremely overcast day, so the visibility was pretty poor. All things considered, it was a great outing and fitting last day.
It was nice to be back in Kathmandu briefly before flying to Delhi – the start of our behemoth tour of India.
Until next time.
P.S. Now our trek has ended, I’ve started enjoying coffees again. Oh how I have missed you…