Nepal - Kathmundu PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Smith   
Sunday, 19 April 2009 20:06
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Day 47: Tuesday 6th November - Kathmando

As promised the flight to Everest went a head at 5.00am and the tired but happy group returned about 10.00am and went straight back to bed contented. Anne and myself had declined the free flight but now regret it. I had visions of flying in some patched up Russian piece of junk but not at all the planes looked very modern. I hadn't realized, at this point, that the trip to Everest base camp was cancelled; so much for the Ozbus' blurb about 'a once in a lifetime opportunity'. I thought we going to base camp and then returning to India and Darjeeling. Things are beginning to turn pear shape: we don't have the time they said to see these great sites and the journey times allowed between are ridiculous. Poor Jaenpol he looks knackered every night. We were supposed do the journey from Varanasi to Kathmandu in one day and it took 16 hours to an unscheduled stop which was still four and half hours away.

Our first impression of the accommodation last night was pretty accurate but it did not take into account the water feature. On second reflection the room was crap and dingy, the bed hard but the water feature an horrendously noisy series of buckets with holes outside the only window. When the first shower or water usage started at about 5.00am in the morning it started gushing and making a rattling noise that made sleep impossible.

Besides this we didn't rise until late morning because we were both spaced out after the horrendous drive yesterday and so had a late breakfast and then went to explore the area around our hotel. Managed to buy a Lumix battery for the camera but it nearly cost as much as back home but two silk inner sleeping liners were only a third of the Sheffield price.

we made our way back to the hotel to checkout an arranged three hour bus tour of the city. It was important that we were not to spend most of the time on the bus and the guide promised us that most of the time would be walking. I'm to glad to say his word was better than the two in London. The bus was needed to take us to our first venue the Monkey Temple which is back out of the city.

This has been a temple for two thousand years and as the name suggests has monkeys by the score. I was quite pleased to see them because the guide said they sometimes don't come out when it's not sunny and it was very dull although not cold. Besides, the monkeys there were not the real pests; these were the street sellers or entrepreneurial beggars who hung around in groups just like the apes. As Anne was in negotiation with a woman selling more bracelets for the girls (our daughters) one of the monkeys, unknown to me until it landed, placed an empty can of something squarely on my head much to the delight of two young girls in front of me who found it incredibly amusing.

The actual temple is very hard to describe, the buildings were mainly of wood and in need of serious renovation and was devalued by all the street sellers who completely outnumbered the animals and who, with the exception of the can throwing incident, left us alone.

The trip into the old part of Kathmandu was more interesting. No sooner had we left the coach and we were surrounded by street sellers. I have had a problem with street sellers or entrepreneurial beggars as I call them ever since starting the trip. They come up to me and shove their wares in my face and quote some ridiculous price. I know I should ignore them and not give them any facial contact but I can’t help saying something; to me it is polite but to them it is contact and leads to them pestering me more and then me eventually losing my temper. But the king of all beggars lives in old Kathmandu and if his patter was correct that he makes the flutes, the beautifully carved wooden flutes he sells then he was also an artisan. I made the terrible mistake of asking him to play one of his instruments and although he only managed a dozen notes it was enough for him to believe that I had committed myself to buying one of his creations. I attempted to explain that we were backpacking and really couldn’t carry such a large heavy instrument but he either didn't understand or didn't want to.

Our first stop in the old area was a very interesting old temple with wooden carvings of erotic figures. For some unknown reason, at least to me, young couples sat underneath the erotic freeze kissing and cuddling seemingly oblivious to the wooden antics above their heads. As we made our way away from the wooden porno I first caught sight of the flute seller from hell. After his virtuoso of a dozen notes he gave me a price of only 3500 rupees. I explained to him that I only wanted to hear what the instrument sounded like and had no intention of buying one because it was too heavy to carry. To him, I suspect with his poor grasp of the English language, this meant I was some shrewd business negotiator.

We went to see the living goddess. She was chosen at the age of 5 after various rituals to test her character. Her feet were never allowed to touch the ground in case she cut herself and shed blood. Once she reached menstruation she was no longer pure and therefore could no longer be the goddess and a new one was found. She was only allowed 13 public appearances. After being the goddess she was destined to be a spinster for the rest of her life. No self-respecting Nepalese lad would want to marry a goddess. It would be difficult trying to please someone who had grown up with their feet off the ground. Once a day, around 4.00pm, she made a momentary appearance at a small window in the courtyard of the old palace. Before she looked out of her prison cell, two chaperones surveyed the courtyard for camera toting visitors and plain clothe guards approached those who had not heeded all the signs stating 'No Photographs'.

We arrived too early and were taken by our guide round the various street stalls. At each venue my flute toting friend appeared each time with a new lower price. He followed me around the temple of naughty nudes, waited outside the old courtyard as we checked the time of the goddess' appearance, sat patiently as we had drinks and ice cream in a café and weaved in and out of the crowds down the packed streets between each venue. Eventually our guide approached a tourist policeman and he and his flutes were taken away. At this point he was quoting 600 rupees and Anne was pleading with me to buy it and free him and us from the turmoil. I have to say I felt so sorry for him at this point that I was tempted to follow them and pay him.

The goddess eventually appeared after a couple of Japanese tourists' were made to put their cameras away. To me she looked sad and lonely and I was glad to leave the courtyard and join the throngs of people outside. I would like to say her sad image haunted me for hours, days or weeks but in fact it didn't last minutes because as I stepped out through the large old wooden door flute man jumped on me with his latest and cheapest offer yet: 500 rupees. I have to say, what sympathy I had dissipated instantly and I screamed at him 'please fuck off'. He replied '400 rupees, handmade by me'. He followed me all the way back to the bus and made his last offer as we drove away. He was very persistent following me for over three hours and consistent dropping his price in 500 rupee units each chance he got. I do regret not giving such a craftsman the money he so deserved to continue his trade even though at least three other sellers approached me showing similar flutes they also claimed they'd made.

In the evening we were taken to a restaurant come cultural centre for a night of traditional food, music and dance. Although I enjoyed the food and the performances it was very much staged managed for tourists. The highlight of the evening for me was the rice based liquor which was very pleasant but disliked by everyone but Anne, John and myself. I had about 11 glasses which is probably why I enjoyed the whole evening. Also the young ladies dancing were very attractive.

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 April 2009 20:23