It is late February, sitting in New Zealand in a camp in Wanaka and I am finishing this post about Kathmandu which had been our first stop on our travels.
We landed in Kathmandu at the very beginning of November and stayed there for some 3 days to arrange all important preparations for the Annapurna circuit trek. The blog posts about the trek are split into 3: part 1, part 2, part 3.
Arranging the trek
To trek the circuit you basically need 2 different permits, get yourself on a bus to the start of the trek (about 6 hours away from Kathmandu by bus). We decided to hire a porter (Ganesh) to help us out with some load. This was mainly due to me deciding to carry all those photo toys like a tripod, some lenses, Syrp Genie Mini motion controller (not used once) etc… With this, you need lots of batteries (5x batteries for my DSLR) and then chargers and solar chargers… You get the point… So Ganesh was hired.
To help us out with all these preparations, we spoke to a guy at our hotel (I called him the CEO of Kathmandu). He simply makes things happen. He was called Pramod, wears grey suits and usually anywhere between 3-5 pens sticking out of his shirt pocket.
Thanks to all this, we did not need to worry much about preparation and could rather do some last minute shopping – such as extremely mega super hyper warm merino socks for Isabel, indoor shoes for the lodges etc…
We stayed in Thamel, which is a backpackers haven. It is dirty, noisy, dusty, crowded… simply perfect… Not to make it sound too bad, you get to find lots of useful shops (such as a supermarket – everyone knows this one as there seems to be just one, outdoor stores – generally good. You can basically equip yourself for trekking completely in Kathmandu). There are probably 2 nice live music places (Purple Haze and Reggae bar). Purple Haze is much bigger with a real big stage for the band and hosts hundreds of people, and Reggae bar is much more tiny and cozy… Both are very well hidden and you need to know where to find those. We went to both of these bars on two different nights, but the same band played…
1st day we decided to explore Kathmandu a bit on our own. We walked through Thamel to the south to a large Temple area – Durbar Square….. While I could not really judge the impact of the recent earthquake on the town in general, you could certainly see the impacts here. Many temples were being repaired (I guess at an incredibly slow pace though).
Other temples in the Kathmandu Valley
For another day, to see more of the temple complexes around Kathmandu, we booked a full day taxi. Thanks Pramod. I believe this was at a charge of 40 USD. We planned to visit in total 4 temple areas (2 Buddhist, 2 Hindu). Unfortunately due to the effects of the morning yoghurt, we skipped the last (Buddhist temple).
The first was the Monkey temple. It was high on a hill with great views of the Kathmandu valley. As the name promises, it is really crowded by monkeys. I would probably say, that I liked this one the most from the 3 that we visited that day.
The 2nd was more central – situated in the city itself. You could see the impacts of the earthquake much more here than at the other spots. After a museum tour in one of the buildings (reading lots of stuff about the Hindu Gods), we stopped for some food and left our taxi driver waiting for us for at least 1.5 – 2 hours.
The last cultural stop was a massive Hindu area lying on a river. To welcome us well, they were just burning some dead person at the river. We hiked up the hill, saw tons of monkeys, took more pictures. The last temple, which would probably also have been nice, was skipped due to above mentioned reasons 🙂
That’s pretty much all culturally worth mentioning from Kathmandu that we managed to cover. After our return from Annapurna circuit, we faced new challenges such as arranging our ticket changes with Thai Airways, trying to repair the damaged lens etc… To cut it short, I met the lens repair guru of Nepal. He studied the lens and said, that he is busy and needs 3 days to fix it. I had 1 day.
After the trek
We managed to find Thai Airways (this story would probably deserve a small book on its own). Thanks to searching the Thai Airways office, we also found that Kathmandu has a nice modern shopping street (modern for Nepal). We also found an iPhone repair store and I convinced Isi to replace her old iPhone battery. Total cost? 20 USD… Yeeeey, now the phone does not die after ½ day of doing nothing.
And of course by some great chance we met again our friends from the trek (mentioned many times in the trek posts) Keith and Stephanie. We had one more trek celebration beer together in Thamel (sorry for that terrible noise – iPhone shot)
Needless to say at the end, after 1 month in dust, tired from hiking, we were very much looking forward to a luxurious large and clean bed in Thailand. But Isi covered that in her blog post from Bangkok.
3 months after Nepal, I have to say, I really liked it. Maybe one day we come back for the Manaslu range, or Everest Base Camp (EBC).