NEPAL – August 2019
Paul and I are going on a month long 5,000km overland expedition through China, Tibet and Nepal. The Journey starts at Xi’an in east China and heads west out across the central plains. At Golmud we turn south and work our way across the vast Tibetan plateau to Lhasa. We then continue on through the Himalayan passes into Nepal and finish in Kathmandu. The journal is separated into the three separate posts of China, Tibet and Nepal.
Nepal is an exotic destination, full of travelers, hikers, climbers and spiritual seekers. It’s quite a change and a nice transition from the mountains and vast empty high plains of Tibet. We spend 7 days in Nepal. After crossing the Himalayan passes we stay at the small village of Nuwakot once on the original trade route, then onto Pokhara on Lake Phewa with an outstanding backdrop of the high snow-capped peaks. Then Khatauti Khola on the Trishuli River which flows from Tibet and finally our journey ends in Kathmandu the lively, bustling capital of Nepal.
Hindu Traffic Jams – well after crossing the border from Tibet here we are the next morning in Nuwakot staying in a quaint restored manor house, home for the next couple of days. It’s a quaint little hillside town overlooking a beautiful valley and at 1,000m it feels like sea level.
So, how did we end up here? We left early yesterday morning from Gyrong for the border crossing, checked out at China’s shiny new facilities, walked across the bridge for a cursory Nepalese customs check in a tin shed then jumped in the truck and headed down the gravel road to a grungy but friendly immigration office…well not quite that simple but that will do.
We then follow the river along a gorge, the gravel road deteriorates but the scenery is special. A bit later we climb through switchbacks up a ridge, the road deteriorates a bit further, but the views are magnificent.
We are now very high as we follow the contour, the road is now seriously broken and is more of a track really, the clouds come in and it starts to drizzle, so now it’s sort of a muddy hillside foggy track – appalling is a word that comes to mind. There are occasional villages, obligatory police and military check points and stunning views… I know it sounds a bit dramatic but the road was badly damaged in the earthquake, and has only recently reopened, repairs just meant pushing rubble over the edge, plus today is a special Hindu Ceremonial day so as we go down, lots of trucks and buses full of Hindus are coming up and it really is only a one way muddy foggy track, so there are lots of traffic jams as one vehicle backs up and the other squeezes past. Ten hours and sixty kilometres later the road turns to bitumen and as the sun sets we cut back down into the valley – there is still a ways to our accommodation but we are feeling positive.
We meander along a bit and then hit a track that is really just a muddy path but we only have 12 kms to go – now only 6 kms to go but it’s quite late and dark…then we hit a long traffic jam caused by a truck with a broken axle – entirely understandable but nothing to do now…hmmm. Jemima rings the guest house, they send a small local bus and we park the truck and walk past the line of backed-up traffic and jump on the bus, simple really! Welcome to Nepal.
Nuwakot – Rested and refreshed after our exhaustive trip we enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Then a few of us take a morning hike through the small farms up to the ridge to overlook the valley. Then we drop down into the village past the old Nuwakot Palace startling a couple of goats on the way. In the afternoon we relax in the courtyard of our old manor house.
Pokhara – Early the next morning we catch the local bus and sing along to the blearing traditional music back to our truck and drive onto Pokhara, Nepal’s second largest city but it has a nice scale. Set in a valley on a lake and surrounded by the spectacular snow-capped Himalayas (on a clear day), it’s a picture postcard sort of place.
The streets are lined with shops selling adrenalin filled activities from trekking, rafting, zip-lining, hang gliding and mountain biking. Other shops overflow with copy travel gear and next to them are abundant restaurants catering to every taste. It’s a pleasant cosmopolitan change and a nice place to wander after the spartan Tibetan high plains.
Khatauti Khola – The Royal Beach ‘Resort’ is set on the banks of the Trishuli River which we met earlier in Tibet, its not exactly glam camping but it does include site tents. And it’s a nice spot to do a bit of rafting and relax by the quiet river banks. It’s a hot and steamy afternoon but the next morning it’s lovely and cool with a mist running down the valley.
Kathmandu – We leave early for the crazy drive into Kathmandu and our last night of the journey. Nepal’s capital is crowded, lively and bustling and full of ancient and modern sights, sounds and smells. We wander the old area of Thamel, barter with vendors and drink coffee, watching and being watched by other travelers and locals. Then we head to Durbar Square where we sit surrounded by centuries’ old buildings and watch the colourful religious ceremonies. Tomorrow most of us will catch planes to destinations around the world. Paul flies out early for a connecting flight to Sydney and a bus ride to Moruya, later I fly to Denpasar via KL. It’s been an amazing journey.
Good bye Nepal…thank you for your high mountains, picturesque foothills and steamy tropical countryside, rich history, friendly people and bustling downtown Kathmandu, but mostly for providing a nice transition and closure for our journey.
Thank you fellow travelers for your diversity of personalities and beliefs and of course Paul my travel buddy for just being Paul. And thank you Jemima & Jason our leaders for remaining upbeat, cheerful and flexibly confident as routes and destinations dynamically changed, and of course thanks to Dragoman for putting an amazing journey together.