Look for the story on The Children Welfare Center at the bottom of the part 1.
We found ancient places of worship and shrines hidden away in the most unlikely places as we wandered the streets of Kathmandu.
We walked through to the old parts of town and these streets were even more congested. The meeting of roads was also a meeting place for the people and traffic that somehow manage to squeeze through a busy local market place selling everything from produce to blankets.
The main square or Durbar is packed with fascinating ancient buildings and crowds of people going about their daily business. Just sitting on the stairs of one of the temples, watching life pass by, can keep us amused for hours while we soak up the atmosphere. Many of the temples are constructed of teak and are around 4 to 5 hundred years old. Even after all this time the fine detailed relief carvings are still perfect including the many erotic scenes carved on the roof struts. Nepal has a mix of Hinduism and buddhism and the various temples reflect these beliefs.
Small villages on the terraced hills around Nagarkot - for us the real Nepal
The historic city of Bhaktapur
Bhaktapur is the centre for many crafts including metakwork and wooden toys and a whole square is devoted to Potters.
Meet some of the people of Nepal in our IMAGE COLLECTION.
The narrow streets of Kathmandu
Might is right. the basic road rule over here. I think we'll move over and give him a little room.
Everybody washes at the village tap, conveniently located alongside the main road. I don't think they have hot water either!
Sunset over the mountains to the north of Pokhara with the lake at the bottom.
Pokhara Lake view from the mountain road
Different 'traffic' to avoid in the montain roads, our average speed in Nepal is about 40KPH if that .
View from the plane as we flew into to Jomosom.
Waiting for the mules to cross one of the many suspension bridges.
Everything here is transported from the southern towns up into the mountains by mule. We passed lots of them. They have bells attached to their neck to warn others that they're comming through.
Highway robbery but we got a receipt! The Maost, a politcal activist group demanded that we contributed towards their cause in the mountains. Yes what interesting people you meet. I just hope it's tax deductable!
Part 1: Kathmandu
It was a fairly long flight from Singapore to Kathmandu via Dehli, about 14 hours and after difficulties at the Dehli airport we were just whisked through immigration, visa application and customs. All told the process took less than 5 minutes. In contrast, when we got off the Air India plane in Delhi, we made our way to the transit lounge but were denied entry. No real explanation why, we were just told to wait. Well after about 20 min. we found someone who spoke english or who was prepared to speak english and they told us that we needed an airline representative to fill in a form before we could get into the transit lounge. That was just the start of the 'comedy' show and after a long flight we were not really in the mood for the pointless games the Indians seem to like to play. This is a major International airport and the processes are crazy. Some guy eventually located us in the huge crowd and hand wrote our boarding card for the Royal Nepal flight to Kathmandu. Then Indian Customs wanted to search our luggage. Why??? Which bit about TRANSIT didn't they get. Trouble was that Dianne and I had already gone through security into the holding pen. Now I had to get 'unsecured' to see Customs and unlock the bags. We've since found out that Air India and Royal Nepal are ranked last and second last in reliability with the airline rankings. So much for cheap internet flights.
Anyway we caught a taxi and after a bumpy ride on what seemed like a motor cross track checked into the Kathmandu Peace Guest House, an old building, but at $16.00 a night and by now 11.00pm who could complain.
After a sound nights sleep we were rearing to go and itching to explore the city sights. From our guest house we could already hear the constant tooting of horns and looking out of the window we could see and smell the pollution, but nothing could have prepared us for the onslaught that greeted us as we stepped onto the streets. The streets are narrow, little more than 3 meters wide and the shop fronts come almost to the street. Thousands of small motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles, small cars and pedestrians constantly weave and thread their way through the two way streets. The tooting of horns is done more as a curtsey than in anger and is to say 'hey I'm coming through so watch out and move over, if you can'. To add to the intensity of making our way through the carnage, we have to fend off touters trying to convince us to buy this, look at that or get our boots cleaned. Certainly different to Singapore, and so it should be. We just need to adjust to this bustling community and a city that has seemingly out grown itself with the introduction of motor vehicles.
This is the low season for tourists and there are hundreds of shops all seemingly selling the same thing. Hard to believe that they can make a living when there are so many sellers and so few buyers. I guess that's why they try so hard.
It was now time for us to become a part of this mayhem as Jack was ready to be picked up. We contacted the freight agent, they took us to the airport to pick up Jack (in the box) and about an hour later we were riding into and with the confusion on the road. Moving with the traffic actually seems a little easier now we are in it, we just need to assert our authority and push and squeeze and toot with the best of them. Occasionally a stern wagging of the finger from Dianne to chastise some cheeky bugger, seems to keep them at bay. It's obviously a new phenomenon to them and they're not quite sure how to react. Later on she'll get a walking stick and will be able to beat off cheeky offenders!
We couldn't wait to hit the open road and decided to kick off with a ride up to Nagarkot, a small town in the hills outside Kathmandu. To get us out of Kathmandu and on the right road the guest house arranged for a youngster to lead us on his bicycle. At first I was a little concerned that he would be too slow for us, but I soon realised that we were holding him up as he was able to get through the small gaps in the traffic more easily than we could. Anyway, it took us about an hour to get to the outskirts of town through stop start traffic as we weaved our way through the kamikaze traffic risking life and limb trying to keep up with the bicycle. After that the roads opened up and we were able to enjoy why we have come to Nepal. Small villages along the way, rolling hills and magnificent scenery.
We had arranged for a guide to meet us at the hotel in Nagarkot and after unpacking we began our first trek down through the hills to the valley for a light lunch in a local café at a small village before returning just before dark. It really was magnificent and gave us a taste of what was to follow.
Unfortunately low cloud and mist obscured any views of Everest and the other mountains we had hoped to have in the morning, so after a short walk to the township of Nagarkot we were on the bike again on our way to the historic town of Bhaktapur.
The Nepalese are very friendly and helpful people and when we were returning from the airport after collecting Jack, a local stopped to ask us if we were lost. Turns out we were but didn't know it yet. Anyway he got us on the right road and we made it home OK. This chap came from Bhaktapur and he insisted that we must visit this famous city and he would like to show us around. Depak met us on the outskirts of Bhaktapur and after paying $10.00 pp to enter the city (tourist charges) he gave us a very interesting tour of his home town of which he is obviously proud.
Depak is also a budding artist and he took us to his art college to see how the incredible Thangka or religious paintings are painstakingly created.
Unfortunately, we couldn't spend as long in Bhaktapur as we would have liked as we were determined to try and beat the 'rush hour' traffic in Kathmandu. Well our intentions were good but I'm not sure there is any difference in the traffic density in this city. The slow pace is hard on the bike's clutch, tough on my nerves and patience and trying for Dianne as she waves her arms about chastising those who venture too close and making sure our intentions are clear when we need to turn or change lanes. Fortunately the GPS has logged a track as we left Kathmandu and now we simply have to follow it back. Just as well as there are no street signs here, so no point trying to follow a map.
A major problem in Nepal at this time is the lack of fuel and especially Petrol. Seems the Nepal Government owes the Indian Petroleum company millions of dollars and the Indians are getting a bit pissed off so they have halved the supply. Most fuel stations are closed and about the only place anyone can get fuel is the Army fuel depot and the que outside run for several Kilometers. Well it so happened that the guide we got in Nagarkot has a brother who is an officer in charge of the fuel depot. We planned to do another longer trek from Pokhara and Dumbar was keen to be in on it so we struck a deal and he contacted his brother. The day after we got back to Kathmandu Dumbar met me at the guest house, we simply rode up to the front of the que at the depot and less than an hour later I was back with a full tank (33 litres) Enough for well over 500km. As always, it's who you know that counts.
After 5 days we've had enough of the narrow roads and pollution in Kathmandu and need to get out and on the open road again. Leaving town the traffic was probably the worst we've seen in all our travels. Not only is the congestion really bad but the roads are just a series of huge potholes and disintegrated black top. This makes it difficult enough for us but we have to be really careful of on coming traffic veering into our path as they try to avoid the bigger, deeper holes and the pedestrians and sacred cows weaving and wandering through the traffic. busses are our biggest hazard. If they are oncoming they can and will swerve into our path violently to avoid potholes, cows or pedestrians. If we are following them, we can't see the potholes and they can and will stop at any moment to pick up or drop off passengers. Passing them is an exercise in bravery and foolhardiness as we pull out, peer through the dense smoke haze of the exhaust and do some quick mental arithmetic regarding the acceleration rate of the bike verses the speed of the on coming vehicle divided by how long we can hold our breath.
I think it's ok to hit a pedestrian, a bike or a car, but whatever you do don't hit a cow!
About 20km and an hour later the traffic eases, the roads improve and we begin to enjoy the ride as the road winds and twists up and down and around following the Marsyangdi river.
It must be washing day as everyone seems to be either washing themselves, their children or their clothes and Dianne makes the most of the opportunity with the camera. A spectacular ride that ranks right up there with our all time best ever rides. The traffic's not too bad now, mainly buses and the biggest hazard now is the constant spitting out of the windows. The Nepali people clear their throats constantly and spit, everywhere, all the time. We can only hope that by tooting the horn before we pass they hold back for a few seconds so we can get past. On one occasion with the setting sun behind the bus the spitting out of the windows on both sides of the bus gave the impression of a water sprinkler. Can you get a visual of that? Anyway we arrived in Pokhara just on dusk, 200 km and 7 hours later, found an old but comfortable guest house for $10.00 and had an early night.
Pokhara is a small tourist town which sits in a valley and at little more than 1000m is dominated by a huge lake and surrounded by huge mountains, the Annapurna Himalayan range. These mountains are seriously high, more than 8000m and their rugged, craggy peaks are snow capped. As we stroll around the streets of town we notice para gliders high in the sky, seems this is a favorite spot for this sport and what fantastic views they must have.
We take a few short rides up into the mountains while we wait several days for a flight up to the mountain village of Jomosom to start our 8 day trek.
The big trek
Pokhara is one of the main trekking locations and we've arranged a guide and porter to accompany us on a hike down from Jomosom through the Annapurna ranges, Tholbugin pass, the deepest gorge in the world, back to Pokhara. We'll take the short 20 min. flight to Jomosom (2800 meters) as walking down at these altitudes will be much easier, we hope, for a couple of old motorcyclist.
Typical village along the way
What was it that we didn't get about mountains. The trekking agent had said casually and clearly as we parted with our dollars "you'll follow the valleys and see spectacular views of 5 of the highest mountain peaks in the world." Why didn't alarm bells ring, why didn't we get a visual on the trek down into one valley, over the next mountain to get down into the other valley!! Most of our fellow trekkers were in their element but our legs are not made for walking, they're made for riding and this was hard yakka for us. But we rose to the challenge and would not have missed the experience. The pictures tell the story and Dianne has written a short poem that summed up her feelings at the time. Also see our IMAGE COLLECTION.
To summarize though, after wandering through Jomosom, we started trekking down into the valley, over many suspension bridges across the river and at times along the stony river bed. I say stony, but these stones varied from cricket ball size to football size. Then there were the endless stone stairs either leading us up relentlessly or down. Their height varied constantly and most were more like one and a half normal steps. The surface was at times slippery too as we made our way across mountain sides with several landslides. It was never boring or dull and some of the highlights were soaking in the hot pools at Tatopani and walking through the snow at Ghorepani even though we missed the views that day and we wouldn't have missed it for the world. Our guide and porter arranged by the Trekking Agent were great company but there are many independant guides and porters in Pokhara looking for work as long as they come recommended. We said we would mention the name of one reliable guide: Kamal Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Steps steps and more steps. Either going up or going down.
Steps steps ....
As always it is the people we meet that make the Journey, the local characters we pass and the seemingly 'League of Nations' who we'd chat to over a warming dinner of Dahl bhaat tarakari (staple meal of the Nepalis of lentil soup, rice and currie veg.) In all we met fellow trekkers from as far afield as Israel, Russia, Chile et al. All up people from over 15 countries.
We've been in the mountains for 8 days,
Yes an experience of a life time but it is soooo good to be back with Jack in beautiful sunny Pokhara. We're motorcyclists not trekkers and from now on we'll remember that.
We're staying at the Greenpeace Resort a little out of the way from the tourist area and it is a very relaxing spot which we can recommend. The building is new, the food is good and at $10.00 a night represents good value.
In the latest update we go into the Nepal lowlands and back to the Kathmandu Valley for Christmas. Why? read Nepal part 2 after the information on the Children's center.
The Siddhatha Highway, a bikers paradise!!
Wherever we stop the locals are curious.
Typical village on the Siddhatha Highway.
The women work hard, but what a backdrop.
The sacred Fishtail mountain, so prominent in Pokhara region.
Nothing like an early morning ride here to get you feeling like you're 'on top of the world'.
The Nepali women are always washing, either themselves, their kids, their dishes or their clothes
Buddhist prayer flags mark Buddha's birth place.
We seemingly ride right past (or through) daily village life.
A market place and a good excuse for a break
An early morning canoe ride on the misty river, atmospheric, yes but also a near dunking experience with water lapping over the gunnels in the rapids and a number of beaching episodes on large rocks! (Did I mention it was freezing)
It must be difficult keeping that long hair clean with only cold river water to wash it. Glad I keep mine short!
Terraced farmland. But check out the road, the Tribhuvan Hwy.
Camera is clicking continually, not a moment without a stunning view or interesting village scene.
We've gone up up up and now it's time to go down down down.
Where's our side of the road gone? On coming traffic can be a hazard on these narrow roads. Check out the passengers on the 'top deck'.
On our way out through the Kathmandu Valley the hills are terraced making the most of the fertile soils, there are many hungry mouths to feed.
At times we pass so close to the locals going about their everyday life. The edge of the road is her kitchen floor!
This guy was tasting the caramel that he was boiling away in a big pot. mmmm - a sweet treat consumed in huge quantities during festivals.
Landslides make the going challenging at times.
Only a couple of other things on our list of 'things to do in Kathmandu'. One is a visit to the Swayambhunath Stupa or 'monkey temple'. So called because of all the monkeys that hang around. The temple itself is buddhist and quite impressive standing on a hill. There are 367 steps to reach the temple from the eastern side but the entrance makes the effort worthwhile.
View from the top of the hill, Swayambhunath.
Sometimes I just need to reflect back on things... Nepal has been a life changing experience, the beautiful people, the stunning scenery and a chance to reflect on the important things in life.
Click below on Next page to ride into India and I'm guessing there will not be much chance to reflect on anything amongst the masses there.
Part 2: Pokhara mountains to the Terai lowlands
We ended up spending about a week 'recovering' in Pokhara. It's just such a nice place and we needed the R&R. We even located a great steak house,'The Pokhara Steak House', to help in this process. Apparently they import steaks from Kolkata and one between us was more than enough and at A$6.00 who could complain.
I mentioned before about the para gliders, well their launching off place is a small village called Sarangkot just outside Pokhara. A steep climb for Jack, remember we no longer trek up big hills or mountains, and from here there are fantastic views of the mountains and the lake. We're so high it's almost like being on a para glider.
We're enjoying ourselves here now and it feels like home, but we're not on holiday and it's time to get back to work and get moving again. A quick reminder that our job is travelling now and there are many places to go, so with the bike packed we headed south for Lumbini ( the birthplace of Buddha) via the Siddhatha Highway.
Climbing steeply out of Pokhara into the mountains the going is slow and our average speed is only about 30kph what with tight hairpins and traffic, but the views are spectacular and the road takes us through many small villages where daily life happens on the edge of the road.
This morning we had aspirations of reaching Lumbini, only about 200km from Pokhara, but at this pace that now seems unlikely and we looked up a nice sounding guest house in Tansen. The Lonely Planet described the White Lake Hotel in glowing terms but the reality was that it was an absolute dump. The only other option was an expensive resort higher up the mountain with views of the Himalayas. At A$25.00 a night it was expensive but the people were great, the room was clean and the food good. The 360 degree view is worth a few extra dollars.
Next morning we took a short ride along the ridge top again passing through many small villages with the mountains always in clear view once the mists lifted. Nothing like a brisk early morning ride in spectacular scenery to get the blood pumping and we were now rearing to get on our way to Lumbini in the lowlands called the Terai.
This view has got to be worth a million dollars!
It was pretty much all downhill from Tansen and at one stage the road opened up and I saw 80kph on the speedo. We've got used to the slow pace and 80kph and 5th gear seemed like a reckless speed, but alas, it was short lived, although we did pick up the average speed to about 50kph. We had to pass through Butwal with the usual city traffic, noise, tooting and pollution. Not a good place to have a short break but a quick snack of some fruit and we're on our way to Lumbini passing through flatlands for a change with extensive farming, all by hand.
As I mentioned before, Lumbini is the birthplace of Buddha and even though Buddhism represents a very small percentage of the population here, the town has a special importance for Buddhists worldwide and there are many major temples erected by many countries to honour Buddha and Buddhism. These buildings are extremely opulent and ornate, have or are taking many years to construct and seem totally out of place.
The Thai temple is particularly impressive but not yet complete.
Karma boys. If your good then good things will come to you, but if your bad...
We spent the afternoon visiting the various sights and stayed the night in a very average guest house, and now it was time to head for the Tribhuvan highway and the Royal Chitwan National Park. We decided to continue west on a small road to enjoy the early morning bustling activities of the typical Terai farming households before reaching the hwy.
The small road deteriates into a rough track and a makeshift bridge built by the boy behind the bike, we need to cross the river to get back to the Hwy.
The western Tribhuvan hwy is still in excellent condition but the surface is diabolical in the busy eastern section. One of the sad things in Nepal is the lack of funds for maintenance for everything and this highway is no exception. It must have taken a huge effort to construct, and it is the main east - west route through Nepal. In parts it is no more than a series of huge potholes, on other sections there is no blacktop at all and riding demands 100% concentration. The road is also busy with many trucks and buses along with motorcycles, animals and pedestrians.
We've become dedicated tooters now and as we enter small villages along the way we always toot toot to warn people that we're coming, but at this one village, despite tooting, some fool on a bicycle just pulled out from the crowd in front of us. He looked our way and I assumed he would stop, as any 'normal' person would, so I made an emergency turn to the right whilst breaking hard. But, incredulously, this fool just keeps on going and we now have to revert to plan B, turn sharply to the left and break even harder but prepare for the inevitable collision. I decided (in a split second) that at the point of inevitable contact I would straighten the handlebars and collide head on reasoning that 500kg of motorcycle would just ride over the bicycle and that we (at least) would be OK. I must have blinked or something because the collision didn't occur. I think the adrenaline must have kicked in for the cyclist and with a mighty push on the pedals he averted certain death. Well that got the heart pumping. Message to self: never assume anything when it comes to people, vehicles or animals.
Royal Chitwan National Park
The rest of the ride to Chitwan was, by comparison, uneventful. We did have a little trouble finding the park entrance, you'd think that this world famous national park would have a sign at the turning, but no. Eventually we did find the entrance and located a comfortable hotel which offered us a package deal that included the room, all meals, canoe ride, hike in the jungle, visit to the the elephant nursery, an elephant ride into the jungle to view wild life and a visit to a traditional dancing show. The 3 day package cost A$150.00 for the two of us and also included park entrance fees.
The staff and guides at the Riverview Hotel went out of their way to give us a good experience and on our last night they even organised a campfire with singing, dancing and good times with 2 other couples. It was a great night and one of those special moments you get when you're travelling. It was also another example of the kindness, generosity and willingness to please of the Nepali people.
A magical walk through the dense sub tropical forests and grassland of the park. We saw crocs, monkeys and birds but no Tigers, thank goodness, our guides only had a stick for defense.
Good looking dude playing with a baby elephant.
We spotted these rhinos while on the Tiger hunting safari, this time on elephant back just in case.
Back to Kathmandu
Christmas Eve and an early start and a big day today. We need to get back to Kathmandu as Dianne has an arrangement to spend a week with the CWC (Children Welfare Center) orphanage. The prospect of getting back to Kathmandu is not so appealing but the road via Daman is reputedly a bikers dream. Daman is a small village, really just a resort, located at 2400m and from here one can see almost the entire Himalayan mountain ranges.
All up, Kathmandu is about 120km away, but we know the going will be slow and it is, but the road is everything it is cracked up to be. This is not a popular route with the trucks and busses because it is so slow, so we are able to enjoy the sights and views without the harassment of the larger vehicles. As we approached Daman, the temperature dropped to 8 degrees C but in the sheltered shady sections where the road was still wet from early morning mists, we had our first 'what the' experience. All of a sudden the bike felt 'loose' and not connected to the road. What the heck was up. Then we realised that these sheltered areas had ICE on the road. Not a good experience and just as well we were going slowly.
Arriving at Daman, the views over the Himalayan mountains were spectacular. There was some haze but we could just make out Mt. Everest and looking west we could see the Annapurna ranges and the Fishtail mountain that dominates Pokhara. When one remembers that this was one of the dominant mountains at Pokhara and now we are approaching Kathmandu and we can see it clearly, it gives one an indication of just how huge these mountains are and how high 8000-meters really is.
Over the mountains and down through the valleys, we descended into the Kathmandu traffic.
From Daman it was downhill through farming areas and villages then up again over another smaller mountain range and then into the heavy traffic and belching diesels as we approached Kathmandu. There were some delays but overall we were able to get through the traffic OK and once on the Ring Road found the traffic quite acceptable. It was mid afternoon and apparently the fuel crisis is quite bad and many vehicles simply don't have any fuel. We still have enough fuel for about 400km so hopefully we can do a trip to the Tibet border and still have enough to make it to the Indian border.
Since it was Xmas eve, I convinced Dianne that we should check into an upmarket hotel, which we did. Hot water, clean sheets and an excellent meal. What a day to remember.
Christmas morning and Dianne is rearing to get to the orphanage but first we have to buy some presents for the kids. A short taxi ride to a shopping center and we enjoyed our own xmas present, buying games, balls, sweets and other stuff for the kids at the orphanage. It was a real buzz and we enjoyed the chance to buy a few things for people who have so little and would get so much joy from it. Then it was time to drop Dianne off and let her enjoy her time with the kids.
The New Year
Well, Dianne's been at the orphanage since the 25th and I pick her up later today. We really are a team and when one of the team members is away, the other is a bit lost, so I'm really looking forward to picking her up and I'm sure she is looking forward to getting back to "moving on" as I am. This evening I have arranged to meet up with Denise Ferris from Ferris Wheels fame www.ferriswheels.com.au
Allow me to digress. After contacting a Horizons Unlimited rider in Nepal, I got a contact for a motorcycle shop in Delhi who in turn put me in contact with Mike and Denise Ferris. The reason for the original HU contact was because we needed to know the easiest way to transport our spare tyres from Kathmandu to northern India. We know the tyres on the bike won't last till Turkey where we can get replacements and we know we can't get suitable tyres for Jack before Turkey, so we put a spare set in the crate when Jack came from Singapore. We don't want and can't carry the tyres whilst travelling through India. Where was I going with this? Oh yes, Ferris Wheels currently have a motorcycle tour passing through Nepal on their way to Delhi and, after email contact, they are happy to carry our tyres, in their support vehicle, to Delhi for us. I'll drop the tyres off this evening and we'll have dinner with Denise. Amazing how things work out sometimes.
Happy New Year for 2008. We decided to spoil ourselves with another night at the flash Summit Hotel so that we could enjoy New Year's Eve there. The chef has promised a wonderful 'all you can eat' all night buffet and live music. Sometimes after roughing it for a while you just need to spoil yourself and the end of the year party seemed like a good enough excuse.
The next day though it was back into the real world and the Kathmandu Peace Guest House. The Summit Hotel was good, but the people there have a different focus, whereas at the guest house there are fellow travellers, in fact the Germans with the Landrover are back. Funny how we like to return to those things which are familiar, even though we also crave those things which are different.
I do want to ride to the Tibet border though and the road north is not that far. We decided to leave early in the morning and try to beat the traffic. First part of the plan worked, but it was really misty and foggy at 8.00am. This soon cleared though as we left the city and wound our way up into the hills. I don't know why, but I thought the border with Tibet would be high in the mountains, but the road follows a river all the way and we eventually got to the border town about 120km and 4 hours later and the GPS indicated it was only 1400 meters high.
The ride was a little different to other rides in Nepal in that we followed the river the whole way. The road was generally good and there was very little traffic, but near the border there were several landslides and Jack had his time cut out. The border town was chaotic with traffic jams and masses of people scurrying across the border from Nepal to Tibet to buy cheap Chinese goods. We didn't stay long, but did walk up to the red line painted on the center of the 'Friendship Bridge'. I walked a little past this point towards the Chinese customs post and was immediately chastised and told to 'get back'.
Another one of the 'must dos' in Kathmandu is to visit the Pashupatinath Temple. It is the most important Hindu temple in Nepal and apparently one of the most important Shiva temples on the sub continent and there are many devotees here from all over India.
The Bagmati river flows past Pashupatinath and this tributary to the Ganges is an important place to be cremated. There are several (about 7) ghats here and cremations take place 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It apparently takes between 2 to 3 hours for the body to burn and costs about 4000 rupees. The eldest son lights the fire and is required to shave his head.
Our guide summed things up very well. He said that when we die we take only our kama with us. Our good kama and our bad kama.
As you can appreciate, just being in this special place was a very moving experience for Dianne and I.
The last thing on our list was a visit to Boudha, the largest stupa in Nepal and one of the largest in the world. It is the religious center for Nepal's huge population of Tibetans, many of them refugees and a place where they can maintain their own culture and beliefs unhindered.
When I think back to when we first arrived in Kathmandu, I think we may have been a little harsh in some of our descriptions. Tomorrow we leave for India and both Dianne and I are more than a little sad to be leaving Nepal. The traffic is actually quite manageable out of rush hours and there are many amazing roads to explore just in the Kathmandu valley. We've had a wonderful experience here and warmed to the country and it's people. There are political problems, and we hope the Nepalis can work them out because this is a unique country with a rich history, friendly people and amazing scenery that has so much to offer fellow travellers.