I have found my vocation in life – an English teacher in Nepal. They are always having holidays!!!! I discovered on Friday, Sunday is another holiday. Woo hoo!! I decided to make the most of it and escape the hustle bustle of Kathmandu for a few days. I was hoping to do a day’s trek in Nagarkot, but the travel agency in Thamel was not very helpful and they seemed more interested in making as much money from me as possible. Deflated I head home and after searching the Lonely Planet decide to head to Dhulikhel.
The next day Kamal kindly takes me to Ratna Park Bus Station and I’m on the road. I read the traveller’s bible on route and I decide to hike up to Namo Buddha and on to Panauti. I’m keen to do some walking, since I don’t want to leave Nepal with a lovely, round, rice belly!!!!
On arrival at Dhulikhel I start looking for some food since I hadn’t chance to grab breakfast. A local guy starts talking to me and invites me to stay at his home stay. He seemed a friendly, trustworthy guy, so I decide to ask him if he would take me to Namo Buddha. I thought it would be safer having a guide in the mountains as oppose to being a single woman walking alone. As it turned out it was a great decision. Sajay was a great guide. He spoke very good English and he also teaches Nepali to Westerners, so that was an added bonus.
The walk to Kali Temple was a steep uphill stretch, but the remaining hike was a much gentler climb. The views of Kathmandu Valley are beautiful and the fours hours hike is certainly worth it when you see the impressive sight of the monastery. It is a lovely trek and not at all touristy; I only saw 4 other Westerners trekking and there are no shops selling coke/chocolate. Sadly, it is not totally unspoilt by tourists and the children still request ‘give me one pen’ at seeing a white face.
It is believed, the site where the monastery is built is where a prince gave his body to a tiger and her cubs, before he was reborn as Buddha at Lumbini. I saw the stupa and the sacred den, but I was too tired to walk the last few steps to the monastery. We descended to the nearest village where we caught the bus to Panauti. It was a pretty cramped/ bumpy journey, but at least I had a seat on an old tyre.
On arrival at Panauti, I say goodbye to Sajay and start hunting for a room for the night. The charms of Ananda Cafe Guesthouse described in the LP appeal to me, so I head towards the temple and start my search. It’s a lovely old town with a maze of cobbled streets and traditional brick houses. My legs were very weary from the day’s hike, so I was relieved when I finally found my destination. Ananda was more charming than I imagined, so I snapped up a room. I signed in the guest book and discovered they have had only 4 visitors this year. This is really off the beaten track.
Hungry from my days trek I order some egg chow mein (*note* I personally would not recommend eating here, certainly no ‘Mitchelin Stars’ for their chef. However, no gastric explosions so it was not that bad :o)). Whilst waiting for my food, I spot another Westerner, called Sophie, who joins me.
My room is very rickety, on the second floor, up a very narrow staircase. There are no glass windows, just old intricate wooden shutters. The wooden beams are exposed on the low ceilings, which I kept hitting my head on :oS I don’t think the bed sheets have been changed in decades :oS but luckily I brought my throw and I covered the pillow with my scarf. When I turned the lights out to sleep, I could hear strange noises coming from behind a door. It wasn’t until dawn I realised it was probably a bird roosting for the night.
The next adventure was ½ hour after falling asleep. I awoke when I heard some scuffling and I felt something sitting on my toe. Frantically I turn on my torch, but there is nothing there. I’m not sure if it was my imagination running wild or there was a mouse sharing my bed :oS Eventually I fall back into a deep slumber and sleep peacefully until dawn; awaking to daylight breaking in through the cracks in the shutters and the dawn chorus. I open the shutters, lie in bed and simply enjoy the view of the early morning sun shining on the red bricks. In the distance I hear the festivities for Buddha’s birthday.
This is such an amazing part of the Kathmandu Valley that on the Sunday I decide to trek back to Namo Buddha with Sophie. It was a pleasant walk back up the u-shaped valley. The only tough section is the last hike up to the monastery.
There were a lot more people there compared to the previous day, all there to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. It was a lovely, chilled out atmosphere. This time I made it inside and it’s the most impressive Buddhist monastery I have ever seen. It was a sensory overload. The walls were covered with beautifully coloured paintings, Buddhists wall hangings and statues. Unfortunately, my words will never give it justice and photography is forbidden. To top it all off, the room was full of monks chanting and we had the privilege to be invited to sit behind them. I closed my eyes and listened to them. It was amazing; it’s how I imagine talking in tongues must sound. I sat in the mediation pose with my palms facing up and I could feel this intense energy in my hands (similar sensation to Reiki but stronger). It was a mind blowing experience; I can’t believe I nearly didn’t go inside this remarkable monastery. This will be one memory that will be with me for the rest of my life.
Then, starts the fun task of getting back to Kathmandu. There is a bus at the top of the monastery that goes to Banepa. We stupidly thought it might quicker than the route I took the day before. It was a very bumpy journey, which I had to stand all 2 hours for. Holding on tight as my body swings with each stone and dip in the road the bus hits. On reaching Panauti I rush to the guest house to grab my bag and by some miracle I manage to catch the last bus back to Kathmandu.
It was a terrifying journey back to Kathmandu. The bus was already pretty full, but on arrival at Banepa we are mobbed by at least 40 people all trying to get on or on top of the bus. One man even opened the bus window and contemplated jumping through it. I was relieved to see a transport policeman and I thought he’d put an end to the madness, but how silly of me. He just made the passengers squeeze further down the bus. At least I had a window seat, so I was a relatively safe distance from the massive crush. It was remarkable, but at the next 3 bus stops more and more people boarded the bus. At one stage a young boy is clinging to the side of the moving bus, before he manages to open the window next to me and somehow pull himself to the roof of the bus. I think Nepal could easily beat the record for the most people you can fit in a Smart car and they would top it by also being able to drive it. Complete craziness, but I made it to Kathmandu safely at 9pm. I was relieved to see lights on in my home.
What a journey and what a weekend!