Brief note from the valley

Kathmandu, Sunday 18th March 2007

It is quarter past one at night and we are rising at seven in the morning to fly to Pokhara and start the trekking part of the trip: I had best be brief.

The journey here was an education: transit in Tashkent was a step back into Soviet times while transit in Delhi was a distinct test of faith and a sturdy introduction to how life might be in India; perhaps.  I will write in further detail later, suffice to say for now that landing in Kathmandu on a sunny Friday afternoon came as a great pleasure after the first two legs of the trip.  We flew in across radiantly green, steep-sided foothills with terraces cut into them that looked centuries old; all against a backdrop of blue skies framing the crisp white peaks of the Himalayas.  I was later told that the view was a lucky bonus due to heavy rain of day before clearing the air: sure enough the dust and pollution from the city was heavy again by the following morning.

Kathmandu appears on first acquaintance to be a city in miniature.  It is genuinely very small (you can drive across it in fifteen minutes on a rare traffic-free moment) but allied to that the streets are narrow, the tight-packed buildings no more than three or four storeys tall and the people equally diminutive.  Even the taxis are tiny: little Suzuki 800cc micro-hatchbacks that I could barely fit into the front of when driving one in Cyprus as a hire car – the back is even more of a challenge.  The surfaced roads are in fair condition with kerbs and raised pavements on major streets but it is easy to turn up a side street and find yourself on a dirt track immediately.  The same contrast applies to the architecture and the people.  Ancient shrines, temples, monasteries and general buildings stand side by side with modern constructions of brick or concrete or both, the former often in sad states of decline.  Almost all are covered in thick layers of dust and grime stirred up by a busy, jostling city full of psychotic motor vehicles and busy people.  The dust can not hide the colourful nature of the city though.  From clusters of advertising hoardings through painted shop shutters and traditional garments to the strings of mantra flags streaming from temples and shrines, Kathmandu is a city of myriad hues that can never be described as grey.  I look forward to writing in more detail about cookery, monkeys, jazz, history and other things that Kathmandu has had to offer.

A.

3 Replies to “Brief note from the valley”

  1. Hey big Al, have a great time on your highly exotic trip, looking forward to your next note while you are high on taking bottled oxygen from your altitude sickness. Don’t discover any natural gas on your trip now – otherwise the big oil boyz will be there in no time tearing up the landscape and giving you another posting!

  2. Oi Oi! Watch out for those yaks. I’ve heard they’re a bit moody…

    Hope you’re having a great time, mate. It’s cold, wet and grey here, as usual…

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