Monday, 6 October 2014

The Land of the Gods

               It began with the slow crossing of a kilometer long bridge over a shallow valley by peddle power. The natural border between India and Nepal, locals tend to cross freely. A quick check in for my visa, and onto a night bus that I’m sure was going to snap the axles.  
The Emerald Hills
              When I woke, I was in a new ancient land for the gods. Embraced by a goddess, holding me close to her bosom, dressed in a breathtaking emerald gown glistening in the morning sun. Gently caressing her curves as I entered the valley, I was already in love. Her beauty infectious, sinking a hook in my heart. The imperfections were perfection. A country so mesmerizing, I was lost, entranced. 
It was all new again, a different country, city, language, culture and cuisine. My curiosity and imagination on the loose, running wild of what was to come and what once was while walking through the centuries old streets and alleys of a once medieval culture. Temples and stupas, shrines and monuments around every corner, constantly discovering something different and interesting. A place for me to get lost in the childhood recesses of my imagination.
Pork Momos with Tomato Chili Sauce
I roamed the hippie/backpacker area of Kathmandu, Thamel, perfumed of hash and incense. Narrow streets lined with shops selling everything Nepalese and Tibetan you could want. Local restaurants hammering out traditional dishes like momos, a Tibetan dumpling and dal bhat. Similar to the Indian thali meal usually with potato curry, dal, vegetable, pickle and rice or sometimes a preparation of buckwheat called dhido. Steakhouses are prominent as trekkers often require a taste of home after weeks in the mountains. Trekking and electronics shop have popped up all over. Generally selling fake brand name gear preying on the unorganized traveller heading for the unexpected hardships of the unforgiving Himalayas. Over the years it has shifted here, but began on what was called ‘Freak Street’, part of the hippie trail in the 60’s and 70’s. No longer reminiscent of what it once was, it is still near the Durbar Square. One of three in the Kathmandu Valley, a plaza full of Newar architecture seen in the temples and monuments surrounding the Royal Palace. This one also containing the Kumari Ghal where the most famous Royal Kumari resides. The reincarnation of a living goddess.
Rafting the Trisuli
It was five thirty in the morning, head fogged trying to find the noise that was rattling me into consciousness. With a bad case of cotton mouth and a churning in my stomach I knew a few too many beverages had been consumed, especially for what I was about to do. Managing my way downstairs dragging my heavy feet, I was ushered to a bus where I dropped to my seat and was out. Next thing I know I was strapped in a life jacket, helmet, with a paddle in hand hurtling down the Trisuli River. Starting off calm with a strong current as the rapids grew, they grew in my stomach just as much. The heat bearing down, the guide yelling commands and being tossed around was taking its toll, so when we flipped into the cold mountain stream it was invigorating. Once I surfaced, I was shocked to life. Then realizing it was a mad scramble for sandals, paddles and water bottles, I began the search while rushing towards the next set of rapids. 

The Last Resort Bungee View
 My next five thirty awakening wasn’t quite as harsh. I kept it reasonably tame the night before knowing I was jumping off of a swaying cable bridge. The Last Resort, a few hours from Kathmandu, a place for adrenaline junkies. With limited money one thing in particular struck my interest. Plunging one hundred and sixty meters into a valley over the raging Bhote Khosi River. For those of you have never bungee jumped before, in my opinion it’s one of the most addicting feelings. The feeling while standing on the edge of the platform, feet strapped in is like the calm before the storm (not to mention it had starting raining heavily as I was being strapped in reminding me of that minute of staring, the rain beginning to fall before the fight at the end of an action movie), as you take in the surroundings of your elevated view. I almost forget that I’m standing here to jump but then the tug of the cord comes, and looking down brings me back into perspective. What seems like in the distance I hear counting down, 3, 2, 1. I spread my arms as if I’m trying to fly, lean forward and gravity does the rest. Wind rushing past my face, the ground getting closer, my mind almost goes blank as I take in the hit of adrenaline, like a junkie shooting heroine. I got my temporary fix. The tension of the cord starts and then springs you back up like a ragdoll. Being lowered down, heart beating furiously, I’m already thinking about the next time.
The Durbar Square
It’s a terrible question to ask a traveller what their favorite country is. To compare is nearly impossible for me. Having unique personal experiences and growth, good and bad in each, I never have a direct answer to this question. Nepal though, there was something about it that immediately I was drawn to. The people friendly and hospitable, the culture ancient and diverse, the landscape stunningly beautiful, the food humble and flavourful. I don’t know if this would be my favorite country, but it would be high on my list so far. One that I would highly recommend everyone should visit. Once is not enough!

Videos of the bungee jump and canyon swing on my YouTube page.