Waiting for their flight to take off from New Delhi to the capital city of Nepal, Anandita and her mother Bani couldn’t help but think of how it would feel to arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, at an approximate elevation of 1,338 metres. Anandita had read in books and travel blogs, all of them bragging about the beauty, about its mesmerising scenery. Their adventure did not disappoint.
My mother, sister and I took a small but pleasant trip to Nepal. All I knew was that it’s a landlocked country in South Asia bordered by China to the north and India to the south, east and west. The Himalayas run across its northern and western parts, with eight of the ten highest mountains in the world within its territory, including Mount Everest.
After a quick nap, I woke up to the pilot’s call for landing. I was excited! Though only clouds and the sun shining right above us were visible, it was a clear afternoon, and we were flying very high up. A couple of descending manoeuvres by the pilot gave us a clear view of the valley, the small settlements beneath us looking scattered and tiny. That soon shaped into a huge city as we closed in on Kathmandu. All through our landing, we were followed by a range of mountains to one side. ‘The Himalayas,’ I thought to myself.
The landing was perfect, but the airport was not up to the international standards I’d seen before, especially after experiencing the enormous one in New Delhi. Contrary to popular belief, the airport experience in Nepal’s capital was quick and easy. We were in Kathmandu, the weather was pleasant, and were lucky enough to get a cab that wasn’t a Maruti!
Getting around in Nepal proved challenging, what with the seemingly impossible terrain and extreme weather conditions. Things rarely go as planned owning to a staggering lack of organisation. The majority of cabs are Indian-made, and most of the moving cargo is carried by people.
We put up at the Crowne Plaza Kathmandu-Soaltee, where a pretty sight waited outside our balcony – mountains! Our driver mentioned that we were lucky to have clear skies; it had been covered by clouds for the two days prior to our arrival. We visited Pashupatinath that evening for a special puja. The temple, located on the banks of the Bagmati, is dedicated to Shiva and one of Nepal’s holiest religious sites. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was magnificent sight.
In the past, only those born into Hindu families were allowed to enter the temple. These days, the norms have been relaxed.
The harm of nine specific animals, including snakes and rats, is prohibited there; they are consider sacred due to their significance as the vehicles of certain deities. Also close to the temple was a cremation ground with seven platforms on which to perform last rites. Nonetheless, the energy of the area and its surroundings felt positive and enriching.
On day two, we started our outing with a scrumptious breakfast of the local cuisine, momos and thukpa. We reached Swayambhunath, a religious altar also known as ‘the monkey temple’. It’s said that the temple got its name owing to the high monkey population located northwest of it. Climbing the 365 steps to reach the top, we saw the famous stupa with a dome at the base.
Above the dome is a cubical structure painted with eyes of Buddha looking in all four directions. Inside are several artefacts, shops, restaurants and hostels. The following day, we went to Dakshinkali, one of the most popular Hindu shrines dedicated to Kali. This location was situated 22 km outside Kathmandu Valley.
On our last day in Nepal, we drove to Nagarkot, about 32 km east of Kathmandu and at an elevation of 2,195 metres. Nagarkot is known as one of the most scenic spots in Bhaktapur district, a great place to catch the daily sunrise. You can enjoy a beautiful view of the Himalayas, including Mount Everest and other snow-capped peaks. It had rained the previous night, but we were still hopeful of seeing Everest.
Unfortunately, it rained all through the day, so we had to leave without a glimpse of the majestic mountain.
On our way back, we visited Bhaktapur, an ancient Newar city in the eastern corner of the valley. It has highly preserved palace courtyards and the oldest city centre in Nepal, earning it a spot on the World Heritage Site list. Back at the airport, I realised that it’s harder to get out of Nepal than it is to get in – emotionally at least. The people and place grow on you. ..... as told to Rahul