“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” ..... John Muir
Niveditha Murthy, a senior publishing editor at Thomson Reuters, recently decided it was time for her to make a solo trip. There’s no denying that travelling alone helps you discover yourself and see the world in a whole new light. Find out what happened on her trip.
Nepal can be a difficult country to categorise. It’s a bustling metropolis with most major brands and cars, a haven of revered culture, and a place of profound natural beauty. It’s also disorienting, exotic and enticing. This seemed like the perfect place to begin as a lone sufferer of wanderlust.
The air at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu was a contrast to the rush and chaos you’d expect at other major hubs, and gave me an idea of what was to come. Its unassuming terminal bustles with new arrivals; outside lies a collection of guides and taxi drivers, all waiting to pounce on the ensuing flood of tourists.
I waded through them to find a taxi to Thamel, the part of town travellers seem to frequent the most. We drove through narrow, winding streets packed with guesthouses, trekking shops, restaurants and local stores. The Kashmiri shawl salesmen, rickshaws, and the general hustle and bustle of the city were set to a soundtrack of blaring horns and roaring engines. I felt as if I could be in any touristy hill station in India. On my first night in Kathmandu, as I sat by the bar sipping the local beer Gorkha, a singer offered up a faintly familiar Bollywood song. I realised that the place didn’t seem so foreign after all.
The following morning, I took a bus to Pokhara, a lovely lakeside town totally overrun with outdoorsy tourists. After checking in, I mounted a bicycle I rented from my host’s friendly eight-year-old, and rode up to Krishna’s Kitchen for dinner. After a delicious meal, I met a friend who’d been trekking through Upper Mustang. Together, we chalked out a rough itinerary for the next day – something we didn’t stick to!
Instead, our day began with a visit to the in the Taal Barahi Temple middle of Phewa Lake. A short boat ride brought us to the banks of the island, from where we could see the Peace Pagoda. We rode up to see the stupa, but I was more fascinated with the view from the top of the hill. We proceeded to Begnas Lake, one of the biggest freshwater bodies in the valley. We sat, soaking in the stunning calm until sundown. The town has pockets of peace and bundles of energy, so after freshening up, we headed to Old Blues Bar for an evening of live music, beer and good food.
We went back to Kathmandu in the morning. After the arduous bus ride there, I decided to treat myself to an authentic Nepali dinner. My trek guide was kind enough to invite me to his house, where I had some steaming hot rice and fried fish, made spicy to appease my taste buds. We washed this down with lots of green tea. The next morning, a growing sense of dread came over me as I boarded a bus headed for Last Resort – my bungee jump! En route, we crossed the bridge I was to jump off the next day. I looked at the daunting drop – unsurprisingly, it did not calm my nerves. Luckily, I had an entire day to prepare myself.
Meanwhile, I decided to go whitewater rafting. I teamed up with a group of Australian, German and Dutch folks, and together we braved whatever the river had to throw at us. Battling rapids and rocks, we somehow managed to stay upright. Despite a few close scrapes, we made it downstream. After a quick (and cold) swim in the bracing river, we stopped to feed our ravenous appetites. After lunch, we went our separate ways – some headed back to civilisation, and some to the resort.
Morning came, and I was glad to have gotten a good night’s sleep. Before I knew it, it was time to be harnessed for the jump. To say I was terrified is an understatement, but I tried to appear nonchalant in front of the camera as I waddled toward the jumping platform, my feet tied together. As the guide’s countdown rang in my ears, I forced myself to lean forward and allowed the forces of gravity to guide me. All thought escaped my mind as I plummeted, my arms flailing, expletives tumbling out, the rocks rushing up to meet me. After a series of terrifying bounces, I finally came to a halt, hovering over a raging river. Once on solid ground, I stole a glance upward and was amazed at my survival. I saw the next person being strapped in, feeling grateful and awfully alive!
After sundown, the locals at the resort would entertain me with their tales of adventure. We would talk of all things Nepalese. Their philosophy is to be happy – as long as they are enjoying life, all is well. Money is no motivator, only a facilitator that allows them to live the life they love. What struck me as I boarded the bus back to Kathmandu was not only the sincerity with which they’d taken care of me, but their love for life. My stay at the resort also confirmed something I’d suspected for a while. Despite our superficial differences, people the world over are more alike than ‘they’ have us believe. The differences of language, culture and religion do little to diminish our undeniable similarities.
In the little time I had left, I trotted around the tiny lanes of Durbar Square with my trusted camera, which seemed incapable of capturing all that the quaint town had to offer. The days I spent in that country were far fewer than I’d have liked, so I now busy myself making plans for another visit. ..... as told to Saloni