Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nagarkot, A Little Dust, and Some Hiking

So last week Helen and Marc invited us to go up to Nagarkot for the weekend with them, which is something that we had been wanting to do since we got here. For those not familiar with the Kathmandu area, Nagarkot is a resort area that sits about 35 KM (roughly 20 miles) from the center of Kathmandu, at the top of the valley rim. It has become a popular destination because it has sweeping views of the Himalaya and is the closest place to Kathmandu where you can see mountains as far away in the west as the Ganesh Himal and in the east as far as the famous Mt. Everest. Normally you get great views between September and March I had read, but we were not that lucky. With only having two rain showers that I can recall in the last month, it is quite dry here at the moment, and it being the end of the dry season kind of compounds this issue. As a result there is a ton of fine dust in the air, and almost like a fog it reduces visibility all over the country.
Above is a picture showing the kind of limit we had due to the haze of dust. Despite the dust we made the best of it and had a good time. Our taxi had no idea where Nagarkot actually was and dropped us about a kilometer past the town proper, which is just a simple road junction with a few restaurants and shops. So our first goal was to find the hotel Marc & Helen had booked called Peaceful Cottage. We made our way back to the village and then half a mile down a road that followed a ridge to the hotel. The Peaceful Cottage had an interesting octagonal tower from which I'm sure you could normally get some great views. The food was typical of uninspired Nepali imitations of what they think foreign food (or Nepali food for that matter) is, and was fairly over priced. The rooms were also nothing to get excited about and where somewhat dank. That all said it did have a great location, the staff, if a a bit pushy at times, was nice enough, and the potted plants and eclectic setting where really nice. We also got some drinks and apple fritters at a restaurant in Nagarkot proper that weren't bad at all and the prices there were much more reasonable. We also walked by some very nice hotels up in the area, though I'm sure the rooms were attached to package tourist style price tags. The freash air outside of Kathmandu, watching the Eagles drift about on thermal winds and just hanging out with friends made for a good time.

On the following day we decided we would trek down to the valley floor and take a bus or taxi back to Kathmandu from there. Above is a picture of Helen, Kim and Marc as we got near the top of the ridge before heading down to the valley. We ended up being a little confused after this as we ended up being pointed down a road that went to where we were going, but not the way that we expected, and thus we were constantly looking for turns and such that just did not exist. The good news is that when ever we asked someone the direction to where we were going they pointed us down the road that we were on.

Above is a picture of Kim with some local school children, her camera as popular as ever. These kids were not quite as sweet as they looked and prior tourists had allowed for a bad habits. They blocked the road asking (demanding?) chocolate, pens or rupees. We got out of it with some photos, but not before a girl tried to grab stuff out of my pocket and they generally acted like brats. Oh well. You can also see somewhat in this picture the very fine almost silt like dust that covers the trail. This stuff has a consistency almost like water it is so light, and with every step you send a plume of it into the air, while sinking up to about an inch or two into it. Still the terraced countryside and the small villages you hike through are really attractive, and I love walking through the Nepal countryside, dust or no dust.
This picture was taken as we came into the village we thought we might end the day at. It was still decidedly rural and there were no signs of taxis and the buses we did see leaving town were so full that we would have had to ride on the roof, something none of us were to keen on doing. So we walked on to the much larger city of Banepa, just to the west of Bhaktapur.
As this photo shows the main road in Banepa was much more urban and there were several buses heading into Kathmandu here via Bhaktapur, there were however fairly few taxis. The problem with the buses again seemed to be that they were packed and the only available seats were on the roof, which we still were not that interested in. As we were all a bit tired from walking in the sun all day, and weren't having any luck finding transportation we went ahead and got some drinks and I got a snack at a local diner like establishment. Feeling a bit more refreshed we set out again looking for transport. A guy in a van offered us a ride back to Kathmandu and we got him down to 1,500 NRS for the four of us. The poor guys vehicle must have stalled half a dozen times and he clearly was uncomfortable driving in the thick Kathmandu traffic. To compound matters he had no clue where Lazimpat was, but once I knew where we were I was able to direct him and we got home safe and sound.

Big thanks to Helen and Marc for a fun weekend!

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