We enter Nepal from Kakarbhitta border by walking, after passing the bridge between India and Nepal. We wouldn’t even go through passport check if he hadn’t enter the single-store building after seeing the small old signboard on it. We get our visa in a couple of minutes after paying 40$ as enrty fee and the one page form to smiling policemen.
There are 450 kilometers to reach Kathmandu. Our journey starts after buying a bus ticket from the bus station just next to the border for 1000 Rs. (15 $) with one of the “non-AC” buses. We travel for 17 hours waggling with never ending music. There is no other way of getting used to long and shaking trips, even if you are travelling with the most comfortable bus.
We arrive to Kathmandu early in the morning and settle in a hotel, named Blue Diamond, in the touristic center, Thamel. 800 Rs. (10 $) for a room per day is cheap for this location, but it is possible to stay in Basanthapur, the old city center close to Thamel, for a cheaper price.
Thamel’s streets, full of souvenir shops selling colorful Nepalese cloths and trekking equipment, usually end in a small square full of temples. We also shop for trekking while exploring Kathmandu.
There are both cheap local restaurants and luxurious restaurants serving world cuisine in Thamel. After India, it is also easy in Nepal to find vegetarian food. “Dhal Bhat”, consisted of rice, a dish like lentil soup and another food mostly including potato, is the main dish in Nepal. Most of the Nepalese eat this two times in a day as breakfast and dinner. But Thukpa, the great nutritious soup with noodle in it, and Momo, looks like ravioli are the “must-taste” foods. Also there is Tongba, hot Nepali beer served in a plastic stoup, good for cold.
One of the most important temples among thousands in Kathmandu is Boudhanath in Boudha. The stupa with Buddha eyes at the top, which became the sympol of Nepal, is one of the biggest Buddhist Temples. There are Durbar Squares in the city, some kind of temple complex; these places are also three important ancient cities; Bhaktapur, Patan and Kathmandu (also called Basanthapur). We just had the chance to visit Patan Durbar Square, in which there are tens of different temples built in a big square. Unfortunately, temples in Basanthapur completely, and the ones in Bhaktapur and Patan partially demolished after the earthquake on 25th of April.
After several days we spent in Kathmandu, we step into Helambu Trek starting from Shivapuri National Park, at the north of the city, leaving our extra load in the hotel.
Getting a permission paper for trekking in Nepal is a legal obligation. 20 $ are paid for each Trek to get this permission. Also 1000 Rs. (15 $) is asked to enter National Parks on the route. We camp in suitable places as we carry our tent and camping equipment with us. But it is not for free to camp in a National Park. In short, it is not cheap to trek in Nepal.
It is exhausting but enjoyable to walk towards the magnificent Himalaya view in the north while going up and down. But the behaviors of hotel owners on touristic routes take the edge off. We are looking for a place to stay in Chisapani as we didn’t want to stay in our tent in a rainy and cold night at 2000 meters. The hotel owners welcomes us more like a tourist to rob than a customer, they say that we have to order both dinner and breakfast from their expensive menu. When we didn’t want to accept, we are literally thrown away. After long negotitations, we find a place to stay for 500 Rs, and leave without having breakfast early in the morning.
Of course there are still traditional villages on the way, and cheerful people, but we leave the trek because of the villages only focusing on money with the effect of mass tourism and prices rising with altitude.
While walking towards a random place we chose from the map, everything becomes more beautiful. People greet us saying “Namaste”; kids, the old… The villagers, from whom we bought potatoes to cook as dinner in our camp in a forest next to the village, do not accept money. Beautiful people of Nepal go on living their simple life in beautiful villages on the foothill of Himalayas.
In one of these villages, we are invited to a party organized for two Hindu boys at the end of their childhood period. We try to keep pace with the dance of the Nepalese with the instruments of local musicians.
After finishing the route we decided and going back to Kathmandu, we stay there only for one day go to Bagnas Lake close to Pokhara.
After the night we spent in a small guesthouse named Ginesh, both with the view of the lake and the mountains, and saying goodbye to the talkative and sympathetic owner of the guesthouse, we go to meet with our friends Ricardo and Hsiaoting in Surya Coffe Farm close to Begnas Lake. 250 Rs. (3 $) is paid per day including accommodation and food.
Organic coffee, growing in the perfect soil prepared by worms processing the manure of several goats and buffalos in the farm, is the main product, but not the only one. We join ginger harvesting and help the work for compost and worm-care.
New year is celebrated in Nepal, when we go to Pokhara, facing Annapurna, one of the highest peaks of Himalayas. We are in 2072 according to Nepal calendar.
Pokhara is settlement around a placid lake. It is possible to find hotels for every budget in the touristic area of the city, close to the lake. We stay in a place at the end of the asphalt road close to the hill, which is used for paragliding. Cheap guesthouses are also around there. But he real that attracts us is the Turkish Restaurant serving the taste we were craving for. Its owner and the cook is actually from Nepal, but he knows the cuisine very well as he worked in Germany and Turkey for a long time. He introduces himself as Cengiz. Everything is available from spinach pastry to spring rolls, from vegetarian kebab to cacik. We missed even rice with beans.
Our next stop after Pokhara is Hasera Permaculture Farm. 650 Rs. (7 $) is paid to stay as a volunteer in the farm, where also Permaculture Courses given by Govinda, the founder of the farm.
Like in many places in Nepal, farming is possible in terraces on the steep slope. Water coming from a spring goes to the pool full of life. We meet many new plants in a small area.
The main focus of the farm, which is mostly self-sustainable, is biodiversity and creating a seed bank. A peaceful living space on a valley of Himalayas…
Our time to leave Nepal to go to Southeast Asia comes. Before going to Chitwan National Park at the south of the country, we go back to Kathmandu again for a couple of days to buy some Nepal craft gifts for our friends.
While staying in the hotel in Thamel, where we stayed before and left our belongings, and looking at the shops, we feel the most violent quake in our lives. As there is not much damage in the area we stay, we wait till the evening in an open area close to our hotel. Then, we camp in the large green area in front of the Vice President’s Office as quakes continues all day long.
When we walk in the city after the earthquake, we face with the destruction and Kathmandu, like an abandoned city. Everybody stays in open areas within the bounds of possibility; everywhere is closed but small shops in certain points, to supply our need of water and food, no electricity. This situation continues for 4 days.
But it is all okay where we stay. Open air toilets are prepared by the police, the rubbish is collected.
In our second day in the camping place, we have a magical encounter. We meet Gözde, who we ran into in Pokhara, and her husband Hristo. Before thay say goodbye to Nepal and we say goodbye to Kathmandu, we get rid of the stress of successive earthquakes with each other, we share our dreams about living in nature.
Most of the tourists leave Nepal as soon as they find a plane. In the fourth day of the earthquake, there are Check buddies waiting for the rescue plane of their country in the tent next to us and us among the few tourists left in the park. We enjoy their energy and joy, without knowing what’s happening as we don’t understand the language and can not use the internet. There is no more quake on the fourth day, that brings happiness to the parks and faces start smiling.
As we have a camping stove, pots and patience, we spend the fourth day in the park and go to the south, Sauraha by bus when the quakes both inside and outside of us end.
Only we get off the bus, which is normally full of tourists. We are just two people among 30 hotel workers trying to convince us to stay in their hotel. When we go to the center by walking, we see that everywhere is empty even we are in the tourist season; there are just a handful of tourists. We hire a nice room, which is probably more expensive normally, just for 300 Rs. (7 $) and take a shower after a long time.
Silent days we spent next to Chitwan National Park, a real wild life area with its tigers, rhinos and with a river, crocodiles inside, are over. To take our flight to Thailand on the 5th of May, tomorrow we are going to India again.