Cows, Dogs, Monkeys and Freefalls

Mark Stewart Destinations 2 Comments


After only five days, I can confidently say that Cambodia has fallen to second place on the list. Nepal is, from what I’ve seen thus far anyway, the most beautiful country, with the most amazing people, that I’ve ever been to. Arriving at the airport, it was quickly clear that Nepal time is pretty much that it gets done when it gets done. The visa process took a while, and the ride to the guesthouse took longer.. in the sense that we just sat in the airport parking lot in an old beat-up Toyota HiAce, for over an hour, while the driver stood at the arrivals hoping to pick up a few more people. The drive into the city was intense, we’ve ridden this kind of ride before in other places, but it’s been quite a few years, so there was a bit of culture shock… hence the extended layover in Seoul, to act as a buffer zone between the first and the very third world.

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Rooftops of Kathmandu

After finally dropping our packs and gathering ourselves, it was time to head into Thamel…  think Khao San Road but an entire neighborhood, and much less cheesy. The roads here are barely larger than a back alley at home, and there are no sidewalks…  cars, motorbikes, rickshaws, and people flow in completely unorganized but almost perfectly rhythmic way… the constant horn honking not out of anger or frustration, but just to let everyone know that they are coming, and to please move to the side. It smells amazing.. sometimes. Fresh fried foods, incense, cooking smoke from restaurants. It also smells like shit… literally.. from all the stray dogs, and occasionally from homeless people, as well as the mountains of garbage and animal bits piled on the sides of the roads and building up along every river bank, as it seems there is next to nothing for proper garbage disposal. But it’s absolutely beautiful here.

When Bob Barker reminded everyone to spay and neuter their pets at the end of each show, he was helping to prevent the same problem that I’ve seen in almost every developing country I’ve visited… Stray dogs are everywhere..  shaggy mutts, sometimes missing limbs, exposed chunks of flesh, skinny..  even one time in southern Laos.. well, to save the details, I’ll just say it wasn’t pretty. The cows on the other hand, roam the streets here like royalty… and are treated as such. Being the holy animal of the Hindus, killing a cow in Nepal results in several years in prison. If one of the many cows here walk into the street, and decide to just stand there like dumb cows like to do, traffic stops, and waits.. and waits.. and waits… Nobody even dares to get out and try to make it move, they just wait for it to decide to move on its own.

After a couple of days in Kathmandu, we hopped on a bus to the ‘Last Resort’. A three hour ride north of the city,  just 12 kilometers from the Tibetan boarder, we arrived in, without a question, the most amazing, beautiful, peaceful place I’ve ever encountered. Just two small farming villages, made up of maybe 10 or 12 small brick and straw huts each, built on hills of  lush green rice terraces overlooking a massive canyon with a small but fast moving river rushing down at the bottom…  other than that,  the Last Resort was a series of large tents spread out in the jungle, with  hot showers, a restaurant/bar, some adventure sports…. and the bridge: A 160m/500 foot high bridge (like the one in Drumheller)… over this massive canyon, connecting the ‘highway’ with one of the farming villages and the resort. Now, most who know me well enough, know that I am not a fan of heights… but hey, I’m in Nepal, I can let a few things slide. The options were bungee jumping (the third highest in the world), or the canyon swing (the highest in the world)…  think the rope swing at your local swimming pool, only the rope is attached to your harness, you don’t let go at the end, and once you jump off the platform, you free-fall for seven seconds before the pendulum effect kicks in and you’re suddenly flying about 40 feet above the boulders and rushing water at 150km/h…   I was shitting myself while waiting on the bridge for my turn… that was the hardest part…  once the harness was on, and the rope hooked up, it was easier…. the familiar feeling of stomach in the throat from many different rides at amusement parks was the same…  what was different was when the stomach went back to normal, and I was still falling. Overall an amazing experience, and I will hopefully get a chance to do it again. Video to come soon via Facebook.

After the jump, we stayed the night at the beautiful resort,  simple canvas tent accommodation and western food (the only bummer)…   the next morning we walked up through the tiny village, and up through the terraced rice paddies, stopping to dip our feet for less than a second in a quick running stream. Less than an hour later, back at the patio, we both noticed we had picked up a leech in that fast moving stream. Kylee’s still sucking, mine squished between my toes and the strap of my sandal. Easily enough to get rid of, but those little holes in our feet bled for over an hour.

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Evil little bastard

Back in Kathmandu last evening, a bit sooner than we had expected.. Enjoying some drinks and conversation on the patio of the resort, the bus, we are told, is here and ready to leave. We ask confused, what time is it? (we were supposed to leave at 4)..  the driver says “It’s twenty past two, but because of rain, maybe landslide.” That was enough for me…   the road up here was dangerous as is, and evidence of recent landslides was everywhere, almost un-passable at times. Anyway..  pretty chill evening just a beer and some supper with out new friend Alan, a fellow Canadian, we met on the trip. This morning we were up early and went to Swayambhunath, more commonly known as the Monkey Temple. It’s one of the most well known sights in Kathmandu, perched on a hilltop overlooking the city, it’s both a Buddhist and Hindu shrine, as well as a Buddhist monastery… But being on the edge of the city, and on a hill covered with jungle, there are monkeys everywhere! Swinging from the trees, staircase handrails, and prayer flags… We’ve heard the warnings that they like to take shiny things off of the tourists that visit, so not to wear sunglasses or hats, and to hold onto your camera closely. Walking up the stairs,  too quickly to even say anything,  I noticed one large monkey eyeballing the water bottle sticking out of the side of Kylee’s backpack…before I could warn her (or grab my camera.. heh..) the monkey leapt onto her bag, scaring the shit out of her, and grabbed her bottle. It ran off, opened the bottle, and poured it out, sharing the water with several other monkeys who came to join in. Clearly this wasn’t its first time.   Kylee was pretty shaken for a bit,  the monkey could have easily bitten or accidentally scratched her, which would have meant a stint in the local hospital for rabies treatment..  hardly a good experience. But all was well, and we enjoyed our time at the temple, and the incredible views of the city.

That was just a few hours ago, and now I’ve run out of things to say. Other than that we’re meeting with Gopi tomorrow to discuss the details of the Healing Seed feeding which is taking place on Sunday..  So for now, I’m out.

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3 years ago

Most people travel Kathmandu for a quick jumping point for a trek to the Himalayas, but little they know that there is a lot more to see in Nepal than just trekking. It is worth spending a few days exploring this Nepalese City.