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The View from Nepal

Tess Dupont

So my travels had begun. I got up at 5am in order to walk to the looking tower at Nagarkot for sunrise. However, the looking tower was further away than I had expected and so I arrived at about 7am, having stopped at every viewpoint in between in an attempt to see some of the Himalayas. By about 8am, the sky was quite clear and I had a lovely panoramic view of the Himalayas – one of said mountains was Everest but none of us at the tower were quite sure which one. It being so early, I decided to walk back to Sankhu. Despite going downhill most of the way, it still took me 2.5 hours, partly due to the blaring heat.

The next day I got an early bus to Bandipur where I arrived at 1 pm. Bandipur is amazing despite being a tourist destination, which was made clear by my coming across a number of westerners as well as Nepali tourists, it retains a genuine feel to it. It’s the classic image of an old rural town, with clean cobbled streets (and I mean clean! No waste on the roads for once!) and children flying homemade kites. The air felt so fresh and the place so peaceful; it may just have been sleep deprivation, but I just wanted to sit in a deckchair and bask in the sun (it’s been very hot). In addition, I found myself up a hill looking at beautiful views of the valley at sunset.

The town is very secluded, being 7km from a main road (I got a lift in a jeep up the hill – somehow, “stranger danger” seems less of a concern here as I was squashed in with three other people whom I believe also did not know the driver) and I suppose only a specific type of tourist would choose go to the effort to stop an hour from Pokhara. It was the sort of place one might want to retire.

I woke up to rain which was disappointing as I had been hoping for some early morning views of the Himalayas. Being Welsh, I decided that the rain wasn’t going to alter my plans and headed out with all my gear to the largest discovered caves in the Himalayas (and Nepal). This was, according to my guidebook, 90 minutes walk. Going alone, however, was incredibly stupid of me as the path was downhill, wet and consequently very slippery. Furthermore, I was carrying a large bag and walking into thick mist. The path was also quite overgrown in parts and one leg slipped off the path at one point and I discovered that the fall would have been quite severe. My shoes were most definitely not waterproof as well.

After about half an hour I became very concerned as I realised the situation I was in; far from civilisation and in bad weather, so that if I were to get into danger I would not likely be saved that day. The path was completely deserted. At one point, I also saw a spider in the middle of the path at head height whose body alone was the size of my little finger. It took me a while to skirt round that without getting caught in its web.

Going alone was incredibly stupid of me as the path was downhill, wet and consequently very slippery.

However, I eventually heard some voices and hastily walked towards them. I consequently came upon a young Nepali man who acted as my guide both to the caves and in the caves themselves. With a personal guide it cost me a total of under £1.50 but the guide in question just said odd words like “this” and “tiger” whilst shining a torch at a rock that did not, in my opinion, bear any resemblance to a tiger.  We explored about 200m of cave and there was little regard for health and safety – I got even wetter than the rain had made me by climbing down 2m rock faces-turned-streams whilst clutching a dodgy torch in one hand. There were, however, lots of bats. It was incredible, like a very close murmuration of starlings.

After the caves – which without stops for information did not take very long – I grabbed my bag from the ticket desk and headed on down to the main road to catch a bus to Gorkha. I stopped at a shelter to ring out my socks, consequently discovering the distinct circular mark on my ankle which showed a leech had been feasting.

The journey to Gorkha was longer than expected and I had been unsure about going there after hearing only negative experiences from tourists I’d met in Bandipur, some of whom had even left Gorkha a day early as a result. However, Gorkha was the historic capital and epicentre of the earthquake so I thought it was worth seeing. I actually (thus far) seem to have been lucky with accommodation, which was my main concern, as I headed to a restaurant for late lunch (and breakfast) and discovered they had lodgings similar to Nagarkot which was fine for one night.

I had considered walking another couple of hours to a nearby village but instead I received an all-you-can-eat dhal bhat offer for £1 and consequently pigged out until three, which left it a bit late to start another inevitably-longer-than-expected walk. It had also been foggy all day  so I planned on heading to Gorkha’s main temple for sunrise the next day in the hopes of getting better views.

Instead I went to the museum which was actually very interesting. The second to last king to reign here is seen as a very respected ruler for uniting half of Nepal (but in reality he was just creating a mini empire). I then got a henna tattoo on my hand (cultural appropriation doesn’t seem so bad when you’re surrounded by said culture!).

So far, travels were going well and I had spoken to enough people and been keeping myself so busy that I was not yet feeling lonely. I was constantly being asked in amazement if I’m travelling alone, with more than one tourist calling me brave for doing so. As long as I avoided experiences like the morning’s walk, I thought, the whole thing wouldn’t be all that scary!

 

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