Monday 27 & Tuesday 28 March 2017
Days 1 & 2 were really one loooooong day as I’ve not actually slept since starting my journey … I will hopefully get some sleep after writing this post! A big thanks to Tim (husband of Halifax ex-boss Lorraine) who got me to the airport on time. Everything went smoothly, although I seemed to be sitting in the crèche area of the plane on the leg to Abu Dhabi as there were at least four families, with multiple children (one man apparently had three wives with him!), who were throwing constant tantrums at the start so it didn’t bode well. They actually they calmed down eventually but this young woman, sitting on the opposite side of the plane, preceded to talk really loudly for the whole journey and annoyed quite a few people, but of course we were all too polite to ask her to put a sock in it …
I was sitting next to a lovely couple going off on their honeymoon, they said they were flying onto Mali and then staying on an island nearby. I thought it a bit of a strange place to go for a honeymoon as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to Mali unless it’s essential, so I made a quip about avoiding pirates to which they politely smiled. We were starting our descent when I decided to ask them a bit more about where they were going, as I was a bit worried for them, and it turns out they were flying to Malé – in the Maldives! Trust me to know all the weird and wonderful places; they’d never heard of Mali and the Maldives is probably somewhere I’ll never go so had never heard of Malé International!! We had a little chuckle as we got off the plane in Abu Dhabi and said goodbye.
After breezing through arrivals in Kathmandu (I’m glad I got that visa in advance) I found my ride. And what a ride it was! It was the smallest, most rickety car I’ve seen in a very long time. It would not have passed its MOT in 1997, let alone 2017, and I opted for the front seat when I realised that the back door didn’t close properly and there was no seatbelt! The problem with sitting up front is that my life flashed before my eyes on numerous occasions as we proceeded on a hair-raising trip in a city of traffic mayhem. My driver was amazing, dodging mopeds, trucks and pedestrians with ease. We almost had two collisions where cars bigger than us decided to make a kamikaze move and pull out in front of us with absolutely no warning, and he did a great manoeuvre overtaking a whole load of motorbikes, which put us on the wrong side of the road, which then bought us head to head with a massive truck as it swung round the corner! All he did was edge into the bikes and they moved over and we squeezed past.
I previously mentioned that we bought a van in India, and I used to drive it sometimes. The rule of the road in India, and it appears here, is that the bigger you are the more right of way you have – so pedestrians give way to bikes, who give way to cars, who give way to vans, who give way to tractors (yes, I have photographic evidence!), who … you get the picture. As long as everyone plays by the same rules it all works. I forgot that in Asia (and probably other places) when you overtake, or plan to overtake, you have to sound your horn so the swerving and emergency stops are accompanied by a constant cacophony of a multitude of different horn sounds; using the roads is not for the faint hearted! To be honest I quite enjoyed it, I was feeling really tired when I got off the plane from Abu Dhabi but I suddenly got my second wind and felt the excitement I always feel when I land in a mad place where everything is organised chaos.
By the time we entered Boudha, where I’m staying for a few days, I realised just why the car was so rickety; the roads are really terrible. There is no point whatsoever in having a new or nice car because the suspension will be shot within a week! I also know why the car was so small – some of the roads are minuscule and overcrowded with all manner of things, so in the end I came to the conclusion I would much rather have had that car and driver than some air-conditioned Ambassador to get me here safe and sound.
By the time I got here it was dusk but I was in an adventurous mood and after getting a hotel card (so I knew the address if I got lost – you know me) I went out for a wander as the neighbourhood felt safe. The guest house had been recommended to me by my friend Federico and I knew he wouldn’t have sent me somewhere dodgy. I walked down the streets, making a mental note of the route back, and a down the road I came across Boudhanath Stupa, the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet! As it was now getting dark it looked amazing all lit up. The temple is round, and people walk round the wall clockwise, so I joined the throng and did a circuit for luck. You can go in and ascend to the next platform and the next, but I thought I’d save that for tomorrow when it’s daylight. On the pavement where we were walking there were numerous oil lamp stalls, which gave out a massive amount of heat, and to the left shops encircled the whole thing.
After doing the circuit and taking some photos I found a little restaurant up a side road and had penne pasta in a tomato and vegetable sauce for my dinner – very Nepalese! Made it back to my room, unpacked, and am looking forward to some more exploring tomorrow 🙂