Thursday 30 March 2017
Reality strikes me today as I wake up at 4.30am and can’t get back to sleep. The first few days I was swept up in the hustle and bustle and are eager to get out there and explore, but it’s been full on and I’m feeling tired. Also, I know I have nothing specific to do today and that’s making me feel a bit lost. I think the hard part of the trip isn’t going to be trekking in the mountains or dealing with cheeky kids in the Galapagos, it’s going to be when I’m on my own and I have nowhere to be, no schedule, and my time’s my own. My life at home is full of routine, it’s what I like, it keeps me balanced and purposeful. While I hate getting up early I do actually like going to work as I enjoy it and I love the people I work with, and my life has a rhythm.
Since I’ve been single I’ve gotten to know my friends a bit better and spent more time with them, and made new friends too, and I think my life is much richer now than it ever was having such amazing people around me. It’s at this point I want to say a few thank yous to various people – first of all to you, dear reader. Knowing that people are reading and are interested in what I’m doing, and encouraging me by posting comments, has spurred me on while I was preparing, and no doubt it will as I’m going along. Thank you to my family, who I don’t believe have read a single word of this blog and have not made a fuss at all about me doing this trip as they are now used to me going off on my travels (and know I’d hate a fuss) but who love, support and encourage me at every turn. Thank you to everyone who has given me cards and presents – Spenser (also an avid reader of this blog), Jennie P, Audrey & Nicola, Sarah and the family, Chris & Ron, Helen & Richard, Phil (at Christmas) and my amazing little team at work (Denise, Claudia, Marin, Mike & Kiran). Thanks to all my friends who’ve sent me good luck messages on text, WhstsApp and Facebook, and also to Federico for suggesting this little Guest House, Rokpa, which has been lovely and where the staff have made me feel very welcome.
Federico actually works here, but is in India on a course so I haven’t yet seen him! Rokpa is a charity and is run almost entirely by volunteers across the world helping people in need in India, Nepal and Tibet, as well as South Africa, Zimbabwe and other countries. In Kathmandu, it “gives new life and hope to the poor, homeless and deprived through a yearly soup kitchen, a women’s workshop, a medical tent and a children’s home for former street kids”. While I’ve not done anything practical like Federico, hopefully by staying here for a few days my financial contribution will help towards improving the life of someone who needs it.
So, back to this morning. At work when faced with a problem I find a solution so I knew I needed to find something to do and decided to visit Patan, once a city-state but now a suburb of Kathmandu separated by the river. It boasts the finest collection of temples and palaces in the whole of Nepal. I went to breakfast and ended up chatting with Lheisa (pronounced Lisa) who I’d met yesterday. She was off to another part of Nepal for a few days so I wouldn’t see her again, unless she comes to London (or I go to Dubai, as that’s where she’s working). She is an English literature teacher and works at a university in Dubai so we had some things in common. It was nice to make time to sit and chat, I am re-learning the art of conversation and it was interesting to talk to her and learn about her life. Hopefully I will meet lots of people on this trip and be similarly enriched.
Off she went and I thought I’d better get a move on as it was mid-morning. I went to the main road to get a taxi to Patan, however the traffic was bad and they wanted to charge an arm and a leg and said it would take 2hrs, so I had my map with me and I decided to walk as I reckoned it would take me about 2hrs and I wouldn’t have to pay a single paisa! By now it was about 11.30am and they say that only mad dogs and Englishmen walk around in the noonday sun. Well, there are certainly a lot of dogs around, and I was doing a good job of being a mad Englishwoman, as I later found out it is 9-10km from Boudha to Patan!
It was slow-going as I had to dodge all the people walking this way and that, dodge the motorcycles that often came up the pavement as a short cut (although this is nowhere near as bad as in Saigon), picking my way through the road works and occasionally stopping to consult the map. Now that I have my travel head on I’m much more switched on with map reading and am good at making mental notes when I take a turning if I know I’m coming back that way etc. The lady I met at the Hindu temple said I had a very good sense of direction. Haha! Yes, I do sometimes, good job she didn’t meet me in England when I was doing my practice walks!
Fortifying myself with a packet of ‘Kwiks’ crisps aka cheese balls on the way, I made it to the main square and then found a restaurant. I decided I was going to ignore this no meat advice and have a ‘buff’ chow mein. Ollie had been talking the night before about having buff skewers. Buff stands for buffalo, beef isn’t eaten due to religious reasons so they eat buffalo instead! It was ok, the whole thing was very salty presumably due to the soy sauce and I guess the meat is preserved in salt as well, but it filled a gap and then I paid my Rs 1,000 and went to look at the museum.
It is a lovely building and houses 100’s of statues and carvings of Buddha and various Hindu Gods dating back to the 13th century. It was very peaceful inside and fascinating to read how they cast the bronze busts of Buddha using a method that starts off with wax! The temples in the square were badly damaged by the earthquake so there was scaffolding round most of them and people working on the reconstruction. One place that was untouched was the Golden Temple, a Buddhist monastery that has existed in its current form since 1409! I found my way there and had a little look around, it gets its name from the gilded metal plates that cover the roof and outside of the temple. It is quite small, but beautiful none the less. I decided I’d better get a taxi back otherwise it would be dark by the time I got back, so I walked back over the river and picked one up for Rs350 (bargain!) and was back in about half an hour as the traffic was not too bad.
I had one more mission to do before bed and that was to visit the tailor. There was one by Rokpa and that morning before setting off I had asked him sew a cord on my sunhat (so the mountain winds don’t blow it off my head!). I’d bought the cord and some cotton with me as I was intending to sew it myself but I thought I’d give him some easy money and have it sewn on by a machine, which will hopefully be more effective than my sewing! For those of you who I am Facebook friends with, in the picture of me wearing my rucksack on Day 1 you might have noticed various country flag patches sewn on. I started this 20 years ago on my first backpacking trip. Back then it was the thing to do – buy a sew-on patch from the country you visit and put it on your rucksack. These days it’s not so cool and people think you’re a bit of a try-hard, but it’s a tradition for me so I continue to do it. I’ve got a bit behind as they take ages to sew on and your fingers hurt trying to pierce the thick material, so I bought four of them with me and had found a Nepal one. I went back to the tailor to ask if they could do it for me, left it with him for about half an hour and came back to it all done. Hurrah. By the time I get home I’ll have a few more, so I’ll have to make myself sew them on before I put my rucksack back in the loft!
No meat for dinner, spinach rice and vegetables at Flavours, the restaurant I found on my first evening. I like it there and the food is good and simple – and not too expensive. Walked home to the dogs’ nightly chorus …