Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cycling in the Valley

There was a public holiday in Nepal on Tuesday, so the guys at KAPEG suggested it wasn’t worth heading up to Dhulikhel until Wednesday morning. That allowed us some unexpected tourism time on Monday and Tuesday after a relatively quiet weekend hanging around Thamel. Led by Kalu (and his mate Paul), a former AYAD volunteer who one of the other EWBers happened to meet at the airport on the way in, Madeline, Di and I took off. Getting out of Kathmandu on a bicycle is seriously crazy. As Jai, who joined us later in the day, put it, “That was one of the most intense mountain biking experiences of my life”. If it wasn’t for the life-threatening nature of it, it might be fun. Although Paul thought it was precisely because of that life threatening nature that it WAS fun. At the end of the day, there IS method in the madness of driving / riding in the city, and you can do it in a relatively safe manner, and the general traffic speed is much lower than that of a typical Australian city, so don’t worry too much Mum.

Once off the main roads, the riding becomes beautiful – nice country roads with lots of small villages and rice paddies filling every other available inch of space. A few of the villages obviously had a thriving weaving industry as we could hear the clack-clack of the machines as we rode by. After Kalu dropped his original plan of reaching the original destination due to an inconvenient mountain, we decided instead to head to a Danish-initiated organic farm. This was the best decision that could have been made as it was a piece of serenity that couldn’t have contrasted more from the wet, muddy, exhausted group of cyclists that stumbled in.

They served an amazing lunch of pasta and salad that we could eat knowing it was safely prepared, along with the best chiya (tea) we’ve had so far in Nepal. We ended up lazing around all afternoon, then realising we didn’t really feel like continuing riding in the rain that was setting in, stayed there the night. Such a relaxing escape from the world… just what we needed before embarking on the challenges of my EWB placement.

The next day (Tuesday) we managed to pull ourselves away from the organic farm, after being joined briefly by a few other friends who took the easy ‘car’ option from Kathmandu. It had rained all night, but as we departed for the ancient town of Bhaktapur to check out its famed Durbar Square, it slowed enough that we weren’t absolutely soaked. It did pretty much set in for the rest of the day after we reached the town, so sitting at a café and observing the square from a café was the best option. We followed that up by a nice walk around and a long lunch (long as in, we had to wait for an hour or two for our food). It was fantastic just strolling around the streets where people were generally just hanging out on their day off – although there was work going on here and there, such as at the chook-slaughtering house. Interesting.

The ride back to Kathmandu took longer than we realised it would and it was getting dark as we finally pulled into Thamel after a long muddy sojourn around the airport. Being the intrepid travellers that we are (and inspired by Jai’s enthusiasm) we showered and headed straight for Boudanath – Kathmandu’s biggest Buddhist Stupa where the full moon is a special occasion. We were a little late for most of the festivities but still saw some dancing and plenty of candles in the serene atmosphere. Dinner again with the gang in a Tibetan restaurant followed by a walk around the stupa with no one else around capped off an amazing couple of days!

This was right next to the runway at Kathmandu Airport. Not fun.

Almost home.

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