Thursday, 12 April 2007

Week 9 - Nepal - Kathmandu, Bhakatapur, Thimi


I like Nepal, a lot. It's the Nepalese New Year tonight, so I will be seeing in 2064 with my Aussi mate Paul, I won't be 84 till I see 2064 again! Should be a good night, as loads of young people kicking about here.

On my first day in Kathmandu I get lost. I have some food in a small room with a low ceiling, the food is laid out like a buffet, I point at a few dishes and get some great tasting chewy meat and spicy veg, I love it. I wonder further down the street and walk past a big steaming pot with what looks like an upside down dog inside it, I tell myself it is being de-fleed. I walk further and after getting directions, head back on myself. I pass the steaming pot again, the dog now has no fur and I can see it has had its head chopped off. I now realise that it is being cooked. I start to think of the chewy meat I ate just 500m up the road! I have asked a lot of people about what I saw and most say it cannot of been a dog, some say it is illegal, some say it is legal but not done, I am not sure what animal it was, but it was gross!

Bhakatapur Festival
Paul had a good effect on me in a bad way. I was scared of motorbikes and foreign roads but we both decide to explore the valley on bikes. Was my first time on a scooter and first time on crazy foreign roads. We head off to the main road after a brief tuition, our plan is to stop occasionally in order to make sure the other is still around. At the first junction I turn right, for some reason Paul heads straight. I do a few loops and can't see him, I start to think we should have had a better plan. We have no hotel booked and the only directions I have is when Paul pointed the general way to our next town. I decide to head to Bhakatapur alone and try meet Paul there. On the way I sh*t it loads, but soon learn it is safer to go fast as the buses don't hogg your ass that way. I ask for directions and pick up one guy going to the same town but the bike wobbles like crazy with the extra weight and he gets off. I hit the Arnko Highway and finally get there, somehow. I fealt bad getting a bike, as my Grandad always told me never to ride one, as his brother Charlie died on one.

I arrive for a Chariot pulling festival, it is a competition between the West and East of town, the side to pull the chariot to their part of town wins and gets good luck for the crop season.

At 9.00 I am shattered so head off to my hotel, there is still no sign of Paul, there is a mob of kids ahead of me and a buzz in the air, not sure what is going on. The youths all start charging in my direction, I hide behind a temple wall to avoid the stampede and I somehow end up in the middle of a rock throwing riot. There are four Nepalese fella's perched by the temple wall with me and they all look as petrified as I am. Some youths with corrugated iron shields launch rocks over our heads to the east side of town behind us, there are also some shielded youths to the right, rocks started landing around us, I shout at them to chill! A squeaky voiced Nepalese guy helps me and we head down behind the protection of the shields. My heart is pounding like crazy. We watch for a while and decide to head off, I go down dark alleys with the squeaky dude, there are enough people about so I follow, all the ways to my hotel are closed off by the rioters, he invites me to stay at his house with his parents, I don't trust no one when travelling so I decide I will head back to the safety of town, where the old folk are chilling away from the riot. I wait for the riot to die down but then I get bored, so I walk about, taking safer looks at the rock throwing and run when everyone else does. I get worried about my bike getting damaged as I signed a waver that stated the bike is not insured and I would have to pay for any damage. I hang with another Nepalese guy, who helps me move the bike to a safe place. We walk past riot police after trying to find a way to my hotel, there are about 100 of them just north of my hotel, they have cleared a route and I get back to my hotel about 11 after two hours wondering about this crazy old town. I fealt safe in this town even with this strange festival going on and it sure did get the andrenalin going again, after having my first dose of the day on the moped!

The next day I have an email from Paul saying he went back to Kathmandu to try find me and would be heading to Bhakatapur the night I arrived. We finally meet up and swap story's of the crazy riot (Check out Paul's site linked at the right). Paul got a little injured as did my Nepalese friend who helped me move the bike.

We head off on the bikes the next morning to what is one of my favourite things I have done on my trip, we ride past army bases, paddy fields and do a big circle on dirt and tarmac roads, brilliant having the freedom of the bike.

A polish chick told me she also went to Bhakatapur for a festival, which consisted of all people, children to old men, slaughtering goats and chickens for the gods. She said the streets were awash with blood. Good old Nepalease festivals!

New Years Day - Kathmandu / Thimi
On my own again, Paul headed to Delhi. The worst hangover I have ever had, combat it with a trip to the Monkey Temple (forgot its proper name). The place heals me.

Had a good vibe, everyone was there to celebrate the New Year, there was a soundsystem and people were dancing and singing to 'By the River of Babylon' among other greats. Buy loads of fake outdoor gear from Kathmandu, which is slowly falling to piece's.

Thimi Bisket Jatra Festival
Head to Thimi for New Years Day evening for another strange but wonderfull festival. The Nepalease men are drunk on a potent homebrew called roxy, they are charging round town carrying a Khat (Palaquin), being pushed away by the surrounding croud.

I head back to Kathmandu and get drawn into a local bar by a covers band, turns out to be a bad mistake, get drunk, have 2 hours sleep, pack my bag and leave hotel at 6am for bus to Pokaraha.


Sunday, 8 April 2007

Week 9 (I think) - Bye India - Varanasi


What to say. I lay on my bed after the first day exhausted, thinking "what the f*ck!". The people here are intense, really spoilt my karma, there were good bits but I could only take one day of harassment before leaving early for Nepal.

Watching the morning pilgrims was excellent, but I fealt I was intruding on something very important to them, there were a mass of tourist boats watching the Indian pilgrims wash away their sins in the River Ganges.

I get dropped off at the Burning Ghat and get greeted by a guide, he takes me into the thick of a cremation ceremony, I don't look at anything, just the guide, I feel like I should not be here, a family is carrying a body to a fresh pale of wood, the guide says "look, a burning foot". No woman are allowed at the Ghat as if there is any crying then this will effect the spirit achieving nirvana. The guide also rips me off, this is the first time in my ten week stay. He is a nice chap and takes me upstairs to a building by the Ghat to see some old folk, he tells me that they stay here until they die and cannot afford to pay for their cremation, so he asks for a donation, I am emotional from seeing the cremations and even though I question it in my head I decide to give him the benefit of the doubt. I find out later that this man has been doing this for ages and bribes the police. Pretty low. I walk past him later and he comes after me asking to talk, I call him a "lier" and he says "that is what he wanted to talk to me about", I repeat "liar", he eventualy goes away. Later a holy man trys to con me, really persistent in me going with him. I hate Varanasi and I hate India at this point.

A pilgrim (alive)

The best bit of the whole town was using the crazy cycle rickshaw drivers, I had one old dude who had a red stained smile from all the chewing tobacco, I instantly like this comical fella. The old fella nearly takes out a cyclist who veers into our path, the rickshaw driver abuses him while laughing for extra effect, I join in with the laughter at the cyclist, the cyclist gets pretty angry which makes us laugh more. All the way home the driver sings and cackles as he cycles, he turns around occasionally to speak to be in Hindi, I only mutter "acha". My favourite person in India in my least favorite place in India.

Goodbye India
India has been fun, messed up, tiring, spiritual, enlightening, annoying, beautiful, ugly. It has had the most friendly people I have ever met but also some of the worst people I have ever met. India is contradictory but I have loved all places even Varanasi in parts. India has had a really good effect on me, especially the people, culture and religions.