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Carried on from The Motorcycle Diaries (Part 2)




Pokhra to Lumbini


The road out of Pokhra has to be one of the great motorbike roads of all time. Quiet, with stunning mountain views, lots of corners and no close runnings with Leyland buses. However, petrol was another thing. I figured that I would be able to fill up on route, but this proved seemed that petrol was only delivered to major cities and I did not have any major cities on route….I even had somebody try to sell me some at double the going rate…….I told him what he could do with his petrol……did he think I was a tourist or something!!


Fortunately though I found a garage purveying this rare commodity, but also discovered that my lights did not work….Kind of handy when the afternoon was rapidly vanishing behind the mountains. This forced me to stay in another town that no one in their right mind would want to stay in, even my hotel manager told me not to go out at night, because it was too dangerous. Though I feel I subjected myself to more mental dangers through watching rubbish American cable shows, attacked by a continuous stream of mosquitoes and the bus station next door. As a note to self…never stay in a hotel next to a bus station, tuneful horns get really boring at 5 am, another good reason why earplugs are an essential travel item.


Click on image to see more of Nepal.





Lumbini –  the birthplace of buddha. Crossing the dusty, dry, flat plains I amused myself by coming up with the revelation that my bike went buddhabuddhabuddha. I received hours, well seconds, of enjoyment from this notion as agricultural Nepal drifted past. I really felt that I was in some time capsule – oxen ploughing the fields; wheat being beaten by hand; hundreds of bicycles heavily loaded with cauliflower and other produce on their way to market; Wham’s Club Tropicana playing from a battered radio strapped to a rusting, heavily greased, but still operational, tractor, driven by an equally rusting, heavily greased, still operational, farmer who tapped his fingers with gusto to Wham’s chorus line.


Lumbini is like an industrial estate consisting of postmodern temple shaped warehouses. Many countries have contributed their concept of what a Buddhist temple should be like, but the layout and the industrial construction really makes it edging towards a tad naf.  So Buddha was born here, under a tree, and a stone marks the exact spot, apparently, but it doesn’t seem that there has been any planning as to what they wish to achieve here. I half expected a  B and Q or PC World, to be located in the middle of it all. I really can’t see the point of it and I am sure if Buddha was around he would concur.



Lumbini to Chichwan National Park


This part of the country is hot and flat and for once straight roads, ridiculously straight roads, I longed for my corners, but at least I was able to wind the Bullet up to 80km per hour, which seemed ridiculously fast compared to the mountain roads. That night I slept in a mud hut and watched the sun set over the river. I was intrigued by some persistent drumming, and, on questioning, was taken to a man that was drumming to ward of ghosts and witches from his sick wife. He was very poor so I gave him some money to take his wife to hospital. It is amazing that in the 21st century there are people that still follow such practices….though I have to say I did not see a single ghost or witch that night, so maybe it does have some effect.


In the morning I rode through the jungle tracks to reach Sauhara. All good fun till I manged to get myself lost. The locals though were very helpful and soon got me on the right tracks, literally. In the back of my mind though I couldn’t help but think “there are tigers in this jungle”, only a couple of hundred, but it would be just my luck to find one that was up for snacking on a scrawny white man….. Fortunately for me and probably the tiger I was not eaten, in fact a tour of the jungle later that day revealed there was very little wildlife in the area….the most dangerous thing I saw were small crocodiles that legged it at the first sign of humans and wild chickens, which look exactly like normal chickens, but have managed to escape to freedom, and avoid the tigers, which doesn’t seem such a tedious task.


Sauahra to Katmandu. Wow, wow, wow is all my command of the English language can drag up for this stretch of road. Fantastic for the biker, hell for the passenger on a bus, as the road twists and turns up to 2,480 metres. 6 hours of this is  a great way to focus the mind on the present….take your mind elsewhere and you have a 500 metre drop waiting for you with open arms. I loved every second of it.


Entering Katmandu though, brings you right back down to reality. Trucks and Buses billow out   thick acrid fumes. The pollution in this city is phenomenal, so much so that you need to chain smoke Marlboro Reds to filter the air down. The bike now felt it had done the distance, the clutch was starting to slip, the brake light had stopped working, there were no headlights and the brakes were getting a little spongy. Negotiating Katmandu traffic became a real chore and I longed for my mountain roads.


I had put the bike through its paces and it had responded well to my demanding needs, I had fallen in love with its simplistic nature and the roads it thrived on. In my mind this is the best way to experience any country. You feel so much more a part of the land you are traveling through and equally the people embrace you as an individual. I think this trip has changed my thoughts on means of travel…..Rajistan and Kashmere by bike…..hmmm, anyone up for it next spring.






The End

Carried on from The Motorcycle Diaries (Part 1)


Katmandu to Mugling.


This is probably down in the record books as one of the most dangerous roads in the world. The twisting highway ambles through the valley, often a sheer cliff face on one side and the corresponding sheer cliff face dropping off on the other. All would be fine and you could nicely burble along taking in the scenery, except for the fact that this is the major route to India, in fact one of only two routes to India and as such is full of buses and trucks wanting to get to or from India as quickly as is possible. They are often so overloaded and travel at such speed that they lean going around corners and cross into the oncoming lane. Overtaking is always done on blind corners, they have to overtake on blind corners because this is all you get…no nice long straights, dual carriageway or passing lanes to cruise by here. On this stretch of road I saw one overturned truck and two buses that had recently been involved in head on collisions. I did not stop to inquire what had happened to their respective human cargoes. Sounding the horn on every corner became routine, but I still gingerly edged around them, expecting a bus to be heading straight for me, and often I did get to see TATA or Leyland (Yes they still exist and are here alive and kicking) badges from an angle I would rather best avoid.


Now Mugling is the sort of town that exists at a crossroads of two major junctions, and as such was like many towns around the world that exist at the crossroads of two major junctions. What we would commonly call in England a shit hole. Two streets focusing on the the trade and commerce of the transient traveler. Nobody in their right mind would want to stop here. So I stopped here. On trying several hotels, I found that nobody had any rooms available and yet they looked completely empty, it was not till later that I found out most of them were fronts for prostitution. They were saving their beds for the endless supply of  truckers that frequented the town.


Eventually I managed to find a mosquito ridden room for 150 ruppees from a drunk hotel manager with one arm. In the evening, as I ate my dal baht, he would laugh, say something in slurred Nepali/English, point with his arm that could still point at one of the girls serving food and laugh. To my ears one of them was called Kylie, but she could not have been called Kylie. I picked up her saying 10,000 and wondered if this is how the front for prostitution operates. You sit there, get introduced to somebody who may or may not be called Kylie, cough up ten grand and away you go with a serving wench, job done. I immersed myself in my dal baht and the perceived naivety of a traveling Englishman.


At one point the street went really quite, there was no traffic. I asked somebody what was going on. I got the simple reply “Fatal car crash”. It seems to be a daily occurrence here, allowing the shop keepers to re group and prepare for the next onslaught of travelers. Apparently it is a good thing when the crash is fatal, because it makes things simple, with a nice pay out to the family of the deceased. If it is a maiming then things get complicated. Whole families have been known to riot and close the road for days if an amicable agreement is not swiftly met.


That night I fell sick. A fever hit me like none I had had before. I was freezing cold one minute and then boiling hot the next. Now why do fevers and sickness hit when you are in a place that you do not want be? What is more Diwali celebrations were going on outside the hotel till 2 am and that is when my bowels gave way and I spent every hour or so on the toilet, a toilet that was not of a standard that that I wanted to be near.


I diagnosed myself with dehydration, and kicked myself for making the schoolboy error of not wearing my jacket while on the bike. The wind and heat had sucked so much moisture out of me, that I was close to mummification…..Water and electrolytes were the way out of this one.

Click on photo tosee more images of Nepal.




Mugling to Pokhara via Gorka.


I had to spend a day recovering in Gorkha from the fever and replace the spark plug on the bike as it was having problems starting. Every thing was on tap, a clean hotel, pristine toilet, warm shower, a loveIy view and a garage next door with spark plugs. Everything I needed to get myself and bike back into shape for the road ahead.


Being on a bike you feel so much more involved with your surroundings than a car…that thin bit of glass and steel is just enough to mentally separate you from the outside world, to cocoon you in a safety net. On a bike you do not have the luxury of this womb like existence. You are out in the world, you are there and it is happening around you. You feel the changes in temperature and textures of the road, you smell crops and villages long before you see them and your vision is focused, a continuous montage of images each worthy of a photo, stored someplace deep in the unconscious.


Pokhra is a wonderful place, a ramshackle collection of the usual tourist crap all neatly set beside a beautiful lake. I spent three days chilling, paragliding and pottering around the countryside. If you are going to come to Nepal and are of the outdoor activities type then spend your time here and not Katmandu. Nothing noteworthy in the way of old stuff, but boy is it a beautiful place.




See The Motorcycle Diaries (Part 3 the End)


In riding a motorbike you enter a close relationship between yourself and a collection of nuts, bolts, pistons and gears. You morph into the mechanics and between you, you exist as one. You get to understand its capabilities, its quirks and eccentricities through all of your senses, you are part of its resonance and discover which parts rattle and vibrate, and as such which parts start to fall off at which point.


The Royal Enfield is a masterpiece of simplistic engineering and it is genius of the Indians to still make this relic of a bygone era. Engine, gearbox, clutch, chain and wheels, the minimal sprinkling of electrics and that is it, a kickstart and a single 350cc cylinder – it is not fast, but it will drag you pretty much anywhere you want to go, it’s like a tractor on two wheels. But best of all it has a very particular sound, you know when one is coming….as I saw on a biker’s T shirt once “Loud pipes save lives”.



Likewise, entering any new traffic system you enter a community with its own rules and levels of acceptability, that from the outsiders point of view looks like chaos, a place that you do not wish to enter. A mechanised hell – paradise lost.


At first it appears that there are few rules to engagement, but as you slowly immerse yourself into a relationship with the other vehicles you get to understand how it all pieces together – where you should be, what you need to do and what you need to look out for. This latter point includes:- no  polite indication, stopping in the middle of the road without brake lights, driving on the wrong side of the road, holy cows, pariah dogs, herds of goats, potholes whose depth has been the imagination of Jules Verne, rickshaws and overly assertive pedestrians and, oh yes, the horn.


I have always wondered why the horn is used so much in these countries, whereas in England it is only used as a warning, or to notify Auntie Mavis that you are going past her house (Like she cares), or is followed by a suitably abusive hand movement and you silently wording “wanker” at your fellow compatriot of the road. Well our countries are laden with so many rules and regulations which we all happily comply to most of the time. Whereas in Nepal, they exists, but are not so rigidly applied. The result is the horn. It is not used aggressively, but just as a simple reminder that you are there and you are coming through and you may be bending a few of the non rigidly applied rules in the process. It quickly becomes second nature to toot the horn when passing any vehicle, cow herder, or old lady carrying half a tree. The horn is a gentle reminder to let people know that you are overtaking on a blind corner or a simple beep is a great way to inform people you are going down the wrong way of a one way street. The horn is your friend, love the horn.


The fun part of hiring a bike in Katmandu is that you must build this relationship with bike and traffic in the space of approximately 30 seconds for both will not allow you second chances – they will swallow you up as if you were a stupid tourist hiring a powerful motorbike in a foreign city.



See The Motorcycle Diaries (Part 2)


(Carried on from part 3)

Gorak Shep to Gokyo


This was a three day journey,. By now I new the mental focus that was required, but I was completely exhausted. The route crossed through Cho La Pass at 5330 metres, an icey pass and across the Ngozumpa Glacier. Now I always thought, naively, that glaciers were white, icy expanses leading into pretty blue pools of water. No, the reality of these glaciers is that they resemble a massive open quarry. There is ice, but it is under tons of dirt and rock. Frequent landslides show how literally these beasts of nature are ripping into the mountains. Crossing the 1.5 km of dirt is probably the closest thing to being on the moon or crossing a giant cat litter tray. It is a nightmare to get in and arduous to climb out off.

Ngozumpa Glacier

Ngozumpa Glacier

Reaching Gokyo was such a relief. in fact it was heavenly. Like some, balmy, Germanic lake resort without the naked sunbathers.

I chose a day of R and R, lying out by the lake as opposed to another climb for another amazing view. Ok, how could I miss another amazing view, but by this point I had seen enough jaw dropping amazing views for one trip, lets face it there is only a certain number you can handle.


Gokyo to Lukla 3 days. The first point that I came across trees I knew I was somewhere I belonged. Trees know where is good to live. Lichen and moss type plants are the crazy species of the plant world, they are bonkers. And where there are trees, there is firewood. It is the basic human need to burn things, and wood was born to burn. 


Warmth, electricity and being able to wash after 13 days are such basic necessities that make life so much more pleasant. I was pleased to get on a flight back to Katmandu and to the insanity of the city and sit down and eat a meal that I could taste.

Smart arse

Smart arse


If you ever think of doing Everest basecamp trip, I do actually recommend it. It is an experience where you will truly understand what you accept as normal in life. You will really get to know your body and what you are capable of. I loved it. And what is more you can justifiable where a T-shirt that states “Everest……..because it is there.”

If you meet  Pemba Noru Sherper, he has my boots.


This blog is dedicated to the 12 German tourists that died in the plane crash at Lukla, the 6 climbers that died on Everest, and to the mountaineers that are still waiting  for their window to summit Everest. I respect you all.

Motorcycle diaries soon to come.


(Carried on from part 2)

Gorak Shep at 5140 metres.


When I crossed the glacial rock and entered the encampment of Gorak Shep I felt that I had entered hell’s arsehole. A dusty bowl consisting of 3 or so tea houses and a small shop with plentiful supplies of the most expensive beer in the world. Surrounded by glaciers and clocking up -17 at night this is not the sort of place you find honeymooning couples, unless they really hate each other or are from Belgium.


Welcome to hell

Welcome to hell



The tea houses at altitude all run off solar electricity and as such have suitably low wattage bulbs, if any at all, that make everyone look sicker than what they really are. The punters sip garlic soup (apparently good for altitude sickness) and huddle around the miniscule burner fueled by dried yak dung and wrappers from Bounty Bars. Everyone seems to play cards, it is the only thing to do, though often I wish these were thrown on the burner too to double the output from the less than efficient fuel sources. “Heat, I demand heat.”


A young girl inspects her fine collection of dried yak dung

A young girl inspects her fine collection of dried yak dung



Furthermore, it is too cold to wash. But at least nobody else is washing either. How can you when the water is frozen solid and a bucket of warm water will cost you more than a small flat off Highstreet Kensington. Everyone now has taken on the odor of sweat, a hint of urine, garlic and yak shit. Bottled, this could be worth a fortune – “Convince your friends that you are a world explorer – Everest by Calvin Clein as used by George Mallory……maybe”.


It is at Gorak Shep that you make the decision whether to do the 6 hour round trip to Base Camp – a journey through the glacier to find a rubbish tip surrounded by tents and hardcore mountaineer types that don’t want to speak to anyone because they are in the zone of being hardcore mountaineer types and have been stuck in hell for the last 2 months waiting for their window to go up Everest. Incidentally 6 people were killed on Everest the day I arrived in an avalanche, their bodies will probably never be recovered. Or, you do the trip up to Kala Patthar at 5550 metres to, apparently, get the best view of Everest without climbing it.


I chose the second option and instantly regretted it. Going up 400 metres at this altitude is bloody hard work. I shuffled along one step at a time focusing on breathing. If my mind wandered, which it does constantly, I would find myself desperately trying to catch my breath. It was a matter of focusing my mind and moving one step at a time. The top looked an impossible distance away. Every turn, every stone became a small goal towards the summit.


That's Everest, the grey thing in between the two white things

That's Everest, the grey thing in between the two white things



Surprising to myself I made it. The hundreds of individual goals got me to the top. And the view, well the view was crap. Snow had come in over Everest, so it was just a grey blob some un recognisable distance away. Not that this mattered as the aperture on my camera froze in the cold. I looked down to basecamp, a spec in the distance with a certain degree of admiration for those hardcore mountaineer types and a certain degree of “What on earth do you think you are doing.”


Click on photos to see full set of images.

Move on to part 4


(Carried on from Part 1)

Namache Bazar, at 3440 metres is generally seen as the first day of rest to acclimatise to the altitude. It is also the first opportunity to see Everest. A tiny spec in the distance, its beauty is  dwarfed by the far more impressive peaks that surround it.


It's so small

It's so small




In Namache it is your last chance to change cash or travellers cheques, purchase really heavy souvenirs so that you get your monies worth out of your porter and buy more hiking crap that you are paranoid that you think you will need.


I purchased a  wooden stick. A very fine stick at 110 ruppees and probably the only time in my life that I will ever purchase a stick. This stick though became my best friend on the journey and helped me through much terrain. I love my stick.


Me and stick

Me and stick



Moving on from Namche my next stop is Dingboche at 4410 metres. Now the symptoms of altitude sickness is extreme headaches, followed by vomiting and then death – a nasty way to go, less you get yourself down to a lower altitude fast. Everyday helicopters fly hikers back to Katmandu because they did not heed the warnings, at $3,000 a pop, this is an expensive mistake to make. For me I did not suffer from altitude sickness, however I did suffer from altitude.


Altitude does weird things to your body and mind. I woke up one night, paranoid that I could not breathe, at this altitude oxygen is running at 57%. I am in some kind of panic attack, I do not know if I am too hot or too cold, my sleeping bag feels like it has become a claustrophobic shell, strangling my body. My mind is saying “You cannot do this – strip off naked and run down the hill towards oxygen”. I need my air.


I tear myself out of my sleeping bag, death trap, and run outside. I focus, breathe, breathe Colin, breathe. I am alive and the panic subsides. I look up to the most perfectly clear sky and wonder at how beautiful it is with the mountains illuminated by a full moon. I then realise it must be -10 degrees out here, it is bloody freezing and I have the urge to return back to my snuggly warm, life giving, sleeping bag . Thank god I did not strip off naked and run down the mountain in a futile search for oxygen. Being naked in -10 degrees is not a good idea for more than 5 seconds.


Other things that I note is that my tongue feels twice the size and seems to have lost most of its taste. The relatively bland food seems even more relatively bland. Furthermore, mucus seems to be taking over my body like something from 1970s Doctor Who series. Blowing out snot and gobbing up chunks of phlegm are a regular occurrence. Being at altitude is going to be a reasonably disgusting experience I realise.


Click on photos to see full collection of images.


Go to Part 3


“Everest………because it’s there”, purports a T-shirt in a Katmandu tourist shop, referring to the famous words of George Mallory frozen in time as he was frozen to the top of Everest like a inquisitive 6 year old’s tongue on a freezing metal goal post.


Yes it is there and it sure aint moving for a while, I know, I’ve seen it. To see Everest in the real has been an ambition of mine for many years. I don’t really know why, the romanticism of it I guess. To feel a little of the spirit of Hillary and Tensing, Mallory and Irvine, the sense of exploration and pioneers of discovery all bundled into one, relatively safe, easy package of an amble up to the side of a mountain.


My journey starts in Lukla located at 2840 metres, a town built around the tiny but chaotic airport, where only 2 days before a plane stuffed it on take off, burning all the German tourists on board to death. The pilot miraculously managed to survive by jumping out.  Now this is an airport where you cannot make a mistake – once you are committed to take off or landing, there is no pulling out or the mountains will consume you and your “Everest…because it’s there” T-shirt . On the up side it will save your family a fortune on cremation bills.

Lukla runway

Lukla runway


I quickly get myself a local guide come porter for $300 plus tip, one Pemba Noru Sherper. With a name like that I figure he must have some vague idea as to what he is doing. Now you don’t really need a porter or to that matter a guide, but it would be so un English to go on an exploration of this magnitude without a lacky to carry my bags. Furthermore, being terribly English, I am carrying way too much stuff, but like to have so that I am prepared for any kind of emergency or toilet situation. So with this sense of adventure in mind – myself, Pemba and a shed load of toilet rolls set off. 


Now the first thing that you realise about the track that winds its way up from 2840 metres to  my destination, Kala Patthar at 5550 metres, is that yes there is a fair amount of uphill travel and that this track is an express highway for everyone and everything. Large groups of hikers whose habiliments consist of the latest in fake Gortex purchased in Katmandu rustle along with their double walking sticks like day glo shrimps feeling their way towards altitude sickness and dietry hell. Everything must be carried up this path and as such everything gets more expensive the higher you climb. A continuous stream of porters with amazing strength and yaks lug up the necessities of life – beer, Mars Bars and snooker tables. If you are so inclined you could make this the highest pub crawl in the world and can play snooker as high as Namche Bazar at 3440 metres. The price of a bounty bar rises from 70 ruppees in Katmandu to a staggering 150 – 200 ruppees above 4000 metres.


Despite the feeling that you are not on a quest of uncharted mountainous regions, the scenery is stunning, in fact I would go as far to say, jaw dropping. High mountains are surrounded by even higher mountains and you traverse deep river gorges over wire bridges that are decorated with prayer flags and have just enough wobble to cause the tinniest amount of concern and visions of yourself plummeting to you death in the freezing torrents below.


Accommodation is in tea houses, solid stone structures on the outside, but made from the thinest of plywood on the inside. Sound proofing is not their bag, Earplugs are pretty handy if you are disturbed by your neighbors rustling sleeping bag and/or flatulence. Also they are all run by vocal Nepalese women whose voice pitch is irritatingly located just under that which only dogs can hear.


The food is pretty much the same in all of them, consisting of variations on pasta, rice, potatoes and eggs. They are not exactly welcoming either, everything comes at a price. Your scrambled eggs will cost 200 ruppees in the morning and god forbid that you want toast with that, that will be an extra 150 ruppees thankyou very much. The mountains will eat up your money, so take plenty of cash, your American Express card will not be welcome here. Even my porter I feel is eying up my cash and stuff, considering his tip and what I may leave him as a present. Nepal is a poor country, but this is the money trail and I am on it.

Click on Images to see full selection of pictures.

Now see Everest……Because it’s there (Part 2)


So I finally made it, lots to say about this country, but way too busy as I am off to Everest tomorrow. And I already feel sick….hmm great start, things will clear I am sure.

Here are a few images to keep you going.

Click the image below.


Sitting in a dusty bowl between the mountains Katmandu appears to be designed with a 6 year old’s lego set.  Box shapes, sit on other box shapes to form a cubist painters dream. This structure should be an inspiration to many an overcrowded city in the world. as Katmandu has figured out that the rooftops are the ideal place to escape the hustle and bustle of the streets below. Why do so many cities not realise this. Sure you have a few pipes and water containers to deal with, but so what. The rooftop is the place to be. The other thing with Katmandu is that the streets are very narrow. This means that the roof tops are very close and it is easy to shout abuse and throw things at your neighbour.


Most importantly  though this it is a great place to fly your kite. Or more to the point fight you kite. Kite fighting is quite a sport here, especially around the time of the Dasdain festival (October).  There are thousands of them all locked in mini dog fights. 


So as far as I have figured out the general rules are to dive bomb the other kite and try to break their string. So every now and then you see a kite fluttering to the ground, its owner defeated, a hi-chait (kite with cut line) or loooooser. The kites are pretty flimsy, made from tissue paper and sticks, but they do the job, as generally there is not much of a breeze. Now  this is when it becomes really technical as people start to armour their string, apparently this can be done with crushed light bulbs, gum or boiled slugs. This armour is designed to cut the other persons line if you cross strings. Not too sure about the boiled slugs, but heh.


There is no better way to spend the late afternoon than sit and watch these battles as they commence….I am sure there must be and illigal kite fighting gambling den somewhere around here someplace. If not, why not.

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