Since I’m only in Nepal for a few months, I want to make the most of my time here, and explore as much as possible! Early last week, our coworker mentioned that Friday was going to be a holiday. It’s a bit confusing here, because every office celebrates different holidays, making it a bit difficult to coordinate. Some holidays are national, others are religious, and others are cultural. January 15th and January 30th are apparently both holidays but you can only take one of them per year. Since the 30th is a Saturday (weekend for everyone), we took off the 15th, which is known as Maghe Pharbha or Maghe Sankranti, which celebrates the end of winter. According to the ladies at work, they eat a special snack on this day, which is some sort of ball covered in sesame seeds.
Right: Almost sunrise on my hike up the mountain to reach the lookout tower in time. Left: Prayer flags at the lookout tower in Nagarkot.
Originally, we were planning to just stay home and get some shopping done, but we got a text from Paige (another Canadian volunteer who arrived the same day as us), asking if we wanted to join her and her housemates on a weekend trip. Um, yes – we’re in! Two girls decided to stay home, so there was 7 of us in total who went. On Friday morning Cheryl, Rebecca, and I left the house around 8:15. We took a tempo (a small vehicle, used like a bus for public transportation in the city, holds about 8-10 people) into the center of town to find the bus station, where we would meet Sharna (who is living in a small village outside of Kathmandu). We couldn’t find her, and spent quite awhile on the phone and asking directions before realizing we were at two different bus stations. After meeting up we quickly found our bus and got on.
Left: Walking to our hotel in Nagarkot (on a hill overlooking a valley). Right: Many buildings in Nepal (and Bangladesh) are built on stilts – scary!
To get to Nagarkot there are a variety of options, but we chose to take the local buses. We took one bus from Kathmandu to Bhaktapur and then another to Nagarkot. Once you’re at the bus station people are pretty helpful and will point you to the correct bus. However you must be willing to wait for the bus to fill up, which can sometimes take an hour or two (depending on how full it is when you get on and if it’s a busy time of day). We waited quite a long time for our second bus, but some people took advantage of this by purchasing some tea and snacks from a roadside stand. Surprisingly, while we were waiting for the bus to leave we ran into the other 3 girls who had left the city at a different time but ended up on our bus anyway!
Left: Goats wandering around the property at our hotel. Right: Spending the afternoon reading in the sun on the rooftop at my hotel, enjoying the view.
Nagarkot is basically on intersection. The buses drop you off in front a few restaurants and corner stores and you can walk towards where you need to go. We decided to get some lunch, and the other girls almost died because of how spicy the Thukpa was. I had a fried egg, because I’m very exciting (and was told that the toast would take about an hour to make…). We ended up staying in two different hotels (the 4 of us at Hotel Mount Paradise, and the other 3 in another). Even though we didn’t have great GPS or cell signal, we found our hotel. After arriving, my friends decided to go for a trek, but I was more into relaxing. I read my book on the roof and then got a massage. It was terrific. After my massage I met my friends in town for dinner. It started off very reserved, sitting around the fire and drinking tea. It ended about 7 hours later… 4 or 5 bottles of wine, a lot of karaoke off YouTube videos on mobile phones, and some delicious food. There was some old school rap, some classic Hindi songs, and everything in between. The staff there sang with us and we had a jolly good time. Around 10:30 we decided to head back to our hotel, it was going to be an early morning!
We had a really fun night sitting by the fire at the Nagarkot Bed and Breakfast restaurant. We enjoyed lots of tea, great food, and a mini dance party!
So, we stayed up a little too late, and had a little too much to drink. Oh well, we can just sleep in since we’re on vacation, right? WRONG! Apparently Nagarkot is known for it’s sunrise – UGH! I asked about sunset, a great alternative, and in the evening. Great idea right? Apparently not so… something about the weather, and the altitude, and other geography stuff means that only the sunrise is beautiful. I guess that clouds settle down over the mountain and make everything foggy later in the day – the morning is the clearest time to see the view. Okay *begrudgingly, I guess we can leave the hotel at 6am 😦
Walking up the hill to the lookout tower at sunrise. It was still cold enough for frost. There were many markers, but it was impossible to read how much further it was, because they had been rubbed off.
The walk nearly killed me. Honestly, I almost gave up at least 10 times. Everyone was faster than me, so I ended up walking for about 30 of the 45 minutes on my own. Thankfully, it was a road so there wasn’t a lot of rocks or other obstacles to overcome. And thankfully it was just one road that led directly to the lookout tower, or I would have become horribly lost on my own. There were a number of points where I stopped and said “Enh, the view is pretty decent here, maybe I’ll just stay here for sunrise.” But I persevered. I pushed through it, and finally made it to the top just as the sun was peaking over the horizon – SUCCESS! To be truthful, I didn’t think I would make it, but I’m so glad that I did!
Left: The lookout tower! Right: First view of the far away mountains.
When I got to the top I found my friends. Since sunrise was happening, we were all busy taking in the sights and snapping photos. Eventually the watch tower cleared off enough and I was able to climb up. The ladder was a bit scary (and cold, and dirty), but I made it to the top! Eventually everyone worked up the nerve and climbed to the top, where we took a bunch of group shots. After awhile we decided to head back down, but getting back on the ladder required some maneuvering. Thank goodness Cheryl is not afraid of heights, and was super nice to help me get turned around and going back down safely – thanks girl!
So apparently from here you can see Everest, which everyone has asked me about since. Here’s the honest answer, it was super clear and we saw many mountain tops. However, we weren’t with a guide or a map that could actually show us where Everest would be. So perhaps we saw it, perhaps not. Since it’s so far in the distance it actually looks smaller than the closer mountains, so if we saw it, we weren’t overly impressed – too bad!
Left: I made it just in time for sunrise! Right: Prayer flag selfie!
At the bottom of the final hill there was a bunch of vendors set up. We decided to get some tea before heading back to town. We huddled by a fire and waited for our scorching masala tea (tea made with milk and spices). I can’t drink it when it’s boiling, but it sure does keep your hands warm. After finishing our tea we were ready to head back down the mountain. We were famished – it was breakfast time!
Left: It’s hard to capture the beauty of the mountains… they look much better in real life. Right: Our group on the lookout tower (from left to right: Rebecca, Cheryl, Sharna, Sam, Amanda (me), and Paige).
The walk back down was a breeze. We chatted and watched kids try to learn how to ride a bike, down the side of the mountain, on a bike 5 sizes too large – yikes! I think we all had a bit of protective instinct when they wiped out, but they seemed to be having a good time. Eventually we made it back into town, and chose the same restaurant again from the night before (their menu had tempted us back!). We all ordered the Sizzling Roasty Special, and it was totally delicious. Shayenda (who had been sleeping) met us there, and we chatted with a German traveler who happened to be staying at the hotel.
Left: Walking back down the mountain. Right: I think we deserved a delicious breakfast!
After eating we walked back the road to our hotel. A couple of the girls wanted to shower (there was hot water apparently), and a few of us read our books in the sunshine. By noon it was time to pack our bags and check out. We walked back to the heart of town (the town is literally one intersection), and found the buses. We decided that we were going to ride on top. Sharna and I are quite short (in fact, Nepali women think I’m tall, but I’m only 5’3″), so Cheryl and Rebecca did a great job at hoisting us up to the ladder before climbing up themselves.
It was quite an adventure to actually get on top of the bus! Thank goodness Rebecca has some experience doing lifts from cheer-leading!
I made it to the top. I thought that would be the hardest part – I was wrong!
Once we were on the bus… well, nothing happened. We waited for it to fill up. Then we waited for it to start. It didn’t start, it rolled backwards. Some guys came out with tools, the bus struggled. So mostly we just chilled and people watched and tried to get comfortable. Eventually the bus was back to life, and we were on our way!
Finally on top of the bus!
I compare riding on top of a bus to riding an elephant (which is something I recently experienced in Thailand). When you first start moving it’s terrifying. It rocks back and forth and you’re constantly worried that the next rock will throw you right over onto the ground. However, after awhile you become accustomed to the normal amount of sway from the movement. You become a bit less afraid that you might fall down a mountain and get run over/trampled.
View down the hill from the bus – it was pretty scary at times (if you’re afraid of heights)!
Everyone else seemed to really love it, and said they would ride on top of the bus from now on. I had a completely opposite experience. I’m so glad I did it once – but only to check it off the list, and try something new, not because I thought it would actually be pleasant. I got motion sick from passing so close the the cliffs, and when I closed my eyes to ease that, I was paranoid I’d be decapitated by a low hanging branch or power line (of which there was plenty!). There was a guy behind me pressing against me, and I was worried he’d push me right off the edge, and I even got a bruise on my butt from the bumps. Not ideal. But definitely exhilarating!
I love seeing how different cultures interact in this country. Left: It’s funny to see Western shirts on Nepali people, especially since they don’t always speak English and understand what their shirt says. Right: I’m always impressed by how much women carry in various “developing” countries – such hard workers!
Once in Bhaktapur (I always think Bakarat for some reason, but no that’s wrong), we grabbed some lunch in the garden of a nearby restaurant. The food was decent, and it felt good to not be moving. Sharna was able to catch her bus back to Chapagao (the rural area where she lives), and the rest of us hopped in a bus headed for Kathmandu (on the inside this time!). I slept the whole time, but thankfully Cheryl woke me up at our stop! We took a cab back to the CECI house, and were happy to lie down in our own beds!