Sunday, March 22, 2015


I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to start my post and the sound of flutes, drums, and singing from a street festival reaches my ears. The sounds filter in even as I am inside of the hotel in the old town of Kathmandu where we are staying. Since we arrived 4 nights ago I have been aware of the constant commotion all around. Kathmandu is a wild city that took me totally by surprise even after reading about it's eccentricities in the guidebook before we got here. 

Our flight got in at 10pm and we negotiated the on arrival visa situation with some bleary eyed difficulty having been awake for something like 35 hours. Our taxi flew through the dark streets, generally on the left side of the road (steering wheel on the right) without care for traffic signs and signaling it's proximity to pedestrians, stray dogs, and cows eating trash by honking incessantly. We arrived without incident to our guesthouse and slept. 

We emerged the following morning in search of breakfast with some nervous excitement based on our experience in the cab and were greeted with further madness. The shop-lined streets are one lane wide with gutters but no sidewalks and the traffic goes in two directions. There are taxis, large vans, motorcycles, water trucks, bicycles, and rickshaws competing for the space along with crowds of people traveling on foot on both sides of the road. There are traffic rules but none are followed even in the presence of the police. Vehicles weave in and out of traffic going both directions on both sides on the one lane road. Walking is an exhausting exercise in vigilance so as not to be run over while trying not to step in the plates of food offerings that people leave in front of their shops and while deterring a barrage of hawkers peddling tiger balm, miniature chess sets, musical instruments, and drugs. The taxis slow down in front of you, blocking your path in order to try to convince you that you need a ride and the rickshaws pedal slowly next to you asking where you are from, thinking it will entice you in. And the honking never stops!

Despite the chaos, Brad and I managed to find a delicious rooftop breakfast so we could observe the streets from above (through an immense jumble of electrical wires) and plan our next move. We made our way to Durbur Square, the heart of old town Kathmandu, passing an array of Hindu temples and shrines and people making offerings to them. Some shrines are covered in marigolds, others receive a smearing of orange vermilion paste, and others are rewarded with a bowl of grains. Durbur Square is a huge complex where the city's kings were crowned and from where they ruled so it is an opulent mixture of white palaces and Hindu temples, some dating from before the 17th century. As we toured the palace museum the power went out (a daily occurance in Kathmandu) and nobody reacted. They just leaned closer to the exhibits in order to see them without light!

The first full day here was extremely overwhelming and I went to sleep that night wishing we could leave the next morning for our trek. But the next day I was less tired and more capable of smiling at the impossibility of the wild streets and noticing colorful details around me. I especially love the incense wafting from the shops and the smell of cardamom steeping in tea and cumin simmering in curries. 

We are currently in a holding pattern in Kathmandu because Brad has a bit of a cold and we figure it's best not to start a trek under the weather. While he has been resting, I have been exploring and I am even enjoying the treacherous wandering. And I haven't been run over yet! I do appreciate the rooftop terraces atop almost every building that allow escape from the noise and a bit of breeze after breathing the dusty air. The Himalayas are mostly hazy but every once in a while they show a bit and it makes me excited for the days to come!

Love Anika

No comments:

Post a Comment