Kathmandu is one of the most surreal places I’ve been yet. 1700 year old statues that any museum or private collector would love to have are just sitting in open temples with absolutely no security. Hindu holy men wander around, trying to bless tourists for donations, Maoist demonstrators are rioting in the streets, and quiet peaceful courtyards are scattered randomly behind ancient doorways that provide a welcome escape from the chaos and pollution outside. It’s magical!
I’m staying in Thamel, the tourist ghetto of Kathmandu. For anyone who’s been to Bangkok, it’s the equivalent of Khao San Road with lots of fake North Face gear for sale, incense sellers on every corner, touts loudly offering Tiger Balm and trekking, and whispered offers of pot and “sexy massages”. Of course there are also a bunch of shops selling what I’m assuming are fake antiques. I’ll probably pick a few of those up on the way out…some of them are similar to what you’d see in world market or Pier 1, but at least they’ll have a better story attached to them.
I’ve got about 30 hours here to kill before I start my trek. I’ve met my hiking guide and the guy I’ll be traveling with. Ian is a Brit/Aussie with an interesting story, and like me, visiting Everest is one of his big lifetime goals. I’m spending my time just wandering around, absorbing the atmosphere and chaos. The downside to a chaotic country like Nepal is that there is absolutely no regulation of traffic, fuel standards, safety laws, etc. The pollution here is so bad that many of the locals walk around with dust masks over their mouths and noses. There’s no organized garbage collection, so the streets are strewn with filth…most mornings you’ll see individual shopkeepers sweeping the street directly in front of their stall, but within a couple of hours it is hopelessly filthy again. The poorer citizens will rummage through garbage piles looking for things to sell, but the remainder is left to rot, or to be eaten by the local stray dogs and cows that wander the streets. Anything left over after that is usually burned in place which just contributes even more to the grey haze over the city. In the very early morning you can actually see a hint of mountains in the distance, but by 9:00 am the pollution is so bad that they disappear completely.
There are a couple of temples that I’ll want to visit after the trek, but other than that I can’t wait to get out of this city and into the countryside for some cleaner air!
Max elevation: 4334 ft
Total climbing: 728 ft
Total Time: 03:27:28