One year into living on the road we are back in Bali amidst the rainy season, complete with truly theatrical storms and a crazy amount of insects flying around however, it’s our favourite place in our travels thus far.
We arrived in Kathmandu airport with our first impression of Nepal being at the visa on arrival desk, occupied by three people – one to stamp our filled out forms, two paces along person number two collected our money and a further two paces for person number three to put the stamps into our passports. No sign of a computer system, just mountains of paperwork but at least it’s all in an effort to keep people in work.
As many of you may know, I don’t have a great poker face and as much as I was forcing a ‘happy face’ I’m afraid my eyes said it all. Michael was looking at me, trying to figure out what my thoughts were – I will divulge to you all, there was a big part of me thinking, ‘where the heck are we and WHAT are we doing here?!’
After a few days of walking around the streets of Kathmandu we both came up with hayfever/allergy symptoms caused by the incredible amount of dust and pollution in the air. Having seen a majority of the locals wearing face masks we decided it was necessary to join them and though we felt a bit ridiculous, it did help.
Now the fantastic thing about living as we are is that we don’t need to endure a situation we aren’t enjoying. Kathmandu is a fascinating city to visit for a few days but it’s crazy busy, noisy and very polluted. Walking around is sensory overload with every second person asking if you want to buy hash or tiger balm, taxis driving right up behind you (there aren’t too many footpaths around) honking their horns asking if you need a ride, men cyclng three wheeled tuk tuks that understandably will do anything to avoid stopping, coming at you from every angle. It seems there aren’t really strict rules on which side of the road one must drive so as you might imagine, it’s mayhem! Don’t forget to picture us doing this masked as well.
I can’t go without mentioning the oh so charming habit of the Nepali people – hacking up their lungs, truly getting right down there and then spitting the goodies that come up along the side of the road. It’s completely normal for them and they might even do it mid conversation with you. Not a minute went by when we weren’t exposed to these endearing sounds as well as avoiding being spat on ourselves as yet another obstacle to walking the streets. I think our favourite was at dawn when it was an orchestra of hacking as they sat around sipping their masala tea, deep in discussion righting the wrongs of the world. Fabulous morning wake up alarm.
We took the opportunity to prepare ourselves and do a few short hikes in the area, pre-mammoth trek. We went up to the World Peace Pagoda which offered some beautiful views over the lake with the town of Pokhara and the Himalayas in the background. Then joy of joys, we did another stupidly early mountain climb to the top of Sarangkot mountain to witness sunrise coming up from behind the Annapurna range. Thankfully, it was most definitely worth it as the skies that morning were perfect.
However it must be said that our biggest highlight of all was our flying experiences.
Every day as we looked to the mountains around us we’d see dozens of coloured gliders and it wasn’t long before I was chomping at the bit, wanting to have my first paragliding experience in what I imagine must be one of the worlds most spectacular places to do it. Not being Michael’s cup of tea I went alone (it was tandem so in my eyes there wasn’t much to fear) though he did come to take a few snaps of the moment. Michael couldn’t believe how fearless I was when given instructions to basically run and jump off the edge of a cliff.
Apparently some suffer from airsickness but I had no problems for the hour I was up there, even encouraging my instructor to take us through some acrobatic stuff – way too much fun and the experience totally made my day.
The flying experience Michael opted for was in a microlight plane which is a tiny two seated, open plane with wings that are evolved from a hang glider. The aircraft seriously looks like a toy plane with sound effects to match. In Michael’s words, ‘I felt like I was sat in a bucket with a lawn mower for an engine but it was amazing!’ He was so excited for his 7am take off at the airport that he was up half the night fearing he may miss his wake up call. He went up to 11,000meters in the bucket and was able to go quite far into the mountains, it was of course magical and he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.
I think you’d agree that it truly has been quite a year of adventures for us, we’ve been looking back these past few days and can’t quite believe how much has been seen and done! Though we are feeling homesick for the festive season and a cosy Christmas, we do wish y’all a very merry one and we’ll be back in 2013 with more tales to tell.