This was to be another long day of travel to the final destination on our GAdventures tour, Kathmandu. It was expected to require 8 hours on the bus with a few breaks along the way and some time for exploring at the end of the day.
This morning could hardly have been more different from yesterday. It dawned bright and clear without a cloud in the sky. With an 8:00 am departure we could have slept until 7:00 am but were awake at 6:00 am and on the roof by 6:20 am to catch sunrise on the mountains. From our position the sun rose behind a nearby building but to the north we had a clear view of snowy peaks as the first light struck them. It was not as full a view of the mountains as we would have had from the vantage point of yesterday but it was still splendid.
We managed breakfast in our room with dried fruit and nuts, coco pops substitute, mandarin, and black coffee. There was time to relax before we went down at 7:45 am to checkout and board the bus.
On the way out of Pokhara our bus stopped at the end of the lake. There was a clear space there above the water with a view across the lake to the mountains. Everyone got out for photos with the snow capped mountains reflecting in the lake.
As we drove further down the valley from Pokhara we encountered bands of mist. That gradually thickened and closed in so that we could not see the tops of the ridges on either side of the valley. We had been very lucky to get the views we did in Pokhara.
A little before 10:00 am the bus stopped for a comfort break at a roadside cafe. Majella pronounced their coffee the best she had tasted since we left home more than 3 weeks ago.
As we continued down the valley toward Mugling where we had stopped briefly on Friday the mist thinned. From time to time we were able to see tall snowy peaks that we had not been able to see as we drove up the valley in our way to Pokhara. A few fluffy white clouds appeared but not enough to obscure our view.
There was a quick fuel stop at Mugling. It was good to stretch our legs for a few minutes and some took the chance to buy food or drink. Then we were off to cover the remaining 100 km or so to Kathmandu. That took us upstream along the Trisuli River valley.
The steep valley sides were marked with terraces for agriculture wherever that seemed possible sometimes in seemingly less possible locations. Every so often there was a pedestrian suspension bridge from the left side where we we driving to the other. They led to paths cut out of the hillside for access to dwellings further from the river. Some were perched high up on the tops of the valley sides and would take a long hard uphill walk to reach. Most of the houses we saw on the far side were small single level traditional buildings but there were occasional more substantial buildings that must have taken great effort to carry in the necessary materials. Buildings on our side were mostly more substantial.
At Ghyalchok near the junction with a tributary there was a road bridge and a more substantial settlement on the flat above the river on the other side.
About 12:20 pm we stopped for lunch at a cafe overlooking the river. There was a fairly extensive menu of mostly local cuisine and some of the group ate fried rice or a Nepalese dish. Majella and I are curried out and opted for a plate of French fries each. We stayed about 40 minutes and then resumed our journey up the river valley.
Soon after lunch we passed through a small village where people on the side of the road were dealing with the aftermath of a minor collision between a car and a motorcycle. There did not appear to be anyone injured or much visible damage. That was the first collision we had seen in three weeks around India and Nepal. Given the volumes of traffic and the seeming chaos that was surprising. The drivers do seem to be skilled and to have excellent perception of where they are in relation to other vehicles and pedestrians.
Despite seeming determined to make progress, they also seem to be prepared to give other drivers a chance to get where they are going. We seldom, if ever, saw anything approaching the road rage we might expect at home.
Some time after lunch we left the Trisuli River and followed a smaller stream until we reached the end of that valley and made a slow wiggling ascent to cross a ridge. That took about 30 minutes until we topped the ridge and looked down at the Kathmandu valley. Just before 4:00 pm we were wending our way through the streets of Kathmandu.
Rather than go direct to our hotel our bus took us first to Swayambhunath, an ancient Hindu and Buddhist site on a hill above the city. Legend is that the whole valley was a lake and a beautiful lotus blossom grew there. A Buddhist king from India drained the lake to allow access for all to see and the stupa miraculously self-generated – the meaning of the name. There are numerous smaller stupas and several Hindu temples on the site.
We met a local guide who explained the myth and significance of the site and then took us for a tour round the site. In addition to the interesting architectural features the site has commanding views of the city and a view of the mountains to the north. It was damaged in the 2015 earthquake but some restoration has been completed and more is underway.
From there the bus took us close to our hotel in the Thamel area of the city. The hotel is down narrow streets which the bus could not access so we walked the last few hundred metres and our bags rode in a taxi. It was so crowded with bags, the driver and his assistant, that one bag, Majella’s, had to ride unsecured on the roof rack. We were pleased to find her bag at the hotel when we arrived.
After checkin we had abut an hour to relax before meeting at 6:30 pm to go for dinner, the last with the tour group. We ate at Gaia, a restaurant at the top of the street. Majella and I shared momos and followed those with sikerma (yoghurt with cinnamon) for me and apple pie for her. We drank ginger, lemon, and honey. Ruby engaged us in discussion about what had been our favourite parts of India and Nepal. Not surprisingly there was some variation. Rob thanked Ruby on behalf of us all and we presented her with gifts/tips.
After dinner Ruby led us on a walk to Durbar Square. There are some fascinating old building there. Some sustained serious damage in the 2015 earthquake but there are some repairs in progress and the whole area of markets looked like it would be fascinating and busy during daylight hours. Our walk managed to go astray once or twice and we probably walked more distance than we needed to. We were keen to get to bed because we needed to be up to meet at 5:15 am for our Everest flight.