Saturday, 1 May 2010

Nepal: Kathmandu

New country, new currency - but is Nepal like India? "Same, same but different", so it's said.
Saturday 24
April: To avoid the noisy nightlife of Thamel's trendy bars and clubs I'm staying at the final destination of the old 1970's hippy trail in 'Freak Street' - little of the magical mystery remains but the music lingers on - Cat Stevens, Jethro Tull The Doors and the omnipresent Tibetan incantations of 'Om Mani Padme Hum'. It's next to old city's quiet, traffic-free palace and temple zone of Durbar Square, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Tuesday 27: I enjoy an informative two-hour presentation on trekking routes, by British photo journalist Chris Beall, at the Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel. We go for a quick Everest beer afterwards - it's a long night.
Wednesday 28: An organisation day - I collect a TIMS (Trekking Information Management Systems) card, an ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) permit, pick up some printed trek altitude profiles and visit KEEP (Kathmandu Environmental Education Project) to buy biodegradable soap, iodine water purifiers, a map and some mountain gear. The frozen bodies of poorly educated lowland porters are often found during the Spring snow melt, asphyxiated in the cold high altitude air. KEEP provide porters with donated clothing and education. I also apply for a China visa, Tibet permit and sign up for an eight-day 'package' tour to Lhasa leaving 22nd May.
Thursday 29: There is a major Maoist demonstration and general strike in Kathmandu planned for May Day. It is likely to turn into a serious riot and disruptions will continue for some time - it's time to leave.
Friday 30: I head for the hills very early in the morning - no time to hire a guide or porter. My secret weapon - I can read a map.
Photos of Kathmandu.

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