Saturday, 9 August 2014

Day 16 - Into the hills.

Saturday today so ceremonially turned off the alarm last night only to wake at 7.15. Messaged Anastasia and we agreed to meet for breakfast at Cheenos. Did all the necessary then wandered there slowly through awakening streets. Lots of vegetables and fresh meat around (live and dead) and the shops were slowly opening for business. found Cheenos and went in and ordered a cup of black tea. When Anastasia arrived we both ordered the Cheenos special breakfast (non veg - a safe place!) which was bacon, potatoes, scrambled egg with nutmeg, toast, sausage and onion, accompanied by a fruit juice.

In the supermarket (water and umbrella stop) - Union Jack toilet roll!

We decided to walk to Lagankhel bus park to pick up a bus to Bhaktapur. It was about a 25 minute walk through the back streets and finally down the wonderful road leading from Durbar Square the Lagankhal which is lined with vegetable and fruit stalls, many material shops,shoe shops, household goods and bedding. It was noisy and colourful.

We found the bus after asking a few times and got on. A few minutes later (there are no timetables as such) the bus pulled out to make the hour journey to Bhaktapur. This is still in the KTM Valley but is another old town and beautiful - I have been there a couple of times before. 

Now, catching a bus in Nepal takes rather a lot of guess work. Firstly there are very few marked bus stops, you just have to watch when people are gathering and gather with them. Secondly, there's no timetables - the buses just leave when they are full or when the driver has finished his cigarette. Thirdly, you are just as likely to be sharing the bus with livestock and sacks of rice as people, the spare wheel lives inside near the front (loose) and if there are no seats then people stand, hang out of the doors or ride on the roof. Fourthly, any signage there many be, and there isn't much, will not be in English but Devanagari. They are hot, smelly and wonderful and incredibly cheap.

What every bus driver needs...
We drove out to Bhaktapur past the Bagmati River, airport and along the new road. We kept stopping for passengers and at one point seemed to be racing another bus which had skipped ahead of us. The music was on loudly as on all buses in Nepal. It took about an hour to get to Bhaktapur then to find the stop we needed. we walked a little way up the road to the bus park and hopped on the bus to Nagarkot. It was almost empty which should have alerted us to the fact that we had just missed one and we sat in the park - a short, unmade patch of ground really - for a good half hour. In that time the bus filled up with people, plants, sacks and shopping. We finally started off after much revving of the engine and went so slowly at first that I seriously doubted that given the load inside and on the roof we would make it out of the town never mind up the hills.

Curiously, all buses in Nepal seem to feature toothbrushes!

This is the first Christian sign I've seen in Nepal.

We made slow progress up the valley and started climbing almost straight away. The bus was packed and I was on the inside so I couldn't see much of the route which,, given the loading, I was quite thankful for. A local Nepalese boy started talking to us and practising his English. He goes to the army school in Nagarkot as his father is in the army.

Arriving in Nagarkot
An hour later we had climbed right to the top of the rim of the KTM Valley and were disgorged into a small, Newari village - Nagarkot. The views, despite the haze, were stunning. We walked along the "main" road for a while then returned to a restaurant we had spotted in a hotel. We asked if we could sit outside and they agreed even thought they were concerned we did not have a table. We ordered two (lukewarm) beers and a selection of nibbles and sat back to enjoy the stunning panorama. In the spring and autumn when the air is clear there is the most wonderful panorama of the Himalayan range. However, being summer it was cloudy and the view was spectacular but maybe 60% of what it could be. The cameras struggled with the panorama with the haze so the photographs do not really do it justice. As we sat there the haze gradually lifted a little and we were excited to see shady, far away outlines of mighty mountains.
View from Nagarkot bus park.

I've never seen a zero milestone before.

Lunchtime view

Menu misprints

By far and away my favourite menu misprints so far!!!

Jane and Anastasia - the two intrepid explorers

After 2 hours of talking and eating we wandered back to the bus "park" as we had both agreed we did not want to be on the local buses at night. After a short photo stop on the mound at the head of the village we boarded the bus and sat right at the front. The driver was enjoying a break so it was about 20 minute before we left. Initially we had a young driver who was careful, courteous to other road users and with whom we felt really safe. There are some alarming hair pin bends on the road down to Bhaktapur and he showed very great skills in negotiating them and avoiding the large coaches bringing tourists up and the local buses which were even busier than when we had arrived.However, he was deemed too slow so drivers changed and the second one was far faster, rather reckless and felt much less safe. We descended through paddy fields planted with lush green rice and back into Bhaktapur. After the fresh air of the hills it was noticeable how the air in the bottom of the valley felt gritty.
Spare wheel in bus

On the way down

Bus coming up (in the rain)

A delightful discovery round the back of the bus park in Bhaktapur.

We eventually found the bus back to Patan and boarded. It went straight away and was busy but comfortable. It was fascinating driving through the outskirts of the city and looking at all the shops. we arrived back in Patan and walked through a real sea of people to Durbar Square. The quiet street we had walked along in the morning was thronging with people shopping, talking, eating and generally having a very good time. Tomorrow is the big festival for the area so I think that the excitement has already started tonight. 

We parted having agreed a time to meet tomorrow and i came back to the apartment for a very welcome cold shower. Then blog and photos and lots of water before relaxing and reading. 

It was wonderfull to be out of the city for a while. Much as I love KTM and Patan especially it is very polluted and busy. Rural Nepal is much gentler and very much more scenic. I'm keen to see more and have a plan-let forming.....more later!


  1. Loving the diary entries, Gerald

  2. Lovely day Jane, so pleased you managed to get out and about. Mum xx

  3. What a wonderful day! All the photos really bring the Nepalese culture to life for those of us on the other side of the world. I too enjoy the misprints-especially the "creeps". How much fun it must be for you to be able to share your adventures with Anastasia. Can't wait to hear about the festival. Jean

  4. What a great adventure you had today, I have to say that by far my favourite photo is the "Food Republic, delightfully tacky, yet unrefined" Looking forward to hearing about the festival.

  5. Enjoying reading about your adventures :-) did you try a 'creep' ?! Happy exploring xx

  6. What a beautiful country! An intrepid bus journey - and such a contrast from your descriptions of urban Nepal.

  7. Could you please send me a creep? Love the post, you are very brave to explore. The photos are amazing!