After yesterday’s flight from Doha passed by without a hitch, apart from my choice of sleep over studying fiscal policy, we arrived in Kathmandu airport and within the hour were out onto the streets late at night.
Kathmandu strikes me as a city which is suffering as a consequence of its own economic growth and globalisation. The standard of living is low and buildings are either historic sites now slowly crumbling into disrepair, or rapidly built high rise buildings lacking design safety features. From each building, dozens of wires cascade across the street above, powering this nation’s capital. Ominously, on a couple of occasions, we ventured past unfortunate souls who found themselves stranded up ladders attempting to fix any electrical issue. I trust they are well.
Traffic wise, I was told beforehand by both parents that the traffic would be like India. Not that this analogy was helpful to me but I could draw comparisons with Paris. When cycling to the then unburnt Notre Dame with Explorers a couple of years ago I remarked that the traffic lights were merely part of the Paris’ vibrant colour scheme as opposed to any useful system of traffic management. Today was similar, except there are no traffic lights, very few road signs or lanes, and policemen at junctions blowing their whistles and pointing at drivers who seemingly honk their horns in retaliation. Or anger. Or in whatever mood takes their fancy. Suffice to say it created quite a cacophony of noise which I doubt I will experience again, except for later in the trip.
But Kathmandu is more than just noise and extreme heat. And it’s far more than the monkeys, cows and stray dogs. For this afternoon was spent overlooking a Buddhist temple as monks and Hindus gathered around the monastery. Manic, yes but also reassuring to know that in this crazy city of chaos that much of the population can, through their faith, be at peace with the world and their worlds around them. Self-contentment, often forgotten in rapid developments, has been preserved and maintained in this landscape. And isn’t that a wonderful thing.
As someone who doesn’t overly enjoy Birmingham, I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t be a huge fan of today. But seeing how this city operates and to get a taste of this brand new culture is something I’m already very grateful for. Today has also served as further inspiration to believe in promoting climate change. To witness bodies today being cremated in rivers polluted with excrement and litter, was saddening and eye-opening and the air today was palpable with the smell of sewage and motor engines. It serves then as a good idea of what climate change and global warming is and whether it can be reduced efficiently without deflating nation’s economic futures.
Anyhow, enough about personal ambition. Tomorrow sees a long drive to the lower Himalayas and the start of our trek to Gosainkunda. It also means it’s incredibly likely that it will commence the start of a communication barrier between us. But I will write and see what happens. I can tell you already that we’ll be checking out tomorrow at 6am local time and travelling for around 4-5 hours before doing an acclimatisation hike of similar duration. After that, we then trek upwards accompanied by 3 Sherpas en route and 8 porters who will be transferring our bags from tea house to hostel. If we do see them at the end of the hike, then I’m sure they’re worthy of a ‘Chapeau!’ at least.