Sunday, 22 January 2012

Pirates for Breakfast

(Apologies for the blatant product placement, the ubiquitous meal time accompaniment of tomato ketchup. Noah has started a campaign "Ketchup counts as one of my five-a-day, and if I eat five helpings of it all of them count".... I suspect he would have many supporters if only he could find an effective way to target the Primary School audience.)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Almost Tibet

I shall start this post with a sort of moan / confession.... It has been hard to come back to KTM after even just the eleven days we spent in Thailand. It was such a treat to be in a warm, clean, functioning country with easy, comfortable, accessible public transport, unlimited water (including hot!) and electricity, places to buy things we needed / wanted, parks and play areas for the children, etc, etc.....
Kathmandu is reasonably warm during the day at the moment - you can even work up a sweat if you play tennis or carry a small person in the sunshine, but it gets very cold at night. Not below freezing, but not far above it - and there is no central heating. It's also very dusty because we are in the dry season, and the smog is worse because of the low temperatures - some days it just seems to sit over the city all day. Add in a petrol shortage (ie 'NONE' most of the time) and at least 11 hours a day without electricity, and you'll hopefully see why Thailand was such a welcome break.
So, I'm out of love of any kind for Nepal. Also the car is not right despite numerous garage visits, and is taking on 'Money Pit' characteristics that I just hate. I have violent feelings towards the garage staff!

So, Harv said, lets get out of Kathmandu for a couple of days - where shall we go? And I remembered previously abandoned plans to drive up towards the Tibetan border. We packed all our warm, waterproof (just in case!) clothing, yaks' wool blankets, a big box of homemade cookies, a nasty pack of factory made ones (also just in case), and set off to Borderlands, an aptly titled 'eco-resort' 16km south of the Tibetan border. It was a lovely green space for the children to play - lots of grass to run around on, and boulders to climb along the edge of the Bhote Khosi river.
(If you decide to visit, don't forget to get in touch, and visit us on your way through KTM......)

We are happy campers in the UK but it just doesn't happen here. Frustrating, but not insurmountably so...... So we go to places like this instead.
And have adventures.... The first day involved a driver (our car is in the garage remember) who finally turned up over an hour late, then (after assuring us that he had plenty of petrol) 15 minutes into the journey turned off the road to join a queue at a petrol station that was clearly going to be there for a while. Remonstrations. The petrol at said petrol station ran out. Driver had met someone whilst queuing. We drove off the main road (after pulling a u-turn in the middle of the highway) to buy black market petrol. We finally resume journey only two hours later than we'd planned. To be fair, because the roads were so free of traffic because of the petrol shortage, we had a very easy journey and arrived well in time for lunch because of the strangely empty roads.
The next day we went for a wee trek of our own - and being us, decided NOT to go for the 15 dollar guide, but to go by ourselves. We found the suspension bridge, and (after a quick discussion with a local teenager) the way down to it.
Can you see Eve and Noah's shadows?

We climbed the hill the other side, wriggled our way through the village, admiring the new houses being built as we went.....

And found our way up around, and out into the terraces....

Then got kind of lost. The little path we were following petered out and we weren't sure whether to keep contouring round or try to find our way down to the clear path we could see a hundred or so metres lower down. We asked a lady we came across who was collecting a huge bale of straw for animals in the village. She smiled, slung the strap holding the bale across her forehead, and gestured us to follow her. Then she set off at Gandalf's pace with her huge bundle and her bare feet, zig-zagging down a tiny path we'd never have spotted. Eve kept up with her - go Eve! We were a bit slower with the boys, but she waited for us and showed us all the way down to the bigger path, then carried on to the village at about twice our pace. It was definitely not the trek the guy at the resort had been talking about - but we liked our extra bit of adventure.

The next day we drove up the road towards Tibet. We saw lots of trucks parked up on the roadside, maybe because of the petrol shortage? And lots of landslides which are more of a threat during monsoon, but were still scary to behold. And a bridge that is kind of under construction, so you just drive through the river right now, maybe indefinitely. We passed a huge dam, and also saw some mysteriously shiny, brand new trucks which didn't even have license plates.

Two kilometres from the border is Tatopani ('hot water'), a sort of spa. We took a very steamy family bath, and explained to the littles about the earth's core, water pressure and minerals....and realised our own ignorance....

It was at an amazing location, right on the river. Unfortunately the toilets feed straight into said river.

This is typical here, and the sort of thing you have to let your mind slide over.

And here's a random collection of other photos from our camping adventure:

So, going back to the start of the post, I am not in love with Nepal, and I don't think that will ever happen, but my children are happy and this goes a very long way.