“I think I’m going to Katmandu,
That’s really, really where I’m going to.
If i ever get out of here,
That’s what I’m gonna do.”
Early in our careers we were convinced by musician Bob Seger that we had to get to the mountains of Kathmandu to escape the workaday rat race. But our first attempt to get into Nepal was a total bust!
We were living and working in London when we embarked on a long vacation to India and Nepal. The trip through India was both enlightening and challenging, and we were excited about visiting Nepal. We already had our plane tickets – back in the days of paper tickets with the red carbon backs (that rubbed off on everything). We’d fought our way through Delhi’s stunning mass of humanity to arrive at the airport early for our flight to Kathmandu.
When we finally reached the check-in counter, the man behind the desk declared, “There will be no flight today.”
“What?” we chimed incredulously. “Why?”
“It is closed.”
“Do you mean the airline is closed?” James asked.
“No. The COUNTRY is closed!”
It turned out that due to an overnight trade and transit dispute between India and Nepal, no flights were being allowed to enter Kathmandu from Delhi. The negotiators had reached an impasse, and there was no hope of flying in the near future. Talk about bad luck … and timing! And our leave time from our London jobs was nearly up, so we had to return to England. So much for escaping the rat race. But we swore we would get to Nepal one day.
FLASH FORWARD 12 YEARS:
We finally made it into Nepal on our second attempt.
We haven’t talked much about our first RTW. In 2001 we traveled the opposite direction around the globe, flying west from the USA. After traveling for months throughout Southeast Asia, we finally boarded a plane in Bangkok on our way to the fabled Kathmandu (fingers crossed).
When we touched down it was like landing in OZ. Exotic architecture, soaring mountains, and fluttering prayer flags all added to the jaw-dropping scenery.
Just like scenes from the movie The Golden Child, people bustled around hawking trinkets and arranging treks. Prayer wheels were in abundance, and sacred cows roamed the streets. You had to watch closely where you placed your feet. Fires fueled by dried cow dung smoldered across the city.
And even though James and I were pretty clean-cut, we were constantly offered drugs by fresh-faced kids.
Overlooking the city below, the All-Knowing Eyes of Buddha on the ancient Swayambunath Stupa took in everything.
More commonly known as the “Monkey Temple” (lots of primates live on the grounds), the Stupa sits dramatically on top of a hill and is approached by a formidable climb up 365 stairs.
The four-sided tower, with sleepy Buddha eyes on each side, has become the quintessential emblem of Nepal. And you may be wondering about the “question mark nose.” It’s the Nepali number “1” that represents the unity of all things.
Each day we explored the exotic city – always striking out in a new direction – weaving down narrow streets, visiting temples, talking with local artisans. At the end of the day we decided to take a lesson from Buddha: find a high place … and watch. We would climb to a rooftop tavern, order a cold beer, sit beneath colorful umbrellas, and marvel at life below. This certainly was not the rat race!
Photo Credits: 1. Luca Galuzzi (Lucag)