Hello Nepal (Day 19) – Zhangmu to Kathmandu 9 July 2009

The next morning, on the last day of our road trip, the sun was out!, and we continued down the gorge to the Friendship Bridge – the border between Tibet and Nepal. friendship bridgeOnly foot traffic is allowed on the bridge, so we bid a fond farewell to Kunchok and Sangye, and crossed over, porters carrying our luggage. On the other side of the bridge we were met by equally efficient and personable Prabin, who would be our Nepal guide, and his assistants. We were SO thankful they quickly ushered us through immigration, bypassing what most tourists had to contend with, which was an absolute, chaotic mess…a tiny, dark, packed room off a narrow muddy main street, elementary school desks used to sit and complete the paperwork…wow.

The road – a MAIN road – was even worse than before (I wrote ‘madness’ in my journal!), going from wide mud holes to smooth new concrete, construction in fits and starts. mudholeWe finally bottomed out at about 2000’, and then climbed again after crossing the wide, churning muddy Sun Kosi river to have lunch at Dhulikhel Resort perched on a hilltop. The contrast between the small, luxurious resort and the wild, poverty-stricken border town of Kodari back up the mountain was jarring.

We were now on the edge of the Kathmandu valley, with rolling, fertile steep green hills in every direction. If not for the rainy season and the beautiful sky-high clouds, from the balcony where we had lunch we would have seen the snow-covered Himalayan peaks stretched from one end of the north horizon to the other. But the view (below) was wonderful in spite of that, and we could imagine the mountains with the help of photos on the walls of the resort.

KtmvalleyAs we approached Kathmandu, hundreds of chimneys dotted the landscape in every direction…brickmaking is a major industry of this area, and most of the buildings are made of beautiful red brick. Kathmandu is known as the City of Temples, and the city and surrounding Kathmandu Valley was divided into four kingdoms established by the ancient Newari rulers.

We had planned to visit the famous Boudananth Stupa on our way to the hotel, but events conspired against us: the President and VP were crossing our path in horse-drawn carriages with street closings, and the already choked traffic was completely gridlocked for hours (it even made the papers the next day). So Prabin finally gave up and we hopped out of the van and walked to the hotel, our luggage to follow us later. Getting to the Yak and Yeti, a 5-star hotel, was also jarring – it is situated in the midst of a very poor area, not quite a slum, but we felt completely spoiled as we arrived and were offered a fruit drink in the beautiful lounge.

We celebrated our arrival in Kathmandu that evening with dinner at RumDoodle – known for its good food, famous mountaineering guests, and footprint greetings all over the walls. It is named after a funky and celebrated novel about mountaineering I’d never heard of but can’t wait to read.