Yesterday, late afternoon, we had flown into Nepalgunj on a “Buddha Air“ flight and had checked into Hotel Poplife. 🙂 Now isn’t that a funny name ?? The flight itself was uneventful, except the first few minutes which gave me some jitters as the smallish ATR aircraft banked and wobbled while on its ascent over Kathmandu and across the peaks of the lower Himalayas. It seemed that other than me no one else was much upset, and the air hostess took it sportily and laughed back when I asked her whether she carries life insurance. The Poplife hotel, on the highway, was pretty decent compared to the locale and the mostly industrial town that Nepalgunj is. The hotel boasted of Wifi, hot running water and a big dining hall, where we had all grouped together after a quick refreshment break to listen to Nick, our new BuildOn Trek Manager, chalk out the tentative plan. Nick explained the rest of the trip to us, the Dos and the Don’ts to follow during our stay at the village, over a sumptuous and tasty dinner. The don’ts were more and he seemed pretty concerned for the safety of all of us. One stern directive from our Trek Manager was never to drink external water from any source while we were at the village. We have brought a wide mouthed water bottle each, and would be carrying our filtered water always during our stay at Jonapur.
Tea and coffee were Okay, he said.
Sunrise at Nagarkot
Yesterday was eventful. .Early at 5 am, the team had planned for a sunrise viewing from Nagarkot. Kathmandu lies in a valley surrounded by the Himalayas. Nagarkot is about 32 kms from the capital and lies on the north-eastern rim of the valley. At an elevation of 2195 meters, Nagarkot is considered to provide the most scenic view of the Eastern Himalayan Range including a slice of Mt Everest on the eastern horizon. It was pretty dark when we started and very chilly this mid-December, and with caps and mufflers covering our heads and faces, the team was determined to make the best of a logistics glitch which had happened the day before.The skies looked clear, with the stars twinkling above and kept our hopes of a viewing of Mt Everest high.
It takes about an hour on these narrow and pot-holed roads around Kathmandu, up to the mountains to reach Nagarkot. The skies had just started to turn bright as we alighted and scampered off about a hundred meters to the viewing area. The air was chilly, close to freezing point, and some of us started shivering. The best way to fight the chill off is to keep pacing up and down, letting your body muscles warm and to rub our palms to generate heat. Guess it worked. Other than us, there was one more team of three Chinese guys with their SLR cameras and selfie sticks waiting for the sun to rise.
Colours started changing around the horizon to the east, the mountain peaks slowly rising from an icy slumber and at around 6.22 am the sun peeped. Nagarkot commands one of the broadest views of the Himalayas in the Kathmandu valley – a view of 8 Himalayan ranges of Nepal out of 13. The ranges include the Annapurna range, Ganesh range and the Mahalangur range including Mt. Everest. It also offers a panoramic view of the valley of Kathmandu, still lapped up in layers of fog and appearing mystical from above in the early morning sunlight. A small set up offers tea or coffee while you can sit and watch the sun as it starts warming up your face and icy hands with the first rays for the day. We stayed another 15 minutes and then drove down to the nearby Himalayan Resort for some more panoramic views. Breakfast was at a road side eatery, with food packed from our own hotel and hot steaming coffee from the shack.
Relics of Bhaktpur
The next stop was at Bhaktpur, the district headquarters about 20 kms downhill from Nagarkot. Bhaktpaur served as the capital during the reign of the Mallas and is a historically important city and regarded as another of UNESCO World Heritage site. The entry fee is priced at 500 Nepali Rupees per head irrespective of your nationality.Sadly, much of it has perished during the Nepal Earthquake in April 2015. It was once home to rich local customs and culture, historical monuments and craft works, excellent temples, monasteries, beautiful ponds, traditional art and architecture, pottery and weaving industries. Sadly, much of it has perished during the Nepal Earthquake in April 2015 and today it lies in shambles, a very distant memory of the days gone by.
The Bhaktpur Durbar Square is dedicated to Hindu Gods and Goddesses, the prominent one being Shiva.The temples lay in Pagoda and Shikhara style, indicating the influence of Buddhism at some point of history around the area. Intricate wood carvings around gateways windows and lintels over red brick structures dominate over what is left of the once-majestic courtyard. After the previous Earthquake of 1934 and then the recent one last year, most of the Durbar area is now in rubbles, once what were stone edifices and guardian deities are now fragmented monoliths, part of the debris piled up at every corner of the courtyard.
We left Bhaktpur after about an hour, returned back to our Hotel Thamel, packed our bags and once again made our way back to Tribhuvan International Airport. This time we did fly. The Buddha Air flight flew on time, and we reached Nepalgunj at around 5 pm in the afternoon. Nick met us at the airport along with Narendra his assistant, the luggage area seemed a cozy place for visitors to meet travelers. All of us were rounded off on a bus and driven 15 minutes downtown to our very own, Hotel Poplife.
Today we are now starting on our four hour drive to Jonapur, the village where we have plans to support the building of a new school for the village children. Absolutely looking forward to our stay there. It should be so different from the comfort of Dubai. And we will continue with our account for the rest of our Trek soon.