Tag Archives: Nepal

Katmandu, Nepal – A Photo Essay

The recent earthquake in Nepal has bought back memories of an unforgettable trip I did the Nepal in late 2008, I hope most, if not all, of these places are still standing.

Also see my subsequent post Ama Dablam Trek, Nepal – A Photo Essay.

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This is us at our fave cafe in Istanbul , more later 🙂

Tracey and Marty in Istanbul
Tracey and Marty in Istanbul

Uncovering the Hippy Trail

When I was a teenager living in Darwin in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was very aware of the stream of young travellers that made their way to Asia from Darwin, some flying and many by boat. This journey took people from Australia to Timor, island hopping through Indonesia then Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and then India and Nepal. Once in India, people would continue the journey overland until they made it to the United Kingdom. This journey was called the Hippy Trail.

Interestingly, after doing some research I have found that the Australian version of the trail, was in reverse to the northern hemisphere experience of the Hippy Trail. Here is a quote from Hans Roodenburg’s site:

In the late nineteen sixties and early seventies, hundreds of thousands of youngsters from both sides of the North Atlantic took the journey overland from Europe to India, Nepal and beyond. Simultaneously, quite a few travellers from Australia came in via Southeast Asia and made the trip the other way round. From Western Europe the road led through former Yugoslavia, Greece or Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal. The one-way distance along this so-called ‘Hippie Trail’ was approximately 11.000 km (7.000 miles). An old Volkswagen van was the favourite choice of those who provided their own means of transport. Trains, cheap buses and hitchhiking were the modes of transport open to the others. Along the Trail, specialized budget hotels provided shelter and a place to meet other travellers.

I have seen this quote on a few different sites and not totally sure if it is indeed a quote from Hans, so apologies if I have not correctly attributed these words. Hans also has a map of his journey.

Hans Roodenburg's Hippy Trail
Hans Roodenburg’s Hippy Trail

Anyway, since those days as a wide-eyed young person I have been fascinated by this journey. I have started to formulate a plan that would take us from Australia to the UK mostly by road (with the obvious exception of a couple of countries).

We need to take this journey on the cheap; so will be calling out to our readers, using www.globalfreeloaders.com and www.couchsurfing.org to find accommodation along the way. We can also review accommodation and other travel services, so if you want your product reviewed, let us know.

Although we are not young backpackers, we are still adventurous and to make this journey would be the realisation of a life-time dream. As the idea takes shape, I will be sharing with you more of our plans for this adventure.

If you have done the Hippy Trail, we would love you to share your story with us too!

A Day in the Life of Kathmandu

An Exotic mix of Hindu and Buddhist Images
Images: Garry Benson © 2014
Story: Garry Benson
Editor: Tracey Benson

Nepalese Map
Nepalese Flag

 

‘There’s a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu,
There’s a little marble cross below the town;
There’s a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew,
And the Yellow God forever gazes down.’

The above poem is set in Nepal (‘to the north of Kathmandu’), during the British Raj and tells the tale of a wild young officer known as ‘Mad Carew’, who steals the ‘green eye’ of a ‘yellow god’ (presumably an emerald in a gold statue) to impress his beloved. He is wounded in the course of the robbery, and later murdered, presumably by a devotee of the god for the theft, who returns the jewel to the idol.

Like the Khyber Pass, Kathmandu is a romantic legend that lives up to its reputation for the exotic and adventurous. I was first there in 1991 when I was about to start a six week trek to Everest Base Camp via the newly opened Arun Valley route. When we joined the main route we were struck by the difference between a ‘virgin’ route and the old tracks near Lukla – the amount of trash was incredible.
When I returned from the trek I had a few days in Kathmandu to fossick around with my 35mm Nikons & a Widelux Panoramic camera that produced a 50 x 24mm panoramic shot.

Image: Garry Benson © 2014
Image: Garry Benson © 2014

For camera buffs at a cost of around $A2000 in 1991 it had a unique film transport system – the film went around the curve and the lens travelled from one side to the other around the central tower slit. The quality was brilliant as shown on this detail of my shot of Everest (the black bastard) and Chimu (from Kalapatar). And another advantage was that unlike battery powered cameras it didn’t freeze up.

Image: Garry Benson © 2014
Image: Garry Benson © 2014

Back to the point. I took the following photos whilst walking around the byways of Kathmandu, trying to get the image, sound and smell of this strangely medieval looking city.

Image: Garry Benson © 2014
Image: Garry Benson © 2014

Kathmandu is the capital and largest urban centre of Nepal. The urban city astrides the Kathmandu Valley and consists of Kathmandu Metropolitan City at its core, and its sister cities Patan, Kirtipur, Thimi, and Bhaktapur.

Kathmandu is the gateway to tourism in Nepal. It is also the nerve center of the country’s economy as it has the most advanced urban infrastructure in Nepal. Although tourism in Kathmandu declined during a period of Maoist political unrest, today it is much improved. For example, in 2013, Kathmandu was ranked third among the top 10 travel destinations on the rise in the world by Trip Advisor, and ranked first in Asia.

The city has a rich history, spanning nearly 2000 years, as inferred from inscriptions found in the valley. Religious and cultural festivities form a major part of the lives of people residing in Kathmandu. Hinduism and Buddhism are the most popular religions in Kathmandu. There are people of other religious beliefs as well, giving Kathmandu a cosmopolitan culture. Nepali is the most commonly spoken language in the city and English is understood by Kathmandu’s educated residents.

Image: Garry Benson © 2014
Image: Garry Benson © 2014

Nepal has faced significant political unrest over recent years, which travellers should be aware of before they take the journey to Nepal. Its troubled history includes the 2001 massacre of the royal family, where the heir to the throne, Prince Dipendra, killed nine members of his family and shot himself. The dead included King Birendra of Nepal and Queen Aishwarya.

Upon the death of his father, Prince Dipendra became de jure King of Nepal though died after three days after the massacre as a result of his injuries.

A few years ago, the political parties of Nepal agreed on forming an interim government under the leadership of Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi. Constituent Assembly elections were held on 19 November 2013 to end the political deadlock. The second election for the constituent assembly was held successfully and Sushil Koirala was appointed the new prime minister.

The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website warns travellers to exercise a high degree of caution:

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 19 February 2014. It contains new information under Summary and Local travel (on 16 February 2014, a Nepal Airlines plane crashed in western Nepal, killing all 18 people on board). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Nepal due to the uncertain political and security situation.

Although Nepal is a country where western tourists do need to be very careful, it is still an incredible place.

References:

Australian Government – Smart Traveller website (accessed 30 April 2014)

Nepal – Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia (accessed 30 April 2014)