Game On

Kathmandu Traffic

Crossing a road in China without being hit was a huge challenge, but the same task is almost impossible in Nepal. The traffic here is beyond words.

What should be a simple process (although confusing sometimes because of the left-hand driving) – look right, look left, look right again, and walk – turns out to be a major undertaking, and we are not even talking a main road. Walking over any road in Kathmandu is a violent Continue…

Heads are Rolling

We arrived in Kathmandu just as the festival of Dasain began. During the festival, Hindus perform a series of animal sacrifices at temples and shrines all over the city. Chickens, goats, and water buffaloes are all losing their heads faster than the tourists can cringe and say “gross” – only the holy cows are safe.

Blood on Durbar Square after Animal Sacrifice during Dasain

In Durbar Square, 108 buffaloes and goats were beheaded to please the gods. Special bleacher seating was set up for tourists to enjoy the event!!!

Maoists

Maoist Slogan in Kathmandu

The Maoist have pulled out of the government – yet again. Damn! This is definitely going to make our trip more interesting.

In case you’re not up on the political situation in Nepal… Continue…

Got Tika?

After our first day walking around Kathmandu, Tony ended up with a tika on his forehead forced upon him by a “tourist sadhu” (a fake Hindu holy man) who wanted some money in exchange. All he earned was an annoyed glance from Tony after being involuntarily tikaed.

Tony Got Tikaed

A tika is a sandalwood-paste dot marked on the forehead either just below the hairline (which in my case would be at the top of my head) or above the root of your nose. While they are worn especially for religious occasions, tikas can still be seen in everyday life. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Tikas can be circular, drop or diamond-shaped, pink or deep-blue, studded with rhinestones or glitter, and can be quite a fashion statement on their own.

Having said that, I also saw some less than attractive tikas during Dasain, Nepal’s biggest annual festival. They were rather large and 3-dimensional and looked more like bloody pigeon diarrhea. I bet Tony was happy, he didn’t end up with this huge pile of tika on his forehead.

Kathmandu

Durbar Square, Kathmandu

We’ve finally made it to Kathmandu – a true backpacking legend. Back in the hippie days this was THE ultimate destination on the road east. Hundreds of hippies made their way from London across Europe to Turkey and then further east via Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. The broken down buses and VW vans were all headed to the same destination, the notorious Freak Street, so named because Continue…

Crossing to Nepal

Our Car in Tibet

I’ve always said the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing is the most abrupt, most dramatic border transition I’ve ever experienced. It turns out, there is another…

Driving along the desert roads of the Tibetan plateau, the road peaked just before Nyalam to reveal a spectacular Himalayan panorama and a road heading down, down , down. After what seemed like an unending series of switchbacks, the open moonscape we were moving through gave way to tight canyons that slid their way through the snow-capped mountains. Stone villages and terraced fields clung to the steep cliffs, herds of yaks and goats wandered along the road.

Pema, our driver, carefully navigated the hairpin turns and steep drop-offs as suicidal Chinese drivers Continue…

Trash Eating Cow

Trash Eating Cow

As in many third world countries, trash management in China, and even more so in Tibet, is a huge problem particularly outside the tourist areas where there don’t seem to be any centralized places for disposing of trash. The more organized municipalities have random piles of trash distributed throughout the town while less organized places are evenly littered with garbage – it is just like living on a dump.

The most shocking examples of trash mismanagement, we encountered in Tibet. Continue…

The Long Road Back

Black-Necked Cranes, Tibet

Two days of driving to the Nepalese border and most of it was backtracking via the same route by which we had come. Our 17-day trip was almost over and I knew, we would hit the same spine-crumbling potholes again.

Tibetan Landscape

I didn’t expect a lot of excitement going back. Going through familiar terrain, though, provides a chance to relax and let your mind wander. I believe all of us were thinking about Continue…

Lake Manasarovar

Gurla Mandhata

After Nam Tso Lake, which supposedly is the highest fresh water lake in the world, the holy Lake Manasarovar is the highest salt water lake at an altitude of 4550 m (15,000 feet) and a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site. We spent a couple of nights there on our way back from the Guge Kingdom staying at a small guest house situated between the lake shores and the Chiu Monastery atop a small hill. Continue…