A welcome relief to stay in a real resort.
Wednesday afternoon - Welcome to Nepal.
A simple room housed the visa formalities man and with a whack of his stamp we were free to explore his country, with or without pictures of the Dalai Lama as no one checked anything of our bags.
Procured on short notice, a van too small for all of us was waiting, and after loading our bags onto the roof we squashed in and drove 1km down the narrow road of Kodari lined with shops and pedestrians. One kilometre is as as far as we got before we reached a traffic jam. After sitting for 20 minutes we got out to explore and discovered that up ahead a bus had run out of fuel, as they do, and on this narrow road that blocked the traffic in both directions. One hour and a half later we were off and still had 4 hours to go to get to our accommodation in the Dhulikel Valley.
Not only has the vegetation changed and become much more lush, we had more rain tonight.
China in all their wisdom, has only one time zone for the whole country, and it’s wider than Australia, meaning that in the far east such as Beijing, it gets light early and dark early too. Here in the far west, it gets light too late and stays light until late too. Now we’ve crossed into Nepal we put our clocks back 2 hours and 15 minutes. (15 minutes? Can’t do 2 hours. That would make them the same as India to the south and THEN how would you tell the two countries apart?) This means that we arrive at what feels like 9pm but it’s apparently 6:45, but it’s been dark for over an hour.
The High View Resort is expecting us. I’m sceptical of ‘resorts’, especially in third world countries. I’ve stayed in places called X Resort that bear no resemblance to what we understand the word to mean. How pleasant to find, not only willing porters to carry our bags up the many steps that afford you the ‘high view’, but a welcome hot flannel and drink on arrival. This place knows how to guests on side from the moment they arrive.
Dinner that followed was some tasty vegetarian pakoras and wontons. It was late so that was perfect. So too was the Everest beer, brewed in Nepal, the first decent beer since I got to China.
Apart from cocktails at funky bars at the start of our trip, I’ve not drunk any spirits or wine during my time in China. The spirits were like kero; the wine was called Great Wall, but despite the efforts of two intrepid tour members - Helen and Tess - to valiantly keep trying different vintages and varietals, the BEST they managed was ‘drinkable’. As for me, I’m happy to wait until I get home for some quality Aussie wine. Until then, Everest beer will do me just fine. It says ‘limited edition’ on the label, but it celebrates 50 years of Tenzing Norgay’s climb in 2004. On enquiring of the barman, it turns out they’ve been making it for 5 years. Limited?
There was a surprise waiting for us here – Brett. We’d last heard he’d been medivacced by ambulance from Lhasa hospital to hospital in Chengu and that was the last we saw or heard of him. Down from altitude, he’d made a full and fast recovery. Travel insurance flew him to Delhi, but wouldn’t fly him to Kathmandu because it’s still high, although it’s only how many metres ASL?
While we were in Tibet and Everest, he rushed around India before flying up here (without telling his travel insurance) to surprise us and join us for the last 4 days of the trip. When you have a good group as we do, you’re sorry to lose someone. Having Brett back was a welcome surprise and we both had stories to tell.
Thursday – Day in Dhulikel.
Woke at a ‘normal’ time for our body clocks, but it was still early here. 9am reads 6:45 am. As day broke and the valley fog lifted we enjoyed the panoramic views over the valley from our private balcony. This is a nice place and a welcome change and respite from Tibet’s Spartan hotel offerings.
Taking breakfast on the rooftop terrace I chose the ‘Indian set breakfast’ as others chose ‘Continental’. As their bad tasting cornflakes went soggy in the hot milk, they eyed off my potato parathas and banana lassi and made a point to order it tomorrow.
Travelling tip – non-Western countries rarely do Western foods well. Order what they’re good at. Not only does it expose you to what others eat, it’s what they make the best as well.
Mid-morning walk with Nigel from the resort as our local guide, we first caught a local bus into the nearby village of Panauti. Not only was the bus crammed full of colourful people and chickens, the roof was too and there were goats in the boot. So glad the fare was only 5 cents.
Stopping first at a temple, we walked through the busy village past people threshing and winnowing rice in the town square, whilst others shelled soya beans by hand. Animals of all types roamed, children played and we took photos. Why is that goat looking at us from a first story window? Back at the market square, we caught another bus. Getting off in the middle of rice paddies, we walked across them and through a much more rural area. Why are there unharvested bunches of rice standing in the paddy, all tied by hand? Blown over sections of untied rice gave us our answer. About an hour into our 2 hour walk back, grey clouds covered the sky and giant raindrops hinted at the deluge to follow. I got my jacket on just in time, but others hadn’t come prepared and I felt smug as well as snug. Paths turned first to mud and then to small streams as the rain continued to fall the whole way back. Wet where I shouldn’t have been, I discovered that the Gore Tex jacket I bought for my first overseas trip 17 years ago has finally worn out and is no longer waterproof. It’s done me well for all that time.
What a nice feeling to return to a hot shower and dry clothes.
With the rest of the day free, a snacky tasty late lunch with drinks morphed into an afternoon of cards and drinking on the terrace once the rain cleared. Gin & tonic is a perfect tropical drink and Amanda and I made it our choice of the day and left others to the local ‘wine’ and beer.
Brute made a reappearance. That was the card game we played in Chengdu that simply involves placing the deck of cards on top of a wine bottle. Taking turns to blow at least one card off, the loser is the one who blows the last card off. The penalty in our game was a black dot on your face made by the twist of a burnt cork. It’s a noisy game, but out here on the hilltop there’s no one to complain.
Too many drinks and black dots later we all went downstairs for dinner.
Hill View Resort has great food and my Vegetable Kofta (balls) Curry was no exception with the Basmati rice a nice treat. It’s known as the ‘Queen of Rice’ and I agree. Long fluffy aromatic grains. MMmm!
Tomorrow we go to Kathmandu.