Continued from Kathmandu Diary by CA Pavan Part 1
DAY 2 – 05th April 2015
# Nagarkot – what loneliness really means / ‘Everest –where art thou?”
I was up a little late today. I had to wait for Virat to get his bike and was thinking of the right words to use to convince him to lend me his bike today as well (he had told me last night that he would ‘see’ if was possible to lend the bike for another day). I needed the bike today the most; I had planned to visit the famous Nagarkot.
Nagarkot is situated 7,200 feet above sea level. It was used by the ancient kingdoms as a vantage point to spot enemy armies. There was a fort of sorts built on the hills here. Thus, it is no surprise then that it name is ‘nagar’-‘kot’ which literally translates to the city’s fort. Nagarkot is famous around the world for the fabulous view of the Greater Himalayas. If you are extremely lucky and the skies are crystal clear, this is how the Himalayas would look from Nagarkot during sunrise.
Speaking about luck, mine began well as Virat agreed to lend me his bike. The jacket and gloves I had purchased yesterday were of immense help as it was cold to go biking with only a shirt on (10 degrees or so). I took the route from Boudhnath. The other route is through Thamel in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur in the outskirts. The difference between the two routes from my hotel was about 15 kilometers, the one through Boudhnath being shorter. I decided to stick to the shorter route. I had no idea what was in store for me. This is the route map; as you can see, it says 46 minutes and 25 kilometers. I will also break this map into three parts (the dotted lines) on the basis of how populated they are – will tell you more about it soon.
So the journey started well. The roads at the beginning stood up to the reputation of being just as dusty as the other roads of Kathmandu; they held their own admirably well. I stopped just outside the city (and at the end of the first leg of the map above) to get the air in the bike tire checked and I was off. I got to see much of the traditional Nepali life on the way – houses dotted the roads, women dressed in traditional attire, lots of goats and nature at its best. The air outside was devoid of pollution and dust and I could pull up the visor of my helmet to enjoy the view around.
If you notice to the right, you will see a glimpse of terraced farming which is popular in Nepal. As the path wound its way to Nagarkot, I began to observe that the road was becoming smaller, the population, sparse and forest growth, dense. By the end of the second leg of the journey, there were hardly any settlements. I would occasionally find a small group of men playing cards or women going about the daily chores. The road become really small now and was made entirely of stones. A unique thing about these stone roads is that the stones are not large pebbles, but rectangular block laid one beside the other. I believe this makes it easier for it to walk on but it makes it extremely difficult to ride a bike on.
Into the third leg of the journey and the atmosphere started becoming somber. To sum it all up in one sentence – in my journey of around 8 kilometers, the final leg to reach Nagarkot, I saw only 3 people on the road with me. A boy who was cutting some leaves from a tree (I am sure his mother would be around, but did not see her), an old woman carrying wood and a man walking with a cigarette in hand. That is it. There were no people around. No huts close by. Only some smoke billowing from some settlement far away. The roads got smaller – some 4 feet in width; slushy and slippery due to rains and the bends steeper. At every bend I prayed that I see someone; anyone – animal, bird or human – but saw nobody and kept moving ahead. Loneliness apart, some of the views around that road were amazing. There were small streams flowing, huge grey rocks on to which they would flow, many trees and crisp cool air to breathe.
After 30 excruciating minutes, I finally reached the last bend. The beauty of the whole episode is that I had no clue that this was the last bend. I had been disappointed on many bends earlier and though this might be another. So, I climbed up the road and looked ahead. There appeared to be settlement of people before me. The road seemed to split up – one that went straight to my left and the other, a sharp bend to my right. I was not sure which one to take. I looked at the road to my left and it would take me into some village. Then, I looked to my right. That one moment – that one glorious moment – almost brought tears into my eyes. I shall say no more; see for yourself – this is what was to my right.
I am not sure if you can make out from this picture (I really wish I had a better camera), but what lay in front of me were the Greater Himalayas. Massive, majestic and white. If you look closely into the picture, you can see some ‘white’ much below the clouds, but above the ‘darker’ mountain range. The white you see are the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains. There are no words to describe their beauty. One only needs to see them to realize it. The Himalayas are truly massive. Nepal does have flights that take you over the Greater Himalayan range; but one needs to stand on ground to appreciate their true size. If you do not mind, I would like to put this into perspective with a bit of math.
The place that I stood on was close to 7,200 feet above sea level. From the place I stood, the highest peak that I could see (I do not know which one) at a very small angle – maybe only 2 – 3 degrees. Point to point, The Greater Himalayas are atleast 100 kilometers from Nagarkot. With a bit of trigonometry, what we have is this;
Tan 3* is 0.0524 and thus the height should be 100 Kms. X 0.0524 or 5.24 Kms. 1 Km is 3,281 feet. So, 5.24 Kms is 17,200 feet. Add 7,200 feet to it and we have 24,400 feet. The Mount Everest is approximately 28,000 feet. As I said earlier, the sight is truly majestic looking at the massive snow clad mountains, with your feet on the ground.
I was not so lucky with the clouds; they still made it hard for me to see the Himalayas. I kept screening the skies for a view of the Great One – Mount Everest. The clouds didn’t give me a chance. But given my luck with the route (my bike did not stop en route nor did it have a flat tire), I could not have asked more. I was back on my bike to the road that would lead me to the oldest city of Nepal – the city of Devotees – Bhaktapur.
# the cobblestoned lanes of Bhaktapur
The road from Nagarkot to Bhaktapur was brilliant. Given what I had witnessed, any road would seem brilliant. My bike ‘flew’ on the tarmac; the road that would lead me to Bhaktapur wound its way down the hills and into small villages. The scenes were similar – old buildings, men playing cards, women taking care of kids and more goats.
Bhaktapur is well known for its ‘ancient look’. A walk into this city takes you back in time. Buildings of an earlier age stand witness to the events that have taken place around them. The most famous destination is the Durbar Square. One finds many such Durbar Squares all over Nepal. There is one in Kathmandu as well. The Durbar Square of Bhaktapur is much older though. ‘Durbar Squares’ were places of common gathering, a place where the coronation of the kings took place or where the people gathered to celebrate a victory over a rival kingdom. The buildings are mostly made of wood and the statues of stone. Massive stone statutes adorn the steps that lead to buildings. You can statutes of a guard, elephant, lion, eagle and a goddess as you climb up. Another building had an elephant, cow and eagle. Maybe the animals signified the status of the persons who inhabited the buildings.
There is also a building dedicated to Kali to the left of the building above. The deity is Kali standing on Shiva. It is a small bronze idol that is worshiped with ‘kumkum’ and ‘rice’. She has 4 arms – the ones at the back hold a sword and a shield; while the ones in front hold a bowl that holds the blood of ‘asuras’. An interesting feature of the buildings in Nepal is the roof. Most of the buildings are like the one above with its roof spreading outward. The Pashupatimath temple’s roof is also the same. The massive wooden planks that support the roof are intricately carved. The one of the temple, was carved with the image of Durga.
There are many other old buildings in Bhaktapur. The streets are made of cobbled red stones. There is always an old building to see as you walk. If you want to walk into history, Bhaktapur is the place to visit.
# the forced visit to Budanilkantha
I was back into my hotel by later afternoon. The journey in the morning was eventful and tiring. Sadly, the road trip to Nagarkot also left me vacant from within. For a few hours, I was not interested in anything. The evening crept in slowly and I pushed myself for a visit to Budanilkantha. It was not very far away from my place.
Budanilkantha is a temple dedicated to Vishnu. It has the largest single stone carving of Vishnu lying on a bed of snakes. What makes this idol beautiful was that it is kept in the middle of a pool of water. The water signifies the ocean of milk in the middle of which the Lord rests.
The visit was a short one; much needed to revive my spirits. I was back to the hotel soon and the next day awaited me.
Continue reading… Kathmandu Diary Part 3 Pashupatinath calling and Prince Paras