Week Twenty-One: As Normal As It Gets?

21/07/18-27/08/18

Countries: Nepal

Cycled: 15.1km / 9.4
Elevation: 143m /469ft

It’s been a relatively normal week this week. No court appearances. No visa problems. No in-flight fires. Just your standard week in Nepal. Things got so normal, we even had a duvet day and watched three films back-to-back. Obviously we never actually got under the duvet because it’s practically 100°c. We binged on Toy Story, The Post and The Death of Stalin, only leaving the hotel room to eat. 

You’d think we would of had a lazy duvet day after a tough day’s cycle or long day exploring, but we never. We actually did all the touristy stuff post TV loll. We spent a full day wandering around the city, visiting Swayambhunath temple (nicknamed Monkey Temple due to it’s cheeky residents), Kathmandu Durbar Square, and local markets. Sadly, Durbar Square is still being rebuilt after the catastrophic earthquake in 2015. Most of the buildings, temples and shrines are still rubble.

 We really felt the climb to Swayambhunath temple, after not cycling for so long.

We really felt the climb to Swayambhunath temple, after not cycling for so long.

 Swayambhunath temple is a Buddhist temple. The main white dome is called a stupa and is surrounded by smaller temples and shrines. The eyes on the stupa are Buddha's. Naturally, there's also cafes, gift shops and hostels up there, too. 

Swayambhunath temple is a Buddhist temple. The main white dome is called a stupa and is surrounded by smaller temples and shrines. The eyes on the stupa are Buddha's. Naturally, there's also cafes, gift shops and hostels up there, too. 

 There were stray dogs and monkeys everywhere. We could have watched them for hours, especially when they try and steal food off each other.

There were stray dogs and monkeys everywhere. We could have watched them for hours, especially when they try and steal food off each other.

 The last time I visited a temple overrun with monkeys it was the Batu Caves in Malaysia and two of the rascals attacked me. One pulled my hair while I simultaneously played a game of tug-of-war with another for my handbag.

The last time I visited a temple overrun with monkeys it was the Batu Caves in Malaysia and two of the rascals attacked me. One pulled my hair while I simultaneously played a game of tug-of-war with another for my handbag.

 View of Kathmandu Valley from Swayambhunath temple.

View of Kathmandu Valley from Swayambhunath temple.

 We had the most bizarre lunch when we were wandering around Kathmandu. It called itself 'chopsuey', but it was definitely not what Google describes as chopsuey. Basically, this was a packet of super noodles,  uncooked , topped with vegetables and gravy.  The noodles were crunchy! 

We had the most bizarre lunch when we were wandering around Kathmandu. It called itself 'chopsuey', but it was definitely not what Google describes as chopsuey. Basically, this was a packet of super noodles, uncooked, topped with vegetables and gravy. The noodles were crunchy! 

 To be fair, we still finished it. Waste not, want not and all that…

To be fair, we still finished it. Waste not, want not and all that…

Our cycled didn’t really go as planned. We wanted to reach Nagarkot, a mountain town 30km from Kathmandu, where you have great views of the snowy Everest region. But tackling the torn-up, muddy roads, made us much slower than we have anticipated. We ended up doing a much shorter route. Basically, we popped for lunch in the next town. Never mind. 

 It was roads like this that caused us to be much slower. We spent half the ride pushing through mud.

It was roads like this that caused us to be much slower. We spent half the ride pushing through mud.

 Spot Dan in the build-up of traffic. There was only one worn route through the mud.

Spot Dan in the build-up of traffic. There was only one worn route through the mud.

 Lunch on the ride was much better that our 'chopsuey' experience, although we did have to wait over one hour for him to cook it from scratch.

Lunch on the ride was much better that our 'chopsuey' experience, although we did have to wait over one hour for him to cook it from scratch.

This week, we also found out what Indian visa we’ve been given. You can apply for it to be valid for one, six or twelve months, and it starts from the date of issue. Despite paying the same, flat fee (which is considerably more expensive for UK citizens), we were told that it's pot luck what duration you're given.

We applied for it to be valid for twelve months. Not because we want to stay in India for twelve months – you can actually only stay for up to six months at a time – but because six months from now is only January and we want to be there until March, as Dan’s family are coming out to see us then. 

Annoyingly, we’ve only been given six months. This means we will have to come back to Kathmandu at the beginning of October to process the visa, so that the six months start from then and we can be in Indian until the end of March. 

Visas are tricky, right?  

 Most counterfeit products in Nepal look legit. Some, do not...

Most counterfeit products in Nepal look legit. Some, do not...

 It's alarming to see swastikas everywhere. In the West, it's synonymous with the Nazis. But Hitler actually stole the ancient symbol from Buddhism and Hinduism. In Buddhism, the swastika represents the footprints of the Buddha and in Hinduism, it represents opposites such as light and darkness. Since Nepal is predominantly Buddhist and Hindu, it's very common to see here.

It's alarming to see swastikas everywhere. In the West, it's synonymous with the Nazis. But Hitler actually stole the ancient symbol from Buddhism and Hinduism. In Buddhism, the swastika represents the footprints of the Buddha and in Hinduism, it represents opposites such as light and darkness. Since Nepal is predominantly Buddhist and Hindu, it's very common to see here.

 Attitudes to littering, recycling and looking after the environment are very different in Nepal. We often see locals drop wrappers or bottles on the floor. The main streets of Thamel, the tourist area, are kept clean, but once you leave there, it's a very different story.

Attitudes to littering, recycling and looking after the environment are very different in Nepal. We often see locals drop wrappers or bottles on the floor. The main streets of Thamel, the tourist area, are kept clean, but once you leave there, it's a very different story.

What are the chances of bumping into someone you know halfway around the world? Pretty high apparently. I saw on Instagram that an old university friend of mine was on a shoot in Kathmandu. Dani and I both studied Advertising and Design at Sunderland University. She was two years above me, but our course was a tight-knit little group. At the end of her hectic week of shooting a new ad, we managed to squeeze in a quick beer and catch up. It was lovely to see a familiar face – and hear a Northern accent again.

 Dani is an absolute diamond. Back in 2009/10 when I was interning in London with my then Art Director, Keira, she really looked after us. Letting us crash on her floor and making sure we were alright in the Big Smoke. 

Dani is an absolute diamond. Back in 2009/10 when I was interning in London with my then Art Director, Keira, she really looked after us. Letting us crash on her floor and making sure we were alright in the Big Smoke. 

I was already ready to tell you that we’ll be off-grid for the next twelve days, as we trek to Everest Base Camp, but actually, we won’t be. We read that Kathmandu’s biggest telecommunications company, Ncell, installed phone masts all the way along the Everest Base Camp trek in 2010. We're talking 4G at 5,364 metres (17,598 ft). That's insane. We got Dan an Ncell SIM card in case of emergencies – and to read Reddit... 

As always, we left everything to the last minute and have spent this afternoon – the day before the trek – running around getting vital bits of kit: water bottle, altitude sickness tablets, cash, toilet roll, batteries and an extra dry bag. We also met our guide today. Tomorrow, the three of us will catch a 6am flight to Lukla Airport, where we'll begin walking. Wish us luck!

PS. If you want to watch something that'll make your hair stand on end, search 'Lukla take off and landing'. Lukla is nicknamed the World’s most dangerous airport... Now wish us luck!

 Of course we bought the essentials for the trek first...

Of course we bought the essentials for the trek first...