Dhulikhel, on the Chinese-built road from Kathmandu to the Tibetan border, on first acquaintance seems a typically ugly South Asian highway town of honking trucks and buses, weaving past layer-cake buildings (tall, narrow brick buildings, usually half-finished: very ugly. very Asian). But there is more…
Weaving between bus parks and errant motorcycles, I fell into conversation with Leigh, a 20-something Englishman riding a very sturdy and heavily-laden bicycle. Today he had a long ride down from the Tibetan border, but actually he has ridden all the way from England, out across Central Asia and China. In Tibet the Chinese police detained Leigh for a week in a hotel, before transporting him and the bike hundreds of kilometres to the Nepalese border.
As I stepped into the old part of town I got caught up in the festival of Nava Durga. Mobs of young people surged back and forth down narrow stone-flagged streets, the rest of us ducking for cover. A costumed dancer representing the ‘Living God’ roams the streets at random, seizing anything they fancy in shops and homes. It was party time for one and all, even ancient crones sitting in doorways or peering down out of first-floor window boxes.
I had not long emerged from a hot shower after three days of solid walking, usually on very dusty or stony roads, through forests and farming villages in the hill country north of Kathmandu, including Shivapuri national park. Farewelled my porter Kharaga and Kalden Sherpa, my guide, this afternoon on arrival in Dhulikhel.
A five-kilometre tramp this morning to reach the top of the ridge at Nagarkot was rewarded by magnificent views stretching from the Langtang range to the Annapurna range.A little hazy, but that’s real life compared with the glossy calendar pix! Then down through the pine groves and on through many a dusty village populated by kids in ragged English-style school uniforms and their mothers in crimson shalwar khameez, plus a few nut-brown elders.