Sunday, July 15, 2012

One-night stand in Nagarkot

Don’t let the title get you too excited. It’s not what it sounds like, I swear. On Saturday I spent the night in Nagarkot, Nepal, which Lonely Planet advises is best experienced as a “one-night stand.” It’s an appropriate description.

There isn’t anything to do in Nagarkot. It’s a small, high-altitude village with a tourism industry that exists solely because of the view of the Himalayas. Although it was quite a journey to get there, my one-night stand did not leave me disappointed.

First, we had to take a bus to the neighboring town of Bhaktapur, which is an old, medieval-looking village that I plan on exploring at some point during my stay. Then, we had to take another bus to get to Nagarkot (pronounced Naw-gur-coh; if you don’t say it that way, the locals don’t understand). Even before we reached the bus stop, we had decided that we wanted to ride on the roof, to get the full Nepali experience. And we were in luck, because every seat was filled when we arrived. We all scrambled up the ladder onto the roof and started snapping photos while the locals gave us funny looks. Apparently the roof seats are the worst possible scenario for locals, so we probably looked pretty weird for being excited about it. 

I can’t say that it was a comfortable ride, because we had to sit on metal rungs the whole way. One guy gave me a piece of cardboard box to sit on, which was generous, but it didn’t do much cushioning. Despite this, the scenery was beautiful, and it was more refreshing than sitting inside the stuffy bus. Actually, riding on the roof was really awesome. 

Some houses and rice fields along the way. 

That is, until we got stuck in traffic at the scene of a motorcycle accident, where two people were lying on the ground, bleeding all over the place, with 50 people crowded around just staring at them. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I actually thought they were dead until I saw their feet moving slightly. Accidents like that freak me out, so it really put a damper on the remaining 15 minutes of the ride. As we kept climbing higher and higher up the hill, I kept thinking,  “Well, shit, I guess this is pretty dangerous.”

I had no idea what was going on when I took this photo. 

But alas, we reached our destination unscathed. I should also mention that we hadn’t made any hotel reservations, so we decided to wander around until we found one that was cheap and, well, cheap was actually the only qualification we needed. We booked the first one we found (Someone in our group said their friend stayed at this particular hotel and received complimentary weed, but that didn’t happen. It would have been pretty hilarious if it did, though).

After booking our cheap hotel, we set out for an expensive hotel that has a lookout tower to see the Himalayas. I wasn’t expecting to see anything because it’s not a good season for mountain gazing, and when we arrived everything was totally engulfed in a sheet of white haze. By some miracle, though, we got lucky again. As soon as we got to the lookout tower, the clouds started to part, and we were given the most beautiful, breathtaking view of the Himalaya peaks. It was so much better than the view we had in Pokhara. No picture can do that sight justice, but I’ll post some anyway. We had our own little photo shoot, as well.

"Act like a cloud!"
I don't think any of us really captured the essence of clouds.

I look like I'm jumping over the railing, but I swear this wasn't a suicide attempt.

After that, we got some dinner and called it an early night. The beds were so comfortable – especially compared to the wooden plank covered by a cushion that I’ve been sleeping on for five weeks – so I slept like a log. The next morning, we packed our backpacks and set out for the hike back to Bhaktapur.

Well, it wasn’t exactly a hike. Most of the way, we followed the main road down the winding slope. Part of the way, we rode in the back of someone’s pickup truck while thumping club music was blaring from the speakers. Then one of the locals pointed out a shortcut, a path that cuts through some small villages and rice fields. It ended up saving us a lot of time, and it was a much more scenic route. Everyone we passed offered us an enthusiastic “Namaste!” and it must have been pretty strange seeing five white people hiking through their backyards. 

Of course, everyone had a rain jacket, and I only had this ridiculous red poncho. Work it.

The wild marijuana in its natural habitat - on the side of the road.

Andrew climbing a tree

Riding in the party truck 

After a few hours, we reached the bottom of the hill. But we still had many more miles to go until we reached Bhaktapur, where we needed to catch a bus back to Kathmandu. So we hitchhiked. I didn't think it would work a second time, but the first truck we waved to stopped, and the driver said, "We're going to Bhaktapur. You can get in, no problem." Obviously this would never be acceptable in America, but it was a perfectly fine thing to do in Nepal. Our luck got even better when we reached Bhaktapur and the driver said, "We're going to Kathmandu."

"That's where we're going!!" we yelled.

So we rode in this truck all the way back to Kathmandu. Everyone we passed looked at us and laughed because, once again, five white people in the back of a pickup track isn't something you see every day. It was a lot of fun, but this week I think I'll stick to my normal transportation of riding the bus, inside the bus.

Next weekend I'm going to Chitwan to ride elephants, so check back here in a week for 5 billion photos! 

1 comment:

  1. You describe am awesome experience beautifully! The mountains in the picture look like another world floating above the green hills. As a science teacher, I think I'd like you to bring me some botanical samples as a won't cost anything :) Keep that lucky streak going...Love you! Dad