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K2 Realised

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

Ha ha ha. No, not THE K2, simply my 2nd visit to Kathmandu this trip.


Friday 9th June - Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, and on route home.


This journey represents my 6th to the Himalaya. I recall my first very clearly, one of the reactions at that time being “well, that was fun, but I guess I’ll not be back”. Got that wrong, didn’t I? Not every trip has been TO Nepal (most have), but every trip has at least been THROUGH Nepal. I reflected the other day that apart from Australian cities, I think I’ve visited Kathmandu more times than I have any other city in the world.


We returned to Kathmandu on Monday, and I thought that the first little bit of interest might be the flight take off from Lukla. It’s often an “interesting” experience; this take-off was textbook I’d say.



The rest of Monday was a fairly lazy day – organise/re-organise/re-re-organise bags, wander around Thamel, shopping, coffee.

Tuesday was our last official trip day. The morning was spent as Bhaktapur, one of the three ancient cities of the Kathmandu valley the others being Kathmandu itself, Lalitpur (and maybe Patan, depending on which history book you read). Badly damaged by the 2015 earthquake, the repair work (past and ongoing) is extensive. A few shots follow:












This last one is of the absolutely delicious natural yoghurt that's made/sold in Bhaktapur. Yummy beyond belief.


That afternoon I caught up with the delightful Samdé Sherpa. I’d not seen Samdé since 2018 when he was our lead guide on the Tamang Heritage Trail trek I did with Libby Packer, a member of the original “Class of 2010”. I’d kept in occasional contact via FB, but this was the first time we’d seen each other. But it’s a small world – another member of that same Class of 2010, Alistair Walpole of Melbourne, had trekked to Mustang with Samdé, as had another friend, David Scott of Adelaide (same trek, different time). So despite vast distances, connections abound.


 

That evening was (yet another) highlight. We had our group farewell dinner at a nearby local restaurant Walnut Bistro. (Trip Advisor currently rates it a #4 of 980 restaurants in Kathmandu – if you’re ever in the area do yourself a favour and drop in.) We were joined by HE Felicity Volk (to give here her proper title), Australian Ambassador to Nepal. I had briefly chatted to her up at the Khumjung celebrations, and was delighted to be seated next to her during the second half of the dinner proceedings. She’s a fellow author – can I say that? – and we talked about her books (I’ve subsequently purchased one), her work with Natasha Stott-Despoja, see picture from the DFAT website below:



I also spoke at length to Lakpa Thering Sherpa, about whom I have written previously, and his wife Dr Jangmoo Sherpa. They jointly run Action for Nepal, a recipient of some of the AHF’s sponsorship (amongst numerous others). Lakpa and Jangmoo are very impressive young(er) people – I’d like to think that they represent the future of Nepal. I have come away from this trip, more than any others, appreciating both the power of and the need for ongoing education for the future leaders of Nepal. I have offered to the Ambassador my support – if I am practically able to provide it – to open doors for the educational journeys of the likes of Lakpa, Jangmoo and Tashi Lhamu Sherpa (see also the “Phortse Revisited” post), and others, should they want/welcome it. I figure that between my network – and that of both the readers of this site and the networks of at least some of my fellow trekkers – we may well be able to answer a call should it ever be made.


Some snaps from the evening:


Trip leader Mike Dillon

 

Lakpa and Jangmoo


Ambassador Volk

 


Wednesday was mostly a wandering and shopping day, and not worthy of any commentary beyond that.

Thursday (yesterday) was the last of the packing/unpacking/repacking days, and I also took the opportunity to go visit the Narayanhiti Palace Museum, the home of the past Kings of Nepal. Here’s a summary of them from recent years:


Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah              December 1911 to November 1950 (term 1 - went into exile)


Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah              November 1950 to January 1951 (term 1 - stepped down)


Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah              January 1951 to March 1955 (term 2- 43 years in total)


Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah              March 1955 to January 1972 (16 years)


Birendra Bir Bikram Shah     January 1972 to June 2001 (29 years) (assassinated)


Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah              June 2001 (3 days) (declared braindead)


Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah               June 2001 to May 2008 (term 2 - 7 years in total) (deposed)

 

The Shah story is a complex one, and not really one for this blog. But it goes to the heart of modern Nepal. The kingdom of Nepal was created, in effect, around the 1750s by Prithvi Narayan Shah (the great). The Shahs ruled for the next 300 years or so, progressively ceding to democracy during the reign of Birendra. His assassination remains mired in controversy, and is one of the reasons I wanted to go visit the palace.


I was intrigued by the palace. There was opulence aplenty (not that I’ve visited too many palaces for comparison), and yet there were a few disconnects. The grandeur in some of the rooms seemed completely at odds with the relative poverty outside. And yet the bedrooms of the King and Queen were completely normal, almost bland, and at odds with the luxury elsewhere in the buildings. The gilded carriage presented to King Mahendra (I think) by QEII was rather at odds with the Mercedes presented to King Tribhuvan in 1938 by Adolph Hitler. The building where Birendra and his wife and many family members were assassinated was a bit discombobulating – not just because it was a bit ghoulish, but also because the information boards were confusing. They advised that the building had been demolished following the shooting, but there it was in its reality. All a bit odd really. But I’m glad I went. No photos – they weren’t allowed inside. A couple of external ones follow.



Whilst the Kings have been replaced by an elected government, I get the impression (without proof) that corruption abounds, and that really one set of entitled autocrats has  simply been replaced by another.  It is for this reason that I hope that the principled Sherpa people I met continue to grow in number and influence (in much the same way that the new Mayor of Kathmandu is doing), and challenge the status quo for the broader good of the country.  I will watch with great interest.

 

Speaking of disconnects, across the road from the palace is the “Durbar Mall”, a modern 5-story shopping centre not just worlds but universes apart from the hustle and bustle (and hassle) of Thamel, less than a kilometre down the road. The top floor is a Himalaya Java Coffee shop, much larger than the one in Thamel. Not a tourist in sight – it was full of seemingly well-to-do Nepalis. Great view of the palace.



One more general Kathmandu comment.  It’s a city of almost 9m people (the wider Kathmandu Valeey,.)  It’s changed in the five years since I was last here.  A lot more medium-high rise.  The roads are still busy, but do seem a little less chaotic.  And in generally better shape.


High rise under construction


The traffic did seem a bit better behaved.


Street chess in Thamel


Plastic bucket vendor ...


Last night was my last in town, and that of Russ and Deb Brown. Everyone else had left. We met up for a delightful meal at a place called Raithanne, near Patak, an incredibly simple place recommended by the Ambassador. Delightful, simple, authentic (and yummy) Nepali food.  Good company/nice chats.

 



Which brings me to today’s departure. One of the World Expeditions stalwarts is their “front desk man” in the Radisson, Lakpa Lama. Everyone simply refers to him as Mr Lakpa. When I arrived at the beginning of the trip I was greeted with a “hullo sir, good to see you again”, with an absolute genuineness. He has a style which gives the impression that you’re the only guest he’s ever had.

 


And now the very last.  As we left Tribhuvan International and rose above the cloud cover there, on the left, not all that far away, was the very mountain which had brought Ed Hillary here all those years ago, which had spurred on his resultant great works, and which had brought me back to this wonderful country just 21 days ago.  I could not have sought a more fitting end.



So, signing off now - I hope you've enjoyed the little yarns. Until next time ...

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5 Comments


lizardlibby
Jun 11, 2023

Fabulous commentary, as usual Peter.

i love the pics of Bhaktapur…..fascinating and beautiful place…so good to see it again.

You have had an amazing memorable trek.

Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

Libby

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Barbara Studer
Barbara Studer
Jun 10, 2023

I finally read all the posts at once. Brings back so many good memories from my trekks in Nepal. The footpaths to and out of Namche seem to have improved a lot! Thanks Peter for sharing your exceptional experience.

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gw.ssung.bkk
Jun 10, 2023

Thanks so much for the delightful running commentary Peter and wonderful photos.

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Alistair Walpole
Alistair Walpole
Jun 10, 2023

Great take off!!

This upcoming trip will be my 4th with Samdé!

Hopefully you’re home and resting.

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Glenn Egan
Glenn Egan
Jun 09, 2023

Thank you so much PC, just mesmerising! Until next tim, safe travels friend.

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