Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Kathmandu and Bhote Kosi

Fowler and Burdett decided to stay just outside the busy Thamel district in Kathmandu. Thamel is the tourist centre of Kathmandu and bustles with rickshaws, taxis, motorbikes, Tiger Balm sellers, dreadlocks, wooly hats, fake mountaineering gear, incense sticks and embroiderers. Even though it is distinctly touristy - after a long days sightseeing round the valley - it is a good place to be - packed with excellent shops, restaurants, pubs and jazz clubs. The offer of a recommended Italian restaurant (La Dolce Vita) was too much for the pair and they succumbed to some western food for the first time ( Carbonarra, very nice ). Some excellent evenings were spent listening to live jazz cross legged sipping cocktails and trying to look spiritual and at peace with ourselves. A popular haunt was the Tom and Jerry pub where the inevitable warped antique pool table was, and the pair were soon regulars (the owner even kept the pub open till 3am so the Englishmen could watch the Liverpool v Chelsea match). This was also a great place to meet other folks - some going trekking to Everest base camp, some working as volunteers in a Kathmandu hospital - and Ollie even met a travel correspondant (he was off to play elephant polo at Chitwan national park the next day) for the Standard who gave us some very useful hotel info for Pokhara .

The shops provided a good hunting ground for trekking gear and very soon the boys were decked out in jackets, hiking trousers, thermals and -10 degrees C sleeping bags all for less than 40 quid - quite incredible value and well worth the haggling!

Unfortunately, the pair were both coming down with cold so it was decided to have a day off from templing. Des decided to catch up a bit on the blog and to book up some rafting on the Bhote Kosi river - apparently Nepals steepest and most fun. Ollie came round to the idea also and Ultimate Descents Nepal seemed like the best bet to go with - even though only a couple of people had signed up. So, it was an early start yet again to get the bus at 7am. The trip was fully booked surprisingly and 16 people assembled for the off (3 hour bus ride)- all of which turned out to be a great bunch.

The first day included some fairly tame rapids, jumping off rocks in a silly way and safety excercises ready for the grade 3 and 4 rapids the next day. Wet suits were provided and as you can imagine the river was extremely cold which made the cough and cold symptoms that little bit harsher. Our rafting guide was little Kamal, a chirpy Nepali who either looked extremely concerned/terrified while going through the rapids or was in absolute hysterics as he tried to get us as soaked as possible while almost capsizing. Evening was spent at the very nice Borderland resort next to the river - where excellent food was served and the customary fire in a big steel drum prepared. Ollie plumped for slightly cheaper tent accomodation than the standard Safari Tent (Des was expecting to find a Rhino or Tiger inside) and this proved to be another "false economy" a phrase which has turned into something of a running joke! However, Des didn't sleep that well in his tent due to the potent sniffly head cold which was getting a grip.

The second day of rafting was great fun and the rapids had good names like 'frog in a blender' and 'the great wall' - which we had to skip as it was deemed suicidal (Grade 6). Ollie saved the day during one violent rapid - as the order to all move right was called the raft almost went over - and he was quicly able to jump left and use his powerful frame and muscle mass to counteract the weight and right the raft just in the nick of time. The other raft lost a dutchman on the same rapid whom we managed to pull into our boat luckily. All in all an excellent couple of daysand everyone met in the evening back in Kathmandu for a celebration drink. However, it was another early start 6:30am for the pair the next day - as they were catching the bus to Pokhara....

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