1/20/12 – 1/22/12
Today we packed up at the Farmhouse and embarked on a wonderful hike from Nagarkot to Dhulikhel (about 20km). We started off with a big breakfast at the Farmhouse and told the staff there that we planned on walking to Dhulikhel. Using a lot of hand motions, the manager gave us directions: “up up up, down down down, up a little hill, down down down.” We told him we had heard it would take about 6 hours to hike between the two towns, but he assured us it could be done in 3.5 hours. When asking for directions in Nepal, nearly everybody gives you the amount of time to travel to the destination rather than the distance to be traveled.
Our first detour on the hike was to checkout the “Peaceful Cottage” – another place we had thought about staying while in Nagarkot. There were great views from there too; perhaps we will stay there in the future (though we really loved the Farmhouse!). After winding through Nagarkot, we exited the mountain town by weaving though an army base. There were funny inspirational quotes written in English, nailed to posts throughout the army area: “Grab the bull by the horns” “When the going gets tough the tough get going” “I’m on time” (that was the strangest one, we thought). Surprisingly the route to Dhulikhel was very well marked, with arrows pointing the whole way. We walked along the top of a ridge, which offered tremendous views of deep valleys stretching down both sides of our trail. We went down hundreds of stone steps, stopping at one for a lunch break of Nepali bread with jam and butter. We climbed terraced hills covered with yellow-flowering mustard seed plants. We walked through small villages. At one point David stopped to do pull-ups on a trekker’s shelter, as a young boy and his grandfather looked on with much intrigue (i.e. likely thinking he was crazy). The hike went through wooded areas, farmland, terraced hills, small villages, and people’s backyards all with the gorgeous Himalaya backdrop. It was truly a peaceful and magnificent hike.
Once we arrived to Dhulikhel, we needed to find a place to stay. The first hotel we checked had no vacancy. The second hotel would have worked, but we kept looking. As we were going down a driveway for another, we were approached by the most excited man we had yet to meet in Nepal. He adamantly encouraged us to visit his hotel. He told us he would give us a good price. So we followed him. As we walked into the door of his hotel, he had one of the boys play music on the guitar as a welcoming and another boy ran ahead to show us a room. We walked through a door with empty window panes (perhaps no money for actual windows) and proceeded up many flights of stairs in a shoddy, unfinished building. We both knew this was not the place for us to stay, but the man was becoming more and more adamant that we would say yes. We told him we were going to keep looking. Rather than bidding us farewell, he walked shoulder-to-shoulder with David to lead our search for other lodging. He kept telling us about his uncle’s hotel. Against his advice we decided to check out the Dhulikhel Lodge Resort (“that’s expensive” he exclaimed) and secretly hoped we could dodge him with this move. He continued to follow us all the way to the reception desk of the resort, even introducing us to his “uncle” – the receptionist (who later told us he was not related to this man). We ended up really liking this place and negotiated a fair price that included breakfast and dinner at their hotel restaurant. Our room again had tremendous views of the Himalayas. That afternoon we explored the streets of this small town, relaxed reading by the hotel’s giant circular fireplace, and enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner in their dining room. We checked out the many channels on our first room with a TV (there were a lot of channels - maybe 70!), but opted to watch Friday Night Lights.
The next day we packed up with plans to get a taxi into Bhaktapur. As we approached the taxis, along came a public bus with someone shouting “Bhaktapur!” (or so we thought we heard). So we jumped on there and hoped we were headed in the right direction. At first we had plenty of space in the back of the bus, but as time went on the bus became increasingly crowded – people crammed in the seats and filling the aisles. Some people were even riding on the roof! We made stops every couple of minutes it seemed, with people constantly getting on and off. However, it was a fun ride and a great way to experience more of the culture. We didn’t know exactly where or when to get off. Thankfully the bus driver seemed to be looking out for us and yelled back at us when it was our stop.
Bhaktapur, “the cultural center of Nepal,” immediately struck us as quite distinctive with its brick walkways and many stores of handicrafts. There seemed to be a unique sense of culture and pride that was missing from Thamel. Again, our first task upon entering a new city was to find a place to stay. Krista became quite fond of going into many different guesthouses to see the many different styles of rooms and buildings. Eventually we settled on Newa Guesthouse, which was right in the shadow of the tallest temple in Nepal. We relaxed for a bit in our room, then ventured out to Pottery Square, Durbar Square, a fabulous snack atop a rooftop restaurant, and walked through narrow streets lined with lots of woodwork and metalwork shops. We ate dinner at the Sunny Café, on their rooftop looking out onto Tualini Tole.
We had a great night sleep and woke early for breakfast the next day. We ate in a cute café looking out onto Durbar Square – eggs and toast, for each of us. We had plans to go to the Art Museum, Woodcarving Museum, and Metalwork Museum – one ticket granted entrance into all three. However, our plans were stalled by the art museum opening 30 minutes later than advertised. Nonetheless, two young gentlemen offered to be our “guides” for Durbar Square – we declined their offer but ended up talking with them for quite some time. One of them impressively spoke many languages, in order to offer his services to tourists from several countries. After visiting the museums, we packed up our belongings and found a taxi that would drive us to Patan. It was time to find our new home, the Shalom Guesthouse.