Imagine a religious melting pot, sprawling throughout a lush green vally surrounded by misty peaks on all sides.
Kathmandu was established as early as 900 BC and has attracted settlers and visitors for over a thousand years. In medieval times it was known as Kāntipur, which is Sanskrit for City of light. Buddhism and Hinduism are the main religions and the city is packed to bursting with awe inspiring temples large and small.
Over 100 languages are spoken in Nepal, the predominant one being Nepalese. The chirpy, chatty sound of this endearing language mingles with the chaos ensuing from the 1.4 million inhabitants of the city area, who are jam packed into the dusty hustle and bustle of a cultural capital, boasting very little in the way of organised infrastructure.
Rickshaws, tuk tuks, cars, buses, motorbikes and scooters crowd the narrow streets and are forced to weave in and out of crater sized pot holes, tourists, stray dogs and the occasional sacred cow or oxen.
Down by the Bagmati river visitors can witness vibrant Hindu weddings on temple rooftops metres above sombre funeral pyres taking place on concrete platforms along the river bank. As the fires burn out, the ashes are brushed into the brown swirling river.
The river is considered holy by both Hindus and Buddhists. Generations of inhabitants also wash themselves in the river, believing it is the secret to long life.
Back in the heart of the city, Durbbah square plays host to the countries royal palace as well as the house of the young goddess. She will remain in this exalted position until pubity, when another young goddess will take up the reigns.
Further out on the hillside, breathtaking views over the city can be found at Swayambhu, affectionally known by tourists as ‘Monkey Temple’. Set into the jungle of the hillside a relentless number of steps lead visitors through a myriad of small temples and places of worship.
Monkey groups of all ages, shapes and sizes have made this area their home. The enormous jungle trees provide all the trappings of their natural habitat, while temples, benches and even a specially designed ‘monkey swimming pool’ make the place quite luxurious for them. Some even posed for photos, looking out at the shimmering expanse of the city below.
As the sun sets and the city cools, it is given a new lease of life with honks, whistles, woops, singing and chanting issuing until nightfall.
Storms, cloud and mist in the mountains on Monday meant no flights were allowed to land at Lukla airport. After 6 hours of waiting and actually boarding the plane on the runway, all flights to Lukla were grounded in Kathmandu. The expedition clock is ticking and after a 5am start, the team is itching to get our 20 day trek underway.