We were staying in Thamel which is the main tourist centre of Kathmandu for a few days either side of travelling into the mountains. Trekkers, tourists, hikers and backpackers flock there making one of the busiest, bustling places I’ve visited. It’s an onslaught of sensory overload, with stallholders calling you, the constant sound of horns as vehicles squeeze past the rickshaws (whose drivers are demanding you take a ride) and the sound of music from the shops and cafes that line the streets. It’s a case of dicing with death as you manoeuvre yourself between the competing vehicles. Exciting but sometimes exhausting.
The city is colourful, dusty and in November, still hot. You can smell coffee, street food, exhaust fumes, flowers and other, less legal substances! You can buy almost anything in Thamel; from cashmere and baby yak hair scarves and shawls, every type of trekking gear, handmade paper, mandalas, paintings and all the ususal tourist tat. There are also beautiful ancient buildings, Buddhist and Hindu temples and stupas, markets and occasionally, if you step away from the chaos, quiet squares where the noise mysteriously evaporates and meditation is possible.
This post considers the quiet hours before the madness starts. One morning I wandered about the area speaking to rickshaw drivers, garbage collectors and people setting up their stalls. It was cool and peaceful and so different! The rickshaw drivers look gloomy but they were actually very friendly and willing to be photographed although to be fair they also expected me to take a ride!
What a mad round of travel, catching up and having fun recently! It’s a great way to introduce my mind and body to the dark days of winter. So many people are affected by the dreariness of the short days and forbidding skies in the UK and a shot of crisp mountain air and sunshine was very refreshing.
I’m topping up the sunlight with a SAD lamp on my computer desk and look forward to some more travel to the sunshine later this month. Meantime I am aware I’ve been neglecting my images from Nepal. I am slowly working through them, recalling the glorious trip and experimenting with various treatments. Here is a selection of images from our journey from Marpha into Kagbeni. Located in the Lower Mustang area of Nepal at 2,750 metres, it is a fascinating village nestling in the valley of the Kali Gandaki river. It was a bumpy but picturesque ride in dusty jeeps, stopping off to enjoy the scenery and walk through small villages.
Sakya Monastery, Kagbeni
Prayer flags over the Kali Gandaki river, Kagbeni
Chortens on hillside at Kagbeni
Village in Lower Mustang
View of the Annapurna peaks st sunrise
Travelling between Marpha and Kagbeni we met students from Kathmandu who were exploring the area on a motorbike.
Nepal is an astonishingly beautiful country to visit and a photographer’s paradise. Bhaktapur is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the name roughly translates as “City of Devotees”. A melange of pottery, rice growing, tourism, temples and ancient monuments, it was once the capital of Nepal. Newari art abounds and with patience and kindness the local people are open and friendly despite being wary of the snap and run tourists. The group I travelled with was led by Travel Photographer Ewen Bell; well travelled, knowledgeable and willing to share his expertise. He shared not only his love of travel photography with us but his delight in finding good coffee at high altitudes and the wonders of apple pancakes …!
My Nepal trip is imminent and I’m in my usual packing chaos! Lists and piles of stuff abound and I AM going to pack light this time … honest. It will be an exciting and challenging trip, ably led by Ewen Bell, a highly experienced and well travelled photographer who knows Nepal very well. I love his travel images and can’t wait to learn from him.
On Sunday I’ll meet the others in Kathmandu, after stopping off overnight in Doha and for a short time in Bahrain. We spend a little time in Kathmandu and then travel via road and air (and feet) to Bhaktapur, Bandipur, Pokhara, Marpha, Kagbeni, Muktinath, Jomsom and back to Kathmandu. It will be a wonderful potpourri of hot days and cold nights (very chilly I understand!), low then high altitudes, tourist towns, mountains and temples … plus the enjoyment of meeting some of the Nepalese people – I really can’t wait!
Recently though I’ve been exploring closer to home. My photographer friend Steve McDonald and I drove to Northumberland, an area of astounding beauty. Early sunrises, castles in abundance and cosy pubs with generous dinners made it very special. A night at the gorgeous Lumley Castle Hotel was a little piece of luxury. A four-poster bed, a secret “Narnia” bathroom (yes, it was through the wardrobe!) and a glass of champagne was a fair reward for a 6am start on Bamburgh beach.
Low tide at Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne from the beach
Duddo Stone Circle
Bamburgh Castle at Sunrise
Summer is fading sadly. Some memories of Brighton beach from a few years ago are brightening up my day though as I contemplate my next big adventure – travelling in Nepal.