- Hide menu

Kathmandu – the city of a thousand stories

Last night I arrived into the seething pulse of humanity that defines Kathmandu, Nepal. My dear friend met me at the airport and drove me to my home for the next week, the famous Kathmandu Guest House. Located smack bang in the middle of the tourist area of Thamel, the Kathmandu Guest House has provided famous guests like the Beatles and many mountaineering luminaries with a sanctuary of relative peace compared to the bustle of the streets outside.

Thamel is wired. Spaghetti clusters of electrical wiring above the streets power the suburb and you must cross the streets with conviction as car horns are used more frequently than brakes here.

The entire city stopped work today for an industrial strike, which translated into closed shops and a lot less traffic. I decided to visit the large Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath for the morning. Home to a very large community of exiled Tibetans, Boudhanath is characterised by prayer wheels and circumambulating pilgrims.

20130912-153501.jpg

I climbed four flights of stairs to a rooftop cafe that afforded me a better view of the stupa. As a 6’2″ blonde girl travelling solo I am a curiosity here. Ever friendly Nepalese always ask where I am from and what I am doing in Kathmandu. When I tell them I am heading to Tibet to lead an expedition in the west, they embrace me warmly, my hands in theirs, and wish me well.

As I sat drinking tea I photographed workmen splashing the stupa with washes of white and saffron. Others were tending to the colourful curtains and the strings of prayer flags festooned from the stupa’s crown. It was sublime and I have decided to return there tomorrow night to photograph it again, when the dome has been redressed in all its finery.

Leaving Boudhanath I headed down to Pashupatinath, the most sacred Hindu site in the entire Kathmandu Valley.

Lining the shores of a stretch of the Bagmati River, Pashupatinath is famous for its collection of Hindu holy men or Saddhus and its magnificent architecture dating back to the 17th Century. It is also the place where the Hindu people of Nepal go to cremate the bodies of their friends and family after they have passed away. Walking the pitted cobblestone path down to the river, I stopped to photograph an old lady taking shade from the relentless heat in one of the squares.

20130912-155210.jpg

When I arrived on the shore of the river I sat for a while absorbing the sights and sounds around me. For a while I photographed some boys swimming in a faster flowing section until my attention was drawn to a ceremony that unfolded slightly upstream. A group of people had assembled to cleanse the body of a young male relative prior to his cremation. It was quite confronting, as life tends to be here. I decided to leave them to it and walk up over the hill to get a glimpse of the city.

When I returned the funeral pyre was alight in the middle of a gathering. Life can be very hard for the people here. For a while I pondered what might have taken the life of someone so young.

20130912-155804.jpg

My mind was brought back to last night when I watched a man carrying a hideously large load through the streets of Thamel on his back. The sight stopped me in my tracks. Other tourists seemed to take no notice. It always upsets me that poverty stricken Nepalese are forced to do such horrific jobs to earn money. Watching this man I felt an overwhelming desire to stop and help him, much like I did almost 20 years ago when I saw a man in the Annapurnas carrying an uneven load of 120kg on his shoulders for a meagre USD$10 a day. In that case I forced him to sit, rest, take a sip of water while my guys reloaded him evenly to carry on. Last night I felt helpless watching this man. It’s sometimes no wonder that people in Nepal have a very limited lifespan.

As I ambled slowly away from the river I stopped in another courtyard of Pashupatinath to photograph a Saddhu.

20130912-160604.jpg

It feels good to be back here and have the time to explore without the pressures of work. My blog pics will all be taken from my phone as I decided to refrain from exposing my laptop to the altitude and dust of the Tibetan plateau next week. In Tibet I will also be unable to blog or use social media so I shall blog now before I enter the void and start my work as a photographer and leader of my expedition in a few days time.

2 thoughts on “Kathmandu – the city of a thousand stories

  1. Hi Inger,
    Just been browsing your latest images from Kathmandu; They’re absolutely lovely photos. You always manage to get perfect lighting and colour balance. And the photos are all captivating.

    I can’t wait to see your next update.
    And I wish you a fantastic holiday (even if it’s a working holiday).

    Take care,

    Ciao,

    Vince.

  2. Inger says:

    Thanks Vincenzo! Sadly these are all phone pictures until I get home and download my DSLR pics which are clearer and better. I appreciate your kind words xxx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *