I’ve just got back from a week in Nepal, a recce trip where I wanted to explore the possibility of a couple of long overland journeys through Nepal, Tibet and the closed kingdom of Bhutan.
What a friendly, welcoming and cheerful people the Nepalis are. I stayed in Kathmandu, in the Thamel district at the Khangsar Guest House and met up with several people over the course of the week, in between scouting out routes and of course trundling round tourist attractions like Durbar Square and various Hindu and Buddhist temples and holy sites. Arriving in Kathmandu in the monsoon season caused some fun and games and the streets were often very muddy but it’s a spectacular city whatever the weather.
I had a great few days chatting, socialising and planning with Cornishman and overland enthusiast Miles of Land Rovers Overland, (www.landroversoverland.com) a Kathmandu-based Land Rover Himalayan overlanding specialist, and we are sorting out a few trips into the more remote areas of the Himalayas, hopefully including Bhutan, a country which does not allow the entry of individual travellers. Watch this space for details on that.
I was also lucky enough to be invited to HQ British Gurkhas Nepal, the British military base south of Kathmandu, for the Hindu festival of the Puja of Bishwakarma, god of machinery. This is where the blessings of Bishwakarma are given to all machinery on the base, including their Land Rover fleet.
The Gurkhas were hugely welcoming and very friendly, and I left with an invitation to come back and see more of what they do in Nepal.
I’m also putting together some options for visiting the Gurkha Welfare Trust’s operations throughout Nepal – this is a charitable organisation that supports the families of Gurkha veterans in the country and helps organise welfare efforts for the veterans themselves. The plan is that I will call in on some of these efforts and hopefully give a hand if possible.
I brought a Gurkha knife back from Nepal as a souvenir – these knives, the famous kukri or khukuri of the Gurkha soldier, are fairly beefy foot-long curved weapons that have been the traditional close-combat knife of the Gurkha for years – much to the detriment of the enemies of Britain. I made sure that I was within the law, both International and UAE, to bring it back on my flight to Dubai, but, internet research notwithstanding, I was stopped at Dubai Customs and the kukri was confiscated. I wasn’t given a receipt for it either, which means that in all likelihood some Emirati Customs official has scored himself a nice new Gurkha knife. Not impressed at all by this, as can be imagined (putting it mildly). So before long a second kukri will be winging it’s way back straight to Britain by courier from Kathmandu.
Nepal is great. The people are friendly and huge fun, the culture is fascinating (and so is the food), the landscapes are marvellous and Kathmandu is compelling and absorbing in the same vein as Cairo and Marrakech. Can’t wait to go back, within the next two months. Watch this space.