TO THE HILLS
I had not realized that the school I have been teaching at was actually in Bahktapur, and not Kathmandu, although it is in the same valley and the two cities and Patan are so close and intertwined. We took a taxi to Bahktapur's Durbar Square and our driver informed us that in two days we should be aware that there would be a national strike. This strike would mean we would not be able to take any taxis or busses on that day. This was our third of the three Durbar Squares and found it to be quite large and with a higher entrance fee. In our case, the higher fee was secretly beneficial to us. As soon as we got out of our cab we saw two white people. I didn't pay much attention to them, I just thought, "woah, those are some dirty white folks."
I was a little surprised when my fiance walked up to them and started talking to the woman in the couple. It turns out I had not recognized the med student from the midwest we had lunch with in our first days in Nepal. Unfortunately, she seemed very annoying during that lunch and, although it was nice to follow up with her just then, she seemed like she would continue to be annoying. She was traveling with a very grungy looking Australian doctor... it was implied he was a doctor... and they were looking for a hostel, a cheap place to stay, and were avoiding going into the square due to the price of admission. After exchanging pleasantries and giving them a quick look through our Lonely Planet book, we went our separate ways.
The Bahktupur Durbar Square had been badly damaged in 1939 due to the last massive earthquake to hit the Kathmandu Valley. Many of the temples were destroyed and the result was a more spacious main square. However, just off the main square were some of the most impressive temples, one five story temple, the tallest in the valley, towered over debris from fallen temples from the most recent earthquakes. We had a walking tour in our guidebook that we loosely followed and found that the city around the square had numerous incredible, yet smaller, ancient temples and landmarks. Some of the highlights in our book had been destroyed, but there were still hostels and shops named after the fallen sights that enabled us to orient ourselves.
When we finished the walking tour we continued on to Pottery Square, or Potter's Square, and found many booths where pottery is made out in the open. Potters cranked machines that could have been a hundred years old and built by hand. Seeing all of the clay there I realized that the mud my fiance had found especially slippery on the roads, a coating almost an inch deep, was really clay that covered this city. We felt like voyeurs watching these people work. It seemed as though we had strayed from the touristy areas and there was no way to be able to carry any of pieces of pottery on our flights without shattering them anyways. I'm sure we'll find plenty of other things to shatter on our travels back.
After our tour of Bahktapur we asked for information on how to get to Nagarkat, a village whose only existence is for the scenery of the Kathmandu valley as well as (on a clear day, unlike the day we had) Mount Everest. We were approached by a taxi driver as we left the square who agreed to drive us round trip. He brought us to his vehicle and we saw that we would be traveling in a little van. I would have leg room. This would be leg room I would appreciate as the drive was just under an hour of windy and steep roads.
Our driver dropped us off on the edge of the small town and we walked uphill searching for views. It did not take long to find views on the side of the road and we eventually found our way toward a hotel, it was called something like The Edge of the Universe. This hotel has a well known temple at the top of the hill with a 360 degree view, Kathmandu to the southwest, Everest to the northeast.
We stealthily walked through the hotel gates avoided being in view of the proprietors. There was a feeling that we were not allowed to be there even though the doors were open. There was a bit of a feeling that they were not quite taking guests because there were so many repairs being done to the different lodges. As we climbed up the many steps we came closer to the temple at the top of the hill that was no more than eight feet by eight feet. The last 6 or 8 steps leading up to the temple had been destroyed and there was other debris strewn across our path including some very tetanus-y looking rebar sticking in the air. We carefully made it to the temple, took a few pictures rather quickly, noticed the thick bank of clouds in the direction I expected Everest was in and scurried back down the stairs. As we came closer to the gate out we could hear a faint "Sir! Sir!" and I pretended to be hard of hearing. We kept walking and scurried down the road away from any interactions.
We had a nice tea and soda in a restaurant overlooking the Kathmandu valley, hazy in the distance, before taking our taxi back. The ride down the hill was windy, skiddying and pot holed but the taxi seemed to be able to handle the trek. However, once we got back in the outskirts of the city, our driver tried to slam on the brakes in traffic and skidded a bit further than expected. "Did we hit them?" she asked me. "No, I think there's a problem with the brakes though." Not long later, it sounded as though the taxi was also having issues getting into one of the gears. The driver had us move to another taxi that he pulled up to and settled our fare on the spot. We had one more reckless ride to get back to our apartment.