We are leaving Nepal, kingdom above the clouds. It seems a lost land, mysterious and compelling. In a strange way I see it as a place of prisms – a spectrum of colours synthesised through the land and culture of its people, transient and fragile. Old and new collide without finding need to merge; life is about respect and honour and survival. Tucked into the folds of Nepal’s sky scraping mountains exists a proud people – proud of their history, proud of their remarkable country.
We ended as we began, in the fabled city of Kathmandu. Here the streets are chaotic; they drive on the left but in every other respect seem to have thrown away the rule book, if it ever existed. Should anything block the road, be it a bus, taxi or broken down lorry, all vehicles rigorously overtake, regardless of what is coming in the opposite direction. As if to compound the confusion motorbikes weave through as though on an assault course and as for the bicycles….a seriously overworked God must be watching over the riders. Cows graze, ignominious
But the city has remarkable beauty. And history….we tried to see the Living Goddess but she proved rather shy. We were unsettled by the concept of choosing one girl child to be so esteemed and enchanted. We who are moulded with modern minds find looking into this alien past unsettling. Pilgrims, monks, holy-men, tourists, locals, all inhabit the same frenetic streets but I suspect what we see is very different. The temples and stupas draw us together with a sense of the past still living, but what we understand as God is aeons apart.
We filter through tiny lanes where roadside shops are little more than three walled shacks. Cramped displays are tilted towards pedestrians but the rows of pampered fruits and vegetables lie temptingly close to the cows and monkeys who also graze these streets, at one busy crossroads we even encounter a herd of goats. Pungent smells fill the air as we invade the spice market; trays of yellow turmeric, brown nutmegs, black and green peppercorns and the tiny seeds of cumin and coriander displayed alongside less familiar condiments. Hanging over our heads are displays of textiles, the multi-coloured silks conjure up tales of the orient, patterned fables burnished in hot reds, burnt oranges, cool indigoes, citrus yellows and emerald greens. A riot of disharmony overlaid in gold braid. The buzz of the marketplace is enigmatic, too much to see and too little time.