On the plane back from Nepal, I was holding on to the thought of seeing the photos that I had just finished downloading on the laptop and my heart was pounding just at the thought of reviewing the result of these four days of photography. But it is deception that was sitting in my computer; sadly the photos failed to capture the essence of Kathmandu …the photos were silent!
It is too often the photos I did not take, the ones that I could not take because I was in a moving car or felt too intrusive to have the courage to click that are the most amazing ones.
I wanted so much to capture the old man carrying this large weight on his head, the young children playing in a small pile of garbage while laughing and the sound and smell of the burning garbage on the streets of the Thamel area. I so wanted to capture the vibrant atmosphere of the streets of Kathmandu, including the thick air of dust and the multitude of scents, but it is simply impossible. I guess that just like the people of Kathmandu, my camera was wearing a face mask to filter the pollution.
Then you have the photos that you are forbidden to take. One of them was the unique opportunity of seeing the Goddess Kumari; this young 4 year old girl that is selected like the Dalai Lama using a long set of criteria and of course, a bit of astrology. We had the privilege, thanks to the owner of Everest Express, to get a viewing with the Goddess Kumari. She usually comes out of her monastery once or twice a year to bless the people of Nepal and to bless the leader in place. Such a privilege was priceless so our cameras were ready, caps off and on standby. The security arrived in the courtyard where we were standing in wait of the appearance of this living Goddess, the only one in the world, and at this moment we heard the loud voices saying: NO CAMERA, IT IS FORBIDDEN TO TAKE PHOTOS OF THE GODDESS. The little girl appeared without smiling, with her perfect face full of make-up and no one able to capture the moment. It is now in my memory for ever; her eyes on mine with both a deep sentiment of curiosity. This moment is now only pictured in my mind but I can look at it as often as I want. At puberty, this Goddess will become mortal again and will go down to the streets of Nepal to live what is said to be “a normal human life”.
So unless you experience it for yourself, nothing can render the “scent” of Nepal (as my friend Tim would express instead of using “smell”). The noise of the hundreds of cars, motorcycles and tuk tuk, the sound of everybody talking their way through life, negotiating their rice or begging their possible, but little, hope of getting something…anything. As my husband Pierre would say; Kathmandu’s beat is a fluid chaos where the devoted are poor and the middle class is hard to see through the dust surrounding their daily lives. A constant dance of cars, humans, dogs and motorcycles who have learned to ignore one another.
When you have a small window of opportunity, you cross the street to avoid a pile of garbage or a beggar who has been following you for the last 20 minutes. When you have a small window of opportunity you try to look up at the sky to search for what seems to be clouds, clouds that when you focus for a moment suddenly transform themselves in the most majestic and beautiful rock mountains of the world: the Himalayans.
Don’t read me wrong, I enjoyed every second of our three days in Kathmandu, but on Saturday, when the group of trekkers composed of our husbands and other friends of Cass left for their long 14 day journey, my friend Val and I hopped in a jeep and went straight for Nagarkot.
Nagarkot is the highest view point near Kathmandu. At 2000 metres, it stands right in the middle of all the famous and massive mountains that you heard about in your life: Everest, Annapurna and others.
After few hours of trekking in the breathtaking rice paddy terraces, our guide brought us to our ultimate destination: the Fort resort, a hotel located right on top of the mountain and overlooking the Himalayans. A pure feast for the eyes! Beauty and silence was at the rendezvous.
Our first question to the front desk was:
-“Wow! What a fabulous place, do you have a spa here?”
-No Mam, sorry, we started to build one but we had to stop because of the bad politic.
What the nice man wanted to express in his broken Nepalese english, is that they had planned to open a spa but the revolution of Nepal in 2006 and the 3 years of disturbance that followed, killed tourism. This year was the first time they started to see tourists reappear. The Nepalese are hungry for tourists and are trying so hard to leave you with a good impression in hopes that we will tell others to come and explore the beauties the country has to offer.
So what should I tell you about Nepal?
Buddha was born in Nepal, a kingdom for the past 250 years which recently (in 2006) became the youngest republic of the world. This land of dust, rice and poverty is blessed with some of the most grandiose beauties… starting with its courageous inhabitants. What I want to tell you is that you should go to Nepal to see these majestic mountains higher than everything else on earth which makes them look like clouds of rock suspended in the sky.