Onwards to Kodari, Nepal

The Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra continues: Onwards to Kodari
We spent a day in Kathmandu flying along the Everest Mountain Range, taking darshan at Pashupatinath, and the Baudhanath Stupa, (Monks and Kids at the Baudhnath) and visiting the local markets. We left early the following morning for the border town of Kodari, where we would process immigration requirements and cross over into China-occupied Tibet.

Once we left Kathmandu, we also left behind paved roads. Dirt roads lead us through the countryside, up mountains and picturesque views. After monsoon rains, the fields cut in mountain sides were lush with greenery, reminding me of Goa and Kumta. But the rains also bring landslides in the mountains, and we heard news of villages washed away. In many places we drove by recent landslides. The rocky rubble had merely been shifted, so traffic could go by. We were treated to innumerable streams cascading down mountain sides; and in many cases, the streams flowed right over roads, slowly eroding them. As our mini-buses dipped into streams and groaned out again, we were simultaneously gripped by adventurous excitement and terror – which would be the defining characteristic of this trip. The 135 km journey took us more than four hours.

Green fields zipping by.
Pics of Lush green fields cut in the mountains between Kathmandu and Kodari by Arun Shanbhag

The road hugs the river Kosi; in several places I noticed rudimentary suspension bridges which the locals use to cross the rapidly flowing river.
Pics of Fields cut in mountains enroute from Kathmandu to Kodari by Arun Shanbhag

Indian trucks dominated the roads here and I was struck by the vivid graphics on their trim. At a rest area, I shot this artwork atop the drivers cab. The art depicts nicely the scenery (and the river Kosi) we enjoyed in the mountains.
Graphics on a truck at rest area by Arun Shanbhag

Along the route, our accompanying bus got a flat tire and we stopped in a village. These kids were selling quartered cucumbers. I was not going to test my intestinal immunity and just settled for a pic. Noticed the effeminate lips on the kid on the left
Pics of Kids selling cucumbers in a village enroute to Kodari by Arun Shanbhag

A tea shop in the village
Pics from a Tea shop enroute from Kathmandu to Kodari by Arun Shanbhag

As we entered Kodari, the buses had stopped in front of tire-burning fires in the middle of the road. Blissfully ignorant of what was happening, we carried our shoulder bags and walked a few hundred meters to the road-side restaurant for a quick lunch. We walked around more burning tires spewing dense, acrid smoke and angry young men glaring at us. In some places the heat and smoke were very intense and we hurried along.

pictures of tire burning mob in Kodari, Nepal by Arun Shanbhag
The mob stopped our bus and we had to stop over in Kodari

Our initial plan was to have a quick lunch and cross the border, which was only about 50 meters away. But all was not well in Kodari. Apparently the locals and the military police guarding the border had gotten into an altercation. The border was now closed and mobs had blocked the only thoroughfare with their burning tires and essentially brought this village to a standstill.

As we ate lunch we hoped the mob would disperse and we could proceed on. But that was not to be. Outside, we heard the raucous of the angry mob. And then,thakt, thakt,
and pause.

We looked at each other, raised eyebrows at hearing shots being fired, but carried on with our meals.

thakt, thakt, thakt, thakt!
thakt, thakt!
thakt, thakt, thakt, thakt, thakt, thakt, thakt!

The sounds of automatic weapons fire continued, … and went on and on. We saw the mob screaming and running by, chased by camouflage fatigue-clad military types.

Our hopes of crossing the border were dashed. We were going to be stuck here between trigger happy military and tire-burning mobs!

to be continued … .
You can breathe easy, we all came through the ordeal unscathed!


Next on the Kailash Manasarovar Travelogue: Tension in Kodari
To start at the beginning: Rendevous with Sagarmatha (Everest)

Kids at the Baudhanath Stupa

One of the joys of traveling is taking spontaneous photographs of complete strangers. Our interaction is only for a few seconds, or at most a few minutes. But through their pics they leave a lasting impression. In the comfort of my home, those few moments get stretched, not unlike Einstein’s time. I recall every blink of an eye, every body shrug and every word that passed during that brief interaction. And it sticks in my mind, sprouts, grows and nourishes; and subtly transforms me too.

I particularly enjoy photographing kids hanging out on streets. They are not scared of strangers, invariably smile and are willing to pause for a photograph. And once they see their likeness on the camera LCD, they jump in glee and are thrilled to pose forever. Despite their posed smiles, their inner joy seeps through the screen. These kids usually have very little material things at home, certainly no gameboys to keep them from throwing tantrums. Instead, at a young age they are observing and learning from strangers. They learn to rely on their siblings and friends. To trust them, for so much depends on trust in this part of the world. And above all, they know how to have fun with nothing more than a place to hang out. Theirs is the purest of joys.

I saw these girls on the steps of the Baudhanath Stupa (In the opening pic you see them playing by the elephant on the left). As they saw me approaching with my camera, they cuddled together and smiled. I think these were all from an extended family. When I asked if they were brothers and sisters, the oldest girls brought everyone together and kept repeating – ‘family, family!’


Next on the Kailash Manasarovar Travelogue: Onwards to Kodari
To start at the beginning: Rendevous with Sagarmatha (Everest)

Tirupati: A Walk Enlightens

Walking up the stairs to the Tirupati Devasthan pics by Arun Shanbhag
It was a dream of mine to walk up the mountains to the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthan. When I shared this with M, the 14 km hike up more than 4000 steps did not dissuade her. My dream became her’s too! Continue reading “Tirupati: A Walk Enlightens”

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