Catching up – Nepal

As mentioned in the previous post, our laptop packed it in, with its treasure of photos and documents. So it goes.

On our few days in Katmandu before heading off to Pokhara to begin our trek, we hire a cabs to whisk us to distant parts of Katmandu and back.

Such as Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur has a ‘durbar‘, which in Nepal means a square with many temples and stuff.

The same day, we visit another one, Patan Durbar, in Lalitpur.

The next day, we visit the cremation ghats at the Pashupatinath Temple.

The Burning Ground

Then we head for the Tibetan side of town. We visit Boudhanath, a neighbourhood made up mostly of Tibetan refugees.

The Great Stupa

We take a bus to Pokhara. From there, we begin our uphill trek to Australian Camp.

Just starting out

On the way, we see people carrying just about everything on their backs.

Hay you

We pass through a few small hamlets along the trail.

They make swings out of giant bamboo here.

Kids playing in front of Fishtail Mountain

The first day is uphill most of the time.

This is Australian Camp. It’s the goal of day number one.

Many people gather to see the sun rise over the Himalayas first thing in the morning.

Pete and Maria here, greeting the morning sun.

Note the warm clothing

Here’s a view of the mountains from the front yard of our accommodation.

Nice marigolds

Our key-holders are shaped like Ghurka khukuris. Pete wears his with panache.

On our way out of town, I befriend the village cat.

The beginning of the day starts on a pleasant downhill track.

Three amigos
When you come to a fork in the road, take it!‘ – Yogi Berra

We come off the trail and start down a busy roadway. We think this is temporary, but it turns out to be our route for the day.

We flag down a taxi to take us to Sarangkot.

Back in Pokhara, we visit the Gurkha Museum.

It’s better to die than to be coward‘ – Gurkha motto

Sight or Insight of the Day

We come across a village where the local women are dancing to celebrate some sort of local holiday.

So of course, Maria has to join in.

The ladies are impressed with Maria’s Terpischorean prowess.

Technical Difficulties…

Faithful readers – a minor tragedy has occurred: our laptop has given up the ghost!

… And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!‘ – Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2

Yes, our MS Surface Pro 4 that has up to now performed yeoman service for chronicling our random rambles was turned off and was never able to be turned on again. Desperate Google searches came up zilch, successful-solutions-wise.

This is sad in itself, but the late, lamented MS Surface Pro 4 ALSO contained all of our photos and many important documents.

It may take a few days before we are up to speed.

We are now back in New Delhi – again! – where we purchase a brand new MS Surface Pro 6. We plan to send our non-functioning unit back to Canada with our friends – maybe its SS disc drive can be salvaged. We live in hope.

See you in another life, MS Surface Pro 4.

‘Katmandu – I’ll soon be seeing you…’

‘… And your strange, bewildering time
Will hold me down
…’ – Cat Stevens

We arrive in Katmandu after an overnight flight from Sri Lanka.

Katmandu from above…

(There are several ways to spell ‘Katmandu’. We go with the one that has the least letters.)

…and from below

Like many developing countries, there is often a tangle of wires overhead.

There’s a lot of commerce going on. Mostly souvenirs and trekking equipment.

It’s a long way from the hippy days of the 60s and 70s. Still, we see cute elderly Western couples who look like they may be revisiting the venues of their dope-smoking youth.

A long way from the hippy days indeed

Among the wares are textiles and fabrics of all kinds. Some are even authentic.

‘Genuine’ ‘pashminas’

Also available: an army of Buddhas and other aids to elevated consciousness.

There’s always something going on in the traffic-thronged streets.

Rickshaw for hire

Our first morning: a flight to view the Himalayas is on the cards.

All aboard

Notwithstanding the plane engine right in my face, the view is pretty spectacular.

‘Is that propeller turning or not?’

The flight takes about an hour.


Some people would know the names of these peaks by heart. I do not. But the cabin crew give details.

‘ The mountains are known as the Himālaya in Nepali and Hindi (both written हिमालय), the Himalaya (ཧི་མ་ལ་ཡ་) or ‘The Land of Snow’ (གངས་ཅན་ལྗོངས་) in Tibetan, the Himāliyah Mountain Range (Urdu: سلسلہ کوہ ہمالیہ‎) in Urdu and the Ximalaya Mountain Range (Chinese: 喜马拉雅山脉pinyinXǐmǎlāyǎ Shānmài) in Chinese.’ Thanks, Wikipedia

Surprisingly in this age of anxiety, we are allowed to enter the cockpit one by one for a pilot’s-eye view.

Pete takes a few photos from up front
First there is a mountain. Then there is no mountain. Then there is.

Sight or Insight of the Day

We stumble across the Garden of Dreams. Another real people place.

It’s a peaceful oasis of tranquility in the centre of cacophonous Katmandu.

Another example of how everything’s connected: one of the pavilions has a quote from the ‘Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam‘ engraved in marble.

O love – there is no other life but here.‘ – Omar Khayyam

A little over a month ago, we visited the tomb of Omar Khayyam in Nishapur, Iran.

My tomb shall be where the north wind may scatter roses over it.‘ – Omar Khayyam

We learn in Iran that Omar is better-known as a scientist than as a poet. Who knew?

A Mighty Fortress is Our Galle

From Mirissa, we head back up the coast to Galle.

It’s about an hour by tuk-tuk. We order a special ‘large’ tuk-tuk to accommodate three people and their luggage.

On the road

A good morning for a journey up the coast.

Fishing boats at anchor

Some salt fish lie out to dry in the sun.

We arrive in Galle. Galle is above all a fortress town.

We stay within the fortress walls and walk around the ramparts.

The Black Fort was the original fortification built by the Portuguese.

Old Portuguese-style guard tower

Many of the buildings have a Dutch look.

Court buildings

Giant trees are everywhere, too.

You can smell the sea form anywhere in town.

Surrounded by sea on three sides

This is Sri Lanka’s oldest light station, dating back to 1848, but the original lighthouse built by the British was located about 100 metres from the current site. It was destroyed by fire in 1934. The existing lighthouse was erected here in 1939.

The Lighthouse

Galle is a very walkable place.

Another view of the lighthouse. (Our hotel is on Lighthouse Street.)

The building that looks like a church is actually a mosque

Some of the centuries-old buildings are looking their age.

We visit the Maritime Archaeology Museum. So do half the schoolkids in town.

A teacher leads her small charges through the streets

There’s an old Dutch Reformed Church in the middle of town.

Old tombstones

These signs are everywhere. Usually found where workmen are welding with no goggles or angle-grinding steel in their flip-flops.

The Galle clock tower is a familiar landmark.

It still keeps perfect time

According to Wikipedia:

The Galle fort is a world heritage site and is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.

More colonial buildings

We belatedly realize that there are no photos of any of us in this entry. I’ll remediate that with a shot of Maria at the gates of our hotel in Galle.

At the Deco on 44

Sight or Insight of the Day

We take the train back to Colombo, and then another to Negombo.

Negombo is where our Sri Lanka trip began. We celebrate by going out for one last seafood feast at the same restaurant we ate at the first evening we were here.

Lobster Thermidor meets Crab

Then we depart in the middle of the night for our flight to Nepal.

Mirissa – Sri Lanka South

We go from Colombo to the beach town of Mirissa, in the south.

Departure from Colombo Fort railway station

First, we catch the train to Matara. It’s late.

So much of travel is waiting or delay‘ – Paul Theroux (second time we’ve used this quote)

Not only is the train late – this train is supposed to begin at Fort station, ensuring that we get a seat (the entire train is unreserved). As it turns out, it begins one station before, so it’s packed by the time we board.

Close quarters on Sri Lanka Railways

We squish three to a seat. It’s better than standing.

Maria makes new friends

The day is overcast. By the time we arrive, there is thunder, lightning, and torrential rain.

We pass many small stations along the way.

Ahangama station

If you like, you can hang out of the door for thrilling action shots.

The next day dawns bright and sunny in Mirissa.

The firstborn daughter of our good friends in Ottawa was named after this beach. She is now a beautiful 22-year-old.

Beautiful beach. Beautiful name.

There’s plenty of fresh fish to be had.

A seafood dinner awaits

This is what it looks like before it’s on the plate.

Fishing is how people make a living around here.

An older gentleman does it old school.

The Old Man and the Sea

The local seabirds eat well, too.

Tern diving for his lunch

Fishermen use unusually-narrow, stand-up outrigger fishing boats.

Actually, we stay in Bandaramulla, about a half kilometre past Mirissa town.

On the left is Assi, the host of our guest house. He’s a keen surfer.

The main village of Mirissa is a bit overdeveloped these days. Where we are, we enjoy a small private beach and lots of peace and quiet.

We develop a routine of sorts: breakfast, time at the beach.

Pete brings copies of The Economist from home for me, by request

Afternoons of leisure. Some more time at the beach.

Palm trees galore.

Atop Coconut Hill

We try to see the sunset most evenings.

Many ships pass by
Arabian Sea sunset

Sight or Insight of the Day

We don’t really have one for this entry. It’s a pretty lackadaisical few days on the south coast.

We find a local cafe where we have lunch and a cool drink at noon.

Time for a Lion Lager

Then it’s back up the coast to the fortress town of Galle.

Polonnaruwa to Colombo

I really admire Colombo. He’s so resourceful. And I love his ‘…just one more thing‘ shtick.

‘...there’s just one other thing...’

Oh, wait. That’s Columbo.

We’re talking about Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Where we wind up a few days after leaving Polonnaruwa.

Close to Polonnaruwa, we stop to have a look at some prehistoric tombs.

Interesting, but no information on site

Our destination is Ridi Viharaya. This is off the beaten track, so we pass through lonely coconut plantations and green hills.

The cave temples at Ridi Viharaya have Buddhas of different shapes and sizes.

We are the only visitors. It’s very peaceful.

Painted wall and ceiling

The doors have very elaborately-worked handles.

Handle with care

Overnight is spent in Kurunegala. We stay at the colonial-era Hotel Viveka,

The beautiful lake in front of our hotel

Preparing to leave the next day. In the middle is Viraj, our driver. (And all-round bodyguard.)

He’s a gentle giant

At the Millennium Elephant Foundation, we see elephants in the river being scrubbed with a coconut husk.

Wet behind the ears

Some elephants get a treat, like this squash.

I’ll save some for later

At last, we’re in Colombo, staying in the area of Galle Road.

Clock tower near Pettah Market

Back in the neighbourhood of Colombo Fort Station, where our journey began.

The hubbub of Colombo makes a great change from the quieter parts of the island.

Viraj treats us to a coconut drink

The port of Colombo is undergoing modernization by the Chinese.

Before returning to the hotel, we watch the sun go down in the Arabian Sea…

…just as a train passes on the tracks that hug the shoreline.

Next day, we visit the National Museum. It’s well-preserved, with well-curated exhibits. Nice grounds, too.

It’s interesting to see displays about many of the places we’ve seen here.

You know the giant stupas we describe from time to time? This is what’s buried in the centre – a modest teacup-sized reliquary and a few tutelary figurines.

In the afternoon, we go to the elegant Galle Face Hotel to enjoy a drink in front of the ocean. Also to celebrate early for Judith’s upcoming birthday, since we are going to miss it.


And lastly, to celebrate the end of our journey as a quartet: Judith flies home in the wee hours of the morning. She must return to w&#k. We Shanghai Pete for a further few weeks.

Sight or Insight of the Day

We track down the house of Arthur C. Clarke.

This takes a bit of detective work, as it’s not officially open to the public. Once we make our way there, however, the caretakers are amenable to letting us have a look around.

Clarke lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until his death in 2008. Even though he passed away over 10 years ago, the house looks as if he just stepped out for a minute.

It’s full of awards and memorabilia, as well as signed photos given by everyone from Tom Hanks to Buzz Aldrin.

This looks like a very Clarkian invention – a solar-powered pith helmet.

There’s something about visiting the homes of artists – fascinating to see where the magic happens.

In the workroom

Arthur C. Clarke in February 1965, on one of the sets of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

By ITU Pictures -, CC BY 2.0,
photo courtesy of Wikipedia

See you in another life, Arthur.

Trinco to Polly

‘Trinco’ is a common contraction for ‘Trincomalee’. ‘Polly’, however, is not a common contraction for ‘Polonnaruwa’ – we just have a hard time remembering the name of that town.

Our hotel in Trinco is on Uppaveli Beach, a few kilometres north of town.

The beach is nice and clean.

Those who like to swim take advantage of a calm morning.

Here, Pete and Judith take a refreshing dip in the sea.

This is a view of our hotel from the water.

The Cinnamon Trinco Blu

It’s Diwali in Trincomalee. The weather is mostly grey and rainy at this time of year, but we enjoy some sunny patches.

First stop of the day is the Koneswaram Temple, chiefly devoted to the worship of Shiva.

Shiva in my bones just thinking about the weather…’

These wooden frames, we are told, are placed here by people wishing for babies.

Crate. Just crate.

A Diwali tradition is to wear one’s best clothes and jewellery. These lovely young ladies are knocking it out of the park.

Rockin’ those saris, girls

People whisper into the ear of Nandi for their wishes to come true. (At least that’s what it looks like.)

‘Listen – do you want to know a secret?’

A view down an alleyway gives a glimpse of the sea.

Around the harbour are some traditional boats.

Back in the market for supplies of fresh fruit.

Vegetables, too

Through rain that never seems to stop, we drive to Polonnaruwa. This is another ancient capital of a Sri Lankan kingdom, from about a thousand years ago.

The Council Chamber

Ruins of the Palace of King Parakramabahu I (1153 – 1186). It was once seven storeys tall and had 50 rooms.

Not much left

King Parakramabahu was quite an overachiever. He was a great builder, reformer, and warrior. We didn’t know who this was when we took the photo below.

King Parakramabahu I – renaissance man

This is building is known as the Vatadage. The Sacred Tooth – now in Kandy – once resided here.

One of the buildings in the Sacred Quadrangle

It sometimes stops raining long enough to fold our umbrellas.

I model Maria’s new lungi

A guardian stone. In the background is the Satmahal Prasada, the only stepped pyramid in Sri Lanka.

Satmahal Prasada in the background

Sri Lanka gets a lot of visitors from Southeast Asia here to see the Buddhist sights.

A family of langurs laze in a nearby tree. We agree they’re much more serene than the frantic macaques that infest most places in Sri Lanka.


This enormous, 26-ton slab of stone was transported to Polonnaruwa from Minhale, 50 KMs away. It details the exploits of King Nissanka Malla (ruled 1187-1196).

Gal Potha, or the Stone Book

At Gal Vihara, there are four giant Buddha statues.

Judith and Pete at Gal Vihara

The standing one has an unearthly attitude of casual cool. Almost Fonz-like.

Next morning, we visit the newly-opened Ancient Technology Museum in Polonnaruwa.

Going for the bronze

Sight or Insight of the Day

It’s all about the elephants. We’ve been eager to see more since we saw that pair in the field a while ago.

Baby Elephant Walk

We organize an safari in Kaudulla National Park.

We’re not disappointed. We get much closer than we did on our initial encounter.

Besides elephants, we see other wildlife. Such as this jackal chasing another jackal.

Or these two peacocks. There are lots of wild peacocks in Sri Lanka.

In a dramatic moment, we are charged by a female elephant.

Warning – object is closer than appears in the photo

Following a few warning signs, she decides she’s had enough of our potential threat to the young ones and makes a determined beeline for our (very open) vehicle. We make a hasty getaway.