Tuesday through Saturday was a holiday in Nepal. Worked Tuesday and Friday but eveything was closed Wednesday and Thursday.
David and Jacqui (Australians who had lived in Vietnam before coming to Nepal) suggested going to Dhukilhel for the festival days when things were closed.
It was an hour and a half drive over rough roads with few signposts but David negotiated it like a local and we arrived around noon. There was one snowcapped peak sticking out but the rest were covered by clouds which is apparently a typical occurance. We decided to hike through the village to a local temple which the map said was a 20 minute "walk". Perhaps for a mountain goat it was, but it took us over an hour and was all uphill. David reckons we were around 5,500 feet above sea level. On the top was a small restaurant where we had tea and crackers. There were soldiers sitting around drinking tea who quickly picked up their rifles and stood guard. The locals came up the gravel road by motorbike. We headed down accompanied by a local dog who was quite friendly but liked to get underfoot.
Around six in the evening we gathered around a large round fireplace next to the dining room along with about a dozen others that had arrived. We were the only ones speaking English. Sitting around a roaring fire with a glass of wine listening to chatter from across the globe is one of those unusual moments that helps one reflect on the nature of the world community.
The rooms had no heat but the large featherbeds and blankets were cozy as long as I stayed in bed. They even turned on the hot water in the evening and the morning for showers. My balcony overhung the valley which stretched out for miles and down quite a long way. I woke up in the middle of the night and looked out the window between the curtains which I had left open so as not to miss the sunrise. The sky was filled with stars in the pitch black sky and the lights from the huts below seemed like another field of stars reflecting the heavens.
I awoke at dawn. Keen to see the mountains emerge, but alas all I could see was mist and fog right up to my window. I cannot deny my disappointment, but the sounds of a flute and drums floated up from the valley below and the laughter and chanting followed soon after.
As we sat outside having breakfast the fog began settling downward away from us. As it settled into the valley it looked like a sea slowly receding as the tide from the shore. Slowly but relentlessly it moved, and as it sank away I looked up and the mist seemed to quietly slide down the mountainsides revealing stark white peaks tinted orange with the light of the dawning sun. Within the hour a panoarama of peaks appeared emerging from west to east. Instead of hiking we ordered tea and sat for several hours watching the rugged peaks appear one at a time.
What art man that Thou are mindful of him in the face of the majesty of God's creation.
We checked out and drove about a third of the way around the valley to another hotel for lunch outside with a view of the mountains. After lunch we hiked a couple hours into a nearby village on the ridge. It was populated with rough brick huts and houses perched on the hillside, accompanied by various chickens, goats and water buffalo along side. One neatly dressed young man came out and invited us to see his house. Inside was a dirt floor with a hollow cut out for the cooking fire. What surprised me was the bright shiney stainless steel pots and pans for cooking that could have come from a Crate and Barrel store. Everything was sparse and the blankets worn but clean and neat. He offered to have us see the upstairs but the bamboo ladder did not not look like it was built for westerners. The children followed us everywhere chattering away in surprisingly good english as we looked out over the valley at the Himalyayas beyond.