The road to Nagarkot from the backseat of a van

6 07 2011

Nagarkot, where the group of friends I was with had hoped to catch a glimpse of the sunrise over the top of the world, is a hill station that lies some 32 kilometres east of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. Sitting at an elevation of some 2,195 metres, it reputedly offers the visitor a magnificent panorama, not just of the highest mountains in the world to the east, but also of the Kathmandu valley to the west. And, it was with the promise of that, that we had long before our visit, decided that we should break away from Kathmandu for a day and head up to Nagarkot for an overnight stay.

Nagarkot, besides offering a view of the rooftop of the world, also offers a view of the surrounding foothills in and around the Kathmandu Valley.

The dusty and bumpy road to Nagarkot is one that first rises gradually from the ancient town of Bhaktapur, before there is a dramatic change in gradient further on. It is one which on the steeper part of the ascent, that provides a wonderful view of the hills around, many with terraced slopes that from which the valued long grained variety of rice is harvested from. And as I am usually inclined to do when seated in the back seat of a car or in this case a van, I tried to capture the scenes on the road to the top as best I could, managing a photograph whenever the van slowed to negotiate a bend. And so, through the series of photographs that I managed on the bumpy road … I am now able to share that the long, winding and dusty road to Nagarkot seen from the backseat of a van with anyone that is willing to take the road with me …

The road to Nagarkot begins from Bhaktapur east of Kathmandu ...

The landscape changes with the gradual rising of the bumpy and dusty road to Nagarkot.

Still on the initial part of the climb which is marked by the lush greenery that lines the road.

The road starts to rise more steeply and provides a wonderful view of the slopes below.

Terraces come into view as the road rises further.

Another view downslope.

Negotiating a sharp bend.

Houses perched on the slope.

Looking down at the road we taken.

A shack by the roadside.

Women with loads that are supported by their heads and necks struggling up the steep gradient.

The landscape changes dramatically as we climb higher ...

Another van and a car following the van we were in up the narrow and winding road.

The changing landscape.

The approach into Nagarkot.

The view from Nagarkot Village.

The best view on the bus.

And 45 minutes after we started the ascent ... our destination ...

but, not before a little bit of work that needed to be done ...

An out of the backseat view of the Peaceful Cottage and the Cafe do Mont ... there was apparently more work to be done!


Sunrise over the top of the world

14 06 2011

Getting up at 5 in the morning probably isn’t one’s idea of a holiday, but it is something that I regularly do just so as to revel in my favourite time of the day. It is the sunrise of the new world that I often seek, a time which always brings a sense of calmness, freshness and hope to me. Sunrises anywhere have a unique flavour, some accompanied by a brilliant show of colours, some less so … the sight of that red or orange ball or light rising over the horizon or the distant landscape is truly remarkable and one that I never fail to marvel at. It is something that I have done, since the carefree days of childhood when I first watched that red ball of fire rise over the distant horizon as I listened to the sound of the South China Sea lapping up the same fine white sand that was stuck in between my toes as I sat seated in between my parents.

I have always been one for the sunrise – the sunrise over the Volcán San Cristóbal near Corinto, Nicaragua, 1985.

A magical sunrise that I recently had the good fortune to see whilst on holiday was one that I watched in the company of friends with whom I go back to a time that would have been the time of that first sunrise that I watched. It was on the trip to Kathmandu that we found ourselves perched, at 5 in the morning, up on the roof of the Peaceful Cottage in Nagarkot, a hill station just out of Kathmandu which on clear days, provides a wonderful vantage from which the majesty of the world highest peaks rising in the distance, can be admired. The sunrise wasn’t so much one that was magical in its display of colours with the morning’s mist filtering out any attempts the sun made to paint the canvas that was the sky, but one that was magical just for the view of the mist shrouded hills below us that extended across to the magical looking mountain range rising high above the hills.

The anticipation of a brand new day over the Himalayas roused many from their slumber including this couple on the roof of another building across from the Peaceful Cottage.

I guess it would be hard to describe in words the magical spectacle that started with the surreal glow over the still invisible snow capped peaks, the glow eventually reflecting off and revealing the snow capped southern faces of the world highest peaks, turning blue to grey and then to orange, culminating in the majesty of the orange ball of fire rising in between two peaks … it is I guess for the pictures that should paint a thousand words to describe the spectacle … one that will always be remembered as that first sunrise that I watched some forty years ago.

From a surreal glow, the strengthening light from the rising of the sun illuminates and reveals the southern faces of some of the highest peaks in the world.

First rays over the peaks.

The moment of anticipation.

The sun peeks out between two peaks.

The progress of the sunrise over the top of the world:

A 40 year journey from Essex Road

28 04 2011

I made a journey recently with a group of friends. It could be said that it was a journey that had started some forty years ago, one that had started with the forging of bonds in the classrooms and on the schoolyards at Essex Road in Singapore. Yes, we were schoolmates, seven of us, making a journey in mid-life that was as much motivated by a common passion, as it was by the camaraderie we developed in the course of our Christian Brothers’ education that kept us in touch with each other well into our teenage years.

Flying the flag of our Alma Mater: Seven schoolmates and one we adopted ...

Some of us in Primary 6, St. Michael's School.

The journey we took was one that brought us to the shadow of the roof of the world. An excursion, as one put it, an extension of those we used to look forward to at the end of the year during our primary school days. Having a common interest in photography, we sought to capture, through seven pairs of eyes, how we saw the wonderful world in which we found ourselves immersed in for a few days, coming back not just with a multitude of images, but touched by the beauty and warmth in the simplicity of the people, fond memories of the colourful sights that unfolded before our eyes, and most importantly with the spirit that the ten (some twelve) years in St. Michael’s School (now St. Joseph’s Institution Junior) and St. Joseph’s Institution had imparted on us.

Life on the streets in Kathmandu makes it a wonderful place to see and discover.

Along the three hundred steps to enlightenment: A statue of Buddha on the ascent up the pilgrim path to Swayambunath, a stupa which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

The ancient capital of the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur, seen during the Bisket Jatra festival held during the Nepali New Year in April.

The trip involved not just a visit to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, but also to some of the areas that surround the city, places that have a magical or mythical charm, as well as one that would, on a clear day, have given us a magnificent view of the roof of the world. Kathmandu and the Kathmandu Valley, is certainly blessed with some magnificent cultural treasures, a few which have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including two stupa sites, Swayambunath and Boudhanath, and a former capital, Bhaktapur, and it was these that we focused our cameras on. Along the way, we also visited a Roman Catholic church, the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, in Lalitpur on the outskirts of Kathmandu, and along with it the Parish School, the Regina Amoris School, set up and run by the Sisters of Cluny for the children of the needy. All in all, it was a huge and meaningful adventure for us, and one, that I would be touching on in detail in separate posts to come on each part of our visit.

The long, narrow and winding road up to Nagarkot, a hill station near Kathmandu.

Boudhanath, a UNSECO World Heritage Site and the largest stupa in Nepal, is also a centre of Tibetan life.

Durbar Square in Kathmandu, a concentration of monuments which is another UNSECO World Heritage Site.

The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Lalitpur.