Walking through the winding streets of Kathmandu post-2015 earthquake is an adventure that waves between a post-apocalyptic movie scene and a lively medieval town.
Piles of bricks are mounted on the sides of the street and vacuum spots are left where buildings once stood. The randomness of destruction struck me the most, in the same block there would be brand new buildings, ancient temples, cracked homes and holes on the ground; no apparent reason to what was the criteria for destruction; it’s everywhere after two years, and it will remain here for a long time.
Doing the Lonely Planet walking tour was a tough experience, hopping between ancient temples with erotic engravings, stupas hidden in inner courtyards and bustling markets, we arrived at the iconic Durbar Square, just to find out that this once imposing center of the Palaces, Temples, and Statues, has been decimated. Two years after the earthquake, Nepal is still struggling to rebuild its most revered symbols.
Life goes on in Kathmandu, parallel to the stunning reconstruction efforts, markets are again colorful and lively, incense fumes come out of the temples and people rush by on their daily chores, blind (willingly or not) to the destruction that surrounds them.
It could be said that Kathmandu resembles any other bug Indian city: crowded, dusty, polluted, dirty… but not. The Nepali pace is calmer, no horns are blown systematically, the streets are cleaner and overall feeling of the city is soothing. Kathmandu lies in the middle of a fertile valley that gathers people from all over the area: Tibetian refugees, Indian businessmen, Himalayan Sherpas between others. The mix blends in a friendly and easy going Nepalis.
In the middle of the city is the Thamel area, where the number one industry of Nepal is fostered: Tourism. Crowded in small alleys, rows upon rows of knock-off hiking gear, souvenirs, cyber-nomad friendly cafes and high-class restaurants pack the streets not wasting a single spot. Not the typical Nepali landscape, but certainly the place to chill after a couple of weeks trekking the Himalayas and be reminded how the western food tasted like.
Nepal may be one of the poorest countries of the world, but its people won’t give it away: they are hard workers, honest and with a great attitude towards life. Not something easily found.
Leaving Nepal tomorrow with a heavy heart and in love with its mountains and people, I expect to return here to conquer one more summit and hope to see a prosperous country in the close future.