Village Rice Harvest


One of the things I really like about Kathmandu is how quickly you can get out of the city.  In about thirty minutes you are out of the maze of chaotic streets. After 40 minutes, you are in the countryside.  It makes a day trip easy, and you don’t have to worry about endless hours in traffic like we did in Manila.

I like the closeness to country life that is still evident here.  I like seeing how food comes to the table.  In Nepal most activities are still handled manually.  All around you can see the seasons and routines, and how everything harvested has a function to feed people, animals, or fuel fires.

Our recent trip to Sankhu was just a 45 minute drive and we stayed at a small cottage with views out across the rice paddies.


The bedroom/kitchen/living space of our little cottage


Looking out across the rice paddies at different stages of the harvest

From our ringside seat, the views across the valley were of farmers bringing in the rice crop. Its a family team affair with at least one person cutting down the tall rice stalks, another shaking the grain on to a hessian cloth, and another tying the stripped stalks into bundles.


The tied bundles of rice straw are then layed out across raised mounds of dirt to dry in the sun. The dirt mounds and furrows are actually planted potatoes that are already in the ground waiting for the rice crop to vacate. Unfortunately, the rain stayed a little late this year and this farmer’s work lies drenched in the flooding. A reminder that farming is risky business.

Once they bundles are dried out they are piled in haystacks, and eventually brought inside for storage.


Haystacks seemed to be a form of self expression. We saw quite a few different techniques!

Towards the end of the day, farmers gathered up the rice grains from the burlap sheets to put into sacks for transportation. But the final task beforehand was to toss piles of grain in the air to remove some of the husks, dust and dirt. Only then could he fill the sacks and carry them home for the day. We saw a mechanized version of the grain cleaning while we walked through the village:

cleaning rice grains

Same idea, but with a little help from electricity (when its working). Grains fall in front of a spinning fan, which blows away husk debris. The “aired” grains pile up on the plastic sheet, waiting to be bagged.


This farmer got a head start on his potatoes.  The  potato crop is already on its way.

Its a lot of very hard work and risky business. Watching the harvest come in gives you a whole new level of respect for a simple bowl of rice.

Cow Among the Pigeons…

When I got out the car today in Dhurbar Square, there was not one, but two cows looking at me, both surrounded by a sea of pigeons…above them, around them and sitting on their heads.  Here’s the other one:

It was quite a sight.  I know, I know. I have a bit of a cow theme going on this month…but who cares.  One day, I’ll stop noticing cows in the street and think its normal, right…?  But for now I can’t stop marveling at the incongruity of having bovine vagabonds hanging out on street corners, rummaging through garbage and generally behaving like stray dogs.  Its just weird and amusing.

Here’s a few more that I have snapped on my travels around Kathmandu streets.

kathmandu cows

Having a scratch on a sidewalk somewhere


Resting by the side of a bridge

Kathmandu cows

This one was just wandering through traffic looking for its mum

All these cows and no McDonalds!

Sign Language: Don’t Toot Your Own Horn (Pleeeeease!)


Why is this sign in English? Its Nepali drivers that have the horn habit.  A foreigner on a bike is a rare thing. Perhaps they have dozens of other signs in Nepali and I just can’t read them yet, but it was kind of a mystery….and clearly wasn’t working!

Buried in a motorcycle parking lot, I risked bodily injury taking this photo. The lot was a chaotic sea of parked bikes and aggressive cyclists trying to park or leave…and the horns were blasting. People blast their exceptionally loud horns here at the slightest provocation or for no apparent reason at all – take your pick.

Sometimes when I’m walking down a narrow sidewalk and a semi-stationary bike starts to hit on his horn in some insane random way — its everything I can do not to go over, confiscate his keys, and clip him around the ear. It deafening and annoying.  It can make you jump out of your skin if you don’t see it coming.  And when I am crossing the street at a pedestrian crossing with adequate warning, and they speed up and blast me as though I stepped out in front on them…well that just makes me mad.

Horns here go full on all the time…reaching a crisis level during the rush hour.  They blast so often as to be totally meaningless.  And then at night something strange happens….they stop.   The power goes out and the city goes to sleep and all you can hear is barking dogs.

‘Til the Cows Come Home

In many ways it was such an everyday scene.  An end-of-the-day evening routine. Both the farmers and the cows knew the ropes and within minutes their journey from the fields to the barn was over.  But I happened to be standing there with my camera, and happily snapped away for a few minutes enjoying just how idyllic it seemed.


The farmer led his cows down off the path and across a small muddy stream. The cows knew where they were going.

nepalese farming

His wife followed behind. Her cow’s red tika matching her dress. Unbelievably a seagull swooped down and arrived in my shot with perfect timing. (Seagull? In Nepal? Well, maybe not, but do you know what it is?)


Ooo…look at that face!



Traditional Style Home, Sankhu

Home was a traditional mud brick home in Sankhu. The animal entrance is on the left.


The big guy goes in, heading for bed….


…And a few minutes later, along comes the next family carrying their day’s work in the field on their backs


Of course, their life is less than idyllic. My host showed me around his mud house and the upstairs bedroom with only a straw mat and a badly caving roof. There is no bathroom or kitchen, and the downstairs space is used for storage and animals. In fact my mind flashed back to just a few week ago in Devon, staying in a home that was originally designed to house humans and animals together. Life in Devon and Nepal seemed oddly connected.

Kalimati Produce Market

Anyone who has asked me in person about my big challenges living in Manila knows how I felt about the lack of quality fresh produce.  Its not that the Philippines doesn’t produce quality fruits and vegetables, but it has the hardest time getting them into the city before they start to expire. Often we found produce flown in from Australia that was fresher — much more expensive — but fresher than anything grown just 6 hours north of Manila in cool, fertile Bagio.

So a important goal of the settling in process here in Kathmandu was to explore the produce available, learn what was seasonally available and figure out the best way to get some of it on our plates at home.  So I asked my Didi what kinds of vegetable markets were available and to take me to the best one in the city.

When I got in the car with our driver he seemed a bit confused.  He pointed at the plenitude of small fruit and vegetable shops, indicating to me that everything was available locally rather than driving what seemed to him a long way to the market.  But I really wanted to see for myself if there was some kind of central market that offered clues to the best variety and freshness with produce in Kathmandu.  It was a way to set expectations and to answer the question:   What does produce look like when it first arrives in Kathmandu before its sat on the roadside for hours on end?  Once I know about how things worked here, then I could set my expectations accordingly.

So off we went to the market.  I really wasn’t sure if I had managed to communicate things properly, but was pleasantly surprised when, less than half an hour later, our driver turned our car into what was clearly a big produce market, Kalimati Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market to be precise.

kalimati wholesale market

First glimpses of Kalimati market. At 10am it was busy but not crowded. Most stalls were under a large, central, covered area, although many spilled out on to the surrounding side streets.

kalimati wholesale market

I was heartened to see some variety in the different type of vegetables. In Manila you really could only get one type of potato, or carrot, or bean…. Here there was more choice on some of the produce, like potatoes for instance…

kalimati farmers market

The level of freshness was pretty good too. The market was pretty rough around the edges but the produce looked decent. I tried to snap the English “Farmers Market” sign but only managed part of it…


Using a head strap to carry heavy weight on your back is very common here. It much be really bad for your neck and shoulders!

So how does Kathmandu produce stack up against Manila’s? Considerably better, I’d say. Our local supermarket here is still inferior to the street market, but comes up with very fresh things occasionally. Also here the producers also come into the city and sell directly from their own blanket pitch on the pavement. I’ve seen some good looking produce around, not consistently, but its there.  And of course, for me, the fact that vegetables feature on menus and the food here is pretty good is a good thing.  Now I just have to find my chef’s hat once again and head back into the kitchen…. I’ll keep you posted on that one!

Yak Cheese. Its What’s for Dinner…..

Yak Cheese

Half a kilo of yak cheese please…

Here in Kathmandu, cheese is available but imported cheeses are very expensive and its a bit of a gamble whether your expensive imported cheese has had a good journey from its source to your table.  I can’t bring myself to shell out over seven dollars for a tub of philadelphia cream cheese.

We are lucky to have an excellent farmers market with cheese producers who sell locally made international cheese at more reasonable prices than the supermarket anyway. And they are very good.  However, I don’t always have a Saturday morning free to go to the farmers market to obtain them.

Locally made cheese such as paneer and mozzarella are very reasonably priced and readily available and we have had success buying those.  Also on our purchasing list is yak cheese, and I hesitated a little at first, but it has turned out to have a small but relevant role in our fridge.  Here’s an introduction:


Half a Kilo for about 520 rupees. Thats approximately $4.50/pound.

Yaks Cheese

Whats the texture like? Quite firm, but no hard. A little waxy but not rubbery. Interestingly enough, it has a very mild flavour. Not at all what I expected.

Grated Yaks Cheese

It grates pretty nicely too…

Grated Yaks Cheese on Homemade Soup

Grated on a little homemade minestrone. Which I sort of regretted actually, it melts with a bit too much stringy-ness. Might be better in a different kind of dish

The verdict? Yaks Cheese is ok. I don’t love it, nor do I hate it. The flavour is pretty bland and it melts with a stringy-ness that reminds me of mozzarella, but without the creaminess. I wouldn’t eat it on crackers because by itself it’s not worth the calories. But in a recipe that uses cheese to bind things together and relies on other flavours to make in shine…its just fine. There you go…Yak’s Cheese…not at all what you expected!


Here in Nepal we are coming towards the end of the biggest holiday of the year known as Dashian.  Kathmandu closes down, many businesses are closed and different festivals are celebrated on a daily basis.  There are way too many of them for me to keep up but one of the best known is Puja.

During Puja, goats are sacrificed and all manner of property – factories, vehicles, any machinery instruments and anything from which a living can be made is worshiped. The goats are sacrificed to all moving machinery like cars, aeroplanes, trucks etc. to get the blessing from goddess Durga for protection for vehicles and their occupants against accidents during the year.   Its quite a colourful spectacle.

Walking around Sankhu, the village where we spent Dashian, ceremonies were underway all over.  Here are just a few:


Blessing the family car


Nothing to do with the festivities…but I just thought he was the cutest dog. (I think animals have a day of blessing all their own).


Even this sad, abandoned tractor with flat moss-covered flat tyres was being blessed. I like to think that someone who remembered the importance of this piece of machinery in years gone by decided to honour it as an old friend. Maybe a bit too romantic for a tractor, but then this whole world of blessing machinery is a new one for me…


Blessing the family micro-bus. May it travel safely on Nepal’s narrow and precipitous roads

Thames Path: Day 3: London Bridge to Lambeth Bridge

London Bridge –– Southwark –Bermondsey  – South Bank – Waterloo- Westminster – Lambeth



If day one and day two were about a London riverside in development, day three was about a riverside that belongs to tourists, and the day started as it meant to go on with at least five different “river fun runs” underway. It didn’t help that it was a Sunday either. Crowds of tourists of all nationalities, strings and strings of riverside runners, and hustle and bustle. This wasn’t the Thames that we saw the day before. It took some negotiation to make our way along the riverside at this point. So many runners and tourists!

Hays Galleria

Exiting London Bridge station takes you directly into Hays Galleria, a large shopping center for tourists, mostly.

London Bridge

The London Bridge. Not very spectacular, is it? However there are many other much more impressive bridges all within a short distance of one another along this stretch of the Thames

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral is the first major point of interest after you cross London Bridge. Parts of it date back to the 12th century and its well worth a visit if you have time. We didn’t….to busy dodging all the pesky joggers!

Like Greenwich, Southwark is steeped in history and you could easily spend half a day looking around. We hustled past the second of the historic ships that weekend. First the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, and here the Golden Hind.

Golden Hind

Passing Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind….past more of those joggers….

Southwark Bridge

Southwark Bridge with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background


Every inch of the city seemed alive in this section of town on a Sunday. Even the banks of the Thames, exposed at low tide, were covered in people. This crowd seemed to be “mudlarking” (searching through the mud for buried treasures.)


Further down the bank at Southwark is the Globe Theatre, a marvelous reconstruction of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre. One of these days I would love to see a performance there.

Millennium Bridge

A little further along from the Globe Theatre, the Millennium Bridge comes into view. Built in 2000 as the name suggests, this pedestrian bridge goes from the South Bank to the heart of the city and St Paul’s Cathedral

Millennium Bridge

Another diversion….had to cross the Millennium Bridge as I had never done it before. Great view down the Thames!


Looking back to Tower Bridge


Yep…yet more people. Millennium Bridge was packed. That’s what you get for going out on a Sunday!


Back on the South Bank heading towards Waterloo


Around the South Bank there are so many activities going on. This is the skateboarding park under the bridge


At the Royal Festival Hall. London Eye coming up in the distance


Street entertainers galore. These guys were doing a trick bicycle routine opposite the houses of parliament. But there were also singers, mime artists and jugglers….tourist heaven!


Close up on the London Eye

Houses of Parliament

A better view of the Houses of Parliament


Finally as we passed under Lambeth Bridge, a view of Lambeth Palace, home to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the end to the day’s excursion

We ended Day 3 in the area where tourist London also drops off. Further down the river, away from the main attractions, there will still be crowded riverside days at weekends, but it will mostly be Londoners, not tourists, that we will come across. However, when we pick the trail again from Lambeth Bridge, I imagine it won’t be until 2015. You never know, but I don’t think I can make it back to the UK next year, but I look forward to picking up the trail again…. watch this space!

Thames Path: Day 2: Greenwich to London Bridge

Greenwich – Deptford – Surrey Docks – Butlers Wharf – Tower Bridge – London Bridge

Day two picked up where we left off at the Cutty Sark near Greenwich Pier. There’s so much to see and do in Greenwich, and its hard to walk through London and not stop at 101 different worthy distractions. The previous day’s planned distance was reduced considerably in reality, as it simply too much fun to stop and look at everything. It quickly became clear that the London section of the walk was going to be more about exploring riverside activities than truly hiking away the miles, which was just fine with me.

 Royal Observatory Greenwich

The Royal Observatory Greenwich — home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) — only got a fleeting glance from us….

So, before we got very far along the Greenwich riverbank we stopped and explored the Greenwich Foot Tunnel that takes pedestrians underneath the Thames to the opposite bank.  Its a pretty cool experience and tiring too if you decide to take the stairs rather the lift shaft.

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

Looking back at the Cutty Sark as we headed westward down the river. The dome on the right is the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel on the South bank. (There’s a matching dome on the North Bank too.)

greenwich foot tunnel

Inside the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Originally built as a pedestrian shortcut for workers over 100 years ago, its now a unique way to cross the Thames

As we were committed to the South Bank, we crossed back again and re-commenced our journey westward.  Deptford came up on us quickly.  Its a less developed, neglected part of the city, and the path took us away from the riverside and into 1960’s urban sprawl.


Riverside signage in Deptford.  A stark contrast to earlier signs along the Thames…

Although our walk took us down past some less attractive areas of town,  Deptford isn’t without it history or charms. It was also a Saturday, and the first day of the annual London Open House weekend, which I learnt meant that participating private residences or places of interest not normally open to the public were opening their doors so the likes of us could come and have a quick poke around. I had forgotten all about it, but as we walked down the back streets of Deptford, this gate beckoned us forth:


Normally closed to the public, the current resident of The Master Shipwrights House had opened his doors to anyone wishing to take a look around…


…so we took time out to do so.  It had attracted quite a large crowd of people and we all wandered around his home that was a mixture of history and every day living. I think the boys enjoyed it despite Latham’s yawn!


Obviously the house was in need of repairs, but historical upgrades are expensive and funds clearly weren’t there. But the house was sound and they had used the exposed walls and floorboards as part of the integral design. Interesting.


Outside they had used the garden’s riverside frontage to invite local historical societies and interest groups to give talks on various subjects….


…including a display of different salvaged treasures from the Thames, I think.

We spent a good hour in there, but eventually returned to the riverside trail, heading westward towards a series of quays.  If yesterday was about old industrial sites meeting new modern trendy London, today was about the quay.  Small marinas and quays were strung out in successions for the next couple of miles.


Crossing one of the many quays in the area.

The last one along this stretch was Surrey Quay, which unexpectedly hosted an organic garden and petting zoo, which seemed like a pleasant place to stop and grab some lunch. They are all set up for toddlers and finger food, but the adult organic restaurant was very good and we enjoyed the animals too!  An unexpected find in London!Surrey Docks Farm


Surrey Docks Farm has its ducks all in a row!




One of many lonely, crumbling jetties still standing….

The rest of the day’s walk took us past the start of some upmarket housing developments, perched alongside some of London’s older abandoned jetties.  Canary Wharf made a final appearance behind us as we turned the bend onto the final stretch towards Tower Bridge.  Reaching Butler’s Wharf was the start of tourist London, fancy restaurants, and trendy shopping.  Quite a change from just a mile or two up the river.


Canary Wharf

A last glimpse of Canary Wharf


Not sure quite what this was, but loved it for what it is now…sort of a piece of river art

This day’s photo journal wouldn’t be complete without a picture of our penultimate destination – Tower Bridge – not to be confused with London Bridge our final stop on Day Two, and just a short half mile away.

Yay!  Tower Bridge!

Yay! Tower Bridge!

Thames Path: Day 1: Woolwich Arsenal to Greenwich

Woolwich Arsenal – Thames Barrier – Millenium Dome – Greenwich

I haven’t been on one of my beloved hiking trails this year, and the prospect of hiking in Nepal seems a long ways off right now…at least at the moment as we try and settle into our new lives.    In the middle of everything else this summer, I planned the possibility of starting a new UK trail, something I could do with family, in increments when I’m visiting. The Thames Path National Trail seemed perfect for that.  Its 180-200+ miles longs (depending on where you start) and follows the Thames from its source in Oxfordshire to the mouth of the river in London.  Also, almost half of it is easily accessible as a day trip from my family’s London home, which cuts down the cost and logistics.  So with only a few precious family days here and there to grab over the years….this seemed like a very doable journey…even if it takes us forever!DSC00498

File:London River Services map.svg

Day one of the walk started at Woolwich Arsenal, home to Arsenal Football Club and the historic Royal Arsenal on the South bank of the Thames.  At this point in the journey, the Thames Paths offers a choice of North or South Bank and, for various reasons, we chose to follow the South Bank path.  Choosing to do the path in reverse (most people do it from the source out to the sea) meant that we were starting in the least developed part of the Thames.  In fact, parts of the path were still being finished, and as London starts to move Eastward and develop the its far Eastern Boroughs, previously long neglected, we walked through much construction and development, abandoned industrial sites and spanking new luxury apartments.

Thames Path

It many places the walk is well signposted. If you thought that that signage for a route that follows the river isn’t really important, you’d be wrong. The Thames Path at this stage of the journey and this point in time is a area in flux. There were plenty of clues that the path was constantly being diverted as construction affected the banks of the Thames. Or sometimes long established riverside property meant that the path would turn inland for a while and the way through the industrial backroads wasn’t always clear. I wouldn’t always have felt safe doing this part of the journey alone.

Woolwich Market

Woolwich Market near the start of the walk

Royal Woolwich Arsenal

Nikki on a call amid a sculpture at the Royal Arsenal. Walking through the Arsenal was an interesting mix of history, military heritage and funky art!

Woolwich Pier

Near Woolwich Pier. London through barbed wire. A grey prickly start to a very long walk….


Woolwich Thames Path. Canary Wharf in the far distance

Woolwich Ferry

Watching the Woolwich Ferry load up and depart…


First major landmark of the walk here is the Thames Barrier…


…and in the distance the next landmark… The Millenium Dome

If you glance at the earlier green map, this section of the walk could be shortened considerably by crossing inland across the large bend in the river.  Of course, that would totally be against the rules!  But it is relevant because the bend causes distortions in the perceived location and distance of landmarks.  At the Thames Barrier, the Millennium Dome seemed closer than it did a few kilometers further along the river.  And once we approached the Dome, we seemed forever in its shadow.  It was perpetually just around the corner, upon us, or just behind us for what felt like most of the walk that day.

The Emirates Airline Cable Car

The Emirates Airline Cable Car across the Thames. A pretty new addition that I had no idea existed. Apparently originally designed as a commuter option for crossing the Thames, since the end of Olympic traffic use has dropped considerably. Most of the cars looked empty to us.

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf

A second large loop in the Thames around the Isle of Dogs made for another windy detour towards our second omnipresent landmark:  Canary Wharf.  Canary Wharf is a new major financial district in London, its tall skyscrapers visible from a long way off. Like the Millenium Dome they stayed with us all day and into the nex,t until we were far along enough for even the tall towers to disappear.

The last stretch of the day was along a neglected strip of riverside towards Greenwich. It was run down, a little spooky, and full of reminders of an older industrial London port of times gone by.


Nikki’s excellent photo of an old, creaky barge moored along that stretch of the river.


…and, yes, we had to walk along this stretch..under the arm of the bulldozer…after we got the ok from the driver. This stretch was definitely not quite ready for us!

Finally after this neglected section, we were suddenly in beautiful kept, historic Greenwich with its charming restored houses, quaint village pubs, historic sites and tourists. It was quite a change of scene.


The Royal Greenwich Observatory

Cutty Sark

At the Cutty Sark. Our last stop for the day