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AROUND THE KATHMANDU VALLEY

232 BEYOND THE VALLEY •• Arniko Highway to Tibet

Every 12 years (next in 2010), the Magh Sankranti festival (in mid-January, or the Nepali lunar month of Magh) is celebrated with a great mela (religious fair) in Panauti that attracts large crowds of pilgrims, wor- shippers and sadhus.

Sleeping & Eating

Hotel Panauti (%011-661055; panauti@wlink.com .np; r with/without bathroom Rs 500/300) You aren’t

spoilt for choice in Panauti but luckily this is a good place, about a five-minute walk south from the main western gate by the bus stand. Rooms are simple but bright, clean and comfortable (though the hot water is only solar heated) and there’s a decent rooftop terrace and restaurant.

Getting There & Away

Buses run frequently between Panauti and Kathmandu’s City (Ratna Park) bus station (Rs 19, two hours) via Banepa; the last bus leaves Panauti around 6pm. For Dhulikhel you’ll have to change in Banepa. See p230 for information on walking to

Panauti from Dhulikhel. If you are travelling by mountain or

motor bike you could return to Kathmandu along the remote little-used dirt road via Lakuri Bhanjyang. See p85 for a descrip- tion of the 30km route, a two-hour ride by motorbike.

Resort (%01-4108210; www.balthalivillageresort .com; s/d US$35/45, half board US$47/69, discounts of

25%), perched on top of a hill above the village of the same name, with sweeping Himalayan views. The rooms lack much architectural charm, but are decent and clean. Staff there can lead you on hikes to Tamang villages like Dada Gaun, across the Roshi Khola to the Namobuddha stupa or deep into the Mahabharat range to the south. To get to Balthali take a bus (Rs 5) or walk from Panauti to Kholpasi, past the sericulture (silk) cooperative, and then con- tinue on foot over the Saladu Khosi for an hour or so to Balthali village.

AROUND PANAUTI

The terraced fields, villages and lush hills southeast of Panauti offer great scope for hiking and village exploration. It’s a far less visited area than Dhulikhel. The only place to stay is the good Balthali

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BEYOND THE VALLEY

While the following destinations are well beyond the confines of the Kathmandu Valley, they can be visited as part of an overland vehicle tour from Kathmandu in a relatively short period.

ARNIKO HIGHWAY TO TIBET

The Arniko Hwy provides Nepal’s overland link with Tibet and China. Past Barabise the road is particularly vulnerable to landslides and during the monsoon sections are likely to be closed temporarily between May and Au- gust. Even when the highway is passable it’s of limited use in breaking India’s commercial stranglehold on Nepal, as it’s still cheaper to ship Chinese goods via Kolkata (Calcutta) than to truck them through Tibet. After Dhulikhel the road descends into the beautiful Panchkhal Valley. A turnoff at Lami- danda, around 12km from Dhulikhel, leads for 9km on a tarmac road to Palanchowk, where there is a famously beautiful black stone image of the goddess Bhagwati (a form of Durga, itself a terrifying form of Parvati). About five minutes’ drive beyond the town of Panchkhal a dirt road takes off to the left, giving road access to the Helambu region. About 8km later you arrive at Dolalghat, a thriving town at the confluence of the Indrawati and Sun Kosi Rivers and the de- parture point for many rafting trips. The turn-off to Jiri is another 14km away, on the right. Lamosangu is a few kilometres after the Jiri turn-off, on the Arniko Hwy. North of Lamosangu is a hydroelectric plant with a tedious military checkpoint. For a more detailed description of this

route see p86 .

Barabise

Barabise is the region’s main bazaar town and transport centre. There’s little reason to stay here, but you might find yourself caught here at the end of the day, particu- larly if the night-time curfew continues to shut down transport options early.

Bhotekhosi Guest House (s/d Rs 125/150), by the

bridge in the centre of town, is the best of a bad bunch. Other options include the very basic Milan Guest House (tr Rs 150), by the noisy southern bus stand for buses to Kath- mandu, or the fairly miserable Hotel Chan-

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BEYOND THE VALLEY •• Arniko Highway to Tibet 233

deshwori (d Rs 250) in the north of town, with a patchy restaurant. Buses run frequently from different ends

of town to Kodari (Rs 55, three hours) and Kathmandu (Rs 86, last bus 4pm). A single express bus to Kathmandu leaves at 7am (Rs 110, 3½ hours).

Borderlands Resort

Tucked away in a bend of the Bhote Kosi River, 97km from Kathmandu, the superb

Borderlands Resort (www.borderlandresorts.com; tw per

person US$40) is a quiet and isolated riverside retreat. It consists of a central bar and dining area, and a number of luxury thatch-roofed safari tents dotted around a lush tropical garden. Activities offered include rafting, canyoning and trekking, but it’s also a great place to just hang out for a day or two. Accommodation includes meals and transport from Kathmandu. Packages that include activities offer the best value; drop

in to the resort’s Kathmandu office (Map p136 ;

%01-4425836; next to the Northfield Café) for more

details. As an idea of prices, two days of canyoning/rafting costs US$110/70, includ- ing transport and accommodation.

Last Resort

Another 4km towards Tibet, Last Resort (www

.tlrnepal.com; US$25-35 full board per person) sits in a

beautiful spot on a ridge above the Bhote Kosi river, 12km from the Tibet border. Ac- cess is by suspension bridge across the river, and it’s here that Nepal’s only bungee jump is set up (see p77 ).

Accommodation at the resort is in com-

fortable standard (four-person) or deluxe (two-person) safari tents, with the focus being the soaring stone-and-slate dining hall and Instant Karma bar. There are gas-heated showers, a plunge pool and a sauna (Rs 300 per person), with massage and yoga to come. The cost of accommodation includes meals and transport to and from Kathmandu. Bring mosquito repellent and a torch (flashlight). The resort also offers canyoning, rafting

on the Bhote Kosi (US$40, if already staying at the resort), trekking, mountain biking and rock climbing, plus kayak clinics at its less glamorous Riverside Resort (US$40 per day per person). See p78 for details. Like Borderlands, the Last Resort does a

range of packages that combine any or all of the above activities, so it’s not a bad idea to

OFF THE BEATEN TREK

Both Borderlands and Last Resort offer trekking trips up to the Tibetan border. A four- or five-day trek takes in the ruins of Duganagadi Fort, built in 1854 to defend Nepal during the Nepal-Tibet war, the Ti- betan monastery at Bagam, the nunnery at Gumba and the villages of Yemershing, Tasitham and Listikot. A six- to seven-day option heads to Bhairab Kunda, a holy lake at 4080m with great views of the Langtang range. Thousands of pilgrims trek up to the lake during the full moon of August. Prices hover around US$40 per person per day for the fully supported camping trek and you are almost guaranteed to have these places to yourself.

call into its Kathmandu office (Map p136 ; %01- 4439525; near Kathmandu Guest House) for more in-

formation and to book.

Tatopani

The next point of interest is the hot springs (admission Rs 2) of Tatopani, 3.5km south of the Tibetan border at Kodari. Five minutes’ walk north of the central bazaar, look for a turn- stile and sign on the right-hand side. The springs come out as a set of showers (great after a hard bicycle ride from Dhulikhel). There is a small gompa on the southern

edge of town and a large mani lhakhang (shrine with a prayer wheel) in the centre.

Family Guest House (%091-633011; d Rs 250; daal

bhaat Rs 60) is probably the best accommoda- tion in town, with a decent restaurant and basic but clean rooms. Other local lodges such as the Tibetan

Lodge & Restaurant and Sonam Lodge are more basic.

Kodari

Nepal’s border town with Tibet (China), Kodari is little more than a collection of shabby wooden shanties and a snaking line of squealing Tata trucks, ferrying Chinese goods down into the subcontinent. It is possible to walk past the Nepali

checkpoint and stop in the middle of the Friendship Bridge to pose for photos on the red line drawn across the road. From here on is Tibet, which right here looks just like

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