Partying like it’s 2070 in Nepal
Stepping off the plane into the midnight air of Kathmandu, a wave of excitement rolled over Tom Svensen.
A new destination, new sights and of course a new culture was just waiting for him to explore…
“I was jumping out of my skin with the thrill of finally travelling to Nepal, but the 3 flights and a total of 30 hours in transit had taken their toll. I decided to put my exploration on hold for a few hours and hit the hay. After all, I am on ‘Nepali time’ now, so what’s the rush?
I wake in the morning with the sun streaming into my room through the small gaps in my curtains. I jump up and can’t get ready fast enough. A brand new city awaits me, so I take to my feet and head out to the streets. I want to make the most of my time in the unique city of Kathmandu and I only have a few hours before meeting my travel companions and heading to the ancient town of Bhaktapur.
Upon meeting my new friends we hit the road for the short 45 minute trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bhaktapur. The drive was spent getting to know one another and learning a few facts about Nepal from our local group leader. One of the most interesting and important facts that came as a surprise to everyone in our Intrepid group was that it was the last day of 2069!
The Nepalese follow a calendar called Bikram Samwat, which happens to be about 56 years and 8 months ahead of the western world’s Gregorian calendar. We were all excited by the prospect of bringing in 2070 well before the rest of the world and it was made even more special by being in Bhaktapur, a place where the locals really know how to celebrate and a place that is also known as the ‘City of festivals and celebrations’.
There was a real buzz in the air as we arrived and began making our way to our hotel through the already crowded streets. The normally quiet town of Bhaktapur really comes alive during their many celebrations and Bisket Jatra (New Year) wasn’t going to disappoint.
Our hotel was right in the heart of town with views of the Nyatapola Temple, a very impressive five storey temple that is one of the biggest of its kind in Nepal. We dropped our bags off and quickly joined the crowds. Wandering through the streets amongst the dancing and smiling locals I thought about something a good friend once told me, “travel is about the fun of going to places, the excitement of doing things there, but also, and not least of all, the sheer joy of just being there.” Bhaktapur during their Bisket Jatra festival is one of these places.
After a few hours it was time to sit back and watch the main event. Swarms of people surround two wooden chariots. One belonging to Bhairav (the patron deity of Bhaktapur City) and at the other end of the town, they encircle one belonging to Bhadrakali (Bhairav’s female consort). After much pushing and pulling to get the chariots moving they are smashed into each other. This represents the union of masculine and feminine, bringing promises of fertility in the New Year.
Once this event had finished it was time to share a glass of Raksi (a local spirit made from rice) with a few locals, look back upon the year that had been, but most importantly, welcome in 2070!”
If you’d love to coincide your trip to Nepal with Bisket Jatra to see in 2072, make sure you are in Bhaktapur from 9-16 April, 2015. Or if those dates don’t suit, check out our range of other great year-round adventures in Nepal!
* Photo in Bhaktapur by Daniel Elsner, for the Intrepid Photography Competition.