Nepal Dxpedition

Again in Kathmandu

   The wolf loses his teeth, but never his nature, and Nepal is one of the countries, to which I always gladly come back. The legend of the country on the roof of the world, as Himalayas are located here, has been known since the sixties of the previous century. The great mountaineers have familiarized us with this country. During the hippie era - "flower children", Nepal has become the favorite place, where the youth from all over the world used to pilgrimage. In it's time "heesh" and "Mary Jane" could be bought there from a drawer in a shop, which apart from these also used to sell e.g. carpets.

9N7WE QSL card
View from my room window
   This era has gone with the end of the seventies, but the mountains remain and the trips in far from any civilization villages, which one can reach only of feet, after a several days wandering from the nearest bus stop or climbing five- and six thousand with a several dozen kilogram bag full of equipment and food are still available for the wanderers bored with the Western civilization - all the cell phones, Internets, cars and laptops, not speaking of mobbing, unemployment, chasing after profit and increasing the effectiveness and performance.

   For the first time I visited Nepal in 1979 at the occasion of wandering through India and immediately we found ourselves to our likings. This was my first alone Asia scouting with the tradition of bartering when shopping, various food, multiple ancient cultures and inhabitants' generosity. I then met in Katmandu an expedition for Lhotse led by Bilczewski and another globe-trotter Jacek K. - vagabond from Poznań. What's interesting, I met him later twice in the following years - once in Delhi, and once in Beijing (China) - simply the fate led us. In Katmandu, in 1979 we lived together in a huge youth hotel, and our co inhabitant was a rat - one of the sacred animals of Buddhism. It paid us visits every evening and checked, what we had left him in the garbage. In Katmandu there were then a dozen buses and falling apart taxis - all the wheel traffic was then on bikes and rickshaws.

Bodhnath - the biggest stupa in Nepal
Bodhnath - the biggest stupa in Nepal
    These times are long gone, just like the civilization of the "flower power". My mountaineering visits to Himalaya are also in the past: trekking in Helambu in 1983, trekking around the Annapurna Massif with passing through Thorong La (5416 m) in 1985 and trekking to the area of Everest with climbing to Mera Peak (6431 m) in 1986. Probably it won't surprise anyone, that for the expedition with a radio station I chose in 2003 Nepal. During my previous visits, due to little amount of free time, I only visited father (of the Jesuit Order) Moran 9N1MM and made several QSO from there. Now the whole, almost month long expedition, was devoted to amateur radio. The second reason for choosing this country for my next expedition was the results of a questionnaire among the polish short wavers.

    At the airport in Pyrzowice the first major blow - for the transport of the antenna, which didn't fit in the luggage limit (20kg) I paid as much as a new antenna costs! LOT's profit again! The trip had a somewhat complicated and long progress: Pyrzowice - Frankfurt - Bangkok - Katmandu - Bangkok - Wien - Warsaw - Pyrzowice, at least with a good cognac from Thai Airways.

    After landing at the airport in the capital of Nepal, I got the visa on the spot, at the airport, having paid several dozens of USD, but the radio equipment and the antenna was kept by the customs officers in deposit, until I got my license. After going out to the city the first shock! Not the dirt, noise, dust and exotic relics - about these I have already known. The new thing is the martial law! Armed police and army patrols everywhere, barbed-wires in strategic places e.g. in front of the Ministry of Information and Communications, where I applied for the license 9N7WE, in the crossroads entrenchments with bags of sand, soldiers with automatic guns on the roofs of temples, document controls at the entrance to the post office, to the bank, to offices. Also personal and luggage searches. And everything due to the Mao partisans, which made terrorist attacks, shoot people, and the road outside the city controls to the such an extent, that from the trekking groups in the mountains it takes a "toll" and gives a receipt, that it is just a loan for the fight with the present administration, and the loan will be repaid as soon as Mao gets the power! At the reception of the license I was "cashed" 50 US for the band; as I have chosen 7, 14, 18 and 21 MHz the full amount was $200 paid in cash and only in the one national bank. They don't accept credit cards and they of course do not have a cash dispenser. Once there was a custom of exchanging money "on the black market" e.g. in a souvenir shop or at a hotel, but now, due to the martial law everyone is afraid and the black market is gone.

Cows always find something to eat in Kathmandu
Cows always find something to eat in Kathmandu
    The bank looks like it is possible in Nepal and several other countries (Togo, Bangladesh, Rwanda). An old, antique building with stone relieves, probably from the XIX century. Old plaster, dirty stains from several dozens of monsoon season rains. Numerous recesses, a stench from the Asiatic toilet stretches to the landing, a smell of Indian cuisine on the ground floor - the guards are preparing a lunch for themselves. Shabby door, walls not painted probably since the times of Malla dynasty. A counter in the operating room, several slightly broken desks behind it, a bench awaits customers, similar to those one can find in our parks, similarly cut with knives - oh no - with kukri knives. Everywhere files: on the wardrobes, on desks, on the floor, on the window stills. A lonely computer in the corner, AT I think with a game running. This is a national bank, the commercial banks are nevertheless more similar to ours from ten years before.

    Taking the equipment from deposit was not an easy thing to do. Customs officers, despite my having the license written in their nepali "worms", wanted me to leave the deposit: 100 000 nepali rupees. I was almost ready to agree to that, but I didn't have such an amount of rupees, and they didn't want dollars. All in all, after an hour conversation, drinking tea (it's Asia) I managed to convince them, that I wouldn't sell my antenna and ICOM, and they let me take my equipment with a reservation, that I will show it to them before departure.

Behind HF9V coils are visable snowcapped peaks of Himalayas (Langtang)
Behind HF9V coils are visable snowcapped peaks
of Himalayas (Langtang)
   "Welcome Guest House" is a decent hotel in the Baneshwar district, somewhat in the outskirts of the capital, nevertheless almost in the centre of Katmandu valley, which had a significant effect if it's about the radio waves emissions - around the valley, at the distance of a dozen kilometers from my QTH there are mountains, reaching up to 3000 m. At the hotel, occupying two buildings, a total of 200 rooms - I was the only guest. After two weeks, a Hindu married couple came for 3 days, and then for 2 days a young mountaineer from Switzerland came. Martial law, bombs and terrorist attacks do not draw tourism. That is why the owner was willing to negotiate the prices, but he tried to win back his discount with payments for the energy that my radio used. To setting up the vertical, and then hanging the dipole on 17m all four hotel boys were involved. Thanks to my finding a ten meters bamboo pole in the backyard, the dipole was hanging quite high. The antennas are ready. I begin my work...and it turns out: one can hear "CQ" in all the telephones at the hotel and the neighborhood, and the Internet in the neighboring house restarts along with starting broadcasting. After various trials and a meeting with 9N1HA I decide to move the antennas. HF9V will be set up now on a water reservoir, as high as possible over the roof. Problem again! Supposedly it's not that bad - I do not have an amplifier. When Baldur broadcasted form Thamel, in the whole district not only the TV-sets received his broadcasts, but also the lights dimmed!

Are these students' cloth ?
    The log slowly starts to fill with contacts, and I fall asleep uneasy, if I haven't already exceeded the dosage of patience of the local population for the disturbances and if I wasn't going to awake with a kukri knife in my back. It's not the only reason for worries. The propagation is extremely weak, the worst in the direction of the USA (through the southern pole - long path). Generally only on some of the days and only for an hour one could hear W/K pileup on 17 m, of course the Europeans called then too, though they could have made QSOs at a different time. A mistake was choosing a license on 7 MHz. First of all there were almost no interested people, as the best time in Eu for communication with the Central Asia in the late evening, and then people go to beds. Secondly my 100W power and my vertical weren't giving me a strong signal. Thirdly I had to get up a 3-4 o'clock local time, no furnaces at the hotel, about 4-5 degrees outside (November/December) - Kathmandu lies at the height of 1330m, single windows - in a word: horrible cold. Only after several nights, wandering in the morning to the centre to take several pictures, I discovered a small shop with tasteful hip flasks.

   Since then it was a little bit more jauntily in the morning...

Characteristic Nepali flag on temple's roof
Characteristic Nepali flag on temple's roof
Is it joy, or sacrified smoke ?
   Sometimes I had the opportunity to talk to Kathmandu's inhabitants: shopkeepers, taxi drivers and clerks. They told me a lot about the customs and relation in the country. Corruption even greater than in our country! One can pass the driving license exam, but if someone doesn't have time, it is possible to buy it. When such a driver shows in the street...one needs a lot of luck in such a situation. After a traffic accident the police checks the "well-being status" of the collision's participants and...guilty is always the one, who can give a lower bribe. In some hotels there are "ladies" - it's illegal, but when there's a police inspection it never finds anything - the officers work on the second shift at the hotel. It's scary to drive next to army patrols, their "Kalashnikovs" are ready to fire, and there is a bumpy road...

   From Thailand called Mirek HS0/VK3DXI. It was nice as he was recollecting his stay in Kathmandu several years earlier. A plane of one of the international airlines fell to the ground then. I wouldn't want to be in Mirek's place, who was going to fly a few days later.

Amateur's life... house without windows, but at Suresh's 9N1HA antenna is already connected to transceiver
Amateur's life... house without windows, but
at Suresh's 9N1HA antenna is already connected to transceiver
    On the incredibly empty 7 MHz band I was often assisted by: Kazik SP2FAX and Piotr SP9QMP. Without them I would have died of boredom or fallen asleep, despite the cold, by the station. Generally SP stations were fine, mostly the 18 and 21 MHz. Now I regret, that instead of 7 Mhz, I haven't acquired the right to 24 MHz. There were many inquiries about that band.

   When I was going on the roof to adjust my antenna, immediately in the windows of my neighbors houses observes appeared. I on the other hand was able for a couple of cloudless days to watch the snowed, over seven kilometers high, peaks of Langtang located about 70 km to the north of the capital. The QSL of 9N7WE has such a view on the reverse.

    Nepal commercializes. Some time age one could walk everywhere he wanted and could make any pictures. Now everywhere there as posts, one has to pay for admission in many places, e.g.: to Durbar Square, in Patan, to the temples, the old palace. They've encircles the temple Pashupatinath complex along with the holy river Bagmati, by which the ceremonies of burning the dead take place, in order to take the "toll"! Even the locals, connected with the tourist business, are against that, even more, that the tolls for admission instead of being transferred to renovation of antiques and relics are often directed to renovating the residences of local nobles.

No entrance for nonbelivers into Pashupatinath temple
No entrance for nonbelivers
into Pashupatinath temple
Sacred cow is parking
together with motorcycles
    I have seen some of the world during my wanders, but Kathmandu in terms of monuments is the only one in the world. Such an amount and variety of temples, statues, palaces, relives, focused in such a small area doesn't seem to be anywhere else on Earth. Most of Kathmandu's monuments come from the XVII and XVIII century. Also ethnically the inhabitants of Nepal are a mixture of many tribes and nationalities, which sometimes produces great results. The country is poor, but the people are nice and friendly towards foreigners, thour presently due to civilizing the crime rate has risen significantly and old habits are being superseded by the availability of satellite TV. Finding interesting objects for pictures or to QSL card is not at all a problem.

Be prepared - photographer is waiting
   The specifics of the temples of the Indian Peninsula, and especially of Nepal, are erotic motives placed on the walls, or the supports of the roof. No doubt it is an attraction for western tourists, as the local population does not treat it as something special. It's not that bad, when a queue of west men with lens for photographing the motives of Kama sutra forms. It's worse, that the temples located more in the outskirts are becoming the object of vandals chopping off the more interesting fragment for their personal collections. The police tries to protect these places, but Gurkhs are the best - no kidding around with kukri!

    Suresh 9N1HA after several visits with me, at the hotel, invited me to his place. He's building on credit a one-storey house in the Kathmandu Valley, not far from Patan. Actually he's in the middle of construction: the roof is there, wall, door. There are no windows and plasters, but an antenna is already on the roof, and in one of the rooms, in which he lives, for now with his wife, 2 daughters and 1 son, on a table in the corner, under an image of Ganesh, there is a small radio station. In the evening he drives me to my hotel with a motorcycle - through incredibly crowded streets of Kathmandu (what a change in comparison to 1979) it is the most practical, though maybe not the most safe means of transportation.

    After balancing all accounts, taking mandatory pictures of monuments (something for the QSL card), after saying goodbye to the family of hoteliers, with whom, due to the emptiness at the hotel, I made friends, I went in a motor rickshaw to the Tribhuvan airport, where the customs officers invite me to their place and ask, what kinds of equipment I had sold during my vacations in Nepal.

Durbar Square in Patan
Durbar Square in Patan
Wherever you walk you meet dragons, gods and bells
Good position is most important
What will we have for dinner ?
Durbar Square in Kathmandu
Durbar Square in Kathmandu
One of Ganesh temples
One of Ganesh temples
Why the most photographed
are wooden temple roofs ?
I think I know...
Walking wardrobe you can meet
only in Kathmandu
That gentelmen in battledress under the tree has really
machine gun in hand - hunting for maoist partisans
Tailor right on the street
First rupees today
Przemarsz świętych sadhu
Sadhu are caming
9N7WE DXpedition - Welcome Guest House
Welcome Guest House with multiband vertical and dipol
for 17m that's 9N7WE QTH
It's not a diving board!
Himalayas over the clouds
Amateur Radio Awards

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