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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nepal


In two of the three dimensions, length and breadth, Nepal is just another small country. In the third, height, it's number one in the world. Nepal starches from north-west to south-east about 800 km and varies in width from around 90 km to 230 km. This gives it a total area of just 147,181 sq. km according to the official figures. Within that small area, however, is the greatest range of altitude to be seen on this earth - starting with the Terai, only 100m or so above sea level, and finishing at the top of Mt. Everest (8848m), the highest point on earth. Often a visitor's overriding goal is to see the mountains, especially Everest and Annapurna. However, to exclude the people, flowers, birds and wildlife from the experience is to miss the essence of the country regions, or natural zones: the plains in the south, four mountain ranges, and the valley lying between them. The lowlands with their fertile soils, and the southern slopes of the mountains with sunny exposures, allow for cultivation and are the main inhabited regions. takes on a complete air of mysticism when the early morning mist in the high valleys all around rises up to the icy ridges of the Himalayas. Temples and images of the gods are swallowed up in a sea of white, one imagines hearing distant muffled sounds of gongs and detecting a cold whiff of decay and charred wood. In these unreal moments the Newar people believe they find spiritual cleansing, with all sins and bad thoughts being freed and born away by the mist. This does not last long because in the modern parts of the "city of a thousand temples" the cleansing mist is replaced by smelly gases from car and moped exhausts. The large volume of foreign visitors has long since changed the isolated town in the Himalayas into a noisy major city with a sudden rise in population -from 123,000 to 450,000 within four years. But in the midst of modern Kathmandu there is still the virtually undisturbed age old scene of many shrines, images of gods, and palaces. In two of the three dimensions, length and breadth, Nepal is just another small country. In the third, height, it's number one in the world. Nepal starches from north-west to south-east about 800 km and varies in width from around 90 km to 230 km. This gives it a total area of just 147,181 sq. km according to the official figures. Within that small area, however, is the greatest range of altitude to be seen on this earth - starting with the Terai, only 100m or so above sea level, and finishing at the top of Mt. Everest (8848m), the highest point on earth. Often a visitor's overriding goal is to see the mountains, especially Everest and Annapurna. However, to exclude the people, flowers, birds and wildlife from the experience is to miss the essence of the country regions, or natural zones: the plains in the south, four mountain ranges, and the valley lying between them. The lowlands with their fertile soils, and the southern slopes of the mountains with sunny exposures, allow for cultivation and are the main inhabited regions.

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