Kathmandu is a busy place. Like a really busy place.
Let’s say you want to get a bus to the Thamel, the hotspot for finding good deals on knockoff brands such as North Face, Arc Teryx, etc.
You hail a van, tell them where you want to go, and take a look inside. The van is already packed full, and you think to yourself that there is no way possible that you will fit, but you get in anyways.
The next 10-15 minutes you are using muscles you never knew you had as you squat in an uncomfortable position and crane your head uncomfortably close to the armpit of some guy, who, fortunately for him, managed to snag a seat. The ride is long, and uncomfortable, but entertaining.
This pretty much sums up my first experience of riding a bus in Kathmandu.
The Hunt is on
But that first day, I was on a mission. It’s no secret that the Nepalese are known for their knitting, with knitted Nepalese hats and mittens found everywhere, even throughout shops in the Western world. Even just a stroll through the tourist neighbourhood of Thamel I came across store after store filled with beautifully handknit items.
Most of them were hats, mittens and slippers knit with very coarse yak wool. They were also many super soft blankets that weren’t knit, but woven, with baby yak, which felt incredibly soft to touch! Felting also seems to be a Nepalese specialty. They are definitely a crafty bunch.
I know this post is titled “Searching for Yak Wool”, but without even trying, I managed to come across more than one shop selling a few skeins of yarn, both of yak and recycled silk.
The yak wool was rougher than I expected. You would almost certainly need to line your knitwear with fleece afterwards in order to wear it. The colors were absolutely gorgeous though. Somehow, I managed to resist the temptation of buying any more wool on that trip to the city. It was a very sensible decision, since I’ll be returning to Kathmandu in just over two weeks, and have every intention of buying more than a few skeins then. I also plan on digging a bit deeper, in the hopes of finding a skein of softer baby yak wool (or a few!).
I wish I could say that these next few weeks are going to be filled with nothing but knitting on top of mountains with the Nepalese, but that couldn’t be anything further from the truth.
A Change of Plans
Instead, I’ve decided to try out Vipassana. No, it’s not some kind of Indian curry. 😉 It’s a 10 day silent meditation retreat, set in the birthplace of Buddha, the city of Lumbini. Ten days of silence. Ten days of no electronic devices, meaning no phones, no blogging, no writing and no Wooly Ventures. Nothing but myself and my thoughts. Not even knitting will be able to save me now! Because of this, Wooly Ventures is going on a bit of a standby these next few weeks. Don’t worry, I’ll still be sending out updates through my newsletter, as well as on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, so make sure to sign up if you don’t want to miss a thing!
Other than searching for yak wool in Kathmandu, I’ve also been busy doing some serious sightseeing. Here are a few pictures from the last two days of two tourist hotspots to check out if you are ever in Kathmandu.
The Durban Square in Kathmandu is an incredibly historical UNESCO World Heritage Site dating as far back as 300 AD. We didn’t know it at the time, but we managed to avoid paying the 1000 rupiah ($12 CAD) entrance fee as it was World Tourism Day when we visited! Hey, $12 CAD can go a long way in Nepal, so this was a huge win for me.
I was in awe of the beautiful wood carvings everywhere. The Durban Square was damaged extensively by the earthquakes, but the site didn’t fail to impress me in the least.
Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)
Swayambhunath is a religious complex located just west of the city of Kathmandu. I had to get over my dislike of monkeys to visit this ancient site, as they crowded around the entry to the stairs leading up to the stupa. Fortunately, these guys were much less aggressive than the ones I came across in Bali (just don’t eat any crackers and you’ll be okay)!