Nepal, 2015

Buddha looks over Nepal.

It was difficult, going back, knowing that many people were still living in tents. And that so many beautiful temples were nothing but rubble. If Tika hadn't invited me I think I'd have stayed at home and worried from afar.

I took pictures - it was hard not to. The devastation is impossible to ignore in places like Durbur Square. But I've made a deliberate decision not to post any here.

Why? Because one of the things that struck me most forcefully, very early in this trip, is that the last thing the Nepali need is people gawping at their miseries. They are a proud, capable people. They can - and they will - rebuild their homes and their temples. And so here I want to celebrate all things wonderful about Nepal. So if you've come for disaster pictures, you can look away now!

This Buddha gazes over Fewa Lake and across to the city of Pokhara. It is an image that provides comfort to the Nepali when it feels as if the world is against them.

Carved window in Kathmandu.

It is also worth remembering that most buildings are still standing. For those thinking of visiting - the hotels and restaurants are still open for business. All but one of the big treks is open. And the people are as welcoming as ever.

This window is in an old street in Kathmandu. It is an ancient building, and it may have shifted a bit in the earthquake - but most of the little lines are wires. Ignore them. Gaze instead at this carving - someone, generations ago, sat with his or her chisel and made this. What is the story behind that face? I've no idea, and I doubt if I could make one up to do justice to this image. Could you? (Do contact me if you can!)

Rooftops in Kathmandu.

A market in Kathmandu.

And here are two more pictures from Kathmandu - one, taken from a balcony, showing a view across the rooftops. The second is a street market in the old city, where traders sit with bowls of herbs and spices. Proof, should you still need it, that Kathmandu is open for business.

Travelling west from Kathmandu, Pokhara is almost completely undamaged.

Boats on Fewa Lake.

I spent hours sitting by Fewa Lake, listening to the slap of water against the boats, drinking in the smells of water and passing cows. The occasional chatter of children. It was blissfully peaceful.

Surely it should be full of tourists? Of course it should - these boats should be chuntering across the lake. There is a little temple on an island (not in this picture) that should be full of the faithful and the simply curious. The lack of tourists - put off, it seems, by horror stories from the earthquake - have yet to realise that Nepal is as wonderful as it has always been.

Yet even when the city if full of tourist, somehow this Lakeside manages to be be serene.

Begnas Lake.

And for those who are looking to be away from the city, Begnas Lake is only an hour away. Jungle covers the hills above the lake, and is reflected in the green of its waters. Kites and eagles soar overhead. The only sound is the occasional paddle from a passing canoe.

Away from the cities, things are more complicated. I visited some villages - where earthquake damage seems completely arbitrary. Some houses have collapsed completely, leaving families to find shelter as best they can. While others are unharmed.

A house in the mountains.

The mountains are stunningly beautiful - this was the view from my balcony when I stayed in a small village in the foothills. There are a number of villages within easy reach of Pokhara - and there are plenty of small hotels and homestays if you fancy trekking up there.

But repairs to cracked or crumpled homes are much complicated here. Transporting building materials in the mountains is a significant logistical problem.

In addition, the main Aid Agencies have their work cut out supporting families in the cities. And so many in remote areas have to set about repairs for themselves.

From the mountains to the flat lands of the Terai. Where life still presents challenges.

Women crossing the river near Chitwan.

Here the bamboo bridge that crossed river between a village and the jungle has been washed away in the monsoon floods. But the women need to collect fodder for their animals. So every day they wade across to cut the grassland. With huge sacks on their backs, secured by straps across their foreheads, they must cross back. They link arms - a device that helps them resist the river currents. And then wade carefully across.

There are crocodiles in this river. Crocodiles that eat people.

Sunset over the river at Chitwan.

But when the sun goes down over the river, people - tourist and local people - gather by the river to watch as the jungle sinks into darkness and the river turns to gold.

A tiny hoopoe hops along the sand, looking for insects. The plain martins set up their evening chorus. If there are tigers, or rhinoceros, or crocodiles - they are all hiding. It is painfully beautiful.