Himalayan Adventures

Climbing to 22,000 ft. on Mount Everest

Climbing the Khumbu Icefall

2 months, Mar-May, 2007

Ray Jardine

Day 4 2007-03-31 page 3 of 33
the Swayambhunath Stupa.
At the monkey temple. Note the monkey.
Sadhus.
Firat and the sponsored kids.

Ray had a really good day in Kathmandu. In the morning, he and his group boarded a bus for a tour of the city, and in a city like this you need a tour because the place is so fascinating and different. They rode in a tourist bus - not a modern bus, but not old like most of the buses they saw driving around Kathmandu. All the streets there are very narrow, there are no highways or large boulevards. And the streets were chock-full of small shops. Almost every building was a small store. The throng of people was amazing, and everybody seemed to be selling something. It almost felt like he was transported into a National Geographic film. It was a load on the senses; Ray said he couldn't believe how much there was to see in just 5 minutes of driving. There were also small food carts and stalls, and fruit and vegetable stands, and at one he saw a huge pamplemouse the size of a basketball, and lots of other fruit he had never seen before.

Their first stop was at the "Monkey Temple", more properly known as the Swayambhunath Stupa. It is on top of a hill - 356 steps up the hill and the rock that the temple was built on. The common name comes from the many monkeys that live there. It is a Buddhist religious monument, built on a large rock, with a pagoda-style roof, lots of ornamentation, and decorated with gold plate and colorful prayer flags. It is the oldest holy shrine in Kathmandu - at least 2000 years old. The locals say it has always been there.

Then they went to a famous Hindu temple, the Pashupatinath, which sits alongside the Bagmati river. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to pay homage to this temple, also known as 'The Temple of Living Beings'. It was a very beautiful building, but they were not allowed to go inside. They were able to walk around outside the temple, along with the monkeys. The river was almost dry; it is not yet monsoon season.

It was here at Pashupatinath where they saw some of the Hindu holy men, called sadhus, who cover their skin with ash, paint their faces, and let their hair go rastafarian style. These men were friendly and they wanted to have their pictures taken with the tourists - for a small donation.

Everybody in Kathmandu wants to sell you something. Beautiful etched, brass bowls. More things to buy than you could imagine. A roll of 25 prayer flags - $2.00 asking price. You are expected to barter. Beautiful silver and bronze bracelets, 4 bracelets for $2.00. One bracelet would sell for $20.00 anywhere else.

From the Hindu Temple they went to visit one of the schools. The guiding company Ray is with sponsors school children from the Khumbu region. The people like to send their children into Kathmandu for education, but most of them cannot afford it. So the guiding company sponsors up to 20 children every year. The children live at the school. Upon the group's arrival the children lined up for a photo and shook all their hands. Ray felt they really appreciated their opportunity for education. And Ray said it was satisfying to him to see their money going to a good cause.

Their tour guide for the day was an older Nepalese gentleman, very nice and extremely knowledgeable, and it turns out he is also a professor of astrophysics! He gave an excellent tour.

They stopped for lunch at a fancy restaurant, where the cost for the lunch was only $6.00. The meals have been excellent. Usually they are served the traditional Nepali fare of daal-bhaat, which is lentils and rice, along with either a vegetable or chicken curry, heavily spiced. Ray said it is really good, although one person in their group got sick from one of the meals.

Back at their hotel, the guide company requested that everyone in the group bring their gear out onto the lawn, on the hotel grounds. Fortunately it was in the shade, as the day was quite hot. The guiding company inspected the gear to make sure each person had all the necessary items. Ray's gear passed the inspection. After the inspection, Ray packed his bags again, and was lugging them one by one back to his room, and was appalled to find a fellow about ready to take off with one of his bags. This was surprising, because the hotel has many guards, and this fellow was obviously not one of the hotel staff.

With that finished, Ray decided to ask the hotel if they could launder a couple t-shirts. No problem, when do you need them? Oh, tonight. A couple hours later, a small, wrapped parcel arrived at his room - not just laundered, but pressed, very neatly folded, with a cardboard insert - just like a brand new dress-shirt. Their typical guest must wear something a bit nicer than a t-shirt!

The story has 33 pages. This is page 3.
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