Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The next morning I packed my suitcase and left the Hotel Dwarika. We are heading to the mountains and I’ll be staying at the Dhulikhel Mountain Resort.
So I get in the car – Mono turns to me and asks if I read the newspaper this morning? No. Why I ask? We had missed – by an hour – a horrible event on that lovely winding country road that we took to Bhaktapur. In one of those quaint little villages we drove through…four young men had been accused of kidnapping someone’s son. A crowd had had gathered and beat them – two to their death and two to critical condition in the hospital. This I was glad to have missed seeing.
Mono was “so very happy that we had not run into the angry mob”. Ahhh Jesus…ya think?
I spent the next 20 minutes in silence – pondering how close I had come to encountering an angry death. Mono was okay with this because he was in a heated conversation with our driver. This finally registered with me and the fact that they were speaking in hushed tones so I couldn’t hear them, was soon making me very nervous.
Yes…this is in fact the road/mud track we were driving down.
But after that hour…he finally turned to me and said…”it’s O.K. now ma’am”. I told him that I was a little nervous…thinking that he would say…no worries. But he said instead “everyone in my country is very nervous all the time. It is a dangerous time for us.” Then he said that while in Tibet…”Please ma’am do not ask them about politics or their government…that no good…it worst there…just ask about sightseeing.” And here’s to another sleepless night. One person’s shack is another man’s home sweet home.
Behind a long line of cars and motorcycles all trying to get out of Kathmandu…
Not exactly the most scenic part of the route…
On to the village of Panauti. It’s built at the confluence of two rivers (the Rosi and the Punyamti) in a small valley. Confluence…what a great word…not mine…I copied it from my travel documents.
Again, this really is the best way to see how folks really live in this part of the country…these are apartments.
Panauti is a historical city and regarded as an important religious site since very early times. In Nepali society, such river sites are sacred places. A visit or just an ablution in such a place enables a man to be freed from many sins and anxieties. Heck…where do I jump in? It’s also one of the oldest towns in Nepal.
The concrete pads where the ladies are pulling weeds are crematorium blocks. There are five of them and each one is for a different group of people…a little like the Indian caste system. Certain people go on certain concrete blocks and you don’t go on someone else’s block.
If there’s water…then there’s washing to be done and swimming fun to be had!
One of the temples in the city…you’ll have to excuse the fact that I won’t be able to tell you the name of every one of these. There are so many and as we walk by them…I snap pictures because I like the way they look.
This little guy was standing in front of the Lord Shiva all by himself…
About 30 seconds after we had moved on…he let out a really loud scream as if he had just discovered that he was all alone…and Mom came running 🙂
I see a photo collage in my future…the soul of Nepal through its windows and doorways.
A quiet side street that we walked down as we were leaving town.
They do live in close contact with each other…
I’ve seen tires and other heavy objects on top of the corrugated tin roofs and wonder if they don’t have a way of attaching them to the structure? I’ll have to ask about this.
Next, we visited Namo Buddha, a sacred site for Buddist pilgrims and a monastery and school for the monks. We climbed the mountains and then the the road became a sort of rough, rocky trail that took us up to a height of 6000 ft. In the guidebook, it states that the road is not passable by vehicle…you must walk. Not us…we drove it and it was quite the 4-wheel drive adventure…heh…heh…heh…
These mountain drives are not for the easily car sick, those with a fear of heights or the faint of heart!
Actually, my trip plan had been to do a 2-hour hike up the mountain to reach the Monastery…but I declined this in favor of the drive.
The previous day, Mono had told me that…due to the recent rain in the mountains… the ground would have many leaches and giant worms. He assured me that at the top of the climb it would be easy for him to remove the leaches from my legs and that they wouldn’t hurt me but that we had to be careful of stepping on the worms…they were slippery and we could fall.
Now that’s a statement that makes you pause and wait for the punch line… ”Ha Ha..just kidding Ma’am”. But the punch line never came and that was when I declined the hike up the mountain in favor of the drive. I don’t do leaches or worms and I make no apologies for this!
Over 1000 monks live in the monastery.
IT IS STUNNING!
He’s holding a small prayer wheel
The top of the hill is adorned with thousands of prayer flags that fluttered in the breeze.
A house on the hill below the temple…
Now that’s a few prayer flags!
As you can see…a prayer flag is a panel or a rectangular cloth often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas to bless the surrounding countryside.
Prayer flags are believed to have originated with Bon, which predated Buddhism in Tibet. The Indian Buddist Sutras were written on cloth and then transmitted throughout India eventurally finding there way to Tibet in 800 CE. These Sutras written on banners were the origin of the prayer.
Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five, one in each of the five colors. Each color represents the elements, the five pure lights and are arranged from left to right in a specific order. Different elements are associated with different colors for specific traditions and purposes.
Blue: symbolizing sky/space White: air/wind Red: fire
Green: water Yellow: earth
Traditionally prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to the gods…rather Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.
The top of the hill is called Tagm Lujin (the place where the future Buddha sacrificed his body to a tigress) It is known as the Three Stupas in Nepal and is the very sacred place where their teacher, the perfect and supreme Buddha-at the time still on the path of learning – offered his own body without regret to a tigress suffering from great hunger.
An interesting story…
Women carrying loads of bricks down the hill…
And our final stop today is the Dhulikhel Mountain Resort. It’s really cool – sort of like the Windermere Estate in Munnar. That fact alone should have given me pause. The view was spectacular and the grounds are lush…overflowing with beautiful flowers.
I felt very badly for the guy who had to carry my suitcase…it was all uphill and frankly…he was no spring chicken! But we made it to my room.
On our way to my bungalow…
Up more steps…do you see why I was a little concerned about the porter?
Home sweet home
Oh goody…more twin beds…and if possible…these look more uncomfortable then the last ones! If this keeps up, I see some of the wonder pills in my future (sleeping pills).
Uncomfortable beds or not…you can’t beat the view!
They do not have air-conditioning here…just heaters. Being this high up in the mountains though it’s not nearly as hot as it is in the valleys. There was a large stand-up fan in my room that kept the breezes moving and the temperature cool…until the power went out. They neglect to tell me that from 6 pm – 8 pm, there won’t be any power…bye bye fan. Around 7:00 I headed over to the restaurant for dinner…a really good baked chicken and a beer followed up with some vanilla ice cream. I sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender while I ate and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
The bed was a hard as rock…so I pulled everything off of the second bed and tried to make mine a little more comfortable…it was a losing battle. So it was an on and off again restless sleep. I think that this is something that I’m just going to have to get used to for the next 12 days. The next morning…at 7 am…the power went out again. They should really put a sign in the rooms which gives you a heads up on this little fact of life in Nepal. I’ve been caught in the dark in more showers then I care to remember. But in the other hotels…they’ve had back up generators…not so here. And when the power goes…so goes the hot water. You’ve really got to keep your sense of humor about you or you’ll go crazy.
This was where I had breakfast…WOW!
It would be easy to get frustrated in Nepal. Things have not gone exactly as I would have wished them to so far. In addition to everything else…I was informed by my contact here that I needed to get my Tibet Visa. I knew that – and readily filled out the form and handed him $164. But then he told me that the Tibetan government would probably cancel my Chinese visa when I entered the country…meaning that I would have to apply for another Chinese visa when I returned from Tibet…and with only one day before leaving for Beijing…I would have to pay another $200 for an “emergency” visa. So, this guy is telling me that the visa I already bought stateside is going to be canceled…why?
Because they can…was his response.
First, this whole irrational explanation made no sense to me what so ever…but secondly…this was one of those things that you expect the agent who has planned your trip to tell you in advance…so I opened a line of communication with said agent from Global Basecamps, Meagan. Meagan got back to us the next day saying that Global Basecamps would pick up the tab for the second visa. So I won’t have my passport for the next three days.
As I’ve told many people now…it’s easy to travel to Paris, or London, Scotland…or the Bahama’s…it’s not so easy to travel in Asia and you have to be prepared mentally to experience a lot of blips in the screen or you won’t enjoy the trip. Three days into Nepal and India is looking really good! Just kidding…Nepal is beautiful and truly an exciting experience…blips and all!