OCTOBER 2012 NEWSPAPER COLUMN

ARRIVING IN KATHMANDU


As many of you know I escorted a group of 12 to Everest Base Camp in April of this year I blogged as we hiked and have compiled them into articles detailing our journey up the mountain. I hope you enjoy the adventure as much as we did.

We arrived to Kathmandu late in the evening and headed to our hotel. Our ride from the airport to the Thamel area was unusually quite due to it being evening. Just wait until morning the horns start blaring at 6 am and don’t stop until about 10 pm. In Thamel at our hotel, we are greeted by the typical Nepal black out which is a daily random occurrence. No sooner did we finish lugging our suitcases up to the second floor of our hotel then the generator kicked in. I still wasn’t about to brave the little elevator and risk getting stuck halfway between floors. We are off to bed after a long travel day everyone's eager to see what Monday has in store for us and view Kathmandu in daylight.

It’s been a busy morning we have been to the Hindu shrine of Pashupatinath, the biggest Hindus temple in Nepal with cremation temple and watched several bodies being cleansed and cremated alongside the river. This was an eye opener and culture shock for most group members as it is not an everyday site at home. Off in the distance we can hear thunder, see some dark clouds and a breeze has kicked in which is welcome to cool things down. We hurry back to the bus hoping to beat the impending downpour which never materializes.

We are now off to the Boudhanath Stupa the largest Buddhist Stupa/temple in the world that is if we ever get through all this traffic. After a late lunch with a view overlooking the Stupa, a Stupa is a large solid dome like structure topped with a golden spire and generally has large Buddha eyes painted below the golden top. These give you the sense you are being watched but are also very mystical and you could sit staring at them for hours. The custom is to walk around it clockwise chanting prayers as many times as you can spare in a day and spinning the prayer wheels along the base as you go.

In the same square we then visited a local Thanka school, Thanka’s

are traditional paintings all done by hand that depictmany aspects of Buddhist beliefs. They can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months to complete and the detail and the quality of work is evident between the more experienced painters and the novices. Many of us took the opportunity to purchase a Mandala which depicts a stupa from top to bottom and represents how to live a happy life in Buddhist religion. A unique and one of a kind work of art for our walls at home.

Our last stop for the day is the Swoyambhunath/Monkey temple- 2000 years old, and Kathmandu’s highest elevated temple. There are many monkeys that live at the temple hence the nick name, they even have a little swimming pool to enjoy during the summer. The numerous stair steps up to the temple where a little extra training for tomorrow. We quickly explore the temple and admire the sweeping views of Kathmandu Valley as the sun is preparing to set on us.

This evening we have dinner at a restaurant known for its clay oven pizza, as it is our last dinner before a lot of Dahl baht, which consists of a platter with small bowls of lentil stew, rice and curry (a traditional meal) eaten here in Nepal I decided on something a little more familiar. I have advised the group to avoid meat and dairy as we hike, the refrigeration and storage are not up to our standards in the tea houses. I am trying to eliminate as many unnecessary threats for any added illness as I can, we will have enough challenges with the altitude as we climb.

After dinner and an informative orientation meeting, we were handed brand new waterproof duffel bags. Now the task is what to take and what to purge if anything, being a Girl Guide and the group leader I have brought a lot of extra snacks and other things just in case (not so subtle code meaning I've over packed). The food will be eaten so I am not worried it will dwindle in size and weight along the way. I just have to fill my day pack and I'm ready for our 6 am wake up and one last hot shower. Our group has an 8:45 am flight to Lukla, fingers crossed the weather is clear and we get out reasonably on time.

Will the weather be clear and we make it to Lukla on schedule? Look for our next article to find out.

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