We're still in Kathmandu, but we're so close to heading out on our trek. We met with our Nepal fixer Thomas Kelly, and mutual friend of August Thurmer. He and his friend Lakpah met us at our hotel to give us the rundown on our trek. We found out that we needed to gather up a few more things before we could consider ourselves trek ready. So we headed back to Thamel, the tourist center,because that is where all of the outdoor equipment stores are concentrated. These are places where you can find anything from a fluffy, down North Fake jacket, some Pseudogonia fleece long underwear, or some Nullgene water bottles. But, all the stores are bargain-able. And if you find the right shopkeeper, you can cut a good deal, especially if you level with them, reminding them that it's not really the brand name gear. But there are actual brand name stores as well. I found my t-shirt at the Mountain Hartwear store. It turned out that we needed a lot more gear than we had expected, but we wouldn't have been able to carry all of it anyhow. So, we went shopping.
That day we, also, ate at two wonderful restaurants. For lunch we went to Chez Caroline, which Thomas recommended. We were in heaven. Thomas told us that they were known for their salads and that we were safe eating there. Seth and I split a BLT and we each ordered a Caroline Salad. Man oh man. It had been a while since we were able to eat a salad, and it happened to be a great one. And the BLT was wonderful as well, with proper bacon. The only thing missing was the Crystal hot sauce for the sandwich. For dinner we went back to New Orleans, the restaurant from our first evening in Nepal. It's still beautiful, and the food is still delicious. But, I don't think they know what a smoothie is, or perhaps their blender broke. The first time Seth ordered a milkshake, but ended up with chocolate milk, and this time he ordered a fruit smoothie, and ended up with fruit juice. Both were nice options, but not what he had ordered. Hmmm...
The next day our planned part of Nepal began. We were picked up from our hotel by Lakpah and taken back to Budah Stupa (maybe called Budahnath in another post), that's the place where the Buddhists circumambulate around the stupah in prayer. It was a very different experience from our first visit. The first time it was nice to just take in the scenery and make conjectures on what was going on. This time, we were given a wealth of information from Thomas who explained everything we asked and more. And he speaks Nepali, and loves to shoot the shit, so he has a lot of friends anywhere he goes. It's neat to watch him interact with the locals.
Very close to the Budah Stupa lives Pema, Thomas's foster daughter. She runs a sort of clinic where they have herbal medicines, acupuncture, and massage therapy. Thomas had set up a massage for Seth and I. It was so wonderfully welcome. And we both agreed that it was probably one of the best massages we'd ever had. Following our massage, we found our way upstairs to the kitchen where we would help to make momos. Momos are Nepali dumplings. The are delicious. We made chicken momos and potato momos. They were served with a peanut and tomato sauce that was quite tasty.
After that, we walked with Lakpah to Pashupatinath, which is a Shiva Temple complex. So, we were switching from Buddhism to HIndu. The feel of both places were quite different. At the buddhist temple there was a warm happy feeling and an overall sense of love. Though the Shiva temple complex was pretty, it was quite dirty, filled with monkeys, and absent of people. There were people there, but way less than at Budah Stupa. From the Shiva temple we made our way down to the Bagmati river where there are cremation ghats. The hindu people have a tradition of cremation, but it involves the holy river as well. First, they wrap the loved one in a cloth and bring them to the river. They strategically place the body on a ramp that leads to the river so that the person's feet are in the water. They allow the river to wash the deceased's feet for some time before lifting them from the water to rest them on a funeral pyre, where they set a butter lamp inside the mouth where the fire will start to burn. Once the person is fully cremated their ashes are scattered in the river. We were able to see different stages of this ritual during our visit. I think it is a nice way to lend some closure.
BUT, there's a reason why there is a problem with water contamination in India and Nepal. HIndus use the rivers for way too much. I've just mentioned what they do with their deceased, and on top of that they bathe, wash clothes, potentially go to the bathroom, and throw their trash in this holy river. The water is horribly polluted. That part is hard for me to digest, and that is why I will not touch a river near human habitation.
After the ghats we went over to a hospice center run by Mother Teresa's nuns. It was a really nice place for the elderly who were not able to grow old in the care of their families. It was very nice to see, but you should not picture an old folks home like in the US. It was quite different from that. But the elderly here are quite different from in the States. They are a functioning part of the community until they no longer can be. These old ladies are tough. The place had good vibes.