Today was our official day to tour Kathmandu and tour it we did! After an early breakfast the whole Madison Mountaineering team gathered for a group picture:
In case you're wondering, Anders and I are in the middle in the back row and Brent, Anders (and my) guide, is the fellow with glasses and flip flops in the light blue shirt in the front row.
Our first stop was at the Hindu temple called Pashupatinath, which is one of the most sacred places in the Hindu faith (about 80% of the nepalese are Hindu). The temple is on the banks of the Bagmati river (which was but a small trickle today but is apparently really roaring during the monsoon season which begins here in late May/early June. We witnessed several cremation ceremonies (the smoke in these pictures is one such cremation in process). We also saw an uncountable number of things we had never seen before--far to many to describe in this blog entry, but sights I'll never forget...
We wandered through seemingly endless mazes of back alley ways dodging mopeds, cattle, beggars and a dense swarm of Nepalese going about their lives:
Next up was the famous Buddhist temple (Buddhists are about 10% of the population) called Bodhnath Stupa which in addition to being one of the largest temples in the world is the most important and holiest Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. Here is Anders spinning the giant prayer wheel there:
We also visited Swayambhunath, which is also known as the Monkey Temple, and climbed the many steps to the temple, which is perched high atop a hill with commanding views of the sprawling metropolis below.
Here is one of the monkeys chowing on an ice cream bar, which he had first removed all of the chocolate from:
It was a quite remarkable 4-5 hours and it literally is very hard to describe. I have a couple hundred pictures and several videos to share when i return. It literally was beyond anything I have ever experienced. The sights, sounds, smells, and the dust--the air quality is horrible over here--are an assault on the western soul but so compelling to witness. I have a new appreciation for the word cacophony!
And through it all are the people who seem very content and welcoming to folks like us and always seem to have a smile and a Namaste for us.
We returned to the YNY frankly in need of a bit of compression and then went out for a quick lunch (another pizza--boring but safe) and now Anders and I are safely back in our room contemplating a nice rest and probably a nap before dinner in about three hours.
Tomorrow we will need to be in the hotel lobby locked and loaded and ready to head for the airport at 4:30 am to fly to Lukla and to begin our trek/climb in earnest.
What a ride so far!