After being asked to attend an orientation talk by outfitters Nepal tour company in the morning at 8.30am, we arrived in the lobby of our hotel to meet another Raj, who seemed to be a senior person in the company. We also had the pleasure of meeting Angus and Elise, our travel companions from Australia, who were part of our tour group. Lovely couple! Raj told us about what to expect from the trek, what each day would bring, how we would feel, how hard it would be, and of course, how much we would enjoy it!!
We then embarked on a guided tour of Kathmandu’s main tourist spots with Rajesh – who also happens to be an Everest tour guide. We saw Rajesh throughout our entire trip and he was just lovely. It was an interesting and fun-filled day. We visited many Buddhist and Hindu temples which were full of colour and intrigue.
First stop was Durbar Square, which was wonderful. It’s full of temples, idols, market stalls, people and the Kumari – living goddess, whom we were lucky enough to see. There were a number of indications of the devastation caused by the recent earthquake six months ago – a number of buildings were cordoned off and you could clearly see the temples that collapsed. A few had massive stress cracks up the side of the building and were being held together with wooden scaffolding. It was quite scary to be there, thinking of the chaos that unfolded only a few months earlier.
We visited the Monkey Temple where there was lots of sacred monkeys roaming around, a few shops where you can buy trinkets and the most fabulous views of Kathmandu Valley – it’s so large and vast looking from this vista point, it’s worth the drive up there just to see the view. There are also spectacular temples and stupas, the pictures I got from up there were brilliant.
The big surprise of the day was a visit to Pashupatinath Temple, where you can witness open air, public cremations on the side of the river. Thick smoke fills the air and you realise it is in fact, the bodies burning on concrete plinths. It’s a very strange experience. On one side of the river, grieving families mourn their loved one. On the other side, tourists stand to witness the ceremonies, taking photos and trying not to breathe in the air. It’s important to understand their culture, and I feel blessed to have seen this part of their culture and religion. Not one for the fainthearted, but not one to be missed.
We then stopped off for a rooftop lunch beside the Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath, which is one of the largest stupas in the world, and in a World Heritage site. Unfortunately, it was also badly damaged by the earthquake and we could see men working to repair the top section. I have a bottle of lovely Everest beer and enjoyed the midday sun!
Deryl and I went back to our hotel, met our lovely guide Mohan and received our down jackets and sleeping bags from outfitters. After a long, hot day, we headed out for dinner in Thamel and then to bed. All packed and ready to go the next morning to the mountains! Exciting!!