Nepal just gets better and better! Today we got up mad early (before 7am) to go see the Monkey Temple up on the hill. ALL four of us slept like poo for once (not just me, Mr. Restless–I’m convinced it’s from gong to bed around 12 instead of my natural 3-4AM) but Jamey is suffering from a head cold so he opted to stay home and attempt rest, and the three of us were guided by Nabim and Binad to the highest point in the valley, an amazing temple literally teeming with hundreds of monkeys. We walked along the poor poor back streets and along the trash-filled river, where pigs foraged for leftovers and we could smell the bowels of Katmandu and the stench of death. (Apparently they burn bodies along the river… which reminds me of a label I saw yesterday on a bag of museli which read “Keep our country clean. Please burn this bag and label when you are done.” The f’d thing is that the bag was a heavy clear plastic. Anyway my point is that burning trash IS the sanitation system, as terrible as that is for the environment and people’s health. Another f’d thing was an unattended infant we saw just lying around in a basket, with her naked bottom exposed to the world and dozens of flies buzzing around on her back and sweater. While this was probably the dirtiest place I have ever been, my cohorts say it’s nothing compared to India. Apparently everything in India is 10 times more …. than Nepal, like traffic, mayhem, crowds, pollution, trash, smell… Regardless of the scene I have been describing, it’s only a description of the visceral aspects, today was still a beautiful and exhilarating day for countless reasons.
The holy Buddhist site was gorgeous, huge, colorful, with countless bells, inscriptions, Golden Buddhas, and thousands of prayer flags leading all the way up the hill to the pinnacle above a set of giant Buddha eyes. At one entrance a security guard was commanding 100 rupees admission, so we walked around along wooded paths to a back entrance and a long stairway which led to the top, and we got in for free. The panoramic view was breathtaking — you could see any point in the valley, and the capitol stretches much farther than I would have guessed (as if feels more like a large village than a sprawling city.)
It was great to have such an early start, for by 10am I felt we accomplished much and it was time for breakfast. After my first coffee in days and a good meal (best veg burgers here!) I felt like a million bucks, and we went home and finished putting together our bikes. Jamey was still feeling low so Cara, Bonnie and I went out to buy maps to route our trek to Pokhara, the city 250km away where our next farm is just outside of, and since my back is still hurting mucho I went and splurged ($10) on an hour-long Ayurvedic massage. My masseuse wasn’t as skilled as I would have hoped but she did loosen up that gigantic sore knot in the middle of my back some, and throughout kept asking me if I wanted a happy ending (“penis?”). It got kinda weird after the tenth time she inquired, and bewildered she eventually got her boss in there to verify that I would be leaving satisfied without it! Was so bizarre. (Jamey’s going back tomorrow to take her up on the offer, LOL!) Next we all went on a bike ride around the neighborhood to test out our bike handiwork, at dusk/rush hour no less, and it was SO FUN! It’s as thrilling as biking in NYC except it’s 10 times more crowded and miraculous that so many vehicles and pedestrians can share a common tiny strip of road, completely without lanes, yet somehow the kinetic energy just flows and everybody makes it through just fine. This is really hard to convey, but try to imagine countless motorcycles, little buses filled to the brim with people, bicycles and people all heading right for you, nobody wearing safety belts or lights or helmets (except for us) and swerving in every which direction, but it all moves seamlessly like blood cells through an artery… miraculous. We don’t plan to EVER ride at night let alone through any big cities, but I think we’re a good team and we can handle the crazy Asian scene. We just have to keep it up with rubbing the Buddhas and praying to the good luck gods at ever turn. (There’s a million ways to get your good luck around here… I think this civilization runs on luck!)
After this we went out for Italian dinner with Binad, Martin, and two Austrians (Rafael and XxXx). Ciao! was so good, plus it had the nicest WC in Nepal, and Jamey met a couple of 60-something cyclists who live in the Himalayas and gave him lots of first-hand advice on our upcoming bike journey to Pokhara. All in all it was the best day yet, not to mention that I feel so comfortable here already, finally. Everything from interfacing with our hosts, to chatting up the shop-keepers and hanging around in the streets for hours, to washing up and getting stuff we need from local shops, seems as natural as in anyplace I’ve been. Plus, the mayhem of Katmandu feels a bit like MY mayhem, in other words it’s not so foreign anymore as it is familiar and endearing. I like it here, a LOT, and I’m positive this trip will continue to be as enchanting as it is for me right now.