Good Morning Bodhnath

October 9, 2007

img_0865.jpg

Ooops. I may have just made the biggest mistake of the trip so far – escaping the gravitational pull of Pullahari.

I made the call last night to come down from the mountain and make some day trips out of Bodnath for the remaining 3 or 4 days until the Everest Rocks crew all show up. So, leaving all the monks, the great animals, the views, great food and most of all, the silence behind I found myself awakening not to Buddha, but to mayhem.

Six am is way to early to be woken up by any of the following things, let alone all of them just outside your window:

Men playing dice, rattling them in a plastic tumbler and cheering
Motorbikes without mufflers, not loud mufflers, no mufflers
Tractors idling and spewing exhaust through the window
Endless dogs barking, occasionally fighting
Street sweeping with a broom made of stiff twigs
Policeman blowing a whistle as if its Carnival in Rio
Car horns
The smell of burning plastic and rubber from sidewalk trash fires
People chatting and laughing – how dare they?

Ok, let me rephrase that:

Six am is way to early to be woken up by any of the following things, let alone all of them just outside your window after spending a week in Pullahari.

Oh well. I read somewhere that almost everyone who comes to Nepal, comes back. I think I can understand that and so far most every “Westerner” I’ve met is on a repeat trip. And even thought I have not seen all that Nepal has to offer, I’ve seen enough to know that I too can imagine myself returning one day.

To Pullahari.

In the meantime I plan to explore a bit more. Todays adventure will be to Patan where many if not most of the craftsmen who make Hindu, Buddhist (and other) statues live and work. I hope to come back with a nice lil dude for my shelf at home – Varada mudra of course. And some earplugs.

Advertisements

Buddha Hands

October 7, 2007

“You’re soaking in it!”

Anybody remember that one? Buddha has soft hands too and did you ever notice how his hands are often in different positions in statues? I decided to investigate and find out what they all mean.

Turns out there are five positions, or “mudras” as they are called. And each of them has a distinct meaning. If you’ve got a Buddha statue at home, take a look and see whatchtagot.

picture-1.jpg

The Pull of Pullahari

October 6, 2007

Is it bad to travel halfway around the world to a never-before-visited country and then not fully explore it? It’s day 4 here at Pullahari and I cannot seem to wrest myself away. All plans to fly to the lakes region of Pokhara or to Simikot or Jimson to check out the Annapurna region are slowly fading.

This is a first for me, ever the keen conqueror, I have always tried to squeeze as much into my world travels as possible, planning to rest and recover when I got home. But here in highest hills on the outskirts of Kathmandu, or more specifically Bodhnath, I’ve found contentedness – if that’s even a word.

So what have I been doing you might wonder that makes me so content? It’s pretty simple; Reading, Eating, Resting and Meditating.

I’ve picked up some great books about Buddism and have been devouring them. I had forgotten what a luxury it is to just sit and read.

Sukombu continues to prepare delicious vegetarian meals, and I’ve been devouring those too. Funny thing is he doesn’t. I found out he eats dahl baat (lentils and rice) every meal, even though he cooks amazing food for us. It’s his tradition, and I understand that, but still…what’s the saying? Never trust a skinny cook? What about a skinny cook that won’t eat his own cooking? Anyway, it’s always yummy.

Lots of rest too. I take naps! At night the owls hoot, and I swear last night the usual dog barking was replaced with werewolf like serenades, and in the mornings birds chirp, goats bleat and the monks chime in with their chants, drums and bells.

The meditation has been harder to embrace. I’ve fallen out of practice and even though I know it’s good for me, I find that I’m resisting it – here in a place where people devote their whole lives to the perfection of this practice. How ironic. Anyway, more and more I’m getting back into. The monks must be rubbing of on me.

But perhaps its not the doing of these things that’s making me happy, but the where. Pullahari is so magical and at the risk of sounding like a complete granola, it’s got an amazing energy, a real, tangible energy that pulls like a magnet.

Until today myself and another guy named Tommy were the only non-monks here. Tommy is great, he’s a retired 80’s rock star from a Danish band called Gasoline. About 20 years ago he put down his bass guitar and picked up Buddhism full-time. He’s fast becoming my informal guru, patiently answering my many questions about Buddhist practice and philosophy. I’m learning heaps.

He’s got a great accent and good sense of humor too. The other night we were walking back from dinner in the dark and one of the monks asked us if we wanted to use his flashlight. Just then the automatic sensors turned on the path lights and Tommy said, “ah, the path is illuminating.” Maybe you had to be there.

Tomorrow I plan to head down into Bodhnath again – a 1hr hike down a goat track (with goats!) – and post this, check other email and then take my very first, “real” Buddhism class from a genuine master called Thokei Nyima Renpoche. Should be…enlightening.

Afterwards I suppose I will come back here. Again. I take comfort in the fact that on the 11th I’ll be back in Kathmandu, meeting the rest of the Everest Rocks team and preparing for our 20-day trek to Base Camp.

So while I may not be exploring all of Nepal, at least I will be able to see a lot of it looking down from “The Mountain.”

Did I Mention the Delicous Beer?

October 3, 2007

img_0634.jpg

img_0496.jpg

Notice Creativity Corp. Gets some Nepal Love

October 3, 2007

img_0709.jpg

Fo realz y’all.

This is my man Sukombu, who is a mad wizard in the vegetarian kitchen of the Pallahari Monestary where I spent last night and will be spending the next 3 nights. The place is unreal. See pic below. Thousands of monks…and me. It’s crazy.

img_0705.jpg

I was looking for a place called Kopan where you can take intro classes to Buddhism and meditation, but I made a wrong turn up a muddy path that ended up being right.

More on this later.

Some Animals of Nepal

October 3, 2007

img_0739.jpg

Butterflys so big they should be classified as birds

Talking goats who love to be scratched

Owls who aren’t afraid to look you in the eye

Birds that are heard more than they are seen

Mangy dogs that look like death on 4 legs

Water Buffalo who prefer mud

Cows that lunge at tourists, but never locals

Bright green grasshoppers who love being indoors

Dragonflys who lead the way like dancing fairies

Dogs in the distance who never shut up

Gimme Some Mo

October 3, 2007

img_0750.jpg

Most everything I read about the food in Nepal – especially while trekking – was dire; it’s bland, it’s dodgy, it’s repetitive, you will get sick. So far nothing could be further form the truth.

I’ve found the food here, at least in Kathmandu and the surrounding villages to be delicious, fresh and so far anyhow, both my taste buds and tummy are looking forward to the next meal.

I’m currently in Bodhnath which is full of maroon robed monks with freshly shaven heads and vegetarian tendencies. And all religious beliefs aside, I can tell you with absolute certainty that becoming a vegetarian seems like an obvious lifestyle choice after seeing what passes for a butcher shop around here.

img_0753.jpg

Several times while strolling along observing small shops and sidewalk sellers – most of whom sell buddhas, beads and prayer flags – I have been suddenly confronted by a dusty, shoeless character waving a dirty rag over chunks of unidentifiable meat laying out in the open on a wooden table.

I’ve seen worse in Thailand and Central America, but here it is especially jarring to have the serenity created by peace loving monks, nuns, temples, prayer flags, pleasant chimes and bells so roughly disturbed by fly covered hunks of dripping flesh.

I’m sure if I went into a restaurant and asked for a mutton curry, it would in fact be delicious. And even if the gods could guarantee me that I wouldn’t get sick, that my tummy wouldn’t revolt, I’d still be reluctant. It’s not the lack of butcher shop hygiene, or a fear of trying new things – I’m a daring neophyte – it’s that the vegetable dumplings they make here (called Momo’s) are so so delicious.

I can’t say no no.

Yak Butter is Perfectly Named

October 1, 2007

img_0613.jpg

The thing about Yak Butter is that it looks like regular butter, so when you slather it on your toast you really have no idea which way things are going to go on your first bite; delicious breakfast ritual, or salty/sweet (y)accident.

Kathmandu is a bustling area with most the tourist activity in an are called Thamel. I’ve managed to get off the tourist track a bit by hiring a guide and having him lead me around for a day. It’s not as frenetic as I had expected and I can best describe it as India for beginners. Maybe with a bit of Balinese flavor thrown in too. I realize that’s a weird call, but the people share the same friendliness and jovial, playful attitude – and unless you can read it, Balinese and Nepalese script look very similar too. At least until you start studying the letter forms.

Today I’m off to an area called Boudnatha (Boudha) which has great stumpas (temples) and lots of monks. Hoping to take some meditation classes at the Kopan Monastery and get off the tourist path even more while I’m there.

The rest of the Everest Rocks crew don’t arrive until the 10th or 11th so I’ve got some time to explore. Am considering flights on Buddha Air (of course) to Pokhara, or maybe somewhere closer to the Annapurna Ranges.

So far the knee is holding up – the 365 giant steps up to the top of the Monkey Temple yesterday was a good test – and I’m confident it will be fine once we get stuck into more serious, long days of trekking to Base Camp.

Oh, and yeah, I miss y’all, but that’s my new Best Friend

Cat Man Doo

September 30, 2007

I made it!

So far here is a partial list of things I’ve seen:
497 Monkeys
4 Monks
1 Yak
3 Temples
A shitload of rain
Numerous clouds
Lots of touts – but not the super persistent variety
More trash burning in the streets than you can imagine
More Gore-Tex clad “trekkers” than you can imagine

Things I’ve done:
Rode in a rickshaw
Listened to amazing live Blues
Drank 7 litres of Masala Tea (Chiya)
Drank 1 litre of “Nepal Ice” beer (it was “delicious” Davo)
Bumped into an old friend
Looked for goats
Avoided tourists – most difficult thing to do here
Tried to get my email to work – no luck

Things I’ve heard:
4,987,673 Car and Motorcycle horns
3 non-stop barking dogs
“Namaste!”
Rain
Amazing birds – heard, but not seen – yet.

More soon.

Le Schedule

September 26, 2007

Oct 1-10 Chillout in Kathmandu/Pokara Valley chasing monks around
Oct 11-12 – Hotel Yak & Yeti Kathmandu, Nepal
Oct 13 – Monjo 2,840m 9,317ft
Oct 14 – Namche Bazaar 3,445m 11,302 ft
Oct 15 – Trek to Khunde 3,840m 12,598ft & return to Namche Bazaar
Oct 16 – Tashinga 3,450m 11,318ft
Oct 17 – Pangboche 3,875m 12,713ft
Oct 18-19 – Dingboche 4,350m 14,271ft
Oct 20 – Lobuche 4.931m 16,177ft
Oct 21 – Gorakshep 5,160m 16,929ft
Oct 22 – Base Camp 5,364m 17,600ft
Oct 23 – Pheriche
Oct 24 – Tashinga 3,450m 11,318ft
Oct 25 – Namche Bazaar 3,445m 11,302 ft
Oct 26 – Lukla 2,840m 9,317ft
Oct 27-29 – Kathmandu De L’ Annapurna Hotel Nepal
Oct 30 – Head back for Oz – Arrive Sydney Nov. 2