13.01.10 (again) – 5.47pm (12.06pm UK)
Hello again all. As promised, a more in-depth description of yesterday. We went on a tour of Kathmandu, led by Exodus (the guys we’re over here with). It was actually ‘A Temple Tour’ consisting of 3 temples: Pashupatinath, Bequeath & ‘The Monkey Temple’.
Pashupatinath was really weird! We weren’t allowed in to this temple at all, only view from the other side of the river – at the side of which we watched as dead bodies were openly cremated on large pyres, built on to dedicated concrete plinths. Once burnt (they were allocated a 2 hour slot), the remains were extinguished using buckets of river water & then swept over the edge! A guy, standing in the river waiting, would then sort through the debris & throw any large remains one way to stop the river blocking & large pieces of wood back on to the bank for re-use. It was quite a macabre scene. As we were watching an old lady was being prepared by her family & was then carried round to the pyre for ‘ignition’!
Bequeath was the next. A huge circular temple with the eyes of Buddha looking out over the people from all sides, with ‘prayer wheels’ all round. The prayer wheels had to be rotated clockwise in order for sins to be forgiven & there was a constant stream of people – walking clockwise too – walking around the temple, spinning the wheels. Some even lay themselves prostrate on the floor before standing back up, taking a couple of paces, then doing exactly the same thing – over, & over, & over… We were able to go in to the ‘outer circle’ of this temple & walk around it – clockwise! The tour leader kept losing some of us due to ‘wandering’ & had to keep walking all the way round each time because he wasn’t allowed to go anti-clockwise! He was very patient… This visit was prolonged due to a very lengthy currency exchange that took far longer than it should & was like a scene from Mr Bean!
We had a lovely rooftop lunch in the temple square before heading off to the last temple. A frantic journey across Kathmandu at what appeared to be rush-hour (although I suspect it’s always as busy as we’ve witnessed) took just long enough for everyone on the bus to fall asleep & we arrived wondering (a) where on earth we were & (b) whether this was a temple too far!
The Monkey Temple. Inhabited by, you’ve guessed it, thousands of monkeys. They were everywhere. Every time a camera was pointed at one, however, they’d wait until just before the shutter clicked before looking away! Infuriating. Walking to the top of the temple’s stairs revealed a breathtaking view of Kathmandu beneath. It was vast. Surrounded on every side by the imposing foothills of the Himalaya. Sadly, the smog rising from the polluted town beneath made the view quite blurry, but impressive none the less.
Arriving wearily back at Hotel Singi, there was time to shower & start sorting our gear in preparation for the official trek start the following morning before heading off to ‘Kilroys’ for our last proper meal. The rest, as they say, is history.