Namaste lads. Tai-pai-lai kas-to-chha? (Hello lads. How are you? – in Nepalese) Hope all healthy. Plagued at present by a single mosquito who seems to love me lots. Is sharing my room but keeps himself to himself during daylight. I can hear him buzzing around my head at various times after lights out and I see and feel the evidence of his love every morning as the bite marks get all itchy & red. He seems to have the gift of invisibility when it suits him and I do not really have an easy solution. Will try to leave the door open today for a while and inshallah he disappears from my zone to find new friend. Otherwise I will be forced into drastic action. Resulting in the death of the mossie.
And if I was Hindu or Buddhist lads I would not consider the above final solution for the mossie. Which brings me nicely to my main story of this week – my trip of last weekend. Mentioned to y’all two weeks back that I was heading to mountains & temples. And so I did lad. Off I headed with the camera & lenses to Kathmandu, Nepal. Amongst the peaceful tolerant Hindus & Buddhists. As good luck would have it lads, the BBC had feature on World News channel on Nepal. Problem there at present of locals catching cholera from drinking dirty water from streams. So stuck religiously to bottled water during the trip lads. The last thing you need when you are scaling the high peaks lads is a bad dose of cholera. Also stuck to boiled or fried foods to avoid diarrhea and it worked. And double socks for the long hikes. Another MB trick to note lads for your own future use.
There are many thousands of Nepalese working in Middle East and all I have met in recent years are extremely polite happy smiley people. Am pleased to report that the description generally applies to the entire home population. But huge poverty problem. It is reckoned that some 7M of total population of 30M do no have sufficient food for their daily existence. I witnessed very large numbers of people begging during the day, and sleeping rough on the streets at night. Saw groups of 4 and 5 children huddled together under blankets on the footpaths after dark getting ready for an uncomfortable night on the hard paving. The electricity to public lighting gets cut off every evening as darkness descends. Suddenly, even in the capital Kathmandu, you are walking in pitch black streets which quickly go silent and only the howling of hungry dogs and replies from other hungry dogs breaks the dark night quiet. Didn’t haggle with the locals when buying stuff, generally. Hadn’t the heart. Except for few taxi drivers who were taking the mick with the Western tourist MB.
The women work harder that the men. Or so it seemed to me. Even in the mountain area of Nagarkot that I trekked through for a day, approx 90% of the lifting of crops and other loads was being done by the women. And very old women in many cases. Carrying heavy loads on their heads or by ropes on their backs. As I said earlier lads huge poverty and large percentage of the rural population (and even the urban population) living in very poor decrepit accommodation. But amazing to see how clean and stunning the women managed to look at all times with their multi-coloured clothes spotless throughout the day, even when working in the fields.
Was surprised to see and immediately recognise potato plants growing in the mountains as local villagers formed shelves on the mountain and hill slopes to create horizontal terraces that would allow potatoes to be grown. Men & women working together with picks & shovels clearing the ground, setting and picking the crop. Some of the crop for eating and some for sale to provide an income. Rice also growing in many locations.
Politically speaking the country is a disaster. The politicians have been fighting for 5 years about trying to make a constitution and make laws. But still no success. Someone told me they have 601 Ministers. Meanwhile the people live in one of the poorest countries in the world. Someone told me 10th poorest but not sure if this stat is correct.
Traffic in Kathmandu – a disaster. And creator of huge pollution. Many locals working in the city wear dust masks for protection. The problem is the combination of car fumes and dust rising from streets that have no paving in many places so dust constantly rising. Seems that in approx 2001 when the king was killed by his son (along with a number of other members of the Royal family) there were only a very small number of cars in the entire Kathmandu valley, but now there are tens of thousands, going as fast as they can along very narrow streets, more designed for rickshaws and motorbikes than cars. Petrol is very expensive bearing in mind the income levels. Approx 1.45 euro per liter I was told. So the car of choice, over 90% of all cars from what I could see, is the 800cc Suzuki Marutti. Very fuel efficient. And huge numbers of motorbikes and scooters. Was informed that 3 people per day get killed in motorbike/scooter accidents.
Mainly Buddhist (originally from Tibet) & Hindu (originally from India). Many of the temples permit both religions to worship together. The main Buddhist feature you will see are the prayer wheels which you spin while chanting a mantra. God will then forgive your sins. The Hindus have 3.5 Million Gods according to a Guide who showed me around a particular temple. But some are more famous and prominent than the others and some of the temples are dedicated to the more important Gods. The Hindus believe in reincarnation which happens again and again until you reach Nirvana. If you die from a snake bite you will immediately reach Nirvana as the snake is a sacred animal/serpent. Hindus also revere the cow. My guide told me that the general prison sentence for murdering a man is 7 to 8 years with 50% time off for good behaviour. If you kill a cow in Nepal you will receive 20 years.
The holy Bagmati river flows through Kathmandu. As revered by Hindus in Nepal as the Ganges by Hindus in India. And next to a temple area, very close to the airport, is where the Cremation of dead bodies takes place on a small polluted stretch of the Bagmati. I made photo album of the cremations. Which in another country and culture might be insensitive and disrespectful. But because the Hindu believe in reincarnation, the funeral cremations are (generally) a happy occasion as all are aware that the dead person will shortly be reincarnated in another form. It is not uncommon to see Hindus laughing and smiling at a funeral. It is consider a time of joy. As a tourist you are asked to give the family respect by keeping your distance and not to intrude on their privacy. I, like most others, moved to the other side of the river and took the photos with my zoom lens. I had seen this on YouTube before I went on my trip but to see the whole ceremony live was a really great experience.
There are 2 parts to the funeral ceremony. When the dead body arrives (normally by Government ambulance) it is taken to the purification area. This involves dressing the body in orange robes plus a few other rituals. But the main event of the purification involves taking the body to the edge of the river and dipping the feet in the water. At this stage Hindus believe that the soul has not yet left the body but the body is now purified. Two months back it was noticed during the purification that the body was still breathing. And obviously still alive. Body was immediately rushed to the ambulance and taken back to the local hospital.
The second part of the ceremony is the cremation. This involves a number of new rituals including pouring water on the head or mouth, marching around the body three times plus a few others. The critical element of this stage is the placing of fire in the mouth of the body. This is done, from what I could see, by stuffing some straw into the mouth of the body, and possibly use of oil, and then setting fire to the straw. At this instant the soul is considered to leave the body and the body is now officially dead.
Unfortunately, in the last year, two bodies awoke, or came out of coma, when they reached the ‘fire in the mouth’ stage. As I said above once the fire is lighting the Hindus consider the body as dead. So in the two referred instances, or whenever this might happen, it is considered that an evil spirit is trying to awaken the body. The family and cremation professionals will then use heavy bamboo poles to ‘quieten’ the body, as my Guide described the procedure. As in – they beat the body as hard as they can on the head and elsewhere to ensure it stays on the fire and to ensure that the evil spirit does not succeed.
I took the opportunity on first morning lads to take large chunky slice of Yak cheese with the breakfast. I immediately felt the surge of protective power eminating from said Yak product and it would appear lads, that in the nobel Yak, we have worthy competition for our beloved Middle East Camel. Who could ever have dreamed such a thing lads? If you suggested such an idea to me two weeks ago I would have laughed in your Kaffir face and asked some local Mullah to organise 50 lashes across your back for your insolence. But not any more lads. I would now be buying sooth-a-cream for you and begging your forgiveness.
Momos are considered the national dish and are yummy. Little parcels of meat or veg wrapped in a light cover, like dumplings at home. Maybe even served with icecream if that’s to your liking. Lots of Indian type foods, but loads of restaurants in Kathmandu and you can basically get any food you want. Themel is the main tourist area in the city, so loads of shops and bars for your delectation. Trekking shops like you never saw in your life, as KTM is the starting point for most trekkers and mountaineers heading for the peaks.
If you are connected to me on Facebook lads you will already have seen the photo albums I have posted up after the trip. Giving you all link to my trekking album which gives good idea of the rural scenery around the Nagarkot area. Think you can also look at the other albums when you log on – if you wish. Did not get to the Himilaya/Everest area but managed to take photos of the sun rising over the Himilayas from a viewing tower in Nagarkot, many many kilometers away (another of the pic albums).
Spent approx 5 hours trekking through mountain terrain and ended up in small village as dusk was approaching. No taxis in the village so jumped on a bus to get me to village that actually had taxis. Bus packed to capacity, so jumped on the roof along with many others, feet dangling over the edge and great vantage point for more pics! Very memorable journey.
So can give you all a very big recommend/yes for Nepal. Interesting fascinating place. Not really a place for a family holiday though When you go there its all action and/or sightseeing, so a reasonable level of fitness is necessary. They also have big adventure area for white water rafting, paragliding, bungi jumping, and other stuff near the border with Tibet, if you want to give the trekking and temples a miss. Big thanks to PS, Nepalese Crosser who gave me great advice before I traveled, and to MJ & LM who were great traveling companions on my first two days over there. Hope you both get back safe & sound in due course. Both now new members of the Crosser brigade.
Am often asked out these parts if we have our own language in Ireland. Yes non-Irish Crossers – indeed we do. And to let you hear the sound of the Irish (Gaelic) language I give you Mr Sting singing traditional Irish song with the legendary Chieftains providing the music:
And received email little while back from Jade Dillon informing MB that she will shortly post up some more original songs on YouTube so will pass on to you all when I receive. Hope you all enjoyed her 2 great pieces of 2 weeks back.
HX Art (yes Cla – art!)
Received a few emails from Ruskie Crosser RK during the week, who grew up in Tatarstan in Russia before moving to Khazakstan in his teenage years. Anyway lads RK sent me on his favourite Paintings – by some Ruskie artist that I never heard of who is famous for his paintings of the sea. I am attaching RKs best known painting by his favourite artist. The name of the artist appears in Russian script in all the emails sent to me lads so I can not give you the artist’s name in a real language. Let me know what you all think.
HX Book Recommendation
Just finished a book called Three Cups Of Tea. About an American who got lost in the northern tribal area of Pakistan after failed attempt on K2. Went on to build many schools in the villages and ensure that many young girls got an education. Great read and great lessons for the great & the good.
Told you few weeks back lads that a developer in Dubai will now build a larger version of the Taj Mahal than the original version in India. He will use it as hotel & wedding venue. Will be huge success I think. Now some Indian politician is bleating on that it should not proceed. Donkey!
DH – The Reluctant Emigrant
Thanks to DH for continuing to include us all in her weekly blog list. Unlike MB, DH is real writer with big future. Keep up the good work DH. Always enjoy your stuff.
Rolling In The Deep
Namaste lads (Goodbye lads)
Ma a-li a-li Ne-pa-li boll-chhu (I only speak a little Nepalese). So will leave it at that for this week lads.