Kathmandu – 3.24.2012

Today, we visited Bhaktapur, one of the ancient cities in the Kathmandu Valley and the most well-preserved.  The intricately detailed, centuries-old, hand-carved woodwork was remarkable.  We could feel the age and authenticity of the place instantly and were seemingly transported back to medieval times.

From there we went to Bodhnath (believed to have been built in the 5th century), which is one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world (if not the largest), which historically served as an important staging post on the trade route between Lhasa and Kathmandu where Tibetan traders would pray before their treacherous journey home over the high passes of the Himalaya.  The area is vibrant and represents one of the few places left in the world where Tibetan Buddhist culture exists undisturbed.  Most of the Tibetans living near the stupa today are refugees from the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, and it is amazing to witness how seamlessly the Hindus (~80% of Nepalese) and Buddhists co-exist even understanding the considerable overlap between the two religions.  We circum-ambulated the stupa clockwise, per the custom, while spinning the prayer wheels for good fortune and blessings.  We also visited the local monastery and received a blessing from a Buddhist monk.  Very unique and enriching experiences.

We concluded our day at Pashupatinath, Nepal’s most significant Hindu temple, which stands on the banks of the holy Bagmati river.  Being non-Hindus, we weren’t allowed inside this sacred temple, but the exterior, grounds and surrounding temples were all beautiful.  We witnessed cremations taking place on the banks of the Bagmati as well.  Finally, after a long day, we enjoyed dinner at the famous Rum Doodle in Kathmandu, where all Everest summiters returning to Kathmandu after their successful climbs sign the wall.  Names like Sir Edmund Hillary, Reinhold Messner, and Chris Bonington can be found among those on the wall.  I hope to place mine there soon as well.

Leaving India – 3.23.2012

After returning to Delhi from Varanasi, we visited Chandni Chowk, which means “moonlit square” and serves as the main market in Old Delhi.  It is a maze of sights, sounds, smells, people, cows, dogs, narrow pathways and runaway rickshaws.  Vibrant to say the least.  We primarily visited for the spices and somehow located a store among all the madness that was recommended to us.  Apparently, our friends that recommended the store have great taste as Christine Lagarde, the new IMF President, shopped there the day before us and while we were there the daughters of the Saudi Royal family came in to shop.  Glad to know they have great taste as well…

On Friday we packed-up our belongings, headed to the airport and said goodbye to India.  What an incredible place.  We successfully managed all of my Everest expedition bags as well as the nearly 200 lbs in donated goods through the airport and on to Kathmandu.  Fortunately, we were picked-up at the airport by Ang Jangbu, who is the leader of our team’s logistics here in Nepal, and taken to our hotel, the Yak & Yeti.  The expedition suddenly became very real and tangible for me at that point, and only became more so when we stumbled into Conrad Anker and Cory Richards in the lobby of the Yak & Yeti and had the chance to chat a while about our respective plans.  They will be camped near us at Everest base camp, as they attempt the formidable West Ridge of Everest this season, so we will likely have the opportunity to catch-up more down the trail.  Meeting iconic climbers like Conrad and Cory immediately upon arrival in Kathmandu can only mean one thing… it’s nearly time to climb…