So, today is the last day before we join up with the REI group. We've met a couple of them, and everyone has been very nice so far. This morning we met another guy on our trip, he's from Sonoma. He's done other REI adventures before, as has Deanna, the lady we met when we arrived. That speaks well for the journey we're about to take with REI.
After another early morning, (we were up at 5:30 and hotel construction started at 6), some animal planet TV, and a luke-warm shower, we headed down to get some food. I was surprised to see that they vary the food available on the buffet - today's choices included pancakes with honey. Something I've never tried before, but did enjoy.
While we were at breakfast we decided to see if we could hire a tour to take us to the remaining three world heritage sights (we saw one yesterday and will see three more on our tour tomorrow). The other three are too far to walk from the hotel, and after reading about the cabs, I'm a little nervous trying to get one to bring is back. So we walked next door to the hotel and hired a guide and a car for what a cab ride in San Francisco might cost.
And, hiring the guide and driver was a really good idea. They met us at the hotel and took us to three different places; Pashupatinath Temple and Pyre, Changu in Bhaktapur, and Durbar Square in Bhaktapur. The guide was native to this area and had a ton of information to share.
After a crazy ride (as one would expect when traffic laws seem optional and cows take naps in the middle of the road), we arrived at Pashupatinath Temple and Pyre. I'm pretty sure I almost lost something to a motorcycle flying by as I tried to get out of the car - I'm amazed that hasn't happened yet. We were unable to go in the temple because we weren't Hindu, but the guide was able to tell us plenty from the outside. There were a lot more people in traditional dress in this area, such beautiful clothing in beautiful colors. There were also a bunch if animals roaming freely and hoping to be fed...cows, goats, monkeys...the monkeys were really cute, and somewhat friendly - they'd let you get pretty close, but definitely not close enough to pet them.
After the temple, we walked over to the Pyre, where cremations occur. The whole thing was a very sobering experience. The guide told us a little bit about the different religious buildings in that area, and as he was doing so, at least two, maybe three funeral processions passed through. The atmosphere wasn't what I would expect...the people didn't seem to be saddened with the death or celebrating the life, they just seemed blank. The most emotion I saw was someone I'm guessing to be a wife, she looked heartbroken, walking with her arms around two friends.
For the cremations, they carry the person from their home, feet first, because that's how you would walk. They stop just upstream from the Pyre to wash the person's head before continuing on. Once they reach the Pyre, the person is laid with their head to the north (for some reason, one that we saw was laying the opposite way), and the ceremony begins. The ceremony is conducted by the eldest son and a priest, women aren't allowed in the Pyre. For the next year, the widow and the sons must wear white and the priest comes to the home once a month for a ceremony.
Our next stop was outside Kathmandu in Changu, Bhaktapur, the next city over. It was also our guide's hometown. Unfortunately it was also down a dirt road and up a small mountain...packed five people in a car in the 90+ degree heat. Brian told me he'd never seen me that white, I was just glad I didn't puke. Changu was great, even though it took me most of the time we were there to feel normal again. It seemed as though our guide knew everyone, which was pretty cool. He also showed us where his house is now, which was also cool. After Changu, it was time for lunch, which I was thankful we had after we drove down the winding, country roads.
Lunch was at another rooftop cafe, with great views of Bhaktapur. I was still a little nauseous, so opted for a safer option of chicken fried rice.
Our final stop was Bhaktapur Durbar Square, which was multiple squares all connected by narrow brick roads. There was so much to see here...so many temples and palaces and amazing architecture. There was another Hindu temple that we couldn't go in, but were allowed to peak from the entrance. There was a pottery square, where they were creating pottery from mud...so interesting.
Our final stop was at an art school. Our guide must have had some sort of connection, because we got a tour, saw the students, and got a rundown on what the paintings all meant. If the painting is signed, it was done by a master...if it's not singed, it was done by a student. We hadn't planned to buy anything, but he showed us one that was red and black, and painted with gold...gorgeous, and we figured one big souvenir would be cool.
After that, we started the adventure back to the hotel. Yay crazy traffic....and cows...and people...and dogs. And probably a few other things.
Tonight at dinner, we met two more people on the trek - Doug and Heather. That brings our total to seven, and we'll meet the other five tomorrow. I had another veered beer with dinner, I'm going to miss that when it's gone...haha.
And the TV just turned itself off...
Ok...big day of touring tomorrow, and as with every other night, I'm exhausted. I'm beginning to understand the blogs I read before I left and how tired people were.
Over and out...until next time.