Sunday, February 4, 2007

Days 24-27 Nepal Rocks!

Here are the pictures I promised from the previous post.

The largest Buddhist Stupa in Nepal. There are many Tibetans in Nepal who sought refuge from the Chinese. Buddhism and Hinduism are widely practiced simultaneously throughout Nepal and India.

People praying at the stupa.
Cremation at the Hindu temple in Kathmandu.
Evening entertainment at our hotel in Kathmandu. We stayed at Dwarika's in Kathmandu. You should Google it. It was gorgeous and peaceful!

Well this will be a particularly long post, so settle in. Seriously, it is LONG! I want to be sure to not leave anything out and describe Nepal for you as best I can. I don't even know where to start because it was beyond amazing. Nepal is now my favorite place we have visited, and I definitely intend to go back. I have wanted to visit there for several years, however there are current travel warnings due to some political issues. This made me a little nervous, but now that I have experienced it I know for myself. We barely got a taste for it in four days, but I enjoyed every single moment there.

Friday we set off in the morning for the airport to catch our helicopter. It was a smaller helicopter than the one we took in Dubai, about the size of T.C.'s in Magnum PI, with enough room for five passengers and one pilot. We set off for the majesty of the Himalayas. The foothills, which is an understatement, were all farmed by hand. It looked like fingerprints all over the sides of the mountains.

The farther we flew the more we could see the tall peaks of the Himalayas. They are more massive than anything I have ever seen. We landed at a place called Lukla, which is a refueling station. People fly into Lukla and start their trek for Mt. Everest base camp, which takes about a week's hike. There we refueled and started out for Mt. Everest. The helicopter could only fly at 14,000 feet since it was not pressurized, so we could not even go up to base camp at around 17,000 feet. I cannot even describe the anticipation as we approached Mt. Everest. Then we flew around the last mountain blocking our view and beheld the glorious mountain. It was the most breathtaking sight I have ever laid eyes on. I wish I had words that could give you the experience for yourself. As it is even the pictures don't show its majesty.

Typical public toilet in Nepal. This happens to be at Lukla. Here is my question, if there is no toilet, can you still call it a toilet?

Hiking trail to base camp.

The beautiful Himalayan peaks! This isn't Mt. Everest, just a nearby mountain.

The grand mountain in the distance!

A closer look at Mt. Everest.

Mt. Everest

Fog over the Himalayas

We then started back to Kathmandu. We stopped over in Kathmandu for a few minutes and took the helicopter to Bharatpur, where our guide, Sanjay, awaited us to take us to the Chitwan National Forest to the Temple Tiger Lodge. It was about an hour and a half drive from Bharatpur, but very scenic. We drove through through the country in two different cars, and Sanjay rode in my car. He told us the most fascinating stories. (Here's my plug for Sanjay, if you go to Nepal you must get in touch with him and have him give you the tour of Nepal. He told me he could make it very affordable, around $1300 per person including hotel, meals, tours, entrance fees, and a couple of nights in Chitwan National Park. That would not include airfare. I have contact details if you are ever interested. He is a fabulous guide and extremely knowledgable.) Anyway back to some of the stories. . . as we went through the countryside, I noticed what looked like stacks of hay, Sanjay told me that those were storage areas for the grains. A farmer's status is based on the size of his silo, the bigger haystack, the greater the wealth. We asked him about snakes, and he told that there are king cobras in the forest and they can get up to 18 feet long. In the summer when they have babies, they will stand about 6 feet up to warn you to stay away. If you were to venture closer they would propel themselves with the other 12 feet of tail straight at you. Most victims are bit on the forehead. Their venom can kill a person in 80 seconds and an elephant in 5 minutes. They prey on other snakes. My skin was crawling. Then he proceeded to tell me about another snake (WARNING, this is not for the faint of heart or easily offended) that finds its way to the homes of pregnant women. In the summer, people sleep out on cots on their porch. This long, thin snake will supposedly wrap itself around the woman and according to Sanjay "suckle her breast". I told him that was the craziest thing I have EVER heard, EVER! He swore it was true, and that to ward off these snakes people will rub honey on the legs of the cots because it will peel the skin right off of them.

Sanjay also told me about the Tharu people who live in the communities we drove through. Long, long ago it is believed that the wives and male servants were sent to what is now Nepal, from Rajasthan(sp?) while the husbands stayed and gave their lives in battle fighting the Moghuls (Muslim invaders). The wives married the male servants, but to show they were superior, when they would serve the men their food, they would push it across the floor with their feet. This continues to be a tradition in the Tharu homes.

As we drove through the countryside the people looked so happy and content with their way of life. A very different feel from India, although there are some of the same social problems. The children would chase us and wave at us as if they were as interested in us as we were in them. We got to the place where there was a large congregation of people in uniform. It was a training camp for young adults who were going to work in the park. We walked down to the banks of the river, Narayani, where our canoes were waiting to take us across. The young trainees were so excited taking pictures of us and waving goodbye at us.

When we arrived at the other side of the river, safari jeeps were waiting to take us to the lodge. A hut sat on the other side of the river where several park employees greeted us. We saw a crocodile on the way!

Not so good picture of the croc.

It was then about a 15 minute drive to the lodge. Upon our arrival we saw elephants waiting to take us on our safari. I've never been on an elephant and so my heart was racing with excitement. The elephant I rode was the mother of a little tusker. He followed along with us on our safari. His father is a wild elephant who has fathered other little elephants. All the elephants owned by the lodge are female. We began our safari, and not too far in, my allergies got the best of me. Melissa handed me a Benedryl she happened to have in her purse. About 20 minutes into the safari we saw a rhino. He was so close to us. As we went on we saw several more rhino. The rhino are being poached in the park for their horns.

Tiger paw print

When we got back to the lodge we ate dinner and retired early. Since we were in the jungle, everything was wet. Our towels weren't completely dry, nor the sheets. However as tired as I was from the very long and exciting day, I settled in for a long night's sleep in my damp bed.

On Saturday, I opted out of the early morning safari since the brush we went through sent me into a coughing fit the previous day. I also figured that no one else would see anything with me hacking along the way. As it was, they all came back telling me they saw four tigers. It reminded me of the time my friend, Nikki, and I and company went to a Chicago Cubs game. I went to the concession stand for everyone else and wound up missing Sammy Sosa hit a home run. It is just my luck. I thought earlier that morning as sure as I don't go they will see tiger, and such was the case. They were all so excited and I got to see the pictures upon their return.

We started back for our return to Kathmandu after that safari. We got in our canoe to cross back over the river and there were several people out along the river. A group of several people were having a picnic. They had just killed 4 chickens and were de-feathering them. When they saw us coming they waved at us and held their chickens up while we frantically took pictures. Then we came upon three young girls wading in the river, as well as a young mother and her three children. The people were so warm and welcoming.

We flew back into Kathmandu from Bharatpur and Sanjay met us to take us to Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur is a city near Kathmandu where an ancient Newari king built his palace and temples. One of the things I learned about both Hinduism and Buddhism is that sexuality is a central theme. They believe in the balance of male and female energy in order to reach Nirvana. So throughout the palace square are statutes and buildings decorated with tantric images. I mean everywhere. I didn't intentionally take pictures of those things, but here are some pictures of the palace square in Bhaktapur. Hopefully nothing offensive made its way into the pictures here.

Saturday night we went to the Krishnarpan restaurant for a 12 course Nepalese meal. I only made it through 8 because I still have not been able to shake the cold I acquired in Dubai. Then with my allergies acting up, I was not feeling 100%.

Sunday I went with Sanjay to the town of Patan, where we toured another palace square. There was a Buddhist temple located in the center which was gold plated. A young boy was serving as the priest. According to Sanjay, 5,000 families are in the priestly order and a boy 12 years and younger will serve as priest for one month. The little boy in the picture is the priest. All along the temple floor were food offerings to Buddah. I noticed the pigeons were eating the food offerings and asked Sanjay how the people felt about it. He said people were glad for it to feed the animals. If you have ever been where there are pigeons, you are well aware of what pests they are. I thought if I were those people, I would be disgusted that the birds were eating my offering, especially pigeons!

Sanjay then took me into a shop and asked me if I would like to try an ancient bowl therapy to help clear my cold. At this point, I am willing to try just about anything, so I said sure. The man in the shop put this metal bowl on my head made from seven metals. He then proceeded to gently hit the bowl with a soft mallot of sorts. Sanjay told me to close my eyes and concentrate on the sound. Really what I was concentrating on was not laughing. So I guess it was lost on me, but I didn't even break a smile. Sanjay took some pictures of it.
Later that day we caught a very late flight from Kathmandu to Delhi, and then missed our connecting flight to Mumbai (Bombay). We didn't get in to Mumbai until late last night. As we drove to our hotel, I didn't have the sad feeling I had in Delhi. I am anxious to see what Mumbai has in store. Our hotel room looks out over the ocean. So in the last four days I have been to the Himalayas, the jungle, and now the Arabic Sea. It certainly has been an exciting four days!


Anonymous said...

So glad to see your post. Not that I was worried....but it had been 3 DAYS!! I thank GOD for carrying you through the political unrest safely.

Lots of love, Susan

Lisa said...

Can it get anymore exhilerating? I've decided that I'm going to use a different word to observe your adventures vs "cool", "exciting", "amazinig".
There may not be words to describe any of this, but I'm sure going to try. The pictures are breathtaking, particularly the Everest shots. I'm so glad you got to experience it and had a great four days. Still praying for your health. I love you!!!

Mom said...

I could have used the metal bowl treatment on a few of my patients and am certain it would have been effective. As far as the snake suckling story.....don't know what the proper term is there, but here it is "urban legend". If honey takes the skin off snakes, what would it do to our mouths and stomachs. The wildlife refuge sounds like a great adventure. Sorry you missed the tigers. Love you. Get well soon.

Angie said...

Sarah, you know I love you, but is it okay to hate you just a little bit! Girl, I am envious in the very best sense of the word! My computer screen has become a portal to worlds I may never see in person. And the combination of your words and pictures and my imagination is stunning! Throw in the cup of coffee I enjoyed while I read and I'm just gone...

A couple of things really stood out to me...

"A farmer's status is based on the size of his silo." Hmmm. Same in America.

And those three women in the river... you sure they weren't them sireeens on "O Brother Where Art Thou!" :-)

I do hate you've had to continually put up with health frustrations, yet I'm sure it will take a lot more than that to rob you of these experiences.

The last thing I'll say... is how moved I was to hear you refer to the farming as 'fingerprints' on the mountains. I've often heard people refer to 'God's fingerprints' on places or people... but to actually see a big ol' fingerprint truly bends my heart toward heaven.

If things can get *this incredible* here on earth...

Just imagine...

I love you!

Jeff said...

Wow....we are in awe!

TCS said...

Sarah, wow! incredible to read about all this and one experience right after another. I don't know how you are processing so much.

Keep posting!

elaine santos said...

Truly, you are my eyes to the world! I am amazed at all of the beauty and customs. It seriously, makes me realize how small my corner of the world is. And I LOVED the picture of the bowl treatment. Sounds like a custom the Hispanic culture has called Ojo (oh-ho). You take a raw egg and rub it all over your body when you're feeling ill--there is something you're supposed to recite, but I don't know that. Then when you are done, you crack the egg into a cup of cold water. If the egg removed the ailment then there will be thin strands of the white coming up off the yolk. Someone did it to me when I had a serious case of flu one year--they swore I was sick because someone gave me an envious look (they gave me ojo). So as I was in a comatose state she rubbed this egg all over my 104 degree body and then cracked it when she was done. She then proclaimed YEP! You had ojo--the proof is in the egg. Well, I would imagine it has white strands coming up off it MY BODY COOKED IT! I'm not really sure if worked on me. So if you come across a raw egg maybe you can try that. ;-) Thanks for sharing all of these marvelous experiences with this small town country girl.

tim rush said...

this is just insane. Your last line, "an exciting four days!" Yeah, kind of.

We pray you shake that cold.

And I change my mind... you're not Bond, your Indiana Jones.

MommaFlee said...

You so rock! Amazing..just amazing. Loving the updates and pictures! Thanks for taking the time to do that post. I, like everyone else, am just in awe.

Still praying, flee

Jenny Nye said...

Angie - hate is such a strong word, in the future if you could say "that you most aggressively dislike Sarah", that would be better. Please, mind your manners!

Okay enough lecturing!

You know when you get one image in your mind and you just can't shake it?

I was so excited to read the whole thing. And I looked at the pictures of the spectacular little hills you flew by and stared in wonder but the unfortunate image of the King Cobras and suckling snakes are severly burned into my brain. It literally made me feel sick at my stomach. I should have followed the warning.

I am not one to be afraid of adventure and the unknown. But if I had seen a snake at all I would have been done for. When I was in the jungle in Ecuador I could not sleep for fear of snakes gunning for me!!

I applaud your courage and hope that I would be able to overcome silly fears for the sake of adventure.

I am sorry that you missed the tigers because of that stupid cold. I will be pray that the tigers are the last that you miss out on in your walk around the world.

Love you lots!!

Nikki said...

All I can say is "WOW" this totally over rules Sammy Sosa. Rumor has it that he is going to return to the majors this year. I hope you plan to write a book about your experiences. Everything sounds so amazing and you have such a way of describing everything for us so we can share it with you. Be careful and remember I love you.

Sarah said...

Mom, for some reason I don't think you're talking about using the bowl method on your patients for medicinal reasons. I think YOU would just feel better if you could bop them upside the head!

As you can tell I come by my skepticism honestly. I don't put much weight into the snake suckling story, but it is not your run of the mill jungle story!

I keep thinking to myself, How will anything ever top Nepal? TCS I am still relishing and processing it a few days after the fact. Honestly, Nepal is a must see at least once in your life. I wish I would have had more time to spend with locals. I would have loved to sat down and ate on the banks of the river with that group of people with the chicken!