After Hours

Dave's daily update: Privileged adventures with a sherpa

While in Kathmandu, Dave and Mike had the honor of accompanying their sherpa on a trek to offer prayers at a sacred Buddhist stupa. Other adventures of the day included visiting several Buddhist and Hindu holy sites and viewing a Hindu cremation ceremony.

4/11/00
Kathmandu, Nepal
9:30 P.M local time (11:45 A.M. EDT)

Well it was quite a day. To get our legs back under us, we hiked 10K to a site that holds a sacred Buddhist stupa. The site has existed in one form or another for about 2,000 years, according to Ang Karma, our logistics and trek coordinator. The current stupa has stood for about 300 years. According to our sherpa guide, before departing on an expedition, the sherpas will trek to the summit to offer prayers. We were honored when our sherpa invited us along to share in the experience.

Of course, the trek itself was a leg-burner of a hike. We climbed to 7,000 feet, which meant ascending 2,500 vertical feet in only a 10K hike. By the time I got to the top, I'll admit my legs were talking to me a bit. But hey, it was the best way to shake out the jet-induced stiffness from the past couple of days.

But that wasn't the end of the day. We visited three other holy sites: Bhaktapor, Pashupathi nath, and Boudha Stupa—the largest Buddhist stupa in Kathmandu.

Don't try this at home kids. I'm telling you that if the car ride through the narrow Kathmandu streets doesn't kill you, the carbon monoxide belched from the passing cars and busses just might. Horns blare at you from all directions and yet, believe it or not, the horn-blasts are really not meant as an act of aggression, but as a way of communicating. Where cars share the street with people and animals, there must be a way of announcing your presence. The Nepalese have discovered how to do this, and they have it down to a science. That said, Mike and I are really looking forward to flying to Lukla on Wednesday (April 12, 2000). It will be nice to sleep with the sounds of rushing water lulling us into never-never land rather than the cacophony of mechanical sounds that haunt us now.

So tonight, here I am hunched over a terminal in one of Kathmandu's many Internet cafes. Our satphone sits quietly in our room in the Nirvana Gardens Hotel. No signal can be picked up in the city. Besides, the Internet cafe works just fine and, at only three rupees a minute, it's a real bargain. By the way, the current exchange rate is about 67.5 rupees to the dollar. You do the math, but things are pretty inexpensive.

I have to talk about another privilege we were able to experience today. Rudra, one of our sherpa guides, took us to Pashupathi nath, a Hindu temple. While there, we watched the ritual to prepare the body for cremation. The body is wrapped in colorful ceremonial garb, then ritually cleansed over an ornate stone slab that enters the river. Once this part of the ritual is over, the body is taken to a wooden pyre, blessed, then cremated. I know this may sound a bit unorthodox if you aren't used to the Hindu customs, but let me tell you, it was a beautiful ceremony. I know Mike has included something about this in his dispatch. It was quite affecting to one's psyche, so I won't go on about it.

Tomorrow starts the preparation for the flight to Lukla. We leave around 5:00 A.M. Wednesday morning (local time) for our flight. Once we land, we'll be joined by our team of porters and sherpas, then we'll start the real journey. Although, to say that this hasn't been part of the journey would be a big mistake. In the very short time we've been here, we have made some wonderful new friends. The Nepalese people are friendly almost to a fault. Their culture is one of service and respect—respect for the individual as well as the world around them. I'm looking forward to meeting more of them in the many mountain villages we'll be visiting on our way to the summit of Island Peak.

On a more personal note... I have to say that this trip has touched me. Nepal is a country of paradoxes. I've discovered two extremes. I've located a wealth of beauty—in both the people and the mountains, including the belief systems. And I've seen a level of poverty that would make even the most petrified heart turn to jelly within its cage. Yet, even in poverty, the people I've met have been good people filled with a love and zest for life that's hard to find in many of the more advantaged places in the world. They have made me feel welcome. There is a very beautiful word in Nepalese that means welcome: Swagatam.

My heart goes out to these people, as does my friendship.

Until next time... Namaste.

Peace,

David
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David Bard has been a fixture at TechRepublic for some time now. At one time he was editor-in-chief of LinuxRepublic and then AdminRepublic. Currently, he occupies space as an editor-in-chief with TechProGuild. In addition, he’s a freelance writer who has covered extreme sports for years. He also is a writer of horror and—contrary to what his climbing partner may think—is hoping the expedition to Nepal doesn’t provide fodder for his next story. When he’s not at home teaching his year-and-a-half-old daughter why it’s not a good idea to eat rocks, or trying to convince his wife why yet another expedition really is necessary, he’s usually off in some remote section of woods trying to discover himself. He’s still looking.

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