So now that I'm finally done blogging about our recent trip in Tibet I can get back to writing about Kathmandu and Nepal, except I'm going to be heading into the mountains again. Apparently a little over 4,000' just doesn't do it for me any more and I can't resist the call of the mountains. After all what would all this time in Nepal be without a monsoon trek? I mean who can resist the idea of travelling on roads with landslides, hordes of jungle leaches and skies so full of clouds that one can't see the 25,000' peaks above them? I can't.
Monsoon Trekking: Langtang, Gosainkunda & Helumbu
So Donnie, our friend that we went to Tibet with found out he was going to have some additional free time and wanted to go into the mountains, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to find out first hand what monsoon trekking really is like (I'm willing to wager it is not nearly as bad as people make it out to be). I mean the rain here is warm, it's not like New England where the rain and cold just suck the heat (and it feels like your soul) right out of you. We plan on starting up in the Langtang valley, go up to Kyanjin Gompa, turn around and then head south to the Gosainkunda Lakes and then head south through Helumba and back to Khathmandu via Sudarijal.
The most frightening part of this hike will be the bus ride tomorrow.
I took that bus back in the end of February and early March and it was a little sketchy, now with all the rain I imagine it might be terrible to downright impassible. I've heard that when there are landslides in the road that might be passable they let the passengers out and the driver tries to gun it over the rubble. At least they let the passengers out. Most of the ride was normal for Nepal, which is scary compared to most places on this earth, but the section from Dunche to Syafru was down right dangerous. I am strongly considering getting off at Dunche and walking the rest of the way to Syafru, or taking the trail there and meeting up with the Langtang route via Sing Gompa and Thulo Syabru.
As for the rest of the hike, I'm looking forward to it. In about a month there is a huge festival that goes on at the Gosainkunda Lakes, as it is a Hindu holiday, and the lakes are a year round pilgrimage site. With as many as 20,000 pilgrims moving through within that two or three week period I imagine they will have some preparations under way. The only part of this hike that I have done before is the section at the end in Helumbu, though this time I will be doing it from the opposite direction. I really enjyoyed that section of the trail back in 2004, so it'll be good to see how it has changed. We are planning on this taking roughly ten days, which is much faster than the 17 prescribed in the trekking guides, but I don't think it is overly ambitious.
Nepal Shirt Trend Update
So as I noted in this post HERE, Nepal receives a very odd mix of popular shirts. The latest trends among males between 20 and 40 seems to be Emo shirts and in the same flavor shirts advertising Death Note. The Emo shirts are done with a manga flavor, and anime style art. They generally say something like Emo Boy and have lots of melancholy imagery. Maybe this means that crap is dying out in the states? Wishful thinking maybe. Death Note I had never heard of, I wrongly assumed it was a band or something. Apparently it's a Japanese manga series about a kid who obtains this notebook that is used by the god of the dead. If for some reason this interests you, here is the Wikipedia entry on it HERE.
Some Thoughts on South Asian Religion
There is something about the religions here that strikes me as particularly ancient. Maybe it's the old street side shrines, or maybe the incense, rice offerings and red powder. Maybe it's the fact that you still see animal sacrifice, or the occasional skulls decorating certain places, and maybe it is the texts derived from Sanskrit that look somehow very old to me. While modern Hinduism isn't any more outdated than any of the other religions in the world today, its daily practice has something that seems to take you back in time.
It struck me while reading many of the old Greek texts like Xenophon and others that many of the religious rights practiced here in South Asia today have the same ring to them as the polytheistic practices of those in Southern Europe over two thousand years ago. I mean the practices aren't exactly the same, I don't see Hindus looking through bird livers to tell the future, but in feel and practice they are very similar. Shrines for house spirits, daily food and occasionally liquor offerings, copious use of incense, and local shrines that people visit for different afflictions or wishes. While watching the HBO mini series Rome recently I was struck by how similar some of the urban scenes, especially ones with a religious connotation, paralleled some of what I have seen in both Hindu and Buddhist countries in the region.
While I don't claim to understand it, and I'd be insincere to claim that I believe any of it, it is none the less very interesting to live amongst what must be the last major Polytheistic religion on the planet. The way that the daily rituals are woven into the fabric of daily life here is one of the aspects of living here that always adds a little wonder to any given day. The pigeons gathering at my Buddhist neighbors patio for their morning feed, or the bells at night to put the house spirit to bed, sandalwood incense in the mornings before a hike, and butter lamps lining some temple on my way home from dinner all combine for something that makes my stay here that much more memorable.