The long wait is finally over, we have left the hot and humid desert of Dubai and loaded the plane to Kathmandu. A relatively short 4 hours in the air landed us in the small Asian country of Nepal. The organized mayhem of frantic trekkers stepping off the plane, loading a bus, presenting proof of vaccination, purchasing travel visas, and clearing customs was as smooth as a pumice rock on Mount Shasta. Our baggage arrived without any hiccups and we were ready to make our way the hotel.
Stepping outside we were abruptly reminded where we were – an abundance of honking taxis and motos driving on the left side of the road was a bit of shock coming from the western world. We located our driver and packed into his tiny Suzuki, our expedition duffles cramming what little space was available. The ride from KTM to the hotel was a memorable one, getting the full Nepali experience in a matter of 30 minutes. Swerving through traffic with zero regard for turn indicators or yielding to pedestrians had us holding onto the “oh shit” handles and pumping the imaginary breaks at every intersection. Thousands of Nepali people roamed the streets, effortlessly navigating the paradoxical balance of simplicity and chaos of life in Kathmandu.
After settling into our hotel, our lead guide Chanit came to meet us along with his friend Anish. When planning this trip, my good friend and mentor from Southern Oregon University, Erik Sol, recommend some local Nepali guides to connect with. We decided to go with Chanit and Anish, who both have over a decade of Himalayan trekking and mountaineering experience and know the Khumbu region like the back of their hands. Unfortunately, Anish has been dealing with health issues in recent months and will not be able to join us on our trip.
Chanit and Anish took us to a local restaurant for dinner, where we splurged unlimited Dal Bhat and mo mo’s. Dal Bhat is a traditional Nepalese dish which is served with rice, lentil soup, curry, sautéed vegetables and some incredibly delicious sauce. With our bellies full, we stumbled around the Thamel district of Kathmandu and retreated back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest.
Waking early as we usually do, my dad and I decided to make the 2.5km pilgrimage to the Swayabhu Buddhist Temple, also known as the Monkey Temple, and for good reason! Traveling by foot through the heart of Kathmandu during the early morning hours was a real treat. We witnessed what seemed like every Nepali person in Kathmandu burning incense, praying, and putting Tikas on their foreheads – the red dot that signifies purity of faith and devotion. The city slowly began to awaken with shop owners sweeping their door steps and children making their way to school.
Using Gaia GPS to navigate, we found ourselves at the base of stairs to climb to the temple. We were greeted by hundreds of monkeys climbing giant Buddha statues and eating grains of rice on the ground. They were rather playful and friendly, and not afraid to come within a few feet of humans. In the early morning sun, we climbed the 365 old stone stairs to reach the top of the temple. Along the way, hundreds of Nepalese people walked and ran up the stairs, with the live Buddhist music increasing in volume every step. The temple was more than you could ever imagine; candles being lit, bells ringing, mantras chanted, prayer wheels spun, and an abundance of donations made. It was truly a life-changing experience to be engulfed by such a spirituality charged place radiating energy of love and peace. We purchased a couple of small candles for 50 rupees each, silently said our prayers, and placed them on the alter and watched them burn.
Soaking in the sweeping views of Kathmandu, reality struck that we were less than 24 hours from departing for Sagarmatha National Park – the epicenter of the Himalayas. I could help but think on our descent to the now bustling city streets, may the good fortune of the Buddhist temple be with us on our journey.
The rest of the day was spent indulging in more delicious Nepalese food, final packing adjustments, a gear check with our guide, and resting ahead of our 22 days exploring the Khumbu region.
Stay tuned as we fly to Lukla early on the morning of the 27th to begin our trek.
It’s a day early, but Happy Birthday Dayday! Thank you for all the support and love over the years. Hope you can experience this someday too! Love you mom.