In all the years I’ve been traveling to Asia I’ve never had a November and December like this one! Who needs Miami Beach or Mexico when you can leave the cold and rain and wind of the Northwest and bask in the midday sun of northern India (try 70 degrees for starters), followed by crisp nights in an environment of hospitality with new and old friends? Add to that the ever-present mountains beckoning, and you have a recipe for heaven on earth.
Daughter Cary and I arrived in Kathmandu and are staying in our favorite haunt, the Shechen Guest House in Boudhanath, until tomorrow, when we leave at dawn for a six-day trek in the Yolmo/Helambu area of the Nepalese Himalaya. Our guide will be the reliable Ram Rai, one of our favorite sirdars working for Jawalant Gurung, who is a long-time friend and owner of Crystal Mountain Treks. Jawalant also leads a climb up Mt. Rainier in Washington State every spring, which raises substantial funds for a school and orphanage in Kathmandu. In future blogs I will write about his work as well as that of several other individuals I’ve become acquainted with over the past three weeks.
The number of internet cafes has dwindled in India and Nepal, due to the rise in cell phone and iPad use. Since I travel with neither device and put my energy into photography and journaling, I plan to write a lengthy report with a slide show when I return in late December. It will be my Christmas card to all of you! As always, I am asking for your patience. Be prepared for a whirlwind trip, starting on November 26th on Delta Airlines through Amsterdam to Delhi. From there we journeyed to Dharamsala for a three-day teaching by the Dalai Lama at the Namgyal Temple. A rather comic aside, now that I’ve had time to be compassionate about it, is that my new leather sneakers were stolen outside the teachings on the second day, leaving me in stocking feet with only heavy hiking boots for solace. Every year that I come, I laugh at the sign outside the main temple which declares: Be sure that your shoes are not stolen by someone! Well, when it happens it’s not so funny, especially when you can’t find that elusive “someone,” but I did get t0 know some pretty nice security personnel as I sat and looked at their surveillance video for an hour. Unfortunately, the only camera that didn’t work was the one trained on the room where I sat. Go figure.
From Dharamsala we went to the TCV (Tibetan Children’s Village) school in Suja, where our sponsored Tibetan refugee students greeted us eagerly, visited in neighboring Bir, then on the the holy city of Tso Pema (the India Rewalsar), where I got my initial baptism post surgery in steep scrambling by walking to the caves above the huge statue of Guru Rinpoche. As they love to say in Asia, “No problem.”
On our way back to Delhi, we stopped in the bustling town of Una to visit Sunny Farms, a company Cary had discovered online that specializes in organic soil amendments, using seaweed, cow manure, and vermicompost. Nobody beats the hospitality of the Dubey family. They shared their work with us, and acquainted us with the surrounding farms and an amazing shed where they house, feed and care for hundreds of stray cows picked up from the streets, and from which they obtain the useful fertilizer. Add to this an overnight at their beautiful home with wonderful Indian cuisine, and you’ll know why it was difficult to refuse their offer of a longer stay.
I’m writing this, laboriously, on the guest house internet, which, like so much of Nepal, has problems with electricity. Twice a day the current goes out for four hours, but supposedly it is on now. Even with saving as a draft, this is my fourth rewrite. Is it any wonder that I wait until I return home to continue my adventures?
You may be interested to know that we just enjoyed our first raw salad in Nepal. It has been a no-no for so many years that it’s wonderful to find a place like this guest house where they have clean fresh produce. In fact, there is lettuce growing like a decorative plant between the shrubbery around the border of the dining area.
Now it’s time to put on the sunscreen and wander to town for a last kora around the Boudha Stupa.