K-K-K-K-K Katmandu

Bob Seeger wrote the song Katmandu when he was tired of his profession and wanted to escape. Hippy days are gone, but an observant person will notice marijuana growing wild in empty lots and alleys. Let me emphasize that you don’t need drugs to be high in Katmandu, because this city overloads your senses without a single enhancement. This is a place of extreme opposites. People wash themselves and their dishes from a roadside spigot. Modern appliances are taken home on the back of a bike. I found clarity and focus in Buddhist thangka art opposed by lung defying air pollution.

Traffic jams from hell don’t prevent appreciation of unspoiled mountain landscapes. The entire valley is a UNESCO site for important pilgrimages and monuments amid massive filth counter-balanced with beauty.

The profane competes with the revered and sacred. The ancient trade routes for salt, wool and silk continue to run through Katmandu. The amount of diversity and fusion of cultures left in the wake is unsurpassed.

Katmandu is the odd, bizarre, benevolent, always in a hurry, yet most compassionate and loving place on the planet.

Is Katmandu schizophrenia or extreme reality?  It is really entertaining or downright controversial. I can’t imagine anyone not loving it here.

Fifteen minutes out of the airport I saw my first cremation at the river edge. IMG_7795While flames consumed the body,  little girls walked in the muddy water with magnets trying to find offerings in the funeral ashes. Despite this macabre observation, I had a profound experience talking with a Brahman priest who spoke about our mission in life and karma. He blessed me, touching my heart with a force that I still feel today.

Monkeys’ ran around stealing cotton candy. Strange men who call themselves Holy pose around the stupas coaxing tourists to take pictures, for a price. It seemed like a creative way to be a beggar, but who am I to cast accusations? My guide made an astute observation, “Don’t all religions want to be paid?”

Soak it all in. Stop to see. Touch. Smell. Taste using your fingers the local way. Chant mantras with the background roar of motorcycles. Listen to singing bowls and inhale incense. Still your breath. Calm your mind amongst chaos. Dance with joy on the street with someone you don’t know. Reach out. Embrace. If I ever get out of here, I’ll go back to Katmandu.



Climb Ev’ry Mountain

Nepal is the spinal cord of the world with 1,913 mountain peaks towering greater than 18,000 feet.


Mount Everest is the background mountain to the left. Below Everest to the left is Nutse –fourth tallest in the world at 25,790′. The the right of Everest is Lhotse–27,939′. Follow the ridge to the Right background for Mt. Makalu–27,805′

Of that huge number, 14 are the highest places on earth within this relatively small country.  Mount Everest (29,029′) has trekkers gasping with more than awe. At the top, climbers only breathe 1/3 of their normal consumption of oxygen.

The soaring Himalayas march straight through Bhutan with 21 mountain peaks above 23,000′. In the picture below right is the highest, Gangkhar Puensum, at 24,840′. The media is all about Everest, but Bhutan isn’t a runner-up in the world of adventure climbers. The government offers cheaper permit fees, trying to steal some of Nepal’s historic thunder. Currently, offical paperwork will cost  $1,800 to climb Annapurna. (*keep in mind that’s permit only, not outfitting the expedition.)

Don’t plan on clawing your way up all of these mountains. Many are decreed as holy in the Buddhist faith. Since one in ten climbers dies on Everest and most of the others suffer with varing degrees of altitude sickness, the Nepal government probably has their hands full with permits to (only?) 326 mountain tops.

Summiting mountains is a rich person’s game–or a well sponsored team. The 2017 climbing permit fees for Everest were $11,000. That only gets a trekker a pat on the back.

It doesn’t include the mandatory evacuation and medical insurance. There’s also a trash removal fee of about $4,000. Imagine the amount of human waste that needs to be cleaned! And I’m not counting over 200 bodies still left on the mountain.  A quick google search gives rates of $30,000-$65,000.


Close up on Anapurna with morning sunrise

I was very happy to travel in comfort with Yeti Airlines on the Everest Express flight from Katmandu. (www.yetiairlines.com) Passengers on both sides of the airplane were able to see the view, and the pilot allowed everyone a few moments inside the cockpit. The online cost is $176.00 US.

We had a picture-perfect early morning flight. If Yeti feels the weather is  bad, the money will be refunded. That’s their call, not yours. Another consideration is that the windows on the plane are curved at the edges, creating a prism-like distortion, but it’s easy to avoid if the camera lens is zoomed out and you don’t shoot side-ways.

On another early morning, we drove to a high lookout above the Pokhara Valley to watch the sunrise at Annapurna and (lower but closer) Machhapuchhre.

These spectacular photos are going to have to hold me until I can return and get a little closer with a 14-day trek to Everest base camp.

Climb every mountain, ford every stream. Follow every rainbow, ’till you find your dream! (Sound of Music. Composer Richard Rodgers)

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