I bought a surfboard many years ago, with the intention to take to the ocean and learn to surf. That year, I had done a lot of swimming in the local pool and was truly fit and ready. But I never really got very far with this idea.
There was no work in the diary for this week, and since the weather is still warm and beautiful, I couldn’t think of a really good reason not to learn to surf. I booked myself into a tour to go to Seal Rocks – and what a great decision that was!
The beauty here is that there are so many beaches and one of them is always right for beginners. We are getting so much attention from our instructor, who also is the chef and recreational officer (movies after dinner in the communal tent).
I am sure I will not return to Sydney at the end of the week as a super surfer – but I will have played in the beautiful clean, warm water for a week, having learned to paddle towards giant waves, rather than ducking under them, understanding the interplay of all the ocean forces much better and being really tired and slightly fitter.
And I had my first encounter with bluebottle jellyfish. Oh no, they really do sting horribly. I had one trapped in my leg rope that was strapped around my ankle – fortunately I was in the shallows, and I could not get the rope off fast enough. The photo does not do the redness and agony any justice… all part and parcel of the experience…
The change from the calm atmosphere, beautiful surroundings and clean air in the monastery made Kathmandu look like a mad house. We had two nights booked in a modernish little hotel downtown, where I had my first coffee in weeks!
We arrived in Kathmandu at lunchtime and simply wandered through the old town, took a bit of a ‘guided tour’ for a reckommended walk in our guide book. We had changed so much! We had become confident in crossing the roads, navigating the narrow lanes packed with people, coped with the noise and the dust…! (Photos from that walk in the last post…).
On our last full day, we visited Patan, which appears to be more or less part of Kathmandu these days, as those old small independent city states have grown geographically and have become part of the ‘Kathmandu Valley’. We saw the main sites, the Durbar Square, old palace, old city, bazaar… again – it was devastating to see the earthqake damage.
In the evening we were taken out by our travel agents. We had a very fun evening in a very noisy restaurant with plenty of food and drink and dance.
We had no plans for our very last day, happy to let things just evolve – and evolve they did! We got picked up by one of the founding members of the travel agency to view the school he had founded. He is an extraordinary man boundless energy, vision, organisational talent and a huge heart!
Apart from learning so much about this incredible school, it was amazing to look out from the buildings rooftop and spot the local dairy farm (remember, we are in the CBD of Kathmandu!), kids playing, mothers showering their children with a garden hose…
After that private tour, he took us to his nearby home and we met his entire family! Parents, siblings, nieces… and had a wonderful long lunch and conversations. What a way to end these amazing three weeks!
We have been back now for 4 weeks. Whilst I do get carried away with worries and stresses that come with our insanely complex life style, in those moments I try to recall any of those wonderful experiences and imagine what the Buddha would advise me to do… and often I hear him say “this is merely a First World worry…”.
Today would be, IS, my mother’s birthday. She died nearly 20 years ago, six weeks after my father – it was an unimaginable tragedy. They were so young, late fifties and early sixties, when they both succumbed to terminal illnesses. My sadness, all our sadnesses were endless for their lost lives, their incompleted lives and it then seemed, this bottomless sadness was never ever going to end. But everybody who has lived through grief knows that humans get through tragedy somehow, receiving scars and bumps and burns. It becomes part of us, makes us who we are, it doesn’t go away.
Grief is an ever changing process. For so many years now, my grief is really all about me, my loss, my children’s loss, our family’s loss. All the love we have missed out on! All the moments of sharing successes or losses, when “you have to ring to tell mum/ granny”. My parents never lived to find out I had two more children…
Today is also a day of celebration, indeed a day I would desperately want to share with my parents and make that phone call!
It is exactly a year ago that I returned to my first career as theatrical tailor. Last January I made my first tailored coat in nearly 20 years, it was for the character of Jean Valjean for the Manila production of Les Miserables. Today I have finished the same coat, for the same character (different performer), but the Brazil production. This coincidence, finishing this coat on my personal ‘coat making coming out of hiatus anniversary’ and my mother’s birthday so makes me want to ring her and share one of the biggest mysteries of life: you win some, you lose some – we never know what happens next, you just don’t know how things will turn out. Be in the moment, spot opportunities, grab them with both hands, be always guides by your heart.
Happy Birthday, mum.
We sighed upon leaving Lumbini. Despite it’s deep significance in Buddhist terms, it was a dusty, grey and dirty place and the hotel we stayed in was a soulless establishment. The whole place was submerged in fog every morning, until way after lunch – so all inall, it was a confusing and eerie place.
On our way to Chitwan National Park we took a few wrong turns and only realised our errors as we drove through a “Welcome to India” arch! Oops, we took a u- turn quicksmart and continued on our way to Chitwan.
One of the most significant experiences for us in Chitwan, with our hotel right on the river, surrounded by greenery – was the realisation of how much we take GREEN and CLEAN for granted, how much we just feel entitled to have all this clean nature around us!
We did an elephant ride into the park and saw rhinos from very close, that was pretty amazing! (No photos).
Cheeky monkeys in trees (no photos).
We did a wonderful guided walk through a village adjacent to the park and were privileged to see how people live. These communities were supported by various international Aid projects that provided toilets and biogas in the individual homes.
We also had a private meditation lesson with a Tibetan senior monk. He taught in Tibetan and had an interpreter to translate into English. Again, I loved hovering in the kitchen to observe how our meals were prepared.
The drive to Tansen should have only taken 4 hours (80 km or so), but by now we were not surprised to arrive mid-afternoon… driving is simply very slow in Nepal, even along the major national routes! There are so many mountains to climb, trucks to get stuck behind, potholes to dodge, cows to evade…
I came across this small fabric factory, dark and dusty, and I thought it was a miracle how this beautiful traditional cloth can be produced here! The women sit on the dirt, and the looms are on the ground level. The daily wages are 120 rupees / $ 1.50.
After 3 nights we drove to Lumbini, Buddha’s birth place. The dive was very interesting. It got dryer, flatter and dustier the more we moved towards the Indian border. And poorer… the ‘shops’ got smaller, and the humpies more frequent.
Buddha’s actual birthplace is housed in the Maya Devi temple. We joined a long queue of mainly Tibetan folk in traditional dress, many were chanting prayers, others were conducting lively conversations on their mobiles! LOL?
We stayed in a very plain guesthouse near Pokhara, which eased us into the standard of tea houses on our trek. Yes, there was a power point in the bedroom, but the wifi was patchy and there was no heating in the building. Welcome to Nepal! We just went with the flow.
We started our trek, the Annapurna Panorama trek, in Nayapul. Very soon there were no more cars/ jeeps, just donkey trains and cows.
Stunning scenery. And after many hours of walking, we reached the guesthouse at Tikkedhunga. We all enjoyed the mountain food. I just loved plain garlic soup or boiled local veg or Dhal Bhat. The girls lived on pasta and more Western style foods.
Well, actually, we got to know our Sherpa a bit better, and our two porters! Whilst we are used to carry our own stuff on hikes here in Australia (tents, food AND water!), we did what people do here, and hired two porters. It felt awkward in the beginning, but then we just went with the flow and accepted the ways of this country and felt ok about the arrangement – we were providing vital cash for 3 families!
In the guest houses where we stopped for lunch, or where we stayed the night, we were served by the Sherpa and the porters, which didn’t sit well with us initially. Whilst we had beautiful conversations with them, in broken English, we never shared a meal. It’s just not done. Period.
At he evening of day 2 we reached Gorepani and stayed in a fairly large guesthouse. The super perk here was that there was a big fireplace in the communal lounge area and the OVEN PIPE went through our bedroom! Huzzah!