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Swayambunath Temple, in Kathmandu, Nepal, is one of the most important sites in this ancient city. It is known as the “Monkey Temple” because of the large number of (mean spirited) monkeys that have all but taken over this complex (and are said to be “holy monkeys”).
Swayambhunath is an ancient complex atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley. Most approach it via a long uphill climb of 365 steps (one for each day of the year), past thousands of Buddhist prayer flags that set the atmosphere for the complex ahead. Each morning before dawn hundreds of Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims ascend these steps and begin a clockwise walk around the stupa at the center of this ancient site.
The Swayambhunath complex dates to …
I’ve had some gut-wrenching plane landings (and take-offs) in my days. The first as a young medical student flying with a bush pilot to remote First Nation (American Indian) villages in Western Ontario. The plane was outfitted with large skis so that it could land and take off from frozen lakes or rivers. Unfortunately we were traveling at the time of the spring thaw and the ice was starting to melt. Landing on the puddle dotted ice was bad enough, but the feeling of the plane trying to accelerate as it kept dropping down and breaking into the soft ice still gives me nightmares as I thought we were done for (thought the pilot wasn’t phased in any way and …
There are many memorable moments when one treks in the Khumbu. From flowering rhododendron bushes, to mountains that seem to stretch to the stars, to glaciers cracking and calving and feeding rushing rivers and streams. But perhaps even more fascinating than the dramatic landscapes are the Sherpa people who reside here. Living in a harsh and rugged land their lives are filled with hard work and few pleasures. But they are happy and cheerful people, grateful for small acts of kindness and happy to engage with you as best they can given language difficulties.
I was especially struck by the deep Buddhist faith of these folks, a trait shared with their neighboring Tibetan brethern, which you’ll see manifest as colorful strings …
Much more than any place I’ve ever visited, the Himalaya are a landscape more vertical than horizontal. The mountains in the Khumbu are towering masses that because of their altitude are always covered in snow. The valleys are steep and narrow, completely impractical for roads. The only way for people to get in or out is on foot over steep terrain; all goods are either carried by porters or beasts of burden walking the same paths (there are a few places helicopters can land but this is extremely expensive and somewhat dangerous). Just a few suspension bridges (all built by Sir Edmund Hillary’s Himalayan Trust) provide access across the roaring rivers to the other side of …
The Sherpa people live in one of the harshest regions on the planet, the Khumbu. Their world is one of majestic steep mountains (the highest anywhere), roaring rivers, glaciers, steep trails and yaks. There are no roads, no airports, not even a swimming pool. They are poor and have little; still, they are among the happiest and friendliest people I’ve had the privilege of meeting. The Sherpa are best know for their excellence in mountaineering. From Sir Edmund Hillary on they have guided and staffed expeditions to the many tall peaks in the region, especially Mount Everest.
We had camped overnight near the village of Kumjung, close to Namche Bazaar and not far from Mount Everest. It …