Monday 20 March

(magnify) Pashupatinath

I’m rudely brought back to the real world by the telephone wake-up call at 8 am.

After breakfast, we drive to Pashupatinath, the most important Hindu temple in Kathmandu. As we step off the bus we are besieged by hawkers. “Looking is free!” they assure us, brandishing mandalas and other trinkets. Scraggy monkeys lurk nearby, hoping for food scraps.

The temple area doesn’t seem to be busy today. There are a few Hindu worshippers on the other side of the river in the temple and we can hear the faint sounds of music drifting across. A young man with long black hair and beard and wearing nothing but a red loincloth does his ritual washing in the Bagmati River.

(magnify) Ritual bather
(magnify) Photo-me Sadhus

Two colourful sadhus are sitting in front of a shrine nearby. I expect to pay around ten rupees for a photograph of them, so I’m rather taken aback when a third man appears and tells me that they want a hundred. I politely decline and move on. I do get my photograph in the end though, after they follow me up the hill and agree to be photographed for ten rupees after all.

(magnify) Boudanath

There are no funerals in progress yet today, so we move on to Boudhanath, a Buddhist stupa in the Tibetan quarter on the outskirts of the city. Even as the bus pulls up at the kerbside, there is no obvious sign of it from the street, but turning into the square’s entrance we are abruptly presented with the full grandeur of the stupa, the largest in Nepal. Lines of prayer flags radiate in graceful arcs from the central column high above the colossal dome.

(magnify) Monk drummer

There are three teams at work renovating the stupa as we visit. A gang of women are busily chipping away at the old surface coating with hand picks on one side. Further round is a gang of men spreading a new red clay-like surface, and further around still is a second gang of women tamping it down with small hand-held blocks, some with considerably less industry than others.

The main monastery seems to be closed, but from a small room immediately below the stupa comes the sound of chanting, cymbals, and an occasional trumpet blast of slightly indeterminate pitch.

Around the outside of the square are ranged many souvenir shops, picture galleries, and record shops. From the latter can be heard playing in cannon with one another the haunting strains of the already too-familiar “Om mani pad me hum” tune (Tibetan Incantations – excerpt). As I watch, an elderly monk in a deep red robe and large black-rimmed glasses walks slowly clockwise around the circumference of the stupa, walking stick in his left hand, and spinning the prayer wheels with his right hand.

(magnify) Thangka painter

We are invited into one of the shops where upstairs there are three boys painting thangkas, highly detailed paintings made on a cotton canvas. Some depict figures and animals, and others are purely geometric. While it is obviously a sales pitch, it is also fascinating to see the precision and patient care with which these images are created.

Angry Shiva – slightly less irritable today

We drive back to Thamel and eat lunch in the Third Eye restaurant. Afterwards I walk back towards Durbar Square with Terry. I’m certain that they have moved things around since my last visit, but we do eventually find the rather disturbing ‘Angry Shiva’ shrine. Actually, today he looks a bit more like a slightly mad uncle – the paint has been redone and his eyes have a bit less pop than I remember.

Some kind of cultural show is underway in the square. A tent with a stage in front and PA system, singing and dancing punctuated by long announcements. Very loud. We climb one of the temples and watch from a safe height.

Dan has booked a table at Rum Doodles for dinner and we have clubbed together to buy the book after which the restaurant is named for John’s birthday – 60 today.

I manage to locate one other KE Adventure yeti footprint on the ceiling not far from our table, but fail the challenge to spot one with Dan’s name on it.