on this morning we departed from the comforts of thamel towards durbar square for the second time in two days. around durbar there are many small temples as well as a large palace housing a museum of past kings' cultural artifacts and the likes. i opted out and let daph take a stroll for both of us. the museum from what i heard had many rooms set up from the king's who had lived there with clothes, pictures, daily items, and other interesting artifacts. and, i can't forget the view from the palace tower that i sadly missed. no photos allowed. (daph elaborates: amazing rooftop view of the whole city, most of it built in red brick, forming a beautiful mosaic that is surrounded by green mountains). the monsoon hour was upon us and as i was attempting to draw one of the stupas a local nepali man sitting next to me peeked at my drawing. we began talking about his past history of mountaineering with the first american to climb k2, as well as his favorite denali climb in alaska. so, in thamel, every 8 out of 10 men between the ages of 14-40 are guides or travel agents. prem, to my enjoyment, did not want to sell me anything. i asked him about a suggested trek itinerary and he listed off 10 villages or so. here we got our first encouragement that it would be fine to trek with no guide, no porter, etc. after the rain slowed we walked our way to lunch near the "new road". indian chat accompanied with a masala dosa. one of our best meals to this point in nepal.
the next morning began early. a 345 wake up for departure at 4 to the indian embassy. according to a local legend the lines start forming at this time for the treasured entrance token. one of sixty available each day. upon my insistence daph stayed to get a few more hours while i took off, on a nice 8 minute jog with the help of a headlight. arriving at the embassy, before anyone else, by a full 90 minutes. luckily, the nepal armed police force guard in front of the british embassy and i began talking. he accompanied me the full 3 hours until daph arrived... following the quick stint at the embassy we eventually made it to the monkey temple, about an hour's walk. we climbed the steep stairs and found lots of activity of local women preparing offerings of incense and other colorful decorations. just on the other side of the temple we encountered the monkeys, much friendlier than the chinese ones. these guys ate hastily and worriedly from the big monkey's cookie stash. they all feared the big monkey, holding his baby monkey. in the end every monkey got enough to eat and we continued on our temple journey back to thamel.
the following morning we set off to patan, a city 3 km or so south from thamel. it essentilly blends with kathmandu, just separated by the river. we began walking and after just over an hour and several stops to see the soccer stadium, a knife purchase (instead of the one we abandoned before our flight), and paper store, we arrived in durbar square of patan, much nicer than that of kathmandu. here we explored the alleys emanating from the square and found delicious fresh donuts, small pastries, and a papaya we devoured on the steps of one of the stupas. we spent most of the rain time having a lassi on the rooftop above the square. our purchase of nepali ctc (milk) tea at a local shop in patan still awaits our brewing. we walked some of the way back and then negotiated a taxi fare for the rest of the way.
the next day was spent shopping and if you happen to answer the trivia correct you will have an idea of some of the things we bought.
next day we walked east of thamel to pashupati and arrived almost 2 hours later. the entrance to the complex and buildings where hindu ceremonies and cremations take place are closed to non-hindus so we peeked around as much as we could. daph decided to have a mango juice that was slightly less than sanitary. we continued our walk for another hour up and over the hill to bodnath, home to an important tibetan buddhist temple. upon entering the bodnath temple a monk took us by the hand and walked us in circles around the temple, he invited us to sit on the grass with him and repeat the mantra. we sat on the nice grass, closed our eyes, and breathed. daph helped the monk with the mantra. as we left the inner loop of the temple we began circumbabulating. this is supposedly to be done 3 times, spinning prayer wheels as you go. our circles were interrupted by a heavy and quick shower during which we had a brownie and coffee. by this time we had lost track of our circumbabulating, so about 5 rounds later we jumped in a taxi for thamel, our designated home for the week.
one more day was spent taking care of the indian visa permit and blog updating. i was in need of a rest so we chilled out and then did another quick round of shopping.
we were off to pokhara in a "tourist bus" which is slightly better than a local one, circa 1950s bus, chrome and tacky decorations abound. leaving kathmandu in the morning we were able to see the locals praying and doing their yoga on the immense greenish lawn near the royal palace, which we had previously passed in the middle of the day and had no idea what it was for. along the way the bus stopped several times for gas exchanges with other buses. one bus would hand us a bottle of gas or we would just siphon directly from the other bus. 7 hours later we arrived in pokhara without a hotel in mind. the hotel touts were all over us. one offered us a free cab ride if we would just look at his place. we got a good price for the room but had issues with ants in the room (bed) and a lone roach, as well as the hot water not working as guaranteed by the owner. we should of never ordered the food there, but it was too late. the next morning we moved across the street with not much better luck. hundreds of ants abound. we visited the annapurna conservation office for all the necessary fees and documentation. we entered ourselves in the trekking database in case we ran into trouble. we then took care of some loose ends before our trek, picked up the necessary provisions (granola bars, chocolate, candy) and packed our bags.