Monday, October 4, 2010
Once outside we are greeted with leis and our gear piled haphazardly on the mini-bus roof. I'm bundled into the front seat with some expectation of poviding a commentary, but none is needed, for most people are gawping at the scenes outside. The traffic seems like chaos; there is no giving way, near misses are everywhere and traffic on our two lane road spreads into 3 lanes one way with a sliver of a route the other. It's inefficent, noisy and chaotic. There is as rubbish everywhere, the air is thick with smog and half the buildings look unfinished. We take a series of shortcuts down narrow lanes that should be but aren't one-way, to get to our hotel which as always feels like a haven.
After an early dinner in an Indian restaurant and most of us are asleep by 8pm. It's been a 31 hour day crossing timezones with very little sleep on the plane.
Breakfast this morning was as 6:15 as we sought to avoid the worst traffic and tour the classic temples. Our guide provides a few statistics to explain the scenes. Electricity capacity is less than half needs so power is off for 5-8 hours a day. By comparison water is only on 2 hours a day. Sewage systems and rubbish collection seem more imagined than effective. Despite this the cost of housing is more than Invercargill.
The temples as always, provide more food for thought. Richly decorated Buddhist temples with chanting monks are quiet and soothing, while outside beggars with missing fingers and mothers with young children seek alms. The monkeys look cute wiith their young clinging to their breasts, but we see young novice monks running in fear of other aggressive ones. The cremation ghats at the Hindu temples are burning, while kids swim in the river scavenging coins and charred firewood from early cremations. Sadhus look leeringly on and funeral parties go about their mourning.
This afternoon everyone is wandering around Thamel, enjoying the shopping and excellent range of food. We leave for our trek at 6am tommorow. Everyone is in good spirits and health.