EBC Day 03 - Boudhanath & Pashupatinath
Although this part of the route was much shorter (1.78km) than the one I had just done, it did take longer to complete. This was both due to several narrow alleys that I had to cycle through that were packed with college students in uniform at certain points, since there are several schools and colleges in the immediate vicinity; as well as having to pass through the Ring Road. The Ring Road was a cacophony like no other! It is a 4-lane two directional major road that circles around Kathmandu and connects a lot of major sites around the Kathmandu valley such as the airport and Swayambhunath, that is jam packed rim-to-rim with cars, trucks and buses with motorbikes trying their best to squeeze and weasel themselves into whatever gaps they could find.
I must have looked strange and out of place as everyone stared at me as I tried to navigate through the chaos, reminding me of the way the Cambodians looked at me when I was cycling around the Angkor Wat Complex in Siem Reap several years ago. Other foreigners didn't seem to venture this far out, especially on a bicycle, and were more inclined to travel around via taxis or vans that were included in their tour packages. Just after Ring Road however, I entered the village of Deopatan where the streets very quickly turned into narrow alleys. I found myself cycling down a steep hill that brought me right to the entrance of Pashupatinath.
Directions to Pashupatinath Temple
After paying the entrance fee for Pashupatinath (Nepali : श्री पशुपतिनाथ मन्दिर) which cost NPR500, the touts descended upon me quickly, trying to get me to hire them as a guide. After wasting several minutes trying to convince them that I did not want nor need a guide, they shambled away with perplexed looks. I then went to a quiet corner (as quiet as it would ever get at a place as busy as this) and took out my Kindle to bring up a map of the temple.
Pashupatinath Temple is one of seven monuments that make up the UNESCO Heritage Site of Kathmandu Valley. The temple lies in the center of an open courtyard in the middle of the small town of Deopatan. It is a two-tiered pagoda temple that has been built on a single-tier plinth and only stands about 24m high. What is interesting however is the complex in its entirety and the many temples and shrines that are scattered about the extensive Pashupatinath grounds.The cremation ghats that line the banks of the Bagmati river were very intriguing. The ghats themselves are basically steps that descend down into the river with elevated platforms at various intervals where the open air cremations take place daily. There were several cremations that were ongoing when I arrived and the heavy smoke permeated the air and enveloped the balcony where I was observing the rituals from. The thought that the smoke was from a dead body was somewhat disconcerting, although not to the point where it would cause me to retreat as it did with so many of the others that were watching.
One thing that struck me after a while was how calm all the relatives and close friends of the deceased were but then it dawned on me that their belief incould very well be the reason why they were so calm, almost to the point of appearing devoid of feelings. Despite this, there was still a heavy grim feeling that hung in the air.
After a while I decided to cross the bridge to walk along the river that lead due south. As I walked along the river I tried to look for children that the books had described that fish for coins but the only people that I saw in the water were three men who seemed to be dragging logs out of the river. I couldn't discern exactly what this was for and I doubted that it was to keep the river clean as the river was polluted with so much waste and pollution that I found it hard to fathom how they could step into the water at all! The men did seem to get agitated whenever someone tried to take their picture but then again I wouldn't blame them as what they were doing could come across as ignoble to some.Lining the river were plenty of both children, that were running around playing, and Sadhus, who are renunciates who had chosen to live apart from society in temples or caves. The difference between the two after taking their picture was that the former tried to engage in conversation and asked for sweets whereas the latter just held out his hand expecting you to give him some money. I didn't like the idea at first but took so many photographs of Sandus that I ended up spending NPR50 x8.
Whilst walking, I jumped from one tourist group to another listening in to see (or rather hear) if I could glean any useful information from what the tour guides were saying. I didn't end up learning much as most of what I had overheard had already been covered in the guidebooks on my Kindle Paperwhite.
After turning around, I decided to head back to the bridge that I had originally crossed. Upon reaching it, I instead veered east and made my way up the steps towards the Votive shrines known as the Pandra Shivalaya complex. By then the sun that had come out in all its glory and the unsheltered steps leading uphill had left me completely parched. Fortunately I stumbled upon a strategically placed store selling refreshments shortly after and so ended up spending NPR140 on drinks.
The steps leading up the hill were swarming with long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) getting into all sorts of mischief. After passing through Gorakhnath Temple, the steps lead up to a viewpoint up on the hill before heading straight back down to the Bagmati river where it flows west just before turning southward.
Following the path brought me along the river that lead back towards the main entrance of Pashupatinath where I had chained the mountain bike. As I was walking, I noticed that across the river was a very large bamboo swing that was easily 6 meters tall. A fairly large crowd had gathered below the swing where I presumed others were waiting for their turn.