Friday, September 4, 2009

The Streets of Kathmandu

Kathmandu City Street Scene

I'm on the back of the bike on the right. My friends are Western women and Nepalese men.

If you were in Gainesville, Florida and you jumped on your magic bicycle, which could ride across the water, and you rode straight east or west until you came to the spot precisely halfway around the world, you would be in a country called Nepal, very near the city of Kathmandu.

You would be greeted with great white smiles beaming from light-brown people. Some of them would look a bit Chinese others would look Indian. They would invite you into their shops and offer you a hot glass of milk tea. Then they would ask you if you would like to buy a mask of Hanuman, the monkey king, or a statue of Ganesha, the god with the head of an elephant. Perhaps a shaman's ritual dagger or a Gurkha soldier’s knife would be more to your liking?

Everywhere that you would go you would smell burning incense. Dust, dirt, smoke and exhaust fumes would be swirling around you turning your hair shades of gray and your face black with dirt.
Shrines and temples would be all around you, and the ancient homes so ornate with carvings that you could not be certain whether they were dwellings for people or for spirits of a time long past.

No longer able to ride
down the narrow rocky streets, you would push your bike past fruit and vegetable vendors, cows, salesmen, and goats, as hundreds of people would crowd around you trying to get past you and your bike. They would be ringing the bells on their own bikes and beeping their car horns very near your ear and then they would pass you. And you might think to yourself, "That car passed me and it was only half an inch from my handle bar!"

When you looked over to your right, you would see that you had almost knocked into a butcher as you were jumping out of the way of the car. Staring vacantly up at you from the butcher’s outdoor table would be a bloody goat’s head. Its body cut into legs and ribs and other sellable quantities. Flies would be buzzing around around it and dogs nearby would be hoping for a scrap to fall off the table and into their mouths. Other goats, in the process of being butchered, would be on the ground in an alley around the corner.

The movement and noise of the people would be constant, like the ebb and flow of the ocean. Behind you, barely audible, a boy would whisper "Hashish? Change money?" You would put your head down, and walk a little faster. Someone else begins to follow you. "Your shoe is broken!" he says. He follows you for blocks while you are still walking at a determined pace. Thinking that you have escaped you turn a corner to find that you are surrounded by open palms... a woman with an infant, a crippled Sadhu on the ground, a child with his drawing for sale.

And you would have to decide, shall I stay and explore this foreign land or shall I get back on my bike and pedal home as fast as I can. And then you would lift your head, and look up above the crowd, and find and opening between the temples. There you would see a golden light illuminating the most enormous white capped mountain range you had ever seen in your life. You would pause to fix the beauty of that moment permanently in your mind. T
he mystery of what could be waiting for you just around the next corner would compel you stay a little longer.


  1. If this looks familiar, it is because I published it before but had to remove it. I have amended it and posted it again.

  2. Thanks for the magic and the huzzle and buzzle of Nepal. Great post

  3. Butternut:

    Your words convey the magic, mystery and allure of Nepal. It must feel as if you have really entered another time and space. I do hope we get to hear more about your journey.

  4. hi butternut, what an amazing word painting! i walked beside you, feeling the bliss, the anxiety, the discomfort, the surprise. my dad loved kathmandu although he said there were too many "washed up old hippies" there for his liking!!! thankyou for this! have a peaceful day. steven

  5. Oh Butternut, I would just love to explore the world with you...or at least Nepal! It's wonderful to see the beauty within the confusion as you do. Beautiful expressive and detailed writing style. I want to see the spiritual mountain breaking through all of the confused tension that can sometimes surround us in life. Lovely post-have a beautiful week <3

  6. Fabulous post!
    I hadn't read it before so it was a treat!

  7. Your writing is fascinating and a joy to read. I have seen similar scenes in Peru. Our world is too big to see in one life. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  8. wow I am glad you posted it again 'cause this is my first time to read it! magical!

  9. Oh I would if I could.

    What a fantastic post. Your words took me right there with you.

    For all the money we've spent on Drs. so far (and what we owe) I could have gone with you. Thank you for asking about me.

    Hopefully your getting comfortable in your new home. I meant to ask you are you ever going to do a bead show out here? There is a big one in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Santa Barbara...

  10. This is definitely a my kind of blog and a blogger who knows how to travel.. I love your blog. Nepal was my very first destination in Asia years ago.. Great memories..

  11. Your post was just as magical as that light. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  12. Thanks for sharing this post. Kathmandu is a best place for family trip. Holy waters of the River Bagmati river can take you in the cuffs of epidemic diseases. In River Bagmati all the the waste material has transformed. lack of maintenance wastewater treatment plant was not even work. Dangerous chemicals and waste water in the rivers due to which the river water is not even use for water and for other activities. For more details refer Kathmandu

  13. I wanted to comment on Ricky Peterson's comment. He is absolutely, correct. As beautiful as Nepal is, it is seriously lacking in basic infrastructure. The water is indeed dangerous. I have become quite ill several times from accidentally ingesting tiny amounts of the tainted water. When we took our 6 month old, with us to Nepal, we bathed him in bottled water. Nepalese children die every year from diarrhea caused by ingesting tainted water.