Monday, June 21, 2010

Morning Prayers

Modern sleeping sacks are very constricting. It is impossible to roll over without taking the whole sack with you. When I crawled into my sleeping bag, I was fairly toasty and ready for sleep. A few hours later, I realized I was not sleeping well at all. My feet were very cold. It is also true that it can be very difficult to sleep at high altitudes if you are not acclimated and we were high enough that I could have been suffering a little altitude sickness. In any case, I was wide awake by the time Belief and Atit came politely rapping at our chamber door. It was still quite dark outside, even though I think that they let us sleep in, until at least 5 am.

I was eager to get back into the warm bath, so I jumped up and pulled on my swimming suit hastily. It was a most remarkable coincidence that I had a suit with me at all. The day before I packed for Nepal, a friend had sent me a box of books to donate to the children at the village school. She included pencils and stickers, which came in very handy, and surprisingly, she sent me a new swimming suit that she had bought in the wrong size for herself. I would normally never pack a swimming suit for Nepal. Pools are hard to come by and I am suspicious of the water quality. But the suit was there in my hand, and so I threw it into the case. I had no idea that the my adopted family would be taking me on a trip up to the hot springs at Tatopani.

Tania needed a little extra time for her morning ablutions, so the boys and I went ahead of her to the baths. As we approached, I heard the deep, sonorous harmonies of "Om mani padme hum." At the far side of the tub, beneath the spigots, were three monks each with a sacred white head covering. They chanted all the while as we disrobed, the boys stripping to their underwear. I was a little concerned that my feminine flesh would be disturbing to the monks but the boys didn't appear to have any reservations. Tania followed the chants and soon found her way to the tubs well. She peeled down to a bikini and entered the water as discreetly as possible. We stayed very quiet so as not to disturb the morning meditation. I settled in on the right side of the tub and watched enraptured as the sun, rising in concert with the melodic chants, began to lighten the sky behind the mountain peaks. As our surroundings brightened, to my amazement, I watched the monks transform completely. It was soon clear that these were not men at all but women with very deep voices. Nuns, perhaps, I thought. A few moments later I could see that the sacramental vestiments they wore on their heads were actually white plastic bags meant to keep their hair from getting wet.  Sacred and holy all the same, but still a very good reminder that events are not always as they appear, especially across cultures.

The View from the hot springs

Looking at the View
I'm sitting outside our guest house in the early morning after our bath.  We are having milk tea and waiting for breakfast.  Here you see me writing the Lyrics to 'A Froggy Went a Courtin,' for JR to teach his students.

Our gear is packed and ready for the hike back down.  Tania and JR are standing in front of the kitchen building.

This is what it looks like inside the kitchen.  Actually it was very dark inside, but my camera has illuminated the view for you.

Goodbye, Tatopani.  Goodbye, Spectacular View.  I hope I will come this way again someday.


  1. Your writing is so captivating, I am so glad you are so generous with words so we can really get a good feel for what it was like. I could feel the early morning air and even hear the chanting (which gives me chills). And the incredible views. oh my. I can really see why you return here Jennifer. I hope I can go someday.
    Thank you for sharing more of your trip.

  2. I like the comment about not assuming you know what you see. Interesting and fascinating to be taking such a trip, adjusting physically and mentally to so many strange sensations.

  3. Wonderful post. I really feel like I'm there with you. That's the best kind of writing.

  4. I have a whole shelf of books written by travel authors. Your shared experience could fit right in with the best. What an amazing adventure. Fun that what you thought were a group of monks turned out to be ladies with plastic bags over their hair.

  5. How intriguing. Things are so often not what they appear to be - or what we assume them to be.

    What a way and what a place to greet the dawn!!

  6. I wanted to mention that my suit, my hair and my fingernails were temporarily dyed red from the minerals in the hot springs.

  7. I look at some of these you sitting outside or the kitchen and I imagine what it would be like. I mean, yes it is majestic and beautiful, but a part of me could get into this and think it would be so cool! Thanks for a peek at your amazing adventure-