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Report from EBC Trek: Great Food and Culture in Kathmandu

Hel­lo to every­one from the con­trolled chaos of Kath­man­du, Nepal!

Our team has all arrived for the Moun­tain Mad­ness April-May Ever­est Base Camp Trek. Shak­ing off the jet­lag after a series of flights finds us well, excit­ed, and hap­py to be here on this adven­ture. I have already heard that this is the trip of a life­time and major buck­et list goal from many par­tic­i­pants, and the enthu­si­asm is con­ta­gious. We have a great group and an amaz­ing head leader. Deana Zabal­do is akin to a PhD in Nepalese cul­ture cou­pled with the patience of a kinder­garten teacher.

Deana with school chil­dren from the Nepalese orphan­age she start­ed. Stew­art Wolfe photo

Last night we had a team ori­en­ta­tion to go over the logis­tics of the trek, briefly intro­duce our­selves, and share why we came on this adven­ture. After all ques­tions and con­cerns were answered we head­ed out to team din­ner at a local restau­rant that is a favorite of Deana’s. We sam­pled some deli­cious tra­di­tion­al Newari food fea­tur­ing smashed rice, fish, beans, veg­eta­bles, and mush­room gravy. That was just the first course! We then had a main course of dal bhat, which is rice, veg­eta­bles, lentils, chick­en cur­ry, and pota­toes. Quite an intro­duc­tion to the cul­ture of Nepal through my favorite com­po­nent — the belly.

Today we ate a con­ti­nen­tal break­fast at our lux­u­ri­ous hotel, the Yak and Yeti, before head­ing out on a city tour to vis­it ancient Hin­du and Bud­dhist tem­ples. Because we are a group of 21 we split into two groups with Dean­na in one van and me in the oth­er, as well as two local tour guides to bet­ter give us insight on the intri­ca­cies of the reli­gion and culture.

Win­dows in mon­u­ments at Pashu­pati­nath. Stew­art Wolfe photo

Our first stop was Pashu­pati­nath Tem­ple. This is the most impor­tant tem­ple in Nepal ded­i­cat­ed to the Hin­du god Shi­va in Kath­man­du, locat­ed on the Bag­mati Riv­er which flows from the Himalaya all the way to the Ganges Riv­er in India. It is also a sacred place for cre­ma­tion funer­als, which we wit­nessed. Many of our mem­bers com­ment­ed how this mind blow­ing expe­ri­ence real­ly put things into per­spec­tive. We were also able to meet some local Sad­hus, wan­der­ing ascetic yogis who are try­ing to acquire lib­er­a­tion from the cycle of life and death by meditating.

Sad­hu Yogi. Stew­art Wolfe photo

Then we went to the Great Boud­ha Stu­pa (Boud­hanath), list­ed as a world her­itage site by UNESCO in 1979. This spec­tac­u­lar dome was built in the 5th cen­tu­ry AD and dom­i­nat­ed the sky­line of Kath­man­du. There are numer­ous monas­ter­ies with­in this small sacred city with­in a city. We also had the good for­tune to meet a group of school chil­dren from the Nepalese orphan­age Deana start­ed, as they were in Kath­man­du for a few days.

MM trav­el­er Chris­tine receiv­ing a bless­ing from a Bud­dhist monk at Boud­hanath. Stew­art Wolfe photo

We stopped for lunch at a rooftop restau­rant with­in Boud­hanath, with a view of this awe­some mon­u­ment of Bud­dhism. For appe­tiz­ers we enjoyed momos (local dumplings filled with chick­en or veg­eta­bles and a spicy dip­ping sauce), pako­ras, and chili paneer. Main cours­es ranged from tra­di­tion­al dal bhat to spaghet­ti depend­ing on each member’s mood.

Boud­hanath. Stew­art Wolfe photo

After lunch half the team returned to the hotel, while the deter­mined went off to see the Mon­key Tem­ple (Swayamb­hu­nath). As you can imag­ine from the name, there are mon­keys walk­ing, screech­ing, and jump­ing all over this reli­gious nexus of Hin­duism and Bud­dhism. There is a stu­pa, vari­ety of shrines, and monas­ter­ies occu­py­ing this large hill. Every­one was blown away by the amount of ancient cul­tur­al sig­nif­i­cance this holy com­plex holds. I have vis­it­ed these sites many times, but each time I am still amazed like it is my first experience.

Tomor­row we will meet at 5 a.m. to head for the hills. I will check in when we are in Phakd­ing to describe the next leg of this adven­ture. Until then, the Mad­ness con­tin­ues in Nepal as we pack our bags and get ready to begin the trek to our main objec­tive: the base of the tallest moun­tain on the planet.

~MM Leader Stew­art Wolfe