changu narayan & return to kathmandu

Wednesday, January 23:  At the end of our 4 hour hike, we finally reach the ancient pilgrimage site of Changu Narayan in Kathmandu Valley.   All morning I have been wearing a new pair of hiking shoes that I haven’t quite broken in, and my feet are killing me!  I am happy to see Changu Narayan because it means I will be able to sit in the car for the drive back to Kathmandu.

We take a main street along the top of the ridge to the temple.  Souvenir shops are plentiful and colorful.

colorful souvenir shops along the street to Changu Narayan

colorful souvenir shops along the street to Changu Narayan

Changu Narayan is one of seven World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley; it’s been listed by UNESCO since 1979. This beautiful painted temple is where Lord Vishnu is worshiped by Hindus as Narayan and by Buddhists as Hari Hari Hari Vahan Lokeshwor.

The temple sits in a quiet square of rest houses and pilgrims’ shelters.  According to Lonely Planet Nepal, it is the valley’s oldest Vaishnava site, with a documented history going back to the 5th century A.D.   The temple is said to have been reconstructed in 1700.   The temple has some fine repousse work and carved painted struts supporting the roof.  Most of the statues in the courtyard are related to Lord Vishnu.

the temple of Changu Narayan

the temple of Changu Narayan

the incarnations of Vishnu on the struts to the temple

the incarnations of Vishnu on the struts to the temple

a smaller temple in the courtyard

my guide, Prakash Bhattarai of Gurka Encounters, in front of a smaller temple in the courtyard

incarnations of Vishnu

incarnations of Vishnu

The four entrances to Changu Narayan Temple are guarded by life-size pairs of animals such as lions, sarabhas, griffins and elephants on each side of the entrances.  The ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu and the other idols are carved in the struts supporting the roof.

griffins guard the entrances to the temple

griffins guard the entrances to the temple

closer up to the struts with the 10 incarnations of Vishnu

closer up to the struts with the 10 incarnations of Vishnu

the struts of Changu Narayan

the struts of Changu Narayan

We don’t stay very long at this temple, despite its beauty.   I’m tired and hungry and ready to return to Kathmandu for one more day of exploration.  My guide Prakesh, our driver Raju and I ride back through Bhaktapur and then through Kathmandu’s chaotic traffic mishmash of motorbikes, rickshaws, and honking trucks with flowers in their windshields.

Back at Kathmandu Guest House, I eat a late lunch of Egg Chow Mein, which I polish off in its entirety because I’m famished after that long hike from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan!  When I check into my room, though it’s a nice room with a balcony, I find it doesn’t have a bathtub.  I have been looking forward to a long hot soak, so I ask for a change of rooms.   I enjoy the hot bath, put on my pajamas and continue reading my novel, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.  I don’t get up again until I finish the book.   After, I get dressed to go out, but the novel’s disturbing story about a sociopath boy, Mark, and his murderous friend, Teddy Giles weighs heavy on me.

I head for dinner at New Orleans Cafe, where I sit next to a warm fire and drink an Everest Beer.  Because of eating that huge plate of Egg Chow Mein for a late lunch, I’m not very hungry, so I order a “small plate” of mashed potatoes.  The plate is actually huge and heaped with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy.  It’s delicious and filling, especially as, again, I eat every bite.

a warm fire at New Orleans Cafe

a warm fire at New Orleans Cafe

While enjoying my beer after demolishing my “small plate,” some live traditional music begins on stage and a stocky Indian guy named Jay Krishna, who is sitting at an adjacent table, asks if he can join me.  He’s wearing a red fleece jacket and a wool hat pulled down to his eyebrows.  A software engineer doing some work in Nepal, he returns to Bangalore tomorrow.

Everest Beer at New Orleans Cafe

Everest Beer at New Orleans Cafe

Even though he’s Hindu, he believes in Jesus too, especially based on arguments in a book he highly recommends,  Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahanoa Yogananda.  We talk and talk, and he tells me I should buy this book tomorrow in the bookstore across the street.  When he tells me he’s from Bangalore,  I tell him about my trip to India and about the small-framed 25-old-Indian guy Tao, who I met on Facebook, and who took the train all the way from Bangalore to Delhi to meet me.  I laugh and say I couldn’t understand why a guy that young and small could have been attracted to me.  Jay says, “Why not?  I find you attractive.”  I thank him and change the subject.

warmth

warmth

He buys himself a beer but says he can’t buy me one; I tell him I can’t buy him one either.  As I prepare to leave, he tells me he’d like to spend more time with me, but as he’s leaving Kathmandu tomorrow and I’m leaving on Friday morning, and as I’m incredibly tired, I say I don’t really have the energy.  I say goodnight and head back to Kathmandu Guest House, where, exhausted, I fall asleep.

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a hike from nagarkot to changu narayan

Wednesday, January 23:  After breakfast and a shower at Hotel View Point, I meet my guide for the day, Prakash Bhattarai of Gurka Encounters.  We begin our hike from Nagarkot, at 1950 meters, at 9 a.m.

Beginning our hike: terraced hills

Beginning our hike: terraced hills

"God is at home.  It's we who have gone out for a walk." ~ Meister Eckhart

“God is at home. It’s we who have gone out for a walk.” ~ Meister Eckhart

Nepali schoolchildren

Nepali schoolchildren

We first walk downhill for a couple of hours to Tellkot, passing terraces planted with mustard and wheat.  Some terraces are simply brown dirt where farmers will plant potatoes and millet in the warmer seasons.

terraces

terraces

terraces and the Himalayas

terraces and the Himalayas

more terraced hills

more terraced hills

terraces & greenhouses

terraces & greenhouses

At some points along the route, we can see views of the Himalayas, snow-capped like some apparition, with the terraced Central Hills in the foreground.  There is a bit of haze in the air, so the view isn’t perfect, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

view of the Himalayas

view of the Himalayas

the snow-capped Himalayas

the snow-capped Himalayas

the Himalayas rise like an apparition over the Central Hills

the Himalayas rise like an apparition over the Central Hills

We walk through the front yards of colorful painted houses with Nepalis squatting on their front stoops, doors open, cleanly swept dirt floors inside.  These homes seem surprisingly tidy, swept clean both inside and out.  Goats and cows are tied to posts, dogs are barking, and chickens and roosters are crowing.  The air is crisp and cool — a perfect day for hiking.

goats and washline

goats and clothes on the wash line

livestock, terraces and the Himalayas

livestock, terraces and the Himalayas

goats & mountains

goats & mountains

"The home should be the treasure chest of living." ~ Le Corbusier

“The home should be the treasure chest of living.” ~ Le Corbusier

cock-a-doodle-doo!

cock-a-doodle-doo!

farmyard animals

farmyard animals

"Home is where the heart is." ~ Pliny the Elder

“Home is where the heart is.” ~ Pliny the Elder

better homes & gardens

better homes & gardens

I have a small pack, the size of a purse, and a larger backpack holding my overnight stuff.  Lucky for me, Prakash offers to carry it for me through the whole hike.  I should have insisted on carrying it myself; if I ever want to do the Camino de Santiago, I’m going to have to get used to carrying my own stuff!  Admittedly, it’s quite pleasant for me not to have to carry my pack.  🙂  I determine to tip him well for his hard work, which I do when we return to Kathmandu.

the Central Hills and Himalayas of Nepal

the Central Hills and Himalayas of Nepal

hills & mountains

hills & mountains

It’s lovely walking in companionable silence with Prakesh.   I so enjoy a walk out in nature without having someone constantly chattering.  We pass one small Hindu temple that seems quite off the beaten track.

a little Hindu temple in the hills

a little Hindu temple in the hills

haystacks and hills

haystacks and hills

hill country

hill country

more terraces

more terraces

"Be grateful for the home you have, knowing at this moment, all you have is all you need." ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Be grateful for the home you have, knowing at this moment, all you have is all you need.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

At the end of our hike, around 1:00, we can see Changu Narayan, an ancient temple complex, perched on a 1541 meter ridge ahead of us.  Our destination is in sight!  Prakash tells me we’ve walked about 15 km, although Rough Guide to Nepal says this hike, all the way to Bhaktapur, is about 10 km.

me with my destination, Changu Narayan, on the hilltop behind

me with my destination, Changu Narayan, on the hilltop behind

Changu Narayan on the hilltop ahead

Changu Narayan on the hilltop ahead

fields of mustard with Changu Narayan on the hill in the background

fields of mustard with Changu Narayan on the hill in the background

my last views of Kathmandu Valley before we get to the temple

my last views of Kathmandu Valley before we get to the temple

This was one of my favorite days in Nepal, close on the heels of my lovely lake walk in Pokhara.

More on Changu Narayan to follow….