from Namche to Thyangboche
of the Khumbu
that got us there
It's too early for tourists but there are monkeys, and monkey shit, in abundance. This is, after all, Swayambhunath, the monkey temple, seated atop the big hill on the edge of Kathmandu. I'm feeling scattered and deeply psychotic from sleep deprivation and ravaged biorhythms, but the place is as I remember, calming. The rising sun just begins to illuminate the famous spire on top of the big stupa, the one with the eyes. A steady stream of faithful walk clockwise around the base, spinning the huge, heavy prayer wheels as they go. Strange music emanates from a small enclave full of chanting old men at the top of the stairs.
From the temple next to my bench, a maroon-clad monk steps out of the threshold with a gong about the size of a hubcap. He beats to a slow cadence for a minute or two, then retreats inside, where Lhakpa Rita, the sirdar, head Sherpa, and Dawa are. In a moment, Lhakpa appears. Frowning at me and my open laptop, he motions me to put it away and leads me by the sleeve into the temple. The sound of a Buddhist chant emanates from deeper inside. At the door of a small room, we kick off our shoes and enter. The air is so thick with the blue haze of incense I can hardly see the four long rows of monks two on either side, facing each other. Their chant is hypnotic, mesmerizing, neutral, steady and deeply affecting. I think my Sherpa companions are trying to save me from being too deeply immersed in the technological aspects of what we are trying to do here.
Later, we zoom down the long stairs to the bottom, where the taxi driver who brought us is still waiting. He laughs and shows us a new pair of shoes, which he bought with our previous fare. They look like bad knock-offs of little Italian loafers, like they'd maybe take a mile or two of hard use. But he's happy as we climb back inside the car. None of the door-handles work from the inside, and back at the hotel he charges us ten rupees more than he did for the trip out and drives away laughing.