Saturday 29th August: Cycling
We hired bicycles and set off for Patan. The first part of our journey took us onto the Kathmandu ring road, a wide and relatively well surfaced road. There was little traffic; our journey was leisurely and the surroundings remarkably tranquil after the hustle and bustle of the city. Hard to believe this was only a few Kilometers from the centre of Kathmandu.
Cycling from Kathmandu to Patan
We attracted the interest of children who stopped to watch us pass; we talked to locals and tried to photograph the scenery which in the distance hinted at the mountain peaks for which Nepal is famous. Maybe Jane and Ben did better than I. My standard 50mm lens didn't do justice to the distant hills and, despite the bright sunlight, on a day when the ubiquitous umbrellas became parasols, my cheap 2x converter did better at filtering out the light than magnifying the scenes, so sorry, no photographs of cloud covered peaks or wide panoramas.
Talking to locals
After turning off the ring road we passed through a number of small villages. In one village square an old man was at pains to point out the erotic carvings around the eaves of a central, prominent building. He clearly wanted me to photograph it, so I pretended I had, but I didn't. The under side of the eaves was in shadow and without benefit of a telephoto lens the detail in my view finder was unclear. But I was glad he drew my attention to the detail. The slow pace of the country side had not yet slowed me down sufficiently and I was speeding from one spot to the next as though in some sort of race. Go every where; see nothing! But one thing I noticed was the "greenness". The farmed fields were so green and the roofs of the small houses so steep. Was this indicative of heavy rain or snow? I really should find out more about the climate.
Patan is a smaller and, in my opinion, less exciting then Kathmandu, but thanks to the man in the village I did see the intricate carvings under the eaves of some of the buildings.
Jane and I explored the town while Ben sat sketching. Once again I cursed the person who recommended I bring 25ASA film as it was too slow. Nearly all the interesting activity was taking place in the shadows of door ways or down narrow ally ways. I developed a very steady hand for slow shutter speeds but needed to chose my subjects carefully.
Ben had found a rug he liked for Rs1000/- and had committed his and Jane's money. The rug would be ready to collect at 4:30 that afternoon. By now I'd seen as much of Patan as I wanted to and so after an early lunch I cycled off alone. I didn't really have a plan. I headed back to the ring road, passed the airport and through a number of small villages all similar to those we had seen this morning. I looked at the map and decided to go to the Pashupatinath Temple, mainly to give my ride a destination.
According to the guide book it is the Golden Temple of Nepal, presumably because of the golden roof. When I arrived I wasn't allowed in, only Hindus could enter, or so I was told. Nevertheless the visit was not wasted. There was a pleasant walk and from the opposite bank of the Bagmati river I could see a clear view of the golden temple roof.
Pashupatinath Temple is dedicated to Shiva and is considered the most holy Hindu shrine in Nepal. The Bagmati river, like the Ganges in India, is considered a sacred river and many Hindus travel here to die and be cremated as they believe it will release them from the cycle of death and rebirth.
While I watched there was, what appeared to me, a religious ceremony being conducted and along the river there were two cremation ghats.
Cremation Ghat on R. Bagmati
Unfortunately for me the relaxing walk up the hill and through the trees on the banks of the river was spoiled by a "pest" who persisted in providing his services as my personal, uninvited guide. He wanted to tell me more about the temple and where I should go, but I didn't like the approach and preferred to miss things rather than be tied to a guide who would then, no doubt, demand payment. I found this type of attention somewhat intimidating.
After a while of assiduously ignoring him, I thought he's given up and gone away to find a more willing customer but then he reappeared and told me he wanted me to be his good friend. I asked him to leave me alone but five minutes later he reappeared again about 50 metres away, shouting at me and making gestures of a sexual nature! I walked away and left the environs of the temple.
I headed for the water gardens several kilometers away, passing the Royal Palace and onto a very busy main road. Due to an error in my navigation I went closer into the city centre than I intended and it was a work of art avoiding the pedestrians, cows, rickshaws and cars all moving in what appeared to be random, or at least erratic, motion. The water gardens were disappointing but the swimming pool looked good. I cycled back into town, bought bread for an afternoon snack and returned the bicycle.
For evening meal I splashed out Rs 50/- for an Indian chicken dish, desert and coffee in a very posh restaurant suggested by Jane. She and Ben couldn't afford it as Ben had spent their money on a rug and so they dined elsewhere.