Sunday, July 16, 2006


In the spring of 1970 I went to Nepal with an old friend, the Danish photographer Torben Huss. We went by Varanasi where we spent a day, then by train to the Nepalese border. Here we were looking for a ride with a truck and were shown where to ask in a store. There was a flock outside; two Americans were complaining and whining: “You said you were going at ten. Now it is noon; when are you going?” - “Why don’t you keep to the agreement?” - “How long is it going to last?”
The rest of the flock was listening, and so were we. The drivers sat on the floor working on a tire and they didn’t even look up. Finally the Americans gave up and left, and the crowd dispersed. When we were the only ones left, we asked if they were going to Katmandu, and they said, yes, they were leaving soon, and, yes, we could get a ride.
It was a glorious ride; most of the way we sat on top of the drivers cap while the heavily loaded truck ground up the winding road through the shining mountains. We reached the top as the sun went down and passed the night on the ground next to the truck.
Next morning we arrived in Katmandu and Torben, who had been there in the early sixties, just after Nepal was opened for travelers, could not recognize the town, so many new buildings had grown up. We found the mini-bus to Bodhanath that is not far from Katmandu. Where we got off the bus, there were a few houses along the road.
Between two of them an opening lead in to the gigantic stupa whose golden upper part was decorated with the serene eyes of the Buddha. The stupa was surrounded by one circle of houses, and this was the whole town of Bodhanath. Monks and nuns and lay Tibetans were circling the stupa, keeping it on their right side; some had prayer wheels, others were turning the prayer wheels that were set in the wall all the way around. We circled a couple of times and went through a narrow passage on the opposite side from the road and came out on a path through the rice fields. After a few minutes walk we found John’s house where we were going to stay.
Looking from the house, away from the stupa towards the mountains in the north, there was a small hill with a flat top with two great trees. Just as Sidi Ali had called me when I was in Meknès, this hill called me now, and one day, when I was smoothly coming down from an acid-trip, I obeyed the call. With brisk energy I completed the half hour walk up there before the sunset. I sat by a small shrine on the west side and saw the sun set behind the glittering golden towers of Katmandu showing the hill of Swayambunath in silhouette. Before leaving I looked around. There was a marvelous view of the whole valley from the top of the hill, and on the south side I found a half open gate, through which I spied an old house, hiding behind tall hedges.

1 comment:

Sue said...

OMG! I am so jealous that you have been to Katmandu. I have always wanted to go there. Funny about the folks arguing about schedules when they are in a spiritual center. Stop and smell the roses, or incense as the case may be. Love the photo.