Category: Travel

My Kintsukuroi Journey – A Camino de Santiago Redo

All these places had their moments. In my life, I’ve loved them all. ~~ The Beatles

Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the places I have visited over the past few years. Sometimes it’s almost unbearable thinking of returning to one of them, even though I have loved most of the places I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. The thing is… going back means not seeing somewhere else I haven’t yet explored and discovered for the first time. There’s only so much time. Life is short. Doubling back and revisiting places where my feet have already landed seems like the antithesis of good travel plans. There’s an entire world to discover. Why waste my time revisiting?

Because CAMINO. There I said it. Yep, this is yet another Camino de Santiago post. I’m going back. The Camino is, perhaps, the birth of my modern self. Well, that sounds highfalutin. But it happens to be the case. I had an awakening of sorts on the Camino de Santiago back in May of 2014. I had just come out of three years of intense therapy prior to walking the Camino. I considered the Camino my last cleansing step in the process of moving from victim to survivor to thriver. I would leave whatever residual burden I still carried from the scars along the pilgrimage path and come home burden-free, finally healed.

The scars would still be there, but they would no longer be open. I thought the Camino de Santiago would be my version of Kintsukuroi (A Japanese word meaning GOLDEN REPAIR–the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum). I loved the idea that something could be more beautiful in the places in which it was once broken. I’m actually quite obsessed with the idea. I would walk the Camino de Santiago and fill in those last cracks in my psyche with gold. If pottery could go through the transformative process of Kintsukuroi, well…so could I! Dammit.

And I did. I came off the Camino feeling accomplished and whole. The golden light of the Camino de Santiago had invigorated me and filled my cracks with brightness.

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Even though I am spending precious time returning to the sacred pilgrimage path, I can’t bring myself to say it will be time wasted. Yes, I walked that way before. Yes, being there means I won’t be somewhere new and exciting and different. Sometimes you’re just not finished with a place. I think the Camino will continue to call me until the day I die.

Besides, it is different to see a place alone with friends you meet along the path than it is to start out at that place with a loved one beside you. This Camino, which we will begin in the September of 2019, will be experienced together. There is something to be said about showing a loved one a place you yourself have already fallen in love with. It will come back to life for me, I’m sure…but it will also shine new as a share it. I can’t even begin to describe how excited that makes me.

Some Images from my 2014 Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage

Imagine if the Japanese saw only destruction in the things that lay broken and shattered in pieces at their feet. Imagine if they didn’t have the imagination and the hope and the intuitiveness to give those broken things a place of honor. Sometimes surviving a fall makes a thing stronger, sharper…more precious. It might even make it more beautiful than it originally was. At any rate, I’m returning to the Camino…not as someone in need of a final healing, but as someone with eyes wide open to the wonder of the pilgrimage path. It’ll be quite a different Camino this time. It will provide for us. We need only open to its possibilities and wait for the gifts to unfold.

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Our September 2019 Mini-Camino…

 

 

 

Day 16 – A Whisper to a Scream Because I’m Goin’ to Kathmandu…

As a wise man once said, “I think I’m goin’ to Kathmandu, that’s really really where I’m going to. If I ever get out of here, that’s what I’m gonna do…”

To give credit where credit is due, that wise man was Bob Seger. The year was 1975 and I was 9 years-old and ready to explore the world. And, yes, I have wanted to go to Kathmandu ever since the first chords of Seger’s song.

Without further ado, this is exactly what we did the next morning. Our goodbye to Pokhara was bitter-sweet. It’s nice to arrive in a place with zero expectation and fall deeply deeply in love with it. It happened a few times during our wonderful G Adventures itinerary, but never more powerfully than with Orchha and Pokhara.

Have I recommended G Adventures in any of my previous posts? If not, I have been remiss. It’s a fabulous tour company! We were so impressed, we actually started searching upcoming getaways for our next adventure…while we were still on this one.

As we boarded the bus for Kathmandu, a street vendor approached us with fresh baked goods. By fresh baked I mean the chocolate inside the croissants was too hot to eat. An entire basket of baked delights just for us. Delicious!

The road from Pokhara to Kathmandu is not a long one, but it is an incredibly busy one. Near the end of the journey, there is a mountainside traffic jam that can take one-two-three-four hours to get through. We sat and we sat and we sat. I’ve never seen anything like it. But the reward at the end of the journey was worth the inconvenience of the jam. I’ve just never seen so many trucks in a row in my life. The road zigzagged up a mountain, so we could look across the divide at places and see the line of trucks just go off to what seemed like infinity. It took a few hours to get through the last few miles of our journey…

The reward for our patience was the Swayambhunath Stupa (otherwise known as Monkey Temple), which we visited prior to checking in at our hotel. Situated atop a large hill, Monkey Temple offers gorgeous panoramic views of all Kathmandu! It was founded by the great-grandfather of King Mānadeva (464-505 CE), King Vṛsadeva, around the beginning of the 5th century CE. And it is filled with monkeys. (-:

With all the monkeys and the music makers and the tourists and the bells and the prayer wheels and the mayhem, Monkey Temple is a festival of noise and a feast of sights.

That was a quick journey! We were in and out in 40 minutes. I could have spent a day there. I am drawn always to prayer wheels. And to hear the Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ chant coming from the little shops does a heart good! I see the words every day, as they’re tattooed on my left forearm. The chant swam up and down the alleyways and alcoves of the magical space.

om mani padme hum vector symbol aumAfter the temple, we went to our hotel–FUJI HOTEL–located in a sort of back alley in the heart of Kathmandu. It was a lovely bustling neighbourhood and a glamorous old hotel that felt like it held a history of its own…a history worth knowing. I immediately liked the owner, who spoke to me on several occasions. He was animated and really appeared to love life. He had, I am certain, as many stories to tell as his hotel did.

Alas, all great adventures come to an end. And we were there, standing at the end of the trail with our hearts in our throats and our lungs filled with the life we lived on the long and winding road from New Delhi to Kathmandu. Blessed and blissful and sad beyond measure, thirsting for more adventure and exhausted from our endless travels.

One last meal with the family we had created along the way, a group of strangers who found ways to connect and share a great adventure and form a bond of memories to carry forward into futures spent apart. Forever locked together as travelers with a shared experience on a chaotic dusty muddy pot-holed road filled with trucks and buses and pedestrians and cows and water buffalo and goats and hens and wheel barrels and bicycles and motorbikes and scooters and tuktuks and rickshaws and more.

Promise me you’ll never forget. Swear to me you’ll always remember.

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And it was like a dream I had while waking…

Day 15 – Sunrise Fishtail Mountain, Fewa Lake Boat Ride, and a Barefoot Mountain Stupa Hike!

Today was the day!

There is so much beauty in the world. The best way to see it is to GET OUT IN IT. Today, we did that. In so many ways.

First things first. We took an early morning bus ride up one of the many mountains here in Pokhara, Nepal. This trip was to take advantage of a perfect observation deck from which to watch the sunrise as it illuminated the Fishtail Mountain and brought that impressive snow-capped mountain to life. There’s nothing like seeing those first rays ignite the blues, grays and whites of the mountain. It was gorgeous.

 

After the sunrise was over, we went back down the mountain and back to the Fewa Lake Pokhara Lakeside area. It was a free day for us. And…we had our bearings. Ranny had taken us on a walk the previous evening, so we knew all the good eats and buys. And where we could access the lake and the boats. There were a few in the group doing the zip-line. I had my eye on the stupa at the top of the hill on the other side of the lake from us. We met up with two of the other G Adventurers and made plans to go hiking to the stupa together!

The Pokhara Shanti Stupa, or the World Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa = Peace Pagoda), is at the top of Anadu Hill. It’s a nice hike to the top, but slightly difficult if you’re a beginner. It’s 1100 metres (or 3,600 feet) up, with rock steps, dirt paths, gravel, etc. It’s very beautiful and there are many places along the way where you can stop and take some great shots of the lake and the city of Pokhara on the opposite shore. Extremely picturesque. And you can also watch the paragliders swarming around the hills across the lake. Some gorgeous views that make the difficult trek worthwhile.

But first, the boat ride over to the opposite shore. Such a gorgeous lake, and it’s filled with the most picturesque boats! I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them.

 

 

After the boatman took us to the other shore, we were ready to scale the hill (It’s odd calling it a hill when it’s 3,000 ft—but I’m not certain when a hill is considered a mountain). The first thing I did was take my sandals off and put them in my backpack. It was a perfect day for a barefoot walk up a hill to see a stupa!

 

 

It was SO worth the trip to the top. What a gorgeous symbol of peace the stupa is! It was a solemn and humbling sight to see. Glorious!

After our long afternoon of hiking, we returned to the busy strip in Pokhara and went to a little restaurant called Moondance. Food never tasted so good!

I’ll leave you with this message I found at the top of the ‘mountain’. Good advice, this. Always respect the silence. But sometimes it’s good to jump. Especially when fear holds you back. Just don’t jump off the mountain!

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Days 11 and 12 – Goodbye to Beautiful India and Hello to Nepal! Siddhartha!!

We were up far before the sun today! Left the hotel for the train station at 4:15. Day 11 was mostly about travelling. By train and then by bus. Just over a kilometre from the India-Nepal border, we left the bus and visited the Immigration India office for our passport stamps. Afterwards, we had to walk the rest of the way to the border. It was about 40 degrees Celsius and the traffic we walked beside was utter congestion. The trucks wait for days sometimes to get through the border. There must have been over a thousand of them all lined up and waiting patiently. Crossing the border on foot was the only way we’d make it in one day.

 

The border crossing was relatively painless, as we picked up our Nepalese visas at the Ottawa, Ontario Nepalese Embassy.

All that was left of our day was the bus ride to our hotel. We switched buses to one that was already in Nepal awaiting our arrival. The hotel was lovely. It had a beautiful pool, though we didn’t make use of it. The group had supper together and from there we called it a night.

 

Day 12 – Lumbini, birthplace of Siddhartha!

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine visiting the birthplace of Buddha. But that’s exactly what we did today. After a short bus ride, we were in Lumbini. Once a place in India, it is now situated in Nepal.

We visited the Bodhi Tree, the Mayadevi Pond, and the Maya Devi Temple, which contains what is said to be the precise spot where Siddhartha was birthed.

 

After visiting the sacred grounds, we were ready for lunch. The bus took us up into the mountains and we had lunch with a view. There was much fog and mist, though, so it wasn’t as spectacular as I’m sure it sometimes is… but it was still a sight to see.

 

After lunch? The last leg of the day’s journey. We arrived at the Barauli Community Homestay in which we’re staying for two days. The arrival was such a lovely experience. We were greeted by the village and were anointed and given flower leis as we walked through the procession.

The room is lovely and the people are beautiful. After settling in, another exciting highlight awaited us. A bike ride through the village and down to the river, where local women awaited us with masala chai and cookies and crackers. So much fun!!

Supper was an incredible delight. One of the best yet. And just before we sat down for supper the community came together to entertain us with song and dance. So lovely!

 

Tomorrow is a safari, but we were warned long ago that there may not be much wildlife to see. One can always hope. Loving Nepal so far!