Friday, March 11, 2011

Monkey Business at Swayambu

This morning we woke up with the intention to hike to the peak of Nagarjun, which I climbed about two weeks ago with my small hiking crew. The skies were cloudy, though, so we decided to save that hike for another day that might promise us better views at the summit.

Instead, we headed out for a city hike so that Brian could, despite the change in plans, break in his hiking boots and his lungs. The combination of altitude, smog, and second-hand smoke here just might have erased all that training he did for the 2010 Chicago marathon, not to mention a year or so off his life (a risk we will take over the possibility of a heart attack at age 43, suggested as the destiny of a corporate lawyer by one commenter to the recent Above the Law blog post).

Our destination was Swayambunath, or Swayambu for short. Also known as the "Monkey Temple," Swayambu is one of Kathmandu's most famous Buddhist stupas, along with Boudha. It is perched high on a hill overlooking the Kathmandu Valley, but those views come at a price.

Meet the staircase to Swayambu.

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To really appreciate its steepness, though, you must see the stairs from the top, looking down.

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Fortunately, the many monkeys running around provide a good excuse to catch your breath and snap some photos. We particularly enjoyed this guy, who seemed a little depressed.

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Then wife/girlfriend/mistress showed up.

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And she began to lovingly groom him. Depression cured?

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We continued climbing the stairs until the stupa was in sight.

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At the top we took in the views of the Valley.

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And we brought out bananas for a snack. Completely forgetting about our primate companions lurking around the temple, I set my banana down on my bag for just a second, when a monkey with an eagle eye ran over and grabbed it.

The monkey then proceeded to enjoy it about two feet away, as if to taunt us further.

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Clearly, a rookie mistake. We brought bananas to the "Monkey Temple" and expected to eat them ourselves?

I didn't so much mind the banana theft, though. How could you say no to these eyes?

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Or these?

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