Towards the end of October a friend and myself took to the road to tour some of Dorset and the surrounding area. Beginning at Stonehenge, we moved north to Avebury, with its Stone Circle and chalk horses (that adore the hills in that area). From there we moved south to Salisbury Cathedral and on to the New Forest, with its wild ponies. We ending up at Lulworth cove and the Durdle Door on the south coast, returning home via Glastonbury.
These are some of the sights that inspired me on that trip…
The Highlands is an astonishing place which never ceases to amaze me. This summer I went wild camping again in the Highlands. Walking along the West Highland Way from Inversnaid to Glen Coe starting from a place called Aberfoyle. A brief campout at a place called Stalker Castle and down the coast to Oban then across to Mull and eventually to Iona. Iona is a magical, it still is a christian community and has its roots deeply embedded in Christian mythology as this is where the book of Kells was written.
In July of this year I visited my sister in France. She lives in a farmhouse, which she developed herself, in a commune situated in Basse-Normandy. She chose this life for herself partly as a means of escaping from the rat-race I believe – something for which I am full of admiration. At the top of her road is an ancient chapel with a graveyard and with many Normand crosses. The Chapel itself is being renovated and much older work is being discovered beneath the decor and reliefs of this medieval Chapel. The weather was fine while I visited but in the mornings a mist would cover the landscape and add a very eerie effect to the surroundings. One morning I ventured out to the Chapel early while the mist was still around.
Interior of the Chapel
Muktinath is a sacred place both for Hindus and Buddhists. It is located in Muktinath Valley at an altitude of 3,710 meters at the foot of the Thorong La mountain pass, in the Himalayas. Hindus call the sacred place ‘Mukti Kshetra’, which means literally ‘place of salvation’. This is because it is believed that if one manages to reach the Muktinath and Vishnu temple there, one will achieve Nirvana in the next life. Muktinath is within the Mustang region of Nepal which was formerly known as the Kingdom of Lo. Mustang is divided into lower and upper Mustang with the town of Kagbeni providing the marking for the border. We began our trek from a place called Beni, located on the confluence of Kali River and Myagdi River at an altitude of 899 meters, and trekked the 90 or so Kilometers to Muktinath. The most dramatic aspect of the trek was obviously the mountain scenery of the Himalayas; but not only this the way in which the landscape changed the closer we got to Muktinath was amazing.
Kathmandu is a diverse city with all its noise and pollution, its poverty and its culture. The most striking thing about Kathmandu is its abundance of life, people carving out an existence under sometimes difficult circumstances. In Kathmandu for instance there is a load shedding system on the power. Electricity is off for fourteen hours in any one specific area then comes back on for only six on a circulatory system. Also in the winter water because of the frozen reserves in the mountains, is at a scarcity and then tap water not even drinkable when available. Despite this Kathmandu is rich in myriad ways, not rich in the sense that the people have very much (in the way of money or possessions), they have very little. What I find in Kathmandu is that people because they have so little are in fact noticeably happier – there is still a sense of community, everybody shares what they do have and mostly everybody smiles – there is a level of happiness we could only aspire to in the west.
Bhaktapur is an ancient ‘Newari’ town to the east corner of the Kathmandu Valley. Famed for its ‘Durbar Square’ which was the Royal palace of the kings of Nepal; the seat of ancient power. Bhaktapur is much quieter and less polluted than Kathmandu. There is an admission fee for entering the city which I paid one Saturday afternoon during my stay in Nepal.
Pashupatinath is one of the most important Shiva Temples in the world. It is located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, Nepal. The temple is said to be the home of Lord Pashupati (Shiva). And here it is traditional to burn the bodies of departed loved ones. When I visited Pashupatinanth there were several cremations in progress. Around the temple complex there are generally enormous crowds. Pashupatinanth is an important place of pilgrimage to those in Hinduism but many come to witness the burning of the bodies. Many Saddhus also live, eat and sleep in the Temple grounds. It is a very popular tourist destination for those visiting Nepal as there is much to see.