About one year ago I left for Nepal to trek and photograph through the Himalaya. The days I had in Nepal were some of the best I have ever lived. Simply said, I learnt about the power of belief throughout my venture. In my view, hope is a belief we all naturally desire and is what drives much of the world. In Nepal, hope is manifested not just from their beliefs but also their environment. The magnificent mountain ranges were as inspiring and impressive as the people I met along the way. I now dream of the day I will return! In the meantime, I want to create a unique and effective way to share the experiences I was lucky enough to have. I believe that by sharing these experiences, I will in some way shape or form help and add value to others… Others who might want to go to Nepal one day to trek and/or explore, others who might just want to learn about some of Nepal’s exciting culture and environment and others who might be interested in my personal thoughts induced by my experiences 

So, to do this, I’ve devised two ways of ‘presenting’ my ‘findings’ from Nepal! One is short photostory that focuses on a very powerful afternoon I experienced at the Pashupatinath Hindu Temple in Kathmandu, where they burn dead bodies. The second is a podcast episode from my trek up to Annapurna Base Camp (A.B.C), which uses audio I recorded up there and new audio which is more like a commentary of the adventure. So I hope you enjoy this sample page of the Ventured Nepal experience! I would really appreciate (if you enjoyed what you’ve seen and read here) if you could reach out to me and let me know which style you prefer (you can like both too!). This would help me greatly if I’m to put together a more comprehensive story!

The famous Annapurna Range, one of the tallest and deadliest mountain ranges in the world. 

Ventured Nepal Podcast

So here is the Ventured Nepal Podcast! While I was over there I intermittently recorded myself. The Annapurna Base Camp trek was awesome, it really is a diverse and friendly (people, NOT friendly on the legs aha) landscape. It is hard to describe the feeling of being surrounded by such giants, but I foolishly try in this podcast... Enjoy!
Pashupatinath Temple The birth place of afterlife

We spent the morning at the Pashupatinath Temple, the oldest Hindu Temple in Kathmandu. I had no idea where we were going or what to expect. Once we had arrived, one of my newly made friends mentioned very quietly what happened at this Temple. "They burn bodies", at the time I wasn't quite sure what that exactly implied. I started asking myself all the classic questions that come once you've experienced a shock. Why? Where? How? Who? 

Bodies are burnt and swept of the banks into the Bagmati River. In Hinduism, cremated bodies must be scattered into the sea, or in waters that flow to the sea, to transport them to the next life.

Things became much more evident when an ambulance truck carrying a dead body inside arrived. It was only the second time I had ever encountered a human body no longer with a beating heart. We were standing at the gates of the Temple when the thought loomed over me. Did I really want to see what was beyond these gates? I didn't feel uneasy because I was going in to see dead bodies, at least not to the point where I'd have to turn around... I felt the way I did because I contemplated whether it was really my place to watch others loved ones being burnt?

You will find many Sadhus or Holy Men at the Pashupatinath. These are people that have let go of all worldly possessions and live committed to a life of devotion. Can't beat a good cigarette thought right?

It was a hard feeling to describe. The situation around me was so crazy I felt a little lost trying to navigate what I was feeling. I attempted to use what my past experiences and upbringing have taught me about death, that it is an unfortunate and saddening process. Naturally, that's what we do as humans when we're faced with an unknown situation. We can only react based on what we know. Despite these thoughts, which ellipsed in seconds, I felt an urge from my gut to go through.  It was a half "fuck it", half this is why you came here a sense of motivation. It felt incredibly empowering. I knew that what I was about to see would challenge my worldviews, and it certainly did. 

The thick yellow smoke of burning bodies, wood and reed. The dead are often burnt with many of their prized possessions and jewels to take with them into the next life. Kids of the 'lowest cast' that live in extreme poverty will wait eagerly in the river to retrieve these possessions. They drag magnets tied on with string or wire and wade through the river all day (see first photograph of the story).

I'll never forget when they unloaded the body of a man, unclothed onto a wooden plank. For a brief moment, he was exposed, just a body. Before the transfer, he was covered in a white cloth. Time turned slow motion. I realised more so than ever that the body we have is just a physical manifestation of our spirit and soul. Everyone has a biological being, and everyone has a spirit being, these two energise each other. I think in the Western World we don't appreciate that enough. To me, it explains why we are such a complex species with wild emotions and why we've developed into the beings we are today. We are also just so lucky to have bodies that have such impressive capabilities. They are what makes us so unique as a species.

A large crowd of family and friends gather around the dead while they perform their final rituals before beginning the cremation. Notice how we wear black at our funerals and here most are dressed in gorgeous vibrant colours... I understand that wearing black to a funeral is respectful, but are we not showing our respect just by being at the funeral? It's these subtle differences between our cultures that incrementally affect our perspectives on death.

The whole experience made me second guess the way we send off or celebrate deaths back home. These families get to watch their loved one's body return back to the Earth and see their spirits move into the afterlife. Whereas in our societies we grieve hard, and if we cremate we don’t get to see or appreciate any of that returning process. I guess what makes our grief so epic and intense is because we don’t hold the belief that it’s just a process of leaving a body that we adopted during our short visit on the Earth. We believe that the human body was everything we are and will ever be, so when we do die, it’s like we’ve lost the human entity completely. We live on through the memories made and impressions left with every person we grace in our life. That group might only be a handful of people, or it might be a whole population. It’s about the way we have made others feel, just by being ourselves. If there was more recognition of this fact, maybe many of our funerals wouldn’t be so sad, nor would our societies be so afraid of death. Imagine living in a society whose members didn’t fear death. Imagine what we would achieve. 

A life full of devotion must also be a life full of determination and constant distraction... Will Sadhu culture really survive the next century? Either way, this generation will test the resilience of their belief.

All this being said, regardless of how empowering we can make death, to say goodbye to a friend or loved one will always be hard and painful. Because, of course, making new memories with those friends while they’re still with us will always be more special than looking back on memories made. But we have to appreciate just how lucky we are in the first place to be granted the opportunity to make memories. It is truly wild, creating rare moments in the present to enjoy in the future that are reminiscent of the past. I'll leave you with that. 

Thank you kindly for reading, I appreciate that befriending and talking about death is no easy task sometimes. But I genuinely believe at least thinking about it a little more will only enhance the lives we live now.

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