Mississauga Marathon: Why I Run

A few weeks ago, I ran the Mississauga Marathon, my sixth marathon I’m proud to say!  Over three years had passed since I last ran 42 kilometres, so I was a bit nervous going into this race…would I be able to pull off another full marathon?  I thought this would be a good time to write a post about how I started racing, and why I love to run.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Ottawa Marathon

I hated running in middle school gym class.  Tossed out onto the street without any training, we were instructed to run around the block sporting our frumpy gym clothes.  Only a few kids advanced to the next “level”, while the rest of us simply gave up, and miserably walked the same route over and over.  In high school, I stayed away from running and joined the swim team.   I tried to keep up swimming throughout university, along with biking and the occasional kickboxing class. 

I ran my first 5K in 2008 with my best friend.  We had signed up for the Princess Margaret Multiple Myeloma 5K in memory of her mom.  The morning of the race, we did everything wrong!  I ate an oatmeal muffin for breakfast and we ran in our winter coats, haha!  We overheated quickly and had to tie our bulky coats around our waists.  My fibrous breakfast kicked in near the end and I bolted across the finish line and ran straight into the Port-O-Potty!  But I learned from my mistakes and in 2009 I tried again and ran the 5K Run For The Cure.  The race was the same day as the Toronto Marathon, and as I watched the runners pass by me in awe I thought to myself “wow those people are crazy, I could never do that!”.

I caught the racing bug and the following year I ran the Sporting Life 10K. A few months later I conquered the Midsummer Night’s Dream 15K and finally my first half in the fall of 2010 at the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon.  Each time I completed a race, I set a new goal for myself and after I finished the half, forty two kilometres didn’t seem so impossible anymore.  

The time had come to sign up for the full marathon.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Running to the start line for my first marathon! – Toronto Marathon

Training began in 2011 and with every passing month, I fine tuned my regime.  I imposed a strict diet on myself: no alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, dairy or gluten with limited red meat intake. I’ve since posted on my blog about how I try to eat more lamb instead of beef or pork when I’m training.  Halfway through training, I developed an ache on the outer side of my knee after I pushed myself too hard on a long run.  I learned all about my IT band, a common distress among runners,  I had never known pain until my massage therapist pressed on my super tight bands!  I bought a pair of IT straps that helped to ease the strain and have run with them ever since.  

The day of the marathon started off wet and rainy, but I didn’t mind too much, the cool droplets felt refreshing.  To this day I don’t mind a little rain on my runs!  The race was going well until the last few kilometres that went up a slow incline.  My goal, like many first time runners, was to run non-stop so I didn’t pay attention to my pace. By this point, I was running so slowly that my body was overly strained, and when I hit those last few kilometres I thought I was going to die!  I remember an elderly man passed by me and it made me feel like I was running in slow motion.  

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon 2011 – near the finish line

My best friend, my ex-husband, his mother and brother all waited for me at the finish line that I crossed after 5 hours and 19 minutes.  I had never been so happy to see familiar faces! My best friend ran the last bit of the race with me and I collapsed into the arms of my mother-in-law.  That evening I soaked in the tub and marathon-watched Kitchen Nightmares.  This was also the day that I fell in love with Gordon Ramsay, I guess I’m a bit masochistic!  I was super proud of myself for accomplishing my goal, but there were many things I wanted to improve on, including my time.

The next day, I signed up for another marathon.

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon was only 4 months away and I resolved to be even more diligent with my training schedule. The only hiccup being that I was traveling for a month to Peru and Bolivia.  I had planned to cram in a lot of training once I returned home, but unexpectedly, I landed a job my first day back and was swept up in a very busy contract.  I wasn’t feeling prepared and tried to swap my bib for the half but there were no takers.  

At the race expo I picked up a pair of compression socks, and they’ve since become one of my most prized pieces of running gear.  Compression socks help prevent swelling and promote recovery after a long run and I noticed a big difference in my recovery time after wearing them, I highly recommend buying a pair if you regularly run over 15K.

My friend was signed up for the half so we decided to start off together.  But on the day of the race, the grounds were crowded and chaotic and we couldn’t find each other.  While trying to find my friend, I was distracted and forgot to take my bib out of my bag before I handed it off to my ex-husband.  Cell phone-less and in a panic, I begged a kind stranger for their phone so I could call him to bring my bag back.  I managed to line up in my corral with minutes to spare but it was a terrible way to start the race.

Despite the rocky start, by the halfway mark I was still going strong.  Around this time, I discovered pace bunnies: runners who wore bunny ears and held signs with target finishing times.  I matched my pace with theirs and used them as markers as I tried to stay ahead of the pack.  Before I knew it I had crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 50 minutes, a new personal best!  After this race, I understood the importance of pacing, and proper prep.

I registered for another marathon.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Facebook status after the 2011 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

The Niagara Falls International Marathon was the following fall so I had ample time to train and prepare properly.  Unfortunately, a month before the marathon, my cat was diagnosed with diabetes and kidney disease, and life became very stressful.  Seeing my sweet, innocent pet in pain was awful and I felt frustrated trying to figure out how to help her.  

A week before the marathon, I was trail running and sprained my ankle, badly.  I had run down a small dip in the trial, and rolled my ankle on a tree root.  I knew the second it happened that the sprain was a bad one.  Luckily there was creek nearby and I immediately dipped my foot into the freezing cold stream. My luck worsened as it started to rain, and back then I didn’t run with my cell phone.  Soaking wet, I hobbled to the closest station and waited forever for the bus to come.  

I spent the days before the marathon alternating between visits to my chiropractor for my ankle and shuttling my sick kitty to the vet.  The chiropractor visits helped the swelling go down, and I was able to walk on my ankle by the end of the week.  I arranged for a friend to take care of my cat for the weekend, and we headed up to Niagara Falls Friday evening.  

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Niagara Falls International Marathon

I had come prepared with an armful of supplies: an ankle brace, physio tape and tea tree oil to reduce swelling, my trusty compression socks, and extra strength Advil and freezing gel for after the race.  The day before I ran a few kilometres during the warm up gathering, and my ankle felt OK.  After a quick and hilariously scary trip through the Nightmares haunted house, I crossed my fingers and went to bed early.

The race started off on the other side of the falls in Buffalo, and the weather was perfect; a clear, blue sky filled with crisp, fresh air.  I wore my favourite dry wick shorts and my lucky tank top with some new armbands just in case it was chilly by the water.  The course was a dream – nice and flat, surrounded by pretty scenery.  The run across the bridge back into Canada was really cool, too.  My ankle miraculously cooperated and as I ran around the last bend, a brilliant rainbow appeared over the falls.  Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” shuffled onto my iPod as I crossed the finish line, a perfect note to end on.

I completed the race in 4 hours and 5 minutes, a new personal best!  Overall I felt awesome and I counted my lucky stars that I didn’t have to run in pain.  I was a bit shaken from my injury and it took me a few years to return to trail running.  Needless to say, I will never run on a trail so close to race day ever again!  I was happy with my time, but I started eyeing the Boston Marathon, and I wanted to qualify.

So I registered for another full.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Niagara Falls International Marathon

My parents lived in Ottawa at that time, so the next marathon I decided to conquer was the Tamarack Ottawa Marathon the following May.  Training went smoothly and it helped that my gym was beside my office.  I felt confident going into the race, and thankful that I didn’t have any injuries this time!

Race weekend took over the city creating a fun and lively atmosphere in the capitol.  My dad drove me around for my standard pre-race route scout while my mom made comforting comments like “you’re going to run all this way?  You’re going to die!”.  

My parents lived close to the start line, so the morning of the race was one of the easiest.  The weather was cool, cloudy and I felt excited.  This course was one of my favourites, and the most interesting to date. Winding along the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River, across the river to Gatineau then back into Ottawa and past 24 Sussex, we finished at Parliament Hill.  The race was also special to me because it was the first time my parents were able to see me run. Ottawa was my strongest run so far and I ran a personal best clocking in at 3 hours and 48 minutes.  

I still needed to shave off 18 seconds to qualify for Boston…so I signed up for another marathon.

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Tamarack Ottawa Marathon

I decided to register for the Run For Heroes Amherstburg Marathon for World Alzheimer’s Day for a couple of reasons.  Amherstburg was a scenic, flat course that many people had achieved their personal best.  The town was close to London, where my best friend lived so I planned to visit her.  Finally, I believed in the cause.  My grandmother died from Alzheimers, and my best friend’s grandmother was suffering from the disease at that time, so this race was dedicated to them.

I had also signed up for Tough Mudder, a 12 mile obstacle course race that I trained for with my first personal trainer.  Between running and the Tough Mudder training, I was in the best shape of my life.  Then, my world turned upside down.

One month before race day, my marriage fell apart.  My husband and I decided to separate and I headed into some of the darkest months of my life. Thankfully, I kept running and all the extra training kept me grounded.  While I was grateful for all the support I received from my friends, this also resulted in a lot of drinking and smoking, something I would never do before a race. The weekend arrived, and my best friend came along with me to Amherstburg.  This wasn’t going to be pretty, but I knew I would cross that finish line in one form or another.

I was blessed with another perfect race day, without a cloud in the sky, and only about two hundred fellow marathon runners.  For some parts of the race I was completely by myself, with only a lone pace bunny running beside me.  While this was a very different experience from other races, I took this as an opportunity to clear my head and be alone with my thoughts.  I had a lot to think about during this run.

3 hours and 46 minutes later, I finished the marathon, a personal best but still 16 minutes shy of a Boston qualifying time.  I was amazed that I had PR’d given the abuse I had afflicted on my body and attributed my success to pure mental will, and Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” that carried me through the last kilometre.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Run for Heroes Marathon in Amherstberg

I took a break from training after Amherstburg.  I met a cute boy and suddenly I no longer had time for three hour runs on a Sunday.  Exercising with my boyfriend was much more fun, and we would bike, rollerblade and weight train together.  While I still ran once and awhile, I had also started to play volleyball year round, so fitting in long runs became trickier.

But in the back of my mind, the Boston qualifying time still haunted me.

At the beginning of 2017, I was in between contracts, and firmly decided that it was time to get back into the running groove and start chasing that Boston qualifying time once more.  I signed up for the Mississauga Marathon, buckled down and started training.  I went back to logging my meals on My Fitness Pal and added more weight training to my exercise schedule.  Sunday afternoon runs became my new ritual and I was really focused on a proper recovery routine that included chocolate almond milk, yoga, an Epson salt bath, foam rolling and a healthy, protein rich dinner.

I had trained harder for this marathon than any of the other races and I reached my target distance of 37 kilometres on schedule.  The following week I started to ramp down in mileage.  I was 20 kilometres into a 35 km run, when a horrible pain flared up around my hip bone. My hip had ached a bit the previous week, but I had shrugged it off as regular wear and tear.  The pain became so bad that I pulled over and tried to stretch it out, but it wouldn’t cease.  I discovered I had hip bursitis, when the fluid filled sacs that provide cushioning around the joints become inflamed.  I spent a week focusing on recovery and only ran short sprints to work on my speed. While my hip was feeling a bit better, I decided to get a cortisone shot for insurance.  There was no way I wanted this to creep up on race day!

Mississauga Marathon: Why I Run

Mississauga Marathon – getting ready to race!

The week before the marathon it rained every day.  I kept a weary eye on the forecast but the weather was looking dreary for race day.  I waterproofed by shoes and arm band, and went for a run in the rain to prep myself for the worst case scenario.  

But as luck would have it, the weather cleared just in time and the morning of the race was cloudy but chilly.  I revised my gear and opted for tights and my trusty running jacket.  We arrived in plenty of time to score a good parking spot, and I mentally prepared myself by warming up and taking my final bathroom breaks.  

I started off strong and was enjoying the ease of the downhill course.  The route alternated between the scenic campus of the University of Toronto Mississauga to pretty rural streets and industrial areas.  I felt a bit overheated in my jacket, but was thankful for the extra protection when we hit the lakefront.  I was making great time up until the 22km mark when the wind turned against me as I started running up a slow incline, brutal!  From this point on the course was very hilly and was much harder than any other course I had run.

Mississauga Marathon: Why I Run

Mississauga Marathon – near the finish line

I passed the finish line after 4 hours and 7 minutes, not a personal record but certainly not my worse.  The best part was when I saw my boyfriend at the finish line, this was the first time he had seen me race so I wanted to impress him!  The course was tough but I was very happy with my time, especially considering that it had been three years since my last marathon.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Mississauga Marathon

People often say to me “wow, I could never do that, what do you think about for so many hours?” but for me the time flies.  When I’m not pre-occupied thinking about the practical aspects of the race: my form, my hydration and gel schedule, pacing; my mind wanders into wonderful daydreams.  Sometimes I just envision the finish line – “if you dream it you can do it” – they say, and it’s the truth!  I’m still dreaming about a Boston Marathon qualifying time, but until then I have a new goal: I want to run 10 marathons by the time I turn 40 (I stole that idea from Gordon Ramsay!).

I love to race because I find personal satisfaction when I accomplish fitness goals, and I’m also fascinated by how far we can push our bodies.  When my feet hit the pavement, that time alone is special to me.  I can escape from the world and focus on whatever I want.  I’m free, I have two legs and a healthy body and I feel so lucky that I’m able to run, and believe that anybody can do the same.  

I’m not superhuman, I’m just a regular girl who hated running.

Do you love to run?  What’s your running story? Have you ever raced in the Mississauga Marathon?  

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Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks – Day 2: Patan and Bhaktapur

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks – Day 2: Patan and Bhaktapur

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Patan – streets around Durbar Square

Come along on our journey as we travel Nepal In 2 Weeks – Day 2: Patan and Bhaktapur!  On our second day in Nepal, we took a day trip from Kathmandu to visit Patan.  A pretty city with a long Buddhist history making for an impressive collection of palaces and temples.  Unfortunately our morning was off to rainy start.  We got caught in a torrential downpour and the streets around Durbar Square were completely flooded.

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Bhaktapur – flooded streets

Patan was also hit hard by the earthquake and again, my heart ached to see so many temples in ruins.  There were signs of hope however, as many sites displayed flags signifying that a country was sponsoring the reconstruction.

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Patan – Krishna Mandir Temple with Garuda statue on column

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Patan – metal works

Patan is known for its metal craftsmanship and many temples were adorned with beautifully detailed metal engravings.  We picked up a souvenir metal statue from one of the many metal shops that lined the cobblestone streets.

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Bhaktapur – Naga Pokhari

The rain finally ceased mid-morning and we were able to enter the Patan Museum.  The museum was formerly the residence of the Malla kings and houses an impressive history of Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal.  There are over 200 metal figurines as well as historical photos of Kathmandu. The dark, narrow hallways displayed fascinating relics including a large ceremonial bench covered with magnificent engravings of snakes.

20170523_Patan & Bhaktapur-2453Patan – Golden Gate & Patan Museum, Durbar Square

From the museum we moved into the Patan Palace that consisted of three courtyards that were adorned with incredible carvings: Keshav Narayan Chok, Mul Chok and Sundari Chok.

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Patan – The Patan Palace

The royal bath in the Bhandarkhal Garden has recently been restored and dates back to the 12th century.

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Patan – The Patan Palace – Bhandarkhal Garden

I loved the sunken fountain in Sundari Chok.  Just look at the detail on each of the figurines! I’ve never seen a fountain quite like this before and was so impressed. The fountain was commissioned by King Siddhi Narsingh Malla in 1647 and each stone alcove is devoted to members of the Hindu pantheon.

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Patan – Patan Palace – Sundari Chok, Tusha Hiti

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Patan – Hanuman Statue, Narsingha Statue

Of the three Durbar Squares in the Valley, Patan’s Durbar Square is considered the most harmonious and elegant. Patan was also much less hectic than Kathmandu, and I appreciated the peaceful vibes of the square, despite the rain!

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Patan – Durbar Square

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Bhaktapur – Ugrachandi statue

In the afternoon, we headed to Bhaktapur, the third of the medieval city-states in the Valley and a short drive from Patan.  Named the “City of Devotees” Bhaktapur is home to some of the finest architecture in Nepal, but was also heavily damaged by the earthquake.

 

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Bhaktapur

One of the least damaged areas was Naga Poktari, a 17th century water tank that is framed by stone serpents.  An impressive serpent towers at the end of the tank, where water poured out of a dhara in the form of a goat being consumed by a makara.

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Bhaktapur – Naga Pokhari

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Bhaktapur – Naga Pokhari

The Vatsala Durga Temple was severely damaged but King Bhupatindra Malla’s Column still stands tall in front of the temple.  The bronze statue of King Bhupatindra Malla sits peacefully at the very top, and is similar to statues in the Durbar Squares of Patan and Kathmandu.

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Bhaktapur – Vatsala Durga Temple, King Bhupatindra Malla’s Column

The Taleju Bell is also in front of the Vatsala Durga Temple and was erected in 1737 to mark the daily morning and evening prayers at the temple.  There was something beautiful about this large bell sitting defiantly over the pile of rubble.

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Bhaktapur – Taleju Bell

The Siddhi Lakshmi Temple was heavily supported by beams but the guardians of the temple: female and male attendants who led a child and a dog, horses, rhinos, human-faced lions and camels; still stood their guard.

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Bhaktapur – Siddhi Lakshmi Temple

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Bhaktapur – Taba Sattal damage

Behind the Siddhi Lakshmi Temple, two large stone lions can be found.  Some say they are protecting the palace, while others claim they are watching over the site of a lost temple that disappeared in the earthquake of 1934.

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Bhaktapur – stone lions

We visited an art school where students with disabilities learn about art and sell their own work, such a wonderful idea!  Most impressive was the sand mandala that the students of the Dalai Lama made for the school.  The detail on the sand mandala was exquisite.   Traditionally after sand mandalas are completed they are swept away to symbolize “impermanence”.  Nothing is permanent – I couldn’t agree more.  Human nature tries to fight against this in regards to, for example, relationships.  We take them for granted and find it hard to let go when it is unrealistic to assume they will last forever. 

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Bhaktapur – paint school. Mandala sand painting by Dalai Lama students.

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Bhaktapur

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Bhaktapur – Potters’ Square

Dedicated to Bhairab, the incarnation of Shiva in his fearsome state, Bhairabnath Temple was built in the early 17th century and was rebuilt after the 1934 earthquake.

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Bhaktapur – Bhairabnath Temple

Nyatapola Temple is the most impressive temple in Bhaktapur.  This perfectly proportioned five storey temple is the tallest building in all of Nepal and was built in 1702, surviving both the 1934 and 2015 earthquakes.  Legendary Rajput wrestlers Jayamel and Phattu lined the stairs, which were also guarded by elephants, lions, griffons and two goddesses: Baghini and Singhini.

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Bhaktapur – Nyatapola Temple

Bhaktapur is renowned for its woodcarving, and we picked up a fearsome looking Shiva mask from this amazing mask store.  Picking one mask was a hard decision!

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Bhaktapur – where we bought our mask

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Bhaktapur – earthquake damage

A couple of goats were hanging out in front of the Dattatreya Temple, that is also guarded by the same two Malla wrestlers that are found at the Nyatapola Temple.  Speaking of woodcarving, this temple was supposedly built using the timber from a single tree!

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Bhaktapur – Dattatreya Temple

One of my favourite door shots of the whole trip!  These bright sky blue doors may have seen better days, but still added a happy splash of colour to the otherwise brick and wood architectural landscape.

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Bhaktapur “Blue Possibilities”

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Bhaktapur – Dog Days

As evening came upon us, the sun finally came out and cast a magical glow over the bustling main street of Bhaktapur.  I loved our day trip to these fascinating city-states!

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Bhaktapur

Back in Kathmandu, we ventured out into the winding streets of Thamel to find this tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant.  As far as dive restaurants go, this one did not disappoint! We devoured the tasty noodles and had our first taste of the famous Himalayan dumpling: the momo.  A flavourful, juicy morsel wrapped in a soft, steamed wrapper.  We predicted many momos were going to be consumed on this trip!  Especially the buffalo momos…

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Kathmandu – Yangling Tibetan Restaurant, Vegetarian Chow Mein

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Kathmandu – Yangling Tibetan Restaurant, Buffalo Momos

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Kathmandu – Yangling Tibetan Restaurant, Spicy Chicken Momos

Have you ever tasted a momo?  Let me know what you thought of my second day in Nepal!  

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Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Prayer wheel on Swayambhunath Stupa

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks – Day 1: Kathmandu

My boyfriend and I were all set to travel to Nepal in 2015, but a week before departure the earthquake devastated this beautiful country, and we had to postpone.  Over a year later, we were rebooked for our Nepal adventure!  We had originally booked a tour with Annapurna Foothills Treks and Expedition and we were happy to hear that they would honour our deposit even after so much time had passed.  So come along on our much anticipated journey, as we travel Nepal in 2 weeks – Day 1: Kathmandu!  

After a fourteen hour layover in Hong Kong, we landed in Kathmandu and were greeted by our lovely guide at the airport.  We got our first taste of a third world country before we had even reached our van.  We were swarmed by a few locals who wanted to assist with our bags.  Tired, with our guard down, we assumed that they worked for our tour company.  They immediately asked for a tip and started to harass my boyfriend for more money once his wallet was out.  I sensed something was wrong and luckily he only gave away a twenty before I stepped in.  While I’ve travelled to poor countries before, Nepal still took me by surprise.  Even though I knew to a degree what to expect, reality was still shocking.  Despite this one incident though, once I became comfortable with my surroundings I became immersed in the beauty and peace of this country.

The next morning we met Bijay, our awesome guide for Kathmandu.  Kathmandu is unlike any city I have ever visited.  The narrow streets are packed with motorcycles, cars, carts, people and animals.  An intoxicating ever-present smell of incense lingers in the air, along with clouds of dust and exhaust while the constant beeping of car horns keeps you on your toes. Kathmandu was made the capital of Nepal after the invasion of the Kathmandu valley in 1768 by Prithvi Narayan Shah and the creation of the Shah dynasty.  For decades, the city’s infrastructure has been struggling to sustain itself.  Massive earthquakes destroyed much of the city in 1934 and 2015, and the city was flooded with tens of thousands Nepalis who were escaping political violence in the early 2000s.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks-Day-1-Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple"

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks-Day-1-Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”

We journeyed just outside the city to the hilltop Buddhist temple and Unesco World Heritage Site of Swayambhunath, the “monkey temple”.  Covered in holy monkeys with prayer flags strung from every corner, I felt a mystical energy in the air.  I took a deep breath of incense and gazed up at the bright white Stupa that sat towering in the centre.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple" - stupa platform with religious monuments and monkeys

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple” – stupa platform with religious monuments and monkeys

The site is impressive and intoxicating, peaceful yet chaotic with statues and detailed carvings lining every door.  We walked among the many shrines, ringing bells, temples and Nepali people chanting mantras.  How wonderful it must be to be able to visit a place like this in your daily life.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple" - Shantipura - sky symbol, peace

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple” – Shantipura – sky symbol, peace

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple" - Dipankara Buddha made from a single stone

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple” – Dipankara Buddha made from a single stone

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple" - Mahakala statue

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple” – Mahakala statue

We observed Nepali people praying and making offerings to statues like Mahakala (above).  We spun the prayer wheels and learned the Buddhist mantra “om mani pad me hum” which means, simply to invoke compassion.  I love that.  I think we could all use a reminder to be more compassionate to each other.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Prayer wheel on Swayambhunath Stupa

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. Prayer wheel on Swayambhunath Stupa

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Eastern stairway.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. Eastern stairway.

The view of Kathmandu from the Stupa was spectacular, an awesome way to start the day!

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". View of Kathmandu.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. View of Kathmandu.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Top of stupa.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu.
Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. Top of stupa.

The top of the Stupa is topped by a gilded spire painted with the eyes of the Buddha, eyes that we would see all over Kathmandu.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Stupa with air symbol and prayer flags.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu.  Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. Stupa with air symbol and prayer flags.

I loved the prayer flags hanging like vines everywhere.  They became a comforting, recognizable symbol throughout our trip.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Holy monkey.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu.  Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. Holy monkey.

I managed to snap one decent photo of a holy monkey.  Even though they were crawling everywhere, they are fast and like to jump along the roofs.  I really need to buy a longer lens…

 

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square. Bell beside ruins of Kasthmandap

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square. Bell beside ruins of Kasthmandap

We then headed out to the area hit hardest by the earthquake, Durbar Square.  Also designated as a World Heritage Site, Durbar Square is the heart of the old town and was where the city’s kings were once crowned.  The restoration process has been slow, and it was heartbreaking to see so many temples in heaps of ruins.  Photos at the sites displayed the original structures, some dating as far back as the 18th century or older.  The comparison made the damage even more devastating.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Gaddi Baithak palace

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Gaddi Baithak palace

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Trilokya Mohan Narayan Temple

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Trilokya Mohan Narayan Temple

When I saw the intricate wooden detailing on the temples that were still standing, my heart felt heavy at the thought of how much work lay ahead.  They say that rebuilding Durbar Square will take 5-7 years, which probably means closer to 8-10 years.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nautale - Basantapur Durbar

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nautale – Basantapur Durbar

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Bahal

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Bahal

The home of the “living goddess”, Kumari Bahal was particularly interesting.  A real girl lives in this impressive building and is only permitted to leave once a year for the Indra Jatra festival. Once she reaches puberty, she reverts back to being a mortal and a new goddess is carefully selected.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Chowk

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Chowk

The detail on the balcony and doors is stunning.  I loved learning about the symbolic meaning behind all the various elements, and how everything is connected.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Chowk

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Chowk

 

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Nasal Chowk in the Hauman Dhoka Palace was one of the few places we could enter. The most famous courtyard of the palace, Nasal Chowk is named after Nasadya, the God of dance.  The space was used for performances, rituals and coronations, as recently as 2001.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

As you can see the detailed carvings that adorn the chowk are absolutely incredible.  Snake imagery is common throughout, symbolizing rebirth, death and mortality in Hinduism.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Degutaleju Temple

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Degutaleju Temple

Degutaleju Temple is also part of the Hanuman Dhoka Palace.  Degutaleju is another manifestation of the goddess Taleju, who embodies the living goddess Kumari.  I remember our guide also telling us this was the “love” temple.  With Nepali people sleeping and begging among the crumbled ruins, I was struck by the tragic beauty in this scene.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu, Durbar Square, Kal Bhairar

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu, Durbar Square, Kala Bhairab

We were getting used to seeing statues covered in offerings and the Kala Bhairab monument in Durbar Square was no exception.  Bhairab is the deity Shiva in his terrified state and is the protector of temples and women.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Vishnu Narayan Temple

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Vishnu Narayan Temple

There is a sense of irony when you see how dedicated the local people are to their faith. They make daily offerings for prosperity and health, yet their country is impoverished and the temples that they depend on now lie in ruins.  Yet, despite their poverty, you feel a certain peace in this place, and overall Nepal has a low crime rate.  There’s something to be said about that.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Shiva-Parbati Temple

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Shiva-Parbati Temple

The Shiva-Parvati Temple was built in the 1700s by Bahadur Shah, and if you look closely you can see white Shiva and his consort peering out from the upstairs window.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Boudhanath "The Great Boudha Stupa"

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Boudhnath “The Great Boudha Stupa”

After Durbar Square we headed out to Boudhnath, “The Great Boudha Stupa”, that is said to contain the relict of the past Buddha Kashyapa.  The stupa is enormous, one of the largest in Nepal and is perfectly proportioned and highly symbolic.  I loved the area around the stupa, a bustling market filled with monks, pilgrims, religious shops and monasteries.  I could have easily spent a whole day exploring.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buffalo momos.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buffalo momos

For lunch, we had our first taste of momos, and it was everything I dreamed.  Soft dumplings filled with juicy buffalo, dipped in a creamy, spiced sauce.  I vowed to eat as many momos as possible on this trip!

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buffalo momos

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buffalo momos

We also had a daal bhaat tarkari platter, another staple meal of Nepal.  Curried vegetables and meat, lentil soup, steamed greens and chapati (unleavened Indian bread) are dipped and poured over rice.  Fresh, flavourful with endless refills, I was loving the local cuisine.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Daal Bhat Tarkari

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Daal Bhaat Tarkari

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Daal Bhat Tarkari

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Daal Bhaat Tarkari

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Tasting our first momos.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Tasting our first momos.

Happiness is tasting your first momo!

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buddha wheel of enlightenment with deer disciples, on top of monastary around Boudhanath

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buddha wheel of enlightenment with deer disciples, on top of monastary around Boudhnath

As the clouds rolled in we managed to visit one monastery in Boudhnath.  On the roof of the monastery among rows of glowing candles sat this beautiful wheel of enlightenment or “dharma wheel”.  The wheel is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols and is used to symbolize Buddhism.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Pashupatinath Temple

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Pashupatinath Temple

We tried to visit the Pashupatinath Temple but unfortunately the rain poured down and the streets flooded.  Luckily we were coming back to Kathmandu at the end of our trip and planned to revisit the temple then.

After a long but awesome day, we returned to our lovely Hotel Shakti in the Thamel area. Clean, safe and cozy, the hotel is conveniently located near plenty of shops and restaurants.  The staff are friendly and helpful and a decent breakfast is included.

Stay tuned for Day 2 of our Nepal trip when we visit Patan and Bhaktapur!

Have you visited Nepal?  What did you think of Kathmandu? Do you love momos as much as me? Let me know if you enjoyed this post on how to travel Nepal in 2 weeks – Day 1: Kathmandu!

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