We awoke our second day hot and tired – the jet lag from coming right around the world is bad and the 12 hour time changes has our internal clocks in disarray. Couple that with the power failures which kept our fan off for most of the night and it is honest to say it was not the best sleep I have ever had.
The morning was free so a group of decided to walk to the Monkey Temple which has recently been restored and reopened after the damage it suffered during the earthquake last year. The streets are chaotic and dodging cars and motorcycles is a dangerous game that you have to play as there are very few sidewalks. The heat is oppressive and the 45 minute walk has us sweaty and tired.
The Monkey Temple sits on a hill and the impressively steep staircase up to it is an excellent foreshadowing of our coming ascent. You are continually approached by people in Nepal trying to sell you something and everything you can imagine is for sale. We fought our way past the “guides” for hire and began the steep climb up to the temple. It was quickly apparent where the name came from – there were monkeys everywhere!
The temple was impressive. It was clearly very old and it definitely made me feel like I was in Asia. We wandered the temple for half an hour as it was not very big then began the trek back to our accommodation. Signs of the earthquake were all around as there were numerous collapsed and damaged buildings along our route. The poverty is almost overwhelming and it would be safe to Kathmandu is not the cleanest city I have ever been in – we are all concerned about dysentery and hand sanitizer is used frequently.
We spent the afternoon collecting our first baseline data – an assessment of learning and decision-making systems in the brain at low elevation. Our team is keen to help and things went relatively smoothly. I am also realizing that field research is not easy and problems crop up that at home would be trivial – for example the power outages make it very difficult to charge our equipment and we spent a good part of the afternoon reorganizing our testing schedule. With that said, we have collected our first data set.
The day ends with a team dinner at the hotel restaurant and curry that redefined the word “spicy”. A team briefing from a mountain doctor gets our attention as he clearly outlines the danger of acute mountain sickness, dysentery, and the yaks that we will encounter on the trail up to Base Camp.
We head to bed early as the exhaustion of travel and the heat has worn us down and sleep will be the only cure.