I try to follow walking tour #1 in the Lonely Planet guide. I turn down an alley and I’m suddenly in the middle of a procession. Men in red jackets play brass instruments. It’s loud and the sound reverberates in the small alley. I’m in between the trombone and a drum. I try to move to the side of the alley and I’m trapped, so I march along. I’m in a red salwar kameez, the loose Indian pants and tunic, so I match the men in their red outfits, with the exception that I am the only woman. They stop marching and I continue. I come upon another band, this one made up mostly of drums. I move to the side and suddenly out of nowhere men carrying a huge, brightly colored shrine appear. They are struggling to keep it above their shoulders. I can’t figure out if this is a celebration of a funeral procession. Is it appropriate to take pictures? People seem to be in a festive mood; I see a Nepali boy snapping photos with his mobile phone. My camera comes out.
I watch the procession. People in the alley are offering donations to the shrine – flowers, rice, money. I stand back, watching, in a daze of colors, heat, sound, people.
I walk, occasionally stopping to consult my Lonely Planet map. The streets have no names; I can’t match the shrines to any on the map. I wander. I must be in old Kathmandu, the alleys become smaller, people sit in the street selling their wares – cooking utensils, blankets, safety pins, hair bands. Every turn exposes another shrine or temple. I’m not sure where I am, but I’m enjoying it.