Cows, Steak Houses and Leather- The Holy Dilemma

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In Nepal and India it is illegal to kill a cow. Famous for their holy status in Hinduism, the humble bovine has pride of place in the urban pecking order. The main man of Hinduism, Lord Krishna, moonlights as a cowherd (who frolicks with milk-maids) and the bull is the badass vehicle of Lord Shiva.

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Travelling through these two predominately Hindu countries, one cannot help but notice the many cows chilling out in the middle of traffic, on people’s doorsteps and street corners that stink of urine. The flip side is the many steak houses (Nepal) and leather goods outlets (India). This raises some serious questions:

Who kills the cows?

Do people in the community look down upon you, if you make your rupees selling holy rump?

Who eats the steak?

It’s hard being one of life’s inquisitive types, so I did what any obnoxious tourist would do, I pestered the locals. This is what I found out:

Even though it is illegal to kill cows, there are Christian and Muslim slaughter houses that are able to get murder permits. If you own a steak restaurant, get non-Hindu’s to do your un-holy killing or import your dead cow.

In Pokhara, Nepal, we passed 5 steak restaurants on the main street. Generally it’s tourists who eat the meat and as long as you don’t do the killing within the community, the general consensus is that you wont be ostracized for running a Steak House.

Let me add here, that with power outages daily in Nepal, I believe that eating steak will drastically reduce your lifespan and probably give you parasites.

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As we walked around the bazaars of India we passed numerous leather shops. How, I wondered, can a community be against eating a holy animal, only to wear it on their feet and use it to hold their rupees?

Turns out that although Hindu’s are against killing cows, they don’t object to camels or water buffalo (essentially furrier cows).

I purchased myself a camel handbag and every time I reach for my sunglasses I get a whiff of what Bear Grills must have smelt, that time he slept at Hotel de Camel Stomach.

The cows in India and Nepal take priority in the frenetic traffic hierarchy. Tuk-tuk, motorbike, buses, vans and tractors – all halt for the holy cow. If you kill one, it will cost you 10,000 rupees and 1-year in jail.

You have to wonder about the holy state of their stomachs though. Many city dwelling cows are strays, put out by their owners. Perhaps they don’t produce milk or offspring anymore, maybe they are too holier than thou. Whatever the reason, these cows live off scraps, the odd charity chapatti and forage in the trash for food.

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This means they are underfed, ingest large amounts of plastic and probably have terrible gas.

There are a few charity animal hospitals who take the cows in, fix them up and let them back out onto the streets. But just like Lindsay Lohan, these cows will likely end up back in rehab.

Unless there is some public education about what our bovine friends actually eat or  a Hospice for the Holy Horned is set up in every Hindu city, I fear that India’s cows will remain sick to their stomachs.

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If you ever travel to either India and/or Nepal, do yourself and a cow a favour. Instead of being swindled by a fake holy man, buy something green and feed a living god. It’s good karma and it’ll cost you less.

Perfect Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

A friends dad told me about the 6 P’s just before our final exams. I was 16 going on 17 and thought old people were the worst. Needless to say, the wisdom was lost on me. As it has been, most of my life, hindsight is a massive bitch.

20 minutes into our 4 day hike in the Nepalese Himalayas I wished I hadn’t been such a know it all.

It had begun to rain and Erin and I were wearing runners. Our socks were wet, we didn’t have rain jackets and our bags were the super cool, cloth souvenir type made by Nepalese hippies. Despite looking fabulous for any “WE ARE BEING ADVENTUROUS LOOK AT US” photos we planned to take, we were hideously under prepared.

We were setting out from the mountain town of Pokhara and planned to trek the Annapurna circuit trail. A trail that went vertically up to a place (hilariously) named Poon Hill and back again. We were under the impression it would be a leisurely 4 day hike, with maybe a few little challenging rocky bits. We were wrong.

Realizing it was colder than I expected, I purchased a bright pink puffy jacket just before the hike, which made me look like a pregnant piece of fairy-floss. On the upside it would probably be the reason I was found if I happened to slip off a mountain.

That first day we hiked 9km up 3,000 stone steps. Exhausted, our legs hurting, we looked much less glamorous than expected. That night, Raju*, our Nepalese guide pointed out the ominous snow clouds on the horizon. Three days later trudging through calf deep snow in leggings and runners, I couldn’t help but think about how fun and spontaneous we were, whilst I shivered with cold.

For this reason I decided to make a list of things to remember for any hopefuls who also plan to go trekking (in freezing conditions) sometime in the near future:

  • 1. Wear good shoes. If you don’t, you will have to sacrifice a pair of socks, which you will then put over the outside of your shoe so you don’t plummet to your doom slipping down icy steps. (You will also look like you are wearing purple clogs.)
  • 2. Pack spare socks (see above)
  • 3. Lock the bathroom door. Getting walked in on is embarrassing. When it’s in a squat toilet and the intruder is another group’s Nepalese guide*…it’s much worse.
  • 4. Get a guide. Don’t be a douche-bag, it doesn’t matter how awesome you are at reading maps, you will get lost and be found by some mountain family when they plant their spring marijuana crop.
  • 5. Suck it up. Your legs will hurt, your back will ache. But there is a 100-year-old man carrying a basket the size of your body up the mountain next to you and he’s smashing it.
  • 6. Embrace annoying hiking songs. The Song That Never Ends is infuriating, but it’s also hilarious. Your guide will love you for it. (Alternatively, they will poison your Mo-Mo’s) either way it will be fun all round.

Overall I recommend taking the plunge and going trekking in Nepal regardless of how prepared you are. It would be a crime to say the hike wasn’t one of the most incredible adventures both and Erin and myself have ever had. The view made all the leg pain/ singing worth it.

Tourist Jump Fail
Tourist Jump Fail

In 4 days we hiked over mountains covered in snow, got walked in on in squat toilets by unsuspecting locals, slept in all our clothes, ate veggie Mo-Mo’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner and generally laughed ourselves stupid. Yes, our legs ached and we did a fair amount of whingeing, but we made it. And now we are better than you.

Our meal of Thali and Mo-Mo after returning from our hike!
Our meal of Thali and Mo-Mo after returning from our hike!

*Raju is the sweetest man alive, with an enormous smile. He was a fantastic source of support/ hilarity (and beat us at celebrity heads numerous times) over the 4 days he was with us in the mountains.
*This particular intruder ended up spending the night in the same shack we stayed the night in. Mortifying.