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Posts from the ‘Pokhara’ Category

NEPAL: PLAYING IN POKHARA

Phewa Tal - The view from our room in Pokhara

Phewa Tal – The view from our room in Pokhara

Each morning we walk along Lake Phewa in Pokhara, perhaps the only place we found in Asia, since Mongolia, where you can walk and almost be alone. Only once did we get mobbed, by a large group of tourists from India.

No people, just cows this morning

No people, just cows this morning

“Let me take photo!” We don’t understand at first. They want to take photos with us, we guess because we are westerners. Soon, young men mob Mare and I, posing while switching cameras, and then wanting to hold our hands. As soon as we begin to worry about “mob mentality,” the episode ends and we are back to tranquility.

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It is more peaceful out on the lake. Row a boat around an Island that holds the Hindu temple, Varahi Mandir, or along the green shores. The lake is calm, reflecting jungle hills and cloudy skies.

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Hyacinths grow like mad, and on certain days, community volunteers drag them onto shore, in an endless attempt to thin out the green and keep the lake clear.

Clean up day

The World Peace Pagoda, built by Buddhist monks from Japan in order to promote world peace, watches over the city. Did I mention that Buddha was born in Nepal?

World Peace Pagoda

World Peace Pagoda

At the Tashi Palkhel Tibetan refugee camp, we watch and listen to monks chanting during their 45-day retreat.

Tibetan Buddhist Monks

Tibetan Buddhist Monks

Tibetan children attend school here…thanks to freedom funds from Austria, which made this refugee town possible. This is as close to Tibet as you can get, you bet, without actually going there.

Tibetan refugees praying

Tibetan refugees praying

Time to Paraglide, baby! We must wait for word from the Annapurna Paragliding Company to tell if the updraft is safe to glide.

Paragliding in Pokhara

Paragliding in Pokhara

Okay, we’re on…after a jeep ride to the top of a 4,300 foot hill, the Bulgarian pilots finally talk. “Run, and keep running,” my pilot says. “That’s all you have to do. Like in a cartoon, keep your legs moving and run in the air right off the cliff. I will do everything else.” Okay, I got it.

He straps me in, we wait for a headwind, and then, “Run! Run! Run!” Moments later, we be airborne, high above the top of the hill! This feels similar to the dream we all have, of flying…also the drag of wind in the glider while you run feels like you are pulling a plow, similar to that dream when you try to run, and your feet will not move.

Pokhara from way high

Pokhara from way high

Sit and soar over the jungle covered hilltop. Look down on the lake and the town. I keep watching for Mare, but there are many gliders up here. Pilot and I land after about 30 minutes, a perfect amount of time for me not to get bored. Where is Mare?

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Mare finally lands, and I cheer her on. She has mud on her knees and shoulder. “We crashed on take-off!” She says. “I ran, and it started feeling really weird, and I’m not sure, but suddenly I was on the ground and the pilot was on top of me. He was mad! He yelled at me, ‘Why did you stop? Sit over there! Just sit while I lay everything out again.’ I told him that maybe I shouldn’t do this? He ignored me, and muttered under his breath about how he is too young to die.”

Our hotel from the water

Our hotel from the water

Next time, they get off the ground and fly. “Now I will get paid, and accumulate wealth like you Americans. I have got to get out of this country,” the pilot says to Mare…who is not sure what that is all about. We are all glad that she lives to tell.

Maybe I will stay on the water....

Maybe I will stay on the water….

So…we do most everything there is to do in this wonderful, laid-back town of Pokhara. The surrounding Himalayas continue to call us, though, and we want to return during the month of March, when the skies are blue. We could enjoy a longer trek, in a different area of the highest mountains on earth.

For now, we shall prepare for the twisty, eight-hour bus ride back to Kathmandu. Thank you, Abundant Universe. Namaste.  Ron Mitchell

NEPAL: TREK IN THE ANNAPURNA HIMALAYAN RANGE, Part 1 of 2

Annapurna South peeks out at us as we drive to our departure point

Annapurna South peeks out at us as we drive to our departure point

We walk among the free roaming chickens and water buffalo, where our trek begins in the village of Nayapul.

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Kumar, our guide, explains how we will walk for four hours, have lunch, and then climb straight up about 3600 steps. No problem. We are hiking in the Himalayas, Baby!

Nayapul Village

Nayapul Village

The trail twists down into the forest and across numerous monsoon gushing rivers. Truly, trekking in Nepal can be described as perfect. Guesthouses built from local stone pop up in the many villages along every trail. You need neither to cook, nor pitch a tent, and hot showers are available every night to boot!

Wild and high!

Wild and high!

Weed grows wild in the Himalayas…too bad it will not be ready until “high” season in October.

More "usual" crops

More “usual” crops

Most locals fold their hands in prayer position, and greet us with “Namaste.” Hey, we need all the prayers we can get.

"Namaste"

“Namaste”

Only a few hours in, Mare and I are sodden with sweat in this hot, very humid climate. The sun beats down on us and we are tanked…out of shape, from traveling for four months without seeing the inside of a gym.

Trying not to look exhausted

Trying not to look exhausted

“October and November are the best months for blue skies” says Kumar. Yes, we are here during the rainy season, when tourists avoid the heat, monsoons, low clouds and leeches…on the bright side, we avoid tourists, as we only see two or three other trekkers on the trail each day.

We thought the steps came after lunch?

We thought the steps came after lunch?

Finally, we reach a lunch spot. Queasy and exhausted, we wonder if we’ll make it, even this first day. Already, Mare has foot cramps from dehydration, and we pour salt onto our lunch of Momo, (chicken dumplings), rice, and a bottle of Coke, for any help we may get. We even munch a tube of Pringles for the salt. (Not sure if there are potatoes in Pringles)

Our guide Kumar and porter Tek

Our guide Kumar and porter Tek

Tek, our porter, carries the backpack. “No, please, don’t feel bad. I love this. I only get this job four months a year. Thank you, please, thank you!” He has not an ounce of fat on him and calves that look like thighs. Probably the most fit fifty-year-old I have ever met.

Stairway to heaven

Stairway to heaven

We feel guilty no longer…puffing up 3600 irregular stone steps, sucking in wet air, and neither one of us can remember sweating so much for so very long. Stop, rest, and marvel at the humongous jungle-covered mountains often draped with rice paddies. Nepali’s call them hills, using the term “mountain” only when they reach about 15,000 feet.

Our hotel room in Ulleri

Our hotel room in Ulleri

Finally, we reach the night’s destination in the town of Ulleri, at the Hilltop Hotel. Dodge the corn cobs and garlic drying in the hallway, take a shower in the dark, and lay on a bed that feels like a cloud. We are the only guests tonight. Both of us are too tanked to drink a beer… can you imagine that? We dine on popcorn-on-the-cob, mixed spaghetti, and watch a rainbow glow outside of our window. Carb up, baby, for tomorrow’s trek.

A room with a view

A room with a view

A mountain, Annapurna South, peaks out of the clouds and inspires us from our window view. Tibetan bread (fry bread) and eggs fuel us in the morning. Slip into wet, smelly clothes, and hit the trail…feeling good and surprisingly not too sore. High stepping boulders, and more steps, for about an hour, and then into the forest full of cool air and shade. We do not notice the 9,000 feet altitude.

Inspiration in the morning from the same window

Inspiration in the morning from the same window

Long ago, people used this trail to walk to Tibet for salt. In 1953 the Nepali’s widened it, and opened the adventure trekking industry. (Except during the ten year civil war which just ended five years ago…Government vs. Maoists)

We make it to Ghorepani and actually want beer!

We make it to Ghorepani and actually want beer!

“How many kilometers have we gone,” Mare asks.

“We measure in time, not distance,” Kumar replies. “We went about seven hours today. You guys are doing better than I expected.” We wonder if that is a compliment or not…

Wow!

Wow!

Climb into the town of Ghorepani, tonight’s destination and lodging with a private bathroom. Gaze at amazing mountain and valley views, and the beer is pouring quite naturally! Okay, the beer is warm, but we are happy simply to have an appetite for once.

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Three young women, two from Chile and one from Argentina, tell us of their travels, primarily in Southeast Asia. When we tell them about Iceland, Russia and Mongolia, one of them says disdainfully, “Oh, Europe.” I smile, watching Mare’s facial expression, and am proud of her for ignoring the remark.

“Ronald! Ronald!” I hear Kumar shout from outside my door at four o’clock in the morning.

“Answer the door, Mare, I’m naked.”

She opens. “Let’s hike to top of Poon Hill for a sunrise mountain view,” Kumar says.

“But it’s cloudy and raining.”

“It’s only a light rain.”

How could we leave this view from the room?

How could we leave this view from the room?

We decline, as do all other six or so guests in the hotel. Turns out, that we would not have seen anything because of being in a cloud. However, we get lucky, and the clouds open up in front of us during breakfast. Then, it is back on the trail. Namaste.        Ron Mitchell

http://www.trekkinginnepal.org/nepal-trekking-routes/annapurna-circuit/