A Travellerspoint blog

The long way down

Jomson to Beni to Pokhara

sunny 22 °C
View The Grand Adventure on AndyGem's travel map.

Today we decided to lave Jomson and if possible reach Pokhara by jeep and bus, are walking days are over! We could have flown and done the trip in 20mins but to save money and have another wonderfully challenging day to write about we dcided to get a jeep to Beni and then a local bus through to Pokhara.
The jeep ride took 6 hours, the equivalent of 3 days of our walking. There seemed to be no limit to the number of people allowed in the jeep and as no one ever seems to moan or complain they kept on coming. At the one point there was 16 of us crammed inside and on the roof. It seemed that comfort was an optional xtra and we evidently hadn't paid for it so the sooner our journey finished the better. The same couldn't be said for two Neplai yuppies in the front who regularly got the jeep to stop for photo shoots and at 10.30am they decided it was time for a beer stop, as you do!
The guy sitting opposite us in the back was listening to music on his phone and every now and then would start screeching out loud, after a couple of hours of this and strangely no complaints from fellow locals we worked out he was trying to sing and Akon song. Simon Cowell would have a field day in Nepal!
The bus journey was positively luxurious in comparison, it has fixed seats facing the direction of travel and still managed to maintain an interesting variety of people, a man with a live chicken under his arm, several fisherman including nets and a wedding party. Can't imagine the wedding party after was much fun as th bride looked close to tears, clearly not an advert for arranged marriages!
It was good to be back in Pokhara and the discomforts of travel were soon forgotten after a steaming hot power shower!

Posted by AndyGem 02:47 Archived in Nepal Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Repenting Our Sins

Rupse Chhara to Ghasa to Jomsom to Mukinath then back to Jomsom

sunny 10 °C
View The Grand Adventure on AndyGem's travel map.

Even the lady of our lodge deserted us last night to visit her mother, so this morning it was just Andrew, myself and the man of the house in his empty residence. Judging by the eery silence it was probably only the three of us in the entire, desolate village, well apart from a couple of broody hens, and one fat cockerel. The lodge is one of the only buildings left perched on the hillside beside a huge waterfall and as we walked back onto the road we witnessed the sheer drop of crumbling rock face, showing the devastation of the landslide. I certainly wouldn't stick around in Monsoon season!

Andrews' stomach was still feeling a bit off-colour so we took it very slowly up the long stretch to Ghasa. Luckily he didn't have to make any mad dashes into the bushes but he was still being grumpy even when I offered to give him a piggy-back. It didn't help that most of the way we were walking on the same rocky, un-inspiring track and being showered in dust by the passing vehicles. It kinda spoils the purpose of the trek when you know you can get to your destination faster and still see the same view. Hhmph!

We were walking through what is thought to be the biggest valley in the world (I wondered who measured that one?) and as we came to Ghasa we were greeted with hundreds of huge, hovering eagle-ish birds who were feasting on the fish below. One big whopper, his wing span as wide as Andy is tall, swooped so low I could see his giant claws, ready to grab me and take me to his giant nest! Luckily he didn't quite get me and my camera wasn't quite positioned for a spectacular shot. In fact none of my photos do these magnificent beasts justice, but I caught a couple as the came gliding past. The Eagle Nest Guest House seemed a perfect place to stop where we could watch the skies and we lunched on pizza made with fresh mushrooms and herbs from the garden.

The mushrooms were not magic enough to make Andy feel better so we went off in search of a jeep - with my camera still poised upwards for another close encounter with Eddie the eagle. In the book I am reading it states that a pilgrimage can only be broken by a bout of illness, So I felt justified that we weren't actually ending our trek.. just enhancing it.

Arriving at the jeep stand just in time gave us the prime spots in the front seats of the 4X4 - while several others, twelve to be precise, squeezed themselves into the back like sardines. How great it felt to be resting our sore feet while still experiencing the fantastic, snow capped Annapurna and listening to the pan-pipey Nepali tunes. Most of the music we have heard here does sound rather similar, quite high-pitched like chipmunks are singing. Andy calls it Whale music but I quite like it, makes a chance from the Phill Collins on his ipod anyway! :)

It seems customary to pick up any randoms along the way, even when the vehicle is seemingly full. So we were stopped by an extrovert English girl (who we'd previously met at lunch) wanting a ride to Jomsom. With cried of "No Way!" from the Jap's in the back our English friend and her guide had no choice but to ride in style on top of the roof! Every lump and bump was felt and heard with yelps from above, and after two hours the pair emerged rather wobbly and windswept, albeit alive. Phew!

Jomsom is a rather windy, dusty, character-less by the afternoon, but it is transformed in the clear mornings with the most beautiful, mountainous backdrop. As we arrived two days earlier than scheduled we had time to visit the religious temples of Mukinath, which is an important pilgrimage place for Hindus and Buddhists. Upon inquiring for a taxi to the site at 3700m we were met by three Malaysian men who would share the ride. At first we thought these chaps, wrapped in the latest NorthFace, windproof gear, were just rich tourists, but we soon learnt that two of them were Buddhists making this once-in-a-life-time pilgrimage and they explained the importance of the holy shrines. Around the main, large pagoda-style temple there are 108 brass spouts, cast in the shape of cow's heads, which pour forth sacred water. Even more sacred is the water that rises from a rock into two pools below the pagoda. To repent all sins you must walk through the freezing cold spouts and dunk your body in the freezing cold pools, and we witnessed 52yr old Abu and the rather rotund Henry carry out this special ritual. It was actually rather glorifying to watch and I was tempted to make Andy get 'cleansed' in the sacred spring, but it would have taken all day to wash his sins and we had already decided to walk the four hours back to Jomsom.

Later, we regretted this decision when the forceful wind and the stony pathway made for a testing time. Not to mention Andy's quick pit stop behind a rock to empty his bowels. Oh I've seen some sights today! (He will kill me for putting this so I will have a freezing cold shower later to repent!).

Posted by AndyGem 01:18 Archived in Nepal Tagged foot Comments (0)

Tikedhungga to Shikha to Rupse Chhahara

sunny 17 °C
View The Grand Adventure on AndyGem's travel map.

1.Our first full day on the trek up to Jomson didn't really get off to the best start after a fairly sleepless night due t the cold. It wasn't actually that cold just that we didn't bring any sleeping bags, instead relying on the lodges to have blankets, which sadly they didn't last night!!
After breakfast we began a 1200m climb up to a place called Ghorepani. This involved climbing 3280 stone steps ( got this wonderful fact fro the guide book, too tired to count ourselves!). The views fro the top of the valley were so different from what we had become used to at Everest. The valleys are more fertile and heavily farmed with padi fields squeezed in wherever possible.
The path was very quiet and it wasn't until after 2 hours that we encountered fellow trekkers who we duly overtook which was pleasing.
Lunch provided a much needed break and a chance to stock up on our now staple diet of rice and noodles. I think this could have been the turning point that created the 'stomach less settled'.
Reaching the top of the mountain, Ghorepani at 14:00 and after registering with another less than interested police officer to have our passes stamped we decided to head down the otherside as far as we could to get to lower and hence warmer areas for the night. It is nice not having a guide at times as looking for paths and studying the maps adds to the sense of adventure - and also provides opportunities to break up the monotony of walking.
Our target for the night was a small settlement called Shikha which we collapsed into exhausted at 4pm. The evening was spent huddled around a burning drum in the dining area with a jolly Australian chap who seemed delighted to tell us that it was the worst time in our lifetime to be looking for jobs. We thanked him for this pearl of wisdom and retired for bed happy as we had 3 blankets!!

2. After a good nights sleep we continued our walk down the valley to a place called Tatopani which is famous for hot springs (I was more interested in the chicken sizzlers that the Australian guy had recommended). The walk through the valley was very relaxing and peacefully, broken only by the school kids who found me very amusing for some reason, we're not sure why!
After a great lunch we came across the hot springs which were disappointing, right beside a dirt track and with a digger alongside it didn't really make us want to strip off and jump in!
When we arrived at Tatopani the footpath changed into a dusty dirt track regularly used by jeeps, cars and buses as well as us, needless to say this is not what we expected (should have studied the map a bit closer!). One of the nice things about going off walking is the remoteness and this was slightly ruined by the presence of so many vehicles.
At about 4pm we were struggling along up the track and decided we couldn't make it as far as the next big settlement so opted for a smaller closer one. On reading the guide book most of the village at Rupse was washed away by heavy monsoon rains in April 2000 and as we walked through the place we did think all the people had gone as well! It was absolutely deserted, but after calling out found a couple resting in bed, apparently they don't get many people this time of year. Judging by the state of the bedroom you wouldn't think they ever had people staying, we must have disturbed the mice in the ceiling as they spent the whole night scurrying around, very back to nature!
We did have a great day tinged with slight illness but the scenery walking through the valley is amazing. The locals repairing the roads damaged by landslides is slightly unnerving but adds to the adventure!

Posted by AndyGem 02:34 Archived in Nepal Tagged foot Comments (0)

On the road again

Bus to Pokhara then starting our own trek to Jomsom

sunny 10 °C
View The Grand Adventure on AndyGem's travel map.

As with most long journeys I had a real sense of excitement about seeing somewhere new, and the bus is one of the best vantage points to witness the outside world without participating. Leaving the congestion and consumerism of Kathmandu we started to pass the country lives of Nepal; as men being shaved in the street turned into farmers stoking their haystacks. The warmer, hillier, greener landscape was still bustling with activity, just in a more gracious setting. The ride was not short of twists, turns and high-speed takeovers (even the debris from a previous landslide did not slow our driver, Or the lady in the front puking on her shoes) but I busied myself with the fascinating farmland. Daring kid-goats clambering up the roadside, hooves precariously perched so as to nibble the juicier leaves above.

For one of our toilet stops we got to stretch our legs in a little garden, an oasis full of flowers and ornaments. While sipping Coke calves ran riot in the field next door and I tried to get the fluttery, butterflies to land on my hand. It felt like the county climate had slowed the pace and I was pleased to find Pokhara just as peaceful. Situated next to the Phewa Tal Lake, Pokhara has splendid waterside views with a spectacular panorama of the central Himalaya dominating the skyline. Most treks of the Annapurna Region begin or end here so although it has the usual touristy trappings it also has a surprising, relaxed, hippy feel. What a shame we didn't come here sooner!

We opted for a budget busting (5/squid a night) hotel due to its promise of a consistently hot shower.. and we were not disappointed! It was almost a power-shower compared to the trickles we have previously endured!!

Oscar gave us the idea and inspiration of doing the Jomsom trek which is a classic tea-house route, strenuous enough to be stimulating, but at a low altitude and can be completed in 7 days. Originally we had planned to take Oscar again as our guide, but as we are now hardened trekkers we thought it would be more adventurous to go it alone. Andy also liked the idea of wearing his jungle hat and bounding off into the wilderness re-living his boys-brigade days!

German bakeries seem to get everywhere here so to prepare for our trek we picnicked on pastries as we paddled on the lake, and gazed up at the spiraling para gliders. I found out that you can do something called 'Para-hawking' here, which is feeding a bird of prey while gliding down the mountain side - think we will give that one a miss judging by the size of the birds we have seen. If you are a Twitter then this is the place to be...birds as big a house we've seen.

With our supplies packed and route planned we took the local bus to the start point Nayapul. (I won't be changing the names of these places because last time Andy got very confused. It was hilarious when he asked Oscar how far to Dingbat! Ha!) My bottom barely touched the seat on the bumpy ride and when we arrived at a small collection of road side shacks I wondered if our adventurous nature had got the better of us. However, we were soon directed to the path which was clearly marked near the river side and the warm spring climate meant nature was out in full force. I was wearing my most colourful red top to attract the butterflies, but I was also hoping a little puppy would follow us as well.

We heard the familiar, melodious bells echoing in the distance and expected the usual herd of Yaks to be on their way. Instead we were greeted with a caravan of horses, ponies, and mules who are apparently unique to this trek. The lead horse wears wondrous plumes and headdresses, reminiscent of ancient Tibet. Unlike the plodding, dozy Yaks these feisty mules can be much more temperamental, and we have seen them galloping past, biting each other, frightening Andy into the bushes. I have picked up a big stick to guide them out of our path, or just to whip Andy if he misbehaves.

Compared to our Everest endeavor it was an extremely pleasant, tame walk and completely different surroundings as we followed bamboo forests, waterfalls and swimming holes. Again we hardy met any other trekkers and we spent another night playing cards in our Lodge alone.. good job we've been getting on well otherwise we'd be stuck for other conversation, but it is a bit annoying we only know two card games. I did have to get the stick out though when Andy was cheating!

Posted by AndyGem 22:37 Archived in Nepal Tagged foot Comments (3)

Festivals and Sacred Sheep

Sight-seeing in Kathmandu then bus to Pokhara

sunny 11 °C
View The Grand Adventure on AndyGem's travel map.

It was a shame to exchange the peaceful mountain air for the bustling city smoke and it seemed that tourism had picked up while we were away because there were hoards of people walking the streets. We found out later that it was Shiva's birthday and the masses had come to Kathmandu for the national festival. As creator and destroyer of the world Shiva is probably the most important god in Nepal and the festivities take place at all the Shiva temples. One of which includes the freely, accessible smoking of hash. Yes, you did read correctly.. they hand out free hash/pot/dope so you can celebrate by getting stoned. Imagine that in London! The concept is that Shiva created everything on earth so for on his birthday, for one day only, smoking is allowed. I had absolutely no wish to witness Andy in a zombie-like state so we opted for a more traditional party activity - feasting! We started with the bakery of course!

Our plan for the next couple of days was to chill out, shop and think about how to spend the next couple of weeks. After our trek we were not sure whether to do another or just head somewhere else. To make the decision easier I purchased some sacred-sheep-shaped-mittens who I named Lamb and Chop. "What should we do next Lamb and Chop?" I asked. "Trek" said Chop, "In Nepal" said Lamb. Great.. so that's what shall do.

As we had not seen many of the Kathmandu sights we took a wander to the Old Town on our final day in the capital. Similar to Delhi we got lost in the rabbit-warren streets and got hassled left, right and centre for trinkets, tours and tiger balm. Shops upon shops line the built up area with workers carrying out their vocation on pavements. Even the butcher was plucking, chopping, slicing and handling the meat in the middle of the gangways, while rickshaws, motorbikes, dogs, kids and the rest of the population scoot and saunter past. How on earth have we side-stepped sickness?

We miraculously found Durbar Square which was once where the city's Kings were crowned and legitimized, and it contains Kathmandu's most spectacular legacy of traditional architecture. It was rather disheartening to find so many pesky pigeons were allowed to rule this area, pooping on the listed buildings and nesting in the statues. One of the most famous statues is of Bhairon who represents Shiva in his destructive manifestation. It was used by the government as a place for people to swear the truth. So, what could I tell Andrew to swear?

Maybe we have stayed in Kathmandu a bit too long but it seems the touts, noise and tourists have increased and we are starting to get a little fed up of the hassle. So with our books exchanged and our bellies enlarged we were ready to move on. After a quick consultation with Lamb and Chop we were booked on our longest bus journey yet - 7hours to Nepal's 2nd largest city - Pokhara.

Posted by AndyGem 22:21 Archived in Nepal Tagged foot Comments (2)

(Entries 31 - 35 of 62) « Page .. 2 3 4 5 6 [7] 8 9 10 11 12 .. »