Monday, May 29, 2017

Traveling in Himalayas : Experiencing cultural and natural diversity of Nepal

The trail looks truly natural and aesthetically pleasant.The indispensable sage to hike and feel the himalayas surmounts by the superiority of nature and amazing people makes Nepal one of the best place to travel. - Nepaliboy

  Nepal Trip in Nutshell ( April 16 - May 02, 2017 )

Part I  Kathmandu Valley

It was an amazing flight, one of cheapest and shortest route I have ever traveled from US to Nepal yet it was cunningly long - fourteen hours flight from Los Angeles to Guanzhou and another ~5 hours to Kathmandu and yes! you are traveling to future - almost +12 hours. The transfer process in Guanzhou airport was super easy, recommend this route if you are traveling to Nepal except Guanzhou airport needs good restaurants and it was hot. The sad part of the journey - I can't sleep in the plane yet in the eternity of the hope, the spirit of enjoyment looms forever. About 20% of the travelers who were traveling from Los Angeles were headed towards Nepal. I met amazing lady from San Diego who was damn excited to go to Everest camp. The human stories continues to evolve as we reach the foot print of Himalayas, Nepal.

We were five - heading from Kansas, Missouri and Southern California on this trip to Nepal. We have been planning too much about the trip for the last couple of months. Buying hiking gears , managing porters , thinking about food and pollution in Kathmandu were exciting conversations to engage the grey matter but are equally plausible and vindicated as we experience the trip.

Nothing has changed in that tiny airport at Kathmandu, the only international airport of the country. I thought after the major earthquake on April 2015, there were too much of hue and cry on the infrastructure upgrades of the only international airport but It was the same old story, the forgotten and left behind . Nepal is beautiful , it was perhaps not the best time to see the Himalayas from Kathmandu Valley but you can feel the sense of it, its coming nearer and dearer as we landed to Kathmandu airport. When the monsoon ends in September, October and November in Nepal is the best time to visit and it welcomes clear skies, fresh air and incredible views.

Welcome to Kathmandu, Nepal. Still - the cows and dogs rules the road, the freedom of life for all just started.

As the eighteen-year long project - "Melamchi" to bring water from northern Himalayas is about to complete which is a good news , the dust and pollution in Kathmandu is historically high. In our first week of the trip mostly in Kathmandu, I will write few words about the place and yes - the picture speaks more than thousand words. Also we had opportunity to participate in my cousin's marriage ceremony - cultural experience on color, livings and arts.

Pashupati Temple - The sacred Hindu's temple in Kathmandu, you feel the vibe of nature, culture and spirit. Watch - Watch Dr. Strange

Patan Durbar Square - Place where the history meets the future, the beauty of temple , arts and culture , you can see the shikhara style - Krishna Temple in Patan Durbar square.

Kathmandu Durbar Square - Another tiny kingdom of the history, arts and culture where living goddess Kumari lives.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square - The most beautiful part of the valley on arts and culture - my home town , Believe me I am not biased ;)

Nagarkote - The hill station on the north east side of Valley - 7201 ft. This is not a mountain - just a hill station.

Katunje - My birth village - now Suryabinayak Municipality - Wondering how it is changing from village to mega city.

Marriage Ceremony - The art and culture with people coming together - the colors for joyful life.

Part II Hiking in Mardi Himal [~ 14,000 ft ], Kaski, Nepal

We drove to Pokhara on April 23rd after a week long of stay at Kathmandu. We were really excited to leave the Kathmandu - the populous city , the unwithered pollution with living arts and culture, and the place where history meets the future. Our jeep driver was chatty nice guy, as he navigate us on the curvy and snaky roads of the mountain, we continue to inhale more oxygen in the anticipation of the insatiable beauty of the nature and the scary narrow roads, where inches matters the most. The fresh fishes were amazing for lunch, we had in the riverbed of narrow roads. I remembered Anthony Bourdain - Come on! you should travel Nepal.

The pokhara looks very different than Kathmandu. Although its a small city with valley but it has fresh air and fresh nature. Within a miles in phewa lake - you can feel the sense of diversity and inclusion from Africa to east Asia and from America to Europe - its just the blended piece of ice where small and big, nature and development, lake and mountains, people and culture relentlessly appreciate each other.

Welcome to Pokhara - the land of lake, mountain, amazing people and above all, the paradise of Nepal.

We stayed in Hotel Spring. The owner , Mr. Gurung is amazing and gifted person who sang the "Hotel California" , and provided us the luxury of not only being the tourist but as family member with high degree of hospitality. The next morning , we were heading towards the Kandhe in Taxi from Pokhara which is about two hours drive. As we met refugees in the small tea house and bought some of the ornaments, the rain was pouring and we were heading towards the Mardi Himal, day one towards the Australian Camp.

 I donated Rs200 - $2. - Way to Australian Camp

Women weaving the clothes in Australian Camp.

We stopped in Pothana for the lunch. I ate Potato Roasty with cheese and Egg - Rs 400 ~4$. As we stopped , there was leech maniac and learned Leach101 from one of the dutch nurse we met on the tea house. Because of the rain, leech were everywhere. Glad they have freedom to live.

We headed further North and call our day at Deurali, ~7000 ft for the night. We were surprised by the menu these tea houses provides, they are all identical and yes you can order Pizza here! Met an austrian guy who has been to Nepal 27 times - incredible story. Also met Australian Uncle and Niece - pretty excited with the trip

Kitchen of Tea house - All nature , are non-organic foods exist in the world ?

The heating stove in Himalayas

The next morning as we wake up, we saw the pristine mountains for the first time. From Annapurna South to Fishtail and Mardi Himal - we just felt we are ready for the trip now. The natural heater.

Interestingly , the power problem in Nepal has been sorted out but most of the mountains still lack the electricity but they have also managed to use the solar power for the minimum usage of the electricity. In lower base camps, you may also get internet. Deurali is the junction where you branched out to the Mardi Himal route and Ghandruk to Annapurna circuit. As we start to climb the treacherous steps in the trail - I remember my military days.

We were lost at one time in the middle of the forest when we were heading towards forest camp. It was quite an interesting story to get lost in the middle of the of the forest. The rhododendron trees rules the higher altitude.

In the second day - April 24, we decided to reach low base camp which was about 9,860 ft leaving two of us our team members at rest camp. We were lucky as we reach the low base camp, the heavy rain fall started. That night played card with German girl and american guy. Celebrated Patrici's birthday with Yak Cheese Cake. I ate buck-wheat for the breakfast on April 25

Mostly Thick forest with Rhododendron Trees - Life is hard in mountains.

And they are the friends...........

The third day - April 25, we met our team and headed towards the high camp. In the high camp we met chatty scottish group. Glad I learned how to play Dominos. The terrains are totally different now, there are no trees ;)

Yaks rules in the higher altitudes.

Baby Yak....dreaming about his future.

Drinking Yak Milk....Its amazing!

April 26 - Headed towards the Mardi base Camp. The picture will speak rest of the story - tea houses with blue roof.

Annapurna South on the horizon

April 27- Left low camp to Zhingling, Drove back to the pokhara in Jeep. That road trip was the most amazing and craziest jeep drive I ever had in my life. Had hot bath after so many days.

April 28 - Paragliding in Pokhara, amazing experience with Turkish Pilot.

April 29 - Flew in small airplane - 25 minutes flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu, there were about 62 passengers mostly tourist.

April 30 - Trip to Swaymbhunath- The Buddhist monastery where Buddishm and Hinduism co-exists. Still development work going on after the devastating earthquake. Watch Dr. Strange

May 01 -Thamel - The hippies lively city in 70's ! you name it, Thamel have it. We bought gifts at Thamel.

May 02 - Fly back to Lost Angeles. Glad - David drove us all the way from Los Angeles to San Diego and yes, I was sleeping with big dreams in the car. Also, it was shortest trip back home - only 20 hours flight from Nepal because of the air pressure.

Finally, the memories lasted forever. Able to take the picture of my crib on the top floor of our antique house at Katunje, Bhaktapur ;)