Published: December 24th 2010May 23rd 2010
Do you have chocolates?" "Where are you from?"
It must have been a non-school day as many kids greeted me along the "trail" while trekking Sarangkot's hillside. Pressed for time due to delays caused by the bandh
or strike on my way to Pokhara, I opted to just take a day trek after watching the sun kiss Annapurna. The trail is actually the road that cuts through about five villages. Quaint houses made of mud and bricks, corn fields, milk cans, goats and occasional water buffaloes dot the path.
Overlooking Pokhara and Fewa Lake with clear view of the Himalayas, the villages lie at an altitude of 1,592 meters above sea level. The villagers are economically and socially underprivileged, with 90% living below poverty line (Quality of Life Nepal, 2009).
Among the things I learned from mountaineering is to greet people you meet, recognizing that you are a stranger passing through their territory. It is a good lesson indeed as it earned me lots of warm smiles along the way, making the 4-hour walk more fun. As I neared an old structure, a young boy coyly approached, handed me a paper while pointing to the building. He must
kids on a crusade
the boy in orange shirt handed me that paper with donation request
have been 6. On the paper is a request for donation to help fix their school because their government is unable to. Similar scenes back home came to mind -- many of which are actually scams. However, seeing the kids, the list of trekkers who also donated, their mothers, and that tired structure they call school, I kicked the cynic in me out. A young girl, probably about 5 years old, even showed me her notebook and asked me to teach her English. This endearing little girl, maybe 3 years old, wanted to come with me and would not let go of my hand. The village children, even only with this brief encounter, stole my heart. If only I had time.
Minus the nose rings, bindi, traditional clothes, and majestic mountain ranges, I could not help but again be reminded of our country, primarily the people more than the similarities in some settings -- that despite pervasive poverty, hope remains, and it is reflected in their eyes and smiles.
Either that or I need to have my brain checked already. (If you want to help the people living in Sarangkot villages, you may want to check out
the NGO Quality of Life Nepal. For a more meaningful experience, you can try the volunteer opportunities around the area, many of which are posted at Idealist.org.) (Since the inner mountaineer in me did not get satisfied by this trek, I would most probably be back for a longer and harder one.)
view along Sarangkot hillside
Dhanyabaad (DHAN-naii-bat), Nepal! Until next time.
- It was like a scene out of the movies. Bade Yla goodbye, walked to the bus station smiling and optimistic about the trip, took a deep breath, then..."Ouch!" Something assaulted my right eye and for some reason it took a while before I wrestled it out. An unknown black bug stung my lower lid. I reached the station teary and barely able to open my eye from pain. Another tourist helped me splash water into my eye. (I thought he was nice until he tried to hit on me and persuade me to join him to a point of being a bit scary -- he was persistent and it was a really long ride. I should have known. Disadvantage of traveling alone.) An hour into the trip, chest tightness and
palpitation woke me up. I thought I was going to have an anaphylaxis from the bite.
stranded in the heat
encountered a "bandh" or strike on the way to Pokhara
- Got stranded for 5 hours on the way to Pokhara (travel took almost 12 hours). The road was blocked by farmers who had gone on strike; they demanded the government to give them manure (probably for fertilizer). Scorching sun with very little water left was not a pretty combination.
- It is important to have a flexible itinerary when traveling to Nepal.
- Buses to Pokhara at tourist bus stop in Kathmandu leave by 7am. Travel time is about 5-6 hours. To avoid any inconvenience, buy tickets beforehand. It is unsafe to travel by bus to Pokhara at night. Many accidents happen, primarily from poor roads by the mountainside, overspeeding, and overloading of local buses. True enough, on my way back to Kathmandu, I saw a bus that toppled over.
- Tea house trekking is popular in Nepal and is among the best ways to enjoy the country. It usually involves multi-day treks along established paths (e.g., Helambu) and staying for the night at "tea houses" along the trail. However, if you do not have enough time, you can trek the hillsides of Sarangkot (about 4-5 hours depending on pace). It is a very easy trek -- sadly, just like walking in the park. A guide is not needed because the trail is actually a village road. It ends at Nagdanda then you can just take a cab back.
- Tourists often go to Sarangkot to see the sunrise over the Annapurna side. It is about less than 30 minutes from around Fewa Lake area. A cab can be hired to go up near the viewing deck area.
- Devi's Falls is an hour's walk from Fewa Lake area. There was not much water when I went there because it was spring so avoid going there during spring and summer to avoid getting disappointed.
- Food: Lakeview Resort offers fine meal at an affordable price. Surely a nice cap to a gastronomic adventure.
- People: Many Nepali men are really good-looking. As in really. :)
There are more photos below