Relaxing and recharging in Nepal

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April 30th 2008
Published: April 30th 2008
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View from the CockpitView from the CockpitView from the Cockpit

We had free rein of the plane coming and going from the cockpit when we wanted to! Pretty exceptional considering 9/11...
Nepal is like India on holiday. 😊 It has the same Indian flavours, cows on the streets, women in bright saris, men clustered around chai shops in the morning, but they are all watered down a bit, diluted. Everyone isn't in such a hurry to get places and even though the traffic may seem chaotic it is nothing compared to Indian streets. The people are also more friendly and laid back, prone to easy genuine smiles. Combine this with some of the most stunning scenery on the planet and you have a pretty interesting place in which to spend a few weeks!

Walking out of the Airport in Kathmandu it was so nice to see Mum's smiling face amongst the sea of blank expressions! She had arrived a few hours before me and had already gone to our hotel to sort everything out, and then come back to welcome me in! Only minutes before I had been rushing through the terminal feeling guilty that I had booked our flights in this way, and that Mum was being hassled and annoyed by beggars and strangers while she waited for me. (I was also a bit worried that Mum might find the trek we did really hard but once again my fears where ill founded as even on the first day she was offering her stick to a Japanese lady and helping her down a steep section of trail!)

In Kathmandu Mum and I hired a scooter one day to do some sightseeing. I had had a bit of experience riding a motorbike in busy traffic in India but I still think Mum was very brave to hop on the back as readily as she did! We had a great time exploring Pashupatinath, a Hindu temple complex where a body was being burned on a ghat by the river, and then cruised over to the Boudhanath Stupa, in a Tibetan area a bit out of town as we dodged the open manholes, cows and potholes that looked like craters. Mum also patiently accompanied me as we zipped around town trying to get everything sorted for my application for a visa to Pakistan. It was quite fun actually going to an Australian Embassy abroad and thinking that I was on Australian soil!

We decided to do a trek in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas so took an
Chilling with some SahdusChilling with some SahdusChilling with some Sahdus

These guys were actually really cool and we chatted for a while before we took the photo. Note the metal underpants that the guy behind me is wearing and the ash of dead people that is smeared on their skin...
eight hour bus journey along winding rivers and up steep hills to the small town of Pokhara. This town is set on the side of a beautiful lake and is extremely peaceful and calm. We had a reference from a friend in Australia for a good trekking place and after a quick meeting we had organised a guide/porter to take us on a 5 day trek through the Annapurna foothills.

So the next morning at 5.30am we found ourselves beginning our trek climbing Sarangkot Hill near Pokhara for our first view of the Annapurna Range. Arriving at the top just as the sun was peaking over the snow clad mountains we were treated to a very special sight indeed. A range of massive mountains as far as the eye could see, perched above lush green valleys where locals grew rice and wheat, and right below us a river slowly winding its way through the valley. Our guide, Lok, had decided to bring his 12 year old son, Sabine, along with him which turned out to be great as Lok was a fairly aloof character and Sabine turned out to be an extremely energetic boy always with a smile on
Prayer candlesPrayer candlesPrayer candles

In the Tibetan area of Kathmandu at a small monastery.
his face! He kept me busy the whole trek teaching me Nepali and playing cards in the cabins at night.

On the first day after climbing Sarangkot we walked along the side of the valley past lots of small villages surrounded by wheat fields. We then took a bus to Naya Pul, the start of our actual trek and crossed a small bridge into Birithanti where we signed in to the "Trekkers Book". From there we slowly climbed in elevation along stepped paths of stone that seemed to go on and on forever. One of the things that I remember most about the first day was the fact that there was marijuana everywhere! It really is a "weed" in Nepal and we passed so many bushes, some even growing out of the cracks in the path itself. Another interesting thing from that first day was seeing the loads that porters carry. They carry about 35kg on average with most of the weight on their stooped shoulders and on a piece of cloth that rests on their foreheads. As we panted and puffed our way up the never-ending steps we were passed by porters carrying furniture, chickens in big wire
Relaxing at the Garden of DreamsRelaxing at the Garden of DreamsRelaxing at the Garden of Dreams

I spent many hours here reading, writing postcards, listening to music and just enjoying doing nothing for once!
cages, a fridge! and one carrying an old man down in a basket!

The second day was much cooler as we had already climbed quite high into the foothills and towards the end of the day we started to see trees covered in Rhododendron flowers. When you see entire hillsides covered in a pink and red blanket of these flowers, contrasted with the backdrop of pure white snow clad mountains in the background you have to pinch yourself to make sure you're not dreaming! :P

The highlight of the trek for me was on the third morning when Mum and I sat side by side on Poon Hill watching the sunrise over Machupuchare (Fishtail Mountain) and then slowly illuminating the whole Annapurna Range. We had got up at 4.30am and climbed for almost an hour from Ghoropani to Poon Hill in the dark with flashlights but it was worth every last step. This was the peak of the trek in more than one way as after descending Poon Hill it felt like we were already on our way back. Those 5 days were a great introduction to trekking for me and I hope to do some more in
Bandit on a Bike!Bandit on a Bike!Bandit on a Bike!

Most people in KTM wear face masks because the pollution is so bad!
the North of Pakistan in a couple of weeks.

We were treated to some interesting local bus rides while we were in Pokhara, but I needn't have worried about what Mum thought as each time I looked across at her with a worried look I saw a huge smile covering her face! On our way to Naya Pul we had to dive onto a moving bus as it careened down the hill. Once we had hurdled the sacks of potatoes that blocked the passageway with the bus swerving and braking heavily we found out that the bus diver was trying to stay ahead of another bus to make sure that he got to the next passengers first! On the way back our ride was no less entertaining. Near the beginning we stopped to pick up some goats, which were pulled onto the roof by the neck along with a branch for them to nibble on. 😊 Shortly after we heard a bang and the bus came to a lurching halt as something had fallen off the roof. Thankfully it was just some tourist's camping gear and not a goat... :P This happened again not long after and one of the goats made a daring escape while his minder was busy retrieving the luggage. We watched with bemused expressions as the man chased the goat along the hillside eventually catching it. Then to my utter surprise a group of girls who looked like they were right out of a model shoot got on our bus and sat all around Sabine and me! Always expect the unexpected! This was particularly true when five minutes later a bus passing us swerved into us and smashed one of the side windows... In my opinion local bus rides in Asia are more exhilarating and exciting than any rides in Theme Parks!

I had such a lot of fun meeting up with my Mum in Nepal and couldn't have asked for a better traveling companion. She was tough when she needed to be, getting up at 4.30am to climb for an hour to the top of Poon Hill to watch the sunrise after her muscles had already started cramping from our climb the previous day, she was extremely brave, sitting on the back of our motorbike as I did my best to negotiate Kathmandu's chaotic traffic, she
Stupa in the Tibetan area of KathmanduStupa in the Tibetan area of KathmanduStupa in the Tibetan area of Kathmandu

The Tibetan prayer flags really add to the atmosphere of the square.
was as intrepid a traveler as I've met in a while, hurdling sacks of potatoes as she jumped onto a moving local bus, and most importantly she was always up for new experiences and open to new challenges. So thank you very much Mum for meeting me here, at the midpoint of my travels, and having such a great time together! 😊

Additional photos below
Photos: 41, Displayed: 27


Breakfast at our Hotel in KathmanduBreakfast at our Hotel in Kathmandu
Breakfast at our Hotel in Kathmandu

We stayed at a nice hotel in a quiet area just outside of the main area but still within walking distance.
Playing Carrom with some kids at the Rainbow OrphanagePlaying Carrom with some kids at the Rainbow Orphanage
Playing Carrom with some kids at the Rainbow Orphanage

Even with some practice from Justin's house these kids easily beat me each time!
It was growing EVERYWHERE!  :PIt was growing EVERYWHERE!  :P
It was growing EVERYWHERE! :P

Some people I met collected mounds of it and tried drying it over their trek... :P
Sunrise from Poon HillSunrise from Poon Hill
Sunrise from Poon Hill

A really special moment I won't soon forget!

30th April 2008

Absolutely brilliant, Joel! Just loved it... felt I was right there with you and mum! Loved photo from Poon Hill, of the unfolding fern and of the donkey...Bring on the next blog!
30th April 2008

I'll be your travelling companion anytime!
Joel, I counted it a real privilege to have met you in Nepal and to have explored such a beautiful country with you! We certainly had fun together and your blog brings back some wonderful memories. I pray that your time in Pakistan will be as hassle-free and safe as our time in Nepal! Love Mum
5th May 2008

Amazing human being!
Hey Joel, you are an amazing human being! Your blogs are super - just when I think they can't get any better, along comes the next one to top it! You and mum were a great team and certainly had your fair share of unforgettable experiences. I think we've got our very own 'Wonder Woman' here! The photos were great too - well done! Safe traveling for the rest of your adventures. God bless, Nana-Ruth ++ PS Many thanks for your card from India, just received!
6th May 2008

Very Nice
Sounds awesome mate. Just got the postcard, I had to look at it for a while till I figured it out!!! Hope you're having a blast wherever you are when you read this.

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