Our time in Nepal was made special by the wonderful people and incredible views. The country has eight of the ten tallest peaks in the world and some of the most challenging hikes and treks in the world. And we hiked quiet a lot of it.
Our hike up to Sarangkot from Pokhara started at 884 m at the lake and went to 1590 m at Sarangkot. It was about 4 hours uphill but the views at the top and the sunrise the next day were worth the laborious climb. My hiking abilities were a bit of a concern after I had some trouble on our third day hiking in Tansen but I did GREAT! Guess all of our walking in the last eight months and the practicing around Pokhara really helped. And not to mention the scenery on offer. It just keeps you going!
Our first month in Nepal was spent trekking to Poon Hill, walking among Tiger tracks, seeing Rhinos from a jeep safari in Chitwan National Park, and exploring small towns like Bandipur while picking up some Nepali words and making friends.
We hiked for three days in Tansen after recommendations from GETUP Palpa and the City View Home Stay. Tansen is not touristy and filled with friendly locals who taught us Nepalese. I learned to say, "Malai ek cucur Momo dinus" which made for many laughs as I was trying to ask for "one chicken momo please," however, 'cucur' means dog and 'cucura' means chicken. OOPS!
In Pokhara, we walked through the jungle escorted by army guards (safety measures) to the Peace Pagoda for a phenomenal view.
Pokhara is a hot-spot for paragliders and recently played host to a Russian Paragliding contest. With plans for constructing a new international airport in Pokhara within five years in place the future for Pokhara as a paragliding destination with beautiful views of the Annapurna seems bleak. So, you better move Nepal to the top of your list and paraglide in Pokhara while you can!
In Chitwan National Forest, we went for a morning jungle walk. We saw Tiger-tracks as well as Rhino and Elephants footprints, Rhino scat, and we even saw a Peacock fly! A rare sight, we were told. A Blue Kingfisher flew by us and we saw Barking Deer, Monkey and two Rhinos in the morning walk. So, if you love wildlife, Chitwan National Forest is well worth a visit.
It was hard to leave Nepal after our wonderful three weeks there. We enjoyed the many mountain treks, the beautiful lakes, the wildlife in Chitwan, the ancient cities around Kathmandu and speaking at the Nepal Tourism Board for a Reader’s Club Event. Nepal has something for everyone–Mountains, Jungle, Trekking, Ancient Squares, UNESCO Sites, and more!
The Nepal Tourism Board slogan that once is not enough for Nepal is definitely true! We are already planning another trip to experience what we missed this time!
We started our 10-day trek in the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal and every day we steadily moved higher, every day edging closer to the mountains we had come to find, each day better than the last. We followed a valley wedged between a cliff and a drop into the river. We went through villages with groups of shy children acting as toll merchants demanding sweets, chocolates, school pens or balloons. We crossed suspension bridges every day, always swaying and bouncing. We kept going, pushing on and upwards getting glimpses of looming snow-covered mountains in the far-off distance. Halfway to the pass we climbed through small forests with the red colors of rhododendron bushes bursting through the green. The air felt cooler than before and soon the forest thinned out, the terrain became barren and we ventured higher into the mountains. The changes were an encouraging sign of progress. The conversations also turned from excitement to philosophy. Traveling through such calm solitudes, so far removed from the tensions of civilization, clarity and hopefulness pervaded our thinking. We all seemed to be overwhelmed with grandiose ideas for the future. Our thoughts seemed to reflect the magnificent mountains we were passing through. We walked together and we walked alone, talking a little but simply content to be moving and making our way. We ambled up and up. The only thing we needed to do was to keep moving, not necessarily at a fast pace but just keep moving. Then we neared the pass and a completely new challenge. After three hours of solo toil, we came upon other hikers who were feeling sick and nauseous and moving very slowly, even slower than me. We rested for a while, dicussing the view and our inability to appreciate it in our fatigued states. We set off again, the climb was not as steep as before but we walked at a crawling pace for the next few hours up and over small hills.
Lumbini is a Buddhist pilgrimage site in Nepal. There is a temple here called the Maya Devi temple that is believed to be Lord Buddha's birthplace. This is a small and peaceful Nepalese village. Buddhist nations from around the world have constructed extravagant monasteries around the site. Each reflects the unique interpretation of Buddhism of its home nation and together the monasteries create a fascinating map of world Buddhist philosophy.
In Chitwan National Park we walked on a dirt track and in jungle on dense leaves and twigs. Single file. Guides in front and back with a broom-like stick. It reminded me of our walk on Rincha Island in Indonesia when we went to see the Komodo dragons and our guide carried a forked stick. Our walk was from 7-10:30 am, we were met at our hotel, Chitwan Gaida Lodge, and walked to the river. Getting into the canoe took longer than getting across the river, and then we went walking again.
Pokhara, the third largest city in Nepal, offers majestic views of the Himalayas. Three out of ten highest peaks in the world are situated within 30 miles of the city. Pokhara is also a great spot to prepare for hikes and expeditions into the Annapurna mountain range. One of the most popular cities when it comes to tourists, Pokhara has plenty of restaurants and hotels along lakes, waterfalls and gorges.
Considered one of the best viewing points in the Annapurna region, Poon Hill is situated at 3210m above sea level. It is a medium difficulty 4-5 day trek. But the spectacular views of the mountains make the effort worthwhile.
Nepal's capital is surrounded by historic sites, ancient temples and shrines, golden pagodas and fascinating villages. Kathmandu is a must do on your Nepal itinerary. Spend two days visiting some famous sites like Monkey Temple, the valley's oldest and most sacred shrine. Mingle with locals and animals amid Durbar Square's monuments and temples, or join mountain trekkers in the bustling Thamel District.
The locals call it Khāsti or Jyarung Khasyor. A UNESCO heritage site, this imposing stupa is believed to house the remains of the Kassapa Buddha. It is one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal with the dome 120 feet in diameter. Lying on the trade route from Tibet, the stupa was a spot for Tibetan merchants to rest and offer prayers.
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