Saturday, 28 April 2012

Beautiful Nepal!



Leaving Varanasi, India & on my way to beautiful Nepal!

Leaving Varanasi at around midnight is a bit spooky I have to say. I was so glad when I finally arrived at the train station and my rickshaw driver dropped me of. Not that the train station was nice, no – not at all. Millions of people where sleeping already outside as well as inside the station and on the platforms.
I saw my train listed on the board and happiness filled my heart. All will be good, I just need to leave this city!

There was another Western girl waiting on the platform - it turned out that she was from Canada and she had just arrived in Varanasi from Nepal! Wow, what a coincidence. So we exchanged our experiences in that short timeframe until my train came in and I had to go. 
This time, the other 5 people, whom I shared a compartment with turned out to be 5 Indian men; all of them really fat and none of them was very polite at all:( They even took my bed, so I sleep on the top one, however they used all the clean sheets in the prepared bags, even when they saw that I had non-left. They acted so selfish; it was unreal!
After half and hour somebody, who was employed by the Indian Rail finally brought me clean sheets and I was able to get up on my bed and I tried to sleep. Unfortunately as the Indian men were all so fat, they started to snore!
Congrats I thought! I was even happier to travel towards Nepal!

The train arrived 1 hour late in Gorakhpur, India. 



I left the station and found the busses to the boarder just down the road. They were public one’s, no AC and really packed, but I got a seat and it was supposed to take around 2-3 hours. Before we were on our way to leave, a couple from the UK entered the bus and got seats directly behind me as locals had to move. Richard & Hazel from the UK near Oxford, who had sold or their belongings and now travelling around the world for 18 months. Wow, how cool is that?! I’m more then impressed!
The bus had glass windows and with all the bumpy roads they made an awful noise while driving into millions of holes ;)
Finally we arrived at the boarder at 12 noon. We had to go through Indian Emigration and then walked over to the other side toward Nepalese Immigration. 






Nepal – Here I am :)
What a different welcome ;) You could straight away feel the warmth of Nepalese people! They were very friendly at the Immigration Office, gave you the form to fill in for the Visa – you handed over the money and the passport + one picture and 2 minutes later you got your Visa! Wow, very impressive and easy :)
The immigration officer said to me with a big smile on his face: “Welcome Kerstin Rieger in Nepal. You are allowed to stay until the 5th of May and if you want to extend your stay it is not a problem. Enjoy your time in Nepal.”
Impressive! 
The first thought which crossed my mind was “You are in the right country Kerstin!” 
That’s what I like ;)

I walked out to find a bus to Kathmandu and to change some money into Nepalese rupees. In less than 5 min all was sorted and I tried to find the UK couple as the bus was leaving in 20 min towards Kathmandu. Oh, can you believe it? Nepal has 15min time difference to India ;) That’s really funny – I first thought the guy from the bus was joking, but no – it is true!
Leaving the boarder at 1pm, we were supposed to arrive in Kathmandu around 8-9pm. It wasn’t an AC bus (non available ;) and it turned out it stopped almost at any point where people were waiting along the road! What an adventure really! The UK couple was with me, which was nice.
The bus was packed, people where standing everywhere. I met a lovely Nepalese guy, who actually travelled back from Goa to Kathmandu! What a coincidence really :)

It was a bus ride I won’t forget – the roads got bumpier and curvier, and it seemed like it would never end. 

Our bus to Kathmandu
We arrived in Kathmandu finally at 11pm! Bikram, the Nepalese man, organized us a taxi to our guesthouse and the UK couple joined me and I finally met Annette, who was waiting for me in the guesthouse. I was on the road for 24 hours and really exhausted by now. So good to have a bed to sleep for the night ;)

Kathmandu


Monkey Temple
Two days in Kathmandu were really exciting. Our guesthouse was in Thamel, a touristy spot in the city, where you can find millions of vendors and shops and you can buy millions of lovely items. From presents to clothes, to praying wheels, peace flags, sandals, trekking gear, books and bags – you name it! They had also lovely bakeries everywhere, interesting buildings and lots to see.

The first day we explored the city, walked miles and miles – went in lots of shops, had banana lassies and some nice pastries.

What lassie will we get?!

Little square in Kathmandu

Lovely temple

Beautiful old house


That's how you can transport a sofa ;)

Need a tailor?!
The 2nd day we went up to the Monkey temple called “Swayambhunath”! Gorgeous place, where you can overlook the city from a hill! 


You arrive at the bottom of a hill, looking up to a lot of steps leading to the temple. 





To the left and right you have beautiful trees which create a stunning alley! 


Peace flags are tightened everywhere and they are so colourful. 


We saw a lot of monkeys, while walking up the steps and they are not reclusive at all.


The last steps up to the temple are pretty steep!


The temple is beautiful with so many peace flags tightened from tree to tree – some wild monkeys and such a peaceful atmosphere! I loved it!


One of the most interesting things up there was the so-called praying wheels.

People were walking around the stupa, chanting the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”, which was written on the praying wheels, even around the temple and they were playing the music 
up there as well. I loved it! 


How do you think I look like chanting "Om Mani Padme Hum ?!


There were a lot of shops on the top, which were selling a lot of different things including praying wheels!



I even bought a tiny little praying wheel myself to take it everywhere with me in Nepal :)


We also saw some monks in a small little temple chanting different mantras while walking around meditating. I was really curious to see them and it reminded me about my Yoga Teacher Training in Goa.


In the evening we met Bikram for dinner and ate some tasty Nepalese food incl. Vegetable Momos. We had a lovely time and tomorrow we are leaving for Pokhara with the early morning bus! I will come back to Kathmandu at a later stage as there is still so much to see and explore!




Pokhara






What a gorgeous, really beautiful little place. It feels like you are in Switzerland with the lake in the middle of town surrounded by the impressive, in snow covered Himalaya’s.





The only challenge for the first day was to find a cheap guesthouse. Some were fully booked, others didn't persuade us. So we took one for one night and decided to go on a “guesthouse hunt” the next morning. It was successful for sure, by the time we found “the one” we had at least looked at 20 guesthouses or so. We decided to stay at the Peace Ganga Guesthouse as it was cheap, a big room and a lovely balcony just for ourselves with a view to the World Peace Pagoda. 




 This is the view from the rooftop terrasse :) You can see the Fishtail 6900m!



We found a few lovely coffee places around town with tasty groceries - Apple Muffins, Apple Strudels, Chocolate Banana Cakes and some fabulous coffee. Sooner or later we had two favourites: The Himalaya Café with the tastiest Lemongrass tea and the AM/PM Organic Café with the best latte ever in Nepal.

Unfortunately Annette and myself got a bit sick, we struggled with diarrhea  - it seemed like we had a bad lassie somewhere. So we took it easy for a day.

The next day we rented some bikes to explore the nearby countryside. The bikes you can rent here in Nepal are very different to Vietnam. They are all driving bigger bikes (125cc), so I wasn’t sure in the beginning how that would work out. The bikes also had real clutches and so we ended up to rent a scooter for Annette and I had a red, really pretty Yamaha Chopper – but a really big bike!






We had a lovely time driving through the Nepalese countryside and after returning to Pokhara we decided to drive up to Sarangkot to enjoy the view. 




What a steep ride up there and lots of gravel on the road! But it was more than worthwhile for sure :) On the way down it started to rain and actually to lash down. We stopped and looked for shelter. There were some Nepalese people who waited there as well and we had a lovely chat with that local man. When the rain slowed down, we continued with our raincoats towards Pokhara, where we had to return the bikes. It was an adventurous day and it was great to drive such a big bike! I loved it :)


The next day we hiked up to the World Peace Pagoda. To get there you can get a small little boat to cross the lake and from there you can start a one hour trek. We hired a boat with a Nepalese guy who was paddling us to the other side of the lake. It was a lovely trip and to look at the Himalaya's from the lake was beautiful!

The hike to the Pagoda wasn't too long, but pretty steep. The sun was already blazing down and I was sweating quiet a lot. However, I had just bought a new Nepalese handmade hat out of Hemp. Brilliant material, which feels like it is cooling your hat! I loved it :) 





As the weather forecast for Pokhara looked pretty rainy, we decided to change our plans and to visit the Chitwan National Park first. We tried to decide which package tour to go for and ended up booking one, which promised us to sleep in a lovely wooden tower for one night in the middle of the park. Annette and myself were so excited that we booked that one – 3 nights, 4 days! Chitwan, here we come!




 Chitwan National Park
We left on a Friday morning and the bus ride took us at least 5.5hours. I got the seat in the last row and so therefore I had an extremely bumpy ride.


We arrived at our hotel and it was in a really peaceful surrounding with lovely flowers in a beautiful garden. 

The rooms were ok as well, so we were excited what we were off to today. Unfortunately it was only a so-called orientation walk and watching the sunset by the river. Not really exciting and pretty touristy. Oh well, it didn’t matter as we were so looking forward to our Elephant ride in the morning.
I have to say looking back the Elephant ride and the Elephant bathing were my personal highlights for sure :) I have never been riding on an elephant before, but it was worth every minute.


How to step onto and elephant!

Our elephant

First seconds on our elephant ;)

Even elephants need tickets ;)

elephant ride



elephant ride through the park 

We enjoyed every second!

Our lovely elephant :)

You sit pretty high up, but a really good view to watch the animals and it feels secure as well. The ride took a good hour and we saw monkeys, deers and the highlight of all were 2 Rhinos! 

Rhino
Rhino No.2
Yes, two Rhinos and we were maybe 3 meters away from them as Rhinos are not scared of elephants! What an adventure! I loved it :)

In the afternoon we went for a 4 hours Jeep Safari in the National Park. I was actually really looking forward to it, but as it turned out it was not so successful to spot any animals from the Jeep really. The elephant was much better! We saw a lot of birds, monkeys and deers – but so far no Rhinos. 

Cute monkey!

Deers


We were all pretty disappointed. We stopped at the Crocodile breeding farm and that was pretty scary. I know the Crocodiles were behind fences, but still sooo scary!



First crocodile
A really big one!!!

Then we continued with our Jeep Safari and we were all eager to spot a Rhino before we were leaving the park. If you believe it or not, but we did! We all had to get of the Jeep and slowly walk towards the Rhino, to see it, but of course not too close.




Suddenly the Rhino moved towards us and we all got so scared that we all started running like mad towards our Jeep! Scare situation for sure, but luckily enough the Rhino didn’t follow us!



We came back to our hotel and we were off to our tower night in the Park. Annette and myself were so excited, but wait what’s coming ;) We drove into the park for maybe 10min and we saw an old Stone Tower in the middle of a grass land. Annette said to me: ”No, that can’t be it – that’s not the wooden tower we saw in the brochure!” Annette was right, it wasn’t the tower we were promised, but it was the tower we were sleeping in ;) 



Oh well, it turned out that there were 2 French girls staying in the tower as well and they seemed to be good company. Unfortunately it was already dark when we arrived, so we couldn’t see any animals before we went to bed. So we decided to get up early to watch out for them. 5am we got up and looked out for them. No Rhinos, but herds of deers and lots of monkeys – it was worthwhile for sure even if the tower wasn’t really what we had expected.

After breakfast in our hotel we were off bird watching ;) I have never been bird watching in my life and on top of that a father and son from the UK joined us, which were serious bird watchers with pinocolous and telescope! Wow! During the next few hours Annette and myself got some lessons in ornithology.

I finally learned what my favourite bird was called I saw in India every morning while running on the beach: Kingfisher :) What a beautiful bird really! Sorry, wasn't able to take a picture. They are too quick.

It was nice just to walk through the unspoiled nature, watching the locals cutting and carrying grass and just to be outside. 
















A really enjoyable walk as it turned out. 


Our guide called Buddha was also a serious bird watcher! 

Annette, Buddha and myself :)

He was a very kind man and really tried to engage us.



Back in the hotel, we changed clothes and put on our swimsuits to go Elephant Bathing. We were so excited as a lot of people told us that this is one of the highlights in Chitwan. We found out that our hotel had their own elephant and it actually lived behind the hotel! Wow, we didn’t know beforehand.
So we walked all down to the river and there were already other people bathing elephants in full swing. We were waiting for our own elephant to come and here it was. She was very cute and not as tall as some of the others, where I was grateful for :)

So Annette and myself got on the elephant and we rode down to the river! 


That’s a brilliant feeling to sit on the elephant without anything on it, just on the back of the elephant :) I loved it!


The question was, did we bath the elephant or did the elephant bath us ;) But it was enjoyful either way, so it didn’t matter at all.





The UK family came with us as well and they also joined in. We had a great time before returning to our hotel for a lovely shower.

In the afternoon there was Canoieng, Jungle walk and the Elephant Breeding centre on the program. We did the canoing with at least 15 other people in a small banana boot apparently made out of one tree trunk. 


It was tiny and very unstable with 15 people on it, but there we were floating on the river, passing crocodiles – Yes, real crocodiles! 


We were assured they don’t attack people. Well, I felt better when we were on dry land again!


We stopped somewhere along the river and headed off for our jungle walk. 
Passing this lovely lake was a real excitement as we were wondering what animals we actually would see. 


But after walking for around 45 minutes the fun started. I walked directly behind our guide and he suddenly stopped and showed me the puhh of a Rhino – it was 2 days old he said. Ok, I thought, two days old means the Rhino is far gone by now. We continued walking and the guide stopped again, this time he showed me a footprint which was pretty fresh! It was a footprint of a Rhino! 


OMG, I thought we were on a relaxed Jungle walk on the way to the elephant breeding center. Instead we were on a Rhino hunt – but who was hunting whom there?! Our guide good really concerned and nervous. That doesn’t really help to calm me and the other people down. There we were in the middle of the jungle expecting to see a Rhino every minute! I was looking around seeing what was close to climb onto maybe. Some trees, but nothing which looked too save to be honest. Oh well, we continued walking very slowly and carefully and after 20 minutes or so we reached finally the Breeding Center. I was pretty relieved we didn’t see a Rhino this time.


Elephant Breeding center



The Elephant breeding center was brialliant. They just had a new born baby elephant which was 2 days old!
2 days old baby elephant!
2 days old elephant with her mother ;)

Wow, how lucky were we! We watched the baby with her mother quiet for a while and saw a lot of other young and really cute elephants. 



Sleeping baby elephant 20 days old with his parents ;)
Lovely spot and it was nice to watch them eating as well. Did you know that an elephant needs to eat at least 220kg of grass every day?!


What an adventures day it was! I loved every minute of it :) 

Bye Bye Chitwan
The next morning we made our way back to Pokhara on the bus and arrived in the early afternoon.


Pokhara & 3 days Trek
Back in Pokhara we first went back to our lovely guesthouse and I was so looking forward to eat an Apple Muffin. I think I was dreaming about it for 2 nights ;)
Guess who we bumped into in the streets of Pokhara – the lovely UK couple Richard & Hazel! What a coincidence! We hat a quick chat and we told them that we were planning to go trekking for 3 days. So we spontaneously arranged to meet for breakfast the next day to discuss the route.
Annette & myself went into a few agencies to find out about the route and a guide we could hire. Finally after talking to a lot of agencies we found one, where the guide was actually there – his name is Ray. So we discussed the route with him and it sounded like a solid plan.

So Tuesday morning we met Hazel & Richard for breakfast, talked about the route and we agreed that we would all hike together – starting Wednesday morning. I love spontaneous people and the UK couple are one of them. There were a few things we still had to arrange: Trekking permit, TIM Cards, Sleeping bags for rent and I had to buy hiking boots. So I was running around Pokhara, in almost every single shop who offered trekking boots in my size. Finally I found some, which were comfortable enough for 50US$. I was indeed pleased with myself and so we were all excited to go.
Wednesday morning we met for breakfast at 6.20am and started of with the Jeep at 7am. Arriving in Kande at 8.15am we started our trek :)

It went quiet steep uphill straight after we started! 





Wow, well if that continues I was thinking, then we need to stop at lunchtime to rest for sure and call it a day ;) But everybody pulled himself together and bravely hiked up the steep trail. 

Eating Apple Muffin - mmhhh!



Lovely Himalaya's in the background!

Finally it got better :) We stopped a few times for tea to rest and had a lovely lunch at one of the tea houses. 
Lunch at the teahouse

Nepalese kitchen - Wow, could be German ;)

Lovely map, isn't it?

Nepalese kids, which we met on our way.

Around 3pm we actually reached our tea house where we stopped for the night. 


Our teahouse 

Our neighbourhood


It turned out the lady of the house was even baking :) 


So we ordered some apple pie for the four of us and she started to bake for us :) What a treatment, we got spoiled on the first day!
The tea house was in Landruk, on a beautiful spot with a hot shower. Well you had to pay extra for the shower, but I didn’t care – none of us actually cared and we all had a hot shower :) I felt like a new person for sure.
Then we ate apple pie with some hot coffee and just chatted away. Later on some other hikers arrived – 2 French girls and an American guy. The French girls were on a 7 days Trek up to Poonhill, but they didn’t seem to be too happy so. You should have seen how much luggage they had, that would last for a 4 weeks vacation for sure. The poor porter, who had to carry all of that.
The American guy was on his way down as he had just finished the Annapurna Circuit and was trekking for 20 days already. It was nice to hear about his adventures and just to chat away. He was on a Leave of absence from Intel – another IT guy I thought ;)



The next morning we got up at 6am and when we stepped outside and saw the stunning view we had to the Annapurna South, Annapurna 1 and Hiunchuli it made it all worthwhile! 





Richard and myself taking pictures at 6am ;)

Annapurna 1 8091m!

The Himalaya range is beautiful, isn't it?!


After breakfast we started to trek towards the Hot Springs. We were all excited as every trekker we had met before what going on about it how brilliant it is. 

But first we reached an enormous “hanging bridge” which we had to cross. 




Unfortunately a group of around 15 Japanese people just came down the other side of the mountain and so we had to wait for a long time until we were able to cross as it seemed like that this Japanese group had never heard of the principle to let on go from one side and then swap! We made it over the bridge finally, but it was swaying and swinging and crossing a river! Pretty adventures for sure – it is the longest bridge in the Annapurna Conservation Area! I’m not surprised.


Now we were all looking forward to reach the hot springs, but we had some work to do, there was a pretty steep part with lots of steps in front of us!!! 




Have a look at a porter we met on the way - it is unreal what some Nepalese porters have to carry. You are asking yourself  what stuff some tourist bring along!


Finally we reached the tea house and they told us it is another 20min hike, but this time downhill :) So we were able to leave our backpacks in the teahouse and just took our towel and swim wear with us! We didn’t get disappointed I can tell you!!!




The water was really warm, it was brilliant and it felt so good on our legs, which were pretty exhausted by now! 


So freshly energized we hiked back up to the teahouse were we had lunch. 



It is unreal what they are selling even up on 1800m! Scarfs, blankets, hats, jewellery, Pringles, Mars bars, beer and so on!



Then we continued our afternoon trek passing beautiful scenery. Waterfalls, amazing countryside, lovely views and reached our teahouse by 4pm.








A little teahouse, which is run by a really cute Nepalese woman. It turned out that she was a fabulous cook and we all really enjoyed our dinner. We had a hot solar showers, which was even better than the day before ;) Lovely!

The next morning we got up at 6am again, breakfast and then we started hiking. 

Group picture before we were leaving the teahouse


We had known, that we only had a half day really, as we hiked a bit more on the previous day. Annette and myself were definitely sad to leave the mountain area, especially Annette as she had to fly back to London, but she would have loved to stay to hike a bit more. I had decided to do the Annapurna Circuit, also it might be a big challenge for sure. Hazel & Richard did really well! They never complaint or were mouning about the millions of steps we all had to go up or that the trek was to difficult or the hike was a "stupid idea". They were so brave and impressed me a lot! I loved to trek with them and it is a pity they not come with me to do the Annapurna Circuit. I will miss all 3 of them for sure




On the way down, where to caught the bus to Pokhara we passed by local people in small huts and children playing outside. I was a lovely feeling to be closer to the Nepalese culture.




Thanks Annette, Hazel & Richard for such a lovely hike!



Annette had to leave the next morning, which was sad :( We had lovely two weeks together and I would have loved Annette’s company for my next hike for sure.

I decided to rest in Pokhara for a week and just enjoy life. Finally I had time to answer mails, go for a walk around the lake and drinking Lemongrass tea or coffee latte in my two favourite coffee places.
One day I rented a bicycle, which almost fell apart. But I made it to the Immigration Office and the Post Office, but both were closed as the government apparently had a day off. Everybody else was working in Pokhara ;)
Anyway I started a 2nd attempt the next day with a different bicycle and this trip was much more pleasant ;) It took me just 5min to extend my Visa at the Immigration Office! That was impressive I have to say!!! Amazing!
After that I had an interesting experience at the little Post Office in Pokhara.


I needed stamps for postcards to different countries (Vietnam, Germany, US, Ireland), but it seemed like this was difficult, as they didn’t had any 30Rp or 35Rp stamps. As they had 20Rp and 5Rp stamps I suggested I could glue 1x20Rp and 2x5Rp or 3x5p on the postcard. The post officer looked at me as if I had just arrived from the moon and what weird ideas I would bring with me. But I convinced him, that this would work so he sold the stamps to me ;) Lucky me!

I also met up with Hazel and Richard almost every day for coffee or dinner and once we did a day hike to the World Peace Pagoda and even further up to the highest view point close to Pokhara. We didn't get disappointed when we arrived at the top. Amazing views again!




Thanks Hazel & Richard for your company! I will miss you on my trek, but I will see you in Vietnam :)


Preparing for the Annapurna Circuit


I have decided to trek the Annapurna Circuit – 16 days trek! I hired a female Nepalese guide and we will start on Saturday, 28th! I am excited and a bit scared as well. But I am sure it will be an experience of a lifetime and I am so looking forward to it :) Himalaya’s I am coming… ;)
Before I leave, I had to do some shopping: Fleece jacket, Goretex jacket, 2nd pair of trekking socks, headlamp, 2nd memory card for my camera, Haribo’s, Mars bars, Twix, Bounty’s and renting a sleeping bag for -20 degrees & sunglasses!
All is done and I’m ready to go tomorrow morning 6am on my next adventure!

Please keep your fingers crossed that all goes well :)



1 comment:

  1. nice posting.. thanks for sharing..

    ReplyDelete