Nepal lived up to all expectations and more. The truth is that it had been around 9 years in the making! Ever since our trip there was cancelled in our final year of secondary school (due to the Royal Family Massacre), my friends and I had been itching to go. Nepal has a certain charm about it;
the prayer flags,
flying into a valley surrounded by the rugged Himalayas,
Tibetan prayer wheels,
walking through rice paddies,
everything screams enchanted.
Our 16 day trek began in Besi Sahar and followed the Annapurna circuit around to Pokhara where we unwound for 3 days before returning to the madness that is Kathmandu. Here are some exerts from my scribblings..
Day One.. ” Kathmandu is a bustle. A real all senses alert, watch out for that car, that bike, that occasional horse, type experience. To be in the thick of it is exhausting but if you stop for a while, sit back, and act like a peaceful Nepali then I think that is when the true beauty of Kathmandu unfolds. I’m pretty sure any good Nepali Hindu or Buddhist is immune to the stress that should come from that many cars, bikes and people in that small an area.”
Day Two..“Today was the first day on the Annapurna trek. Ironically we spent 8 hours in a bus, held up by construction, road works and oncoming traffic. The roads leading up to the trek are real two lane wannabes; but in actual fact are much more suited to single vehicles or motorbikes. We are now in a place called Besi Sahar about to embark on the mighty Annapurna trail. Despite the fact this is a fairly obvious tourist route it doesn’t really come across as one. Children smile and greet you in the street with the word Namaste. Namaste in long means “I see that there is a light within you, and I also have a light within me” A bit deeper than the casual whats up! We have one guide and two porters who combined probably weigh less than me – that’s between four of us. They are so slight, with no muscle or fat and the thought of them carrying all 40kgs of our luggage is somewhat disturbing”
Day Three..“I’m sitting in the most amazing spot. A guesthouse perched somewhat precariously overlooking a mighty valley, framed by hills of rice terraces. The scenery here seems a lot bigger than what we are used to in New Zealand. Despite the fact I am above the valley, not in it, I still feel tiny. The porters are chatting around me, probably complaining about the oversized baggage, however, more than likely just catching up after a long hard day. They’re not really the complaining type after all. Today saw roughly 3 hours of walking, and 3 hours of sitting in tea houses drinking hot lemons and eating dalbaht – nice to ease into things. It’s 5pm now and the day is starting to unwind, to turn off the lights and twist into night. Over the years this has become my favourite time of any day. Beneath me in the valley children scream excitedly enjoying their after school soccor match. The river moves through the valley sounding like a relentless ocean wave. The water is interrupted by pop music pumping from the porters cellphones. Guess we’re not as far away from civilisation as we thought we were :-)”
Day Four..“Another day, another village. Another night in a guest house surrounded by the thunderous roar of the river. We have left the land of the rice paddies and are now trekking between two mighty mountain ranges, pin pricks in an overwhelming landscape. It has now been a while since contact with the outside world and the mental detox feels fab. Walking for 5 hours a day also feels so damn good. Last night we sat around and played scrabble and talked. I’d forgotten how much I love board games, they rock.
Day Sevenish..“My highlight from yesterday was taking a walk around the town of Chame pre dinner. Again it was my absolute favourite time of day, around 5pm. The small village was alive. Young boys were having karate fights on the village volley ball court, kids were playing a throwing game in the street, ladies were chit chatting, and donkeys and their owners were returning home after a days work. As I walked through the village my ears pricked up.. Hang on a minute.. That sounds like.. A GUITAR. I followed my ears to a little shop and poked my nose in the door. Sitting on a stool inside was the local Nepali rock star – what a find. So I sat and listened for a while, then he taught me a local song called Resham Periri and I taught him Free Falling. Good trade.
Day Twelvish.. “So I’ve finally caught my breathe (literally) to be able to start writing again. The last few days has felt like all we have done is eat, sleep, walk and go to the bathroom. Real back to basics stuff. Even our acclimitization day in Manang which consisted of two hours of walking seemed to disappear into a Nepali nothingness. The highlight of Manang would have to be this cute little stone walled cinema equipped with bench seats and an unexpected hot tea and popcorn delivered to you half an hour into the movie! If only they did that everywhere. I heart popcorn. We watched “Seven Years in Tibet” which was exceptionally appropriate for the region we were trekking in, as we were getting closer to the Tibetan border with each step. I remember watching the movie when I was about 13 and not really understanding much, however it is amazing how the world starts to unravel itself with the ability to travel and experience. For most Nepalis travel just is not an option, and I wonder what it is like to know this and to view pictures of an outside world which they can never be a part of. I think that travel to these parts, for us Westerners is the ability to catch a snapshot of the past. To watch people in awe, who are living the TRUE simple life but also noticing the physical hardships which come with this lifestyle. I think it does tend to help us reflect on what is important, and what modern goods truely add value to our lives. After near on two weeks of handwashing smelly tramping gear I’d be inclined to think of the washing machine as the miracle of the modern world. But really all it’s saving you is time, which just get’s filled up with some other task, like typing your trip notes into a wordpress blog in case anyone cares to read them. 🙂 Technology really does seem to save time, but this is counterbalanced by the way in which it also speeds up the world. I’m still deciding what the net result is.
In other news we crossed the Thurong Pass! A whopping 5416m. What a stunningly amazingly clear, blue sky, good feeling day. Placing our Nepali prayer flags at 5416m felt incredible, and after 9 years of waiting we’d finally conquered Nepal. I can see why mountaineers get the bug. The sense of clarity and lack of confusion at that height is amazing. It’s like the altitude only allows you to think of the fundamentals, nothing else enters your mind.
For the last hour I have been sitting on a window sill in our guest house in Kegpani. In that hour again I have seen day turn to night. Light gradually faded and the snow capped peaks in the distance have disintegrated into a whitish grey. The sun will not kiss their cheeks until it is tomorrow. Before me the meandering plains of the Kaligandaki River flow gracefully by, nothing like the raging rivers of the earlier days of the trek. Fields of Buckwheat and their soft pink flower now lie in a blanket of darkness”
That’s all for now, I wrote a lot more, but just wanted to share a taste. Ahh Nepal, I think I will be back. But now, onwards, westwards, towards Kampala, Uganda. I will begin my second Kiva fellowship on the 1st of November. So more from me when I touch down in the Afreeeekan continent. Excited, nervous, happy, grateful!