Lumbini, Nepal | 29 November, 2006 | $1.67 (my portion, shared with 2 others)
People always ask if I’m lonely traveling alone. It really isn’t and I’m rarely alone. After leaving Sui in Pokhara (she wanted to head to a National Park to find Tigers), I headed South toward the Indian border. On the way I met a nice Dutch couple who I ended up traveling with for the next three days. Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, is only an hour from the Indian border and a nice, but rather unimpressive, place to break the journey.
Pokhara, Nepal | 25 November, 2006 | $5.56
Sui and I got back from our separate treks on the same day and agreed that we needed time to rest before continuing on to India. I camped out in Pokhara, working on my computer and enjoying a few sunsets from the roof. I felt great the day after getting back from my trek but when I woke up the next day I could hardly walk and my view from the 3rd floor wasn’t worth the agony of climbing all of those stairs.
A restaurant by the lake served Thanksgiving dinner for a littler more than $6. No turkey was served (turkeys aren’t very common around Asia) but it was a special meal nonetheless. Below if a video of a traditional dance show I saw during my stay in Pokhara.
Ghorepani, Nepal | 22 November, 2006 | $0.69
Day six of the Jomsom Trek was the day I was dreading, the day when I spent more than eight hours climbing up hard stone steps. We were entertained along the way by schoolchildren heading to class and locals carrying heavy loads with ease. I met up with all of the other hikers, including the couple from Colorado who carried their own full packs, at lunch where we all sat around exhausted.
This hotel was a ramshackle place with twisting, narrow hallways and plywood walls. I managed to get to the shower relatively early, ensuring myself some of the last solar-heated water.
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Tatopani, Nepal | 21 November, 2006 | $0.69
As we continued to hike downhill the scenery became more lush we passed many more small farms and even saw a waterfall or two. I continued to hike off and on with the two firefighters from Colorado whom I met a few days into my trek. We celebrated arriving safely with a dip in the natural hot pool in Tatopani with the other hikers and some of the porters.
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Ghasa, Nepal | 20 November, 2006 | $1.11
By day four the blisters on my feet started to slow me down. We also started to see a lot more traffic along the trail at lower elevations. A road was being cut into the side of the mountains which made me a bit sad for what would come of the way of life for everyone in these small villages. Progress is good but I also worry about the loss of identity and tradition. At lunch I also saw my first group of Maoists marching through town.
This hotel had a shared hot shower across the courtyard and a large main room where all of the hikers and porters ate dinner together. Later in the evening someone found a guitar and a round of Nepalese folk songs was cheerfully sung. My porter was a bit grumpy and left before he was asked to sing. At this point of the hike there were a lot of familiar faces and we all looked forward to meeting up again at the next town’s hot springs.
Check out more images from the road to Ghasa in the gallery.
Marphah, Nepal | 19 November, 2006 | $0.70
What a long day! From Muktinath we came back down the path past Kagbeni, past Jomsom and onward all the way to Marpha. Hiking more than seven hours was tough, but once we came down into the valley we were greeted by bright yellow trees that appeared stuning against the blue sky and white mountaintops. I only wish I had arrived in time to explore the town—we only snuck past the line of donkeys blocking the narrow path to our hotel in time to settle in around sunset.
View more photos of the trip to Marpha in the gallery.
Muktinath, Nepal | 18 November, 2006 | $1.40 (my half of bill, shared with roommate)
After a lonely first day of trekking in which I felt responsible for entertaining my porter I made some friends on day two. I always feel apprehensive hiking with others, not wanting to slow them down, but Drew from California was great company. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and the scenery was even more spectacular than my first day hiking up from Jomsom. I managed to make the trek in only 4.5 hours which gave me time to explore a temple perched above the city.
Muktinath is the first overnight stop after completing the pass so there’s a sense of jubilation for those finishing the first half of the Annapurna Circuit and plenty of opportunity to eat apple pie, drink beer and socialize with other travelers. I wrote a bit more detail about the first half of the Jomsom trek in this blog post from 2006.
Want to see more gorgeous Nepalese scenery? Check out the gallery.
Kagbeni, Nepal | 17 November, 2006 | $1.39
After a lengthy stay in Kathmandu and six days in Pokhara I finally did the thing that one does in Nepal—hike. My longtime readers know I’m not a hiker and I don’t enjoy hiking for its own sake. In Nepal, however, hiking is the best way to see gorgeous scenery and small village life. There are a number of routes one can take, Sui decided to hike the Annapurna Sanctuary trek to the base of the mountains, while I decided to head out on the Jomson Trek to see more village life. We both hired guides, a requirement at the time, and I bought plan tickets for both myself and my guide to the village of Jomsom.
The Jomsom Trek is the second half of the full Annapurna Circuit which takes around 20 days and includes the 17,700ft (5,416m) Thorong La Pass. Despite flying to Jomsom I spent the first two days hiking higher, toward the pass, to see some gorgeous scenery. I was lucky to walk off the plane in Jomsom and straight into a wedding procession down the main street, which happened to be our trekking route to Kagbeni. More than anything when traveling, certainly more than hiking, I’m interested in culture and costume so stumbling upon this celebration left me grinning and helped the three hours of uphill hiking I had to endure afterwards.
Jomsom is known as a “teahouse trek” because small hotels, or tea houses, are built along the way—no camping equipment required. Homemade apple pie is available all along the trek, along with bottled beer brought up on the backs of porters. We were able to peek into the Mustang Region, a restricted area off limits to those without special permits. Intrigued by its remoteness, beautiful scenery and proximity to Tibet, I vowed to come back someday.
My poor old 2004-era Canon’s video quality doesn’t hold up so well, but here’s the wedding parade in Jomsom:
Although sparse, there are a few more images from my trek to Kagbeni in the gallery
Kathmandu, Nepal | 8 November, 2006 | $4.86
After my first night in Kathmandu both Sui and I searched the outskirts of the tourist area for a cheaper hotel. We found a nice place to settle in for what turned out to be ten days in the city. We did a bit of sightseeing but we also relaxed and took a bit of a break from our constant traveling. This was my first single room since my first few nights in Urumqi, China 18 days previously. My room had a TV and a nice schedule of WB programs—The O.C. and Veronica Mars were a season out of date but I didn’t mind one bit.
In-between relaxing, getting my Indian visa and watching TV I wandered around the city and managed a few day trips out of the city center. One of my trips was to Swayambhunath Temple, on a hilltop overlooking the city. The view was beautiful and there was plenty of people watching but I spent a lot of my time fending off the aggressive monkeys roaming the grounds. One extremely bold monkey grabbed a plastic Coke bottle out of my hands, chewed a hole in the bottom and devoured its contents.
More photos of Kathmandu are available in the gallery.
Kathmandu, Nepal | 2 November, 2006 | $11.10
After 13 hours of driving, including crossing the border from Tibet to Nepal, Sui and I were ecstatic to find any hotel room in busy Kathmandu. Arriving so late in the day we didn’t have much choice and ended up in overpriced rooms in the center of the tourist area. This hotel did offer me one big surprise… wifi! Although wireless internet is increasingly common I hadn’t encountered much of it on this trip so far. Kathmandu was also shockingly crowded compared to Tibet, even Lhasa. After spending seven days driving across wide open plateaus and breathing fresh air the congested streets of Kathmandu took a bit of getting used to.
To view more photos from Kathmandu visit the gallery.