Sonntag, 4. März 2012

March 4, Pokhara - Nayapul - Hile

After an almost sleepless night we got up at 3 a.m. in the morning, packed the rest, got a packed breakfast and started our way from Pokhara to Nayapul (one of the starting points for the Annapurna trekking region). There were 15 of us: Christoph and I, our guide Chola, the assistant guides or future porters or assistants Indra and Raju, Silva, her guide and female porter plus the other couple plus guide and 2 porters plus the 2 car drivers and we left Pokhara on time ( in the morning). Everybody was sleepy when suddenly (after 20 minutes in the car) a road barrier appeared and caused us to stop. Lots of young men were blocking the street with burning tires. Our car driver opened the window and talked to them and they agreed to let us pass. The guys stepped aside but the tires were still burning and so our car had to drive through the fire. (it worked, nothing happened:-). A short while later the same procedure again!
Afterwards I asked our guide about the incident but she didn't really wanna tell me a lot. She only mentioned, that the strike had begun earlier than expected and the reason of the barrier was to prevend people from leaving the city or coming into the city. We (as tourists) had a "green plate" (whatever this was) and therefore we were allowed to pass. I am still asking myself why we had to leave Pokhara that early and not like scheduled first even though we had that green plate.... Anyway...

After 75 minutes we reached Nayapul and I was surprised again. I can't really say today how I imagined Nayapul, but for the starting point of one of the world's biggest trekking routes I expected something different than 2 garages along the road.

Starting point of our trek in Nayapul

Samstag, 3. März 2012

March 3 - Pokhara

Our first plan for that day was hiking upSarangkot and trying to get a better glance at the mountain range than the day before. When our alarm clock rang at 7:30 a.m. Christoph looked out of the window and it was already misty:-( Thus we decided to stay in bed and sleep a little bit longer:-). Christoph got up at 8 a.m., I at 8:30 a.m. and we had breakfast on the balcony again til 10:30 a.m.

Our hiking company
When I searched the internet in Germany for some information about hiking in Nepal I found the 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking and liked their idea "Empowering women of Nepal" and "trekking with female guides" a lot:
Shortly before our departure I had written them an email and asked if they had time for the trek that Christoph and I had chosen. They replied immediately and sent us the requested itinerary and price list. Because the deposit had to be transfered in USD, our credit transfer hadn't been finished upon our arrival date in Nepal. Therefore we hadn't had any confirmation letter or the certainty that our trip could start as requested. BUT Nepal is much more relaxed in these things than Germany:-) So there was no hurry to arrange the final bookings and organize a guide plus porters 1 day before our hiking trip began.

March 3rd was a Saturday and the first thing we learned was: Friday and Saturday in Nepal are consistent with Saturday and Sunday in Germany (means: it was Sunday and we had to fill in the forms of our Trekking Permit and the Trekkers' Information Management System (TIMS). This wasn't a problem because the receptionist at 3 Sisters dealt with the rest but the real problem was picture problem again:
 I had only 1 picture left (at the airport I got 2 and needed 1 for immigration) but for trekking we needed 3 in total. In addition I didn't know my health insurance number and their hotline number. Thus I was allowed to use the laptop of the 3 sisters to find out my health insurance information but for the pictures Christoph and I had to walk a while til we finally found a photo store that was open on Sundays. I also bought a hat, then we took a nap and afterwards we were busy with packing our backpacks. We were asked if we wanna have 2 female porters or a female and a male porter. The difference was: a female porter was allowed to carry up to 12kg, a male porter 15kg. We borrowed a scales from them and after3 hours (!) of packing I finally had 11.9 kg and Christoph about 14kg => the decision was easy now: 1 female porter for me and 1 male porter for Christoph!
We were proud of having managed that problem when the next one occured: We were told that there was supposed to be a strike the next day and that there would be no chance to leave Pokhara by taxi/car the next day. We had 3 options: Starting our hiking trip immediately, starting at 4 a.m. the next morning (with another couple and their guide and porters) or postphoning our trip to the end of the strike. We talked with Silvia whose trip were supposed to started the same day (March 4th) as ours and we decided to leave at 4 a.m. the upcoming morning.
For dinner, Christoph and I tried another restaurant "Pizza&Food", we were served very obliging and when we were back at the guesthouse we met our female guide Chola and my porter Indra. Chola explained us our next day's route, we agreed to meet at 4 a.m. and afterwards we had a warm shower (!), I took some notes for my blog and we packed the remaining stuff that we could keep in the storage room of the guest house.

Freitag, 2. März 2012

March 2 - Pokhara

The early morning (Christoph got up at 7 a.m. and I at 7:30 a.m.) started with our first "cold shower". When Christoph came out of the bathroom and told me that only cold water came out of the taps I didn't wanna take a shower first. But he persuaded me that I needed to get used to it and the sooner that happened the better it would be. So I showered cold but at the end the water turned warm:-) (We learned that at this special guest house the water needed some time to turn warm:-)
While we were enjoying our breakfast (with lake-view on the balcony), we met another German woman, Silvia,  who had also arrived the day before.We got along with each other very well and when Christoph and I started off with sightseeing in Pokhara, Silvia joined us.
First we were rowed to the other side of the lake
Silvia and I
and around 11 a.m. we began walking upwards about 300m in altitude difference to the Stupa (in Buddhismus a Stupa is that, what a church for Christians and Temples for Hindus is).

at the other side of the lake

our first wildlife monkey
Halfway up (at around 11:30 a.m.) I was already sweating because of the steep stone steps leading us to the Stupa and so we took our first break at 28°C in the shade.

halfway up
my first Nepalese tea
After 45 minutes break we continued our way up to the World Peace Stupa and reached it 30 minutes later:

World Peace Stupa in Pokhara
For those of you who are interested in some more information about the Stupa

After strolling around for about 1 hours we descended the other side of the "hill" and were back in Pokhara at 3 p.m.
Peak Seasons in Nepal
The best time to travel to Nepal is in October and November. March and April are the 2nd best season. The disadvantage of March and April is the misty weather. Normally between 8 a.m. -11 a.m. it is still clear, but then it starts getting misty.
Near the Stupa is a Himalaya View Point but when we were on the peak of the hill (between 2 and 3 p.m.) it was so misty, that we couldn't see anything. Later on we saw the wonderful view on a postcard and while trekking we saw the mountain range again, but at that time it was a little bit disappointing.

Back in Pokhara we visited the Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave and Devi's Falls (a tributary of the Seti flowing out of Phewa Lake, disappearing into an underground gorge and reapprearing 500m further south) before we took a short break in a street cafe:
cave entrance gate

some information about the cave

view from the cave to the gorge where the tributary disappears into the underground

view from the outside
This place must be much more impressive in May and June (monsoon season, if the river carries much more water).

We took a taxi back to our guesthouse and Silvia showed us how to bargain:-) At 4:30 p.m. we were back and Christoph and I took a short nap. Later we joined Silvia who just got to know her guide for her upcoming trek.
We (Christoph, Silvia and I) had dinner at the same pizzeria as we ate the day before and when we left the restaurant at 10:45 p.m. all other stores and restaurants were already closed (closing time is around 10 p.m.) It was so dark that we were lucky that Christoph was the only one who had brought a small torch. At 11:30 p.m. we went to bed but even though I was very tired I coulnd't fall asleep easily.

Donnerstag, 1. März 2012

 March 1 - Travel Day
We got up at 4 a.m. in the morning after turning around in bed from one side to the other one for about 5 hours. My morning started "wonderful" because I had to vomit first (not because of the food - plain rice is no problem for me:-) - but because of exhaustion. This was my 3rd night in a row with hardly any sleep and around that early time in the morning I was just exhausted and tired).
For breakfast we used the in-room-dinning-service at 5:30 a.m., check out was at 6:15 a.m. and then we took a taxi to our bus station. Of course many people were awating us and our luggage was carried to the trunk of the bus by 3 people again (and "as usual" we had to pay tip for 3 guys). Our bus "Baba Adventure Line" was already waiting for the passengers but we were the first one's who boarded.

I thought I was lucky and we chose some seats in the front of the bus. But then the driver came and said, that we were seated and Christoph and I got the very last seats on the back seat. I asked if it might be possible to get some seats in the front of the bus because I get bus-sick very easily and the driver answered "I'll see what I can do for you". Later on we were seated on seat in front of the very last backseats.....

Facts to the ride on the bus:
departure time: 7 a.m.
arrival time: 2:15 p.m.
stops: 3 (one short for toilet-use, one for breakfast and one for lunch (lunch was included in the price))

The journey on the bus was a real adventure for me. When we got on the bus, the driver had just lit some incencse sticks (strange smell:-). Our bus was blue with pink seats, pretty old and the spring system of the bus unique. When we departed Christoph and I started jumping on our seats:
The streets in Nepal were full of road holes, and the rear of the bus was moving up and down like hell. It got hotter from minute to minute and through the open windows only heat and dust came in. After one hour I was so bussick that I took a pill (thanks to my sister who presented me these pills on X-mas:-) And after taking the pill I started feeling "high", not being part of this world anymore and somehow like being part of "Hippi-movie": the pill made me feel tired but I tried to stay awake to look out of the window. It was still hot and dusty, the smell of the incense sticks filled up the whole bus and one guy started playing some oriental music.
Fortunately I didn't need to pee at our first stop (there were only some plastic blinds next to the road and we could pee behind them:-) At our 2nd stop Christoph was wondering about my strange behaviour but I just said "feeling good, enjoying the trip" and smiled. Our 3rd stop made me feel worried again because we had lunch over there and from the whole buffet I could only eat the plain rice again (everything else was too hot and spicy again). Christoph tried to convince me softly that I should start getting used to these meals again but I didn't feel like it and I postphoned it to another day.....

Here I took a movie of Christoph sleeping on the back seat. All the moving up and down were caused by the bus, I were only holding the camera and didn't move at all:

The other funny thing about the ride on the bus was the "elephant race". When we left Kathmandu the road was steep and winding (first up, later down), before it got flatter at the end. On the steep and winding part our bus tried to pass hundreds of trucks like this: stepping out of line and honking the horn like hell, full braking if we had oncoming traffic and going back in line again or if we had no oncoming traffic passing while honking the horn.

Some impressions from our journey from Kathmandu to Pokhara:

Hey guys from Saarland: they even have a swinging grill (right side of the picture:-)

When we finally arrived in Pokhara a passenger of the bus offered us his help to get a taxi to the 3 sisters guesthouse, where we wanted to stay.  But even though we hadn't received a confirmation letter yet we were picked up at the bus stop, checked in at the 3 sisters guesthouse and slept til 4 p.m. Then we went out to explore Pokhara:

our room at the 3 Sisters guesthouse
an attached bathroom is luxury

 Phewa Lake

walking along the promenade at Phewa Lake


hiring boots at Phewa Lake

restaurant tables

hiring boots, small island to pray on it and Stupa on the peak of the hill in the background
I spent my first money buying 2 necklaces from a Tibetian refugee and later on I bought folding walking sticks and a diary (the paper of the diary was made of Nepalese paper). When we found a noble Italien pizzeria I convinced Christoph to have our dinner over there and the first time since our arrival I enjoyed my meal and wasn't hungry anymore:-)
When we walked back to our guesthouse we learned, that it is necessary to carry a torch after sunset because it is really dark and there were no street lamps to light our way:-)
Back at our room I took some notes of our trip and wanted to read in my tour guide book but at 10 p.m. we had a power cut that lasted the whole night:-)