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Nepal - Annapurna Himal 2005


As I had already been pleased with Tenerife in January, I headed to Nepal with the DAV Summit Club for Comfort Trekking in the Annapurna Himal.

Why Nepal?

I was not only once asked that after I decided to travel there. I am interested in Nepal as well as in Tibet not only because of the geological conditions, also called Himalaya ;-), I am especially interested in the people and how they live up to their beliefs. Nepal is predominantly Hindu, but Buddhist influences are not to ignore. Among the different persuasions great toleration exists, the festivals are often celebrated jointly.

Certainly, I am really interested in Tibet, but due to the political situation I refrained from going there currently. As I am very emotional I would be irritated by the mischief there every day and would not really enjoy my stay. Admirable how the people there accept their fate. Well, the longer I wait the fewer I will be able to see the historical Tibet. I will see whether and when I will make it.

Thursday, 20. October 2005 - Arrival

4.30 a.m. getting up, taking off at 7.15 a.m., from Munich via Vienna to Kathmandu (1350m), where we touched down about 10.30 p.m. by rain. A quite wet welcome, but I did not mind. After being "picked up" by our guide we firstly went by bus and later on by jeeps to the mountain hotel Haatiban (1750m) where we were very cordially received with a warm soup at 1.00 a.m.. The comfortable bed in the spacious room was more than welcome at 2.00 a.m.. ;-)

Friday, 21. October 2005 - Kathmandu

8.00 Uhr rousing - Aye, a kind person actually knocked on the door and said "Good Morning", of sleeping long was not to think. However, looking forward to the forthcoming happenings getting up was not too hard. After the official welcome by delegates of the Summit Club and the Trekking Agency in Nepal we went down to Kathmandu again by jeeps (adventurous, viewed at daylight) and bus together with our German speaking guide Mani, at first to Swayambunath Stupa, also called monkey temple. After lunch in the beer garden of the Dechenling (Tibetan Restaurant) in Thamel we visited the old royal town Kathmandu (Hanuman-dhoka). We even had the chance to throw a glance at the living godness Kumari. The day closed with a nice view of Durbar Square by having a delicious Masala Tea in a roof top restaurant :-) and the ride back to the hotel for dinner..

To picture Kathmandu is nearly impossible, one simply must have experienced it. This colourful mix-up, the ambience, the sounds, the odours, this is difficult to visualise in pictures. It simply is an exprience with all senses which should be amenable and receptive.

Saturday, 22. October 2005 - Kathmandu

8.30 a.m. rousing, it is raining again. Hence change of programme and the hike to the Campadevi (2278 m) was put off to the afternoon. Well, at 10.00 a.m. setting off to the Dakshinkali Temple (a Hindu sacrifice place). In between it rained as if it still were monsoon, but this should be the last rain for us in Nepal. After visiting the Dakshinkali Temple we walked up to Pharping Village, a typical Newar village, and viewed the Buddhist Temple there. Afterwards back to the hotel with the jeeps (the sun was shining again and I liked to go on the roof of the jeep but it came to nothing *g*) where we had lunch on the terrace with view of Kathmandu Valley and the town. :-) Following set off to Campadevi, unfortunately behind time so that we hat to forgo the summit not to come into dawn on the way back (due to the very soggy and slippery soil this was good so). It was nevertheless a nice hike and we also had the inescapable bloodsucker contacts. "Likeable" little anmials. ;-)

Sunday, 23. October 2005 - Kathmandu/Pokhara

6.00 a.m. rousing, 7.00 a.m. departure to Kathmandu airport to go to Pokhara by plane. First time the Nepalese procedure at the checking in with stronger luggage and body check; understandable but to get used to this manner. At 9.25 a.m. our Yeti Airlines-plane should have taken off, but it unfortunately dragged on. However, waiting was eased by the happenings in the waiting zone for Domestic Flights as there was much around to look at and it was totally different from Europe. Finally taking off was about 11.00 a.m.. I only got hold of a seat on the left side of the plane; on the right side the mountain view would have been more interesting. Well, not all people can sit on the right side. ;-) The flight just took 45 minutes but there was a very friendly service aboard the aircraft, who firstly served pieces of cotton wool for the ears and goodies and later salted peanuts and cold beverages. In Pokhara there was slight confusion at which hotel we should stay. After an unscheduled but enjoyably little round trip in Pokhara and a little tea break in the wrong hotel we finally checked in at Shangri-La.

After having lunch at the hotel an English speaking guide awaited us as Krishna, our German speaking guide for the remaining travel days, was still trapped in Jomsom due to bad weather. We went to the Phewa Lake by bus where kind people paddled us over the lake. The view of Annapurna Himal with Machhapuchhre ("fish tail", 6993m), which slowly but surely came in sight from behind the clouds, was stunning. After the boat trip we went to the tourist quarter of Pokhara and walked later back to the hotel.

Monday, 24. October 2005 - Pokhara

4.15 a.m. rousing, as I had planned a sunrise tour with two of the other travellers. At 5.00 a.m. we first went by taxi to the Sarangkot (1592m); we had to climb the last metres up to the top. "Good Morning!" *gasp* However, it was worth the strenuousness as to have a view of the Annapurna Himal at sun rise is gorgeous and the following breakfast tasted so much the better. :-) Together with Mani, who was sent from Kathmandu, we walked up to the World Peace Stupa above the Phewa Lake, from which we had a wonderful view over the lake to the Annapurna Himal. Later on we went down to Pokhara where we visited Devi's Fall and a nearby cave with connection to the waterfall. After lunch at lakeside we returned to the hotel where we had the rest of the afternoon at our disposal. Time to sit on the snug patio and to write picture postcards to special friends. At sunset we had again a most impressive panoramic view of the Annapurna Himal from the hotel. A long but uniquely beautiful day. :-)

Tuesday, 25. October 2005 - Pokhara/Jomsom

4.00 a.m. rousing, at 6.30 a.m. with the first flight of Shangri-La Air to Jomsom (2713m). The flight just took 25 minutes but pieces of cotton wool for the ears and candies were offered. Respect for the flight attendants who smoothly moved in the tight alleyway. At 9.00 a.m. welcome in Om's Home with delicious freshly squeezed apple juice. After room allocation we went on our first acclimation trek via the hamlet Thinigaon to the ridge Thini Danda (approx. 3200m) with a breathtaking view of Nilgiri North (7061m) and Dhaulagiri (8167m). After lunch we visited the Mustang ECO Museum where you can find archaeological discoveries and are informed about the culture of Mustang. 5.00 p.m. Teatime: Krishna used this cosy get-together to to tell us about culture, belief and traditions of the people in Nepal as well as to respond to our questions.

Wednesday, 26. October 2005 - Jomsom

7.00 a.m. rousing, after breakfast we went to Marpha (2665m) via Syang (2900m). In Syang we had the first encounter with schoolchilds. The joy at a digital photo which one of the fellow hikers took was tremendous. In Marpha we visited the Buddhist Temple and an apple farm where apple brandy was produced. I was not able to help eating up one of these delicious apples after furbishing it with a tissue. Fortunately I tolerated it against all warnings outstandingly well and it tasted, hmmm... :-) After lunch in Marpha we went along the Kali Gandaki valley back to Jomsom , where at 5 p.m. Teatime was expected.

Thursday, 27. October 2005 - Jomsom/Kagbeni

7.00 a.m. rousing, after the mules were loaded up we set forth to Kagbeni (2807m). The trail runs gently along the Kali Gandaki riverbed and opens up the view of the snow-covered mountains and the Thorung La pass when a valley appears between the mountains. After enjoying the stunning panorama from the roof terrace of the Annapurna Lodge, moving into our rooms and an extensive lunch we visited the Monastery in Kagbeni from which roof one has a stunning view of Upper Mustang and back the Kali Gandaki valley with the Nilgiri. The Lama of the Monastery enthusiasticly told us of the Buddhistic set of beliefs and allowed us afterwards to look at the old Tibetan books of the Monastery which are normally not open to the public. :-)

Friday, 28. October 2005 - Kagbeni

7.00 a.m. rousing, day trip to Lupra (2790m) with an old Bön Monastery which regrettably was closed. In Lupra we visited a school. We had a late lunch after return to the Annapurna Lodge; the familiar Teatime followed shortly after.

Unfortunately, I had on this day and the following days problems with my camera respectively the rechargeable batteries so that there is only one to no photo. :-( Perhaps one reason to set about this tour once more. ;-)

Saturday, 29. October 2005 - Kagbeni

6.30 a.m. rousing, after breakfast we first walked down the Kali Gandaki valley to the rope bridge near Eklabhatti where we crossed the riverbed to hike up to approx. 3300m for acclimation passing by the villages Pilling und Phalla. On the hike there we could watch some bald eagles which hovered majestically in the skies.. Perfectly marvellous! :-) On the way back we had lunch in the home of a relative of the owner of the Annapurna Lodge. Yes, our cooking team followed us and entertained us exquisitely also there. Thereafter we went back in quite heavy gusts of wind to Kagbeni, the crossing of the rope bridge was, well, slightly overbalanced. ;-)

Sunday, 30. October 2005 - Kagbeni

4.45 a.m. rousing, as the highlight of the tour, the hike to Muktinath (3780m) was scheduled this day. About 6.15 a.m. we started slowly and unhurriedly so that we did not become short of breath and still had time to behold the beautiful scenery and the ever-changing views. Arrived at Muktinath we firstly went up to the temple site. Having passed the 108 Waterspouts we layed down joss sticks at the Vishnu Chenrezig Temple. Before leaving the temple site we visited Mebar Lhakang Gompa (Fire Gompa). After a delicious lunch in Muktinath - we were ravenously hungry but we still could not cope with the giant dishes - we walked down to Kagbeni where the tea was already prepared.

Monday, 31. October 2005 - Kagbeni/Jomsom

7.30 a.m. rousing, after an extensive breakfast and leaving our accompanying local team and the family of the Annapurna Lodge - for farewell we got a Tibetan Kata which I tied at the rope bridge near Eklabhatti - we walked back to Jomsom. The first part of the route we walked in the river bed of the Kali Gandaki to search for Saligrams (Ammonites) and a few were discovered. I found plenty of beautiful stones but only one potential ammonite was among those. ;-) This time we had a heavily adverse winds on the way back so that the warm lunch at Om's Home did really good. The afternoon was on our disposal and we met again for Teatime at which Krishna showed the movie "Himalaya" which delivered a good insight in the natural life of the Dolpo-Pas.

Tuesday, 1. November 2005 - Jomsom/Kathmandu

4.45 a.m. rousing, leaving Om's Home - here we also got a Kata - and Jomsom. Due to fog in Pokhara we got away not before 8.30 a.m. as our plane has to fly to Jomsom first; via Pokhara we went back to Kathmandu. After the check-in at Godavari and having lunch we went to Patan, the second royal town, for sightseeing. On the way there the arrangements for Tihar ("festival of lights") could hardly be overlooked, a colourful crush and the houses were decorated with varicoloured garlands and strings of lights..

Wednesday, 2. November 2005

7.30 a.m. rousing, today we firstly went to Pashupatinath, one of the most important Hindu Sanctuaries, where at the Bagmati river Hindu cremations take place. If one knows the beliefs behind this ceremony, this is a likable manner to take one's leave of the deceased. Afterwards we went to the Bodnath Stupa where we also had a delicious lunch. Unfortunately I could not manage to walk round the stupa once at least due to shopping. Instead I got my most pleasing souvenir, a Buddhist Thangka showing the way to nirvana. :-) As we were quite early back in the hotel we had a last Masala Tea while having a pleasant chat.

Thursday, 3. November 2005

6.00 a.m. fallen out of bed. ;-) The morning was intended for packing our bags or whatever. I took some photos of the resort and enjoyed the last hours on the terrace of the hotel. After lunch at the hotel bus ride to Bhaktapur the third of the royal towns. Allowedly, also in my opinion the most beautiful of the three royal towns. Across places where women wheatered rice and after shopping in a shop with a large assortment of hand made paper products we got also there to the Durbar Square. After another break to shop and a last Masala Tea in Bhaktapur we then went to the restaurant Dechenling where all Summit Club groups with their guides met for the farewell dinner. Having had a delicious Tibetan meal we were taken to the airport and seen off. For farewell Krishna presented a Kata which I took home with me as memory.

About Comfort Trekking

What is to understand about "Comfort" Trekking was revealed on the tour. In every lodge we had convenient rooms with clean and comfortable beds as well as lavatories of European standard and shower facilities, what on this trek is certainly no standard. Before going to bed hot-water bottles were put in the beds so that a cosy bed awaited us. Due to snow storms the week before which destroyed the overhead power lines there was no power in Kagbeni. Headlamps, candle lights and occasionally lighting with solar lamps created a special atmosphere. In addition an own team accompanied us to take care of us in the Annpurna Lodge. Regardless at which early hour a copious breakfast with delicacies like apple pancakes and "Croissants" was served; each special wish was satisfied as far as this was possible. Lunch consisted of soup, several main dishes and dessert which not only once was home-baked cakes. At about 5 p.m. teatime was arranged at which delicious home-made cookies were offered. At dinner the main dish was replaced with a warm buffet. Even with best effort it was impossible to eat that much. I had not expected to be pampered in such a way. :-)

In the end...

Nepal has me completely fascinated and won me over. Nepal is a very spiritual country with really amiable people. I have really enjoyed the time there and felt to be in good hands. This was certainly not least due to our local guides who are able to acquaint one with this fetching country and the people much better than "foreigners". To both, Krishna and Mani, shall also here be given my sincere thanks in return. :-) The time in Nepal was too short to learn more about the people there and their lives. Certainly, there is many literature about this subjects but this does not make up for personal talks. I hope that the opportunity arises itself to continue and to learn much more about Nepal.

Namaste, Nepal! :-)