India, Nepal, United Kingdom · 20 Days · 37 Moments · October 2017

In the Shadow of the Himalayas

24 October 2017

And so that's the end of this Journi.. I have taken more photos than I normally do on a trip and still have to sort through them all so I may add a few in the coming weeks. As a reminder to myself here are some of the people, the group photo, tour Manager Sharad, the trekking party, and finally my lovely porter Sibi. He carried my gear and water and was always there to lend a hand when I struggled with the downhill steps... Such an infectious smile! 😁

20 October 2017

My persistence with the online checkin yesterday paid off and I had the perfect seat for a grandstand view of the Himalayas on the flight to Delhi. Note to self, pick the left hand side for flights into Kathmandu next time!! 😍
I've never done an extension to a holiday before. The leader of our tour is no longer with us and a representative of the local tour operator was supposed to meet us when we got back to Kathmandu and make sure we got to the airport this morning. It didn't happen, probably because of the Diwali festivities, but thanks to a very forceful lady in our party we got to the airport in a taxi and now waiting for the flight to Delhi. Grateful that I wasn't the only person on this flight... 😳

19 October 2017

The last day started with a late breakfast, and we met the rep from the travel company to confirm times for the transfer to the airport tomorrow, there are only three of us on my flight. I had a wander down town; unlike India it is relatively hassle free but there are no pavements and you have to run the gauntlet of all modes of transport. It's a real tourist trap full of souvenir shops, bit like St Ives in August!! 😳

18 October 2017

After sorting our luggage we set off at 11.45 for Kathmandu in a minibus, picking up one member of the original group who had done an extra 3 nights at Tiger Mountain. It was dark by the time we got there but it was nice to see all the lights in the city; all the buildings are illuminated for Diwali. However it had taken over 8 hours and we were all too tired for dinner so we deferred that til tomorrow and just had a quick sandwich.
The final day of the trek began with an early call to view the sunrise, the clearest it has been, with tea served in the garden (pics to be added) and breakfast on the balcony. Our trek started uphill for half an hour then we picked up the track to Lumle for the last hour and final views of the mountains. A minibus met us at Lumle to take us back to Pokhara where our main luggage was being stored and we said goodbye to the guide and porters.

17 October 2017

Mala Lodge is only 3 years old and while it is nicely laid out around gardens, the accommodation is cavernous and totally lacking in character. Our guide thinks it's wonderful but it's my least favourite.
Day 3 began with breakfast in the garden whilst willing the clouds to clear. There were some mountain glimpses but not as much as I'd have liked. We left at 8am and descended back down through Ghandruk to Sanctuary Lodge but by a slightly different route. Less steps (but enough to prove a challenge) and back along the road which was hard going because it is so rocky. It took 5 hours and lunch at the lodge was most welcome. After an hour there we set off again, crossed the Modi river and ascended some 1,400 feet through woods and farmland to Mala Lodge. One of the party struggled with the last part so we had to go very slowly, it took over 2 hours.

16 October 2017

Our accommodation for the night is the Himalaya Lodge at Ghandruk. At an altitude of 6,363 feet it is is much cooler than we've been used to. Again we have lovely cosy little cottages with two duvets on the bed! Happy hour was spent sitting round a log fire, the Yorkshire couple have followed us here and there are two Canadians. Another lively dinner conversation ensued, but we all retired at 8.30, exhausted!
Day 2 of the trek began at 8am, we climbed about 3,000 feet over 6.5 hours, up hundreds of stone steps. I found the uneven ones hard as they were steep but the shallow ones weren't so bad. We passed through several villages, farms and a school and had a picnic lunch about half way. It started sunny but low cloud came down and it even rained a little. Easier than the heat for walking but no snowy peaks to be seen, though there were spectacular views back down the valley. Parts of the trail were busy with trekkers and we also had to make way for several mule trains. It was really hard and you had to concentrate on where you were putting your feet which made it difficult to really appreciate the surroundings except during rest breaks.

15 October 2017

The trekking company is called Ker and Downey and they own a series of lodges up here. Tonight's venue is Sanctuary Lodge, with lovely gardens and a river nearby. Lunch was lovely and then we got to relax in the garden. It's all very civilised and the cottages are really cute. We got afternoon tea, then happy hour (all drinks are free) and dinner. Two other couples here, two well travelled Americans and a Yorkshire couple which made for a lively dinner conversation.
Left Pokhara at 8.15 and drove for one and a half hours to the small town of Nyapul where our trail began. We each have a kitbag and two porters carry all the gear in baskets, with supporting straps across their foreheads. It looks back breaking. The path took us through farmland and villages, crossing two rivers, with a break in Birethanti (home village of our guide, Raju). After a detour to a waterfall it was a bit of a slog to the lodge, the walking wasn't hard but the problem is the heatπŸ”₯

14 October 2017

To be honest I'd rather have spent the day by the lake, we did eventually get there for our lunch but the promised "free" afternoon didn't materialise as we didn't get back to the hotel until 4pm. Tonight there is a farewell dinner at an Italian restaurant and then the main group leaves to go back to Kathmandu and we start the trek. From the briefing earlier it sounds like the first day will be relatively easy and we will reach Sanctuary Lodge, Birethanti, for lunch.
Saturday today and we have spent the morning at various museums; the International Mountain Museum, Tibetan Refugee Centre and Gurkha Museum. It was interesting but far too much to take in. The drive between them took forever so lunch was very late 😒

13 October 2017

The drive down the mountain to Pokhara Lakeside took about an hour. Pokhara spreads out along a valley and is much quieter than Kathmandu. We are staying at the Atithi Resort which is a short (I think) walk from Lake Phewa. On first sight the resort looks nice but the room seems rather shabby. However it's got a kettle and the WiFi works so I'm not complaining! 😁 Ive heard thunder and it feels like it's going to rain any minute so I may stay put for now.
Friday 13th, the mountains made a brief appearance after sunrise before clouds obscured them and it's feeling fresher after last night's rain. I declined the morning walk, they seem to stick to the same tracks and with a big group it's very stop/start (more stop than start tbh πŸ˜‰) Instead I had a wander round the grounds.

12 October 2017

Lunch was back at the lodge, then we had some free time til the evening sunset walk at 4.30. Unfortunately it had clouded over a lot, storm clouds were gathering and we could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. Nevertheless we walked up to a viewpoint and Fishtail mountain peeked out obligingly to catch the last rays of the sun. We returned to the lodge in the nick of time, the heavens opened and there was a mini monsoon β˜”
Today we were awakened by a pot of tea delivered to the door which meant it was clear enough to see sunrise on the mountains. Awesome views of the Annapurna range and Fishtail mountain (no, it's not Everest though it looks a bit similar!) There's an infinity pool with a bit of a view too! After breakfast on the terrace looking out at all this we went a three hour walk around the local area. I can't believe how hot it still is even though we are higher up... I do hope it cools down a bit for the trek next week!

11 October 2017

Now it's Wednesday and we left the jungle and headed towards Pokhara and the mountains. It was such a clear day we could actually see them from Chitwan, apparently this is quite unusual. It was another epic journey on roads being rebuilt while the traffic just drives around the workers. We had various stops along the way, and arrived at Tiger Mountain Lodge just as it was getting dark. The chalets are built down the mountainside and it's a bit of a trek, with a torch, to find your way back to the main building. Two of our ladies had a bit of a melt down, I don't think it was quite what they were expecting!
Having seen the elephants and how well they are looked after I decided to go on the afternoon ride with them. There were three of us per elephant and it felt a lot like being on a camel. It was very quiet and peaceful, we crossed a river and came across two rhino. These are totally different from African ones and look like they have armour plating.
We ended up by the river on time to see the elephants from the lodge come down for their bath. Some people got in to help (and then got a bath themselves!) The elephants were really enjoying that! πŸ˜‰
Tuesday began with a bullock cart ride to the local village. The people are poor and get little help from the government. We saw all the stages of rice production, and someone mending fishing nets for use in the nearby river. When they can they are building new houses to replace their huts, they are beautifully decorated with colourful tiles. There are some small solar panels (even on thatched huts) and the occasional satellite dish so modernisation is coming.

9 October 2017

After an afternoon nap there was a nature walk down to the Narayana river to see the sunset. And elephants. And footprints...... Here puss puss πŸ―πŸ˜‚
Monday and I am staying at the lodge. Perhaps I was too complacent after two problem free trips to India but I have a touch of Delhi belly. It was a good excuse to avoid the jungle activities today, I don't agree with using wild animals to entertain tourists so would have opted out anyway. They are also going on a boat... need I say more!? 🀒 I'd hoped to catch up with social media and post some pics to Instagram but while they have good WiFi they don't have 24 hour electricity!! So I played with my pics, updated some Journi entries and walked to the local village. It's incredibly hot and humid, feels like being back in Ghana.

8 October 2017

We finally arrived at Temple Tiger Resort 11 hours after we set off. It's a safari lodge, with a main building (which has excellent WiFi if we ever get five minutes to use it) surrounded by individual bungalows in the grounds. It's always confusing when you arrive at a place like this in the dark, I expect I will get my bearings tomorrow.
It is now Sunday and we left at 7.30am for Chitwan National Park. Here Saturday is a holiday but Sunday is a regular working day and the rush hour traffic was insane. Mostly driving along river valleys, the scenery was very reminiscent of Sikkim and again we stopped at a lodge for lunch. After lunch we turned south off the "main" road towards Chitwan and there the fun started. It's one of those roads that clings to the side of the hill and it's being widened with help from the Chinese. This is all done with basic tools while the traffic flows (or not) around the workers. Not a traffic cone to be seen, just the occasional oil drum!! 😳
From Dhulikel we went to Bhaktapur, a historic city and World Heritage site. Here the earthquake damage is much more evident, with crumbling buildings and open areas still piled with rubble. Much rebuilding and restoration is going on but it seems that there has been very little international help. According to our guide local people got a tiny payment and are mostly rebuilding at their own expense, the millions donated still sitting in the Prime Ministers account. I don't know how true this is.
Our second full day started with a drive out along the Kathmandu valley to Dhulikel. The valley is lush and green with farmland and paddy fields. Dhulikel is a small but interesting town. Normally there is a visit to the school which was set up by some Saga guests who came here years ago and realised the local children had to travel miles as there wasn't one here. Today being Saturday the school was closed, but there was a celebration going on for international older people's day which was much more interesting to me!! After that we stopped at a lodge for lunch with a view 😍

6 October 2017

Finally we had dinner out and a cultural show, featuring Nepalese music and dance. Those tables are very low and you are practically sitting on the floor (on chairs with no legs)! A great end to the first full day.
From there we headed to the Hindu Pashupatinath temple, but had to take refuge in a coffee shop due to an outburst of heavy rain. Consequently it was dark by the time we got there and it was illuminated. Along the way we saw the ghats by the river, the bonfires are funeral pyres where bodies are cremated in full view (much to the disgust of one member of the party)! 😱
From Durbar Square we went to the Boudhanath Stupa, another World Heritage site, and had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the lovely square there.
Durbar Square is the centre of Kathmandu and is a World Heritage site. Again much reconstruction is going on and the temple of the living goddess is also being propped up. The living goddess is chosen as a very young child, she must meet many attributes of beauty and is taken to live and be worshipped in the temple until she reaches puberty and returns to "normal" life. How normal it is possible to be is debatable, after such a life away from her family.
This morning started with a walk through the street markets to Durbar Square. You can buy pretty much anything, there are lots of fruit and veg stalls and one lady was selling Himalayan rock salt.
There is still plenty of evidence of damage from the 2015 earthquake, lots of reconstruction going on although many buildings just suffered cracks and are being propped up for now.

5 October 2017

So, there are 15 in the group, five singles and five couples, but only 4 of us are going trekking. I haven't talked to everyone yet but they seem very nice. It is so hard remembering names though!!
Arrived at Kathmandu airport about 4pm to dark skies and rumbling thunder but it didn't rain till later. Immigration was quite quick but we had some drama at baggage reclaim as a lady had her bag snatched. Major panic ensued, she made a huge fuss and had the police involved quickly. The culprit had second thoughts and dropped the bag intact, thankfully. She'd only put it down momentarily to pull her case off the carousel. It was a 20 minute drive to the Malla Hotel, but it was getting dark so didn't see much. The hotel seems adequate but rather faded, but dinner was OK and the bed's comfy which is all I care about right now! 😴
Day 2 and the first leg of the journey is over. I grabbed a coffee to try and keep me awake and am now waiting at the gate for the two hour flight to Kathmandu. Jet Airways' boarding process at Heathrow was a scrum, very like Kolkata, as the flight was overbooked and they were calling for people to volunteer not to go! The on board service wasn't great either so I'll be glad when this journey is over... 😲