2- Wheeled Escapades: Kathmandu to Daman.

Classic but gruelling on-road ride over a 2488m pass, culminating with incomparable Himalayan views at Daman. The ride begins on the Kathmandu- Pokhara Hwy, which gives the only access to the valley. After leaving the valley, the highway descends to Naubise, at the base of the Mahesh Khola Valley, 27km from Kathmandu. … Start a 35km climb to Tistung (2030m) past terraced fields carved into steep hillsides. On reaching the pass at Tistung (2030m) you descend for 7km into the beautiful Palung Valley before the final steep 9km climb to Daman, at a height of 2322m.

Lonely Planet: Nepal, 9th Edition. pg.296

Well, I remember I cried. Twice. It was exhausting. We left the Lonely Planet book in the hostel to keep weight down (we had just bought day packs), and figured we couldn’t really get lost as we had one turnoff, in Naubise. When we got to the Palung Valley, knowing that we certainly hadn’t missed Daman, but had no idea how much further… the journey suddenly got a lot harder.

29th Oct. 14.

Yesterday we cycled to a small town called Daman, 80 km from Kathmandu… uphill and in three valleys across!

Leaving Kathmandu, we instantly regretted not having something to cover our mouths and noses with. Our mucus was black from exhaust and fumes within meters. Weaving in and out of huge mountain trucks, small import cars and dodging the odd cart, the ride down to get outside of Kathmandu’s Ring Road was exhilarating and congested. And very ugly. The snaking highway from Chasapani to Naubise slowed the traffic down immensely, more so for the single lane switch-backs that the buses needed to navigate. On two wheels however, we quickly covered the first 30 km. We simultaneously agreed that we would return with the bus for the the last leg, from Naubise to Kathmandu, the following day.

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The Fashion of the Backpacker’s Tour-De-Nepal: Flats, woolly socks, leggings and running shorts.

The next 50 km was predominately uphill 🙂 Honestly, if it was any steeper, any more traffic, or if the bikes were shyte – we couldn’t have done it! Honestly² it wasn’t physically challenging- at no point were we really “puffing” or completely done for. It was however, one of the most mentally challenging things I have ever done! I realised coming down [from Daman] that half my problem was that after Tisung –  we didn’t really know where we were, in relation to where we were heading! After Palung Valley (which we didn’t remember existed!) the road just seemed to never end. Without the Lonely Planet’s basic description of the trip, we were just on a never-ending bike ride.

Palung Valley was gorgeous though – and it was nice to visit something out of the standard backpacker’s jurisdiction. Surprisingly, there were a few hotels and guest houses around! Given how big Palung is- we were surprised it wasn’t given more street creed in our journey! By the time we arrived in Palung town, it was mid-afternoon and we were starting to feel the mental drain and physical saddle sore! It was getting hard to sit down, adding to the strain that we still had at least 2 hours to go! If only we knew! I think normally, we should have made it in about 1.5 hours but we were getting to the point when we would walk for 50m or so, just so our legs could fully extend. 60km in, we kept guessing over every peak where Daman could be. We had no idea where, or how much longer we had to go! We had been going up hill all day. It was only when we thought we could see the lookout tower for the Daman Mountain “resort” atop a hill in the distance we though we might be getting close. Looking like a communications tower from an airport, it was seemingly out-of-place.

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Somewhere in the distance is Pokhara.

We arrived in Daman as the sun was kissing the mountains good-night. We stayed at the Daman Mountain “resort”, and as the complex contained the viewing tower that we would watch the sunrise from, we took what we could get. We ended up getting a room that had hot water, but didn’t end up showering because we were too cold! (It was the electric variation that took 10min to warm up!) The real treat was the small television not understanding any channels, it was nice to have something to watch and relax after a full day’s ride.

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Dinner at one of the hotel employee’s sister’s restraurants, next door to the hotel.

6:15- And the Himalayas looked amazing!

I didn’t realise how much the pollution from Kathmandu effected viewing the mountains. By 8:00 we couldn’t see them because of the glare. I think we saw Everest but it was quite small given how far away it was! The Annapurna and Langtang mountains looked enormous though! I’m glad we got up for the sunrise, as the best time to see the mountains lit up was just before the sun came into our view. It was beautiful. The Himalayas were all colours of glowing blue and purple. With the sun coming up, they shifted to warm tones of orange and yellow. The fact that I most likely won’t see the mountains again like that definitely made the trip worth the bike ride.

After a quick breakfast of curry and donuts, we zipped back. Hilariously fun. Two small hill climbs and 80km downhill. Best riding day ever! Once we got back to Naubise, we caught a local public bus back to the Ring Road in KTM- only costing us Rs100 🙂 The bikes were thrown on the roof (and tied down!) and we were saved from climbing the big hill while using exhaust fumes as our source of oxygen 🙂 Dollar well spent!

Tea House Trek ¦ Nepal

 

∗Important Note: This list, more than the others, will be heavily dependent on the time of year that you go, and to which region. We hiked to Annapurna Base Camp, during Mid November. We didn’t employ porters.∗

 Clothing:

  • Thermals: My pants I purchased in Pokhara and I also brought a long-sleeve light-weight thermal that dried quickly, so I could wash it after using it.

  • Shorts: Mine are the North Face kind, I would wear them over my Thermals while hiking if I needed to.

  • Yoga Pants: To wear after hiking, and I would normally sleep in them.

  • Long-sleeve Cotton Shirt: Also for evenings, I would keep it in a separate stuff sack with my yoga pants to keep them clean-ish and smelling better-ish.

  • Two Singlets: Basic H&M kind, one for hiking and one for evenings/sleeping.

  • One Fleece Jumper: I wouldn’t normally hike in this, so it remained clean-ish for evenings.

  • Rain/ Wind Jacket: At higher altitudes, I would normally hike in this with my breathable layer underneath.

  • Insulated Jacket: Purchased in Pokhara for 20USD, it was enough to keep me warm in the evenings. I also slept in it at the Base Camp. I would never wear it hiking, as it was too warm, and as the one time I did, it remained damp throughout the day!

  • Travel Towel: The quick dry kind is preferred but where there is no wind or warmth, we would strap it to the outside of our bag while hiking the following day.

I really didn’t pack a lot of clothes for the trek as to keep the weight down. I had my “hiking outfit” and my “evening/sleeping” outfit.

Technical:

  • Hiking Boots: I brought my Lowa Focus GTX QC WS boots. Buy them at home, and break them in. No buying boots in Nepal!

  • Flip-flops/Sandals: Used for showers, and after a day’s walking.

  • Sleeping Bag: Nothing special, purchased originally for normal camping. Outerlimits Compact 150. Mine is rated for +5ºc as I tend to get pretty hot when I sleep.
  • Sleeping Bag Liner: Used only in the Annapurna Base Camp, but it was cold enough that on this occasion I also used the doona provided. I would also use the liner on beds when it was too warm for the sleeping bag and I wanted to be just that little bit cleaner.
  • Bag: I used my Eagle Creek 55L Truist. but I didn’t bring the “lid” portion. It was compatible with my Source Bladder but I wished that there was more padding on the shoulders. After walking for 6 hours, it become a little uncomfortable but nothing unbearable.

  • Water Purification Tablets: We bought ours in Pokhara, but we only really used them once. We could buy boiled water inside the sanctuary, and donkeys carry filtered water everywhere on the trek outside of the sanctuary (ei: Poon Hill). I also didn’t really like the taste they gave the water. We saw an older couple (celebrating her 65th!) using the UV light but they only had smaller bottles (about a liter in size). I don’t think the UV light is a practical choice for large amounts of water.

  • 3L hydration pack. Life saver. Drink water as much as you need without having to constantly stop and take off your pack! I would always refill it every night.

  • Camera. And extra batteries. I also brought a Varta rechargeable external battery to use. All combined, I had enough juice for the entire trek. You have to pay to use any electricity in the mountains as most of it is solar energy and needed for the village.

Randoms but still wouldn’t go without:

  • First Aid Kit, Journal, Mobile & Headphones (zone out time!), Sunscreen (we used SPF 30- don’t forget your neck!).

Flashback : Buff Momos and Nepal

25.10.2014- Elburus Home, Kathmandu

Today is our first full day in KTM, but something tell me that it’s not the “real” Nepal – this weekend is the last of Dasain (celebrating the Duiga’s victory of evil) – the last few days bring in the New Year (Newari New Year). Consequently, 90% of the shops and cafés (everywhere we could eat) are closed.

Yesterday our arrival was pretty standard – we were about 15 mins late landing, as there can only be one aircraft in “the valley” – we literally flew circles about KTM – the most exciting/ coolest thing was that we were able to [see] Everest on the way in. Definitely big. We arranged pickup at the airport – making things a lot easier (mentally). I guess the guy with my name was standing there for a while – although he wasn’t the one to drive us to the hostel, Elbrus Home. Although I had previously emailed and reserved a room with a shared bath, they were over-booked and instead of spending our first night at a different location and moving back on our 2nd night, we opted to take a slightly more expensive room (with private bath). I wasn’t largely impressed that Khem hadn’t emailed to confirm (or share this) and he offered us a cup of tea! haha – I thought it was quite nice of him 🙂

We went for our first walk through Thamel last night. We went down Bhagabati Bahaj & Thamel Chok. It was really nice; good crowd and lots of lights.

Today we went to LP’s “South Thamel to Durbar Square” – definitely photographed too many Stupas!

…later

Historical Beauty - Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Historical Beauty – Durbar Square, Kathmandu

The walking tour took us from Thahity Square down through Tyouda to Bhotahity -> Asan Tole “Kathmandu’s busiest junction”. From here we proceeded to Durbar Square – Basantapur temple & Freak Street and through the “old town”. It’s astounding to believe that chunks of Kathmandu are older than Europe! We didn’t get a guide for Durbar Square to save money but as usual, we know we lost out of valuable information. For about a half an hour we sat above “Maju Deval” and watched the world go by. Mostly I played with my camera … there was tons of locals trying to flog the usual. Although the list of travelers junk changes from Continent; in Nepal it is as follows

  • Brass Buddhism trinkets
  • ” I ❤ Nepal” t-shirts
  • prayer flags
  • knives
  • Tibetan paintings
  • Pashimina scarves
  • wood carvings
  • (over the top) extreme clothing

And when every store in a given suburb (Thamel) sells it – it doesn’t allow for much excitement after the frist street is walked. I have, however, purchased my first souvenirs of Nepal – a deep red elephant ornament, with 6 smaller elephants around its feet. I’m sure there is a meaning to it that I will need to research.

After 24 hours here, I have realised there is [a] slightly strange comfort feeling I have with this trip – I’m not sure if it’s the “returning to an Asian culture” or the fact that my boyfriend and I travel well together, but Nepal has (so far, and knock on wood) thrown us any surprises. Ironically, I think his “trip karma” isn’t fending too well – today he got shat on by a bird, resulting in the quick cleanup with baby-wipes. He said the bird stared at him after completing his bowel movements- targeted?

There is definitely things that I’ve noticed, in way [that] I’ve changed. I’m more polite to everyone except those wanting money. Many people here (possibly the Karma thing) are really polite (although not always curtious). My boyfriend asked a random [person] to sue the toilet this afternoon, and didn’t want any payment for it. We haven’t really seen any public toilets (not that I would go out of my way to use it) but usually they would require payment. Naturally, the assumption was the local kid in the corner of the court-yard would like some as well.

My First Dal Baht!
My First Dal Baht! Thamel, Kathmandu

The Nepali food has been quite good so far – last night I had momo’s for the first time – steam mix between dim-sum and perogies. I’ve also had the staple mean, “daal bhaat tarkari”, lentil soup, rice and veggies. Being a Hindu/Buddhist culture, there isn’t a lot of beef going around. “Buff momos” have been pretty delicious – the dumplings but with water buffalo [meat]. Out last two dinners have averaged around 400Rs – daal hasn’t been about 250Rs. For Buff momos 100Rs-150Rs seems to be the going rate. We did need to ask the ridiculous question of how many came for 100Rs – we (or I!) half expected it to be for one!

In terms of “pollution” – KTM is extremely dusty – I’ve mentally compared it to sticking your head out of the window, while driving down an Australian orange dirt road…well following another vehicle. You actually see people dusting the products in their stalls & the clothes faded enough to show that they missed the dusting gig. I’m almost happy that I only have two pairs of pants – washing is not going to get done that regularly! There have been a few tourists that are donning face masks – scooter rides sure – the wet sidewalk? I don’t think so!


Living in the Moment: What We Forget

In April 2015, Nepal was struck with by a devastating earthquake. Many of the beautiful historical buildings we saw in Kathmandu and the surround areas, many which had stood for centuries, were destroyed in a matter of hours. It broke our hearts to see such irreplaceable damage done to such beautiful monuments, squares and stupas. I remember watching a video of the “monkey temple” (Swayambhunath Temple) shaking and rocking, priceless artifacts crumbling away. Other than entrusting in international charities, there wasn’t much we could do back in Europe.

It brings home one of the most important travel mottos: live in the moment. Enjoy the moment, where ever you are, doing whatever makes you happy. I always think I will return to my favourite places again, but Nepal will never be the same. Centuries of religious history lay in pieces and I can admit I definitely took it for granted while I was there.

Trying to travel write but without Words…?

Well, here I am a month later and no blog post. I would like to use work as my excuse but… it’s not really one!

It has finally taken a rainy day, three cups of tea and inspiration from past travel photos to tell myself that I might as well keep going… if nothing other than for my sanity. If I didn’t write, I would end up throwing a zillion situations at my partner in preparation for our next trip(s)…

A few months (where did the time go!) ago I started to write, following the exercises given in Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing: Expert Advice From the World’s Leading Travel Publisher. After 8 weeks, I am now only writing about Exercise 4. excercise 3 got me write about my last trip to Nepal- using it as inspiration to (eventually) put together an article.

Exercise 3

After your next trip, or thinking back to your most recent trip, finish these sentences: I’ve just returned from Nepal. My most memorable experience there was trekking in the Himalayas. It was memorable because the people were so hospitable and the food surprising delicious given the (sometimes) primitive resources!. The experience taught me I have more endurance then I realised and my body is stronger than I knew. Think about how you could expand on this to build a personal and compelling anecdotal bridge to that place.

I talked in my post about the physical challenges that one needs to overcome to succeed in the adventure at hand. My partner and I have been very lucky to travel to places that offer such a diverse array of adrenaline and heart-pumping fun. Although I hadn’t mentioned it in the previous exercise, one of the physically most challenging things I have ever done was bike-ride 80 kilometres uphill from Kathmandu to Daman to watch the spectacular sun rise over the Himalayas.

“Honestly, if it was any steeper, any more traffic, or the bikes were shyte- we couldn’t have done it! Honestly², it was(n’t) physically hard- at no point were we really “puffing” or completely done for (at least on my boyfriend’s behalf!). It was however, one of the most mentally challenging things I have ever done! I realised coming down that half of my problem was that after (the village of) Tisung- we didn’t know where we were, in relation to where we were heading! … At this point, we kept guessing over every peak, where Daman would be. We had no idea where, or how much longer we had to go! We had been going up hill all day!”- 29.10.2014

If only I had any idea what the trek would entail!

Exercise 4:
Considering the trip you wrote about in Exercise 3, try to write an in medias res (in the middle of things) lead for your story. Think of the pivotal or most emotionally intense moment in your piece. Describe the prelude to that moment – the instance before the tiger, literal or figurative, appeared. Write two to four paragraphs – 400 words maximum – that place your reader right there with you in that scene. Could you begin your story this way?

I have an admiration for mountains and their enticing manner. When I hike the crunch of rocks under my boots, and the warm air that I try to labour myself into breathing motivate me to continue climbing. At every stage possible, I turn around to get a glimpse of the scenery that is unravelling underneath me. Every foot step leads to a different angle of the living worlds above, and below the trail one must climb to reach the top. The textures of rock, ice, snow and shrubs blend into nature’s rainbow pull me into a trace, wanting to stop at every breath to capture a photograph. Even living at the base of the Swiss Alps and having taken a plethora of photos capture their mood, no two have been the same. The sun makes them glow, misleading the masses to think they are forever controllable. But their temperaments are not to be toyed with; clouds and rain invade their summits, allowing their crowns to extend into the heavens and push their summit further from us.

It didn’t take long out of Pokhara to appreciate the area in which we were attempting to challenge. As with all overland journeys in Nepal, hair – pin corners and passing on blind roads become norm. The durable Tata lorries are favoured for good reason;it isn’t until you’re in a taxi with a 20 cm clearance, no suspension and a broken speedometer, that you see how Nature stills pounds the crap out of everything we through out at. Roads are rebuilt with the seasons, and hiking trails are certainly no exception, over growing in a matter of months. Ever changing weather patterns adds an edge of excitement and can make the world feel much smaller: days before we flew to Nepal, avalanches struck the region we would be hiking, the aftermath of a tropical cyclone!

There is a very worn expression, “its the journey that counts not the destination” and our journey was no exception. Ironically, the best views were presented to us at every corner, both in our car journey to the start point, and along the trek. Shortly outside of Nayapul, the smell of dry donkey’s manure stimulates your senses and the eyes become keen for any fresh piles. Settlements scattered every few kilometres remind you that civilisation is never far behind.

In answer to the last question, could you begin your story this way?, I hope so!

I want to travel-write… but I needed to look up “anecdotal”.

Hey wandering people of the internet. If anyone is reading regularly, I am trying to write each day about travel related goodness 🙂 I purchased Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing and I am trying to complete the exercises inside to give me inspiration on what to write about. Unfortunately, as with anyone else who lives a life with bills to pay, I have spent a good part of today making coffees and listening to people’s non-existent problems at work. Oh, the life of a waitress!

For today’s very short exercise, I will be reflecting on our recent trip to Nepal (…3 months recent :S). Hopefully it will give me content for anything later that I may need… My boyfriend and I visited for 5 weeks last October, busing around the center of Nepal. We also completed a 9 day trek to the Annapurna Base Camp and detoured to Poon Hill for the sunrise panorama. We’re possibly going back at the end of this year (after India) to spend more time in Pokhara. We can never have enough!


Exercise 3

After your next trip, or thinking back to your most recent trip, finish these sentences: I’ve just returned from Nepal. My most memorable experience there was trekking in the Himalayas. It was memorable because the people were so hospitable and the food surprising delicious given the (sometimes) primitive resources!. The experience taught me I have more endurance then I realised and my body is stronger than I knew. Think about how you could expand on this to build a personal and compelling anecdotal bridge to that place.

I think the special thing about physical journeys is that two people could undertake the same trip but, depending on their body’s reaction to the physical challenge, people take away different stories. Although it was the longest trek that I have completed and we did so without any ‘training’, I throughly enjoyed it. Our group was fortunate to not have any issues with altitude sickness and I know this can make-or-break someone’s trek. My bag averaged 9 kg each day, including 2-3kg water, and I never struggled with the weight. By the time we returned to Pokhara, we all wished that we could have completed the longer ‘Circuit’ trek. Too many adventures, not enough time (or money!!)

What do you guys think? Have you ever had any challenges that, in the end, you enjoyed? Would you do it again?