Before I get too settled, I wanted to share some highlights of my journey so far.
Upon arrival we explored the Kathmandu Valley, a buzzing metropolis incorporating Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. In each of these centres there is a “Durbar Square” which simply means a plaza or area opposite an old royal palace in Nepal. The damage from the earthquake in 2015 is most evident here. The destruction is heartbreaking. I cannot imagine how the people must have been felt when reviewing such extensive damage to centuries old palaces, temples, idols and more. Fortunately there are still artisans in Nepal with the skills necessary to recreate the decorative woodwork and other features. Many countries are contributing to the rebuilding efforts.
The two major religions in Nepal are Hinduism and Buddhism. There is great acceptance of each others’ customs. Many people practice a combination of both.
Visiting the Pashupatinath Temple on the banks of the Bagamati River a tributary of the Ganges was also a very special experience. The temple is considered one of the sacred temples of Hindu faith and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple complex is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts thousands of pilgrims each year. During our visit we witnessed the washing and cremation of recently departed. After cremation their ashes are scattered in the river to make the journey to the Ganges River in India.
While in Kathmandu we also took the opportunity to fly to see Mount Everest. A morning excursion that ended with champagne! Can’t complain about that!
After the craziness of the traffic and dusty city streets it was a delight to head to the Annapurna Valley. This was the part of the trip that was most anticipated by many of us – mostly due to our preparedness (or lack thereof) for the trekking ahead. After a bus, and very jolting, but extremely fun jeep ride, we were dropped off at Kimche and then proceeded to hike up, and up, and up to Ghandrung where we spent two nights in the shadow of the beautiful Annapurna South and Fishtail mountains, while exploring the local village.
The hike to Landruk was difficult, as anticipated – 800 metres down to a river, and then 500 metres back up. The views were spectacular, and as this was our first day trekking we were in good spirits and feeling very proud of ourselves! After a beautiful restful evening we set off for an “easy” hike to Majgaun. We took the “short cut”, that was “Nepali flat”. After about 4 or 5 hours I could no longer tolerate my boots, so switched to flip flops and discovered leeches! The last hour or so I was able to march barefoot across the streams and was so much more comfortable. It may not have looked that way as apparently my leech bites looked like bullet wounds! I think there was consensus that the “easy day” was much worse than the difficult day before!
One more day of hiking, the most delightful so far, as we had perfect weather, and the changes in elevation were not so severe. After another fabulous meal outside we were transported to Pokhara
Recouperating at beautiful Fishtail Lodge in Pokhara was just what the doctor ordered. We had a fabulous scrub, massage, facial for approximately $85 USD that was just what we needed. A great lunch then an afternoon of easy shopping prepared us for the next adventure.
Our itinerary had said we were going to Chitwan for “jungle activities”. I didn’t really give this a lot of thought, but if pressed would have imagined tree top walks and zip lining. I was not prepared for elephant rides, rhino sightings, and safaris! I look back on the photos now, and still cannot believe that it happened. What a delightful surprise! And a very memorable end to the trip.
Flying back to Kathmandu for a final dinner, and saying farewell to my friends was bitter sweet. After having been so close for two weeks it was strange to see them go. However, I am fortunate. I get to stay in this interesting city for another month, and volunteer and explore, while everyone else returns home to their lives, hopefully a little richer for the experience. I am so thankful to have spent so much time with such loving people: old friends, and new; the kind porters, who not only carried our belongings, but also made sure we did not get lost; and our patient guide who corralled us with grace and humour! Such beautiful people, all supporting each other throughout, the entire journey was a delight.
I will post again after I settle into my volunteering duties, and explore the valley further. I would love to hear any comments you may have 😊
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