Nepal was an experience of ups and downs, just like the Himalaya. It all started four weeks ago in Lumbini. The place where Gautama Buddha was born 2581 years ago. It’s one of the major pilgrimage spots and yet it’s pretty laid-back. The village itself is no more than a sandy street with a handful of hotels, restaurants and tiny shops.
First, I got little sick, next it was Wouter’s turn. A one-night layover in Lumbini became a couple of nights of sniveling and recovery. India was probably more intense than we thought. That country does something to you. We are even ‘infected’ with the Indian wobble (some sort of head movement following an infinity sign). That wobble got us so confused in the beginning. Do they mean yes, or no? Huh? What does it mean?! Now, we use it ourselves all the time. It’s a gesture we miss in our own language. It’s often a yes, but not a full one, like ‘sure’ or ‘I hear you’. Hard to explain, there is nothing we can compare it with. And besides we don’t even know if we use it correctly… The wobble just happens to be there in our way of speaking since we’ve left India.
Back to Lumbini. Somehow I managed to explore the area by bike, but my mind was not in a state to immerse deeper into Buddhism and my eyes had seen enough temples and monasteries in the last couple of months. Wouter on the other hand immersed himself mainly in his bed and needed all his energy to get to the restaurant next door. So to be fair our Lumbini time was pretty boring.
The bus brought us next to Tansen, a small mountain village somewhere between the flat part of Nepal and the high Himalaya peaks. It’s true, there is flat land in Nepal! We almost felt like home. 😉 The mountains rise out of nothing. No hills, no rolling landscapes, but mountains straight away. Geology remains fascinating.
The trip was no success. Our somewhat convenient aircon tourist bus changed into an overloaded non-aircon constant stopping local bus. Smart move of the driver for some extra cash… To make it worse, Wouter’s body decided to go back to ill modus and had a hard time to deal with the bumpy ride. Roads in Nepal, they are worse than any other road we’ve seen so far… …let’s say we are happy we survived.
In Tansen, we stayed at a cozy family homestay managed by such a nice man. We travel with the philosophy that 99.99% of the world population is nice. And it’s true, we hardly come across people who have real bad intentions. Sometimes you even meet people who are super-duper kind. So honest, authentic and helpful that it is touching. This old man was one of them. Serious, he only needs to talk and you want to give him a hug.
We took it easy in Tansen to get well and, unlike our fellow guests who hiked all around to prepare for the real stuff between the giant Himalaya peaks, we got no further than the balcony and the nearest viewpoint, half an hour walk away. And then to think that our fellow guests were Spanish and French mountain lovers. We needed that preparation so much more! But no, our legs had still no clue about what was coming up.
The best part of Tansen was that most was closed due to a two-day festival. Hence, we were invited to eat at the cozy kitchen table of the homestay. Very enjoyable. After so many months of eating out and choosing from menu’s countless times, it’s just great to be in someone’s home, chat and eat what is put in front of you. No choices for ones, just sit and eat while chatting about crazy jobs around the world. Did you know you even can become a Christmas elf in Finland? How funny would that look on your LinkedIn profile!
Tansen is quite nice, but if you don’t go for a hike and are done with the balcony there is not much to go about. A walk up and down the streets and you’ve seen every stone. Maybe we were just spoiled in India. Up there is so much buzz going on all the time, everywhere.
And so it was time to move on to Pokhara: A touristic enclave and the base to prepare for a hike in the Himalaya. The first 24 hours were amazing. We enjoyed a real cappuccino. You know, one out of an Italian machine!! We walked next to each other on a sidewalk! We could even have a conversation without being disturbed by cars, cows or sellers. It was sort of clean and we missed out on our anti-bacterial hand wash tick. The weather felt like spring and so we walked on shoes and wore a trouser and long sleeve again! Wonderful.
It felt comfortable to be back in a world which is closer to what we are used to. On the other hand we were used to it in no time and entered a daily routine. Nothing special. Highlight of the day was for example that my flip flop broke and I was negotiating about the price for a new pair. Obviously my negotiating position was pretty bad with a bare foot and a broken flip flop in my hand and think I saved something like 10 rupees (=about nothing). So you can imagine the highlights were in short supply in Pokhara.
Actually, we did not really like Pokhara. It must have changed a lot in comparison to the magical stories we heard from friends who were there years ago. The views over the lake and high snow peaks in the distance are gorgeous but to be honest that is about it. We simply stayed out of convenience and of course for the cappuccino. Pokhara became a travel break.
I hope you don’t get bored by now, but we think it’s not the truth to only blog about all the amazing stuff. There is a lot of it, true, but at times there are moments which are just so so. I guess it gets you ready to enjoy the next high light. And what a high light! One we will never forget: our trek to the Annapurna Base Camp at 4130m (check the 360° view!). It was such an experience that the trip deserves an own blog. After the trip we went back to our daily routine in Pokhara to revive prior the bumpy (what else…) bus drive to Kathmandu.
Kathmandu felt for us like a melt of India and Tibet, two areas we visited not that long ago. We do try not to compare as we like to enjoy the place where we are. If you see a lot of the world there is a chance you always can come up with another place that was higher, bigger, nicer, more impressive or whatever and you miss out to enjoy where you really are at that moment in time. In most instances it works, in Kathmandu we failed. We explored the city, the small alleyways, the temples and it’s nice. It is! It just did not blow us away.
Our conclusion is that in Kathmandu we were a bunch of whiners, tired of temples and in desperate need of the sea. We like mountains but love the sea so much. Oh yes, we missed the sea a lot. A serious challenge if you are in the midst of the Himalaya and surrounded by dust. (In Kathmandu there is still a lot of construction going on after the earthquake (2015) creating a lot of dust.) The solution was easy: wild water rafting and kayaking instead of sightseeing in the Kathmandu valley. It would make us wet and let us feel the power of the water. Perfect to feel alive!
Basically your mobility consist of your upper body, a paddle and your hips. The rest is locked up in the kayak. The kayak is pretty instable and the river is wild. Therefore the first practice you need to master is to swop upside down and rescue yourself without any help (wet exit). That simple. Right, the moment the instructor tells you to do so without having done any meter of paddling, you think he is mad. Turning upside down, with most of your body tighten up is against your instinct to survive!
Not over-analyze is the key to go down under. Easy to say for thinkers like us, but once you let go, it becomes easier each time. Slowly we got in control of that moveable kayak and pushed our boundaries. Paddle straight, lean steeper, roll over, down under, swing your hips, cross the river, more wild water, and so on. Yeah, we are pretty proud of our kayaking progression and it felt great to be active in the water again.
On our last day there was unfortunately no water party. In the middle of the night someone out of the 0,01% of the world population knocked on our window at the back of the lodge. Instead of adrenaline in the water, we were awake all night long with adrenaline in our bed. Luckily, nothing happened that night but go kayaking with a sleepy brain and tired body would mean something will happen in the water. So better to be safe than sorry.
And with that we arrived at the end of our amazing trip through India and Nepal. We’ve traveled in ten weeks from Chennai in South India to Kathmandu in Nepal and it turned out to be a very special chapter of our world trip. We’ve just flown back to Bangkok and are back on track again on our overland journey, ready for a new chapter, a new adventure. Yay!