A Travellerspoint blog

March 2016

Nepal

Probably the least prepared trekker that's ever visited Nepal, but the best things are often unplanned...

sunny 26 °C
View World Trip on Poppy90's travel map.

Rocking over to another country on a whim is the stuff I live for. I've always loved being spontaneous so waking up, booking a flight to a country I know next to nothing about, and arriving there the same day is pretty damn exciting.

I checked into my hotel in Kathmandu late at night and then spent the next day arranging a last minute trek. I found an agency, told them where I wanted to trek and they organised a last minute tour guide for a 5 day Poon Hill Trek. I met the guide very briefly, before grabbing some food and having an early night.

Day One
I meet my guide at the agency at 6.30am. He had forgotten my name since yesterday. I'd also forgotten his. In the ten minute walk to the bus my right shoe was rubbing, my hired bag wasn't sitting right and I still felt sick, as I had been for the last 15 days. I also had the realisation that I've signed up for a 5 day trek with no clue how far in going to be walking each day, or in total. FLYING START.

I could write a whole entry on the bus journey alone. I couldn't take my eyes off the view and activities outside. In seven hours I didn't need my iPod, kindle or phone. I was totally content watching the world go by. Close to our destination (Pokhara), the bus comes to a stop in a huge traffic queue. It transpired that there was a protest outside a police station and the protesters were blocking the road and it was going to be at a minimum a few hours before anyone moved. We had to get my permit and TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card before a set time and it meant we would miss it. When my guide asked if I wanted to walk through the protest and try and catch a local bus, I wasn't going to say no. One protest, some walking and two buses later we arrived with 10 minutes to spare! Gotta love a bit of ad hoc adventure!

Day Two
Another early start as we drove from Pokhara to the start of the actual trek. After 10 minutes i had lost my sleeping bag liner. As I realised, a helpful Chinese tourist told me I'd dropped it a bit further back. Um why did you not pick it up and tell me?! After a quick search, we never found it and my Nepalese tour guide said 'We have a habit of keeping things we find'. That was that then!

FC392557D33B8D1EED071CA75BFC9288.jpg

We trekked for 3 hours or so and saw the most beautiful river, waterfall, mountains and villages. Honestly it was incredible. It was bloody hard work though. Trekking in Nepal isn't something people take lightly, for example most people wouldn't do this if they'd been ill for the last two weeks or haven't really exercised regularly in months (who am I kidding...in years). But those that know me, know I'm determined when I want to be and don't give up. Whilst I'm beating myself up and wondering what the hell I've let myself in for as we hike up a steep track, my guide interrupts my thoughts and says 'you walk very fast'. I thought this was hilarious but then realised that actually we had been over-taking people and no-one had overtaken us yet. Not doing so bad after all! We stopped for a quick lunch and then kept hiking. As we'd made good progress, we decided to do an extra hill before finding a lodge for the night in Urelli. This hill had over 3,700 steep steps and it was 26degress. It was seriously hard work for about 2 and a half hours and was one of the toughest things I've ever done physically! Getting to the lodge felt like such an achievement and on the roof terrace I sat there with a cup of tea feeling pretty pleased with myself. My room was £1.59 a night and the view from my window was insane. I seriously love this country! After meeting a Tibetan woman on our mammoth step hike, she decided to stay at the same place and taught me some Tibetan dance moves which was fun. After eating a classic Nepalese dish I headed for an early night.

Day Three
I looked out of the window and was greeted with the incredible view below. If there was ever motivation to get out of bed that was it! I had breakfast whilst looking over the clouds and then set off.

FC488D450347DEE3F5A04F5BE03C2784.jpg

There were quite a few more steps involved and the route goes through a few remote villages (if you can call 5-10 lodges in clusters a village). The rest of the day was through forest with waterfalls and streams along the way. We were now a long way from any roads or proper paths. So we would see groups of donkeys loaded up and being led along the path back down to where we started to stock up with anything from food to gas.

FC3A6EAFA247F6D9E1279F2C4124F51B.jpg

By 12.30pm we had arrived in Ghorepani and I ordered a pizza as I felt it was deserved. Rather frustratingly my window would have had an even more impressive view today but it was cloudy and dark so I couldn't see the himilayas as I'd hoped. The afternoon was spent relaxing and reading.

Day Four
We woke at 5am and was out trekking by 5.30am...in the pitch black. We were trying to reach the summit of Poon Hill for sunrise. After a gruelling hour of constant steps we made it! Pretty happy to be at the top but the view everyone does this trek for was completely covered by cloud. I certainly took this better than the group of American school kids (!). The sun came out from the clouds for about 12 seconds and promptly disappeared so we were left very cold with no view. I had a cup of tea at the summit though to make myself feel better!

FC383E3DEBE991FDDB591D2695299519.jpgFC5E15AED42AC256DB827E3BD3488BFA.jpg

I strangely found the whole thing quite amusing, rather than annoying, and we headed back to the hotel for breakfast. The weather was supposed to be clear by 3pm so I decided to stick around and use the extra day we'd planned in to see the views if possible. The rest of the day it rained, hailed and the weather just got worse!

Earlier, at around 10am news had broken that a passenger plane with 23 people on had crashed very close to where we were. We could hear and see the rescue helicopters and see some smoke through the clouds. It's really so sad that the plane was ever allowed to take off given the poor visibility and terrible weather, as you can see in the photos above. Nepal doesn't have a very good safety record for flying, and a few days later whilst I was still there, another plane crashed killing both pilots. It was another of those days that really gave me some perspective.

In the evening I ended up being sick and was feeling pretty terrible so told my guide that I wanted to skip the 5am start (I'd been hoping to try the summit again the next day in the hope of better weather) and just sleep in and carry on tomorrow. He said that was fine...

Day Five
At 5am I get a knock on my door from my guide informing me that the weather is good so the views will be great. What could I do? He'd clearly not understood me yesterday, but I felt better. I got up, trekked up all those stairs again, managed to take 15 minutes off my time yesterday, and was rewarded with incredible views!!

FC375F3EB3F52AF99C7A89065FCEDF43.jpgFC3C70E596968EB6C6623A48B410F9EA.jpg

The views continued to be incredible throughout the day and I was literally on cloud nine. The trek was mainly downhill but not without its tough uphill parts. We walked along a ridge with gorgeous views, then spent a lot of time in forests with waterfalls everywhere. All in all we trekked for over nine hours and I was totally shattered when we arrived at the guesthouse for the evening and was asleep by 7pm!

FD494A5106DAF51E508A33371FFED5C7.jpg

Day Six
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch, I woke up at 6am with painful legs and my knees hurt so much. Still, it was the last day so no stopping now.

I seriously had to dig deep as my right knee was in serious pain every step down I took. Oh and the first TWO HOURS were downward steps. After a while I opted for the option of a dirt path down, which added another two hours into the day. By 1pm we arrived back where we had started and I'd finally finished the whole loop!

After a bit of a drama as to how we were getting back to Pokhara (the main town where we would be staying), we got back and I treated myself to a fresh apple juice and egg baguette. Trek complete- queue crashing out at about 6pm.

Day Seven
The next day we took the seven hour bus back to Kathmandu. Sorry did I say seven? I meant 10 hours. We got delayed by queues for fuel blocking the roads, a lorry that had crashed and general traffic related issues. I did establish though that Saturday in Nepal is laundry day. The rivers were full of people doing their washing and riverbanks were really colourful with all the items drying.

I met up with Casmira and Maaike (who I had done the Trans-Siberian Express with in November) and we went for a meal and explored Kathmandu the next day. All in all going to Nepal was the best decision I've made whilst travelling. Days in silence gives you a lot of thinking time and I've come back with a clear head ready for more travelling. I've proven that I can trek longer and harder than I initially thought I could and seen the beautiful Himalayas in the process. So if you ever need a boost of self-confidence, a thorough workout and want time to think things through - a trek in Nepal with sort you out!

FC3E3F1EDBCD2C759418DE073BBCC6A0.jpg

Facts about Nepal
1) There's wifi on tourist buses
2) Electricity is only on during set times during the day
3) There's a huge fuel shortage (due to strokes on the Indian border), so queues for fuel are hundreds of bikes and dozens of vehicles long
4) Rebuilding is still ongoing after the earthquake last year
5) You have to go trekking there!

Nepal mash-up video: http://youtu.be/SCCOx-AZd5s

Posted by Poppy90 05:03 Archived in Nepal Tagged #travel #mountains #waterfalls #blog #perspective #nepal #snow #poonhill #trekking Comments (1)

North India

Stunning scenery, fascinating culture and the difficulties of tourism...

sunny 25 °C
View World Trip on Poppy90's travel map.

Many travellers I've met since I left in November have told me that I'm crazy for travelling India. Sometimes they insert 'on your own' into that sentence, or some people just don't understand why you would ever want to go there. I had decided that I'd ease myself in with a tour in the north, before continuing my travels in the south. I have a love/hate relationship with North India, for the reasons you'll come to understand below. But just in case you don't get to the end of the blog...it's a place you should visit if you want an eye opening travel experience. I'd also like to sneak in by saying that my experience of South India has already been very different to that of the north- but we'll leave that for another blog entry!

Expect the unexpected...all the time!
India is a people watchers dream! Cows and bulls casually roam the streets everywhere, even once into a shop. When walking along we've seen rats fall off roofs into the path in front of us, crowds of men watching the cricket on a shop TV and a huge pile of rubbish on the Main Street of Old Delhi as the street cleaners were on strike. One day, a whole electricity box on the street blow up in front of us with a huge bang, a blue flash of light and sparks flying everywhere. Just a standard day in India...

F0C4E8F3B26BEEB88807F60CF8F19AB6.jpg

F135E75B991BE56F0B518745CB73088B.jpg

F132EEF4A3F6092AFFE95556631FED91.jpg

Women in India
Within 5 minutes of leaving Delhi airport, I saw a bumper sticker saying 'Respect and safety of women is my duty and honour'. India certainly has its problem with treatment of women at times, but let's start with remembering that it's not the majority of the population who have this attitude.

India is trying to take steps to make it safer for women. As bizarre as it is to be standing under a bright pink sign with stars on it, that says 'women only' at the metro station, I'd rather put my gender-stereotyping issues with a pink sparkly sign aside and have the option to be in that carriage. Some Indians clearly aren't used to seeing westerners and they are curious. However it's when you are alone or in smaller groups that the stares can turn into comments which can be unpleasant. You can't really win because in Indian culture eye contact and a smile can be seen as you giving a signal you are interested, but ignore it as I did one evening when I was on my own and I was accused of being rude and shouted at for not seemingly stopping and talking to this overly aggressive man in a dark street. But as I said for every person out there like that, there are many many more who are not like that and I came across many pleasant and helpful Indian men whilst I was there.

F0D15222ED311AA48870A673D3856EEA.jpg

Tourism and poverty
Poverty in India is a tricky one, especially in areas with high tourism rates. In a country where 70% of the country live on less than $2 a day I was always expecting to see poverty. That doesn't make it easy to see though and I've lost count of the number of times I've tried to weigh up the pros and cons of tourism here. I still don't know the answer! All I know is that by spectating and not interacting, you are going to contribute to social issues relating to tourism. Seeing a tourist push their camera in front of a girl (no older than 10) walking to school was pretty jarring. Some people really will do anything for a 'good' picture, without giving thought to the other person involved who was probably scared that a grown man had just jumped in front of her. Why do we think this is acceptable in India when it wouldn't be in our own countries? You also have mothers dressing themselves and their children up so that tourists will take photos, and they will then ask for money/send their children to beg. It's a very harsh way of living for some local people in areas where they see a lot of international and domestic tourism. The interactions that do go on with those not directly employed in the tourism sector lack depth and therefore damage the perception that both sets of people have of each other.

On the way to the airport we had a taxi drive into the back of ours. It wasn't a full blown accident, but enough to break our rear bumper. The driver said that the insurance wouldn't pay out. When I tipped him 30% he was unhappy as he said he had already lost thousands of rupees with the accident. Unfortunately this seems to be the general attitude from people involved in tourism. You have to barter hard to pay less when you know it's still double or more what a local would pay. When you tip, my experience in some cases is that people complain to you that it's not enough. You have to be assertive or you'd lose all your money in days otherwise! Of course, everyone is just trying to make money at the end of the day, however it does make being a tourist challenging and ultimately puts some off returning.

Being ill in India
Don't worry I'll spare you the full details. After 7 days of being unwell (the inevitable along with a few more unusual symptoms), and one course of antibiotics that hadn't worked, I decided to go to a doctor. This involved being taken to an Indian hospital where I saw a doctor (apparently - he was just in jeans and a t shirt) who was confused with my relatively simple issue, so referred me to a surgeon on the floor above. Seriously! I had to wait just at the side of an operating theatre for this guy to finish an operation before he came out and spoke first the patient in front and then me. There's no privacy as you have your consultation in front of everyone else. The cost of seeing a Doctor and then a Surgeon? 60p. Can't complain at that I suppose. Although when they then prescribe you half of the pharmacy, it's a little ridiculous. Especially when you are the type of person that doesn't normally want to take paracetamol and they wanted me to take 43 tablets within 5days! The whole thing definitely cheered me up though and it was interesting to see the A&E department and wards etc.

After day 12 of being ill, I was still no better so I decide to see another doctor. This one basically told me that the tablets I'm taking are making me unwell. Given the amount of them I'd be inclined to agree with him. So what does he do? Prescribes me another 4 types of tablets that are different!! I'd love to say that sorted everything out but it didn't so I had to demand to have a test to try and determine exactly what was ruining my trip! The good news is that after 17 days I was feeling better again! The test results came back (two weeks later) showing I had E. coli in my system, so that wraps that episode up.

Intrepid tour and destinations
I was on a tour with Intrepid and we did a pretty standard loop of North India. We visited Delhi (crazily busy), Jaisalmer (beautiful fort with gorgeous views of the sunrise/set), Jodpur, Udaipur (very romantic city with a stunning palace), Pushkar (I didn't actually get to as I was too unwell to travel), Jaipur (the 'pink' city, that's not actually pink), Bharatpur (relaxing nature reserve), Agra (the incredible Taj Mahal) and Varanasi (favourite place by far on the Ganges). Over that time we did tours of lots of forts and palaces, had an art class, saw a prayer ceremony on the Ganges, and drank lots of lassies.

F0CD0B12B773B8AEB45BB675D4D0DB8D.jpg
F13475AE01D5A1B0F751F1FBF4534E3B.jpgF0CF5E28F5F2B8767A07C113DC2761B7.jpg

We largely got around by auto rickshaws (record of 7 people in a 3 seater), buses and sleeper trains, all of which provided their own experience.

My North India travels come to a halt as I woke up the day my tour finished, had no plans for 10 days, so booked a flight to Nepal for that evening. After Nepal, I'll be back to South India for a couple of months.

It's hard to summarise the country it's just so different to anywhere I've ever been. You have to be on your guard all the time when you are out. Mainly because you are trying not to step in large piles of rubbish, cow shit, actual cows, dogs, goats, monkeys, people, food carts, bicycles, motorbikes, rickshaws, cars or tuk tuks. You certainly can't describe North India as relaxing. But it is fascinating, has some incredibly beautiful cities, lovely people and amazing buildings. A must for those who don't mind travels at 100mph, near death driving everyday and can see a place behind all it's rubbish and dirt.

For those that would like to see the footage from this part of the trip, the link is below ?

Indian mash up video: http://youtu.be/3t2NT5ej9BU

Posted by Poppy90 05:58 Archived in India Tagged #india #travel #tour #blog #delhi #cows Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]