Nepal

 

Arrival and trekking October 11- November 3
Where to even begin? Two and a half months of sights, sounds, smells, and cultural experiences is quite a difficult thing to condense into a website update. Perhaps the pictures will speak for us... although we will not be posting all five hundred!

It started as we began our descent into Nepal. The sun was just rising and we happened to be sitting on the side of the plane with a perfect view of the Himalayas. Here was our first view of the mountains we've dreamed of seeing for years. Then came the terraced rice paddies and isolated homes accessed only by footpath as we came into the Kathmandu Valley (abbreviated KTM). This was going to be perfect.

We decided our first order of business was to undertake a trek to the Everest Base Camp (EBC). Neither one of us had a clue that finding a guide would be so difficult...everyone in KTM is a card-carrying trekking guide. We knew that we were capable of setting out on a trek on our own. However, we decided to grit our teeth, spend the extra money, and hire a Nepali who could fill us in on the culture, negotiate for us, and generally inform us of everything we were seeing (some of this actually happened). After several days of searching, we decided on a trekking agency and set off 2 days later.

Our adventure began with a 9 hour bus ride to a village northeast of KTM where the road ends. Nepali buses are made for Nepalis...NOT Westerners. It was a long, cramped trip but was kept interesting as we were asked to hide behind curtains to avoid being noticed by roaming Maoists (the communist army waging civil war with the Nepali government).

The trek started in the lesser traveled regions to the Southwest of Everest and left us toiling up and then down huge river valleys. We enjoyed our first week very much since we experienced very few fellow trekkers. The whole week was spent in green, lush, agriculturally rich terrain. The distant, snow covered Himalayas only gave us a peak at their summits from time to time, but enough to beckon us onward. These days were long and tiring but rewarding.

The next two weeks consisted of shorter days but just as much work due to the elevation. After passing 11,000 feet you must ascend very slowly to avoid acute mountain sickness (AMS). This can be a deadly illness while often being subtle in its symptoms. We could only ascend about 1,200 feet per day which added several days on to the trek.

We were now amongst the hoards of other trekkers who fly into the mountain town of Lukla cutting off a week of hiking. The environment was stunning with views of some of the most famous Himalayan giants: Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumori, Makalu, and Everest all graced the skyline and urged us to take a peek around the next corner. We also observed several different people cultures as we interacted with Tibetan traders, mountain Sherpas, and numerous Nepali ethnic groups complete with their own languages.

The culmination of the trek was arriving at Gorek Shep, the highest village we stayed in, and dropping our pack to continue another one and a half hours up the Khumbu glacier to the EBC. While the views of Everest are obstructed due to other, nearer peaks, the nostalgia was intense. Thousands of aspiring mountaineers have set off from here to attempt Everest, hundreds have never returned.

The second treat came the following morning. We awoke very early and set off up a ridge to reach a small "summit" named, Kala Patar. At 18, 204 feet this is the highest point on the trek and obviously the highest we've ever been. The views from this "hill" are incredible. This is where everything came into view. As we shivered and watched the sun rise over Lhotse we decided it was well worth the work.

Now we retraced our steps towards Lukla where we caught a short flight back to KTM 4 days after seeing the highest mountain on earth. The thirty minute flight followed the section of trail we had labored over for the first seven days. It was strange to watch the days roll backwards in a matter of minutes.

Our reward for 3 weeks of toil without seeing a car, hearing a phone ring, or walking on asphalt was to step off the plane into the noise, dirt, crowds, and pollution of KTM. We decided we needed to get back to the mountain ASAP.

Farms and sightseeing November 3- December 20
After engaging in the mainstream tourist activity of Nepal (trekking), we switched scenes and once again ventured to the rural areas.

We WWOOF'ed in two different places for two weeks and two and a half weeks respectively. Our first location was near Chitwan National Park, a jungle area in the South. The land was as flat as it comes. Our journey there was quite an interesting first experience as we rode on the top of the bus with about a dozen other people and way too many bags of rice and other sundry items. We were ducking under branches and power lines while subtly fighting with other people for the coveted place to hold on.

The first WWOOF family consisted of the father, mother, two daughters, one toothless grandmother, a water buffalo, a few goats, and a cat named "Congo". Their principle crops were harvested for food: rice, beans, and potatoes, along with several others. We caught them at a time between planting and harvests so there wasn't a huge amount of work to do, mainly hoeing the bean fields into rows so they could irrigate. We also spent a couple of days threshing rice by hand.

Living conditions were that of what they called a small "cottage". A tiny 4x10 room plastered with a mixture of mud and buffalo dung- surprisingly clean. We also got used to eating while sitting on the floor, using our hands as utensils, and eating daal bhatt (a type of lentil soup and rice) twice a day.

We enjoyed our experience and the family but we were glad to move on to another location in a bit more mountainous region.

The second farm was in an area called Begnas, near the Annapurna region. Upon arrival, after a two and a half hour hike, we discovered it to be a coffee farm. We immediately loved the family: Surya, Sarsitie (we called her "Ama" Nepali for mother), and their granddaughter Kilty (who had the potential to throw an hourly "spoiled fit"). We were also joined by another volunteer, Danny, who was from Germany. She was a really fun girl and we enjoyed her friendship greatly.

On this farm we got to be involved in the entire process: composting young coffee trees, harvesting the berries, sorting the shells from the beans, washing then drying the beans, and for the family's personal use, hulling, roasting, and grinding the beans for delicious home made morning coffee.

We developed a taste for buffalo milk and doted over Ama's daal bhatt and tarkari (a type of vegetable curry that is mixed in with daal bhatt), looking forward to it at 10:30am and 7pm. We all were involved in meal preparations and other daily chores which made the days enjoyable and full of learning. We also took to saying funny English phrases that the Nepalese use such as “upside” (uphill), “downside” (downhill), “sometime after” (later), “miskut” (mix together), and “no mind” (no problem).

During the course of our stay there we also attended a family ceremony (a three hour walk away) and a wedding party (it was only for girls so Jonathan didn't go) but, yes, there was traditional dancing and Corrie and Danny were obligated to dance more then their fair share. This was accompanied with hysterical laughter from the ladies.

Departing was quite sad, yet satisfying in the fact that we really learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

We ended our time with a few rest days in a nice town called Pokhara, where we noticed the tourist crowd changing from mainly trekkers to mainly hippies. Over the course of our time in Nepal we covered the complete scene of being infatuated with the country, to being very disillusioned with the overwhelming "poor me" attitude fostered by many Nepalis, and back after time spent with good people. We are wiser and more aware as a result of this great visit to Nepal.

Click here for trek pictures
Click here for the farm pictures
 

THE TRIP

THE SUMMARY

THE PHOTOS

 

THE WEDDING

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Click to e-mail Corrie
CCupples2002@yahoo.com

Click to e-mail Jonathan
JonathanDWiley@yahoo.com