Shoemans Trail

The quest for liberation

Month: October 2015 (page 1 of 2)

I’m off for a short walk in the Annapurna region

Tomorrow I’ll start the Annapurna circuit, a tea house trek from village to village enjoying the views and the energy of the mighty peaks around me.nepal_annapurna_map

What helped me preparing the trip were the following pages:
http://wikitravel.org/en/Annapurna_Circuit
http://wanderingsasquatch.com/how-to-hike-the-annapurna-circuit/

Talk to you in a bit, i’ll take my time though!

Parahawking – a once in a lifetime flight

Today is a special day, it’s my mom’s birthday so i made myself a little present 🙂
I went parahawking, a sport created by scott mason right here in nepal, as he told us there was some alcohol involved when he talked with a friend but in the end they did it and 15 years later they still around and pebble 2 black kites, 2 egyptian vultures and a falcon as training birds is scott’s first passion, his second is paragliding, so combine the two and you got parahawking. if you want to read further: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parahawking

You get to fly with the birds and naturally they will find the right thermals to keep them up and don’t use that much strength, the para glider just follows them, and as a reward for the birds natural abilities you got to feed him…while flying!

So we went up sarangkot, watched the clouds move away, the weather could have been better but no complains, we got the last instructions, got our harness on,  strapped the kite and gently walked into the abyss, 3 steps, then 5 steps running and off we went, pushing my bum back to get a comfy seat and enjoying the hills and paddocks around, gently moving along, spectating with a birds eye and our bird – bob is his name, circled around the kites,
the pilot blows a whistle, i prepare a bid of raw buffalo meat, put it in the top of my fist and bob gently swoops in from behind, sits at my hand picks the snack and takes off to get the next snack from the other pilot, so nice and so majestic.
The views of the surrounding hills with the shanti stupa and in the valley the sun is reflecting on fewa lake are stunning, this is freedom!
we fed bob multiple times during our 20 minute flight and went down in spirals and half loopings, so great, like riding a roller coaster in the sky…1-parahawking

After we landed safely in front of the vulture village i was still flying – the feeling lasted for a couple of hours!

we later learned about the drug called diclofenac, it is given to cows as an antibiotic, so when the cow dies it’s still in her veins and when vultures eat the corpse it’s poisoning them, within a day they die. due to the drug, in the last 30 years the vulture population got almost extinct, people like scott help to regain its density, there are even vulture restaurants where safe cows are fed to wild birds.
vultures are quite important for our ecosystem, when they disappear dogs will take over and more diseases will spread around humans.

So go ahead safe a vulture today to live happily tomorrow 🙂

A short ride to Bengas Tal and around

After a brilliant get together with takeshi from japan, whom i met in varanassi the first time, colin from great britain and mat from new zealand who stay also at our lovely gauri shankar guesthouse (cheers for the philosophical evening guys!!!) and hugo, a french guy just coming back from the trek we decided to go by bike to the next lake which is just 15 km away, in the end it was mat and me again riding along and it was fun.

we got the bikes for a whole day, they’ve seen better days but we got a good deal.
mainly we rode all along the highway which is not that busy right now as of the missing petrol. just a couple of buses, vans and taxis crossed our way every now and then, a lot of bicycles though…
ohh yeah ridin’ a bike in nepal, who would have guessed? 🙂

all the way downhill, a couple of turns and 50 min later we arrived in a very tranquil place, children gambling with dice, fishermen scaling a fish and no hassle from the few shops.
we took a very small footpath around the lake and then uphill as it got steep and muddy on the shores, there were a lot of fern and small trees, wildlife fully vibrant swinging to the beating sound of machine like grasshoppers. we met dave who just took a brake from work and also didn’t came here before, once we arrived at the top and investigated the empty and locked house we enjoyed the lookout over the rice fields around the village.

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No way walking further along the path we got back and tried the other way to get around the lake, across the dam following the trail, we discovered a sweet restaurant with a beautiful lookout over the lake and the surrounding hills, that kind of place you don’t wanna leave when arrived. the fish curry was good and the beer quenching 🙂
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After we took our time we rode and pushed our bikes uphill as the road was too steep, soaking wet when arriving atop a local bus just passed, of course locals prefer the bus, rather then the walk
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a few bends further down we saw nothing but brilliant nature, bengas lake and the area could also be somewhere in new zealand, well the big mountains hide behind a thunderstorm…
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we should get back…
along the road multiple tea houses and men building a big swing out of bamboo – 7 meter tall – this is what you do for the festival of dashain to have the children playing with the swing, and i did so too!
there are more things to discover about the most important festival in nepal,
who wants to read more about it, go ahead: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashain

halfway back on the highway we got rained in heavily, soaking wet after 1 minute riding we just kept on going, it’s just water!
literally 5 cars and 5 cows roaming the highway that time, well 1 truck as well but that one just blocked the way as it was damaged and needed repair, this is what you do directly on the road in nepal, there are no tow trucks!

almost around town the sun made it’s way through a tiny window of clouds, just to give us a last push, some clouds on the mountainside cleared to reveal only the top of a 7000er.
it really ain’t that bad riding a bike in nepal even though it rains heavily!

World Peace Pagoda

I made friends with Matthew a kiwi from new plymouth in lovely aotearoa, we got on quite well and took a hike up the hill to the worlds peace pagoda.
Anyone interested in more info about the stupa, follow the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanti_Stupa,_Pokhara

First we got a boat to the start of the trail and managed to climb the steep hill in under an hour, taking our time though.shanti stupa

the views from atop were just magnificent, although a thunderstorm was rolling in slowly.
Pokhara is actually widespread but all the touristy part is happening in lakeside so all the 2k stretch along the lake. you’ll see the highest peak on the ridge in front, that will be sarangkot the lookout i went to and also the start for paragliding activities as such. hidden in the mountain the mighty peaks, but from the pagoda came a different deeper vibe. always go around clockwise!
pokhara from shanti stupa

we went further for a small lunch break and enjoyed the view, a dog was chilling just 2 meters away, i called him and he came! he didn’t like our nuts but enjoyed our company 🙂 so when the 2nd big thunder rolled in we decided to head back down, our little friend was following us and the rain just started we found cover and waited a bit. in our little shack were a tourist couple and an older nepali who couldn’t speak english, everyone waited until the rain settled and without any word we all went our separate ways.
further down the stony steps which were all in different shape and texture made out of sliced himalayan boulders, the dog still following we decided to give him a name: stupa, we formed a pack, hell yeah!
So here were we, coming down to town in light summer rain, stupa just guarding our backs checking left and right and after a while in town finally we lost him, too many other, more important things in dog life…

a crazy thing we saw after checking the roaring waterfalls, the buddha robotic museum, it was 30% off so we paid 200 rupies, little less then 2 euro and we got to see the lifestory of siddhartha gautama the buddha, thats the one you might just know as buddha, which means the awakened and in modern culture is often referred as enlightened.
so there were 10 rooms and every room had a different setting, most of the times full sized puppets were standing or sitting at a different scene, you get headphones and the operator starts the show, like a theater without actors, the puppets were robotic instead and every now and then they were moving their arms when speaking or twist their body, the volume of the machines moving was louder than the headphones so that was quite funny but after 10 rooms everything is told and you’re calmed down as it’s recommend closing the eyes and breathing consciously when the show as over in of some of the rooms.

it took us a 40 min walk back to our guesthouse gauri shankar and as we were rolling through damside, cutting through the park at the water and entering lakeside the sun was just about to set, lightening the clouds in a brilliant colorful way.

May we all live in bliss, AUM SHANTI …

Sarangkot and around Pokhara

The next morning my new nepali friend took me up sarangkot. the sunrise lookout 30 min from town is up 1.600m and on clear sky’s your able to see the beautiful panorama of the + 7.000 m mountains thrown magically over the city.
There was no clear sky that day but the lookout still was amazing.

We went to the cave temple and to the home of my friend later to drop the bike as there was no fuel left, we hiked back through rice fields and narrow bridges, what a wonderful scenery.

Couple of days later i managed to sneak into a big hotel and took advantage of it’s perfect lookout and the clear sky’s, no clouds and pretty good visibility, it was just magical as the sun comes up and lights the mountains early in the morning.

pokhara panorama

From left to right: Anapurna South, Anapurna I, Machhapuchhare (Fishtail) – the pyramid one, Anapurna III, Anapurna IV, Anapurna II and Lamjung Himal

The lookout for the city and fewa lake and lakeside, the touristy area of town, is also beautiful, so i took my time up there 🙂
fewa lake and lakeside

Pokhara – a tranquil backpacker oasis

First day i went for a short stroll around town, i got lost as i was walking in a completely wrong direction, but i managed to get a new phone charger, first stop for it was a bit of a misunderstanding as the man invited me in his home on my question for a charger and connected my phone afterwards serving me tea, he didn’t want to sell, it’s his son’s he was just so kind to let me in, nepali friendliness…i found the charger 5 min later in town 🙂

I managed to find the touristy area and instantly got tangled in a conversation by just sitting 1 min next to the temple, you need a guide, you want to go trekking, you need something else 😉 i had a good feeling with him so we spent the afternoon. nepali people seem to be happy although the crisis with fuel and gas is going on, i found some guys fishing in the riverDSC07765

The town feels great, the climate is nice 25° lots of sun at night temperatures drop to 15 not that much cars buses and motorcycles around as of the missing fuel and the hotels and guesthouses are only half filled because most tourists cancel their trips because of the earthquake month ago and the political crisis going on, perfect times actually, although transportation costs rise significantly due to missing gas.

Indian buses and the nepali petrol run

From gorakhpur i took a local bus to sunauli, the town at the border to nepal, ride was supposed to take 3 hours, but as it happens with local buses, they leave when full, so all seats are taken and a couple of people standing in the aisle when we left and the bus will stop every minute or two to pick up people on the road, all of them were cramped in the aisle, you can actually fit a lot of people in there.

In india 3 people operating the bus, the driver, the conductor – selling you a ticket once you’re in the bus and the shouter, always hanging in the open door, shouting directions and getting people in the already overloaded bus…but that ride did pass and after a few police checkpoints with hundreds of trucks waiting we arrived at the border, immigration was straight forward and police was friendly so i went further to get a bus directly to pokhara the second biggest tourist town in nepal. the bus supposed to be a comfy one with adjustable seats – hell yeah!

When the bus arrived it didn’t seam so comfy, seats were not to be adjusted and no freedom for leg movement. i saw people carrying jerry cans on top and also in the bus, making the bus smell as you pass a gas station.

Just a bit of explanation, the nepali government just agreed on the new constitution but india doesn’t like that as the country on the subcontinent wants to build more roads to supply the small landlocked country so they get more gas, petrol and food from india, but actually they want to be independant and they don’t like the indians, thats why they also have their own time zone which is +15 min compared to indian time. So india imposed a petrol and gas ban to nepal, as the road to tibet is damaged because of the earthquake in april, no chinese truck can bring the valuable goods to nepal, the small country depends on the big one and india is playing it’s poker with it, on the head of the people!

So a lot of nepalis go with a bus to the indian border and get fuel in small amounts taking it back with the bus, nepali roads are not in a good condition so of course the cans shift, nepali busses are more cramped with people then the indian one’s so people need to step over the cans and the fuel will leak as it did on our ride, the fumes were horrible the aisle was literally soaked with fuel, luckily i had a window seat so every minute or so i put my nose out the get some fresh air, i used my headscarf my colleagues gave my to cover my nose but it didn’t help, bad fumes everywhere, the ride was supposed to last 11 hours, after one i already had enough, but as it always goes in the travel life i thought to myself:

THIS TOO WILL PASS

There were two stops along the way, i spoke with a couple nepalis some of them excused and felt sorry i had such a bad start, it always gets worse before it get’s better…of course we needed to stop on the way as a couple of cans on the roof were leaking and fuel was spread on the street, i wasn’t afraid of fire or explosions, it was the fumes that bugged me! i even managed to sleep for 30 min in the end of the trip with triple folded blanket above my head headscarf and open window. the locals must have thought “Ah look at the foreigner so weak can’t take much”, or they were jealous for me having the cover, i don’t know but none smiled much during the trip.

We arrived 4 am and the cab driver showed me the kilometer long cue of cars all waiting for petrol! crazy times we’re livin’ in!

I had a brilliant sleep in a clean and comfy bed, but everything was smelling like petrol so big wash!
Pokhara is great but getting here was an unforgettable trip!

The image doesn’t do justice to the situation i described but here we go that’s the fully cramped petrol busnepali petrol run

Gorakhpur – dirty ol’ town

So I went with a train from varanassi to gorakhpur in the afternoon and arrived late at night, the town is mainly a transportation hub, not that much to see and it also felt like that when i got off the train, hundreds of people laying on the ground just in and near the train station waiting for their train as they couldn’t afford a hotel, most of them already sleeping.

the town feels dirty and the nice hotels were already full so i went to another one and got a room, for a night it’ll do, there were bugs and the room was not clean but hey last night in india, it will get better for sure 🙂

dirty ol room

Varanassi and Kashi Vishwanath

the city is devoted to shiva the hindu god of destruction, but destruction also means recreation, a lot of temples can be found devoted to several gods in hindu mythology, hanuman, ganesha, brahma, vishnu, parvati, all can be found here within a minutes walk.

but the main pilgrimage temple is “Kashi Vishwanath”, if you wanna know more about it’s history and some images click the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashi_Vishwanath_Temple
i went with the son of the guesthouse owners as he knew the way and comes here almost every day, i heared about the door policies, the bouncer are police men though 🙂 lot of people told me when they ask you if you believe in hindu religion just say yes and your in.

my friend was asking me on our way if i’m muslim because of the beard but i explained…soon after we saw a lane of people and they already got in cue to enter the temple, we went further along the cue, hundreds of people pushing their bodies either one or the other way, it’s not that easy to follow my young friends steps. when we arrived at the door we went further, removed our shoes and put them aside in a locker of his friends shop – no money as the guys knew each other.

no passport, no cell phone not even a lighter is allowed inside, as if you were going to an airport security check the police standing in front of the gate is checking the people, we just went in cue as i’m a tourist and my indian friend did the talking, bam, inside – that was easy 🙂

another cue of people, we went further again, most of them already prepared with small pots or flowers and candles and other devotions. then we went 5 steps up in that open room, and old man was sitting on a chair, his back facing the long cue or people, another man inside telling me to sit down, my friend was talking to them, then the old man was asking me “You coming from?” i replied smiling “Germany” a questioned look in the face and also in the face of my friend. the man asked again and now i understood correctly “Believe hindu religion”, i said “Yes I do like Shiva and now I came to see his place and speak to the lord”. He did something with his hands looked at the other guy, suddenly a young guy appeared with a loud voice and my friend started the talking, sound as if they were arguing but after 5 min with my passport in the hand of the older guy he wrote down my details and handed it back to me. so that was not that easy anymore, on my own i would have to leave now…

so we went again to the cue but it was a matter of minutes until we entered the famous compound and finally saw the roof with 800 kg pure gold on it. another 2 min in line we entered the main hall where i had 5 sec to speak to the lord, then i was pushed away from the others behind me, of course it’s mass processing over here.

we then went to a quieter temple in the compound with beautiful decorations and just a few people, you could actually see shrines of different gods displayed at one side and people praying, we took our time and let go. after a certain while we pushed ours against the new arriving bodies to get out of the temple complex, what a powerful experience.

i again stepped in cow shit on the way back, a clear sign that i have to do what i had originally planned, i’ll go to the ganga to wash – just my feet up to the calves but still i felt the stream.

My spirit rose again!

p.s. I didn’t mention my friends name as he told me so, usually tourists are not allowed to enter and nobody should know that he was the one taking me in.
Thanks again my friend! OM 🙂

p.p.s. if you want to know more about the symbol next to the cow in the header image of the article check that link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingam

i got run over by a cow!!!

as i was just making my way to the market through the narrow lanes as it happened a motorcycle was parked to the right at a wall of a house, a cow just made it’s way towards me, leaving no space in between the wall of the opposite house, so we’re talking 1,50 m width of the small alley.
when cows walk they nod their heads left and right taking each step after another, slowly. so i was not that sure whether to stand on the right or the left to let the cow pass the obstacle so i could proceed, a couple of people already in the back waiting for the cow to pass and i was the first one in line.
all of a sudden the cow lowered his head and started to run towards me with his horns directly targeting my guts!!!
within a glimpse of i second i needed to react and i did consciously, i stepped back and used both of my hands to push it’s head towards the right, made a step forward with my left leg and passed the cow, people were laughing behind me but i was happy to dissolve that moment so easily.
Now when i think about it, it all goes bag to the bagua zhang course i had in berlin, we trained defensive movements to eliminate sudden attacks in no time!

i’m still alive and so is the cow 🙂

check that picture here, so you see how narrow the alley are, the scooter could not pass the cow as there was not enough space20151009_125415

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