Shoemans Trail

The quest for liberation

Category: Nepal (page 1 of 2)

Kathmandu – Big city life

the capital is the biggest city in the country. twice the population of berlin although not that green in between, to me it’s a mix of indian, nepali and old european cities.
The city has been hit by april’s earthquake pretty hard, still debris is cleared, cracks in masonry and wodden poles supporting houses, so the structure doesn’t collapse. still a lot can be seen, not all is lost and still it’s amazing and beautiful to wander among the ancient walls – just sometimes you get the feeling it will collapse any second…
just by walking around in thamel – the main tourist hub – you see alot of temples, smaller and big in size, the back alleys are fun to explore, every now and then a stupa will come into sight.
durbar square, a former royal area, with a lot of temples, shrines, statues and stupas from different epochs and donated to various goddesses and gods.
of course the near city of patan has a durbar squar as well, now patan is more a suburb of kathmandu, the city is growing fast. i talked to a monk, he told me 5 years ago his monestary in kathmandu was not surrounded by houses and heavy traffic, gentrification knocking at the door…

public transport is existing but just with fully overloaded buses, mini buses or safa car – electrical vehicles going up to 20, roaring speeeed ūüėČ
Tourist transport will include bike rickshaws taxis or organised tour buses – all of those charge you 10 to 20 times more the local transport, with the cheaper although, it’s harder to get around.
first you need to know where their leaving from, all the signs are in nepali¬†– no english script, the shouters – who are conductors as well – shout directions, easy if you’re at the station, which is just a random spot on the main road, and wanna go to a temple, just say it’s name, he will nod or point you somewhere else, if you’re lucky the bus is almost empty and you can choose a spot, go for the ones in front next to the driver cause¬†in the back, 5 min later, there will be twice the amount of people you think that will fit.
Of course more people are picked up along the road…some don’t want to get in the cuddling van though ūüėČ

Soo many other hindu as well as buddihst temples on the cultural heritage list around the city, a lot of old stones, i took my time to appreciated the main ones for each belief, swayambhunath being a buddhist and pashupatinath being a hindu site. both of them got small forests supporting the energy flow.

enough of the words, let the pictures speak further…

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I got robbed…by a monkey

I wanted to escape the beat of the capital city, being in kathmandu, enjoying the last couple of days in nepal. the streets are dusty, you see a lot of face masks, still some cars and bikes are rolling through the narrow lanes of the old city although the petrol is still not running (big cues at each and every petrol pump), now also the gas delivery has stopped so people get back to wood fires for cooking food – you can imagine how the air feels, so i went to breath deeply¬†in the surrounding forest of the swayambhunath temple, also known as monkey temple – i couldn’t enter the compound, a british film crew was shooting a movie/series and the site was closed off.

so i was sitting between the trees, away from the big stairs sipping my delicious mixed fruit juice i just bought, putting it aside and rolling a cigarette. in the meantime a monkey was coming close in stealth mode – i didn’t notice, just as he got close enough, everything happened in fractions of a second, first i was shocked by surprise, damn a monkey, he used my moment and¬†got even closer, grabbed the pack of juice and went 2¬†leaps back! i thought to myself what was this just now, i want to drink that juice.¬†getting up, approaching the clever little mamal, of course he escaped just to the next tree, sitting at a secure height,¬†starting to rip open the pack and drinking¬†it’s delicious content, delightful¬†in front of my eyes. i couldn’t do anything, just to watch – a bit angry though…

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in the end i smiled and bought a new juice on my way down, so the monkey is¬†happy and I’m too!

Annapurna Circuit – the real deal

thinking about it now, it was the best decision to return the same route. although i’ve been to the places i was thinking i’ll see them¬†from a different angle now!
Most of the guys i met – including myself – were so focused on crossing the pass, every village on the way was just another leg of the trail, i’ll go a bit further today, still have energy left, next day i push myself up there, speeding through the nice valley, trying to tackle the circuit in under 12 days, flying out of jomson or taking a jeep up cutting the days.
doing that you loose the focus of where you actually are, in the fucking Himalaya ! surrounded by old traditional stone brick villages and mighty mountains, of course the next ones are just a pass crossing away but properly giving respect to the annapurna range will need some time.
and when i just walked out of the city i saw that the last two days of snowfall transformed the whole valley into winter wonderland, to be seen from manang annapurna 3, it’s galcier just running down the middle, forming a lake on the foot – nice!DSC08109with the sun shining and perfect mood i went back guarded by the gigantic slopes of annapurna II with annapurna IV coming into sight, i can’t stop smiling and always need to stop to take a closer look.

in muchi i keep left to go the upper route through the village of ngawal.
one of the traditional villages overlooking the valley at 3700m and again it was snowing the afternoon, powder as far as you can see.DSC08182

the trail follows the valley but still keeps it’s altitude high up, the next 2 h will be one of the highlights of the whole journey, overlooking most of the annapurna range, just walking opposite, keeping eye contact with the giants…see down in the valley the airstrip of humde and some white dots? those are bigger houses!DSC08219

from the lookout at the old gompa you can watch birds of prey gently floating in air, gaining altitude by using the currents, not wasting a single stroke of their wings.

gyaru comes into sight facing the beautiful mountain of annapurna II, almost 8.000m in height – can you see the face in the mountain? right there the next day in the morning i saw an avalanche breaking away, rumbling sounds and white powder falling down the ridge in slow motion – that’s the volcano blast of the himalaya’s!
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i was not alone enjoying the views today, some other hikers in good mood and willing to chat and¬†some other friends made my day…
the goat was quite attracted to my camera, posing as if she’d done it before.
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the yak though, a bit grumpy in nature, just looked up when i came close and further went to feast again on the last fresh grass
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wandering through the ancient village of ghyaru with it’s beautiful stupa and gompas, old and awry stone wall houses, little alleys and mani walls, always overlooked by the magnificent annapurna II i go down the steep and serpentine trail, collect jock on the way – he’s feeling dizzy and wanting to go as far as manang today – it’s already afternoon so come with me, tomorrow is another perfect¬†day! we have quite a social evening, meeting more trekkers in the annapurna hotel, cheers philipp & leila!

the next day i already feel my knees hurting a bit from the steep decent last afternoon, today i’ll go another 500 m down to chame, goodbye almighty annapurna range, it’s been a wild ride, up’s and down’s but i won’t forget.

going through the forest, 40 min before i reach the orchard village of bhratang one of my buddies standing pose for a last time

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i walk until chame, staying overnight and taking a jeep back, my knee is killing me and i don’t want to make it worse.

It will be the roughest jeep ride ever, taking 6 hours for 55 km on the worst dirt road i’ve seen, flanked with big boulders, crossing multiple streams going down the valley, so much fun but you got to work hard as must the jeep and it’s driver.
Of course the car is fully loaded, 4 guys in the back and 4 in the front and changing people in the cargo area, we squeeze in tight, leaving no space for our bums and every big rock on the way will make your body hit the neighboring one or the door at rib height – i enjoy it though.
back in besi sahar we take a minibus to pokhara, being a more gentle ride – mostly on asphalt but also very squeezy as of the nepali nature of buses.

I learned a lot the last days and saw another example of our planet’s brute force and beauty, as with¬†destruction also comes¬†creation – om namah shivaya

Annapurna Circuit – getting closer to heaven

Considered one of the best trails in the world – 40 years ago, still advertisements can be found today promoting the trek. In the 1980’s the construction of a road started which changed things a bit, now the road goes up to manang on 3500m. the road is the worst dirt road i’ve seen so far, big boulders, lots of streams, steep as shit, even with a mtb hard to tackle, of course there are 4wd jeeps going up and down and most of the time there is an alternative trail to the road.

Landscape is still amazing and the way pretty easy to find, i didn’t take any guide or porter, i can carry my stuff on my own…
so much happened during those 11 days, so many people i met and i can’t refer to all, i just talk about the things that struck me the most. google the names to get more detail!

starting in besi sahar i was reminded of costa rica, brasil or bolivia, lush green, rice fields, a couple of trees and some villages up on the hills. the trail goes up the marshyangdi valley crossing the roaring marshyangdi river multiple times on fabulous swing bridges i fancy walking on, it’s been a while – back in lovely aotearoa i started to love them¬†DSC07922

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the big giants still hiding in clouds up in the sky and i walk for 2 days up the valley always wondering what’s next behind the next bend, facing rock walls and sweating my ass off on the steep trails, accommodation is basic as is the food, all places have the same menu approved by the annapurna conservation area project, prices go up the higher you go.

On the 3rd day i went from tal to timang gaining more than 1000 m in height, the clouds give way to some snow covered peaks and i need to smile, half way up in the sky, mighty mountains, in the evening the moon lights magically mt. manaslu, a beautiful 8.000er, 1 of 5 people going up there won’t return!¬†DSC07962
on the trek you usually see porters carrying up to 30 kg on their back, they laugh at my small backpack with 15 kg…villagers, cows, goats, motorbikes and jeeps on the road, not that much trekkers – i’m on my own – so peaceful!
even at night time i’m the only guest in the lodge so lot’s of socializing with¬†the locals who speak english, my nepali is still non existent ūüôā

the 4th day will take me up to 3.000m passing the districts hub town of chame and the apple orchards of brathang, the road was blasted out of the rocks, drill holes still can be found in the bluff.
just like the death road in bolivia, no handrails or security, always watch your steps!DSC08007

coming round the bend, the mighty rock wall of oble dome comes into sight, another magical moment in the trek.
being a result of glacial abrasion, it just rises as little as 1.600 m up the sky¬†– you see the bike rider on the road?…the little black dot, so you can imagine the big scale!
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getting cooler up here and blankets are being supplied at night time, that’s nice as my summer sleeping bag can’t take temperatures below 0.
the next days i take it slow to pay respect to the altitude, as i can already feel it’s effect on my body, need to walk slow uphill and breath more deep. i pass pisang, and mighty annapurna II. In most of the villages and all along the way you’ll find mani walls – prayer walls with many tiny wheels, always walk past them on the left hand side and spin the wheels clockwise,¬†Om mani¬†padme hum…DSC08039
next town on the lower route is¬†humde and I’m reminded of tupiza in bolivia, the rocky slopes of the mountains are washed down revealing different minerals shining in multiple colors in the sunlight

i continue just to the next town of muchi, the area here is more dry, mostly pine trees DSC08073

i want to go up to milarepas cave, some 1000 years ago a tibetan monk called milarepa went up here to meditate
i met guillaume, also going up with his guide and we form a pack.¬†the cave is collapsed now but prayer flags lead the way, passing the stupa and following a bit dangerous loose rock trail going up on 4.300m, here meditation is hard, as the air is so thin, i take my time though…It’s starting to snow we gotta go down, you don’t want to be up on the mountain when the weather changes!
the next two days and nights will be all white/grey skies and bloody cold nights, which changes my plans quite a bit…

we had¬†a nice poker tournament up in manang escaping the sudden winter outbreak,¬†honoring poker thursdays in berlin… no beer, no smokes though, cheers to ginger lemon tea – big pot, bring it on!¬†20151029_201745

using coffee beans, white beans, noodles, pistacio shells and grey beans for betting – good times brothers! cheers matt, ryan, tebo and harika

I come to¬†a decision, i’m not crossing the pass, i’ll go back out of multiple reasons, not¬†feeling going higher, my body said more than once¬†–¬†go down.
I’m not prepared for that much snow and the cold temperatures hard, rough at night in buildings with no insulation, heating nor double glassing – sleeping with all jumpers you have brought on, wearing your¬†hat, covered in sleeping bag and blankets – I don’t want to buy more gear to pace up, it’s another 2000 m higher from here…
I’m quite¬†happy with the decision and looking forward to walking down again – to the warmth.

To be continued…

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 ūüôā
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 Рbob 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 ūüôā

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? ūüôā

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 ūüôā
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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 ūüôā 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.

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From left to right: Anapurna South, Anapurna I, Machhapuchhare (Fishtail) Рthe 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 ūüôā
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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 ūüôā

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 ūüėČ 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¬į 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.

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