Lately, I had to check my pictures to remember what I was doing just 2 weeks ago. I realized that the times is running so fast that if I don’t write down now my impression and what I’ve done in Nepal, I’m sure that I’ll forget most of it once in south east Asia. So, even if I stopped a day by day diary, I feel the need of writing now about my last adventures before they run out of my mind and hey, some of you might be interested so let’s make a post for the blog ! It takes around 10 min to read this post.
I should be use to but I’m still surprised when, just by crossing a border, I’m finding so many differences between two countries… From hassles in the street, unfriendly custom, sellers always trying to rip you off, I arrived, the 20th of October in a different environment. “- Welcome to Nepal” told me with a big and sincere smile the policeman at the border. Just because of his smile, I felt that my experience in Nepal was going to be far different from the Indian one. Smiles don’t lie: Walking in the street, no one was following me to try to sell me a room. Taxi drivers were not jumping on me and they didn’t make up some stories about landslides or strike to explain me that there is no bus coming and I have to take a taxi. I have so many other examples just to tell you that dealing with Nepalese people is far more pleasant than dealing with the Indies running after you and your money.
Even if I felt directly more relaxed than in India, It took me 2 days to realize that here, I don’t need to be rude with people to make them understand that I don’t want to by their stuff or that this guy giving me some advices was completely willing to help me without expecting anything or trying to sell me his stuffs at the end. Don’t misunderstand me : Indian people are most of them very nice but the ones dealing with tourists, locals (yes, Indians tourist are as much rip off as you) and foreigner, never heard about honesty and just thinks about making fast and easy money. In Nepal, it’s still very different and much easier to enjoy your condition of tourist.
Actually, you can hear some people saying about the great Nepalese hospitality : “- You should have seen how it was 10 years ago!”… And ten years ago, they were already some people saying that… Well, seems that Nepal was one of the best “tourist friendly” countries in the world but times are changing and you should maybe not wait too much before going there.
Another remarkable difference with India is that Nepalese girls look great. I made some accurate studies about that (you know, after two years of sociology at university, I quite skilled to do it) and my results are that In India, 80% of the girls between 20 and 30 years old are not pretty. Don’t ask me how they manage to find some pretty one for their movies, I don’t know. On the other hand, in Nepal, 70% of the girls (same ages) fit in the pretty, very pretty and awesome categories (Nepali guys totally agreed with my results). I haven’t found yet any good explication about that. If you have any ideas, please, contact me.
Anyway, I felt something nice and warm in many Nepalese people and I saw it on their faces: They have a nice and friendly smile that I didn’t see so often in India.
I had just a one month VISA for Nepal which is short if you want to have a good overview of the country and that’s why I didn’t hitch-hike there but took local bus to go faster. I went straight to Pokhara, the departure point for all the treks around the Anapurnas. I bought a trekking permit, replace some gears and two days after, I was on the trail to go the Anapurna Base Camp through Ghorepani (In case you know that trek). It should have been an 8 or 9 days treks according to some Nepalese I met In Pokhara. Well, the fact is that they consider tourist like no able to walk as fast as them and a Nepali guide made his clients walking around 4 or 5 hours per day. The more time they spend in the mountains, the more money they’ll spend for food and accommodation.
Just to give you an idea about how easy it was, I did it in 5 days without taking the fastest road to the base camp… Walking around 7 hours per day (12h one time) and I was wearing sandals (British or German style… you know, with socks inside to prevent blisters and have a great look) which are absolutely fine as most of the trail is more or less paved.
If the views are beautiful around the base camp, most of the walk is in the forest and even if there are some nice waterfalls on the way, I was expecting something more “rocks and snow”. I like to walk on large open spaces with some nice view on glaciers or summits, walking through landslides or a bit of snow… Check my pictures of Kyrgyzstan and Karakol Lake to see what I mean.
So, I was disappointed. That’s the point of having expectation. I was looking for something challenging but it was not. When the weather is nice, the Anapurna base camp trek is like a nice walk you can to with the all family, even the elders and the only problem might be high sickness. After talking with some other trekker, I might have find my challenge around the Everest but anyway, It was a 2 or 3 weeks trek and I wanted to see something else in Nepal than just its mountains.
I met 3 bretons, Pej, Rose and Luc on the trail, they had like me the flag from Bretagne (my Region on the west coast of France) sticked on their bags. I was quite happy to see that they were carrying their bags. Yes, it’s quite unusual as most of the people (half of them were French … I said maybe more “bonjour” than “hello” ! ), shame on them, hire a slave to carry their bags. The porter is pay a shit, between 5 and 10 $ per day to carry an average of 70kg of bags up and down and suffer from his destroyed knees for the rest of his life. Just have a look to the legs of an old porter and you will get it. You can tell me that the porter accept his condition and the money he gets help a whole family to live. Actually, porter is a seasonal activity and most of them are living also from their fields. Porting is kind of an extra income that can get the countryman living by a touristic area. I don’t feel ashamed of not puting my money in the local economy by never taking any guide or porter. I’ll do if I know that I’m paying someone to sacrifice his health for a bit of my money.
So, please, if one day someone told you that he went to do some trekking in Nepal, ask him if he took a porter and if he did, slap him and tell him that the pain he get his nothing compare to the one his porter will have in his old days.
To walk with this kind of lame tourists around didn’t help me to enjoy the trail as I was in anger to see them carrying not more than a camera and a bottle of water with a band of porter following them in a pure colonial style. The worse is that these tourists feel proud for reaching the Anapurna Base camp although they didn’t carry their own bag. Anyway, there is no limit in their lame attitude. By the way, if one day I’m telling you that I let an animal or someone carrying my own bag to do a summit, please remember me how lame it is and that “to do” a summit means to do it with your bag. Otherwise it’s a joke. Thanks.
Back to the Bretons, carrying their bag and not putting any shame on the Breton flag ( it gets already enough of it). They were very nice and they invited me to stay in their flat in Pokara (I was in a guesthouse the first time) which is a perfect city to relax, do some paragliding (awesome with the Anapurna range in the background!),boating on the lake…
It’s quite easy to get stuck there: willing to stay only 2 or 3 days, I ended to stay around a week… Actually it was also the right time to be there because of the Thiar or Deepawali Festival, the second most important for the Hindus in Nepal… For 5 nights, everybody was putting lights, candles in front of their house. Kids were going from house to house, singing and dancing for some money. The streets were animated by some groups doing some choreographic traditional dances.
When I finally realized that I had less than 15 days left on my VISA, I decided to go to Kathmandu and visits some interesting villages in the valleys close by. On the way to Kathmandu, I stopped in the Chitwan NP. I went to walk 2 days in what they call a jungle which was far from my imagination, once again, the point of having expectation. You cannot enter the park without a guide so I join 2 Dutch guys willing to escape the crowd. The guide was obsessed by showing us a rhino while I was already very happy for all the birds I saw in the morning.
Sunset in Chitwan
At the end of the day, we didn’t spot any rhino but at night one crossed the river and went close to the village where we were staying… Our guide brings us there and, yes, this is quite an impressive animal even in the darkness. I understand later why our guide felt so released after we saw the rhino: some client comes to Chitwan NP just to see a rhino and they want their money back if they don’t. The day after, early in the morning we went back by walk to the starting point.
I manage to find a place to couchsurf in Kathmandu and I stayed there 3 days. One day was necessary to get a readmission stamp to India (You normally have to wait at least 2 months before reentering India). I spend the two next days, visiting around. Kathmandu is a nice city : It’s quite nice to find a temple or a gompa almost at every corner and It’s a good city to get voluntary lost. The only point is that it’s so polluted that my eyes were crying…
I escape the pollution for a 5 days walk in Kathmandu valley with a Sebastien, a couchsurfer staying at the same place as me. We went to some villages (Shanku, Nagarkot, Nala, Changu Narayan), spent a night in a Buddhist monastery (Namobuddha) to see that they are definitely not poor and we finally went to Bhaktapur where another couchsurfer was ok to host us. I stayed in Krishna’s place 5 days. I learned more about Nepal and Nepalese culture during these 5 days with Krishna than in a month of too touristic places.
Days were running and I realize a bit late that what I thought to be a nice Tuesday was actually a Friday and that I had only 3 days and not 4 to be out of Nepal. I had to go quickly to Kathmandu to catch a bus to India. In Kathmandu, I went to another couchsurfing place close to the Bodnath Stupa (the biggest in Nepal) right on time to help at the preparation (and I made some lemon curd) of a little party that Ani, my host was organizing. The place get full of Americans, most of them in Nepal to study Buddhism or Nepalese language and as everybody was eating some delicious vegetarian meal, Ani with a ukulele, two guitarists and me started playing. Great evening and delicious vegetarian food
The day after, I went to catch a bus bringing me the east border of Nepal, by the Indian region of Darjeeling. I spend the night in the bus. In the morning, I get a friendly and smiling policeman at the Nepalese border, a jerk at the Indian one and … Girls were suddenly no more pretty.