Nepal – Time To Move On

Pokhara, Nepal, March 2017:  Yes, time to move on as my 3 month visa nears its expiry date. Here’s a short recap plus a few photos that didn’t really fit anywhere else in the blog.

January: Blue skies, great views and just a handful of tourists. The nights were cold but by day the temperature reached late teens – perfect for getting over that Jet-lag. Mid January sees the start of Spring with the emergence of hibernating reptiles along with some flowering trees. It is however the dry season and dust just everywhere – especially if one is hiking away from the town.

February: As January rolls into February so the days begin to hot up reaching 21-23 c. Its still pretty quiet, the main tourist season still a few weeks away. With the rising temperatures comes a change in the weather with most days being quite hazy obscuring those scenic views. By mid-morning clouds have completely covered the mountains with the occasional afternoon shower. Early hikes, around the crack of dawn,will still results in some stunning views.

March: February turns into March and the tourists have arrived, but not in any great numbers much to the frustration of local traders – they’r still blaming the 2015 earthquake. From my observations there’s is definitely an over supply on all fronts of the tourist industry here in Pokhara – and its a pretty big one at that. Mid March when the place should be swarming, it is infact rather quiet with food shacks and even posher restaurants empty most of the day. By night, there’s rarely a place that can be called busy. However, for just one weekend the place is absolutely packed – with natives, the Holi Festival weekend. Yes, the place takes on a completely new character as the streets are filled with music, water and paint powder.

And so ends this visit to Nepal for now as I head off to Korea in a few days. I will return in May for another month taking a closer look at what its really like to live in Nepal when one is on the bottom line. I’ll leave you now with some odds and ends – a small reflection of life in Pokhara.

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Nepal – For Nature, Flora and Fauna

Pokhara, Nepal, March 2017: Nature is all around you in Nepal. From the lowlands right up to the highlands one can spot plenty of flora, fauna and natural wonders. Presented here is a gallery of Nepal’s  natural wonders – some of the more common species one can spot on any short hike or stroll around Pokhara and the surrounds. I’m no expert when it comes to natural history, my knowledge somewhat rudimentary at best, but in general one will easily spot a few types of lizard, plenty of bananas, loads of hawks such as Black Kites and Vultures, cute birds such as Orange Shrikes and BulBuls along with a host of Butterflies, Bees and Hornets.

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Nepal – The Iconic Annapurna Reflection

Pokhara, Nepal, March 2017: No visit to Pokhara is complete without that iconic view of the mountains reflected in the lake. Today, a combination of still, clean and clear air have provided the optimum conditions for such a view and the best spot for that prize winning photo is ‘Fish Tail Lodge’. (Google Map)

Situated at the Eastern end of Lakeside its just a 5 minute free boat ride across the lake to a scene of peace and tranquility, only occasionally shattered with the cackle of a Chinese tourist. Its definitely pays to arrive early since this is a pretty popular spot as the Chinese tourists jostle for the best photo positions much to the displeasure of residents taking breakfast.

Here’s a gallery of that iconic Annapurna mountain range reflection. If one however is unlucky enough not to experience this tranquil scene, touts on the outside will happily sell a panoramic photo for about 150 Rupees.

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Backpacking

Soon… I will be leaving Nepal for a trip to South Korea with a layover in Kathmandu and Kuala Lumpur – I’m always happy to end up in Kuala Lumpur!

Nepal – Those Magical, Mysterious Mountains

Pokhara, Nepal, March 2017:  In the mainIts the mountains we come to see – the beautiful, magical and mysterious ranges spanning Nepal’s entire Northern boundary. While 90% of visitors embark upon very long hikes to get a closer look, the remaining 10% of us for some reason or other have to find another method to get those great mountain views, namely flying!

  1. Helicopter. The quickest, easiest, most comfortable and of course the most expensive way to see the mountains is take a heli-tour. A 90 minute trip to the Annapurna base camp and back will cost just under $400.
  2. Plane. Depending on the season its quite possible to fly to Jomsom and back within a couple of hours and this flight is special as the aircraft has to fly close to the mountains giving passengers on the right some amazing scenery. A return trip Pokhara to Jomsom is around $145. Alternatively fly there, get a bus back to cut down the cost.
  3. Ultra-light. Not for the faint of hart, these flimsy 2 seat machines offer adventure seekers the ultimate exhilaration as they buzz the closest mountains in sub-zero temperatures. 35 minutes from Pokhara costs around $120. Another 20 minutes will push the price up to $200.
  4. Hire a Cycle. hire a cycle for a few hours around sunrise and head for the airport. Park at the end of the runway and watch how those magical, mysterious mountains come alive. Bikes on hire, around 100 rupees an hour.The images below all taken from the end of the runway with a Canon SX610 HS.

Nepal – The Annapurna Mountains

Pokhara, Nepal, March 2017:  And so as the sun rises so do the people of Pokhara. An early flight revs it’s engines then taxis to the runway for takeoff – and what a view those passengers will have in a few minutes from now! On a morning like this, those mountains take on a whole new perspective as the sun climbs, brightens and moves south illuminating the whiteness of the recent snow falls across the Annapurna range.

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Nepal – The Annapurna Mountains at Dawn

Pokhara, Nepal, March 2017: Today is one of those rare days when the weather is perfect in every sense. Perfect for trekkers, hikers, photographers and perfect for those that prefer to just watch as the rising sun brings those mountains to life. Having wished for such a day ever since I arrived here in January, its here – cool, crisp and cloudless air combined to suggest the perfect opportunity to photograph the Annapurna mountains.

So, on my cycle at 6 am heading for the best spot I know to see the mountains from Pokhara – at the end of the airports runway!

Awesome, magical views. I’d say this has to be the next best thing to actually trekking all the way there. Perhaps in some respects, better views from afar – what’s your opinion?

And so as the sun rises the whole range takes on a completely different character.

Next..if you thought these were awesome, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Nepal – Dhanpush in a Day Pt.4

Pokhara, Nepal, February 2017: All is pretty quiet here in Dhanpush – on the cusp of the trekking season and not much appears to be going on. a small shop has no shopkeeper while the local abortion clinic equally looks rather depleted of human activity. There is however a collection of ramshackle structures offering food, albeit limited. The famous Nepali Dhal Bhat is unavailable for 1 person, but I can have an omelet, 2 eggs and veg in its culinary construction – will I get a Jamie Oliver special?

So, while the cook is rustling up my omelet, here are a few images to look over.

Well, that omelet didn’t have the Jamie Oliver touch and grossly overpriced. Infact everything around here seems overpriced if your skin colour is white! Just a little up the dirt track is a couple of jeeps awaiting passengers – 300 Rupees for a ride down, locals pay 60. No thanks, I’ll walk down and the chap smiles unashamedly. And so its time to leave Dhanpush and make my way to Pokhara. Any further and I’ll run into the permit checkpoint – it’s around $40 if you want to take the 7-10 day hike towards the mountains, permits purchased in Pokhara.

Down then, just follow the jeep track which after about 50 minutes intersects the original path I came up on – good, no chance of getting lost now!

And to conclude Dhanpush in a Day, here are some of the images heading down towards Phedi and the bus back to Pokhara. A last look back at the mountains before cloud-out, some wildlife spotting and the afternoon sun showing up the splendour of the terraced fields and valleys. So, I hope you enjoyed Dhanpush as much as I did!

 

 

 

Nepal – Annapurna Avalanche Warning!

Pokhara, Nepal, March 2017: Recent days has seen a cold snap extend across Nepal from the Northwest accompanied by significant snow falls. Reports from trekkers heading down into Pokhara suggest parts of the Annapurna circuit are knee deep in snow. Additionally, the BBC mentioned the risk of avalanches across the Western Himalayan region!

If you plan on Annapurna trekking between now and End of April, better make sure your guide is of some repute! Organised treks of course will know and assess the avalanche risk.

Here’s a few shots of comparisons:

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Not much snow a few weeks ago, February 2017

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Plenty of Snow, March 10th 2017

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Oh, where’s the show, February 2017

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Here’s the snow, March 10th 2017

Nepal – Dhanpush in a Day Pt.3

Pokhara, Nepal, February 2017:

Dhanpush at last!

Actually, the hike wasn’t as traumatic as others I have undertaken. The hike to Sarangkot for example was a 3 hour mammoth effort and mostly in thick forest. This hike by contrast is only 1 and 1/2 hours passing through scenic rural spots. Now though, here we are in Dhanpush and immediately one feels a sense of tranquility – no people, no traffic, no pollution, clear blue sky and of course a view to behold, the Annapurna mountain range.The village is pretty, quaint even. All is quiet as the mid morning sunshine reflects on the stone and slate houses alongside cobbled paths. Well, I’ll let the following set of photo’s speak for themselves…. .

Dhanpush is situated on a ridge fronting the Annapurna mountains. A little misty towards the sun at the ranges Eastern end, but where the sun reflects on the snow towards the West then the viewing and photographic opportunities are quite something.

Here in this set of images we can marvel at natures wonder that is the Himalayas….

Continuing the trek through the village, along the cobbled paths which suddenly turn into a single dirt track leading down towards terraced fields and eventually the bottom of a valley. Its clear that the place is quite spread out as the ridge curves right and leads on to the Annapurna trail. so far I haven’t spotted any of these famed tea houses as thoughts of a nice cup of tea get ever stronger. Although the sun is beating down there is a chilly breeze up here and some hot tea right now would be most welcome. An old timer spots me and smiles. I smile back and ask where I can get tea. He smiles again and beckons me up the little path, more suited to mountain goats! The ‘village elder’ mumbles in Nepali to a woman tending the baby and very soon I have a mug of hot Nepali milk tea – what a treat!

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Next….in part 4, trying to find some lunch, village life and on he way down.