After a stressful 2hr drive by tuk tuk to Varanasi airport we just about made it alive! The driver was a lunatic swerving like a mad man around cows, cars and motorbikes! Its 4 yrs in jail if you kill a cow on the roads in India!
We witnessed Indian bureaucacy at its best at the airport. There are so many people around to do the one job. When we finally got our boarding cards they were checked and stamped around 6 times! We had to identify our bags before they put them on the plane even though the only flight departing was to Kathmandu!
Flying over Nepal was beautiful. Its so green and mountainous. We got our visas no problem at the airport and got a taxi to our guethouse.
The staff in the guesthouse were lovely but the building was a really old Nepalese style building and the ceilings were really low so Ben couldnt stand up in the room! We only stayed there one night and moved on to another place where Ben could stand up in the room without banging his head! Nepalese people are tiny!They have the shortest legs I have ever seen in my life!
Kathmandu is much more chilled out and relaxed than most of the Indian cities that we visited. People here are lovely and not too pushy. Everything in Kathmandu is geared towards trekking and outdoor activities.
There is so much to see and do around the city you could easily spend one week checking out the local sights.
Phil decided to fly over and join us on our Annapurna trek in the Himalayas.
We stocked up on all our necessary supplies for the mountains and bought our bus tickets to Besisahar.
The bus journey to Besisahar was crazy! The driver must have been on speed. We had only left Kathmandu around 30mins when the front shocks on the bus went. Everybody had to get off the bus until the driver managed to fix it!
Around 5 hrs later into the bus journey we got a flat tyre so everybody had to get off the bus again!It only took him about 45mins to change it so we were on our way again!
In Dumre we had to change bus for the last leg of the journey and this bus was packed so we decided to travel Nepali style on the roof of the bus with our bags! I was terrified at the start but it was a lot more comfortable on the roof than it was on the bus! There was nt any chickens pecking at our feet! It was a case of hold on tight and mind the overhead cables!
When we finally made it to Besisahar we decided to walk to Khudi to get our legs into top condition for the Annapurna circuit.
We found a nice guesthouse in Khudi (a stone hut with a galvanised roof) not bad for a euro for the 3 of us! We had a traditional Nepalese dinner "Dal Bhat". It consists of an endless supply of rice, lentil soup, veg curry and pickle.
The Annapurna trek is one of the most beautiful treks in Nepal. The scenery along the route was incredible and changed each day from deep river valleys to steep rice terraces.
It took us 8 days to trek from Khudi to Jomsom via the Thorong La Pass. We trekked for 8 hrs most days! For the first few days we walked through ancient stone villages and crossed over high suspension bridges.
After 4 days of hard trekking we made it to the village of Manang. It s a beautiful old stone village with a large Tibetan population. People here look totally different to the people in the Kathmandu valley. Buddhism is the main religion so we saw lots of prayer flags, prayer wheels and gompas. We had planned to have a rest day in Manang but that involved an acclimatisation day! So we had to climb high and sleep low! Manang is at 3500m above sea level so to help prevent mountain sickness we trekked up to 4200m during the day. We visited a Tibetan monastery and recieved a blessing from a 93 year old monk that we would have a succesful climb over the Thorong La pass!
After all that climbing we took it easy for the rest of the day.
The air was very thin in Manang and breathing was much more difficult. It was freezing too so we slept with our clothes on! There s no such thing as central heating in Nepal.
The following morning after our usual porridge and black tea breakfast we left early for another 8hr trek. It was a tough day and our hearts were beating faster and faster! Around 110 beats / min! We made it to Phedi and were lucky enough to find a room. It was busy with trekkers and the atmosphere was really good. So much hype over the pass!
On the 19th of March, D-day had arrived!We had a terrible nights sleep. It was so bloody cold , the coldest I have ever been in my life. It was around -10C and my water bottle froze!We even slept with our hats and gloves on!
A lot of people got up at 3.30 to climb over the pass but we decided to have a sleep in and got up at 5.30 instead! After trekking in snow up to our knees we finally made it to the Thorong La pass at 5416m!We only stayed at the top for a few minutes because of the biting cold wind. It was so beautiful up there and we were delighted to have arrived there safely so many people had turned back with severe mountain sickness.
The descent was really tough especially in places were the snow was melting and the ground was really slippy.
After trekking for 9hrs we made it to Muktinath village at the other side of the pass. We all felt terrible here, instead of getting mountain sickness we got low sickness! Lots of people get it after a steep descent.
On the 20th March we trekked for the last 8hrs! The scenery was very lunar like and karst from Muktinath to Jomsom. I dont know how people live in such severe conditions. We chilled out in Jomsom for 2 days and stayed with a lovely Tibetan lady who looked after us and fed us up!
We decided to fly from Jomsom to Pokhara with Gorka airlines! When I went into the office to book the tickets I asked the agent about the flight! He assured me it was a beautiful flight over the Himalayas and wait for this its a classic!
" The plane can seat 18 people but we only take 14 passengers so the plane can take off"!!!!
I was a bit worried about the weight of the 14 passengers in total but it managed to take off along with Ben, Phil and I.
After our 8 day "purification trip" in the mountains we decided to hit the bottle in Pokhara and cancel out all our hard work. We made up for not touching a drop on St Patricks Day! To Be honest we were in bits after 2 beers each!
We spent 3 days in Pokhara and really enjoyed being back in civilisation!
We got another bus back to Kathmandu and luckily enough the driver wasnt as crazy as the other one!
In Kathmandu we rented out motorbikes for 2days and drove to Kodari on the Nepal - Tibetan border. Phil gave Ben a crash course on how to drive a motorbike and I was hapopy enough to jump up on the back of it! After a bumpy 6 hr drive on the back of the bike ( and a broken backside!) we made it to the border town of Kodari! Not much to see in the town but the drive there was beautiful!
We walked over the Friendship Bridge and crossed the red line! One leg in Nepal and the other in Tibet (China). I took a picture of the bridge and 5 Chinese secret service police ran over to me and ordered me to delete the photo! I didnt understand what the big deal was!At least they didnt take my camera!
So after all that excitement we drove back to Kathmandu on the bikes the next day.
Phils time was ticking and it was time for him to fly back to the real world in Ireland so we said our goodbyes.
After a lot of hassle at the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu Ben and I were lucky enough to get our Chinese visas. We saw so many "Free Tibet" supporters getting banged away into paddy wagons and protestors getting pushed away by the Nepalese police. The situation in Tibet is awful and hopefully for their sake there will be some sort of peace again soon.
After spending nearly a month in Nepal it was time to move on again to the next port of call. We finally got a flight to Beijing via Hong Kong.............