Gday everyone, finally found some time to give everyone an update on our trip. So its been a month or so since the last update, and we have done heaps since then, so here we go.
Its been a wild ride, as we progressively made our way across Nepal in a westerly direction, we left Kathmandu on the 8th Nov after successfully getting my camera repaired. We dropped in at a place called Gorkha for a night, checked out one of Nepals oldest Dubars (palaces), got some cracking himalayan views and hung out with our funny host -Gopal Gorung- at the Manaslu guest house.
From there we progressed along to Pokhara, where we arrived to beautiful clear skies and mountain views, only to wake up for the next 5 morning to cloud haze and fog. We caught up with our Kiwi mate Tommy for a few days. We sat around reading books, eating and drinking in cafes, staring at the lake, watching the fish jump, not doing much at all. We hired a scooter for a day, buzzed around town, up and down roads that scooters werent designed for.
Andrea arrived the following day, we all made some last minute arrangements collecting some more trekking gear, then on the 16th we made our way to Phedi, where we began a 7 day trek to the Annapurna Base Camp, which would begin in rain, and finish in beautiful sunshine, giving us some of the most spectacular views any of us have ever witnessed. The first day was pretty tough, we looked like 3 turtles with our ponchos spread over our backpacks, slugging it out up some steep stone stairs for a couple of hours. Luckily the rain broke on the first day, but we proceeded up, along, down and up through thick jungle, grassy clearings, bamboo forests, small villages and rural farming land. The trail was really busy, loads of tourists - much more than our previous trek, and generally in large groups - would create bottlenecks on certain smaller sections of trails. It was really quite heavily fogged in for the first 3 and a half days, it wasnt until at 6.30am we ascended a 2 hour section of icy, snowy and severely slippery trail to Macchupuchre Base Camp, where we stopped for breakfast, that for the first time we could see the giant 6500M-8080M mountains that surrounded us. We were sitting outside in the sunshine drinking hot chocolates at about 9.30am when the sun popped its head around the side of Macchupuchres holy twin peaks - Macchupuchre meaining fish tail in Nepali - and it was the most brilliant feeling. We set off from there, making the final 2 hour ascent along the snowed in trail, reaching ABC - Annapurna Base Camp - at around 1.30pm. By this time the fog had resettled in the Annapurna sanctuary, but we cellebrated our feat with more hot chocolates and a block of swiss chocolate that Andrea had brought along with her. We sat in the dining room playing uno, when late in the afternoon, the clouds broke and we found ourselves right in the middle of the Annapurna sanctuary, instantly dwarfed at 4130M by Annapurna South 7219M to our west, Annapurna 1 - the 10th highest mountain in the world - 8091M to our north, and to our west was Annapurna 3 7555M and easily the most impressive mountain, the holy mountain - restricted for climbing - Macchupuchre at 6997M. We caught an awesome sunset, and then at 6am we trudged out into the -20 degrees wind chill to catch an equally impressive sunrise. Our walk down to MBC was really really icy, hence Tara, Anrea and I all had a fall, Tara claiming the most bum slams with 3 i think. We continued down for the next couple of days, not seeing a cloud in the sky. We met some fellow Melbournians Bec, Bryce and Craig, who shared their tube of vegemite with us. The remainder of our trek consisted of more hot chocolates, chocolate cake and apple pie in Chhomrong, we relaxed in the hot spring at Jhinu with a couple of tiger beers, and we ate fresh mandarines from a farmer who was selling then for 5 rupees each (about 10 cents), not to mention all the stone stairs up and down, the magnificant views of the valley we were walking through and the joy of making it back to Pokhara and eating a chicken sizzler.
The following couple of days revolved around drinking a few beers with our new mates, eating, drinking and reading. Tara and I went paragliding, launching from a place called Sarangkot, high on a hill that overlooks Pokhara and landing right on the banks of Phewa lake. We went out for dinner with Andrea, Craig, Bryce and Bec on our last night in Pokhara, to the Everest steak house, and indulged!
We said our said goodbyes to our Swiss Didi (sister) Andrea early the following morning, and made the 11hr commute to Lumbini - the birth place of Buddha. We rode on the roof of a local bus for the first time - illegally, as laws had come through only a month before making roof riding illegal in Nepal. It was not as fantastic as what i might of imagined in Lumbini, but still quite nice to sit around in the gardens and read and relax. We saw a monkey steal a bag of bananas out of a Korean mans hand, run away, and then turn around, put a banana in his mouth and keep on running. It was priceless.
From Lumbini we made another 10hr commute to Bardia National Park, where we had anticipated to stay for 3 nights, but ended up staying for 7! It was a beautiful place where we atayed at Bardia Adventure Resort, and our host Raju, and his band of merry men including Arjun - our safai guide, Dharma and Pradeep, made us right at home. We went on 2 jungle safaris in search of tigers and anything else that moves. On our first safari, we were joined by our new Swiss friends Andy and Sussan, and for the first time in 10 weeks of travelling i got the dreaded curry bum! Hence we didnt see any tigers or rhinos, but we saw plenty of deer, monkeys and crocs. Our following days revolved around sitting in the sun reading, and drinking tea. We went to the elephant breeding centre, where Tara nearly had her arm ripped off by an elephant that had squeezed her hand with its trunk and started pulling her in. We went on another jungle safari the following day, more deer, crocs, monkeys, tame elephants and we got to see a wild rhino, but still the tigers avaded us. Raju said we will just have to come back, and we aggreed.
We said goodbye to our Bardia brothers first thing in the morning on 5th Dec, with many hugs, hand shakes and group photos, and made the commute to the wild west of Nepal, on an over over crowded 30 seat bus that was at one point carrying about 70 people! We stayed one night in the s***hole border town of Mahendra Nagar, up and at it first thing the next morning not sparing a second to get out of there.
So after 2 months of eating dal bhat, momos, apple filters (fritters), drinking Gorkha beer, 18 days trekking, 9 days rafting, many new friends, 72 hours of bus rides, an unimaginable amount of rickshaws, taxis, mini vans, jeeps and push bikes, we found ourselves hanging off the back of an already full auto rickshaw for 5km to arrive at Nepals immigration, officially left Nepal, then walked the 2km baron dirt track across no mans land to officially arrive back in India. We took a horse drawn cart to Banbasa, a totally neglected old bus for 3 hours to Bareilly, then waited for 6 hours as we arrived early and our train was 2 hours late, then took a comfy night train to Amritsar, where we arrived at 9.30am yesterday morning.
We went to a daily ceremony at the India-Pakistan border crossing, the closing of the gate, which i cant begin to explain to you how it was really really funny. Military sorts paraded around in their formal wear with hats that looked like they had red garden rakes attached to their heads, over exhagurating every step, and the Indian crown - who had filled the massive grandstands surrounding - absolutely went crazy for it. There was music and dancing, yelling and heaps of chanting followed by fist pumps and flag waving. After dark, and after dinner, we went to Amritsars biggest draw card, the holiest pilgramage for the Sikhism religion, the Golden Temple. It was a breath taking sight, a really really impressive place that I would say is on par or better than the Taj. After many photos, we were ready for bed, but no before some tea, which i managed to spill all over myself!
So here we are, its the 8th of December, we have been away for just over 11 quick weeks and loving it. We have booked some trains for our immediate future, leaving tomorrow we head to Delhi, to Udaipur, to Ahmenabad, to Mumbai, and after that we will hopefully be spending christmas on the beach somewhere. Hope your all enjoying the story so far, and we look forward to hearing from you all. Much love, Tara and Brent xox