Trekking in Annapurna Park, Pokhara, Nepal and Maddalenas birthday
Trekking in Annapurna Park, Pokhara, Nepal and Maddalenas birthday
We absolutely loved our time in Kathmandu it gave us a good insight into the Nepalese culture and religion but we are not city people and we were glad to be leaving to explore a more rural side to Nepal. The drive to Pokhara was 6 hours and half way we had planned to stop for white-water rafting and lunch. When we arrived at the rafting stop we were shown into a rundown building to get ready. I said to the raft guide "Wet Suit", "No Sir", at this point I questioned my judgement as to whether this was a safe environment for the kids but thought I would continue for the time being as I could pull out anytime. We put on our lifejackets and helmets over our swimming sets and proceed down a very steep bank to the raft on the river. The raft guide then proceeded with a brief safety talk which gave me some comfort, "what grades are the rapids", "1 , 2 sir", umm doesn't seem that bad and proceed to load the family into the raft and push off. The children sat in the middle of the raft and the adults on the edge paddling, it was just our family, 2 river guides and 2 trekking guides out on the water. The kids were very nervous at the thought of rafting and I wasn't sure how they would react, as we approached the first rapid it looked fairly small, but when entered the rapid it lifted the raft around 1 meter I quickly turn round to gauge the kids reaction, they were screaming and laughing at the same time and as we progress wanted to go into bigger and bigger rapids. We are both so proud of how our children embraced and enjoyed the rafting. When the river flow became calm it gave the children a chance for a swim all 3 children jumped off the boat into the cool river which shocked and delighted us both, maybe already in the trip a new found confidence is coming out in the kids? Our lunch spot was really a big surprise as we were not expecting to be rafting down an isolated river and there on the banks of the river lovely accommodation with a fantastic swimming pool which was refreshing and fun with the guides joining us for a swim. Here it was the first time we got to eat real Nepalese cuisine (Dal Bhat) up until this point we had been staying in touristy areas and sheltered from the real Nepal with westernised restaurants and the same in our hotels. After lunch we had about another hour of rafting and none of us were disappointed with the fun of the plentiful rapids and the pleas from the children for more white water rafting in the future.
Dried off and back on the road to Pokhara where we were teased with what lay ahead with glimpses of the white peaks of the Himalayas. Pokhara had a laid back backpacker feel to it, very westernised but good food at reasonable prices. We had an early start tomorrow so we headed to bed early.
The next day we started our 4 day trekking adventure into the Himalayas and yet another test for our kids. Day 1, we only had 2 hours walking but it was a very steep incline up a lot of steps to Australia camp. Luca and Arabella flew up the stairs whilst Maddalena struggled the most, I did think of playing the slow guy to boost her confidence but after 15 mins there was no need to act, I was the slow guy at the back. It must be around 15 years since Edwina and I had done any serious trekking before and we found the first day very hard. Trekking around the Annapurna area is quite unique, the treks are at around 1500 to 2000 meters above sea level but it allows you to view peaks at over 8000 meters and have trails suitable for all levels and ages. When we arrived at the top there were no views as clouds were out, we spent the afternoon playing football and cards with the guide and porters, Luca was in his element teaching all how to play Jail Break.
5.45am up for sunrise to see the Himalayan peaks, there were some clouds in the sky but the peaks were visible and magical, it felt amazing to be witnessing the beauty of the peaks first hand. At breakfast we were given the choice of the easy way or the hard way, the easy way was fairly flat but 40 mins longer, or we could tackle at lot more steps going up and over a mountain. Since the trekking today was 7 hrs Edwina and I were drawn to the easy way but threw the options over to the kids who lucky agreed with the easy choice. Landruk was our destination today and spent most of the day trekking along a 4x4 track, it was fairly easy going and all the children did really well. On the way we passed people working their land it is the season for rice and millet harvesting, cow and buffalo roaming and stray dogs tagging along, children would pop out of places and greet you but most just looked on in amusement at our children. Just before lunch we witnessed part of the Dasin festival tradition of sacrificing either buffalo, goats or chicken. The village had all got together with over 20 men who moments before we showed up had sacrificed 2 buffalo. The guide asked if we could go and observe so Edwina, Maddalena and Luca went to see the process and how they treat the animal once the killing has taken place, the children were enthralled with several questions and didn't seem put off by the site of offal and hacking off of the feet and ears. We broke from lunch and the kids happily discussed how sausages were made but after witnessing the intestines from the buffalo agreed they didn't like they idea of eating them again. A few hours later we got to Landruk and could see the next day's destination Ghandruk across the valley, in order to get there we would have to descend 300 meters and then ascend 800 meters via 4000 stone steps, I felt this would test us all but mostly myself and Maddalena, needless to say the steps prayed on my mind and I didn't get a good night's sleep, I just hoped if I had a heart attack on the mountain I would be reincarnated as a goat who could scramble up to the top.
We woke up on day 3 to Maddalena's birthday, again we were up and sunrise but rewarded with clear skies and the sun lit up the mountains in the morning, after breakfast we started our descent to the valley floor, it was all stone steps and was heavy on the knees, we stopped at the bottom for tea/coffee as a last burst of energy before tackling the Ghandruk steps. The pace was very slow and steady with myself and Maddalena holding the back, we were both so proud of the kids that day and what they achieved, Luca flew up without faltering and Arabella the same, Maddalena just pressed on without complaining and eventually we all made it to the top. Maddalena was feeling a bit down as it didn't real feel like we were celebrating her birthday, we had ask the guide a few days before to arrange cake on her birthday and when the lights dimmed in the restaurant and the cake with candles came out her face just lit up, we felt it made her day.
Again on day 4 we woke to another sunrise and again rewarded with a spectacular sunrise on the Himalayan peaks. Today we had around 4/5hrs ahead of us back to Pokhara, the trek was all downhill and started pleasant enough, but we soon all just wanted to finish the trek as the paths turned to roads became littered with homes, teahouse's and other trekkers coming from all directions.
Our time in the mountains was amazing and 4 days with over 25 miles was just the right amount for little legs and parents that haven't done any trekking from over 15 yrs. The whole experience had just reiterated our love for mountains, beauty and peaceful surrounding you can't beat the great outdoors. We have been really lucky with our trekking guide Satya and our 2 young porters Chyangba and Anik the porters carried our bag (thank god) and they all lifted the children's spirits with Nepalese folk songs and general chit chat, taking the children's hands when they tired or needed support or rocky parts. When we arrived at our nights resting places we were given little down time, Satya had us on a strict itinerary, making sure we were drinking and eating large plates of yummy Dal Bhat, Momo's, Pizzas and Soups as well he was by our side to answer any questions.
They taught us all a Nepalese card game "Dumbal" pretty much everyone in Nepal knows how to play, the rules are simple and it's a really fun game providing lots of laughs and it enabled the personality of Satya, Anik and Chayangba to come out more. The children loved the game and at the end of each round you have to add up points and if you reach 100 your out so we made sure the kids got a math lesson by adding up everyone's scores. I have a feeling Dumbal is going to be a big part of our travels from now on.
Sitting in the van on the way back to Pokhara was a relief we were all hot, smelly and sticky, not a nice combination, we were passing people dressed in their finest clothing all dressed up so spend the day with family whilst we looked like something pulled through the bush backwards. Refreshed we managed to slowly shuffle down to the waterfront and found ourselves indulging in western cuisine a nice cold beer and not a Momo or Dhal Bhat on the menu.
The next day we had planned a rest day to recover but we had another sunrise start to see the Himalayan peaks from Sarangkot, again we got clear weather and another fantastic view with the mountains turning gold as the sun hit them. The rest of the day was spent enjoying Pokhara.
Next Chitwan via Bandipur
Dumbal - the Nepalese Card Game, The game can be played with 2+ players. It's really good for 4-6.
Setup - Use a normal deck of 52 cards - no jokers, agree target score, e.g. 100 points, deal each player 5 cards. Leave the rest of the cards on a stack in the middle.
Aim - Finish a game by getting the lowest points of all the players in hand. All cards are worth their face value. A is 1 point, J=11, Q=12, K=13. You are allowed to finish when you have 10 points or less, but you don't have to.
Rounds- Rounds are played clockwise, the person left from the person dealing the cards starts.
1 You first dispose (openly) of 1 or more cards from your hand by putting them in front of you. If you dispose of more than 1 card they have to be the same rank (e.g. two 9s, 4 Qs) or a sequence of at least three (6,7,8 of the same suit or Q,K,A,2 of the same suit etc).
2 Then you need to pick up 1 card, either by picking from the (openly visible) cards disposed by the player to your right during his/her last round or from the stack.
After disposing and picking up 1 card, the player to the left gets a go.
Ending the game - If you have less than 10 points in your hand you can end the game, but you don't have to. You end the game at the start of your turn by showing everyone your card(s). If you have the lowest hand you win the game and get 0 points. Everyone else gets the amount of points they have in their hand. If you ended the game and someone else has the same amount or less points you don't win but that person does. You will get your own points plus a penalty of 20 points. If there is more than one player with less points the lowest wins. In case of a draw the on with the least cards wins. You can also end the game before the very first round if you have 15 points or less in your hands. Same penalty rule applies if someone else has less than or equal points as you.
Scoring - Add everyone's scores up on a piece of paper and repeat the game until you've reached the set amount. The first one to reach the set amount is out and cannot continue playing. The remaining players continue until another person reaches the set amount and so on.