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Nepal Part I: Can you believe I went to NEPAL!?!

by Sandy Merrill | | Travel | 0 Comments

NAMASTE,

This thought comes to me often, but never so vividly as it did in Nepal, time and time again. If anyone had tried to tell me (5 years ago) what my life would be today, there’s no way on earth I would have believed it, or even been able to imagine such a life! Trekking beneath the Himalayan Mountains, a hefty pack on my back, trekking poles in my hands..riding thru a jungle spotting rhinos, monkeys and sloth bears..biking on country lanes conversing with an old Nepali fellow about his rice fields…watching live cremations outside of a Hindu temple on the banks of the Bagmati river...traipsing the narrow, crowded, and colorful streets of Kathmandu in search of just the right fun and unusual goodies for my coming Nepali Collection?!?! Really?? Not even in my wildest dreams! And today, I rise early to communicate with my new friends in Nepal (via What’s App) about my orders, my shipment, and wiring money, and then it’s off to my favorite park to work on some new posts for my blog. Really, this is MY life? INCREDIBLE!! The answer, my friends, is that by some odd stroke of luck, magic, and, or God, it appears that anything IS possible. I continue to be amazed! (Thank you sobriety and my mentor, Kim!)

And so, a bit of our journey to Nepal. There’s so much I’ve decided to divide it into 3 posts, and even then, it’s just a taste, and no doubt they’ll still be too long. In an attempt to break up our many hours of flying on the way, we decided to spend 24 hrs in Dubai, at least long enough to stretch out in a bed for some hrs. It actually worked well. We landed around midnight, negotiated a taxi (and were smart enough to not get ripped off :), got to our hotel, had some ok sandwiches, and slept til around noon. We had plenty of time to get downtown and wander around the lovely, spotless and fancy area surrounding the world’s tallest skyscraper that I always picture when I think of Dubai. We headed back to our hotel, located in Old Town to explore the surrounding area which of course included the Old Souk Market…just my cup of tea :) The kindly storekeepers seemed intent on fitting Ed Merrill with the traditional headgear :) Oh, and a pic of the genie at our hotel, right down to the shoes :) Don’t ya think?

And on to Kathmandu. It always occurs to me that whatever hotel you choose ends up sort of dictating the tiny piece of that city you come to know intimately…it’s people, little stores, quirky sights, sounds, eating places, etc. I think that’s neat and I find it very comforting, sort of like it’s your new little home. You get to know the people, even in only a few days. I had nothing planned or booked ahead, only a rough idea of the things I thought we ought to do and see, and a vague idea of timing and order.

We spent just 2 nights at our little nest in Thamel (the main tourist area in the center), resting, planing, and getting to know the area. I was also on a mission to have a good look at Nepal products, getting kind of an overview of what was available and what I thought I might be interested in. I’ve learned now to do that in my first few days, giving me time to keep looking, thinking, and researching. Then I allow some days at the end to have a final quick look, decide, negotiate and buy, and then figure out packing and a shipper if needed. I will say that the entire process was by far the smoothest and easiest of any countries I’ve been to thus far. I was lucky to find some exceedingly good people early on who hooked me up with the other people I needed. They were all tremendously helpful and a complete delight to work with :)

I always prefer to rent a car anywhere I travel as I’m convinced that’s by far the best way to see and do as much as possible. In Nepal however, that’s just not a possibility, so we tried various other modes of transportation… a new adventure, and fun! I decided that our first destination should be Chitwan National Park in the very south of Nepal. For that journey we hired a private car to take us the 6+ hrs to the village of Sauraha (the cost, $90). That gave us an opportunity to check out the landscape, etc. on our way and the driver was happy to stop anytime. I was completely fascinated by the bright, colorful decorations on all of the trucks. Think our driver thought I was a bit nuts about them, and he explained that the main reason for the almost dayglo decor is visibility (makes sense as are huge numbers of accidents and vehicles going over cliffs :( A few pics of these trucks, you’ve really got to see them!

On the agenda for Chitwan was a jeep safari through the park, and I thought it’d be fun to rent bikes to explore the little country roads around us. Our hotel was great and the grounds pristine, they clearly worked hard at it! The hotel dudes were wonderful and happily booked all of our adventures for us, efficiently and at NO extra charge. We had 2 elephants living right next door, complete with a 6 am wake up trumpet (mad that I missed that video op!!)

The bikes were a bit of a bust I think, as both the bikes and the riders were antique :) Def don’t think Ed much cared for it, but I was determined to continue checking out the little roads…complete with a graceful farewell to a nice old fellow I stopped to chat with. Saying bye bye, I attempted to hop on my bike and take my leave, instead, missed the pedal, knocked the man almost over and landed myself on the ground. I apparently didn’t hurt him and left a lady sitting on a porch across the street, absolutely howling with laughter :) Here are some pics of Ed on his bike and my souvenirs…

And then, the jeep safari. It’s funny, when you’re inquiring and shopping around for it, you of course want the longest time period for the least $. An hour or so in we decided that this was probably one of those times when less is more…so it goes :) Regardless, it was a great experience, the other people were fun and we saw quite a bit. We saw their very unusual one-horned rhino, a wild boar, monkeys, elephants, alligators, peacocks, and supposedly a sloth bear w/ a baby on her back (I couldn’t see it, but everybody else did :) 

The highlight, I thought, was something unexpected. The park people do periodic controlled burns as a means of cutting back grass. We were all surprised to find that evidently they do these even when there are jeep safaris still driving around. So. we literally held back, then zoomed through fires burning on both sides of our path! Go figure, it WAS exciting!

Two nights were plenty to accomplish our “to do’s” down south. Our next destination, north to Pokhara, to prepare for our “trek” :) This time we opted for a tourist bus for 7ish hr trip. This too was booked for us by our hotel for less than $8 each, and they delivered us to the bus and even got us good seats. The trip was fun and perfectly pleasant, including a few potty/smoke breaks and a nice lunch stop. It’s from this bus that we got our first glimpse of the “snow mountains” :)

Our time in Pokhara was divided, 2 nights there preparing for our trek, and 2 more nights after our trek, resting, regrouping and planning our time back in Kathmandu. The pics I’d seen of Pokhara made it look idyllic. I tried hard to see that vision but couldn’t quite get it, perhaps it was our particular location? At any rate it’s a fun little town and we enjoyed it. Tons of lodging and eating options, (fake) North Face outfitters galore, and lots of hippies, old and young, always a favorite of mine.

Once again, we landed at the perfect hotel…happy, kind and helpful staff, great rooms, and excellent breakfasts and coffee. The staff organized our treking permits and conservancy entry passes (requiring passports, 3 pics, travel insurance, and about $58 each, I think), as well as hiring us a jeep for the 4 hr ride up to our starting point (ended up costing about $120 round trip w/ tip). We spent that day looking around Pokhara Lakeside (where we stayed), seeing what Nepal goodies they had for offer in all of the little shops there (heavenly days, I never want to miss anything!), and found a really good place to eat right next door to our hotel.

Besides getting our permits, and securing a jeep ride, we needed to outfit ourselves for our trek…Fun, fun, fun :) We chose one of the scads of North Face stores, where the owners looked nice, and got to shopping! We bought big packs (a 35L for me and a 40L for Ed), hiking pants (that zip off to make shorts), cool fancy rain ponchos that cover you and your pack, trekking socks, large nylon belly bags that worked really well and were most helpful, rain covers for the packs, and a new bagged down coat for me (Ed had a real one from home :). On the advice of those we spoke to, we opted to skip the down sleeping bags, hearing they’d have some type of heavy cover as long as we weren’t going to either of the base camps.

I think we paid maybe $150, max for all we bought…can’t beat that! I personally thought that we were pretty cool leaving there looking like pros:)!!

Ooops, after dinner that night I realized we’d forgotten to get our treking poles! Daughter in law Kim, my mentor, and the instigator and director of this journey we were about to embark on, had insisted that they were a MUST! (and turns out, she was absolutely right!) So, I ran next door to the closest gear shop and bought 2 pairs:)

Now we’re ready for our trek, we’re really going to do this :) !

I’ll be back soon with the story of our Once in a Lifetime: adventure.

The Whirling Girl Sandy

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