For the last week Ruth, the second volunteer, and I have been sight seeing around the country. Here’s a quick recap:
Day 1: Lumbini.
The birthplace of Lord Buddah. Personally, I was disappointed by this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yes, the temple that was built around the miraculous 7 steps Buddah supposedly took after he was born is nice, but the rest of the Stupa and Temple complex was disappointing. Everything seems to still be under construction, and the temples that are finished don’t seem to be in use. There is usually only one monk per temple..which doesn’t really give this site a very religious feel. Rather, I felt like I was walking through the tables at a cake decorating competition. The temples were beautiful, but they weren’t being used, just like the cakes at competitions are beautiful, but not made for eating…
Day 2: Tansen, Palpa.
I was thoroughly impressed by this small district capital. It is built on an extremely steep hill (which ensured the first use of my hiking boots). The handicraft capital of Nepal really is beautiful. The town is filled with fabric shops that sell not only the ususal (probably) Indian fabrics, but also the woven fabrics that are so common in the hills. Shoeshops are everywhere and there are even some yarn shops, as well as some shops that sell some yarn rovings. Something special about this place was definitely the fact that they had a tourist information office that even had a map of the town! So we walked up the Shreenagar hill and had a beautiful view of the countryside. We also walked South of the town where we found the District Jail. Surprised by its size (VERY small) and lack of security (there were children walking on the walls talking to the guards all the time…) we continued our short trek back up the hill to go back into town.
Just like every city in Nepal Pokhara seems to be extremely polluted, but that didn’t deter us! We found a hotel that gave us a great value for our price (we are off season after all). I had my first warm shower in a month…not too bad 😛 This day we only walked around Lakeside a little bit to see where we were exactly, and how we would get to the World Peace Stupa the next day.
Day 4: Pokhara.
Busy, busy day. We got up at 6 (which for me, is already like sleeping in) and walked off to the boat rental place. We got a young man to bring us across the lake (we were basically the only people on the lake!) and walked up the steep climb to the Shanti Stupa (World Peace Pagoda). It looked identical to the one in Lumbini, but was quite different. A small monestary/hostel was built up there, as well as some restaurants and cafes. We chose one and had some tea before we continued our trek to Devi’s fall, Gupteshwor Cave and Chorepatan. Another great site in this part of town was Tashiling, the Tibetan Refugee Camp. I was surprised to see a small, self sufficient, touristy village rather than a camp of tents. Since we had thought that all this sight seeing would take the whole day, we were a little lost for where to go next. We decided to ask our lovely tibetan lunch host of what else would be nice around here. That’s how we came to find the beautiful river side where children were bathing and cows were grazing. An unpolluted, perfectly clean river…a rare sight. Also, we decided to walk the 30 minutes or so to the International Mountaineering Museum, which was DEFINITELY worth a visit! We watched a short documentary on the Khumbu (Everest) Region and filled our brains with mountaineering information. After that we were exhausted and took a bus back to Lakeside, where we looked in the little tourist shops (post cards, books, clothes, art work…very touristy stuff)
Day 5: Pokhara
Today was a day to calm down a little and walk less. We decided to see the city, but soon realized it was EXTREMELY polluted…so we went and got ourselves some masks. Before all of this though, we went to the Mahendra Cave and the Bat Cave where we got ourselves a private tour guide to show us the little baby bats. These experiences were terrifying…I didn’t know I was afraid of caves…but then again, I’ve never gone so deep into a cave before…Afterwards, we tried to find a museum that nobody seemed to know about, so we gave up. The second museum was nice though, the Pokhara regional museum. Small, a little old, but good information on some rural groups of Nepal. AFter that we walked through the old town of Pokhara (yes! Pokhara has an old town! Something special about this city) and to the Anapurna Regional Museum (Stuffed animals, wildlife information, information on the Anapurna Conservation Area and lots of butterflies)
From there we walked to the Baglung Bus Park to find a bus to Tashi Palkhel, yet another Tibetan Refugee Camp. This was more fascinating than the last one. Tsering, a Tibetan Refuge who came to Nepal as a baby was kind enough to show us around the village (the school, the multi purpose hall, the houses…) as well as her own house where she gave us some juice. Thanks to here we were also able to witness the monks doing their afternoon puja.
Day 6: Sarangkot.
After quite a long, very steep climb we finally made it to the extremely foggy town of Sarangkot. After finding a guest house we decided to attempt the final summit. At this point we saw nothing but a few paragliders (okay, a lot of paragliders) taking off…it was impossible to see the mountains. We decided we would come back in the morning anyway, so we should go explore Sarangkot and it’s surrounding villages. BEST DECISION EVER!
1. we saw a lot of nature
2. we met some wonderful people. Especially one family was very nice. We sat down with them had a small chat and bought a humongous cucumber (very tasty). We found out that the daughter of the elderly couple was a teacher, and that she would be going to school now. We were asked to tag along…being volunteers to teach (and especially me, being a teacher) we were interested in seeing this school. It was wonderful to see a classroom and a school that doesn’t get as much attention from NGOs as the Ganganagar school (although they HAVE seen 2 or 3 volunteers…). After talking to the principal, the students, and the staff, and after exchanging e-mail addresses we left to continue exploring.
Day 7: Paragliding and Gorkha.
Before I talk about Paragliding, I MUST mention the sunrise. We got up extra early (only by an hour) to see the sunrise from behind the highest peaks of the world. This morning there was not a single cloud in the sky and you could see everything. The Anapurna South, Anapurna I, Anapurna III, Delaughiri, Macha Puchre (Yes, I now know more himalayan mountains than I know Austrian mountains or any other mountain…) were only some of the mountains we saw that morning. PHENOMENAL!
The walk up the mountain was hard enough, and since I thought it would be cool to go paragliding it had now become the time. Flying. With the himalayan mountains in the background, the beautiful Phewa Tal under me and my breakfast in my stomach I did the impossible. I flew! Well, I didn’t really do much…my pilot did the flying (and even some stunts over the lake!). It was great! Definitely something I would love to do again…although I did feel a little sea sick..or I guess sky sick. But not too bad. AMAZING. Finding the bus wasn’t too hard, but because the company had forgotten our backpacks at the top of the hill we had to wait quite a while to get them. While waiting, we had some fruit (papaya, apple, banana). By the time we reached Gorkha, there really wasn’t much we could do, but look at the little town. (the main attractions are up the mountain)
Day 8: Gorkha.
Today, we walked up the 1500 Steps to the Former King’s Palace and the Kalika Mandir (Temple). Those were a lot of steps…especially since we had been walking up mountains for the last week. The view was bad again today (which made me extremely happy to see how lucky we were when we were in Sarangkot!), but the Palace and Temple were really beautiful! We even walked past some army camps (Gorkha was the town in which the King lived that attacked all of what is Nepal today to unify his Kingdom. It is also this army that defeated the British when they tried to invade Nepal after they conquered India–the British were defeated!).
This trip was really amazing. I saw so many new things, met so many great people, practiced and used some of my Nepali (and was actually understood!) It was truly amazing, and made me fall in love with this country even more…I don’t want to leave!