Friday, January 4, 2002

Nepal Snapshots

This post was extracted from our old website.

It shows photos of the following from 2001 trip to Nepal:

Kathmandu

Kathmandu was noisy, crowded, polluted but so alive! It was easy to get lost in the maze of narrow streets full of pedestrians, rickshaws, taxis and the odd cow. I would turn a corner and find myself in a square with a stupa or temple, people selling their wares, worshipping at the shrines, traffic coming from all directions. Or I'd walk along a busy street and there would be a niche in the wall with a small shrine with wilted offering and red and yellow pigment splattered over the deity. An amazing place - but then I say that about most of Nepal - so different from the countries Tony and I have visited.

Our trekking package included a sightseeing tour to Bodhnath Stupa and Pashupatinath in Kathmandu. The Bodhnath Stupa is one of the largest stupas in Nepal.

There are four sides to the Stupa "tower" with a face on each, representing the all-seeing Buddha. The third eye on the forehead represents Buddha's clairvoyant powers and the nose is the Nepalese symbol for 'one' representing unity - we are all one people.

Coloured prayer flags are hung all around the Stupa with the Buddhist mantra, "Om mani padre hum". Pilgrims chant the mantra as they circle clockwise around the Stupa base. Alternatively they turn the prayer wheels that are set in the walls of the Stupa base.

My brother, D, chatted with this young Nepali boy and novice monk as we walked around a tier of the stupa.
Across from the stupa is the Buddhist monastery.

Picture this. Looking through the main doors of the monastery I saw a centre aisle. Seated on either side of the aisle were two rows of monks chanting. Their heads were shaven and they wore the traditional red, flowing robes.

It might have been a scene out of a movie except in the far right corner there was a European lady observing the proceedings, dressed in brown robes and with her long, dark hair in a bun.

Sis-in-law was standing next to me when I took this photo. When she saw the developed photo she laughed because from her height she saw a nose. In this photo the buddha looks like he is peering over the dome and scowling at the pigeons.

If you are familiar with my brother's comments about "D height", this is the view of the stupa from "Debbie height" which is about 2 inches shorter.

Pashupatinath, located on the bank of the Bagmati River, is the major Hindu temple in Kathmandu.

The whole area was bustling with activity. We walked along the opposite bank to a ledge overlooking the temple. Across the river women washed clothes in the river, relatives and friends gather around the burning funeral pyres, medicine men practised their art and women sold flowers and fruit for offerings.

My brother and sis-in-law arrived in Kathmandu five days before I did and they stayed near Durbar Square, the old part of Kathmandu. Durbar Square comprises the old Royal Palace and the temples surrounding it.

This photo is taken from the top of the Maju Deval temple looking down at the Shiva-Parvati Temple and the people walking through the square. There is also a cow lying in the dirt in front of the temple.

(The next day we travelled to the Annapurna Conservation Area to start our trek. Brother, Sis-i-l and I extended our stay in Pokhara and then I flew to Kathmandu while they continued on to Chitwan National Park. - Deb 2015)

On the 18th December I took a mid-morning flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu and had the whole afternoon free to wander the streets of Kathmandu. D and G showed me a lot of these sites on our way to Durbar Square but nothing really sank in. That afternoon I had all the time in the world.

Asan Tole, where six roads meet, is the busiest intersection in Kathmandu. The Annapurna Temple, pictured here, is in the square along with two Hindu shrines.

I visited this square at least four times as I searched for a craft shop that was noted in my guide book.

I turned down an alley off one of Thamel's busy streets and found the Kathesimbhu Stupa. The first time I arrived there were children climbing on the stupa, chasing each other (even in an anti-clockwise direction. How blasphemous!).

I couldn't take a photo because this tout kept pestering me so I escaped back on to the Thamel streets. When I returned it was quiet, only one woman turning away from the shrine.

One of the major roads into Thamel is Tri Devi Marg, literally "Three Goddesses Road". The temple grounds are behind a bank and surrounded by all the tourist shops and hotels.

It was late in the day when I visited the temples. Stepping into the grounds was like stepping into another world. All the hustle and bustle continued outside the walls but the caretaker's family and I were the only ones there. It was an oasis of peace and quiet, except for the little kid that kept trying to put a hand in my photos.

My camera broke in Pokhara so I was using a disposable camera with fixed lens and low-speed film. Not the best for the fading light.

The trekking group arranges transfers from and to Kathmandu airport. The day I arrived their representative told me there was a Maoist threat against Kathmandu and therefore there was not much traffic.

My comment: "This is not a lot of traffic?!"

It was true - this is a lot of traffic. Pedestrian crossings don't exist (the ones I saw in Pokhara were faded and ignored). You look for a gap in the traffic, start walking and let the vehicles swerve around you.

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The Trek

Our trek took us through the Annapurna Conservation Area. We travelled from Kathmandu to Pokhara along the major highway. The highway hugs the mountain ridges and snakes all the way down into the valley. There is one lane each way packed with vehicles and drivers continually swerve and lean on the horn just to get one car ahead in the queue or to avoid potholes.

From Pokhara we had another 1-1½ hour drive to Naya Phul, the start of our trek.


Our trek itinerary comprised:
  • Day 1 - Naya Phul to Syauli Bazar
  • Day 2 - Syauli Bazar to Ghandrung
  • Day 3 - Ghandrung to Tadapani
  • Day 4 - Tadapani to Deorali
  • Day 5 - Deorali to Ulleri
  • Day 6 - Ulleri to Naya Phul, where we boarded a bus back to Pokhara
From Naya Phul we crossed the Modi Khola and followed it past terraced fields. It was misty and the light was low. However, after 8 hours in a bus it was great to stretch the legs!
I wasn't expecting a lot of power points in the villages so instead of the digital camera I also packed disposable cameras for black and white, and panoramic shots.

I prefer this photo of the Modi Khola to the coloured version. Unfortunately the scanned image doesn't do it justice.

View of the terraces near Kimche, where we stopped for a rest.
After two days of obscured views, Day 3 dawned with clear views and a wondrous sunrise over the Annapurna range. The trail took us through rhododendron forest and rainforest. The Aussies in the group agreed: if it wasn't for the views of snow-capped mountains you would swear you were walking through the Australian bush.
Pema, our trek leader, Sis-i-l and Brother on the trail through rainforest near Tadapani.
Sunrise on the Annapurna Range from our lodge at Tadapani.
I emerged from my room at Tadapani to find the hostess sweeping ice off the path and stairs. This is the vegetable garden.

Our first night on the trek we had an overnight temperature of about 2°C. I think it was -6°C overnight at Deorali, the highest lodge on the trek. Whatever the temperature was, it was cold enough for a thin layer of ice to form on the water in the washing bowl left out overnight.

All this trekking really tires people out.

Left bench: Brother
Middle bench: Martin, Sis-i-l
Right bench: Fiona, Phoebe (the green beanie), Bob

Even a passing mule train couldn't wake them!
Sunrise over Macchapucchre, Lamjung Himal and the mountains of the Manaslu Himal from the lookout behind our lodge at Deorali.
Brother and me at the lookout.

If you view the screen at just the right angle you can see Mount Dhaulagiri behind my right shoulder. At 8167m it is the fifth highest peak in the world.

We emerged from more rainforest to find ourselves on an open ridge with fantastic views of the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna ranges, stone resting places and Tibetan prayer flags blowing in the wind.

This photo shows the Macchapucchre (Fish Tail) and Lamjung Himal peaks with prayer flags in the foreground.

Our trek group trying to:

  • Determine which of the three photographers is taking the photo, and
  • Avoid the sun shining in our eyes

From left to right:
Brother, Sis-i-l, Christie, Phoebe, Fiona, Martin, Bob and me.

Our trek leader, Pema (centre), and our guides, Vikram (left) and Jetha (right). Behind them is Mount Dhaulagiri.

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Pokhara

Pokhara is a sprawling town on the banks of Phewa Tal, the largest lake in Nepal. On a clear day the surrounding mountain ranges can be seen.

These Nepal photos would not be complete without at least one arty shot and here it is - the mani stones on the wall of a Buddhist stupa at the Tashiling Tibetan Village.
We first visited the Binde Bhasini temple on Saturday. Because Saturday is the Nepali day of rest the temple grounds were packed. At least three Hindu weddings in progress, a sadhu was sitting at the base of the shrine blessing wedding guests, many touts were hassling tourists and this little boy was busy lighting the candles around the shrine.
The Binde Basini temple on a Monday.

What a contrast to Saturday. There was one old man worshipping at the shrine and only a couple of touts.

Cows are sacred animals in Nepal so they are allowed to wander wherever they like.
We spent half a day traipsing around Pokhara searching for the elusive Seti River. It runs through Pokhara but at intervals disappears underground. Although our guide book pointed out three locations for viewing the river, we only found water at the last one - the Seti River Gorge reserve.
I don't know what happened to the wide, milky-blue river we saw on the road from Pokhara to Naya Phul. At the Seti River Gorge reserve all we saw was the milky-blue waters running through this canal above the river and a glimpse of something wet below.
We hired a boat to spend a day out on the lake. As he pushed us out from the shore the owner said "Good luck". Didn't he think we would survive out there?
This is the life. Just sit back and relax ...
... and let the other two do all the rowing!
The Varahi Temple, which is built on an island.

The peaks in the background are Annapurna South and Annapurna I.

On a clear day, photographs can be taken of the mountains and their reflections. Guess who forgot to pack the panoramic camera?

So early the following morning Brother and I were back out on the lake. A blanket of mist was rolling across the surface. A flock of white birds (cranes) glided across the top, barely missing the water. Silhouetted against the rising sun were two boats from a local hotel, taking guests out on the lake. The hotel guides stood like gondoliers and made Brother and me look like real amateurs! The only sound was the oars breaking the water. Magic!

This is the result of that morning.

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