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Gurkha Museum part 2

Gurkha Memorial Museum part 2

Gurkha Museum entrance
Gurkha Museum entrance

This blog post is a continuation of the Gurkha Memorial Museum.   Part one introduces the museum, its departments and displays.  It also gives a brief history of the museum and Gurkhas before 1857, which is where the museum starts recording the heroic actions of Gurkhas.  Part 2 identifies minor conflicts the Gurkhas were in.  If you haven’t already read part 1, please check it out before continuing to part 2.

The Borneo Operation 1962-1966 aka the Indonesian Confrontation

Borneo Operation
Borneo Operation map

On Dec 8, 1962, the president of Indonesia, President Sukarno, began attacking areas tactical importance in Brunei, which was under the control of Malaya’s prime minister Rahman.  Prime minister Rahman asked the British government for assistance in uniting his country and quelling the invasion. The British sent British and Gurkha troops to fight; Gurkhas beat President Sukarno’s troops in 10 days.

The British and Gurkha forces succeeded in reclaiming the lost ground, but President Sukarno was persistent in his conquests.  In 1963 president Sukarno resorted to gorilla style warfare.  British and Gurkha regiments began patrolling and ambushing enemy units.  The Gurkha and British forces conquered all the Indonesian forces by March 12, 1966. Indonesia and Malaya signed a peace treaty on August 11th.

Permanent base for Gurkhas in England

IN 1972 a Gurkha infantry battalion received a permanent base in Church Crookham England.

Minor engagements

Gurkha Khukri
Gurkha Khukri, a symbol of bravery and ferocity

Gurkha forces went to Belize in 1978 during the Belizean-Guatemalan territorial dispute.  Their jungle warfare skills aided the Belize in defending attacks by Guatemala.  The Gurkha forces remained there for several years.

Gurkha units assisted with the invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.  They did not participate in a lot of combat, but they did play a major role in moral support.

The Gurkhas also had a minor role in the 1991 Gulf War. Their engagement was limited to officer attachments and stretcher bearers.

From 1990 to 2002 Gurkha forces were deployed to multiple international destinations to support NATO and United Nation forces.

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Gurkha Memorial Museum

Gurkha Memorial Museum

Gurkha Museum entrance
Gurkha Museum entrance

The Gurkha Memorial Museum was founded to honor the brave men and women who join the Gurkha army.  The museum is sectioned into 3 floors, with each floor becoming increasingly specialized and dedicated to a specific aspect of the Gurkha army.  The 1st floor introduces the people that live in the Gorkha district and a history of the Gurkha military.  The 2nd floor displays the uniforms of different personnel of the Gurkhas. Finally, the museum ends at the 3rd floor, which identifies the specialty groups in the Gorkha regiment, like engineers, signals, and transport regiments.

Instead of telling you about the museum, I will tell you stories exhibited in the museum, which identify acts of bravery by Gurkha soldiers.  It was because of these acts and acts like this, this museum was created.

History of the museum

The museum officially opened in Kathmandu in 1994, with a goal of maintaining records of Gurkha bravery.  At that time the museum was only an archive of information with few military items on display.  By 1998 they received more donations and enlarged their display.  From 1998 to 2000 the museum expanded to 3 rooms after the Gurkha Museum in Britian sent donations.

A major advancement happened in 2004 when Commander Colonel Peter Sharland gave leased land outside of Pokhara to the Gurkha Museum.  The first floor of the new construction was completed and then opened for public in 2005. By 2008, 2 additional stories were added and open to the public.  In 2015 the parking lot was built.

A Brief history of the Gorkha District.

Present day Nepal was created by the war efforts of the Gorkha Kingdom.  In the 16th century Dravya Shah gained control over the Gorkha kingdom by winning a foot race. This is the beginning of the Shah dynasty, which lasted until 2008. After his inauguration, he set his sights on kingdom expansion.  He used Magar warriors to fight battles with neighboring territories.

In the 17th century Dravya’s son gained control of the kingdom and continued its expansion.  At this time, he created the unified kingdom of Gorkha and continued to expand its territory until the Anglo-Gorkha war in 1814.  Though he was defeated by the East India Trading Company, he maintained control of the kingdom.

In 1846 the Shah dynasty was briefly interrupted by the Rana Dynasty, which lasted until 1951.  At this time Matrika Koirala became the prime minister, but after 2 terms he gave control of the country to the Shah rulers.  In 2008, after the murder of the royal family, the country became a constitutional monarchy.

 First floor

The history of the museum begins in 1857 with the engagement of the Sepoy mutiny.  The royal Nepali army, led by a Rana king, assisted the British army commanded by General Campbell for the relief of Lucknow. By 1914 the Gurkha military personnel began to be recognized for their bravery.  The author Sir Ralph Lilley Turner wrote this about the Gurkhas:

“As I write these last words, my thoughts return to you who were my comrades, the stubborn and indomitable peasants of Nepal. Once more I hear the laughter with which you greeted every hardship. Once more I see you in your bivouacs or about your fires, on forced march or in the trenches, now shivering with wet and cold, now scorched by a pitiless and burning sun. Uncomplaining you endure hunger and thirst and wounds; and at the last your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle. Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you.”

Most of the Gurkha soldiers fought in Turkey, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Iran, Russia, France, and Egypt.

WW1 Gurkha bravery

Rifle, sword, and medals issued to Gurkha soldiers in World War 1
Rifle, sword, and medals issued to Gurkha soldiers in World War 1

This is my favorite story from the WW1 section of the museum:
Rifleman Karanbanadur Rana entered in a firefight with German soldiers on April 10, 1918 in Palestine.  He and a few other rifle men, under enemy fire, encroached upon the German position with a Lewis gun.  Their objective was to take out a machine gun, that had just demolished most of their unit.  When they reached their strategic position, Rana’s comrade opened fire on the machine gunner, but was immediately shot. Rana, without hesitation, moved his fallen comrade aside and began an assault on the enemy objective.  He took down the machine gun team under a hailstorm of counter fire and bombs.  After the machine gun was neutralized, he fought back the enemy riflemen and bombers.

He saved his battalion from heavy losses and remained steady in his pursuits even when his Lewis gun jammed twice.  He received the Victoria Cross from King George V in 1919 for his actions and bravery.

victoria cross medal
Victoria Cross medal

WW2

Gurkhas came to arms again after the announcement of the 2nd world war.  They were stationed in Malaya and Burma to defend against Japanese attacks, North Africa to fight Ramel, and later Italy, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.  In total 120,000 men were deployed to the front.  Unfortunately, as it is in war, 20,000 men died during their deployment.

Gurkha soldier

WW 2 rifleman lachhiman Gurung
WW 2 rifleman lachhiman Gurung

This story highlights the bravery and dedication of Gurkha soldiers during the second world war:
Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung was stationed in Burma at a strategic location to intercept japaneese persenel as they were moving through the country.  His outpost was one of the fist areas enemy soldiers passed through.  On May 13th, 1945 his platoon was attacked by advancing soldiers.

At 1:20 in the morning the Japanese soldiers began throwing hand gernades into Gurung’s trench. One fell on the ridge lip of the trench; he grabbed it without hesitation and threw it back at the enemy.  Then another grenade landed inside the trench, which he once again fearlessly grabbed it and threw it back.  Just after that, one more grenade landed just outside his trench. As he was reaching to grab it, it blew up, ripping through his hand arm and part of his face.

A short time later the enemy began advancing on his position, where he was the only one still living.  Gurung, still able to fight, began defending his base by shooting and loading his firearm with his left hand. For 4 hours after his injury he prevented the enemy from taking over his position and gaining a tactical advantage on his comrades.

He was evacuated and treated for his injuries when reinforcements arrived.  He regained full health minus his right arm and right eye at the hospital.  After his recovery, he received the Victory Cross on December 19, 1945 for his bravery and actions.

The Malayan Emergency

The Malayan Emergency resulted from the power void left by the evacuation of the Japanese at the end of WW2 (1948-1960).  In short, a rough organic military developed in support of the Malayan Communist Party and to oppose the Federation of Malaya.  6 Gurkha battalions were brought in and by 1957 most of the threat from the Malayan Communist Party.

Gurkha to Gorkha

Because of a tripartite agreement between Britain, Nepal, and India, the Gurkhas were spilt into 2 fractions.  Soldiers going with Britain became Gorkhas, while those staying with India remained Gurkhas.  After this fraction, the Gorkhas and Gurkhas maintained a presence in the many wars that followed.

YouTube video

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International Mountain Museum (IMM)

International Mountain Museum (IMM)

International Mountain museum
International Mountain museum

The International Mountain Museum in Pokhara Nepal houses a collection of artifacts and information related to life and mountain climbing above 12,000 feet.  More than 70,000 people visit the museum each year.  These people come to see the many exhibits, which include world famous peaks and the mountaineers that climbed the peaks, culture and lifestyle of the people who live on the mountains, biology of mountain plants and animals, and the geologic formations that created the mountains and their corresponding rock classes.

This blog post provides a brief overview of the entire museum.  Feel free to share it on your social media channels.  If you have a Pinterest, please pin the pictures you enjoy.

Location

The museum is 2 miles south east of Lakeside Pokhara. It takes 10 m minutes to get there by car or is a 30-minute walk.  I do recommend walking because there are a lot of scenic pathways that lead to the museum. You might get lost because its not a direct route, but if you follow Lakeside road south east, you should be able to find it.

Entrance fee

International mountain museum ticket
International mountain museum ticket

The entrance fee is dependent on your nationality.  Nepali nationals are charged $0.8, SAARC nationals are charged $2, and other foreign nationals are charged $4.

History

The international Mountain Museum was established on Dec 1st, 1995 by Nepal Mountaineering Association.  It had a soft opening on May 29th, 2002 and opened officially on February 5th, 2004.

Best time to go

The museum is open all year long from 9am to 5pm.  The best time to go is in the morning, but you run the risk of being swarmed by school kids.

International Mountain Museum exhibit halls

There are 4 exhibit halls in the museum.  Each covers a specific topic relating to mountains.  You will come to the hall of mountain people first, then hall of world mountains, after that the Hall of mountain activities, and then finally Hall of temporary display.

Hall of mountain people

Traditional cloths of Tamang people
Traditional cloths of Tamang people

The hall of mountain people has two sections, mountain people of Nepal and mountain people of the world. It provides information about the people that live on the mountains. It also has a gorgeous mandala that is amazing to look at.

Mountain people of Nepal

This section looks into the past and present daily lives of “mountain people.”  It examines their customs, traditions, culture, dresses, ornaments, musical instruments, and household items.  The ethnic groups investigated are Tamangs, Thakalis, Chhantyals, Gurungs, Sherpas, Pun Magars, Yakkhas, Rais, Limbus and Sunuwars.

Mountain people of the world

This section of the hall of mountain people is small.  It identifies other countries and their ethnic groups that live on mountains. The countries identified are Taiwan, Slovenia, Japan, and various European countries.

Mandala   

Section of the mandala
Section of the mandala

A giant sand mandala rests in an enclosed case at the center of the exibit.  It was created by Lama Ngawang Kechha Sherpa.  It is an incredible art piece, which is alone worth visiting IMM for.

Hall of world mountains

The hall of world mountains has 4 sections, mountain, geological, flora and fauna, and dedications.  It identifies the tallest mountains in the world and provides their height.  It also provides information on their geological formations and classifications, mountain biology, and the mountaineers and summiteers that made the mountains famous.

Mountain section

This section identifies the 14 peaks over 26,247 feet. It also provides their pictures with information about summits and summit attempts.

Geological section

Ammonite fossil found in Upper Mustang
Ammonite fossil found in Upper Mustang, about 150 million years old

This section is a geologist’s dream because of the plethora of information and displays it provides.  There are interactive monitors, and films that show how the Himalayas were formed. Fossils and different types of rocks are displayed.  In addition, there are even some rare earth minerals on display.

Flora and fauna section

This section is a natural history trove.  It identifies some plants such as rhododendrons and where to find them, but mainly focuses on the animals.  There is also a decent sized display of the different kinds of butterflies found int the areas.  The natural history museum in Pokhara has a great butterfly display.

Corner of dedications

This section displays equipment used by climbers, which includes cloths tools, and cameras with photographs.  It also identifies the Nepali people associated with the development of the of the IMM and their contributions.

Hall of mountain activities

The hall of mountain activities has 5 sections, equipment, ecology and environment, images, climate change, and touch screen sections. This portion of the museum focuses on climbers, equipment, climate, climate change, and provides a chronological display of the 26,247-foot peaks in the order they were summited. In addition, there is a side display of stamps with mountain pictures on them from around the world.

Mountaineering section

This section is similar to the corner of dedications section in the previous hall, but the displays are larger, and it only focuses on the mountaineers that summited the 14 peaks.  Pieces of the summiteers’ equipment are also on display with their photograph.

Mountaineering equipment section

Mountaineering knots
Mountaineering knots

This section displays the equipment most commonly used for summiting mountains.  The equipment is grouped by type and age. Its impressive to see the different styles and their advancements. In addition to the primary equipment, there is a small section on the different types of knots and what they are used for.

Mountain ecology and environment section

I don’t remember there being a lot of information about mountain ecology.  This section was mainly focused on the environment at altitude.  It also has a large display of garbage removed from Mt. Everest and Lhotse to demonstrate the importance of not littering and how a little bit adds up.

Imaging Everest section

yak wool sun glasses
Before there were sun glasses, there was yak wool

This section has a ton of photographs of mountains and the people that climb them.  The pictures were taken by people on British expeditions to Mt. Everest starting in 1921.  There are some very cool old photos in the lot.

Climate change section

This section focuses on the effect of climate change on the mountains.  The most notable impact is the recession of Himalayan glaciers.  The section is divided into the effect of climate change on air, water, and ice.

Touch screen

I don’t remember this section, but supposedly you can interact with satellite images to view mountains, lakes and different areas of Nepal.

Hall of temporary display

This area has items on loan in it.  When I went, it had photographs of Dr. Tony Hagen and others loaned by ICIMOD.  It also has a prayer room and library.

Prayer room (Lakhang)

This room is a replica of a Buddhist prayer room and is always open for people to enter and pray.  The room reflects the openness of people living in the Himalayas.

Library

The library has a moderate selection of books on mountains, biology, people and mountaineering.  When I went, I only saw a few books in English, but I didn’t investigate too deeply.

Mt. Manaslu model

The Mt. Manaslu model is outside the museum just before the front door.  It is not to scale, but you can play on it.  I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of fun.

Yak model

The yak model isn’t part of the temporary display.  It is outside located next to the foot path. Its ok, but it really doesn’t look like a yak to me.

 

 

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Pashupati Temple

Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath by the Bagmati River
Pashupatinath (upper right hand corner) by the Bagmati River

This UNESCO World Heritage Site, but only Hindus are allowed entrance.  Pashupati is complex of buildings on the bank of the Bagmati river.  You can find temples, ashrams, and artistic carvings in the primary temple complex.  Outside the temple funeral pyres are routinely held and the ashes are freed in the river.  A small zoo is located above Pashupatinath in a park.  It is fitting, because the deity Pashupati is considered lord of animals.

Pashupati is important in Hinduism, because it is identified as one of the homes of Shiva as out lined in the ancient text Paadal Petra Sthalams.  To see other important world heritage sites you can follow these links: Boudhanath Stupa, Patan Durbar Square, swayambhunath, or see them all.

Bagmati River in Pashupatinath.
Bagmati River in Pashupatinath.

History

Pashupati was originally built in the 3rd century, but has been rebuilt several times since.  The current version of the temple was built by King Shupuspa in the 15th century.  In addition, the Guhyeshwari Temple was built in the 11th century, and the Ram temple was added in the 14th century.

Mythology

Deer at the Pashupatinath zoo
Deer at the Pashupatinath zoo

There are several myths surrounding Pashupati.  My favorite myth is:
One day Lord Shiva was walking around on earth and he came to Bagmati River, which he believed to be one of the most beautiful sites in the world.  He fell in love with the area, and turned himself into a deer. He spent many years in this form.  Because he grew missed by his deity friends, they came and grabbed him forcing him back into his original form.

Lord Shiva announced, after he returned to his divine form, that he will be known as the Lord of Animals.

How to find Pashupati

Pashupatinath Temple is located 2.5 miles east of Thamel.  It is a 15 minute drive, but if there is traffic, it can take up to 40 minutes. You can walk there without too much trouble, because it is a short distance.

When to go

Pashupatinath shrine
Pashupatinath Pandra Shivalaya

You can visit Pashupati anytime because the area is always open.  You can see the funerals and zoo during the day and the lighted temple at night. If you are Hindu, you can enter the temple between 4am and 9pm.

How long to stay

Because you will probably not be able to enter the temple, you will want to spend at least 1 hour in Pashupati.  If you are Hindu, you will want to visit for at least 2 hours.

 

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Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

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Bhaktapur Durbar Square is one of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu. It is also one of my favorite areas because of its towering towers, museums, temple art, many mandala studios, cleanliness and pottery square.  The whole area is made up of 4 squares, which each have their own attractions.  You can learn about the area, before your visit in this blog post.  Kick back, relax and enjoy.  If you have a Pinterest, feel free to pin these pics.

History

Temple art in Bhaktapur
Temple art in Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur was Nepal’s capital city from the 12th to the 15th century.  It was also a sovereign country at the same time!  The city is surrounded by tall brick walls with many gates, which gives it a fortress or medieval feeling.   Bhaktapur was joined with the rest of Nepal in the 18th century, and though it is no longer considered the cultural capital of Nepal, it still has a rich and beautiful Newari cultural heritage.

Durbar Square

The Durbar Square is the first area you come to after walking through the main gate.  You are immediately inundated by beautiful temples, shrines, statues, artwork and culture.

You will see a giant lion statue, Lion’s Gate, Golden Gate, and 55 Window Palace on your left.  The Bhaktapur museum is in the 55-window palace.  You will see the mini Pashupati Temple, Rameshwar and Gopi Nath connected Temples, Vatsala Devi Temple, and the remains of the Vatsala Temple on your right.

Golden Gate

Golden Gate in Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Golden Gate in Bhaktapur Durbar Square

The Golden Gate is decorated with gold and has a figure of the goddess Kali and her griffin Garuda at the crown of the door.  They are served by 2 nymphs (one on each side).  Above the door and on the trim are mythical Hindu creatures performing mischievous acts.  Golden Gate is the entrance to the Bhaktapur museum and the 55-Window Palace.

55-Window Palace

The palace is not much to look at from the outside, and since I haven’t been on the inside, I can’t speak for it.  The wood trimming surrounding the 55 windows are beautifully decorated with ornate carvings of deities.

Vatsala Temple

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Vatsala Temple is directly across the 55- window palace.  It is a wooden 2-story temple with a brick foundation.  There are 2 lion statues guarding the entrance to the temple.  It was moderately damaged in the 2015 earthquake.

Vatsala Devi Temple

This stone temple is directly behind the Vatsala Temple.  It was reduced to ruble in the 2015 earthquake.  Restoration attempts are being made, but progress is slow.

Mini-Pashupati Temple

Mini-Pashupati Temple in Bhaktapur
Mini-Pashupati Temple in Bhaktapur

This temple is tucked behind the Vatsala Devi and Vatsala Temples.  It was built to honor Shiva and is a smaller version of the Pashupati Temple in Pashupatinath.  This temple as many beautifully carved support structures.  Some of the carving are borderline crude to extremely erotic.

Rameshwar and Gopi Nath Temples

These temples are connected to each other.  They are located on the right-hand side of the entrance gate.  Rameshwar Temple is a 4-pillar temple built to honor Shiva.  Most of the time the door to this temple is closed, but it is suspected of housing 3 deities.  The Gopi Nath Temple is a 2-roofed pagoda style temple also built to honor Shiva.

Taumadhi Square

The Taumadhi Square is the 2nd most important area in the city.  It has one of the most famous temples in Nepal, Nyatapola Temple.  It is also the home of Bhairabnath Temple, Tilmadhav Narayan Temple and Stone sculptures.  On April 10th, large slides are brought in people can play on them.

Nyatapola Temple

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Nyatapola Temple is the tallest 5 story temple in Nepal.  Its name means 5 stories.  It is extremely beautiful, because it’s 5-tiered brick foundation reflects the 5 wooden stories above it.  It has many artistic carvings in the doors, window frames, and supports.  The temple overlooks Taumadhi Square and is a delight to climb to the top and look out.

Bhairabnath Temple

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Bhairabnath Temple is a much smaller temple in comparison to Nyatapola, but it is still huge.  It is a 3 storied temple made of brick and wood.  It has a stone and iron fence around it with sculptures.  The entrance to the temple is rarely opened.

Dattatreya Square

Dattatreya Square is the oldest part of Bhaktapur; it also serves as an open museum.  This square is known for its wood carving craftsman.  It has Dattatreya Temple, which is the oldest temple in the Bhaktapur.

Dattatreya Temple

Dattatreya Temple is a 3 tiered wooden and brick temple built in 1427.  The temple is rumored to be built from the lumber of a single tree.  There is a later addition in front of the temple that is sometimes referred to as the porch.  It has stone statures guarding the entrance and deities looking over it on pillars.

Pottery Square

Pottery Square is one of my favorite areas in Bhaktapur.  You can see how pottery is thrown and how they “kiln dry” their creations.  The earthen containers are also set in the sun on display.  In addition, you can receive a pottery lesson by a master craftsman.

Entrance fee

The entrance fee is 15 dollars.  The price was increased after the 2015 earthquake.  The museum fee is $2 to $5 dollars.  There are many entrance points into the Bhaktapur.  If you are willing to hustle your way through the side streets and back allies its possible to get in for free.

How to get to Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur is about 10 miles south east of Tamel.  It takes 45 minutes to 1 hour to drive there.  I would not recommend walking or riding a bike, because the route travels along a busy freeway.

When to go

Any time is a good time to go.  If you want to see the Bhaktapur museum, you should be there before 4:00, because it closes at 5:00.

How long to stay

When I come to Bhaktapur, I usually spend 1 to 2 hours walking around and taking pictures.  If it is your first time in Bhaktapur, you will probably want at least 3 hours to wonder the area.  The length of your visit also depends on what you want to see.  If you want to see all 4 squares at one time, you might want to stay for 4 to 5 hours.

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Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Dubar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square

The 2015 earthquake left most of Kathmandu Durbar Square in ruin.  Since the earthquake, a massive recovery effort was initiated, and a lot of the buildings are being restored.   All the damaged buildings are expected to be refurbished by 2020.  One highlight of Kathmandu Dubar Square is the presence of the living goddess (kumari).

Kathmandu Dubar Square is a world heritage site.  In addition, it has an outdoor market, and many beautiful carvings and engravings on buildings.

Entrance fee

The entrance fee is $10, but you might be able to enter the area from a side alley.  The entrances are well guarded, and it would be difficult to get past a check point without paying the entrance fee.

History

Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar square started with the construction of the royal palace in the Licchavi period (400-750).  King Mahendra Malla built more temples and expanded the square.  He added Jagannath temple in 1563, Taleju Temple in 1564, and Kotilingeshwar Mahadev Temple afterward on an unknown date.

Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square

After Mahendra Malla’s death, his son took the thrown and began an extensive building campaign.  He built Vamsagopala in 1649.  Between 1649 and 1670 he built two other temples, the Agamachem temple, and a 5 roofed temple, both in the northern area of the palace (Mohan Chok).  During this time span, he also restored Taleju Temple, Degutaleju Temple, Shiva temple.  In addition, he built another temple dedicated to shiva (Indrapur) and decorated the Jagannath Temple with carvings.  He also built the pavilion Kavindrapura and decorated the area with fountains, ponds, and baths.

Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square

His son died in 1674, but his family slowly built Trailokya Mohan, Maju Deval, Kageshwor Temple, and Kumari Bahal up to 1746.

Then, in 1770, Prthivi Narayan Shah built Basantapur Durbar, and Lam Chok, but no other major additions were added after King Shah’s death in 1785.

How to find Kathmandu Durbar square

Kathmandu Durbar square is about 1 mile south west of Thamel.  It will take you about 20 minutes to walk, or 10 minutes to drive.  You can book your Kathmandu sight seeing tour with Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure.

Length of stay

In its current condition, I wouldn’t spend more than 1 hour there.  That is plenty of time to see the Kumari, and walk around and take pictures.

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Boudhanath Stupa

Boudhanath Stupa

Boudhanath Stupa
Boudhanath Stupa

The Boudhanath stupa is incredibly beautiful and massive.  Its white dome, like a cloud, stands out under a blue sky.  Its golden spire shimmers like the sun on a wave.  And its blue eyes are piercing.  There is no question as to why this is the most visited UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kathmandu.  You can walk around the base of the stupa spinning the several hundred prayer wheels or walk on top of the base to have a bird’s eye view of the monasteries and surrounding shops.

model of Boudhanath stupa
Boudhanath Stupa model

The Boudhanath stupa is the largest stupa in Nepal.  Its base is about 85,000 square feet and its volume is about 3.5 million cubic feet.  This is impressive especially considering when it was built and who built it (more on that later).  Please enjoy reading the rest of this blog post.  It is filled with a lot more fascinating information and pictures.  If you have a Pinterest please pin all the pictures you like.

Boudhanath Newar mythology

The Newars believe that a king durning the Licchavi period (400-750 AD) wanted to build a water tap (Dhunge Dhara) in his palace court yard.  Unfortunately, there was a drought and the royal water diviners, dowsers, and hydrologists could not find water.  The king was frustrated and turned to an astrologer.  The astrologer said he needed a perfect human sacrifice to find the water.

There were only 3 perfect people living at that time, the king, and his two sons.  The king decided he would be sacrificed for the water tap.

Side note: he must have really wanted that water tap! Its too bad he didn’t see the irony in that he wouldn’t be around to enjoy it.

The king’s son cut off the king’s head then threw a chicken into the air, which flew 8 miles west.  The king’s son then built Boudhanath stupa were the chicken landed.

Side note: the myth does not mention if water was ever found, but I deduced it wasn’t.

Boudhanath Tibetan mythology

On top of Boudhanath stupa's 2nd platform
On top of Boudhanath stupa’s 2nd platform

There was a Buddha named Kasyapa who lived for 4 thousand years.  An old woman who had given birth to 4 of his sons was grief stricken when she learned about his passing.  The woman petitioned a king (name unknown) for permission to build the stupa and place Kasyapa’s ashes in it.

The king gave the woman and her 4 sons permission to build the stupa, which she put kasyapa’s remains in.

History

Boudhanath stupa
Boudhanath stupa

There are conflicting opinions on the actual date of construction.  The stupa has been dated to the Licchavi period (590-604 AD), and to the Manadeva period (464-505 AD).  In Addition, Trisong Detsen, a tibetan emporer, is also associated with the construction of the stupa (755-797 AD).

Historically the area stupa was built on, was a major trade route from Tibet to India.  This gives a little more credibility to the Tibetan side with the stupa being commissioned by Trisong Detsen for the construction of the stupa sometime within 755 to 797 AD.

Earthquake damage and repairs

Boudhanath stupa’s spire was cracked during the major earthquake in 2015.  The golden spire was removed 6 months later in October and replaced with a new spire in November.

I checked the stupa in April 2018 and it was back to normal.

How to find Boudhanath stupa

Boudhanath stupa is 4 miles east of Thamel.  If you travel by private car, it shouldn’t take more than 1 hour to get there from Thamel.  You can take a private car or taxi.  You can also hire a guide and transportation from Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure.

Entrance fee

The entrance fee is $4.  However, there is a side entrance that doesn’t charge for admission.  You can also enter after hours, when the ticket booth is closed.

If you are staying in one of the hotels around Boudhanath stupa, you must pay the entrance fee once then there is no charge.

Length of stay

Boudhanath can be walked in 30 minutes.  If you want to spend more time exploring the different monasteries, hotels, restaurants and shops, I would allow for 1 to 2 hours.

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Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square

Krishna temple Patan
Krishna temple and ticket counter

Patan Durbar Square is a beautiful city center in Lalitpur in Kathmandu.  The city is a testament to Newar ingenuity and culture.  Patan Durbar Square also has a beautiful history and many amazing temples.  In addition, it has an ancient palace, which served as the residence for Malla kings that governed the area.  Did I mention it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site like Swayambhunath?

Entrance fee

There is a $10 entrance fee that can’t be avoided if you go into the museum or temples.  You do not have to pay if you are just walking on the street.

History

Lion in Patan Durbar Square
Lion engraving on Krishna temple in Patan Durbar Square

Before Patan Durbar Square was Patan Durbar Square, it was a crossroad and settlement or office area of foreign high-ranking political advisors or ministers.  From what I could deduce it was a place like present day Washington D.C. and a place for tax collection.

After durbar square grew into a prosperous area, it was taken up by Malla kings around 1200 AD.  For 600 years after Patan Durbar Square was extremely prosperous and was known as the golden years.  Most of the improvements, including the temples, were built during the Malla dynasty.

The Malla dyanasty ended in 1768 when Kathmandu was invaded by the Ghorkha Kingdom.  The Ghorkhas ruled Nepal until 2008 under the Shah Dyanasty.  During this time king’s residence was shifted from Patan to Kathmandu.

The Patan Pallace now serves as a museum.

Architecture

Malla Pallace in Patan
Malla Pallace in Patan

Most of the notable architectural accomplishments in Patan Durbar Square were built in the last part of the Malla rule, in 1600’s.

The architecture displays some amazing craftmanship and artistic work by Newar people.  The Krishna temple is one example and is regarded as the most important temple in the square.

Krishna temple was built in 1637.  The stone was imported from India and constructed on site.  It was built in the shape of a mountain (Shikhara style) and intricately carved.

The carvings on the first-floor pillars tell the story of a war fought by conflicting cousins.  Two cousins were fighting for the ownership of the throne.  The story is written out in Sanskrit epics of ancient India named Mahabharata.

The carvings on the second-floor tell the story of the deity Ram who rescued his wife Sita from a demon king named Ravana.  This story is also written out in the Sanskrit epics of ancient India named Ramayana

The third-floor carving tell the story of Buddha.

How to get to Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square is located about 4 miles south of Thamel near the center of ring road.  It takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to travel there by car with traffic.

Duration   

Carving of a deity in Patan museum
Carving of a deity in Patan museum

Depending on what you are interested in, you could spend the whole day walking through the square and old palace and viewing the artifacts in the museum.  If you rush it, you can walk the square, palace and visit the museum in 2 hours.

When to go

Anytime is a great time to go.  The museum and palace open at 10:30 and close at 5:30. Before then, you can walk the square.

New Construction

Shikhara style temple in Patan Durbar Square
Shikhara style temple in Patan Durbar Square

Due to the earthquake in April 2015, most of the temples toppled over.  Since then, repairs are being made to the temples.  As of April 2018, the renovations have not been completed, but are expected to be completed by 2020.

Booking a tour

You can book a tour of Patan Durbar Square through Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure.

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Swayambhunath

Swayambhunath

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Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) is one of Nepal’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  It is a dynamic site with 2 main entrances and 3 side entrances.  In addition, there are a lot of monkeys that will keep you on your toes.  It also has a beautiful attached mythology and architecture.  Swayambhunath’s history and symbolism also make this site one of my favorites in the Kathmandu valley.  Come explore the Monkey Temple with me.

What does Swayambhunath mean?

Monkey at swayambhunath
Monkey at Swayambhunath

Despite the common name “Monkey Temple” Swayambhunath doesn’t mean monkey or temple.  In Tibetan language, it is reference to the many beautiful trees that were once at the site.  The name comes from its mythology; Swayambhu means self-created.

The nickname Monkey Temple also originates from its mythology.

Note: the monkeys are very bad here.  They will steal items like food, water, and combs from you.

Mythology

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Swayambhunath is believed to have originated from a self-created lotus flower growing out of the center of a lake that filled the Kathmandu valley.  An enlightened deity found the lake and decided to drain it by destroying a dam.  After all the water rushed out, the lotus flower was the only thing left.

The deity saw the significance in this and began creating a hill to honor the self-created lotus flower.  In the process or in disobedience to his mother, he let his hair grow long and eventually contracted head lice.  The deity, unfinished with his work left to get the lice removed.  But, when he left, the lice jumped off his head and became the monkeys that roam the temple grounds.

The lotus plant, realizing what had happened, rapidly grew thick and dense.  It turned itself into the hill and its flower became the stupa.

History

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The earliest record of the construction of Swayambhunath is from the 3rd century B.C.  Emperor Ashoka is thought to have built the first temple on the hill, but it was destroyed by an unknown cause.

According to ancient text, the current Swayambhunath was built by King Vrsadeva at the beginning of the 5th century (460-500) A.D.  An engraved stone found on the site identifies a work order for the temple, issued by King Manadeva in 640 A.D.

In the 17th century, the king of Kathmandu, King Malla, ordered the construction of the eastern staircase up to the stupa.

The stupa has been renovated 16 times from its construction to 2018.

Architecture

Swayambhunath has a stupa, multiple shrines and temples, a Tibetan monastery, museum, book store, gift shops, restaurants and a hostel.

The Stupa is a large, white, half sphere with a cube on top of its apex.  Each open side of the cube faces north, east, south, or west.  Painted on the side of the cube are Buddha’s eyes and a nose, which is a number 1.  On top of the cube are 13 tiers and a Gajur at the very top.

The symbolism of Swayambhunath

"Statue

The base of Swayambhunath, half sphere or dome, represents the world.  When a person becomes enlightened, their eyes open and they ascend to the level of Buddha’s eyes.  The 13 tiers above the eyes represent the stages of spiritual realizations needed for Buddhahood.

Buddha’s eyes represent wisdom and compassion. Buddha’s nose, the symbol for #1 represents the unity of all things existing in the world and the path to enlightenment.

How to get to Swayambhunath

If you are staying in or near Thamel, you can walk to the Monkey Temple easily.  Walk west for 40 minutes to get to the bottom of the eastern stairs. You will have to cross a bridge to get there.

You can also get to the stupa by taxi or private car.  If you are brave, you can try your hand at public transportation, but you might end up someplace that’s not Swayambhunath.

It is located on the top of a large hill and is easy to spot, if the sky is clear.

You can also buy a half day tour of Kathmandu and see Swayambhunath and other UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Entrance fee

Occasionally there is someone charging entrance fees at the top of the stairs on the eastern side of the stupa.  The entrance fee is $2.  You can also enter the area for free by coming in from the western entrance and any of the side entrances.

Duration    

Depending on how interested in how much you want to see or experience, you can spend 1 to 3 hours here and be satisfied.  I could spend an hour just watching the monkeys harass people.

When to go

Mornings are the best time to go, any time before 8:00.  Any day of the year is fine too.  Just note you might have to bring rain suits if you go during the monsoon season.

YouTube video

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Langtang Trek Day 6 Lama Hotel to Shyaphru

Langtang Trek Day 6 Lama Hotel to Shyaphru

Langtang trek to Kyanjin Gumba
Kyanjin Gumba, Langshisa Ri, and Ponggen Dopku,

The started like any other multiple day trek.  I woke up ate breakfast and started hiking with my guide.  I had no idea that my day would end with me meeting a Himalayan shaman in Shyaphru and being accepted as his apprentice after a 3-hour ceremony.  My mom always says, “You have no idea where the day will take you!”  This was especially true this day.

Lama Hotel to Shyaphru in 3.5 hours

I was a little sad to be finishing the trek today because I didn’t want to leave it behind.  Looking back on it, Langtang is one of those treks that that isn’t left behind but stays with you.

I took my time getting out of bead at Lama Hotel.  My guide and I got up and ate breakfast at 6:30.  I had a terrible paper mache tasting oatmeal.  Fortunately, it didn’t last long, and we were back on the trail at 7:00.  We ran into a flock of goats on the way down.  Goats are so much fun to play with.  We spent 30 minutes petting them and chasing them around.

We were about an hour into our hike when clouds started to form.  I was a little anxious because I didn’t want to get rained on, but I decided to throw my doubts away and enjoy the experience.  The air grew colder, and crisp mist lightly touched my cheeks as I walked through the forests.  I knew it was going to rain.

langtang river
Langtang River

A group of Nepali men must have sensed it too, because they were hiking extremely fast.  After they past us we didn’t see them again until we rounded a corner overlooking the Langtang River.  There was a deer drinking water at the rivers edge.

About 2 hours later, my guide and I were back in Shyaphru.  Just as we were walking into the hotel, it started to rain. Perfect timing!

Shaman in Shyaphru

I unpacked my gear and tried to pass the time as peacefully as possible, while it rained.  it was too frustrating and I couldn’t contain myself.  I was out playing in the rain like a little kid with rubber boot and rain jacket on.  However, I had neither boot or rain jacket on.  I had a t-shirt and flip flops.

If my friend Sarah is reading this, she is probably shaking her head and thinking he’s going to get sick.  Hi Sarah! I didn’t get sick. So, Ha!

What the rain did was make the Nepali store owners worry about me enough to invite me into their store and out of the rain.  I reluctantly accepted, which led to an awesome conversation about Jhakri.  Jhakri are Himalayan shamans.

The store owner told me there was a shaman in Shyaphru and that I needed to see him.  “The adventure begins,” I thought.  I will see this shaman in Shyaphru.

I went to his house, about a 15-minute walk up a hill, but he wasn’t home.  The store owner said he will be back at night time, and we should come back later to meet him.

Since the rain had stopped, I went back to the hotel and dried off.  I then ate a dal bhat lunch and hung out for a little while.  I still had a lot of energy and decided to walk around Shyaphru again.

At 7:00 I met the shaman in Shyaphru.

The shaman’s ceremony

A shamans alter in Kathmandu
A shamans alter in Kathmandu

It was just after dark and the shops were lighted by the dull yellow glow of incandescent bulbs.  The shaman told me I needed rice, a scarf, and a beer.  This was starting to get weird and I was into it.  I spent 4 and got the requested items.

He took me to his home where his wife was lighting candles and burning incense.  The Jhakri took the rice and poured them into a bronze plate.  I was then instructed to give him a blessing by putting the scarf around his neck.  His wife took the beer and poured it into glasses for everyone to drink.

We talked for a little bit and his wife brought tea for everyone.  (beer and tea together was a first).  He then requested a donation.  I placed $2 in the plate of rice.  He then asked for a larger donation of $15, which kind of made me laugh but also upset me a little.

When I gave it to him, he took the money out of the rice then started sifting through the rice like he was panning for gold.  He moved the rice kernels to one side of the plate and with a slight shift a few kernels fell to the other end of the plate.

The plate was shook until about 12 kernels of rice were separated from the rest of the plate.  I was asked to place the kernels in my right hand and put it to my forehead then repeat the process with my left hand.  After I did this a few times I kept the rice in both hands and shook them by my head 3 times.

I then cast the rice kernels onto an empty plate, which the shaman took.

The shaman’s chant

He took the plate with 12 kernels of rice on it and started to chant while holding the plate over the incense.  The chanting started loud and rhythmic, but as he progressed, it grew softer and became more of a conversation.

He asked for my right hand, then placed the rice in it, paying attention to where and how the rice fell in my hand.  Afterward he read my palm and fingerprints on my right and left hands.

The shaman’s reading

He told me what he saw for 15 minutes.  It was a long reading, all of which I didn’t understand.  At the end of it though, he told me I would become his apprentice when I came back to Nepal.

Imagine that, Craig the shaman.

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Langtang Trek Day 5 Kyanjin Gompa to Kyanjin Ri and back to Lama Hotel

Langtang Trek Day 5 Kyanjin Gompa to Kyanjin Ri and back to Lama Hotel

Langtang trek to Kyanjin Gumba
Kyanjin Gumba, Langshisa Ri, and Ponggen Dopku,

This was the best day of the trek for mountain views.  My guide and I hiked up to Kyanjin Ri for some amazing panorama vistas of the mountains.  We could even see an 8,000er (Shishapangma 8,027m) in China (Tibet).  After our summit, we hiked down to Lama Hotel.  Without further ado, here is Kyanjin Ri.

Kyanjin Ri

I woke up at 5:00 to a beautiful starry night sky.  I threw on a few layers of warm cloths and my guide and I were on the trail by 5:30. Though it was still dark outside the mountains glowed.  They were highlighted in the darkness.  The trail head to Kyanjin Ri is a few minutes from the hotel.  It was extremely easy to find.

After hiking 20 minutes we were half way to the first sightseeing point and the views were incredible.  I was so giddy, I kept stopping every couple of minutes to take pictures.  We made it to the first view point at 7:00.  I could see Naya Kanga, Urking Kanggari, Kangjala Himal, Ponggen Dopku, Dshabu Ri, Gangchenpo, Langshisa Ri Tserko Ri Langtang 2, Langtang Lirung, Changbu, Kinshung, and Langtang Lirung Glacier.

 

Hiking to Kyanjin Ri in Langtang
Hiking to Kyanjin Ri in Langtang

The view point has a bench, mani wall and prayer flags.  The bench faces Yubra Himal, which limits your view of the mountains to Langtang Lirung, Changbu, and Kinshung.  If you do not sit on the bench and walk around a little, you can see it all.

From the view point we ascended another hour to Kyanjin Ri.  The trail led us on top of a narrow mountain ridge with steep slopes on our left and right.  A light amount of snow covered the ground and began to melt, which made the trail slippery and dangerous.

Kyanjin Ri summit

We arrived at the summit just before 8:00.  I stood there smiling my heart out while the mountains spun around me.  I felt like rain man counting cards in a casino.  The sky was starting to be come thick with haze, and a few clouds had formed, so I decided I should take a few pictures.

We could see Langtang Lirung, Changbu, Langtang Lirung Glacier, Kinshung, Yubra, Tserko Peak, Yala Peak Tserko Ri, Langshisa Ri, Pemthang Karpo Ri, Shishapangma (26,289 ft), Dshabu, Ponggen Dopku, Kangjala Himal, Urking Kanggari, Naya Kanga, and many others.

Tserko and Yala Peaks, Shishapangma, Tserko Ri and Langshisa Ri
From left to right: Tserko and Yala Peaks, Shishapangma, Tserko Ri and Langshisa Ri

I just stood there looking at the cairns and mountains and prayer flags.  It was so unbelievable I had to think about it for a time.  I understand why monks go to the mountains to meditate.  The atmosphere is clean and real.  It is just you and the mountains.

I took a few more pictures then headed back down.  I didn’t want to leave, but the clouds were starting to become thick and the views were becoming less viewable.

It took about an hour to make it back to the hotel.  We would have made it back sooner, but somebody peed in the center trail, so I had to walk around it, which proved more difficult on the steep terrain.  I also slipped in the snow melt or what I thought was snow melt a few times.

Trekking to Lama Hotel

We paid our bill and checked out of the hotel.  By 10:00 we were at the edge of the hotel looking back at what we were leaving behind.  Also, at the edge of Kanjin Gompa was Aku.  Aku is a young Nepali woman who operates a travel blog.

We walked the rest of the way to Lama Hotel together.  The trail down was surprisingly long, but it went by fast.  We passed through some of the most beautiful forests in Nepal.  These forests are almost as amazing as the mountains.  It was a real treat to go on this trek.

The forests were primarily oak and had a lot of ferns and moss growing on their trunks.  It was extremely beautiful and peaceful.  We again passed waterfalls cascading from the summits of clouds and cliffs.  We decided to take the direct route through the forest instead of crossing the bridges.  It was a good choice because it saved us a lot of time, we got to stay in the forest, and there were no horse trains to contend with.

Walking through the forest is like walking through peace.  It was like being eternally satisfied.

We came to a clearing where the river met us with its humming waves.  Birds danced over the river catching insects and chirping. The trail coaxed us along and eventually we were back in the forest.  We passed a small village and soon afterward we were back in Lama Hotel.

 

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Langtang Trek Day 4 Mundo to Kyanjin Gompa

Langtang Trek Day 4 Mundo to Kyanjin Gompa

Langtang trek to Kyanjin Gumba
Kyanjin Gompa, Langshisa Ri, and Ponggen Dopku,

We left Buttercups at the Tip Top Hotel and headed for Kyanjin Gompa.  The views on the way were spectacular. We could see Langtang Lirung, Changbu, Kinshung, Urking Kanggari, Ponggen Dopku, Dshabu Ri, Langshisa Ri and many others.  After we arrived in Kyanjin Gompa, I hiked around Kyanjin Ri, and visited Kyanjin Monastery. You are welcome to pin these images and share them on your social media.  They are great!

Trekking to Kyanjin Gompa

mani wall
Mani wall under the clouds (This photo was not taken on this day)

My guide and I woke up extremely early and saw that it was snowing.  We decided to go back to sleep to wait it out.  We woke up at 6:30 and the sky had cleared up.  The sky was a beautiful crystal-clear powder blue with a touch of white haze.  The mountains sparkled like streamers in the sky.  It was going to be a beautiful day.

Langshisa Ri and Shabu Ri Langtang
Langshisa Ri and Shabu Ri while hiking to Kyanjin Gompa

We left Tip Top Hotel and started hiking at 7:00.  The mountain views were amazing.  They were in front of us and behind us.  They were to our left and right.  We were surrounded by mountains.  If you are someone who loves mountains, Kyanjin Gompa is where you want to be.  The Annapurna and Khumbu areas are great too, but its hard not to be inspired by Langtang Himal.

Urking Kanggari in Langtang
Urking Kanggari in Kyanjin Gompa

We passed mani walls covered in snow and a stupa.  I hiked the trail to Kyanjin Gompa completely memorized by the new views.  I had better and better views with each step I took.  Before I knew it, I was in Kyanjin Gompa.

Finding a tea house in Kyanjin Gompa

My guide and I stood on a ridge overlooking the village.  We stood there in silence just looking when a shy little voice caught our attention.
it said: “Please… draw me a sheep.”  I’m just joking; the little prince said that.  The voice that was speaking to us, asked us to stay at her hotel.

We told her maybe and went to a different hotel to check their prices first.  When we returned, she was drawing in the dirt with a stick.
I said: “Take me to your leader!” in the best robot Martian voice I could make.  I don’t think she understood, but she did laugh.  My guide then asked her in a normal voice to take us to her tea house.

We arrived at Tibet Guest House 5 minutes later.  It was a bit expensive but after some negotiation we got the rooms for $5 per night.  I know $10 or $15 is not a lot, but if you don’t bargain for prices, the cost of the rooms will become prohibitive.  An example of this is bottled water.  One bottle of water can range from $3 to $5.  That’s more than at Disney Land!

The rooms were a little dirty, but the sheets were clean (I think).  The rooms had attached bathrooms with western style toilets and electrical outlets.  They had other rooms that were smaller and with out attached bathrooms.  These rooms share a bathroom with an eastern style squat toilet.

Hiking around Kyanjin Gompa

I finished checking in and put my gear in the room.  After I was situated, I started hiking up Kyanjin Ri , which is right next to the hotel.  Unfortunately, clouds started to form, and the entire mountain was covered in condensed water vapor.  I thought there is no sense in climbing up to the top if I couldn’t see, so I climbed down.

Note: Clouds tend to form around 8:30 am.  Your best mountain views are from predawn to 2 hours after.

Kyanjin Gumba Monastery, and Urking Kanggari behind coulds in Langtang
Kyanjin Gompa Monastery, and Urking Kanggari behind clouds in Langtang

I saw a monastery coming down from Kyanjin Ri.  Since I still had the rest of the day with very little to do, I decided to go on a village tour.  I went to the monastery, which was being built and didn’t have much to offer.  There was one monk inside carving a piece of wood into a dragon.

Next, I went to a glacier lake just above the village.  It is a small lake, not even labeled on maps, but it is important for the generation of hydroelectric power.

Then I hiked down and bought a slice of apple pie and carrot cake from a bakery.  They were both disappointing but good.  I remember the apple pie being over spiced with cinnamon and the crust being doughy.  The carrot cake tasted like a vanilla cake mix with carrots and raisins added.  It was crumbly in some parts and chewy in others.

I payed my bill ($7.5) then meandered back to the tea house.  I didn’t do much for the rest of the day.

YouTube video

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Langtang Trek Day 3 Lama Hotel through Langtang to Mundo

Langtang Trek Day 3 Lama Hotel through Langtang to Mundo

Langtang trek to Kyanjin Gumba
Kyanjin Gumba, Langshisa Ri, and Ponggen Dopku,

This part of our journey was amazing.  Hiking up from Lama Hotel we passed a very beautiful rhododendron grove on the river.  The flowers were shades of red and pink. In addition, we had our first real views of the mountains while trekking from Langtang to Mundo.  Also, we went on a side trek in Mundo to see the oldest village in Langtang.  It was very cool.   If you enjoyed reading about day 3, please feel free to share this post or let me know in the comments.

Soupy porridge in Lama Hotel and Trekking

My guide and I woke up and packed our gear at 6:00.  We went to the kitchen and ate breakfast.  I had a bowl of watery porridge, which I was happy to eat.  We started hiking after breakfast.  Lama Hotel is a small village surrounded by forest.

Most of the vegetation outside of Lama Hotel was bamboo.  Oaks and rhododendrons were beta co-dominant.  I remember being disappointed by the forest.  It was aesthetically appealing, but something was out of place.

The forest was immature.  I didn’t realize what was going on until I was in a mature area of the forest.  People were harvesting forest products for timber and fire fuel, which is why it looked out of place.  In the mature area of the forest, there were more trees, ferns, and moss, and less bamboo.

These forests are extremely beautiful and wholesome when not disturbed.  I was a little sad after understanding the affects of tourism on the forest community and my part in its destruction.

We saw a family of monkeys playing in the healthy part of the forest.  There were also more birds singing and rustling around in the trees, and under the ferns.  The trail led us into a pure stand of rhododendrons on the river.  We saw some campers here with survival tents.  They were displaced by the earthquake.

Trekking, rhododendrons, and Langtang

Pink and white and red flowers colored the tree canopies and the river’s edges.  It reminded me of Poon Hill.  The Langtang Trek has traits similar to the Everest Base Camp Trek and the Annapurna Circuit Trek.  The trail has rhododendron trees and is easy to walk on like the Annapurna circuit trail, but dynamic like the Everest Base Camp Trail.  It was nice to find this balance on the Langtang Trek.

Just outside the rhododendron grove we crossed the Langtang river again and trekked through some beautiful sections of the forest.

Note: the trail straight ahead from the rhododendron grove is a cattle trail.  It is a lot faster, but you run the risk of being caught in the middle of a cattle train.

steam in Langtang
Stream through the forest

The trail looped wide and we had a fantastic view of the mountains in the clouds.  We hiked through more forests and came to a ridge over the Langtang River.

There are some amazing waterfalls in this area.  You can see waterfalls on the Langtang, and Kangjala Mountain Ranges. We passed 4 on the hike up to Langtang.

My guide and I crossed the Langtang river again.  The bridge we crossed on was donated by a man who lost his son trying to cross the river.  As we were walking, we heard a thunderous crash.  We turned sharply to see an avalanche.  It was a forceful event that left me a little breathless.

Two Himalayan monals came running out of the brush, looked around then ran back into the brush.  They were beautiful to see.  After we passed the commotion, we descended on to a glacier moraine that looked exactly like the one in Gorak Shep near Everest Base Camp.  Langtang was on the other side of the moraine.

Langtang Village to Mundo

Langtang village in ruins
Rebuilding after the earthquake

I was surprised to see most of Langtang Village in ruins.  I thought that the relief effort would have given them a boost and fostered growth.  Most of the relief money was siphoned into the pockets of undeserving individuals.  You can read this article on what to expect before coming to Nepal to find out more.

As we passed through, we found quite a few people rebuilding their houses and hotels.  At the end of Langtang we were stopped by at a police checkpoint.  They were mainly concerned with the entrance permit, but they did check my TIMS card too.

Since we still had a lot of time left in the day, we continued to Mundo.  Mundo was 30 minutes further from Langtang Village.  We stayed in the Tip Top Hotel, which is the first hotel on the left.  They charged 5$ per night but the food was cheaper than the other guest houses and it was delicious.

The rooms in Tip Top were very nice.  Each room is about 81 square feet with two single beds, charging outlet, and an attached bathroom.  The toilets are western style flush toilets, but you have to pour water in the bowl to flush them.  Warm showers are available upon request.  The water is warmed by a solar heater, so it must be a warm sunny day to have a hot shower.

The hotel has a horse named buttercups.  They let me name her!  She is the sweetest thing. Sometimes she stands outside the hotel and looks in at you through the window.  She will let you pet her and feed her apples, which is a lot of fun.

The only authentic village in Langtang

My guide and I were talking to the hotel owner.  He told us about an old village 5 minutes behind the hotel and near the cliff.  He said it was the only original village in Langtang.  All the other villages like Bamboo, and Lama Hotel were started by people from Kathmandu or outside the area.

There are about 7 to 10 houses in the old village, but most of them are unoccupied.  The houses were made from wood, which looked very dark, but the color could have been from paint or stain.  It takes 10 minutes to walk through the village.  If you have 20 minutes to spare, I recommend visiting the area.

YouTube video

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Langtang Trek Day 2 Syaphru to Lama Hotel

Langtang Trek Day 2 Shyaphru to Lama Hotel

Langtang trek to Kyanjin Gumba
Kyanjin Gumba, Langshisa Ri, and Ponggen Dopku,

In this blog post, we follow the Langtang river from Shyaphru to Lama Hotel.  We pass through Bamboo, which has occasional falling rocks to look out for, and some beautiful forests.  Most of the mountains were covered by clouds, which prevented me from taking a lot of mountain photos.  Otherwise it was a great first day hiking!  I hope you enjoy it.

So long Shyaphru, hello Lama Hotel

My guide and I woke up and left the hotel at 7:30. There was no reason to stick around for a terrible breakfast.  We could eat one of those on the trail.  My guide asked the hotel owner for the quickest route to the trail, as we were leaving.  The women pointed us in the exact opposite direction of the trail.  My guide knew exactly what she was doing, therefore we went the way he knew.

Syaphru Besi Monastery
Syaphru Besi Monastery

We crossed the Bhote Koshi river to Shyaphru Besi.  There has been a lot of development work in Shyaphru Besi.  The city center has a concrete walk way courtesy of a German company.  There is also a very nice monastery with a Himalayan cherry tree in the back.  Just outside the village is a bridge that crosses the Langtang river.  We stayed on the North side of the river, but both sides are pleasant to walk on.

Our trail led us through a desert savanna type ecosystem with a lot of succulents and grasses. In addition, there were a few trees and a lot of monkeys.  It was fun to watch them play for a few minutes.

The trail along the river was extremely pleasant to walk on.  It had a very gradual slope and nice views of the Langtang river.  The mountain views were restricted by the clouds looming overhead, but I’m sure if they weren’t there, the views would be fantastic.

We passed through a small village then crossed the river on a metal bridge.  The trail continued up the hill then disappeared.  My guide pointed out the trail, which saved me an hour of wondering around with a stupid look on my face.

Trekking through a pristine jungle forest

The trail led us through a pristine deciduous forest and jungle above the river.  As we climbed though, we came to a side trail that lead to Gosaikunda Lake.  Once again, I was happy I had my guide, because I would have gotten lost on the wrong trail.

The correct trail descended into the forest once more.  The forest was beautiful, because it was open and dense and covered in moss.  We were walking right above the river and could hear the water rumbling against the rocks and the birds singing in the trees.

The forest looked like spring but smelled like fall.  It was a subtropical temperate deciduous jungle.  You could smell the leaves and the earth and the rain; you could see the shades of green and new growth precipitously thrown onto the landscape by the vegetation.

There wasn’t a soul around us.  It was so peaceful.  A breeze wondered into the jungle fluttering the leaves like wind chimes and cooling us down.  How nice it was.

Himalayan bees
Himalayan bees, Apis dorsata laboriosa

A little further the forest opened to show a cliff with an overhang.  Under the overhang were multiple colonies of Himalayan honey bees.  It was cool to see, especially after watching the YouTube video at the end of this post.

We came to Hot Spring Hotel, where my guide ordered food and I started talking with the owner.  She said the hot spring has dried up to the size of a “puddle.”  She also mentioned that to get to it they must build a bridge, which is washed away during each monsoon season.  Lastly, she told me that they aren’t building the bridge anymore because it isn’t worth it.

Hiking through Bamboo to Lama Hotel.

langtang sign in Bamboo
Stay away from falling rocks in Bamboo

We found Bamboo a short distance from Hot Spring Hotel.  It is a little village under a rock fall zone.  I would not recommend staying here for safety reason, but a lot of people do.  I admit, it is a nice place, but it is expensive.

As we were leaving Bamboo, we crossed a small wooden bridge and entered a very different forest that reminded me of the Appalachian wilderness.  It was a small grove of slender birch like trees that were probably planted for firewood.

The forest soon returned to its normal lush green character. We also saw more monkeys walking around on the mountain and had an amazing time hiking.  After a little way further, we crossed another bridge to the other side of Langtang river and found shop keeper selling overpriced goods in an outdoor tarped store.

We rested for a bit then continued.  Just outside the shop the vegetation changed to bamboo with oaks and rhododendrons.  Most of the rhododendrons were not in bloom, but a few had flowers on them.  At this point the trail became a little steeper, however still very easy and walkable.

We passed a very beautiful water fall that was on the opposite side of the river between two mountain ridges.  The water seemed to pour through rocks and into other rocks.  It was remarkable to watch.

waterfall in Langtang
waterfall in Langtang

My guide and I stopped for lunch in Rimche.  It was rather expensive at $3 for a bowl of chow mein noodles.  From here, Lama Hotel was 30 minutes away.

Lama Hotel

We arrived in Lama Hotel at 3:00.  Lama Hotel is not a hotel (I know, it fooled me too).  It is a small village a few minutes’ walk from the river. It has 8 to 12 nice sized hotels.  Some of the hotels will let you stay there for free, if you buy their food.  Others will get mad if you ask them for this deal.  I stayed at the Sherpa Lodge.

The Sherpa Lodge is the first hotel on the right-hand side of Lama Hotel.  It has about 16 rooms that it rents out as well as dining room floor space.

The 70 square foot rooms come with a single bed or double beds.  The walls of the rooms are made of exposed rock, which are either left bare or covered with wood.  You can see through the walls in some places. Tarps cover the ceilings to prevent debris from falling on you.

There are two common bathrooms outside behind the dining hall.  The bathrooms are eastern style squat toilets.  A separate shower facility is also available.  They claim to have hot water, but I didn’t check.

The kitchen food is ok and expensive.  You can buy a large bag of muesli for a few dollars at a general store above the hotel or buy a small bowl of it for $5 at the hotel.

YouTube video

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Langtang Trek day 1

Langtang Trek Day 1

Langtang trek to Kyanjin Gumba
Kyanjin Gumba, Langshisa Ri, and Ponggen Dopku,

The Langtang Trek is my second favorite trek in Nepal.  I love the sights, the smells, and the sounds, but I will get to those descriptions later.  Day 1 of my Langtang Trek was primarily just an 8-hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Syabrubesi.  Day 1 is kind of an interesting story and a prelude into the trek.  Kick back, relax, and enjoy the post.

Leaving Kathmandu

I woke up in Kathmandu at 6:00.  The bus stop to Syaphrubesi was a 30-minute drive away and I had to be there by 7:00.  I hired a guide for this Langtang Trek and he was more excited than I was.  We were out the door and in a taxi by 6:20. That’s pretty good.

Normally Kathmandu is a giant dust bowl with traffic.  This morning though, most of the dust settled and you could breathe without getting sick.  We passed a flipped over 3-wheeler, which delayed us a few minutes, but we made it to the bus stop on time.

By 7:30 the we were cruising the streets of Kathmandu on our way to Syaphrubesi.  The bus took an obscure route making the ride enjoyable but long.  We made it to the ridge of the Kathmandu valley 30 minutes later, and you could see the dust and pollution starting to grow.  I was glad to be out of that nasty mess.

The landscape quickly changed from piles of garbage and pollution to beautiful jungles and hills.  I could only imagine what Kathmandu would have looked like before colonization.  Hindu text says it was a giant lake with a single lotus flower growing from the center.

We twirled around on the road like doodle bugs in the sand until we crested the ridge and descended into Kakani.  The roads flattened and straightened out.  Kakani reminded me of Kathmandu without the pollution and population issues, but it is growing.  We passed a lot of construction sites, which only painted a gloomy picture of the future.

Driving to Dunche

The road to Syaphrubesi is paved in some sections and not in others.  Despite the quality of the road, it was still a more enjoyable ride than the bus trip from Jomsom to Tatopani on the Annapurna Circuit.  If you are prone to car sickness, this may be a terrible experience for you.  You can try taking a window seat in the front of the bus or a private car to alleviate the motion sickness.

We passed Ranipauwa and crossed Tadi river.  A few minutes later, just before Bidur, we started following the Trishuli River, which is an excellent river for white water rafting.  We passed a few waterfalls too that were more like water cascades than falls, but they were still nice to see.

After Trishuli village the road gradually became steeper and we started climbing.  We crossed green valleys and terraced farms.  Most of the farms were rice paddies, but some had potatoes and tomatoes.  We climbed a higher and the surrounds became jungle, thick with underbrush.

The jungle gave way to dry shrub brush and steep rocky slopes.  We had entered a new climatic zone.  I was happy because I was getting a chance to see a new part of Nepal.  But, I was also a little nervous because of the steep cliffs the bus was driving next to.

I have been on scarier roads in Nepal, but there were a few sections I didn’t care to see how far we would fall if the bus slipped off the road or if the road eroded off the mountain.  It was a long way down.

I started to see rhododendron trees as I was trying not to look down.  There were not a lot of trees and few had flowers, but it was something to distract me from the danger on the side of the bus.  Before I knew it, we were entering Dhunche.

Dhunche to Shyaphrubesi

We stopped at a checkpoint in Dhunche.  All tourist exited the bus and took their bags to be inspected.  There was also a passport, TIMS card, and entrance permit checking counter.  You can buy an entrance permit and TIMS card at the ticket counter, but it is more expensive.

Langtang ticket counter
Langtang ticket counter

The bag and entrance permit check delayed the bus 30 minutes, but we were back on the road before long.  The bus stopped at a second checkpoint that again checked everyone’s passports, TIMS cards, and Entrance permits.

TIMS cards
Individual and Group TIMS cards

We arrived in Shyaphrubesi at 3:30. We were greeted by another police check point that was checking TIMS cards.  From here, we began looking into hotels to stay at.  I wanted to stay at the end of the main street, which I regret now, because the hotels are not that great there.

Every hotel in Shyaphrubesi charged for a room.  The cheapest room I found was for $2 per night.  The rooms were ok, but the food was terrible, and the owner was mean.  They had western style flush toilets but most of them were broken.

Buddha Guest House might be a better option.  I didn’t stay there, but heard it was nice.  You can expect to pay $5 to $10 per night.

Also, do not eat at the Moonlight Café!  It is the only bakery in Shyaphrubesi.  I heard multiple accounts of people eating there and getting sick.

My guide and I spent the rest of the day walking around the village and talking with the locals.

Youtube video

This video can cause motion sickness!

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Preparing for the Langtang Trek

Preparing for the Langtang Trek

Langtang trek to Kyanjin Gumba
Kyanjin Gumba, Langshisa Ri, and Ponggen Dopku,

The Langtang Trek is an excellent trail for beginners and advanced hikers.  It has a lot of great qualities that made this trek a wonderful experience.  My favorite parts of this trek are its duration, landscapes, forests, and wildlife.  The trails are very easy to walk on and there are a lot of spots to rest and spend the night.  The primary trail ends in Kyanjin Gompa (pictured above), where you can extend your trek to side trails, which are a little more difficult to maneuver.

In this blog post I will review the necessities of the Langtang Trek.  You will learn about where to buy your TIMS card and entrance permit, where to stay, what to look out for, how much it costs, what to pack, the best time to go, and to top it off, you will receive a great itinerary courtesy of Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure!

Permits in Kathmandu

I went to the Immigration office in Kathmandu.  Just inside the building there was a receptionist that directed me to a room on my left.  There is also a room next door to it where you can get information and resources for your treks.  You will want to do your research and data collection in advance because they do not have a lot of information available.

The primary room is partitioned into smaller rooms.  Each room sells a different trekking permit.  I noticed three rooms.  One room was for Annapurna, a second room was for Everest, and the third room was for Langtang.  I didn’t see it but there is also another room for restricted areas and other treks.

TIMS cards
Individual and Group TIMS cards (trekker’s information management system)

The room I wanted was at the far end and on the left.  I asked the man at the front desk to purchase a TIMS card for individual trekkers, and an entrance permit for the Langtang National Park and Reserve.  He gave me a blank TIMS card, asked me to fill it out and return it with my passport and two passport pictures.

The TIMS card was 2000 rupees and the Langtang entrance permit was 3000 rupees with a 13% tax.  In addition, the guy charged me an additional 10 rupees.  I asked him for additional information about the trek and he sent me to the tourist resources room.  When I asked them about it they sent me back to the man overcharging for permits.

I realized quickly that they both didn’t have anything to offer but were too embarrassed to say, so I left.  This is a very culturally acceptable thing to do and is done frequently in Nepal.  If you run into this problem, understand that it is there way of saving face.

Permits entering the Langtang Conservation area

Langtang ticket counter
Langtang ticket counter

If you are pressed for time or can’t find the immigration office, you can buy your permit in Dhunche.  There is a police checkpoint here, that checks everyone’s bags and permits.  You can also receive a trekking map in the office, which is nice.

You can also buy a TIMS card in Dhunche, but It is more expensive.  The permit and TIMS card are about double the standard price in Dhunche.

If you don’t want to risk it, you can have Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure arrange for your TIMS card and entrance permit.

Where to stay?

This is a bit of a tricky question.  It depends on how far you want to hike per day.  I recommend staying in Syabrubesi on the eve of your trek, then hiking past Bamboo to Lamahotel.  After your second night you will want to hike past Langtang and stay in Mundo.  On your last night hiking up the trail, I recommend staying in Kyanjin Gompa.  This place has the best views and is the starting point of advanced trails that take you further into the mountains and glaciers.

If you have more time and would like to hike half days, you can start in Syabrubesi then stay in each of the villages you come to.  These villages are Bamboo, Lhama Hotel, Langtang, Mundo, and Kyanjin Gompa.

Note: Most of the villages that sustained damage from the 2015 major quake are being rebuilt.  These areas are now at a capacity to accept a limited number of trekkers.

Try this itinerary for a new twist on an old trek

Day 01: Meet guide in Kathmandu and check in to a hotel. Enjoy free time.

Day 02: Travel to Syabrubesi. -07 hrs

Day 03: Trek to Sherpagaon. -06 hrs

Day 04: Trek to Thyangsyap village. -06 hrs

Day 05: Trek to Kyanjin Gompa. -04 hrs

Day 06: Spend a day in Kyanjin to acclimate and go on day hikes

Day 07: Trek to Lama Hotel. -07 hrs

Day 8: Trek to Syabru village. -06 hrs

Day 9: Trek to Singh Gomba/ Chandanbari. -05 hrs

Day 10: Finish the trek in Dhunche. -05 hrs

Day 11: Travel Kathmandu and check into a hotel. -05 hrs

What to look out for

Himalayan bees
Himalayan bees, Apis dorsata laboriosa

Langtang is full of wildlife. You can see the largest honey bee in the world, deer, red pandas, monkeys, Himalayan thar, bears, and many others.  You can also see a lot of different kinds of wild flowers and plants.  I am quite fond of the rhododendrons, but there are many other favorites.

wild iris
wild iris

None of the plants or animals pose any major threat and chances are, you will probably not see any bears or big cats. Being mindful of the surrounds will ensure you have the best opportunities to stay safe and have an amazing trip.

Butterfly in the leaves
Butterfly in the leaves. (how many do you see?)

How much does it cost?

That’s a tricky question.  It depends on how long you stay, where you stay, what you eat, and your guide and porter.  The short answer is $54 dollars! But that only covers the TIMS card and the entrance fee.  Food and lodging are not accounted for.  If you book your trek through Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure, your trek will cost $1,250.  This price includes all transportation, all meals, all hotels and lodges, a guide and a porter.

If you do not wish to have an all-inclusive trip you can contact us, and we will cater to your wants.

Packing list

One of the things I really like about the Langtang trek is how little you need.  But be careful you will be trekking through a series of different climatic zones ranging from tropical to alpine.  The following packing list is for an 11-day trek.

  • 11 pairs of socks (if you don’t wear socks, you can cross it off the list)
  • Light weight trekking pants
  • 11 pairs of underwear (if you can get around with fewer, great!)
  • Light t shirt
  • Medium weight long sleeve shirt
  • Light weight jacket
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat

Optional gear

  • Sunscreen
  • Band-Aids
  • Toilet paper
  • Crampons (depending on the season)
  • Rain jacket (depending on the season)
  • Mosquito repellent not normally needed but considered
  • Gloves
  • Water bottle
  • Thermals
  • Pillow case
  • Sleeping bag

Best time to go

The best months to trek the Langtang trail are October, November, March, and April.  These months are in the fall and spring seasons.  However, if you want to go on a pilgrimage to Gosaikunda Lake, which is off the main trail, you will want to go in August.

During October and November, you will have the best mountain and scenic views.  You may also have a difficult time finding a place to stay because this is the busiest season in Nepal.

During March and April, you will have more cloudy days, but there are a lot less people to contend with.  I had a phenomenal experience when I did the trek in late March and early April.  I had 3 days of clouds and 3 days of perfect weather.

Youtube video

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Ghoripani Poon Hill Trek Day 2

Ghoripani Poon Hill Trek Day 2 Poon Hill

Rhododendron forest and Dhaulagiri range above Poon Hill
Rhododendron forest and Dhaulagiri range above Poon Hill

This blog post contains day 2 of our Ghoripani Poon Hill Trek and sight seeing tour.  To read about day 1 and how we came this far you can read Ghoripani Poon Hill day 1 and Annapurna Circuit Trek day 1.  This day was the best day for seeing spectacular landscapes and amazing rhododendron flowers.  The trail down to Nayapul was almost as amazing as hike up to Poon Hill; The rhododendron forests are enchanting.  This is my favorite trek.  I hope you enjoy it.

Morning Hike to Poon Hill

rhododendron forest and Dhaulagiri
rhododendron forest and Dhaulagiri 1

I woke up to the metallic “thank” and soft “thuds” of trekking poles and boots outside my room.  It was 5:00 in the morning and I wondered sleepily, “what are they doing out there?”  My eyes burst open 15 minutes later and I yelled “Poon Hill!”  I had to leave now if I was going to make it to the top for the sun rise.

I knocked on my guides door and he was still getting ready, so I waited for him in the dining room.  The owners asked if I wanted breakfast now or when I returned.  I opted for when we returned.  My guide came out of his room and we left for Poon Hill.

We joined a mass migration of people moving up the hill.  It was like a heard of buffaloes on the Midwestern plains.  I couldn’t believe how many people there were.

We were stopped by a ticket station as we started to climb to the top.  They were charging non-Nepali citizens $0.5 for entrance into the “Poon Hill Conservation Area.” A lot of people did not want to wait in line, so they went around the ticketing station.  The booth operators put up a bit of a fuss but did not stop anybody.  It was too cold and dark.

We began the 1,300-foot climb to Poon hill, which is at an elevation of 10,500 feet.  Trying to get to the top was like dodging the horse trains we encountered on the way up or like playing Frogger.  If you are a slower walker, please stay to one side of the trail.

Morning light at the top of Poon Hill

Poon Hill Sunrise Trek
Sunrise over the Annapurna Massif, Hiun Chuli, Gangapurna, Machhapuchhre

I came to a view point about half way to the top of the hill.  There is a cell phone tower and toilets here.  It also offered some great views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges.  When I arrived at this lookout post it was still dark, since I still had some time I kept going.

The path was surrounded by huge rhododendron trees that arched over the trail.  It was like walking through the Wisteria Tunnel in Japan.  It was incredible.

By the time I made it to the top of Poon Hill (20 mins later), the sky was getting lighter.  The sun still hadn’t rose yet, but you could see the mountains through a mild haze.  I raced up to the top of a viewing platform and started taking pictures.  However, most of the pictures did not turn out well.

Gurja Himal, Dhaulagiri 6, Jirbang, Dhaulagiri 4, 5, 3, 2, 1, and Tukuche Peak
Dhaulagiri mountain range over Poon Hill

The vista was awe inspiring and almost spiritual.  You can see the entire Dhaulagiri mountain range (Dhaulagiri 1, 26,795 ft), Nilgiri Himal, Annapurna 1 (26,545 ft), Anapurna South, Hiun Chuli, Gangapurna, and Machhapuchhre. You can see two of the tallest mountains in the world at one vantage point.

Annapurna Masiff
Annapurna Massif: Niligiri, Annapurna 1, Annapurna S, Hiun Chuli, Gangapurna, Machhapuchhre

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more beautiful, the sun started to rise.  The sun gently and slowly covered the tops of the mountains with pink and gold and clear light.  It eventually rose above Machhapuchhre and for a fraction of a second the mountains had pink halos and the sky was exceptionally clear.

Hiking down

Pink rhododendron flowers
Pink rhododendron flowers

A few moments later the halos were gone, and clouds started to block the views of the mountains.  It was time to go down.  Before returning, I took a few minutes to look around.  There was a coffee shop selling coffee and tea for $2 to $6 per cup.  I could understand drinking a hot beverage for warmth, because it was cold. I could not understand needing a coffee to wake up because the mountains were so amazing.

We began walking down to Ghoripani.  It was nice seeing the trail in decent lighting.  At sections the trees opened, and you could see the mountain side completely covered in red and pink blooms.  I took a few pictures and arrived at my hotel before I knew it.

We ate breakfast in silence at the hotel.  I was trying to remember everything I saw on top of Poon Hill.  The memories are still vivid months later.

After paying for the bill, we started hiking down to Nayapul.  This trail was about as beautiful as the trail up to Poon Hill.  Old and giant trees shaded the trail with their leaves while the sun shone through the semi opaque flowers casting red and pink spars of light on the forest floor.  Some of the trees had exposed roots that were gnarled around rocks and covered in green moss.

The trail began to clear of rhododendrons and were replaced by small villages.  It was sad to see it go.  More and more people began to pass us going up the trail and you could see their faces glow with excitement and anticipation.  They would not be disappointed.

Catching a ride to Nayapul and Pokhara

We crossed the Bhurungdi River in Ulleri and hiked a little further to Tikhedhungga.  It was at this point that the trail merged with a road and cars constantly passed us kicking up dust.  Since we still had a long way to go, my guide and I decided to take a taxi to Nayapul.

Pro tip: always bargain with taxi drivers and venders.  They anticipate it and mark up the prices to come down.

My taxi driver wanted to charge me $20 for the ride.  I started negotiating the price with him in Nepali and he came down to $3 per person.  The thing that made me the happiest was that he didn’t charge a different rate for the guide, because most people will charge Nepali people a lot less.

We passed a lot of people on our way to Nayapul.  I felt so bad because I know how horrible it is to walk in a cloud of dust.

We made it to Nayapul and caught a bus to Pokhara.  It was an amazing trip.

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Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek

Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek

Rhododendron forest and Dhaulagiri range above Poon Hill
Rhododendron forest and Dhaulagiri range above Poon Hill

This was a short 2-day trek extension of my Annapurna Circuit trek.  We started in the trek in Tatopani after finishing the Annapurna Circuit Trail.  We made it to Ghorepani in 7.5 hours.  The Ghorepani Poon Hill trek was very pleasant with few annoyances.  I met a very nice school teacher on the trail and saw some cool orchids.  The highlight of the trek was hiking through the amazing rhododendron forests.  So beautiful.  If you love flowers, hiking, or amazing mountain vistas, keep reading; this blog post is for you.  Feel free to pin these images to your Pinterest account, if you have one.

Waving good bye to the hot water springs

I arrived in Tatopani at night time.  This only left enough time for dinner and sleep.  I woke up this morning at about 5:45, packed my gear, and met my guide for breakfast at 6:30.  We were on the trail by 7:00.  This did not give us an opportunity to relax in the hot springs.  Therefore, we skipped them completely. I regret it a little because I don’t have pictures to show you.

We walked through Tatopani for 20 minutes before we had to transfer to the main road.  At the road there was an ACAP check point.  We didn’t have to wait in line or breath in clouds of dust because there wasn’t a lot of traffic this early in the morning. We walked on the road for 15 minutes before hiking over a bridge and transferring to a nicer hiking trail.

Nilgiri south above Tatopani
Nilgiri south above Tatopani

I had the most amazing view of Nilgiri South as we were crossing over the bridge.  Nilgiri stuck with us for most of the trek to Ghorepani.  We could also see Annapurna South too.  The vegetation at this point in the trek was tropical.  I saw one cool species of orchid.  My friend later identified it as Dendrobium longicornu.

Orchids
Orchids on a tree

The trail to Ghoripani Poon Hill

As I hiked up the mountain the climate became cooler and the vegetation changed to deciduous oaks and pines.  I was starting to get very upset because I was promised rhododendrons; so far, I had not seen any.

My guide and I came to a small trail leading straight up the hill.  He asked if I wanted to take it.  I opted for the longer flatter trail.  He took the side trail and told me he would meet me at the top of the road.  I didn’t see him again until I got to Ghoripani.

The trail had merged with the road, and it was coated with the finest silt.  I instantly regretted not going up the side trail with my guide because a car came and wrecked my lungs with dirt.  I felt like I was breathing clods of dirt and my lungs felt like they were filled with kerosene.  It hurt so bad.

I met a school teacher, at about this time, who was also hiking up to Ghoripani Poon Hill.  It was nice to walk with somebody other than my guide.  We passed several small villages Ghara, and Shikha with only the excitement of the day to day activities of rural village life.

As I climbed higher the mountains in the background steadily and proudly rose up and made themselves known.

Lunch in Chitre

We stopped in Chitre, and my new trekking partner had some lunch.  I watched a young boy with a mental impairment roll a large stone to the edge of a retaining wall over a major walk way.

It looked like a setup from the Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner show.  I couldn’t wait as I was already starting to get the giggles.

The young boy waited there until somebody walked passed and then pushed it over the edge.  It narrowly missed a man, who became furious.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  It was like watching my childhood cartoons come to life.

The man started yelling at this kid and tried to hit him several times.  But the kid was way out of reach, at least 4 feet above the man.  It was entertaining to watch the madness ensue until it became obvious that the child, despite his chromosomal oddity, was still smarter than the man trying to hit him.

The kids mother came out and yelled at the man, then took the kid inside her house.

“Well, are you ready to go?” I asked my new trekking friend.  She had her face stuffed with a sandwich and muffled out “foal awn, et me fem”, which I translated to: hold on, let me finish.  I walked around for a few more minutes.

The rhododendrons are in bloom

Red Rhododendrons
Red Rhododendrons

We started trekking again.  Soon after leaving Chitre, we came to a beautiful old growth rhododendron grove.  The grove was about 12 trees large, but they were in full bloom and beautiful.  They grew on a hill overlooking the mountains.  It was extremely picturesque, but also cloudy.

I took pictures for 15 minutes before continuing.  From here onward the trail was lined by beautiful trees in bloom.

We passed another village with an ACAP check point.  “Oh, you cotton headed ninny muggins”, I thought to myself.  My guide has my TIMS card and ACA permit.  The only thing I could do was to go talk to the officer and explain my situation.

The officer was extremely nice.  She said it was ok to go ahead because my guide will check in for me.  I asked my guide about it later and he said he checked in.

After we hiked for another 15 minutes up the trail we hear “ding, ding” and “clickity clack.” A horse train was carrying supplies up to Ghoripani Poon Hill. It was cool to see the horses with bells around their necks walking up the trail.

About 30 minutes away from Ghoripani Poon Hill, the landscape ignited with color.  The trees displayed deep vivid reds and bright fluorescent pink flowers.  A few other trees had starchy white flowers.

The whole scene resembled an intricately embroidered sari with random and chaotic designs.  The landscape looked like red hot glowing coals spread across green silk.  It was stunning to see.

From this point on the hike was exceptionally blissful!  The rhododendron forest was amazing.  The flowers popped off the trees like a jubilee of fireworks celebrating the coming monsoon rains.

Entering Ghoripani Poon Hill

Ghoripani Poon Hill enterance
Ghoripani Poon Hill enterance

The trail coming into Ghoripani Poon Hill is cobbled with flat stones and the trees tower over you like a starry night sky.  When you reach Ghoripani, the trees give way to developments, concrete and a bustling market place.

The city is small with about a dozen hotels 4 shops and a rather seedy pool hall.  Tibetan handicraft vendors line the narrow streets.  They don really bother you, unless you start looking at their products.  Then they won’t leave you alone.

I walked around a little bit, talking to the hotel owners and seeing which places suite me.  I eventually settled on the Annapurna View Lodge Hotel and Restaurant.  It was inexpensive with decent amenities and the owners were extremely nice.

The Annapurna View Lodge Hotel and Restaurant has hot showers, eastern style toilets and very clean rooms. The rooms did smell a little like cigarettes though.  The rooms are less than 100 square feet and do not have a charging outlet.

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 9 Muktinath through Kagbeni to Jomsom

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 9 Muktinath through Kagbeni to Jomsom

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

On day 9 of our Annapurna Circuit Trek we trekked from Muktinath through Kagbeni to Jomsom where we took a bus to Tatopani.  This was the last day of our circuit trek, in addition it was also the longest.  because we traveled for so long it was dark before we reached Tatopani, which made the road conditions extremely dangerous.  We crossed the desert plains of mustang, scoured the back allies of Muktinath, and braved the treacherous roads of Jomsom to bring you this blog post.  Please, if you have a Pinterest account, pin any of the photos you want.  With that, kick back, relax, and enjoy the entertainment.

If you missed crossing Thorang La pass you can access it here.

Muktinath before dawn

Dhaulagiri and range above Muktinath
Dhaulagiri and range above Muktinath. Dhaulagiri 1 is on the far left.

I woke up early to take pictures of the Dhaulagiri mountain range.  The sun had not risen above the mountains and the sky was still clear.  I had about 30 minutes to climb to the statue above the hotel and take some pictures before we left for Jomsom.

I had an excellent panorama view of the Dhaulagiri mountains at the statue.  Dhaulagiri 1 (26,795 feet) was easily recognizable as the southern most peak in the range.

I made it back to the hotel and ate breakfast porridge with my guide.  My guide was excited to talk with me about his planned route to Jomsom.  It was exciting to listen to him explain the itinerary.  I eagerly ate my way through breakfast as I was anticipating the days adventure.

We set out, after breakfast, scouring back allies and remote parts of the village on an alternate side trail.  It was a lot of fun seeing the rarely visited areas of Muktinath.  The trail lead us north across the valley and to the sunny side of the mountains in Jhong.

We crossed a suspension bridge and had phenomenal views of Dajong Paldip and Thorung Peak.  We could also see the Dhaulagiri range.  Just as we were coming into the outskirts of Jhong an old drunk guy stuck his head out a window, like Jack Nicholson in the Shining, and started yelling at us.

He said, “You’re going the wrong way!”  I replied, “there is no wrong way, just strait ahead.”  My response seemed to confuse the man and he pulled his head into the house like a turtle retreating within its shell.

Inside Jhong

A few minutes later we were inside Jhong.  The next thing I knew was we was being run off the road by a runaway donkey and a couple of chickens.  The runaway pack was followed by a man yelling “whaha, whaha.”  I think this is the Nepali equivalent of “whoa.”

Sakya-Pa Gompa in Jhong
Sakya-Pa Gompa in Jhong

After the stampede passed we continued on the path, eventually coming to an old fortress.  The building has long since deteriorated to a few standing walls.  The ruin was Sakya-pa Gompa.  It was rebuilt on a separate site as a hotel and has excellent views of the Dhaulagiri range.

As we were leaving Jhong, we passed a beautiful apple orchard.  I could tell the owner deeply cared for the farm and took good care of it.  Looking back at it from the trail, it sat under the Dajong Paldip and Thorung Peak mountains.  It was picturesque.

The trail to Kagbeni

seepage spring
salty spring

We crossed Mustangs barren plains and came across two seepage springs that had large salt deposits around them.  It was very cool to see.  I felt like a nomad crossing the dessert when I was walking along this section of the trail.  It reminded me of the Sahara Desert but with a lot less sand.  The terrain was composed of rolling hills and sparse shrubs and grass.

The terrain changed to rocky as we approached Kagbeni.  I realized quickly that we were on the old Gandaki River bed.  The rocks were smooth and rounded; there were layers of different colored sediment on the earthen shelfs lining the trail.

I uncovered some shell fossils poking around in the clay and rocks.  I left them in their place and covered them.  They are cool to see but illegal to take with you.  If you find any fossils, please do not take them with you.

I was happy to play archeologist for a short while.  It always reminds me of going treasure hunting as a kid.  Unfortunately, I had to stop playing in the dirt and start hiking again.  We came to look out point where you could see up the Gandaki River for a few miles.  There was a small farming village on the other side of the river too.  It looked very prosperous and peaceful.

I saw my guide hike down and around a rock.  That was my que to hurry up and stop admiring the scenery.  I made it to the rock where my guide disappeared behind, and he wasn’t there.  But what was there was a steep cliff! “dang,” I thought.  “My guide fell off the cliff.”

In Kagbeni

Tilicho Peak, Nilgiri, Annapurna 1, Kagbeni
Tilicho Peak, Nilgiri, Annapurna 1, Kagbeni

I looked down to see if I could see him.  I could only see rocks and the Gandaki river.  “What do I do now?”  I slowly walked down a very steep path.  The view of Kagbeni from this vantage point was beautiful.  I was too worried about my guide to appreciate it though.

When I made it to the bottom in the outskirts of Kagbeni, I found my guide alive and waiting for me.  I was relieved and happy because he was alive and Kagbeni is beautiful.  If you are planning a trip, make sure to factor in an extra day to stay here and explore the city.

We were pressed for time because we had to catch the bus to be in Tatopani by nightfall.  I knew we had to be in Jomsom to catch the bus, but Kagbeni was so beautiful I had to walk at a slower than normal pace to take it in.

There are elaborate water channels that run through the village.  There is also an amazing temple in the north end of town.  Most of the buildings in the village are made with cobblestones and mud with wood beams.  The buildings walls are tall, which almost guarantees shady pathways.

Just outside the village are plots of green farms on one side and the Gandaki river on the other.  Above the river are old houses carved into a cliff.  My guide told me, Kagbeni was established from the residents of those old houses.

rock dwellings
rock dwellings

The trail to Jomsom

The trail outside of Kagbeni followed the road for some distance then dropped down to a trail alongside the Gandaki River.  There was a lot of development along the road when I was hiking by.  In 10 more years, you will probably be able to do the entire circuit by car.

Hiking next to the river was fun.  There were not any cars kicking up dust, the breeze coming off the river was fresh and cooling, and the trail sloped slightly downhill.  We passed a few villages on both sides of the river as well as old cliff dwellings.  We had ok views of the Dhaulagiri range too.

It is about 7 miles from Kagbeni to Jomsom.  We hiked it in about 2.5 hours.  We stopped at a few locations to rest or grab a bite to eat too.  As we were coming closer to Jomsom the main road was out of order, due to a landslide, and all the road traffic was diverted to the trekking trail.  The last two miles were miserable.

The dust from the cars was not the worst part of this section.  The worst parts were the drivers honking at you and trying to swerve into you as you are walking on the side of the road.  I’m not even joking.  One jeep, and a tractor tried to hit me and my guide.  Be careful walking along this part of the trail.  try to stay as far off the trail as possible.

Catching the bus in Jomsom

I walked into Jomsom expecting a rather amazing village but was harshly disappointed.  I could have been tired and grumpy from all the cars trying to hit us, but I was unimpressed by the village.  The one part I did like was the monastery.  I didn’t get to tour it, but I did get to take a few pictures from outside the walls.

Monastery in jomsom
Monastery in Jomsom

We made it to bus park with ½ hour to spare, perfect timing.  Unfortunately, all the seats on the bus were already booked so we had to stand until someone got off.  It is about 37 miles from Tatopani to Jomsom and took the bus 5 hours to make it.  We did stop a few different times for bathroom breaks.

The road condition from Tatopani to Jomsom was terrible.  It was extremely bumpy, windy and narrow.  I thought we were going to fall off the side of a cliff and die.  There were other instances I thought we were going to get into a head on collision with other motorists.  It was a white-knuckle ride to say the least.

At one point we drove off the road and were 4-wheeling on a floodplain.  I hit my head on the top of the bus a least a dozen times before we got back on a paved road.  I think the driver wanted it to be as bumpy as possible because he stopped and reversed once to hit the bumps he missed going forward!

At several points on the paved road there were construction sites clearing away the side of the mountain.  They were trying to expand the road.  One point was extremely dangerous.  I’ll just say it involved a ramp, airtime and the bus almost flipping over. We were driving on two wheels!

Finding a room in Tatopani

Almost every hotel in Tatopani charges for rooms.  I found one hotel that agreed to let me stay for free, but when I went to bring my bags up, the bellhop tried to charge me for the room.  There was no way this was going to play out well, so I left.  I eventually settled on a place with modest accommodations for $2 per night.

My room was about 24 square feet with charging outlets and a window facing the bathrooms.  Honestly, who puts a window facing the bathrooms?  A perv or somebody who doesn’t know what they are doing.

On the positive side, the hotel had a great kitchen.  My food order was messed up, but it was tasty.  I ordered a burrito and received a large taco.  Don’t trust the pictures or the descriptions on the menu.  You can read this article about what to expect before coming to Nepal to help prepare you.

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 8 Thorong La Pass

Annapurna circuit trek day 8 Thorang Phedi over Thorung Pass to Muktinath

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

Getting ready for the pass

Breakfast was ready for us before we woke up.  I awoke to pots and pans being shuffled through like a deck of cards.  I expected a few curse words, but none came.  “Good old Nepal” I thought getting out of bed.  We were crossing Thorang La Pass today and we were already late.

After a delicious bowl of porridge, my guide and I started trekking.  It was dark and snowing.  The snow felt like starch on the ground; it griped your feet like a warm handshake.  A line of lights serpentined below us like a snake slowly inching its way up a hill.  It was 5:30 am and I was happy as a clam.

Be careful if you are hiking at night time.  People on the trail will blind you with their head lamps.  This is infuriating.  Fortunately, I only had to endure it for a short while as the sun began to rise and everyone turned off their lights in exchange for sunglasses.

High Camp and trekking in the snow

It was about this time when we reached High Camp.  High Camp is about a 30-minute hike above Thorang Phedi.  It has a few hotels and a pack station for horses.  Just outside High Camp the trail bends to the left and narrows to a couple of inches above a deep canyon.

Due to the snow blizzard, I could not see further than a couple of yards.  I deduced from the guard rail that it was dangerous and most likely beautiful.  The trail climbed higher and further around the mountain and eventually widened to provide a safe passage.  The parts that I could see were beautiful.  I can only imagine how it must look in clear weather.

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass in the snow

The trail lead to 2 bridges over a dried up or frozen stream bed.  I chose the old bridge for shoots and giggles.  An old man ahead of me, higher up on the trail, knocked over part of a rock wall onto the trail and left it there.

If you are hiking, please be a good steward and leave the trail in the same or better condition for others.

When I arrived at the area I picked up the rocks and re-stacked them as best as my frozen hands would allow.  They were stiff and felt like rocks.  I remember thinking, my hands would make a great addition to the wall.  Since I like my hands, I kept them for myself.

After fixing the wall and clearing the trail, I caught up with the man.  He seemed to be struggling with breathing.  I asked him if he was ok and he said to pass him.  I don’t understand how somebody can be so miserable in such a beautiful place.

Thorang La
Thorang La bridge and a disgruntled trekker

We shall pass

I had a slow and steady pace and I was passing people with ease.  I wanted to spend as much time as I could up there, but I also wanted to get out of the storm.  When the weather cleared, it was still beautiful.  Snow and rocks under mountainous peaks.  The only thing that changed was the direction and slope.

There are a few shelters along the path you can rest in.  Be careful about using them, because a lot of people also use them as toilets.  Please do not use the buildings as toilets.

Thorang La Sign
Thorang La Sign thumbs up!

We reached Thorung La Pass at 8:30 am.  I was surprised it only took 3 hours to reach the top.  There is a small tea house at the top.  The price of a cup of tea started at $4 and went all the way up to $6!  I was astonished.  That must be the most expensive cup of tea in the world.

Note: The world’s most expensive tea is from China.  The tea is called Da Hong Pao tea and has sold for $28,000 for 20 grams.

I left my gear outside and took a seat in the tea house and watched the people buy cup after cup of this tea.  The baristas refused to clean the cups between patrons, which made me question how hygienic this place was.  I opted out of buying tea in preference of metabolic warmth and hygienic conditions.  Be warned, they do not clean their cups.

When I came out of the tea house one of my trekking poles was missing.  Note keep an eye on your gear.  People can be trusted, but not when they want your gear.

The abominable trail down

After a brief rest in the tea house at the top of Thorung La Pass, we started trekking down the mountain.  The trek down was abominable.  Not because the abominable snow man was after me, which he was, but because the trail condition was terrible.

It was like 10,000 old disgruntled men came through and tore up all the rock fences and left the remnants scattered all over the trail.  Other parts of the trail narrowed to microscopic dimensions above a deep canyon.  Be careful when you do this trek.

At one point along the trail, I could not keep my footing; I started slipping uncontrollably.  I turned it into a game and turned myself into a human toboggan.  When I slid past people, I would say “quack quack” in my best penguin impression.  One girl even said look how cool he is.  I tried to keep my composure, but it was too funny.

We reached the bottom of the pass at about 12:00.  It was also the same time it stopped snowing.  I was happy because I had an excuse to do it again and because there were a few restaurants I could order food at.  I ordered French fries and received French fries with bugs cooked in rancid oil.  It was very disappointing.

You can read this article about what to expect before coming to Nepal.

Since I was still hungry, I ate the “food” and moped my way to Muktinath.  Now I know why that old guy was miserable; a cow must have peed in his corn flakes.  It happens more than you might expect.

Muktinath Temples and religious sites

Muktinath from Thorang La trail
Muktinath Village

We reached Muktinath around 2:00.  We stood under Dajong Paldip overlooking the city and the Dhaulagiri Range.  Most of the range was covered by clouds, but we had clear views of the city.  To our lefts were Muktinath Temple, Sarwa Gompa, Vishnu and Jwala Mai Temple, Sarwa Gompa, and Nepal’s largest statue of buddha.

We decided to take some time and tour the temples and sites.  We first came to a Buddhist monastery, which appeared to be in the process of being built or restored.  It had a beautiful court yard with a giant rock in the center surrounded by cobble stones.

We then followed the pathway down to Muktinath Temple.  It is a 3-tiered temple surrounded by a wall with water spickets pouring glacial water over a metal grate.  Anybody daring or dirty enough to run under the “1,000 water falls” will have their soul cleansed for nirvana.

bull head faucets at muktinath temple
Bull head faucets at Muktinath Temple

There are actually 108 waterspouts at the temple.  They are called muktidhara.  In addition, there are two pools of water called Kunda for submerging your body in.  A person is believed absolved of sins if they circumnavigate around the temple walking under the muktidhara then dipping into the kunda.

From here we passed a smaller temple.  A group of people were crowding around 2 monks lighting a paper fire in a small room.  I did not investigate out of fear of burning alive in a sacrificial religious ceremony I may have happened to walk into.

Next, we came to a large statue of buddha.  It cost over $130,000 and 3 years to carve.  The largest statue of Buddha in Nepal is at the Swoyambunath Temple in Kathmandu.

Sahdus

Finally, we looped around and walked adjacent to prayer wheels mounted in a mani wall.  The trail led us to a path lined by sahdus with open outstretched palms and collection plates.  For a group of people who have renounced the world and its material positions, they sure get angry when you don’t give them money.

I saw two sahdus get into a fight over a bottle of water as I was walking away.  I almost laughed because there is temple, 30 yards up the trail, that has 108 water spouts.

Muktinath

As we were walking through the “hall of sahdus” we passed several Indian people going to the temple on horseback.  The temple wasn’t that far from the Muktinath proper; I wondered why they would hire a horse to carry them when they could easily walk.  Maybe it was a religious act or for fun?  If you know pleas tell me in the comments.

The hotel managers were very aggressive in Muktinath.  Most of them wanted to charge for a room and demanded you eat all your meals as well as beverages there.  I chose a nice hotel on the far end of muktinath, that wasn’t aggressive.  The hotel had very modest accommodations but the food and atmosphere was nice.

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 7 Thorung Phedi

Annapurna Circuit Tek Day 7 Thorang Phedi

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

Welcome to day 7 of the Annapurna Circuit Trek.  You will read about the some pretty spectacular places in this blog post.  The highlights of this post are the views above Upper Khangsar, an abandoned village, and hiking between Gundang and Syagang on the way to Thorung Phedi.  You will also read about and see pictures of blue sheep rutting, and digging salt.  This was a great day because of the experiences, views, and our proximity from Thorung La pass!  Kick back, relax and get your pin ready.  You will want to pin some of these photos or share them on Instagram.

Waking up in Shree Kharka

Abandoned village and Annapurna 2
Abandoned village and Annapurna 2

My guide and I woke up at 7 and ate breakfast in Shree Kharka.  We were on the trail trekking by 8:00.  The trail led us above Khangsar to an abandoned village with a stupa where we had phenomenal views of the mountains.  We could see Jhomsom Himal, Manaslu, Pisang Peak, Purkung Himal and many other beautiful mountains.  The area smelled fresh and earthy because it was surrounded by juniper bushes and dry grasses.  The entire experience was incredible.  We then hiked down and around a stone wall.  Below us, blue sheep were playing and rutting.

Blue sheep rutting and playing
Blue sheep rutting and playing

The stone wall wrapped around a large pasture area where yaks and horses were grazing.  The trail then began to incline and we came to a view point above Upper Khangsar.  Wow!  We had the most phenomenal views of the Manang Valley and the Annapurna range.  I know I say it a lot but, look! It is just so amazing.  We could also see Gundang and the Chulu Mountain Range (Gunggang Himal) behind us.  Heavy clouds started to come over the Annapurnas so we decided it would be best to make haste and hike to Thorang Phedi.

Annapurna range
Annapurna range

The Hike down from Upper Khangsar was a little steep and slippery because of ice on the trail.  At the bottom of the trail we crossed the Thorung River and started hiking on the other side.  We came to another abandoned village by Ghyanchang.  The Gunggang Himal range was right above it.  Chulu west, central and east could all be seen.  At this Point the sky was getting pretty cloudy and snow was starting to fall in the distance.  We passed Yak Kharka and Ledar opting for the preferred Thorung Phedi.

Getting caught in a snow storm and finding Thorung Phedi

Thorung Phedi was just out of reach when the snow storm caught us.  We had crossed the Thorung River again and entered another landslide area.  This area was a little different then the other landslide areas.  It had large flat boulders strewn along the trail below pinnacles of compressed conglomerate rocks.  The pinnacles almost resembled a castle.  It was very cool to see.    By now, we were under Mt. Syagang but could barley see it because of the snow.  Fortunately the trail was still very visible and we were only 30 minutes away from Thorung Phedi.

Thorung Phedi was crowded when we arrived.  But, I found a little tea house at the top of a hill that had plenty of room.  It also had two trekkers waiting for a helicopter to rescue them from their altitude sickness.  When you trek, be careful and make sure you acclimate properly.  You do not want to ruin a $5,000 vacation because you ascended too fast.  Note: At Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure, you can do the trek for less than $2,500.  The rooms were nice at the tea house.  They had comfortable beds and electricity.  The toilet was outside and an eastern style squat toilet.  The food was delicious though.

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 6 Tilicho Lake Trekking

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 6 Tilciho Lake Trekking

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

Trekking to Tilicho Lake was one of the most rewarding experiences on the Annapurna Circuit Trek.  The hike was a little difficult, but rewarding.  We had beautiful landscape views while Tilicho Lake Trekking.  The landscapes were decorated by snow covered peaks such as Tilicho Peak, Khangsar Kang, Tare Kang, and Om Myurpa.  We could also see Tilicho Lake Base Camp!  When I made it to the highest lake in the world (16,138 ft), I thought I reached the edge of the world.   Come trek to Tilicho Lake with me in this blog post.

Tilicho Lake trekking from Tilicho Base Camp

https://mynepaltrek.com/product/everest-base-camp-trek/
Tibetan Snowcock

I woke up at 5:30 and started getting ready.  Sun had not risen, but was casting enough light to start trekking without head lamps.  I grabbed my trekking poles and my guide and we were on the Tilicho Lake Trekking trail.  The sunrise came just after 6:00.  Golden arrows shot through the mountain tops and landed as glistening light on the snow.  Om Myurpa was the dominant mountain at the trail head.

The trail became steeper as we walked further.  We eventually came to an area that reminded me of the 99 switchbacks on Mt. Whitney.  At this point on the trail we met a heard of blue sheep and a flock of Tibetan Snowcocks.  It was enjoyable to see the wildlife.  I felt like I belonged up there.  At the top of the switchbacks the view opened up significantly.  We could see Roc Noir and Glacier Dome.  They were covered in blinding white snow.  The snow level was also much deeper at the top of the switchbacks.

We came to a rocky outcrop that presented itself as a viewing platform.  Tilicho Valley was to the north west of us, while the Annapurna ridge line was to the south.  Base Camp was hidden by the hills we crossed over.  As I looked north the only things I could see were Tilicho Peak and a small ridge on my left, a moraine on my right, and the most beautiful sky in front of me.  It looked like the world stopped.  I found the edge of the world!  It was amazing.  I felt like I could jump off and fly off into space.

Tilicho Lake

Tilicho lake
Tilicho lake and Muktinath range in the background.

Fortunately the earth is round and gravity maintains balance.  When I came to the edge, I saw a magnificent Lake covered in snow.  I could see some peaks in the Muktinath mountain range in the distance.  To the right of the lake is Idam Phra, which is nice.  The Tilicho Lake trail continues past the lake, between the mountains and through the Mandala Pass.  An optional route takes you through the Mesokanto La pass.  If you are into trail running, you might want to consider Mandala Pass.

Tilicho Lake stats and information

Tilicho Lake is at an elevation of 16,138 ft.  It is considered the highest lake in the world for its size.  It has a surface area of 1.9 sq miles and holds about 125 acre feet of water, which is about equal to 41,000,000 gallons.  The average depth of the lake is 279 feet.  Tilicho Lake does not have any native fish associated with the lake, but that might change due to an increased interest in stocking the lake as a commercial fishery.  The establishment of a commercial fishery in Tilicho Lake is highly unlikely though.

Tilicho Lake to Shree Kharka

I decided to turn back after 30 minutes of staring at the lake and the surroundings.  The snow was stating to get soft and more and more people were starting to crowd the view point.  We started hiking back down before the snow turned into slush.  I came to an avalanche area that worried me.  We passed it swiftly, but you could see where the snow melt was causing some sloughing.  We made it down to the base camp and had breakfast.

After breakfast we started hiking to Shree Kharka, which is about 3.5 hours from base camp.  We hiked the same trail back, passing the other avalanche areas.  The trail evened out as we got closer to Khangsar.  We came to Hotel Tilicho Peak, which is just before Khangsar.  The rooms were a little below average compared to the other tea houses, but they were nice.  The rooms had exposed electrical wires, but at least they had indoor electricity.

 Additional reading

This article as some good information for continued reading

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 5 Tilicho Base Camp

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 5 Tilicho Base Camp

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

The trail to Tilicho Base Camp is dangerous.  It is dangerous because of land slides.  You have to cross 3 very sketchy areas to reach Tilicho lake base camp.  Fortunately, there is a second way to reach Tilicho lake but it is a lot longer.  Despite the danger, I sallied forth.  I met a rather unusual British group, and saw a couple herds of blue sheep.  Please join me on this daring escapade.  Kick back, relax, and enjoy the entertaining adventure of how I risked my life trekking from Khangsar to Tilicho Base Camp.

Tea house talks and landscape

I woke up at 7:00 and packed my gear.  I was excited to visit Tilicho Lake.  however, despite my excitement, I lumbered from my room to the dining hall.  It is good to move slowly in the morning.    I sat down at a booth next to a window.  I pictured myself drinking tea and reading a book.  Instead, I just looked out the window.  After a few minutes I ordered a bowl of porridge.  Porridge is one of the foods most Nepali chefs can cook well.  A couple of other guests came into the dinning hall and joined me.

We talked while their food was being made.  We mostly talked about trekking and the things we missed from our countries.  I finished eating and joined my guide.  Most of the people I talked to couldn’t believe I hired a guide.  They understood after I explained that it was for safety and insurance.  Finally my guide and I started trekking.  We trekked through the small village then came to an open landscape.  Dried grasses and small shrubs populated the hilly landscape.  We passed a small heard of blue sheep, which I was over joyed to see.

It was shaping up to be an auspicious day.  You could see forever because the skies were so clear.  We continued walking and came to a group of British girls acting weird.  I thought to myself, “maybe this is how they normally act.”  I decided to investigate and walked closer.

Rams rutting in Nepal
Rams rutting

The conversation

Me: Hello

Girls 1 and 2: Hi, Hello

Me: Why are you guys acting strange?

Girl 1: What are those things up there?  They’re so weird looking.

Me: I turn around and saw a second heard of blue sheep and say “oh cool, blue sheep.”

Girl 1: That’s weird, they look like goats! and why are they called blue?

Me: They are goats, and they are sad they don’t have wool.

Girl 1: Oh. I’m from England.

Me: Good luck with that. Safe travels

I started laughing because it was too funny.   I was all smiles the rest of the day as a result of the conversation.  We saw a lot of animals, which made me smile too.  The animals were not scared away by the trekkers, which was curious.

Tilicho Lake Base Camp

As we continued trekking, Ganga Purna faded away while Tilicho Peak grew in dominance.  I could see Om Myurpa, Tare Kang (Glacier Dome), and Khangsar Kang (Roc Noir).  They were beautifuly aligned and stacked gracefully like dominoes waiting to be knocked over.  I kind of wanted them to be knocked over because they block the view of Annapurna 1.  But, I was still glad to see them.  We also caught a glimpse of Chulu Far East.  We descended down into the first landslide zone.  I could hardly walk because the trail narrowed.  In addition, it was completely covered by debris in a few areas too.  I made it to the other side of the landslide zone.

We walked around a bend and came to a second landslide zone.   A small stone hit me as I was trying to pass.  Coupled with my extreme fear of dying in an avalanche, and the stone hitting me, I ran.  I was looking up the gravely slope from then on.  We crossed another landslide zone before reaching Tilicho Base Camp.  Just after the third avalanche area, a small boy called me little sisters little daughter, which was not the worst insult somebody has ever called me.  My guide overheard and told the kid to shut up and apologize, which he did.

We reached Tilicho Base Camp (13,665 ft) at 12:00.  I chose Hotel Khangsar Kang and Restaurant for its friendly staff and free room.  I ate lunch with my guide and afterward we hiked around the area.  You can get some pretty great views of the mountains from the hill above base camp.  You can see Om Myurpa and Khangsar Kang very well.

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 4 Khangsar

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 4 Khangsar

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 4 Khangsar was the most memorable day of the trek.  I had an amazing time, because we hiked up to Milarepa cave and had phenomenal views of the Manang valley.  In addition, we saw Annapurna 2 and 4 at superb vantage points.  We could see from Lamjung Himal all the way to Tilicho peak, which is where we are headed to next.  Kick back, relax and get out your pins, because you are going to want to pin this post to your Pinterest.

Hiking to Milarepa cave

annapurna 3
Annapurna 3

We woke up at 6:30 and started walking to Milarepa cave.  The morning air was crisp and cool.  It stung our noses as we inhaled.  Our fast pace left heavy foot prints on the trail and dense clouds of exhaled air floating behind us.  The trail head was a half hour walk toward Mugie.  We passed Braga gompa and a pasture with grazing yaks.  The sound of the yak bells rang loud like tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture.  We crossed the Marsyangdi Nadi river, crossed a pasture, and started our ascend up Annapurna 4.

After 20 minutes of hiking we could see Pisang Peak, Tilicho Peak, Manaslu, Lamjung Himal, and Thorong Peak in the distance.  We could see most of the valley, which was becoming increasingly smaller.  Braga gompa stuck out among the villages and trees.  We continued climbing through a thick pine forest and snow.  In addition to the wonderful views, we found the ruins of an old village along the trail.  It was cast aside in favor of less remote locations.  Furthermore, just past the ruins was a desolate stupa in the middle of the forest.

It was at this time that we began to see deer and seep tracks in the snow.  I was so excited.  Unfortunately, we did not see any today.  We did however, see Annapurna 2 and Annapurna 4 as we came to a clearing.  They seemed to jump out at us saying “surprise!”  The mountains were so close, I thought we could summit them and be back in time for dinner.

Milarepa Cave

Milarepa Cave
Entrance to Milarepa Cave

Some people believe Milarepa was a witch who went to the cave to practice black magic.  Other people believe he was a saint, because he had the power to transform hearts.  This song, Song to the Hunter , is an example of changing an evil person into a good person.   I could not find any hints as to which belief is correct.  But, I did find a beautiful area with fantastic views of the Annapurna mountains.

The cave was locked when I visited.  The monk with the key stays at the cave in fall.  If you want to see inside the cave, you will have to visit from October to December.  I do not think there is much to see inside the cave.  There is a lot more to see outside the cave, which is where I spent all of my time.  There is a stupa further up the mountain.  It takes 1 hour to get there, but you have a phenomenal view of Annapurnna 2 and 4 when you arrive.

Returning to Manang and checking out

The majority of the trail coming down was slippery from the snow melt.  You need to be very careful hiking down.  I highly recommend wearing crampons if you do the hike in the snow.  The views were so spectacular.  After we reached the road side we continued walking towards Manang.  We passed a few groups of people that were eating apple pie.  They should read my blog!  After packing our bags and eating breakfast, I asked for the food bill.  You could imagine my surprise when I received a room bill too.  I asked the owner to remove the fraudulent charges, which he did with a little resentment.

Trek to Khangsar

We finally left the tea house at 12:00.  Only another couple of hours and we will be in Khangsar.  The hike out of Manang was delightful.  The entire way to Khangsar, we had excellent views of Annapurna 2, Annapurna 3, Gangapurna, and Tilicho Peak.  We walked along the river in a dry sparsely forested landscape.  My guide pointed out some blue sheep.  I didn’t get a good look at them so, I’m not counting it.  We crossed Thurong Kola and hiked up a steep ravine.  At the top of the ravine was a plateau where you can see the Marsyandi Nadi river and the Thurong Kola meet.  There are also a few old building that resemble dilapidated castles up there.

We rested and watched other people hike over the bridge and up the ravine.  After a few minutes rest, we started hiking again.  We reached Khangsar at 3:30.  I still had some time, so I hiked to the stupa at the top of Upper Khangsar.  On the way, I ran into a heard of 20 blue sheep.  They were beautiful.  The sheep were digging the soil and eating the salts.  I was able to get surprisingly close to them before they ran away.  I made it to the stupa and took a few pictures.  There is also an abandoned village up there.

When I arrived back at the Maya Hotel & Restaurant, it was time for dinner.  I ordered vegetarian curry and mashed potatoes.  However, I received vegetable soup and mashed potato soup.   I was so disappointed.    Read this article on what to expect before coming to Nepal, so you will not have this happen to you.  Despite this blunder, I had an excellent stay at this tea house.  The owners were fair, and  the rooms were clean.

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 3 Manang Trek

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 3

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

If you missed Day 2, you can catch it here.  My day 3 Manang trek was amazing.  It was amazing because, the mountains are incredible, the valley landscape is stunning, the temples and monasteries are beautiful, and the wildlife is kind of friendly.  My guide and I hiked for 5 hours.  We stopped in Manang, which is a little cheeky, and rustic.  However, Old Manang on the north end of town is traditional and beautiful.  So, kick back, relax, and join me as I take you around the Annapurna Circuit in this anti-harrowing journey.

Waking up in Upper Pisang

I would be lying if I told you it wasn’t cold.  It was freezing.  Last night, it snowed again.  I was delighted to wake up to a fresh coat of powder and clear views.  I went outside and took a few photos of the landscape.  You could see all the way to Lamjung Himal on the left and Tilicho Peak on the right.  You could see Annapurna 2, Annapurna 4, Gangapurna, and others.  It was essentially the entire massif.

Manaslu and Annapurna 2
Manaslu and Annapurna 2

After breakfast, a delicious meal, my guide and began our Manang trek.  We left at 8:30 and the clouds were already starting to form.  However, I was happy, because my attention was on the landscape in front of us.  The terrain was like a simple melody.  While it was mostly grasslands, there were trees and shrubs that accented the tune.  The climate was charged by cools winds, like the slow entrance of an overature.  The whole movement felt swift and empowered.

We walked for miles in silence.  We passed monasteries on our right while the river gently flowed around its banks on our left.  You could almost feel Buddha and nirvana.  Our silence was interrupted by a wild horse neighing and approaching us.  I greeted the horse with an open palm.  It smelled me, then started nibbling the salt off my hands.  It reminded me of my childhood.

Next, we came to Humde.  It was once a thriving village with an airport that delivered supplies and provided passage.  Due to governmental disagreements, it is now decommissioned.  Humde is at about the halfway mark to Manang.  Walking past it was disappointing because it was a reminder of the corruption within the government.

Annapurna 3
Back side of Annapurna 3 from Ghyaru

Manang Trek

We stopped for lunch in Bhraka.  It is also called Braga, and Brathang.  This place has a huge apple orchard and processing facility.  Coming into it, you walk through a corridor like passage with bamboo fencing on both sides.  The whole scheme is to keep people from going into the orchard and picking fruit.  Somebody should tell them they can make a lot more money by charging for the fruit that visitors pick.

The apple season is in October, which aligns perfectly with the peak trekking season.  If you go, be careful of tainted apple pies.  When I had lunch, I ordered a slice of apple pie ($1.50).  I asked the waiter if it was hot.  He then proceeded to touch the entire pie and all the other baked goods in the store to show me they were hot.  He then asked me to touch them too.  All it takes is one person with dirty hands to spoil your food and cause you illness.

On the way to Manang, there is a look out post with a lot of kairns.  This is a great spot for pictures.  You can see the entire Annapurna Massif from here.  There is also a tea shop nearby.

As we entered the Manang valley we could see antiquitous monasteries, ancient cave dwellings, and beautiful mountain views.  We passed yak pastures with shrines in the center, and signs advertising Ice Lake and Milarepa Cave.  As we hiked next to the Marsyangdi Nadi river,  we passed Braga and Bojo gompas.  Finally, we were in Manang.

Hotel in Manang

Gangapurna Lake and roof tops in old Manang
Gangapurna Lake from the roof tops of Manang

My guide picked the tea house in Manang.  It was an ok place.  The rooms were a little small but had a charging outlet.  There was two western style bathrooms for each floor to share.  Also, the rooms were a little dirty with wrinkled sheets.  The beds had a slanted head rest, like a demanding pillow.  The room reminded me of a grungy dungeon with a charging outlet.

The best part about the room was its price, because it was free!  The food was ok, and the people were nice.  I was happy here.  I unpacked my gear and ventured into old Manang.

Old Manang is on the north end of the village.  It is full of collapsed mud buildings and animal shelters.  If you hike to the end of the village you can see Gangapurna lake.  If you have an extra hour to spare, you can hike down to the lake.  You can also have great views of the lake by climbing up the east end of the village.  The locals are friendly, but some of them might call you names.

There is also a check point in the center of Manang.  A very nice woman was there when I checked in.  the building has a ton of information about things to do and see in Manang.  There is also a clean water drinking station, and a museum next to the check point.  The clean water drinking station charges $0.8 to fill a liter bottle.

Fast forward to next day…

The following morning, I asked to pay for my bill.  The hotel owner tried to charge me for the room and double charge me for dinner.  I lost all respect for him.  I know we all make mistakes, but this is becoming a common theme on the trek.  Make sure you check you bill before you pay.  Check the item prices and the items.

 

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 2 Upper Pisang

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 2 Chame to Upper Pisang

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

In Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 2 Chame to Upper Pisang, we start trekking the Annapurna trail today, Hooray!  This is a great day.  I felt ecstatic to be hiking the Annapurna trail.  The weather wasn’t the best for photos, but it was great for walking and being outdoors.  I could feel the crispness of the air on my cheeks and smell the pine trees in my breath.  The ground was solid, and the trail was wide.  I was set to go.  Come with me as I trek to Upper-Pisang.

If you missed day 1 of the trek you can check it out here.

Waking up in Chame

snow in Chame
Morning snow in Chame

I woke up in Chame with a huge morning stretch.  Golly, it feels good!  I went outside and “crunch.”  Guess what I stepped in.  Snow!  It snowed last night while I was sleeping.  Awe, it was so beautiful.  It felt like Christmas, but it was April. I hurried outside to look around.  The mountains and trees were covered with snow.

“Hello!” “Hello!”  I turned around to find the owner of the tea house trying to get my attention.  He thought I was leaving.  We started talking.  He sounded like Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith Show.  He said, “You have to pay before you leave.”  My reply was “Barney!  Is that you?”  My western humor left the man noticeably confused.  “Yes, It’s you.  Good to see you old pal!”  I gave him a hug.

He really thought I was leaving.  I explained I was only looking around.  Finally I told him I was going to pack my gear, eat breakfast, then pay my bill.  This made him very happy.  “Ok. You pay.”  “Yes Barney, I will pay my bill.”

I finished looking around then went to pack my gear.  I went to the dining hall and ordered a pancake.  After 30 minutes of waiting a flat piece of semi cooked wheat dough was placed in front of me.  I already knew it tasted disgusting.  Read this blog post on what to expect before coming to Nepal.  It tasted like somebody dropped it in sand, then flash cooked it on both sides, and then stuck it in the snow to cool.

Fast forward 30 minutes.

Trekking to Upper Pisang

Upper Pisang and Annapurna 4
Upper Pisang and Annapurna 4

So, there I was walking in between two supermodels.  We met 5 minutes earlier, when I threw a snowball at them.  The snowball missed them, and they laughed at me for how terribly I throw.  I got kind of board talking with them so, took a 20 min rest while they walked ahead.

It was nice to hang back and watch the snow melt off of the trees.  I listened to the river in the background.  It reminded me of Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.  After enough time had passed, I started walking again.  I crossed the Marshyangdi river and continued up the road.  While I trekked, I had to be cautious of snow clump falling from the trees.  However, there were times when i thew caution into the wind.

Because the weather was still cloudy, I didn’t have the best mountain views.  However, I still enjoyed the scenery on the trek.  I crossed the Marshyangdi river again, then ascended into a beautiful pine forest.  As a result of the snow melting off the branches, I got soaked walking through the forest.  In addition, I was stuck behind a group of extremely slow trekkers.

Tip:  If you walk slow please move over so people can pass.  Be nice.  You might have to share a tea house with them.

After about an hour of walking through the dripping forest,  I came to a road.  The road was nice, because there weren’t any trees dropping slosh on my head.   In addition, the road led to a restaurant, where my guide and I ate lunch.  At the restaurant, we had great views of Annapurna 2, and Pangri Danda.  The other mountains were covered in clouds.

The View from Upper-Pisang

Annapurna 2 and Lamjung Himal
Annapurna 2 and Lamjung Himal

After lunch we kept right on the trail and hiked up to Upper-Pisang.  Upper-Pisang is just below Pisang Peak and is an excellent place to acclimate.  The view is also phenomenal when the clouds aren’t obstructing them.  In addition, the hike up the mountain to Upper-Pisang is fairly easy.

My guide and I trekked a little further past Upper-Pisang to Gharu.  We didn’t stay in Upper-Pisang because it is fairly dilapidated.  However, it is a beautiful old village.  The thing I like most about the views from Gharu, is you can see the entire Annapurna Massif from here.

My guide and I stayed in a small tea house next to a stupa.  The woman who ran the tea house was very nice, and cooks amazing traditional Nepali/ Tibetan meals.

Youtube video

This video does not contain a lot of information about Upper Pisang, but it is informative and entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

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Two trekkers found dead in Sequoia National Park

The importance of hiking or trekking with a guide or a friend

I read an article published in the Visalia Times Delta.  The article identified two dead hikers in the Sequoia National Park.  The hikers were in separate parts of the park and appeared to have died from different causes.  One of the hikers died on the Mt. Whitney Trail, while the other on the Lakes Trail near the Watchtower area.  I wanted to take the time and stress the importance of hiking with a guide or partner.  In both cases a buddy could have saved their life.

I solo hike on occasion.  And I enjoy it a lot, but when I am hiking a risky or unknown area I always bring a friend or hire a guide.  It is part of good standards and practices.  If you are going to trek to Everest Base Camp or Annapurna Base Camp, please hire a guide or bring a friend.  Have safe and enjoyable adventures.

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 1

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 1 Chame

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

Welcome to day 1 of trekking on the Annapurna Circuit trail.  We travel to Chame in this post.  But, we will not start trekking today.  You will learn about the cost of day 1, the route to get to Chame, how long the drive takes, and other information.  You can also learn how to prepare for the Annapurna Circuit trek by reading this article.  My blog post “everything you want to know about the Annapurna Circuit” has a lot of the gritty details and facts about the circuit trek.  Kick back relax and and enjoy the trek.

You can skip ahead to day 2 Annapurna Circuit Trek Chame to Upper Pisang.

Leaving Pokhara 6:45 am for Annapurna Circuit trail

Map of the Annapurna Circuit
Annapurna Circuit Trek Map

The Annapurna Circuit can be accessed from Pokhara and Kathmandu on the Prithvi Highway.  You will want to get off the bus at the Bandipur Bus Stop in Dumre.  It takes about 2 hours to get from Pokhara to Dumre.  From Kathmandu, it takes 4 hours.  From here I caught a bus north to Besisahar for $3.  Besisahar is small city where you can stock up on supplies, and spend the night.  From here, I took a jeep to Chame for $20.

On the way to Chame you will pass over a few rivers, and have some phenomenal views of the mountains.  You can also see some incredible waterfalls, and a few beautiful rhododendron groves.  You will have a really amazing view of Manaslu and Lamjung Himal.  When I went, it was cloudy and I couldn’t see them.

Annapurna Circuit Trail waterfall
Waterfall on the Annapurna Circuit Trail

I arrived in Chame at 7 pm.  I do have one regret about taking the jeep.  It went by too fast.  I would have liked going a little slower and living in the moment a little longer.  But I didn’t have the time, or the capital.  I am really happy I did take the jeep, because I didn’t have to walk behind motorists kicking up clouds of dust, or get honked at.

As you may have calculated, the length of time it takes to get from Pokhara to Chame is about 12 hours.  This does include food stops, pit breaks, and checking in at tourist check points.  My total cost for transportation was just under $50.  And my total cost of food was about $11.  And finially, from Pokhara to Chame, we gained about 4,000 ft in elevation to rest at 8,694 ft.

Lodging

There are a lot of great inns, and tea houses in Chame.  I, unfortunately did not stay in one of them.  When you stay in a village, try to get there early, so you can walk around, and talk to the managers for a great deal on a room.  Also, make sure to check your bill at the end of your stay.  Some hotel managers will add items to the bill you didn’t order or ask for.  If you are going with a guide, your guide can work out a great deal for you.

Food

Most of the food items listed on the menus are not what you expect.  Read my blog post on what to expect before coming to Nepal to see what I mean.  My advice is to stick to the Nepali dishes, which are dal and bhat.  When they are combined you get the national dish of Nepal.  The things I like the most about dal bhat are it is filling, and you get extras.  Most of the time, I was too full to eat a second plate of dal bhat. But, it is nice to know its there, if you want it.

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How to prepare for the Annapurna Circuit

Annapurna Circuit Preparations

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

The Annapurna Circuit is one of the most trekked trails in Nepal. Because of its popularity, you can find a plethora of information about it.  This blog post is part of a series that takes you along on the Annapurna Circuit Trek.  In this post, you will learn about Annapurna Circuit preparation activities.  You will also find out the actual cost of the trek.   In addition, You can see a trekking map, elevation map, packing list, an itinerary, and the distance covered on the trail.  Let’s get started with a packing list, and pre-trip preparations.

P.S.

You can access a comprehensive guide to the Annapurna Circuit by following this link to my blog post “Everything you want to know about the Annapurna Circuit.”

Pre-trip Annapurna Circuit preparation

Before you go, you will need to buy a TIMS Card.  Most of you will buy a green card (Registration Card for Individual Trekkers) for $20.  Some of you will buy a blue card (Registration Card for Group Trekkers), which is normally $10.  You can buy your card through Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventures or by visiting the Department of Immigration’s office in Pokhara.  You will also need buy an entrance ticket (National Trust For Nature Conservation).  The ticket costs $22.6

Packing list

Ok, you’re all set and ready to go? Not yet,  you need to pack first silly.  The following list is the ultimate Annapurna Circuit trek packing list.  And by ultimate, I mean practical and light weight.

  • 12 pairs of socks (you have to keep your feet in good condition)
  • 1 underwear
  • thermals (top and bottom)
  • trekking pants
  • hiking shoes
  • athletic shirt
  • hat
  • cold weather jacket
  • sun glasses
  • sun screen
  • positive attitude

I would also recommend a tooth brush, tooth paste, and toilet paper.  You do not need a sleeping bag or a change of cloths, because there is laundry service on the trail.  There are also tepid water heaters for showers.  But, it’s your call.

Your pack shouldn’t be more than 20 pounds.  You should also secure a guide, and porter for your trip.  This is especially true if you want to go on the side trails, which I highly recommend.  Believe me, your knees will thank you for keeping your pack weight down.

When to trek the Annapurna Circuit

Rhododendron Flowers
Rhododendron tree on Poon Hill

Go in late March, or early April because, this is the best time to visit.  Small crowds, wonderful weather, and beautiful rhododendron flowers make mid-spring the best time to go.  The rhododendrons are better seen from Ghoripani and Poon Hill, which you can do as a side trek to the circuit.  You will also see some really wonderful blooms in Chame.  This leads me into where to start the circuit.

Where to start the Circuit

Most people trek the Annapurna Circuit in a counter clockwise direction because it is easier to acclimate.  You can start trekking from Baglung Bazaar, which I do not recommend.  Or, you can start trekking from Chame.  If you trek from Baglung, you will walk in clouds of dust all the way to Chame.  However, if you start the trek from Chame you will not have to breath as much dust but there are still a few cars that kick it up.

If you climb in an anti clockwise direction, your daily elevation gain might cause you altitude sickness.  But, if you go slowly, it shouldn’t be a problem.  If you go counter clockwise, you will want to start trekking near Tatopani.  This way you can visit Poon Hill and see some amazing landscapes along the way.  If you want to start the trek at the very beginning, you will start in Nayapul.  And if you don’t want to start in Nayapul or Tatopani, you can to start near Jhomsom or Kagbeni.

Tomorrow, we start the trek!

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Everything You Wanted to Know About The Annapurna Circuit Trek

Annapurna Circuit Trek

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

The Annapurna Circuit Trek, almost never referred to as ACT, is the primary destination for many international tourists.  According to Nepal’s Immigration Board, the Annapurna Massif is the 2nd most popular destination for foreigners entering the country.  Chitwan National Park is the most visited area outside of Kathmandu.  In this blog post I will answer all your burning questions about the Annapurna Circuit Trek, including when is the best time to go?  Annapurna Circuit Cost?  Do I need a guide?  And many other questions.  This post contains a lot of pictures.

Kick back, relax, and get out your note pad and pencil, because you are going to want to take notes! Or at least copy and paste.

When is the best time to trek the Annapurna Circuit?

That is a difficult question to answer without knowing your definition of “best time.”  Most people do the trek in late September through early December (fall season).  Other people prefer the spring season of February through April.  Most people think the winter season, December through February is too cold.  The summer season, June through August, is too hot and dangerous.

Fall Season

September through December is the “best time” to trek Annapurna.  It is characterized by clear and phenomenal mountain views, fresh apples, and hoards of trekkers.  This is the most popular time to visit Nepal.  The temperatures or the region are pleasant.  During this time Tilicho lake (2 to 3-day side trek off the main path) is not frozen and covered under snow.  In the higher elevations, and late in the season you will encounter colder temperatures.

Spring Season

Annapurna massif
Manang Valley and Annapurna 2

February through April is the “2nd best time” to trek Annapurna.  You will likely have great, although sometimes a little hazy, mountain views.  You will also have opportunities to see the rhododendron forests during bloom in April.  For the best rhododendron blooms, go on a side trip to Poon Hill.  During the spring season the temperatures range from slightly chilly in February to mildly humid and warm in April.  In April, you can also expect sporadic evening rains.

Winter Season

If I wasn’t so fond of the rhododendron blooms, this would be my favorite time to trek Annapurna.  Its cold enough to trek without sweating, and there are fewer people to contend with when you are trying to find a room at a tea house or take the perfect picture.  The winter season is from December through February.  The conditions can be a little hazy to cloudy at times, but you shouldn’t have any difficulty getting some remarkable views.  You can expect the nights to be cold.  Pack a sleeping bag or ask the tea house staff for an extra blanket.

Summer Season

The summer season is the worst time to visit Nepal and trek.  The Annapurna region does not receive as much rain as other areas, but it still receives a lot.  Summers, June through September, are hot, humid and wet.  Many landslides and car accidents occur during the summer season making it the most dangerous time to travel.  I do not recommend visiting Nepal in the summer unless you want to see amazing rain storms, visit the pristine high mountain lakes or Upper-Dolpo or Mustang.

How Much Does the Annapurna Circuit Trek Cost?

Annapurna circuit trek menu
The cost of common food items

The cost of the Annapurna Circuit Trek depends on your itinerary, how much food you are going to be eating, price of a guide, and price of a porter.  I will answer each circumstance independently.  The absolute minimum amount of money you can do the trek with is currently $32.  This fee covers your Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) Card, and the entrance fee for the Annapurna Conservation Area.

If you are planning on staying in the tea houses and eating in restaurants the price is going to be much higher than the price quoted above.  Most restaurants will let you stay for free if you buy all your food from them.  Be careful though, because some of the tea houses will still charge you for your room.  The cost of your trip also depends on where you start trekking from.  The Itinerary below is for the complete circuit.  There is also an option to start your trek in Chame and end it in Jomsom.

Annapurna Circuit Trek Itinerary

Day 01: Start trek in Bessisahar and trek to Bhulbule. 2,756 ft, 3 hrs

Day 02: Trek to Ghermu. 3,707 ft, 6 hrs

Day 03: Trek to Tal. 5,577 ft, 05 hrs

Day 04: Trek to Chame. 8,695 ft, 07 hrs

Day 05: Trek to Upper Pisang. 10,892 ft, 05 hrs

Day 06: Trek to Manang village. 11,550 ft, 06 hrs

Day 07: Acclimate in Manang and go on local hikes.

Day 08: Trek to Yak Kharka. 13,238 ft, 04 hrs

Day 09: Trek to Thorong High Camp. 15,000 ft, 04 hrs

Day 10: Cross Thorong-La (17,769 ft) and trek to Muktinath. 12,172, 07 hrs

Day 11: Trek to Jomsom. 9,000 ft, 8 hrs

Day 12: Trek to Marpha. 8,694, 04 hrs

Day 13: Trek to Lete. 7,381 ft, 06 hrs

Day 14: Trek to Larjung. 8,392 ft, 4 hrs

Day 15: Trek to Ghasa. 6,594 ft, 06 hrs

Day 15: Trek to Tatopani. 3,904 ft,05 hrs

Day 16: Finish the trek to Nayapul (3,510 ft, 7 hrs) and be chauffeured to Pokhara.

Rooms can range in price from free to $5.  I didn’t find any rooms more than $5 or less than $2.  You will find the price of a plate of lentils and rice to range from $5 to $8.  For the most part the price is consistent at $5.  The price of a complete trek lasting 16 days is about $350.  This price only includes tea house accommodations and food.

Guides and porters

You probably want a guide and porter too.  The Annapurna trek trail is well defined.  You can easily find your way without a guide.  If you want to go on the side trails, you will also want a guide.  A guide’s fee is normally $20 or $25 per day.  It depends on the guide and the season.  I highly recommend a porter.  They are cheaper than knee surgery, and less painful than a sprained ankle.  A porter’s fee is normally $15 to $20 per day.  This price depends on how heavy your pack is and the season.

Annapurna Circuit Chame to Jomsom

The 7-day Annapurna trek is also available.  It takes half the time of the complete trek and you don’t have to inhale a lung full of dust each time a car passes you.  This section of the trail doesn’t have cars.  It does have motorcycles though.  A private jeep from Besi Shahar to Chame will cost about $25 to $30.  I would recommend a bus, but busses do not go to Chame.  At the end of your trek you can take a bus from Jomsom to Nayapul for about $8.  You can also take a private jeep for about $20.  All other expenses on the trek are the same.

Do you need a guide and porter?

Short answer is no.  The trail is easily navigated without the assistance of a guide.  If you are going on any of the side trails, like Tilicho Lake, Gangapurna Lake, Ice Lake, Milarepa Cave, and Guru Sangpo Cave, you will want a guide.  The side trails are marked with blue and white paint.  The side trails are also called New Annapurna Trekking Trails (NATT).  There is a greater probability of getting lost or injured on these trails then on the main trail, which is marked by red and white paint.

Guides provide an excellent service.  They can tell you which mountains you are looking at, the elevation of the mountains, the best places to spend the night, the amount of time it takes to get from one location to another and are a knowledge bank for you.  They can also help you if you are injured.  In addition, some insurance carriers will not pay for your medical evacuation if you do not have a guide.  No, you do not need a guide, but it is better if you have one.

I highly recommend hiring a porter.  They will help you keep your pack weight off you body.  This can save your hips, knees and ankles from a painful injury.  You are also less likely to get altitude sickness if you do not over exert yourself.  Porters are also inexpensive.

How many miles is the Annapurna Circuit trek?

The complete circuit stretches from Bessisahar to Nayaphul.  It is 145 miles long.  The abbreviated trek from Chame to Jomsom is 52 miles.  These distances do not account for altitude gains and losses.  The actual distance traveled will be more.

Food and Calories on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

Walking 145 miles is no easy task.  Especially when you are climbing mountains and carrying a pack.  You can expect to burn about 440 calories per hour hiking.  This equates to about 3,500 calories burned per day.  There are 204 calories in one cup of cooked rice and 230 calories in one cup of lentils.  If you eat two plates of rice per day, you are losing about 2,632 calories or 0.74 lbs of body fat.  I lost about 25 pounds while trekking for 36 days.

In my opinion, most of the food being served up in the tea houses is not appealing.  Dishes that are called lasagna are noodles with ketchup.  Pancakes are doughy blends of wheat flower and water.  Pizzas are bread with ketchup and cheese.  At some point in my travels I gave up trying unknown menu items and stuck to lentils and rice.  At least you can have free refills when you order this dish.  Follow this link to read my blog post on what to expect before coming to Nepal.

How many people visit the Annapurna Conservation Area each year?

In 2016 83,419 people entered the Annapurna Conservation Area.  In 2012 102,570 people visited Annapurna.  The quantity increased to 113,213 in 2013.  The number of visitors increased again in 2014 to 124,998 people.  In 2015 the number of tourists entering the area declined to 114,418 visitors.  It declined further in 2016 to 83,419.  The recent decline in tourism is likely due to the May 2015 earthquake the devastated Nepal.  It could also be due to the construction of roads in the Annapurna Conservation Area, which makes trekking uncomfortable.

Annapurna Circuit Trek Visitorsthe number of visitors entering the area by month

The highest point on the trail

The highest point along the trail is on Thorung La Pass at 17,769 ft.  The elevation at the start of the trail in Bessishahar is 2,756.  The trail’s incline is gradual.  The elevation gain of the trail is dependent on starting and stopping points.  It averages about 1,500 feet elevation gain every day until you get to Thorung La Pass.  The slope coming down from the pass is steeper.  The average elevation loss per day is 1,782 feet.

People mainly trek the Annapurna Circuit counter clock wise because of the gradual elevation gain.  Hiking this direction allows people to acclimate easier.  You can also hike the circuit in a clock wise direction but your elevation gain per day will be greater.  Hiking in this direction will make it difficult for you to acclimate.

What are some good side treks?

Milarepa Cave
Entrance to Milarepa Cave

Going on the side trails are what makes your trek unique and different from everyone else.  You can have a completely different experience than anybody else just by following the blue and white markings.  Be careful though.  Some of the side trails can take you deep into some heavily forested areas that can be treacherous at times.  If you do go on the side trails, take a guide or at least a partner with you.

Tilicho Lake

Tilicho Lake is a phenomenal side trek I highly recommend.  The lake has a surface elevation of 16,138 feet.  It has a surface area of 1.9 square miles.  The lake is surrounded by mountain peaks and blue sky.  In the spring and winter, the lake is still frozen and under a couple feet of snow.  In the fall and summer, the lake is turquoise blue and beautiful.

Tilicho lake
Tilicho lake

Milarepa Cave

There are 2 different Milarepa Caves.  One is in Tibet and the other is on the Annapurna Circuit just below Annapurna 3.  Saint Milarepa, a Tibetan monk, came to the cave to meditate.  While he was meditating a hunter found him.  Saint Milarepa noticed the hunter and began to talk to him.  After talking the hunter hung up his bow, broke his arrows, and became a disciple of Milarepa.  There is a famous Nepali song that commemorates the event

Milarepa Cave is closed in the winter and spring.  You can still visit it when it is closed, but you will not be able to go inside the cave.  The views you will receive at the cave are worth the 3-hour hike off the main trail.  You will be a stone’s throw from the summit of both Annapurna 2 and Annapurna 4.  You can see the valley below and the monastery in Ghyaru, Pisang peak, and mountains Kangaru and Runam.

Gangapurna Lake

Gangapurna Lake is a small lake outside the village of Manang.  It was created by a glacier and is dammed by a glacier moraine.  You can see it from the northern edge of Manang and coming down from ice lake.  The hike down to the waters edge takes 1 hour.  At the lake there is a tea house you can stay at.  This is a great hike if you have a few hours of down time.

Ice Lake

It takes 5 hours to get to Ice Lake from Manang.  It is a strenuous hike that climbs over 3,000 feet above Manang.  The trail leads you to a plateau that looks out on Annapurna 3, Gangapurna, and Tilicho Peak.  This is an excellent side trek if you are staying in Manang and need to acclimate.

Completing the circuit

Before you complete the circuit, you will be very close to Annapurna Base Camp, and Poon Hill.  I highly recommend visiting both areas.  Be warned, in the busy season they are full of people!  It is best to go during the spring season when the rhododendrons are blooming in April.  You will not have the best weather and you won’t have to fight with people for your views.

Poon Hill

Rhododendron Flowers
Rhododendron tree on Poon Hill

Poon Hill is a 1-day hike off the main road from Tatopani.  You will hike through some villages and an old growth grove of rhododendron trees before arriving at Ghorepani.  You can visit Poon Hill on the same day if you have some extra time.  It takes about 1 to 2 hours to get there.  If you go after the sunrise you will not have to pay a fee.  You will probably want to visit Poon Hill in the morning to get the clearest views and to see the sunrise.  It costs about $0.5 to enter the area.

Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)

Annapurna Base Camp is a little further off the main trail.  The trail head is near Ghorepani.  From Ghorepani you can trek to Annapurna Base Camp in 8-days.  The trek down takes 3-days.  The trail is sometimes inaccessible in the winter due to snow.  You can see Machhapurchhre, Mardi Himal, Annapurna 3, Annapurna 1, Bharha Chuli (Fang), Annapurna South, and many other marvelous peaks while hiking to ABC.

Annapurna Pictures

Annapurna massif
Manang Valley and Annapurna 2

 

 

 

Map of the Annapurna Circuit
Annapurna Circuit Trek Map
Annapurnan 3
Annapurna 3

Other questions, comments, or concerns?

If you have any questions about the Annapurna circuit that you would like me to answer, please let me know in the comments.  Label it with a #badass if you read all the way to the end.

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