October 29 - November 14, 2011

Joan and I went  on a trip to Nepal using Overseas Adventure Travel.  Our group had 13 people and they were all experienced travelers and fabulous tour mates.  We flew from Kennedy Airport in New York to Kathmandu via Delhi, India, where we spent a night on the way.  The flight to Delhi was 15 hours, but went uneventfully. In Kathmandu, we went to the market areas, had a home hosted dinner by a sherpa family and visited a number of historical sights dating from the time when the Kathmandu valley had three kingdoms vying for supremacy, Lalitpur, Patan and Bhaktapur.  Each city had a palace and central temple area that tried to outdo the other.  Below are some shots of the competing Durbar (palace) Squares as well as a Buddhist and Hindu temple.



The next morning, we went on one of the highlights of the trip - a sightseeing flight to Mount Everest.  There are several flights a day of 29 seat planes that only sell 19 seats (to have all window seats).  The flight attendant gives pictures of the Himalaya range with all the mountains identified and helps the passsengers identify all the peaks.  It's a 55 minute flight to Mt Everest and back and during the flight, passengers can go up to the cockpit one at a time to get a cockpit viiew.  Here's my shot of Mount Everest from the plane.  It's the left peak in the center.

From Kathmandu, we were scheduled to fly to Pokhara, the second largest city 120 miles west on a 22 minute flight.  Low ceilings shut down the airport (no domestic airport has instrument flight rules) so we had to drive to Pokhara by bus.  How long can it take?  Well, the roads are so bad in Nepal that the 120 mile trip took 7 hours!  We arrived too late to start our trekking in the Annapurna range, so we spent the night at a dive of a hotel in Pokhara getting a taste of how less affluent travelers do it. 

Pokhara was the jumping off point for trekking in the Annapurnas (a part of the Himalayas west of Kathmandu that is only 20 miles from town, offering spectacular views).  The area is criss-crossed with 7-14 day expert trails that lead to the base camps of the mountains, as well as smaller loop trails for old folks like us.  Guess which ones we took?   At first, the weather continued to be unseasonable and we couldn't see past the foothills to the high mountains either from Pokhara or the trails.  We trekked from one lodge to another for the next two nights and really burned the calories.  Nothing was too strenuous, but we were puffing hard for some of it.  One day's trek was going 5 miles but with an elevation change of 1500 feet!  UP!

As the third day dawned, just as we thought we would never get the views of the mountains,  they "came out".  The three shots below are just a few of the spectacular scenes we saw as we trekked back out to Pokhara.


This is us outside the Gurung lodge on the trekking trail as dawn broke and the mountain appeared.  Notice how high in the sky the mountain is.  It is because it is so close to us and is over 22,000 ft.

On the left is Macchupucchre or Fish Tail Mountain.  It is considered holy and has never been summited.  It is 23,000 ft.  On the right is Annapurna South at 23,600 ft.  Similar views can be seen from downtown Pokhara.  Here is a shot from a street inPokhara.

From Pokhara, we drove further south and started our raft ride down the Seti River, a glacier fed river that flows from the Himalayas down to India.   The Nepali guides did most of the paddling, but we were called upon to assist in the mostly class 1 and 2 rapids.  We rafted down to a river camp, where we had permanent tents, a great campfire circle and a dining room with great food.  In fact, our guide invaded the kitchen and we all participated in making Momos, the Nepali national dish.  It is sort of like a steamed potsticker filled with a chicken, onion and spice mixture and served with various sauces.

From the river, we traveled by bus to Royal Chitwan National Park in the sub-tropical forest region near the border with India.  The Park is a nature preserve that was formally the royal hunting preserve of the kings.  It is home to tigers (rarely seen), Garials (fish eating crocodiles), regular crocs and many one horned rhinos.  The thing to do here is to ride on elephants in groups of 3 or 4, cross the river on them and blaze your own path through the jungle to search for the rhinos.  Since the rhinos and elephants are not afraid of each other you can get very close to the rhinos.  We saw 5 of them in the 2 hour elephant ride.  Here are some shots of some of the group on the elephants and one of the rhinos we found.


After the Chitwan, it was time to return to Kathmandu for our farewell dinner and our trip home.  The farewell dinner was at one of the Rana palaces.  The Ranas were a very rich family which got so powerful that they banished the kings to their palaces and ruled as prime ministers with all the powers of kings from the mid 1800's to just a few decades ago.  One of the neat things our group leader did was to rent us Nepali clothes for us to wear for the farewell dinner.  Here are Joan and I as Nepalis at the Rana Palace.

The trip home was a nightmare as we had to contend with neverending security lines in Kathmandu and an unbelieveably time consuming, confusing and ridiculous intra-airport transfer process at Delhi.  Nevertheless, we got home fine and have these great memories of a fabulous time in Nepal.