Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Nepal

On September 13 we walked across the Friendship Bridge between Tibet and Nepal. We arrived in Kodari and proceeded to immigration to pay for our visas ($40 per person for a 14-day visa). We then negotiated for a ride to Kathmandu (4 people for 4500 Nepalese rupees was as low as we could get it).

Walking to immigration

Sitting in the back of an SUV, driving to Kathmandu

We got stopped a couple times by "police" who were asking the drivers for money
for random things like the fact that our bags were strapped to the top 

Three plus hours later we finally arrived in Kathmandu where we said goodbye to our new friends, Andy and Warrick. The next day on September 14, we headed to Pokhara, the countryside for some relaxation and trekking. Ok, not trekking in the way that everyone else goes to Pokhara for. We aren't equipped to camp so we only signed up for some paragliding and a one day trek.

Kathmandu domestic terminal - tiny and dirty

Paul loves these planes

No seat assignments and super tight

It was a 25 minute flight but it takes 8-9 hours to drive here from Kathmandu

After checking in, we got some lunch; we saw a lot of locals carrying bricks in these baskets

This is the view from our room

You can see Mt. Fish Tail and get your laundry done for a good rate

The next day on September 15, we got picked up for paragliding. I'm surprised that Paul agreed to this since he's usually afraid of heights. I really wanted to try it so I was glad he was for it. I still think bungee jumping is my favorite. Skydiving was really scary and exciting too but once you are free falling and keep falling for like 10 minutes, it's a little nauseating. My paragliding experience was similar in that way - I got nauseous after 5 minutes of gliding around.

Walking up to the hill to go paragliding

The view of Pokhara

Getting excited/scared watching people take off which was running off the cliff

Paul and his paraglide instructor, BJ

Me and my paraglide instructor, Dpan

Group photo

Ahhhhhh - the view was pretty amazing

Dpan was not a great photographer/videographer - but at least there were a couple good shots

BJ took a lot better photos for Paul

Paul is clearly excited

Nice shot of the landscape below


There were a ton of other paragliders - I was afraid we'd get tangled up

Paul thinks he's a bird

Nice shot of the mountains in the background

A great shot of the town and Lake Phewa

No, Paul did not fall in the water

I landed first so got some video and photos of Paul landing

Lake Phewa where we landed

Before dinner we walked around Lake Phewa closer to town.

Kind of felt like a stand off here

View of Lake Phewa close to our hotel

Normal traffic in Pokhara - bulls, motorcycles and cars

Lake Phewa

You can barely make out the Annapurna Himalayan Range in the background

Sunset

Zoomed in shot with the mountains in the back

It was really pretty

Boat rides on the lake

Cool statue

Panoramic view of the lake

On September 16 we got up super early (yes, another 4:30am alarm) for our day trek because of a petrol strike. We had to be dropped off before 6am, when the strike was to commence. So, we were picked up promptly at 5am.

We got to see the sunrise over the valley - I felt like Bilbo Baggins

Paul never realizes how much taller he is than people

First glimpse of the Annapurna Himalayan Range - this is Machhapuchhre (6993m) - also known as Mt. Fish Tail because the Nepali words machha means fish and puchhre means tail

To the left is Annapurna South (7219m) and Annapurna I (8091m)

The good thing about going so early is that it wasn't blazing hot yet

Looking towards Annapurna South, Annapurna I, and the valley below

Another picturesque shot

I don't know why my hair looks like I'm wearing a helmet

Slinky shot of Machhapuchhre

It felt like we could easily tumble off this hill

We trekked for about 8 hours total

We walked by a few locals

Looking towards Annapurna IV (7525m) and Annapurna II (7939m)

Annapurna South, Annapurna I, Machhapuchhre

Machhapuchhre is considered holy by the people of Nepal because it hasn't
been touched and is therefore pure - nobody is allowed to climb it

I took advantage of the fact that we had our guide to help take pictures of us

We were so lucky to have a clear day - I couldn't stop taking photos

Annapurna Himalayan Range with rice fields

Close up of Mt. Fish Tail

Annapurna South and Annapurna I

Even closer shot of Mt. Fish Tail

Annapurna South

Annapurna IV and Annapurna II

Paul enjoying the view

Looking towards Annapurna IV and Annapurna II

Rice fields

This dog followed us for awhile - he was homeward bound

Bleat Bleat

Cool shot of Paul and the valley

Eagles looking for prey

There were a ton of them

We stopped to rest and hung out with this smiling goat

This little girl was watching us

This goat was surveying the area

He was eating some slop

Do I have an unhealthy obsession with goats?

Locals having some tea

I liked the color of these window panes

Bull

This one almost looks like a cartoon

There were lots of pictures to take

We are finally almost done with our trek

Pretty flower

Paul is always a few steps ahead

"Home is behind us and the world is ahead" - The Hobbit

Paul's usual stance when I'm falling behind

We also saw some wild cats

Last shot before we made it all the way down

We headed back to Kathmandu the next day and the main reason we had to stay there for the next 10 days was because we were applying for our India visa. It's a bit of a process to get - you have to go to the visa office three times. The first two times you wait an average of 2 hours. The last visit is to pick up your passports so that visit is the quickest.

Baggage claim at Kathmandu airport is pretty simple

We took a taxi to the India visa office since it's super easy to get lost in Kathmandu. We decided to chance it though and attempted to walk back to our hotel. We got lost.

Graffiti

Poor piggy

Trying to find our way back

I'm glad I wasn't carrying this at least

Spices

As we wandered around, we got suckered into following a local who wanted to show us
around. He said he didn't want money (just food) and that he really wanted to share the
sites of Kathmandu with tourists and practice his English. We got suckered.

He brought us to Janabaha

I don't know what he was saying because I was distracted by all the dirty flying rats

See how close they were to us? To Paul's head?

Cool door

This looks heavy

Another cool door

Paul doesn't remember what this is and I was too far behind to hear him...but it's a stupa

After getting suckered into buying a painting and giving a tip to the guy, we asked him to
lead us back to our hotel

Oh, I also got henna, something I always wanted to try. It smelled nice.

After a couple hours, you scrape the hardened stuff off and then it looks like this!

The next week consisted of a lot of lounging around as we waited for our India visa to get processed. After dropping off our application on September 18 (which you have to fill out online the day before and bring printed copies) and paying 7000 rupees each, we proceeded to wait 5 business days to see if our applications were approved. We had heard a lot of stories about applications getting denied because of little things. Being the paranoid freak that I am, I didn't book our flight to India until we knew we got approved. On September 24, we headed back to the visa office, got a ticket number and waited 2 hours to find out we were indeed approved. Hooray! We gave them our passports and returned the next day to find our shiny new India visas pasted in them.

It was a good thing we had all this time to relax because Paul got a bad stomach bug that lasted about 8 days. We did manage to get out a couple days here and there...the main thing we saw was Narayanhiti Palace Museum. This is the palace that the royal family lived in; the original palace was built in 1915 and the palace we walked through was built in 1970. On June 1, 2001 the King and Queen along with other royal family members were murdered at the Palace. The events surrounding the murder are still a mystery - some say their eldest son went crazy, shot everyone and then shot himself, some say it was a conspiracy led by the King's brother - nobody knows. Paul read and I am now in the middle of reading "Forget Kathmandu" by Manjushree Thapa to learn more about the history of Kathmandu.

Not a very good picture of  Narayanhiti Palace Museum but we had to turn in our cameras before going inside 

Our laziness worked out for us in this case...we didn't know it opened at 11am. We
arrived at 10:45 so didn't have to wait long.

Statue of King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah - he was the father of the King who was murdered

We stayed in Thamel while in Kathmandu - which is basically the tourist area. There are tons of restaurants and bars all along the streets. Our hotel was at the end of a main street and in a convenient location but also right in the middle of where all the live bands play until the wee hours of the night. We didn't get much sleep here but did catch up on some Breaking Bad.

The view from our room at night

The view from our room during the day

You see the blue sign in the upper left hand corner? That's where our balcony was...
and these power lines are totally safe and no, this is not the reason for power outages
every other hour.

Paul said good bye to Capt'n...well, more like see ya later - he's already coming back

And we finally said goodbye to Nepal on September 27 and headed to Delhi, India.

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