My recent trip to Nepal was an overwhelming episode of my life. This country has a lot to offer to all adventure lovers. I still get goose bumps when I think about the journey. Whether it was, Night spent in Thamel, witnessing first rays of sunlight kissing Annapurna Peaks during my solo trek (Ghorepani), those six seconds of free fall during the Canyon Swing (The last resort, Tatopani), the beautiful people I met along the way or flight to Pokhara. I can still feel that liveliness when I shut my eyes and think about it. The memories are going to be there forever and it’s not easy to summarise the whole experience in few words. But I’ll give a shot.
Some Pointers from my personal experiences to first time traveller:
- 1 INR is equivalent to 1.60 Nepalese Rupee. This rate is standard across the whole country. You can make transaction in INR however I have noticed people are not very keen to take notes of INR in 500 denomination.
- Indian SIM cards don’t work in Nepal. However you can buy local SIMs from Nepal Airport, Ncell is the preferred telecom provider. Please carry passport size photographs.
- There is a confusion on usage of cards issued by Indian Banks however I managed to use my card on State Bank of Nepal ATM with a certain transaction fee. Always check with locals to get more clarity.
- Most of the folks speak reasonably good Hindi.
- There are few airlines which are providing their services and are comparatively cheap like Royal Nepal Airlines and Indigo. I personally prefer Indigo because of their competitive Air fare and strive towards being on time.
- Agoda is a good platform to do your bookings & there is an option to do reservation in advance without making any payment which gives you a flexibility. I made my all bookings via this online platform.
I was under impression that getting into Nepal doesn’t require the formal process for an Indian National. However I was wrong. Indigo operates Kathmandu flights from T3 Delhi Terminal (6E 32). There is a regular shuttle services available between domestic and International terminal without any charges for Indigo passenger. Once your luggage is checked in, you have to go through the normal International security check in though for Indians VISA is not a requirement. So always ensure that you have substantial time in hand if you have to change flights in between.
Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal. This is a buzzing city since this is a central stage for all administrative and tourism activity in Nepal. For me, it was like being another city in India with similar cultural heritage and resemblance of Hinduism. My abode was in the commercial neighbourhood of Kathmandu Thamel “Hotel Horizon”.
The reason behind choosing Thamel for my stay because it’s in epicentre of the tourist industry in Kathmandu and has a different vibe. It has its own charm and it’s not certainly going to disappoint you. Main attraction for me was area near Mandala Street and Sagarmatha Bazar. I was too tired on my first day and needed a well-deserved night sleep. One recommendation from my end, if you are fan of Rum like me, Khukri Rum will not disappoint you.
This place is different from the the rest of Kathmandu. Buzzing and always in action. I spent few hours on the street just to assimilate the vibe of this place. The one thing I understood & concluded is that this country is hit by inflation and other political issues which can be observed in day today life of local people.
Since I had a day in my hand, I decided to explore nearby places. Swayambhunath is 2.4 KM away from Thamel and can easily be covered by walk. I was impressed by the overall architecture of this temple. It is also known as the Monkey Temple as monkeys are omnipresent here. The temple is devastated after the earthquake and restoration work is going on with the help of foreign aid. There was not much to do here so I decided to head back to the hotel.
On my way back, I met this underage tourist guide, merely 13 years old. Speaking broken Hindi. I didn’t have anything to offer to him, though we shared a cup of tea and biscuits.
My next destination was Durbar Square, this place has taken a toll after April 2015 earthquake. All temples and historical monuments including artefacts are in bad shape. The restoration work is going on but it’s going to take a long time to bring the old glory back.
I ended my day in Thamel and exploring nearby places. Next Day I had to leave for Pokhara.
Today was the day to say bye to Kathmandu and greet Pokhara. I booked my flight with Yeti Airlines and Tribhuvan International Airport has a separate domestic terminal. The flight was an amazing experience itself. The 30 seat Jetstream 41 is a small plain and was handled by Pilots on their discretion in the airspace, above mountains. Seldom, I had a feeling that, I can touch those pinnacle by my hands.
Flying to Pokhara would be a different experience all together. Please don’t compare it with Lukla Flights, that’s absolutely a next level. I reached Pokhara around 3:00 PM local time. Local Taxis charge a fixed amount of 300 NPR to take you to the hotel.
Pokhara is a paradise. It was so beautiful that I couldn’t swayed my away from the lake (phewa tal) and mountains. My stay was in Hotel Orchid. A very nice place and the hotel manager is a friendly person. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was raining whole night but that couldn’t curb my enthusiasm to incept my trek.
I had hired a taxi to take a drop next morning. Usually it costs 2000 NPR but my driver agreed to do it in 1800 NPR. There are public transport available to reach Nayapul, to start the trek, however I had to be there early in the morning, so taxi was the best viable & reasonable option available at that very moment.
Note : ACA-Permit costs 200NPR for SAARC nationals (Provide Passport or Voter ID). TIMS card costs 600NPR & ACA-Permit costs 200NPR for SAARC nationals (for which you have to prove your id with either passport or voter id, no other form of ID proof is accepted). Accommodations are available on the way so you don’t need to carry sleeping bags or tent. Just carry a small backpack with essential stuff.
I reached Nayapul around 6:30 AM local time. I only had three days to cover the Poon hill. So I decided to ascent and descent via same route. Usually trekkers make ascent via Tikhedunga and and during return they descent via Tatopani. This is doable in five days. After this whole trek ABC trek is now in my to do list.
Annapurna mountain range in Nepal is has taken me by surprise, watching these natural sky scrapers in photos gives an adrenaline rush but watching their pinnacles from naked eye is a different feeling all together. It’s like a puzzle, more you try to know more puzzling it becomes. It takes a moderate level of fitness to complete and the max elevation is 3,210 meters. The trails are well marked so even if you are doing it solo, there shouldn’t be a concern of taking a wrong route.
Usually September is not a busy season, so I was able to get reasonable deals. I was lucky to witness one of the sacred ranges (Fish tail) during my ride from the city itself. Often, it stays cloudy so I can claim that, I was lucky.
Enroute Details of Ghorepani
From Nayapul to Birethanti, it’s a simple walk and Seti river will accompany you till Thikedunga. My target was to reach Ulleri (2010 m) and stay there for the night. According to local people it shouldn’t take more than 3 hours. I wasn’t surprise by this, in mountains no one keep track of distances in miles or KM’s. The distances are related in the terms of time it should take.
First I reached Hille Village and then Thikedunga. It was a bit tough for me because of the full blazing sun and my heavy backpack (I have learned my lesson). From Thikedunga, it’s only steep ascent and to my surprise it was just stairs, it somewhere around 3500 steps, it’s my guess, no one confirmed this.
I reached Ulleri around 3:30 PM, I know I was late but I never claimed that I was the fittest either, so I can live with it. Now, you must be wondering, I didn’t mention about food. I was in love with Nepali Veg Thali and throughout my journey, I preferred having a Thali and their Lemon tea (Best value for money spend).
To my surprise, rooms were cheaper in Ulleri and it costed 200 NPR for overnight stay. The food costed more and that’s reasonable. However, this room was better than any 5-star hotel. The reason being I had a full view of Annapurna south peaks view from my room window. Whole night I was restless and trying to catch some sleep but the views of the peak kept me awake. These ranges made me certain of one point that there are things bigger than us.
From Ulleri, it takes 1 hour to reach Nagethanti, contrary to this I covered this distance in 2 hours. I was alone in this whole trek and crossed one of the dense forest, I have ever seen. Sometimes, it was so silent that I was only hearing the creaking sounds of my boots. This was amazing and I totally had an amazing time amidst the forest. Dark clouds were chasing me and I had no rain cover & my bag was not even water proof. I was lucky I didn’t encounter rain during my trail.
Ghorepani aka Poon Hill.
I reached Ghorepani (2870 m) around 3:00 PM and as expected the rooms were reasonably low priced but food costed me more. I was not surprised; this is a beautiful valley. I made friends with two French nationals who were doing ABC. It was a great night. I knew I have to last leg tomorrow to reach the Poon hill and witness spectacular sunrise views of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna.
I woke up early in the morning & started my ascent towards Poon hill, which is 950 m steep ascent and it’s all stairs. When you cross Ghorepani village take left, since right side stairs will take you to Upper Ghorepani village.
For first time, I was out of luck. Clouds never allowed me to gaze those ranges. I didn’t have time either to spend another day in the village. Mountains can never be taken for granted. I did this whole trek to witness Dhaulagiri ranges from Poon hill and it didn’t happen. Anyways I am really happy that at least I made it this far and I am going to return again to witness Annapurana Base Camp.
I started my descent to village and had my breakfast, picked up my rucksack and started the decent further. Weather got really treacherous, I was following same route however I felt like it was an unknown path. Visibility was really low and it could have rained anytime. If you ever felt that you are alone, I had similar feeling; that I am walking though unknown woods.
After a while, the sky got clearer and I had a sigh of relief. The descent was not much fun due to my sore legs and heavy backpack. I didn’t have much pace, I gradually descended with my own pace and reached Hille by 3:00 PM. Time was not on my side. I opted for a shared ride to Nayapul and my taxi driver was waiting. I had a cup of lemon tea and returned back to Pokhara.
- Shared taxi rides are available from Hille to Nayapul vice versa. I was not aware of it.
- Ulleri and Ghorepani have drinking water facility available so you don’t need to purchase water bottles, they tend to cost more. Carry water purification tablets and you should be good to go.
I reached Kathmandu next day and it was nap time. I didn’t do anything spectacular and scroll in the Thamel market during night time. Tomorrow was another big day for me.
I had already planned my Canyon swing and booked it through The last resort based on Sagarmatha, Thamel, who are best in this business. I reached the pickup point early in the morning. It was a bumpy bus ride to Tatopani. On my way, I made few friends too so the ride become more enjoyable. Once we reach our destination, after all formalities, it was my turn to do the jump. How I felt, I became a philosopher for a while. I can summarise my feeling in this quote which is my original narrative
“This gorge is with lush green surrounding and breath-taking views, along with a furious Kosi river rushing towards downhill can substantially give you a chill. Now consider the height is 160 meters and you have to jump on count of 3. The first few seconds of free fall in line with gravity is enough to awe you. This experience cannot be decipher in mere words, this needs to be experienced”
I was really happy that I did this jump. I can still feel that gush of air and the feeling of falling in line with gravitation force. Best 30 seconds of my life. I spent my night there in Tatopani and it was refreshing. Made two Lama friends who were from a nearby village to China Border. They invited me to accompany them to their village but unfortunately that didn’t happen due to time constraint.