We never truly know what the future has in store for us. However by diving into the past & reminiscing from our previous experiences, by analyzing patterns & processes and having a sense of awareness in our present; we can to an extent compute a rough estimate of the set of possible outcomes that could occur. We can Guess.
It was a cool December night…
I had just finished crossing out the last day of the year on my dusty wall calendar. 365 Red crosses later an entire year darted by, within the blink of an eye.
Just before the stroke of the midnight hour as I stood by my window, I expected to see the annual cliched fireworks display for the New Year countdown. What I didn’t expect to see was one particularly bright red firework that was accidentally lit by the kids playing below, headed with a trajectory directed straight towards my face.
It was at that moment, time seemed to slow down or at-least that was my perception. As the firework neared closer, I guessed in my mind that although it probably wouldn’t kill me it would most likely lead me to suffer quite a disfiguring injury. To my good fortune, right at the very last instance the firework changed direction and instead of being injured, I only got a good idea of what gunpowder smelt & would probably taste like.
Lady Luck was on my side. With that I slung my backpack across my shoulder, grabbed my passport and made my way onward to start my New Year in Nepal. A few technical issues & a 30 minute delay later, my flight bound to Kathmandu finally took off. I was thoroughly excited to begin my trip as it was my first time visiting the region.
On arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport and after a few mandatory selfies at the infamous selfie point, I decided at the spur of the moment not to stay in Kathmandu and instead venture further away to the city of Pokhara; which was by road roughly 200 KM away.
Distance wise it wasn’t too far away and only took us 3 hours to reach; however the journey sure as hell felt like 3 days! I’m not going to sugar coat anything about the road journey to Pokhara. It was horrendous! Potholes everywhere, ongoing construction sites and never ending traffic. To top it all off, it was freezing cold! We were assigned individual seats in this tiny off-white beaten minivan but we were packed like sardines in a can. The concept of personal space did not exist.
Every time we stopped for a break, all the vehicle’s occupants would dash out of the car to grab a hot Chai (Local Tea) and gorge on Momos (Local Dumplings). But more than the delicious snacks and the heat of the fireplaces, it was the warmth and the genuine hospitality of the Nepali folk that pretty much got us through the most uncomfortable of ordeals. To me, that really made the experience of going through a seemingly long and treacherous journey worth every minute.
Finally we reached Pokhara. It was far less crowded than Kathmandu and had it’s own cosy vibe to it. I decided long before I embarked on my trip that I would do my best to utilize my time there efficiently. After checking into my hotel and a much needed hot shower, I immediately set off to go paragliding over the breathtaking Lake Phewa. Because why not right.
All our paragliding instructors were extremely professional and assured us that we had nothing to worry about. We were each accompanied by a pilot who would better guide us during our aerial excursion.
I approached the head pilot and explained to him that I was incredibly anxious as it was my first experience paragliding and asked if it was wise to indulge in a few glasses of some good old liquid courage to calm my nerves.
He replied that it wasn’t the best idea and he usually advises all participants never to do it for their own safety, as one needs to be alert and vigilant of the immediate surroundings plus you have to always be ready to listen to your pilot’s instructions. After all ,we only had to literally jump off a mountain to para-glide over a lake! One more item checked off my bucket list.
Standing on that mountain and looking down over the steep rock riddled slope left a daunting feeling within. Fear gripped me and I could feel my heart racing and pulsating throughout my body. I kept thinking to myself “Do I really want to do this?” over and over again.
Before I knew it, my pilot yelled out ” GO, GO, GO” ! I instinctively ran with all my might and a few seconds later we were airborne. As we hovered through the air we had the warm sunshine above, Phewa Lake below us, the snow capped Himalayas peering behind us in the background and what seemed to be fifty other para-gliders all circling one another in front of us; it truly was one of the most surreal and satisfying feelings ever.
Countless GoPro selfies were taken from the time we took off until we touched down. I was so glad I chose to do this. All in all it was a fantastic Adrenaline infused experience. I forgot to mention that I have a fear of heights! So going through with this really showed me that we can overcome our mental barriers that hold us back with just sheer will power and determination.
With that, I decided to call it a day and began to unwind with some much needed freshly brewed Himalayan tea by the mountain side.
By nightfall I distinctly remember it being so cold that I was snuggled up under the thick hotel blanket wearing my hoodie plus my jacket and was still shivering. Come morning, I was to be on my way to see Pokhara’s very own World Peace Pagoda sanctuary.
Peace Pagodas are essentially Buddhist Stupa monuments constructed by the Japanese Nipponzan-Myohoji Buddhist Order in order to better help people to focus on their prayerful intent in order to achieve World Peace. There are currently around 80 of them World wide.
I hired a personal driver to help me navigate through the city. You could go about on your own too using a bike or public transportation but time was one of my major constraints.
After he dropped me off , it was a long hike uphill. I genuinely detest climbing long flights of stairs but the energy of the place just invoked the feeling that it was just one of those things where you intuitively know that is going to be worth it at the end.
Finally, a grueling thirty minutes later I reached the top. Needless to say I was quite literally breath taken. Before I made my way over to the Stupa, we had to take of our shoes as the landmark is considered holy ground.
It was exquisitely beautiful and offered panoramic views of the Annapurna Himalayan Range all around. The entire vicinity was eerily quiet apart from the occasional incessant chatter from a few obnoxious loud tourists and gyro-copters that frequented the skies above. Yes they have actual Gyro-copters there.
As the sun began to set, I walked around the perimeter of Lake Phewa , got a few souvenirs and then decided to grab a couple of beers and just take in the amazing city view.
Also I just couldn’t resist helping myself to some enticing and delicious Nepali Momos. I absolutely loved the Momos. To the point where they made my taste buds twerk with indulgence and even that would be an understatement. They came with this tantalizing dipping sauce that’s both tangy and spicy. Simply delish!
After having my fill, I was ready to board my bus and head on to ‘Chitwan’ to check out the National Park. Chitwan is a little town right near the heart of the Park where you can get accommodation and tours to see the jungle in all it’s might.
You generally get two options, either you can do an Elephant Safari where you literally ride on top of an Elephant as it traverses the terrain guided by it’s Mahout (Trainer/Keeper).
Or else, if you’re like me and are against the principle of using Elephants/other wildlife as a means of transport, then you can do the Jungle Jeep Safari tour which is basically an open 4X4 jeep that takes you through a designated route.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience because I got to witness wildlife roam freely in it’s own natural habitat unlike withing the constraints of an enclosed space in a zoo. It truly is a must see for anyone travelling to Nepal.
During our Jeep Safari expedition I didn’t get to see the ever so elusive Bengal Tiger, but I did see Rhinoceroses, Gharial & Mugger Crocodiles, Wild Boars (Pumbaa), Chital (a kind of Spotted Deer), of course more Elephants and even Herons & Kingfishers!
After I was done with my tour, I made my way through my guest stay lodge , thanked the owners of the resort for their hospitality and boarded my ride back to Kathmandu, the place I started my journey from.
On arrival we got down at ‘Thamel’; a district of Kathmandu that I wasn’t very fond of to be honest. It was basically a commercial generic sort of pit-stop for tourists and from all the vendors and touts that would swarm anyone who didn’t look like a local, you could tell that this entire sector generated it’s revenue solely from the tourists that frequented it.
It was the most crowded and noisiest of all the places I’d been to so far. However it did radiate a sort of mystique culmination of vibes for lack of words. These vibes left me intrigued, and I wanted to go out of my comfort zone and explore it a bit.
I walked around quite a bit along the dusty roads and intentionally switched my GPS off as I wanted to get lost and be fully immersed in the moment.
Most people nowadays simply don’t know what it feels to get lost without using apps like ‘Maps’ and simply ask people for directions. A different enigma all together that is.
After a few hours of wandering about I came to a small dingy looking joint called ‘Sam’s Bar’. Quite a nice place without Wifi mind you, so you introverts might actually have to socialize a little there. The crowd is warm and friendly. I started out trying the local Everest Beer and they serve you complimentary popcorn too.
I was seated near the terrace area and soon enough it got real cold, real fast. The staff noticed us shivering with our pints in hand and sprinted towards us carrying these huge logs with a speed that would make Usian Bolt a little jelly. They placed them in a metal bucket and set them on fire. Before long all the people were huddled around our new makeshift fireplace with white smiles and reddened cheeks. That made for a really amazing ambiance and it felt almost like we went camping.
For my final day, I decided to go check out the Shree Pashupatinath Temple that lies on the banks of the Bagmati river. The site is considered to be one of the auspicious Abodes of Lord Shiva to practitioners of the Hinduism. It’s quite a massive area dotted with Shrines along it’s courtyards. Stunning architecture I must say.
Also I found monkeys here. Lots and lots of playful little fellows.
Before I knew it my trip was coming to an end. One week is just not enough to see Nepal in all it’s entirety. There’s so much going on alla round you that if you blink you’ll miss it. I’m definitely going back and when I do, I plan on completing the EBC trek someday.
Sigh. I miss this beautiful country.
Until next time Nepal, ‘Dhanyawaad’ (Thank you in Nepali) for the memories!