The name Chomolungma, or Sagamartha depending on which side of the Himalayas you are coming from; has resonated strongly with avid travelers like myself for years. Many yearn to climb her but only a few lucky ones will ever succeed. While many are simply content to stand in her shadows and see with their own eyes. Maybe one day I will attempt to summit the peak, but for now I was just happy to be in the same country as Mount Everest!
The main objective of my first ever visit to Nepal was to get a taste of what to expect for future hiking trips in the region. Due to our limited time in the country I opted for the Annapurna range via Pokhara upon hearing of its serene beauty – of both the town and the surrounding hills and mountains. With the first few days in Kathmandu for sightseeing and trying out different variations of the local delicacy ‘momo’ (fried dumplings) – we took the well worn 6 hour car ride to Pokhara.
Looking back, there is nothing I can write that hadn’t been covered before about Pokhara or the Annapurna. All I can stress the importance of is shoes! Looking back, everything else I planned for or equipped for was fine, except for the shoes. I have a nice pair of lightweight Columbia water proof trekking mid-neck shoes (not boots), and worn in enough from previous travels and activities etc. Making the ascent was fine, it was not until the descent that I realized the shoes fit a bit too snugly and my toes were hitting the end of the shoes with every step down. Times that by thousands and thousands of steps and suddenly you are in a lot of pain with no one to blame but yourself. Always buy hiking shoes/boots with room for your toes to slide or move a bit, you will be grateful for it. My fault:)
Then there was India.
This was a love it or hate it type of country. I loved it, but some of my friends didn’t. Our gruelling and tight schedule did not help either. For many years I had dreamt about visiting Jaisalmer and staying in the fort in the desert, and was adamant we had to get there somehow.
From Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, then to Jaipur, Jodhpur and finally Jaisalmer – everyday was roughly 6-7 hours in the car traveling to the next city. This was the most cost effective way with the short amount of time we had, as last minute trains and flights did not match to what we needed.
The colours, my gosh the colours of the Rajasthan region was breathtaking! You see it on television but to see it in person or through the camera lens was like looking through a kaleidoscope of vivid scenes. I love history and culture, and to see the famous forts in each city of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer – I tried to imagine myself walking through those narrow streets or battlements hundreds of years ago.
We wrapped up India in a relaxing, albeit slightly hot and painful manner. Camel riding in the Thar desert, and slept overnight on the sand dunes. A nice and surreal way to end what had been one of our most physically tiring trips so far, in terms of duration spent driving, flying and training it. Add in white water rafting, para-gliding and that unforgettable and arduous ‘little’ hike we did in the Annapurna. I hope to return as soon as possible!
Below are some images from both countries during the journey, enjoy:)
Our first day in Kathmandu, finding our way to Durbar Square and trying to get through the afternoon traffic.
Local sellers in Durbar Square in the late afternoon.
People watching in the local market – Durbar Square.
Young monks at the Boudha Stupa – Kathmandu.
I shot this of a fellow para-glider in front of me whilst up in the air, with Pokhara and its serene lake in the background.
Another shot of a para-glider skimming over the ridgelines near Pokhara. It looked a lot more cooler in person:)
The long and amazing ascent/descent/ascent etc to Panchasse village for the night – Annapurna hills
One of the most unforgettable nights I ever had on my travels around the world. Sitting around the village campfire getting to know travelers from around the world and sharing food with the local women who looked after us.
Stunning view of the Annapurna Range when the clouds lifted from our hotel room, with Diana in the foreground. We all rushed to take photos when it became visible.
The ubiquitous Taj Mahal + crowd shot:)
There is a certain beauty in the aesthetics of Amber Fort in Jaipur, the flowing walls and layout made for a less imposing structure than another photo below in another city.
Mehrengarh Fort in Jodhpur the blue city. Atop the hill overlooking the city, its imposing structure stands at a vast contrast to Amber Fort in Jaipur. It has never been conquered by any army.
The view of Mehrengarh Fort from our haveli. You can see why this is referred to as the ‘blue city’.
Another fort, this time in Jaisalmer in which we stayed inside and was a highlight in terms of exotic locale and customer service. The city of Jaisalmer resembled something from the Middle East in some parts, you wouldn’t think you are still in India.
The camel ride out into the Thar desert, an hour outside of Jaisalmer. It was a painful experience for the guys, for obvious reasons:)
This was the moment we woke up in the early morning in the Thar desert.
Inside our accommodation in Jaisalmer Fort. One word = colours!