Friday, September 13, 2013

NEPAL again

Without even realizing the great Himalayas were pulling me back like a magnet. Now, after long traveling around Asia I decided to return back to Nepal. I flew from Bangkok to Kathmandu. At the airport asked the officer to put the visa on an already used page (Nepal visa is 1/2 page) and with a smile he agreed to leave me the last empty page for Indian visa. That means - my travel with this passport still continues.
First of March 2012 I land in Kathmandu and I remember that I have no martenitsa. The shock of the change is hugeFrom the wet heat in Bangkok to the March cold in Nepal. I was freezing at night and even started to cough. Traveling by land is much better for acclimatization .
On the airport I met a Finnish guy named Risto and we spent a week together on Freak Street as the freakishness peaked at the festival Holi, the festival of colors.
On the very first day I submitted my documents for Indian visa and had to wait a week in Kathmandu. It was so nice to feel the heartbeat of this city again. Passing through the places where we were with Gena before and it all looked so different no ... I was wandering has the city changed or have I changed?
already knew how to enter for free in all temples and monuments and rediscovered them with new eyes. Again I visited the monkeys in the Monkey Temple, again I sat on the banks of the Bagmati River in Pashupati Temple, observing burning funerals and vanishing lives like smoke in the air and again felt the magic of Buddhanat. This time I even went to Bhaktapur. Everything seemed so familiar, but my experiences were totally different .
In Buddhanat Buddhist monk blessed me as he put a white scarf on my neck. I decided to bring it to the highest place and let it spread love with the wind energy. This time I was planning the base camp of Annapurna .
And yet some things remained the same – the strikes and protests continued, there was still curfew in Kathmandu, the salaries of the people still remained so low, despite the rising prices. I even met again Manjil, our Nepali friend who was so hospitable to us last time.
again in Monkey Temple, Kathmandu
woman lighting the oil lamps in Monkey Temple, Kathmandu
Buddhist monks taking photos of Monkey Temple Stupa
friendly monkey from the Monkey Temple

sugar cotton
Meat on the streets of Bakhtapur
on the streets of Bakhtapur
on the streets of Bhaktapur
on the streets of Bhaktapur
on the streets of Bhaktapur
clay money boxes :)
clay square in Bhaktapur
clay square in Bhaktapur
clay square in Bhaktapur
streets of Bhaktapur
streets of Bhaktapur
resting on the streets of Bhaktapur
resting on the streets of Bhaktapur. It's full of sleeping people on the strangest places on the streets.
again in Buddhanat
eyes of Buddha

in Buddhanat
the monk took photo of me in one of the monasteries in Buddhanat
Sadu in Kathmandu
It turned out that the visa for India will be ready right on Holly and I had to walk two times to the embassy and back through the covered with colorful dust streets of Kathmandu . The morning was relatively quiet, but the second time when I passed Thamel to go to the embassy was already painted in all colors, especially red. Crowds of teenagers armed with paint were often attacking me but most surprising are the water bombs flying from balconies and rooftops. Good that I had packed all documents and camera in plastic bags.
Once I got the visa , pleased and happy , I was ready to dive into the colorful streets of Kathmandu with handfuls of red and green powder. I felt like a little kid , which was allowed to get dirty to the ears. Such sincere joy and laughter! On Durbar Square there was a huge dj party. All the ancient square sounded with techno music and the pyramid building were covered with colored people. Colorful dust was flouting in the air, people were dancing , bombs were flying around and at one time even a fire truck came and began to pour water on the crowd with full powerMainly kids and teenagers were taking part in the colorful war, but also foreigners were enjoying as children. Even those who are trying to stay clean, sooner or later, were colored. The roof-top of our guesthouse on freak Street was an ideal base for throwing colored water bombs, a game that we all played as kids. 

burial in Pashupati Temple , Kathmandu
burials in Pashupati Temple , Kathmandu
sleeping in Pashupati Temple , Kathmandu

sadus in Pashupati Temple , Kathmandu
Risto bombing from our rooftop on Freak Street
washing the colored kids
even dogs are colored

My camera looked the same way. Protection
The Party on Durbar Square. Some are wearing helmets!

Colorful crowd on Durbar Square
fire truck cooling the situation

my Finnish friends

с Манджил на руфтопа
The party finished with the curfew - 22 pm, and with my new Finnish friends we went to a house party on a rooftop with my friend ManjilThe euphoria of the festival was gone and people were sitting, drinking beers and bang tea. The next morning I left early to Pokhara by local bus. The hitch-hiking in Nepal was not the best alternative and decided not to waste time. I could not wait to see again Pokhara and mostly the Bulgarian flying friends who were there. There were nearly 20 Bulgarians at that time, soon was the start of the season (April- May). There was a newly-opened Turkish restaurant where they made tarator, moussaka, ayran, and even they made us traditional stuffed peppers. After all this traveling I felt good in Balkan atmosphere again. Teddy, one of the Bulgarian flying friends decided to come with me to the base camp of Annapurna and I was very happy that I will have company and even more – speaking in Bulgarian!

first snow sceneries on the way to the base camp of Annapurna
even on the most inaccessible places they managed to make terraced gardens
Endless stairs up and down. Once we saw a discouraging sign - 8200 steps up to next village 
We bought permits and started the trek to Annapurna . The season had not yet started and there were fewer tourists, but still there were a lot of people along the way. Obviously, this trek is more popular than Everest because it is shorter, but also it's more expensive. I brought muesli, biscuits and noodles for the day and in the evening after a full day of walking I deserved an endless dahl baht . Like with Indian thali , you always get a second and even a third time, until you are fullIn the beginning it was hard with all the food and the heavy camera and tripod, but gradually luggage became smaller and I got used to it. Almost all other people were with guides and porters , some even with donkeys . We met tourists who brought their laptops, because there was nothing heavy to put in the backpack of the porter. Walking with a group and a guide was not only interfering with your own pace and desires, but also sometimes exposing you to hazards and unpleasant moments. In general, compliance with any programs in the mountains and along the way feels for me restrictive. In a heavy afternoon rain we stopped at the first village to dry and sleep while our friends Israelis and Argentinean group were forced by their guide to walk for 2 more hours in the pouring rain to the next village where they had arranged guesthouse. The next morning we passed them, they all had cold and still wet clothes and shoes and could not start walking before lunch. 70% of the victims of altitude sickness are people in organized groups. The reason is that people do not want to admit that they are sick, because guides will forse them to go down and they will lose all the money they paid for the trek. And if you're alone, you can just rest a day or two and go when you feel acclimatized , you do not need to compete with groups and guides or to follow certain programThe trail is full of people, well marked and with many villages on the way so it is hard to get lostIt seemed to me much easier to get lost in Rila or Pirin mountains or other Bulgarian mountains with much less altitude and I've done more than once. We were walking as far as our bodies and the mountains allow us and without any hurry we made it to the base camp and back for seven days and things were flowing without any programOn the first day just when we arrived at the guest -house where we wanted to sleep heavy rain started and soon turned into hail. Over 3000m altitude it started to snow and thick fog covered everything. It was late March and we were told there was avalanche danger and it is better to walk only in the morning before the sun starts melting the snow. I do not imagine that we had to walk in the snow so I was totally surprised about avalanches. On the Everest trek there was no snow below 5000m. Wee it was in May, but here the highest we will go is just 4130m. Luckily we met two other Bulgarian friends who were already going down from the base camp and were so kind to supply me with gaiters and gloves. With my low shoes the gaiters were necessary because we had to walk in fresh deep snow the last couple of days. In some places the trail was so icy that Japanese tourists were equipped with cats, and locals puts socks on top of their shoes. In the highest huts was already so cold that all water was frozen and the toilet looked like an icy lake with a fishing hole. We could get water only boiled from the kitchen. Soon we began to hear more and more often the roar of falling avalanches, rocks and cracking ice. The echo was so powerful that you always have the feeling that the avalanche is right above you. We had lunch and warmed a bit in Durali (3100 m) . There was fog and snowfall so we were wondering whether to continue walking to the base camp of Machapuchare (fish tail). This peak had never climbed because it is considered sacred , but it has a base camp. We decided to continue so that the next day early we could make the final stage of the trek - from Machopuchare to the base camp of Annapurna. After about an hour walking the trail disappeared, buried under a huge avalanche of ice chunks. It had fallen before less than 30 minutes and no one was crossed it yetWe met a boy and a girl who were coming from the other side and were quite excited. They had heard the avalanche when they were resting near by. If they didn't rest probably they could be under it. Luckily there was no one on the trail at the time of the avalanche. It was like a small mountain of ice which we had to climb without a path. Teddy was so scared that the rest of the trek she went almost running. I arrived an hour after her, stopping for photos and enjoying the snow landscape. She already got worried about me and had almost started to go down and search for meThe magnificsient view of Machapuchare was chasing away all fears from my heart. We were now above the clouds, weather was clear and sunny and now we could see that we were surrounded by 7-8 thousand meter peaks from all sides. They seemed so close like we could just climb them in a minute. On the fourth day morning we went to Annapurna. The weather was fantastic, sunny and clear. Walking was not steep and I was singing on the way. The biggest surprise was fresh ski tracks on the snow and soon I saw snowboarding on the slopes above the base camp which made me start dreaming . I was not snowboarding for the last two seasons and during this big winter in Bulgaria I was often dreaming of endless white slopes. I thought that if I could rent one snowboard I will immediately go climbing with it and that made me go fast and eager. It turned out that a group came by helicopter directly from Pokhara to heli ski for only 10 000 Euro per person. The end of March was the only suitable season for skiing here. If I'd bring my snowboard , I could ride down almost to Durali in fresh snow. We arrived at 12 o'clock at noon at the base camp and we decided to sleep there. We had all day to enjoy the snow fairy. We went a bit above the base camp on a small peakcovered with prayer flags. This was the perfect place to leave the white scarf from the Buddhist monk in Buddhanat. We stayed there to adore the view for 6 hours until sunset. Usually after 10-11 h clouds cover the peaks, but we we got lucky and had all day visibility. After an abundant dinner we went to bed with all the clothes, sleeping bags and blankets. It was the coldest night. I dreamed I was snowboarding .

quite heavy..
these two kids wanted to take them with us
The avalanche that had blocked the path minutes before we pass
meeting with other Bulgarian friends. Thanks for the gaters and gloves once again!
Satisfied and happy at the highest point above the base camp of Annapurna! We did it!
Here's where I put the white scarf from Buddhanat. I hope someday I see it again there ...
The base camp of Machapuchare
spirit of a paraglider
view of Machapuchare  from Annapurna BC

tracks in the fresh snow above the base camp of Annapurna


The next morning we rose with the sunrise. I can not describe the cold that enveloped everything in the morning and there is nowhere to hide. The only warm place is the kitchen, but only after they start to cook . We were too cold even to eat so we started walking down. The descent on the ice was more difficult. It was good idea that I carried two bamboo sticks from the village of Bamboo. For one day walking we reached Bamboo again and stayed there. The next day we were rewarded with hot mineral springs in a village down. What a pleasure for the tired legs! Then, with new power, step by step we reached the village from where we started - Nayapul. We caught the bus to Pokhara, dreaming of cheap and tasty food and well-deserved rest. As I expected next two weeks I could not move from the paradise Pokhara. Suddenly the weather became warmer and jackets and scarves were changed into t-shirts and soon I was even swimming in the lake. I met a lot of friends, even I met again Freda and Kahlo , who so kindly sheltered us last time. We went for a walk along the lake and before I left I went to visit them again. We separated with the feeling that we'll meet again.

Nepali children trying to fly
I was walking every day along the lake, looking up at the flying gliders in the sky and dreaming of flying. They were so many, and had not yet begun the season. My dreams came through with Gery from Sky Camp who took me on a tandem one day and we made the longest flight of my life - almost three hours in the air. First I was enthusiastically photographing everything in sight, but after an hour or two rotating in the thermals I began to feel sick and then I understood how it is possible to vomit in the air. However, the flight was memorable and even though I was feeling bad, I was very happy in the same time.
One beautiful morning I went walking up to Saranghot and for the first time I saw the full majesty of the row of white peaks - from Dhaulagiri (8167m) in the west, in Machapuchare (6997m) to the rounded Annapurna II (7937m) to the east. I sat up and enjoyed the view all day and even had a little nap in the sun. It was the clearest day of my entire stay in Pokhara and clouds did not show up until the afternoon. On the way back in one of the villages I was invited to a Nepali wedding and was hospitably fed with dahl baht . The bride was dressed in red and both with the groom had huge red tikas on their foreheads, so big that they could hardly see anything. They were looking so confused and scared that were not even smiling. The guests on the other hand were having lots of fun with Nepali music and dance. I had to dance with them Nepali dance and of course I became the main attraction of the wedding. Only I could not understand why they were playing the same melody over and over again all the time and every time were enjoying it to the full as if they hear it for the first time.

on the way to Saranghot - already clear views showing up
Dhaulagiri (8167m)
Not so high, but most impressive is Machapuchare (6997m)
The whole raw of 6-7-8 thousand meter peaks can be seen from Saranghot
Pokhara , Dal Lake and the flying people above them

Machapuchare (6997m)
the day was wonderful not only for views, but also for flying

I was hoping to see a Yeti with the long lens ... but there were only paragliders

the bride
At the wedding

wedding guests
and musicians...

Carrom board - the game everybody in Himalayas plays and finally I brought one to Sofia with me
Dahl Lake, Pokhara
Dahl Lake, Pokhara
The visa was running out again and on the last day i took a local bus towards Indian border. The bus, of course got broken and they had to move us to another one which was already full. Wonderful chance to have a ride on the roof-top of the bus once again. It was much more comfortable lying on piles of luggage with wind in my hair and smile on my face.Then we had to change 2 more buses, again full, again on the roof-top until we reached the border in Sunali. Chao, Nepal! Hello, India again!