Monday 16 June 2014

Between times: Out of monsoon, ready for ramadan

The World Championship has started and we were able to watch some of the games now in Kuala Lumpur (including the Swiss game!) and we noticed that it's about time for another update for our blog!

We stayed some days in Kathmandu after our safari in the Bardia National park to prepare our next trek before the monsoon was expected to kick in. During this time, we visited the garden of dreams in Kathmandu which is an oasis of silence right at the corner of busy Thamel.
Garden of Dreams
We decided to go to the Langtang valley for a popular trek to the Langtang mountains and the Gosaikunda lakes (sacred lakes for the Hindus, but more about this later). The road to the trail head is not a motorway, it takes about 7 hours for 120 km; but there is quite a few stops due to police check posts and buying the entrance tickets for the Langtang national park. Next morning, we started our hike up the valley and after two days, we've already climbed over 2'000 m and the scenery changed from an narrow valley with forest to a wider one with a great view to the surrounding mountains.

Langtang Valley
On day 3, we arrived in Kyanjin Gompa where we enjoyed the surroundings and visited the local cheese factory (which was introduced in the 1950's by a Swiss guy) where they produce tasty yak cheese. Besides us, there was also a "Nepali Girl Group" shooting their "music videos" in the mountains. Well, they definitely have to work on their performance if they want to become famous in Nepal... :-) In Kyanjin Gompa, we wanted to climb one of the mountains close to the village next day, but the weather changed unfortunately and it was snowing the whole day; so instead of hiking, we were sitting in the living room, preparing our own "Raclette with yak cheese" on the stove :-) very yummy!

Nepali girl group
Panoramic view of Langtag valley
Glacier View
Summit reached
And after our unplanned rest day, we hiked up one of the mountains next morning, but the weather was not the best this day either, so we did not have a perfect view this time. So we left the village and headed back the same way we came up, before we turned into an other valley to visit the Gosaikunda lakes. The weather changed again and it was now very sunny and warm (which is not the best if you climb about 1'500 m altitude in one day). But once we reached the tree line, the views were great. We could see Langtang Lingun mountains, Ganesh Himal mountains, the Manaslu, some peaks of Anapurna and far away, the summit of Dhaulagiri. Just perfect! And when we arrived at the lakes, it stayed sunny the whole day which was a great experience as well.
Himalaya Panorama
Ganesh Himal mountains
Gosaikunda lakes
Gosaikunda lakes
Pilgrims on their way
The funny thing on this way was, that it was a week where a lot of pilgrims (Nepali / Indians) were hiking to the lakes as well. Therefore, most of the tea houses were quite full and once one of the pilgrims wakes up in the morning (about 04.00 am) they start talking to each other so that all other will wake up around this time. And they don't acclimatize properly (they walk all day long), so you see quite a few sick nepali in the tea houses... but for them it seems to be a very spiritual experience at those lakes.

Host of tea house
Monk at Gosaikunda lakes
Pilgrim on his way
So, after the descend from the lakes, we hopped on the local bus again to drive back to Kathmandu. One interesting thing about the local bus is the stop at about 10.00 am which is the "lunch break" where the local people have their lunch (always Dhal Bat!). We didn't (although it looked and smelled good but it was way too early for us). And once back in Kathmandu, we were very keen on some different food than then things you get in the mountains, so it was Pizza (good one!) and fresh salad (amazing after 2 weeks without it)!
Our last stop in Nepal was the trip to Pokhara, a laid back town on the shore of a lake, close to Anapurna. But this time, we did not go with the local bus that stops quite frequently, we took a so called "tourist bus" that has more comfort (i.e. air conditioning). In Pokhara, we were greeted by about 1'000 taxi drivers that all wanted us to drive with them or at least go to the hotel they recommend... a bit annoying, so we walked away and took another taxi driver :-) since it started to rain...
Pokhara is a nice town, with good restaurants and it would have a great view to the mountains, but since the monsoon was close, most of the time we couldn't see them at all, but there is some others things to do in Pokhara. The international mountaineering Museum is definitely worth to be visited and if you feel like hiking, you can cross the lake with a small boat and hike up to the world peace pagoda which offers a good view over the valley and to the mountains.

Temple in Pokhara
World peace pagoda
So we spent some relaxing days before heading back to Kathmandu, to prepare for our flight to Kuala Lumpur once more (goodbye monsoon rain). In Kuala Lumpur, we are planning to spend some days (to be able to watch football as well) before we go south, visit Singapore and then move on to Java and Bali (our biggest concern is the Ramadan starting soon and both, Malaysia and Indonesia are rather strict on that) so we try to spend much of this time in Bali (with the Hindus)...

Woman carrying firewood
People carrying building material
Inside of a temple
Well deserved beer at the Gosaikunda lakes
On our way up to the lakes
Langtang lirung mountains
Panorama view