NEPAL [ A Family Trekking Travelogue ] - by limwhow & SereneXMM


limwhow

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[SUP] Prologue to a simple Travelogue[/SUP]

After seeing quite a few CSers trekking to Nepal and sharing their wonderful shots, Mingsing, overdodo, and many others.
SereneXMM and I did our first Nepal trek in March 2011 to Lukla and Namche Bazaar.
But recently, a family of my patients went trekking to Lantang, with young adults children.
And when finally, a few weeks ago, a good friend of mine ageless brought his 10 year old son to Pokhara for trekking, I was totally inspired.
And we decided to bring all our 5 children, age ranging from 12 years to 24 years, for their first real trek in Nepal.

... and thus we present to you all...
 

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limwhow

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A Family's Trekking Travelogue to
N E P A L


  • [*=center]Ulleri
    [*=center]Ghorepani
    [*=center]Poon Hill
    [*=center]Tadapani
    [*=center]Ghandruk

On 13 Dec - 21 Dec 2012
Our family of 5 children and us
embarked on an unforgettable
trekking trip to the ancient country of
Nepal.
Armed with nothing much more than
our own pair of legs and hopefully strong hearts & lungs
we attempted to do a climb from 1000m to 3210m and down to 1000m in 5 days.



This picture generated by merging my GPS tracks onto Google Earth depicts the actual GPS track of a vehicular road we took (in blue) to Nayapul, followed by the actual red GPS tracking route we used to walk up to the small village of Ulleri.
 

limwhow

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The Questions...

"But why Nepal? Are you sure the children can handle the mountain trekking?" questioned the worried grandparents.
"Why Nepal? Why not some of the nice, air-conditioned, coach-driven modern countries for nice Disney shows and relaxing and eating and shopping?" others joined in.
"Dangerous wor... "

Our views

I have a patient who came to see me and told me he has brought his sons to literally everywhere and is now out of a place to bring them for vacation.
His eyes opened wide when I suggested trekking in Nepal because that is indeed something that not too many Singaporeans have done.
I am sure there are a growing group of parents and family who would like to embark on such a trip, but only worry about the difficulties.
Our view is, why leave our already very comfortable home environment and delicious food and great shopping, only to go to another comfortable country with delicious food and good shopping?

Bringing the children to trekking in Nepal strips them (and ourselves) of all their daily material comforts, and throws them right into the wilderness.
The are deprived of that link to comfort and would depend on their own adaptability during the trek.
Thus it is on hardship travels like these that the best and the ugliest of each and every one of us is shown.
But more importantly, the hardship and the suffering that we all bear together, bonds the family so much tighter than a trip to Disneyland would.
 

limwhow

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Our this thread is divided into the following sections:

A. Preparation
The actual trip which is split into:
B. Kathmandu for visits to religious sites.
C. The actual trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area.
D. Back to Kathmandu for more visits to historical sites and religious sights.
 

Daoyin

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Merry Christmas limwhow. Looking forward to your tale of bonding and trekking.
 

limwhow

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Merry Christmas limwhow. Looking forward to your tale of bonding and trekking.
Thank you, Daoyin!
It's just merely another travelogue of sights and anecdotes.


Off we go!

It's the morning.
All the children have been mentally prepared (but... physically, I am not so sure.. Haha..).
And they are all ready for the trip. Leaving the comforts of mobile phones, laptops, computer games, TV and all behind... they took their first step.


SereneXMM: "Hehe... Let's all enjoy this very special trip, ok?"

A. PREPARATION

There are many Singaporeans who are keen to trek in Nepal, but are reluctant in fear of the unknown.
I won't say it's physically not-challenging. But any teenage Singaporean student who is able to keep up with the PE sessions, and any young adults who exercises regularly, will be able to complete the trek.

We knew we had to be a little more prepared. And we gotten some other necessary equipments.
  • A complete set of cold wear with good base layers that wick sweat (most important, in my opinion, as you will certainly sweat)
  • Good trekking shoes
  • We knew it would be icy up there, and sometimes on frozen ice, it would be good to have shoe-studs for grip.
  • Trekking sticks (we bought most of them at good prices in Kathmandu)
  • walkie talkies - the son and the faster girls will be a distance ahead of SereneXMM and I. So we just got to communicate with them.
  • A good hikking GPS - I just love my Garmin Oregon 450. It's mind-blowing when I see them.

Both SereneXMM and I brought too much photographic equipment when we last did our Nepal trek.
Thus this time round each of us only brought one rangefinder.

But no amount of preparation prepares as for the awesome sight which we were going to experience.
 

limwhow

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OK. Children, get ready for the trip of your lives.

"No hot shower for 5 trekking days, only powder bath. Because not all lodges have hot shower."
"And no heaters in the freezing cold (sometimes sub-zero) of the mountains in the wooden guest lodges."

Yupe.
That's exactly what I told all of them.
Because that was what we experienced ourselves.
So they were mentally prepared.


"I don't care. I have secretly brought my hair dryer! Wahahahaha..."
The eldest 姐姐 (sister) cannot bear not looking pretty everywhere she goes. Even in the mountains.
OK lor.. we'll see. Hahaha...
 

limwhow

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These children ah.. they all really know how to make themselves comfortable...


"Papa, hee hee... I have got my bear!"
AhLiXMM, our youngest, could not go anywhere without her teddy bear.
Despite my repeated reminder not to bring, she still managed to smuggle it on board.
Who has ever heard of a teddy bear goes trekking? No, right?

Compared with exactly two years ago, she is older now.
And she managed to fill up her arrival form correctly without mistakes.
Great!
 

wonglp

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camping here for some family warmth, entertainment and pictures, hohoho! :)
 

limwhow

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Some introduction to Nepal...

In the minds of our children, Nepal is a country far, far away somewhere in the Indian Continent.
They knew of our previous trips to Nepal and her hinterlands. But never did it occur to them that one day they would set foot on this lovely land.
So we took some time to share with these little ignorant ones some background information about Nepal.

For our good friends here in ClubSNAP, for brevity sake, in our previous trek with SgTrekker, we have some information already.
Here, allow me to point you to this link.. Just give it a quick run-through...

A (really) very brief Geography and History of Nepal

Kathmandu!

Five hours of flight. And a whole lot of non-stop laughter on board watching 'Just-For-Laughs'... we arrived.


Ho ho ho... although it was only slightly less than two years, but it felt like a long time since we've been back.
The crew announced the temperature outside to be at 16 degree Centigrade. Wow! Is it already so cold in bright day light?



"This is Kathmandu?" questioned the 姐姐s (Jiejie - elder sisters) as they looked out the transporting bus in the airport.
"It's broad daylight in noon. And it feels cold like in an air-con room. We cannot imagine how it will be up in the mountains."
"Don't worry,"
I reassured. "We are prepared. Let's take it a step at a time. Just enjoy Kathmandu before we trek."


Oh.. I almost forgotten how the customs procedure was in Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport.
Thankfully we were reminded by SgTrekker and our Nepali guide beforehand to bring three photos per person - because one photo is for the Visa On Arrival, which each of us pay US$25 to purchase a 14 day visa at the first counter, and the other two photos were meant for our trekking permits.
 

CS7890

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Sometime rough it out is good bonding within the family. Hearing very encouraging words in here from a father point of view.
 

limwhow

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Going trekking with a Samsonite rollable luggage?

Yah, because have you ever seen anyone trekking up the mountains of Nepal lugging a roll-able hard-case luggage?
Jokes aside, for those of us trekking, it is almost mandatory to be travelling with backpacks.
Why? Because it is lighter, and it is easier to carry, for ourselves as well as our porters.

"Children," I cautioned. "Remember, once you get out of the airport, each of you please carry your own backpack."
"Don't let any one carry your bags, no matter how they offer."

Don't get me wrong. The Nepali are one of the nicest peoples around.
But even our guides have warned us. At the airport, every one please JUST carry your own backpacks until you arrive at the minibus.

So after removing our backpacks from the cargo-bags for check-in, we all strapped on the heavy bags and off we walked.
Impressive, seeing these young little ones with the (pretty heavy) backpacks on their backs walking through the hordes of people.



It was lovely seeing our very good guide, Mahesh, after almost two years.
He hasn't changed. And is as warm as ever!

"Hello everyone!" welcomed Mahesh, hanging garlands of flower around each of us.
"Welcome, welcome! I hope you had a good flight. Today let's take it easy and we will have a visit to Pashupathinath Temple, and after dinner we will do some last minute shopping for trekking equipment in Thamel."
"Tonight you all have an early night's rest because tomorrow early morning we will be flying to Pokhara."


Ever so reassuring, this Mahesh. That's why SereneXMM and I specifically told Adrian (SgTrekker) that we wanted to have Mahesh lead our family for this trek.
So in the minibus we went.
 

limwhow

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Itinerary for our Nepal trip

Friends within and without of ClubSNAP have asked me, what is our itinerary like?
And is it going to be siong?
Well, siong or not, I don't know. Not until I have completed the trek. But certainly it is not as siong as those going to Annapurna Circuit, Annapurna Base Camp or Everest Base Camp.
Before we continue, please don't go away with the idea that a family of seven are going to any of these Base Camps, for we aren't.
We are just going to take a trek of moderate (subjective) difficulty suitable for first time trekking children.

Day 1 - Kathmandu
Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. At 1300m altitude.
Visit Pashupatinath, the holiest Hindu temple in Nepal, and hopefully able to view a real live cremation(s).

Day 2 - Pokhara
Domestic flight to Pokhara (800m altitude), the gateway city to many of the trekking towns in Western Nepal.
Famous for her Fewa lake and lovely warm weather.

Day 3 - Nayapul to Ulleri (trekking)
An hour and a half minibus ride to Nayapul (1000m altitude), the starting point of our trek.
We have been discussing this time and time again with Adrian (SgTrekker) and Mahesh, our guide.
Our plan is to trek from Nayapul at 1000m up to Ulleri, a small Margar village at 2070m.
The toughest part will come after the small village of Tikhedhunga (1570m), which will see a steep non-stop stretch of ascend of 500m.
If we can, we will push the whole family up to Ulleri for the night there.
If we fail to do so, we will stay put in Tikhedhunga for the night. (which I do not hope for)
This day will be an important testing ground for the whole family, for it would probably take about 5-6 hours of trekking.

Day 4 - Ulleri to Ghorepani (trekking)
From Ulleri at 2070m to Ghorepani at 2870m will see us trekking up another 800m of ups and downs.
A pretty undulating terrain will bring us closer to the lovely mountains.
But will also test our endurance and knees.

Day 5 - Poon Hill to view sunrise, thereafter back to Ghorepani and onwards to Tadapani (trekking)
This, is going to be the toughest day of the trek in terms of distance and duration and for the first part, rapidity of ascend.
Poon Hill at 3210m, is the highlight of the trek, for up there, we have unobstructed view of all the mountains of the Annapurna range.
And make the ascend in total darkness in the early hours of the morning to await sunrise over the ranges, that would be quite an experience.
The trek from Ghorepani to Tadapani (2660m) is fraught with ice-frozen permafrost tracks, and another steeper ascend at the last part.

Day 6 - Tadapani to Ghandruk (trekking)
This is the most relaxing day of the trek.
Ghandruk is just at about 2010m. So it would be a day of descend.
And a short trek it is going to be, Mahesh said, around 3 hours.
Ghandruk is the largest Gurung village in the area.

Day 7 - Ghandruk back down to Nayapul (trekking), and thence back to Pokhara.
This last day of trek will see us descending back to 1000m at Nayapul, on a relatively gentler terrain, but a slightly longer horizontal distance.
And at Nayapul, we will be mini-bussed back to Pokhara.

Day 8 - Kathmandu
A morning domestic flight back to Kathmandu.
And a eagerly looked-forward visit to Baktapur, the medieval city of Bhagaul.

Day 9 - Home!
A last visit to Boudanath Stupa, the largest Buddhist Stupa in the world, before we fly back home.


Well... sounds easy enough to me.
 

limwhow

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A travelogue of record shots..

For many of our friends here in ClubSNAP who know us well, SereneXMM and I are just record shooters.
To us, what is important is that the picture captures the feeling of the moment, and it captures the moment itself.
Even if there is some movement blur, or if the composition is less than acceptable, or if the picture is a little out of focus, as long as it is memorable to me, I think it is good enough for ourselves and the children to remember this trip by.

Thus we would like to first apologise if our pictures are not good enough.
I am but a story-teller. Nothing more.
 

limwhow

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camping here for some family warmth, entertainment and pictures, hohoho! :)
Thank you so much, wonglp!
LOL.. I won't dare to say about entertainment. But certainly a lot of family togetherness in this trek for us.

Sometime rough it out is good bonding within the family. Hearing very encouraging words in here from a father point of view.
I am in total agreement,, CS7890.
A crazy father, I am. In retrospect, I think this is one of our best trips.
Precisely because of what you mentioned.
 

limwhow

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Pashupathinath Hindu Temple

I have always been enchanted by the Pashupathinath Temple. And this trip I really wanted the children to see this place with their own eyes.
It is the holiest Hindu Temple in Nepal and was built in the 5th century.
The holy Bagmati River runs through the temple ground, and here in Pashupathinath, 24 hours a day, there would be cremations taking place.
Yes, cremations in full view of the public.
For ourselves and the children, who have never seen such a scene, I am sure it is going to be quite an eye-opening experience.

For this short visit, our local guide is this gentleman called Kumud (pronounced Kumuda, meaning lotus).
A very candid fellow who spoke non-stop and kept throwing questions back at the children to make sure they remember what he said, he is in my opinion, one of the better local guides we had for a long time. His humourous narration made it so much easier for us to remember the details of the places.


"... when Lord Shiva arrived back home, he was stopped by his son Ganesha. And he angrily sliced off his son's head!..."
Candidly, Kumud related the story of how Ganesha got his Elephant head.


"Whenever we enter a Hindu temple," said Kumud. "We would ring the bell three times, to wake up the gods and call out to them."

A guard and his dog stand guard at Pashupathinath...
 

limwhow

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It is already mid-afternoon as we walked through the compound of Pashupathinath.
In winter, sun sets quite early. And often, at 3-4pm in the afternoon, the whole place becomes chilly and dark.
And on this day, the coldness permeates the holy atmosphere of this temple.

The smell of smoke, both from burning bodies as well as burning incense, linger in the air.
And a veil of mist shroud the buildings, adding on to the feeling of the place.
I cannot but begin to describe how I feel.



...People walked through the premises, and people sat around...


... People busied themselves cleaning up the place...


... and Kumud continued to admire the ancient structures and to relate it to this group of awed travellers...


And as the sun begins setting, the pyre lit up the side of the buildings.. where the deceased were being cremated.
 

blueskye168

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Well well, so nice to see another Family Trekking Travelogue:heart: from you once again...:thumbsup:...will definitely keep popping in...hehee:bsmilie:

Thanks for sharing, bro;)


Merry Christmas to you and your family...:cheers:
 

limwhow

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The Cremation

"Ok, you all can come close to here. There is an old grandmother who has just passed away," said Kumud.
"They will be chanting prayers as they place her body on the pyre. And after that the eldest son will be the one who will light up the fire in her mouth."

.. And AhLiXMM found herself witnessing the arrival...


And when we came to the platform, we were surprised to see so many people crowding around the pyre, observing the process.
To them, this cremation is nothing more than another daily occurrence.


.. and the descendants prepare the old lady's body...


[Please do not play this video if you think you might be offended by the process of cremation.]
[video=youtube_share;O2Ez_Ls7znI]http://youtu.be/O2Ez_Ls7znI[/video]

.. and the final wait before the fire disseminates her physical being, and later to be carried downstream by the Bagmati River.

[Fann's picture showing the feet. I thought this was a meaningful last shot of the deceased.]

What have we attained from this visit?

Our son ZA was very intrigued.
"Papa, this is most interesting. The Nepali Hindus are so open about everything in life," he remarked to me.
"They look at everything right in the eye - death, sex, everything. And the way they go about lives, they don't hide from any of these, unlike many societies of modern countries."


And I must admit that he is very right in his observation.
The culture, the believes of the Hindus is such that they take lives as it comes, in whatever fashion, whatever lives deal them.
And they don't shy away from death, like many of us back home.
When their loved ones die, they grieve. But they send them off their ways with such equanimity.

I believed the objective of the first day of visit has been accomplished.
 

limwhow

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Our time with Pashupathinath was short.
But sufficient, it was.
In my heart, I didn't need the children to see every corner of Pashupathinath.
I didn't need them to walk up to the highest platform.
All I needed was for them to witness the cremation, for I believe they would have very little chance to do this, now or in the future.
Mission accomplished, we strode through the cold 7 degree air...

It was really starting to get cold as the evening drew near...



Kathmandu Street at night...

I took a picture of Q 姐姐 (Jiejie - elder sister) as we rode in our minibus.
She liked this shot as she said it felt like it was in winter... well, Q, it is winter in Kathmandu yah, isn't it? Hahaha..

[terrible shot. Dark, and movement blur.. But heck, it was for the moment. I believe she would look back at this moment and cherish it, in time.]

I have always marvelled at the way the Kathmandu drivers drove. The streets are forever jam-packed with people, bicycles, motorbikes, push-carts, motor cars of all shapes and sizes...
.. and the (almost single-lane width) narrow streets can miraculously accommodate a dual carriageway.


The Kathmandu-ians are familiar with public transport of the squishy fashion.
One small micro-bus (as Mahesh termed it) with an overload of passengers in intimate proximity...


... Aaaaaaahhh... this road is familiar. Just near the hotel.. a Nepali provision shop.