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Nepal

(After staying a while in Zurich, we are back on the road. We're currently on a tour through Rajasthan in India, and our current location is a desert city called Bikaner. We will update the blog about our India experience as soon as we can, but first here's Rahel's travel diary about her 3 week stay in Nepal.)

"namaste, didi - namaste nepale!"... arriving in nepal was a pleasurable relief after having gone twice through indian customs in delhi. already at the airport there is an athmosphere of peace and people are relaxed and smiling. what a wonderful place :)

everyone here is calling each other "dai" (brother) and "didi" (sister), unless they are obviously addressing a person from the royal family. of course, although some citizens still have portraits from the royal family hanging in their homes, the royals have had more popular times than these days. there is even a young-maoist movement (totally illusionary and even pretty dangerous: if you dare to refuse donation, you have a pretty high risk of getting serious "accidental" injuries) that would certainly be proud to erase all royal blood in the country, and there have been really tough political times. but the nepal of today is one year over the official end of their so-called "civil war", when maoists would visit rural villages and force a son from each family to serve in their guerilla army, and when the official military would arrive shortly thereafter to punish the families that have provided the maoist army young soldiers (what an insane situation!). so the tension has much ceased within the people since the end of war. however, there is still craving for a real leader, democracy and egality, and for a better future for their country...

culturally, nepal is very colourful and mixed, with so many different ethnies being joined in this single country. newaris, who anciently inhabited the kathmandu district and still live there, sherpas and gurungs from the kumbu (everest) region, upper-cast chhetris, highest-cast brahmins from the west, the former ruling rana families, and even more! please don't nail me on the detail, even bastian who has lived and worked in kathmandu for over two years, could not explain them to me ;)

here are some pictures form one part of kathmandu city, patan, with traditional newari houses and a rooftop view:

anyway, as wonderful, colourful and amazing this place is, nepal has also its crazy sides. traffic, for example, especially in places like kathmandu, is purley chaotic - the streets belong to each and everyone. don't be surprised to have people chatting in the middle of the road, dogs and cows crossing the streets, trucks falling apart right in front of you, road blocks and slow traffic because of a taxi parked on the road while the driver is somewhere having tea and chatting away. there are also a number of very peculiar rules concerning traffic. first of all, you are only responsible for what happens in front of you, anything behind your car's rear end is none of your business. therefore, whenever you have a car in front of you - which is basically all the time - you need to make sure that it is aware of your existence, meaning you blow the horn. a very noisy place! another rule concerns accidents: if you hit someone on the road and the person is not dead, you will have to pay him or her monthly disability annuity for the rest of their life. so people just run their victims over back and forth a couple of times to make sure they're dead; you then have to pay a certain sum only once, and in the end that's much cheaper. unluckily, i have come across such a situation on my way back from a trek in the annapurna region. there had been a bus accident the previous night, and because the bus company had refused to pay the relatives of the dead, the village people had started a riot. the dead body was naturally left on the road until the bus company agreed on the price for the dead, and within the more than 12 hours of negotiation that followed, hundreds of cars and trucks had accumulated on both sides of the road block. a peculiar and not so comfortable situation...

but back to the amazing and unforgettable :) here some comments and pictures from the trek:

on the first day, viku lama (my sherpa guide) and myself started walking the ghorapani circuit in the annapurna region by the short walk from naya pul (1070 m) to birethanti (1025 m).

on the second day we walked gradually through the hills from biretanthi to gandhruk (1940 m). half of the way we faced rain and hail and were happy to arrive in a hut with under table heater where we could dry our clothes....

on day three, we descended about 1000 m down to the river and climbed up again on the other side to chhomrong (2170 m). amazing sunrise on machhapuchhre and annapurna south!

the forth day took us again back down to the river and then up through rodhodendhron forest to tadapani - a small village on 2600 m with a nice tibetan stupa and loads of prayer flags. here, as we were the only guests, we had both dinner and breakfast in the owners kitchen right next to the stove. nice popcorn, tee and rum, and my first ever buffalo meat.

on day five, we had a short walk down and a steep climb through a snowy forest cliff to a 3000 m ridge and then down to ghorapani (2750 m). As we arrived early, we decided to climb poon hill (3210 m) before dusk. this was the highest as well as coldest night of the trek, but what a view from poon hill: from the right (east) to the left (west) the machhapuchhre, annapurna, the dhaulagiri, the mustang valley and finally the nhilgiri. and what a starlit night!

the sixth and last day of the circuit was 7 hours downhill to naya pul.

tired, clothes stinking, nose running, but richer in experience and sooooo happy! :-)

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 17, 2007 1:11 PM.

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