Last month we went to the mountains for the first time ever!
In 2010 – the year before the 2011 Tourism Year – we were invited to do a presentation for the Nepalese Tourism Board. Guess it was because of our business past they wanted to hear our opinion on the positioning of Nepal as a tourist destination.
As a part of our research we asked a lot of tourist the same question: What made you choose to visit Nepal?
Almost all the answers we’re the same: I have always dreamed of seeing Mt. Everest, to see the Himalaya, find ShangriLa etc.
So if someone took the Himalayas and placed them in Africa nobody would visit Nepal. And that’s sad, because Nepal has so much more to offer: Art, culture, leisure, music, business opportunities, food, history etc. All the things we fell in love with, when we visited the country for the first time in 2000.
We had to wait for the highway to make it possible to reach these amazing settings
It took us 1/2 year before we left the valley to explore the Terrai and Illam. And a few weeks ago we went to the mountains for the first time. AFTER ALMOST 10 YEARS!
Even this trip had nothing to do with the mountains. We wanted to experience the Yak Blood Drinking Festival in Kalo Pani in Lower Mustang which Thomas had dreamed about since he saw a documentary about it back in 2011.
The festival got cancelled – the weather was too bad. When we reached Muktinath it was snowing with no visibility at all – it was so bad that we skipped the temple.
Still we had a fantastic trip. Mustang is mindblowingly beautiful and diverse. And just to witness the construction of the Beni – Jomsom – Korala Road Project – was worth everything. This amazing ‘new’ highway between Pokhara and Tibet will change the infra structure of Nepal completely and open Nepal for a lot of new possibilities including a whole new group of visitors: All of us non-trekkers.
What we did…
It may sound strange – but after 10 years in Kathmandu we know surprisingly few people working with tourism. But Dorjee’s brother (and our good friend) Oangdi is a trekking guide – and a very good one. We have known each others for 10 years, so he knows what we like, and especially what we don’t like. When he called us with info about the Blood drinking festival, we decided to use our 10-Years-In-Kathmandu anniversary as an occasion to go, and told him to rent a jeep with a good and experienced driver, and get back with a 4 nights/5 days itinerary.
Mustang for city slingers: 4 Nights – 5 nights
Day 1: (13 hrs) Leave 5 am: Kathmandu to Tato Pani (natural hot spring)
Day 2: (5:30 hrs) Tatopani to Muktinah, then Jomson
Day 3: Naurikot & Yak blood drinking ceremony at (Boksi Khola) Nauri Khola (Got cancelled)
Day 4: (8/9 hrs) Kalo Pani to Pokhara by jeep.
Day 5: Pokhara to Kathmandu by jeep
Stairway og Highway…
We left Tings at 5 am to avoid the traffic out of the valley and had lunch at Seti River just after Pokhara.
Soon after the road became a mess: bumpy and with huge lakes of water and mud: The New Highway.
It was quite a surprise to see it’s condition – we had expected a more ‘finished’ road. But because of the rain and weather in general the road was like many other Nepalese roads, but way better than before the construction. Some parts where chaotic with busses and trucks blocking everything because they we’re stucked in the mud at had to get pulled out by huge construction tractors. Parts of the road were a bit scary – especially after dark – but far from some of the roads we have been driving ourselves when we had our own 4WD years ago. Once we actually doubted that we would reach our final destination and prepared ourselves for a night in the Jeep. But finally we managed to get to TatoPani.
Pokhara to Jomson
A part of the road we visited is a part of the popular Annapurna Trekking circuit. Why – it still is – is a mystery. Except for a few bypasses specially made for trekkers to spare them for the chaotic construction mess, the walk along the highway looked like Hell. And the trekkers we met along the way looked miserabel.
People along the road…
So, if asked, we would recommend trekkers to skip the first part and start after Jomson.
We didn’t have to walk at all. And except for the festival – which got cancelled – we had total freedom to go as we pleased – to experience the fantastic nature and culture at the foot of Tibet.
We had a lot of time to go as we please – and to spend time when we visited something we really enjoyed – like the Khutsab Terenga Gumba which we both felt very attached to.
And Marpha a few km from Jomsom towards Pokhara – we wouldn’t mind staying there for a few days. Both places are very spiritual.
Marpha, Khutsab Terenga Ghumba & Dhumba Lake
But the biggest thing of them all was just being ‘there’. To move with an average speed of 10-15 km/h. To wake up in the morning after a good night sleep watching the sun’s beams cutting through the sometimes heavy and watery clouds. To see the Full Moon Rise behind the 4 Mountain Peaks in Kalo Pani, To have lunch and dinner at the restaurants and eateries along the way. To have a beer at the local Pool Club in Jomsom and similar ‘normal’ things that won’t exists the same way once the road is paved and finished and ready to bring people from Pokhara to China in a few hours.
To all City slickers like us!
If you only have a few weeks in Nepal and feel that time is too short for the mountains and really don’t feel like trekking at all, there are still ways to experience the Magic of Himalaya.
First: Don’t let the trekkers dictate how and when to go the mountains – and especially not how long time. There are lots of ways and possibilities that can easily be combined with a visit to Pokhara – and onwards to Chitwan and Lumbini.
Second: Don’t let money be an issue. Avoiding the dangerous domestic flights (we never use them) will save you most of the money for the car. Especially if you can fill up the car (we were only 3).
Third: If you have time and travel during the dry season – take the local busses and stop along the way. There are plenty of places to stay along the road.
Fourth: If you have doubts and/or questions – don’t hesitate to call us for advice.
And most important – no matter what you read or what people tells you – it’s possible and easy to go on your own. Our trip proves it – and it was mind blowing.
Hope it motivates you.
Love and Compassion
Annette & Thomas