I spent to much time in Europe this year so I was about time for another adventure. So I went to Nepal for about two and a half week this November. Usually I would have just gotten my backpack and a flight ticket and figured everything out from there but since I spent the whole summer working on a ship I had no time at all to prepare anything. That's why I decided to do an organized group trip this time. I travelled with Marco Polo Youngline, we were a group of 18 young people and it was great fun. Of course there were times were I wished I was traveling on my own to get some better pictures but all in all it was a great way to see a lot of a country without having to think to much.
The trip started of course in Nepals capital of Kathmandu. Well what can I say about Katmandu? It's full, loud, dirty and chaotic...basically like any big Asian city. We spent only one day here but that was enough time to see the main attractions of the old town like Durbar Square. While to temples and stupas are magnificent to view signs of the 2015 earthquake are still visible everywhere. Although you can see work being done everywhere it's still going to take a lot of time till everything is restored to its former glory. But the construction and destruction gives to whole city a really special feel to it. Still you can see photos of the buildings all over the internet so I focused on what gives a city its life: the people. The streets are packed with vendors, monks, playing kids and just a whole bunch more of them doing what they are doing. It's a photographers paradise. Everyone is so incredibly friendly and I never had anyone not posing for a quick photo if asked.
In the evening we drove up a hill to the monkey temple for the best views of Katmandu valley at sunset. An extra bonus was the supermoon occurring at the same day. Watching a gigantic full moon rise over the himalayan mountains is something I'll never forget. I had to climb some walls right by the steep drop off to get the best shot and get away from the selfie-snapping masses but it was all worth it. Actually I was so mesmerized by the view that I almost forgot what was behind me: A gigantic stupa roaming with hundreds of monkeys. So yea after I was sure I got the shot of the city I turned around an spent the rest of the daylight getting the best shots of some cute monkeys. I can't imagine a better way to end a day.
The next day we left the big city to get a bit more active and by active I mean a two day rafting trip from Kurnitar to Narayanghat. Floating down a river is truly a really special way to see nature. You just see so many things you would never be able to see from a car. Oh yeah and floating really is the correct word here since most of the time we didn't really to anything but float without paddling. The night was spend in tents at the riverside...well and right next to the main road at the same time. But still a really cool adventure that I would love to do more often although I couldn't really take that many photos since we were on the rafts the whole time.
We switched back to the bus on the second day and went into the Chitwan National Park. The Park is located in the south of Nepal and completely different than what I expected the country to be, it's an almost tropical rainforest filled with elephants, rhinos and tigers. Well I didn't get to see any tigers but while on a safari I did get to see some rhinos. I'm usually not much of a wildlife photographer but hiking, driving and boating through the jungle in the search of animals was really great and I'm no seriously considering doing some more safaris the next time I travel. But it was time to finally get into the mountains, that was after all the main reason I went to Nepal.
After a "quick" 12 hour and 160km journey we arrived in Pokhara, the gateway to the Annapurna region. The long drive time was in most parts to the extremely bad roads and even worse traffic conditions. But also because our bus broke down and we had to wait for three hours on the side of the road to get it fixed. Anyways in the end we finally reached Pokhara. But before starting the trek we spent one day in the city. The main attraction here are the Phewalake and the World Peace Stupa. Conveniently you can easily combine these two in one trip. You take a boat across the lake and then hike up the hill to the stupa. Doing this at sunset will give you not only the best light but also the best views of the himalayan mountains. Well at least the best views so far because once we start on the trek behind almost every corner there is an even better view.
We went on a three day trek in the Annapurna region hiking about 6 hours per day in altitudes up to 2100m...so basically we just went on an easy stroll along some hills according to the sherpa guides. But still walking through dense forests, rice terraces and up and own countless stairs to one hell of an impressive backdrop is something I will never forget. While it was definitely exhausting at some point just waking up in a simple mountain hut just to see the sun rise over some of the highest mountains in the world once you step out of the door is worth it all.
I was a bit sceptic if hiking every day for multiple days was really something I'd enjoy but after the first couple of hours on the trek and seeing the first mountains I was completely hooked and would have loved to keep walking for a few more days. Ok it was quite an easy trek especially with sherpas carrying most of the equipment and overnight stays in houses but the feeling you get when you reach the goal in the end of the day can't be described and I'll definitely do some more trekking trips in the near future. And after all there is the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) and the Everest Base Camp left to visit.
But for now it was time to get back into civilization and to ease this transition we went to Bandipur for a day. It's a rather small old town in the mountains completely closed off to motor traffic. Yes even the all dominant scooters were not allowed in the city center. So it was really just a relaxing day of sitting in cafes and the occasional short hike up to a viewpoint to get some last views of the mountains. And then the catastrophe happened: MY CAMERA BROKE! And the worst part I didn't even do anything to bad to it. The shutter broke after only 50.000 actuations. From one picture to the other I had lightleaks and a shutter blade in every single frame. So while still looking perfectly fine from the outside it became completely unusable. Luckily the majority of the trip was already over so I but the Nikon in my backpack and brought out my Sony. It's just a compact but still better than nothing and I was never happier than it that moment that I carried it with me.
With that we went back to Kathmandu. First stop is the biggest Buddha Stupa of the country. Although damaged during the earthquake it's already fully restored and the main attraction for believers and travelers from all over Nepal. For such a holy place it was actually quite full and loud but not the least bit less impressive and the perfect shakedown for my new main camera. Well as you can see above it held its ground quite well at least until we got to our next stop. Pashupatinath is the most holy hinduism temple in Nepal and burn ground for the dead. It got dark and with the smoke I missed a lot of shots due to the bad autofocus I would have gotten with the big cam, but still I got some good shots and some are better than none.
The final station on the Nepal trip was Bhaktapur next to Katmandu. This city is mostly famous for its historic old town, which is unfortunately still in a really bad condition following the earthquake, but for me it was a return to the Asian cities like I'm more used to. It was loud and the streets filled with market vendors, scooters and cars. Definitely not a relaxing city but if you manage not to get hit by anything the remaining temple are impressive to look at and all of the people make for great photos on every corner. Actually this is were the Sony really came to shine, with its compact size I could get so close to the people and get some snaps without being really noticed.
After another morning in downtown Kathmandu the two and a half weeks were already over and it was time to go home. So what's my final verdict on the trip? Simple, just go to Nepal, you have to see this for yourself. It's really one of the most awesome countries I have visited in a while with unbelievably beautiful nature and incredible friendly locals. I would have loved to stay longer and I hope to come back one day. I also can give a big recommendation to Marco Polo Youngline Travel. Everything was perfectly organized and I had great fun traveling with the group while there was still enough free time to take photos. Anyways I have to keep moving so in a couple of days I'm leaving for Iceland, wish me luck that my Nikon is repaired by then. But for now enjoy some more shots from Nepal and till next time.