How should I even begin to relate the incredible human warmth of Nepal? I wonder, a smile spreading on my face. There is so much good to share about the “roof of the world“. In the face of an ever challenging political situation and against all odds of Nepal being a developing nation, the reality of what I saw, lived, felt & experienced during my ten days of travelling in the mountain kingdom of the Himalayas has been one of a most inspirational kind.
Leaving Kathmandu behind, Mystik Mountains Adventure & Holidays’ Rakesh Shahi takes me on a road trip of a lifetime, introducing me to people & places whose philosophy has real potential to challenge & change your way of thinking.
Dear Rakesh truly deserves being highlighted as my local hero in this “Mystik Mountains” capital of his. “Thank you for sharing your information & background story on ‘creative culture travel‘ with me”, he wrote to me as early as the beginning of last year, helping to set up this unique culture trip of Nepal of mine through his travel company Mystik Mountains Adventure & Holidays. “I now have a better understanding of the actual experiences to provide for you!” He has proven really skillful in organising a kaleidoscope of different culture experiences, from local farm stays near the capital city of Kathmandu, to such magic moments of attending a local wedding dressed in a typical Nepali Sari (!), all the way to exploring the city of Pokhara & beyond, the country’s gateway to the famous Annapurna mountain district. It is here where the magic & added mystery of the local Nepali people once more have swept me off my feet in all their generosity, heartwarming hospitality & beautiful human nature. Follow me, therefore, for some truly inspirational travel tips for Pokhara & Bandipur here in Nepal.
The road from Kathmandu to Pokhara is a bumpy highway affair by Western standards. Whenever you set eyes on the mighty Himalayas to the north though, the rest of the world just drowns out.
I will never forget how I first set eyes on the soaring Himalaya mountains. Turning a corner from the pass out of Kathmandu valley, their peaks rise in stark white against the undulating “middle hills” beyond and bright blue sky above, a sharp colour contrast further enhanced by the knowledge of their sheer size. I am looking at mountains more than 7.000 or 8.000 metres high !! Rakesh next to me in the car smiles, knowing the perfect roadside coffee stop to admire the views. “This mountain is called ‘Ganesh’, after the son of Shiva”, he explains. “From here, we continue driving about two and a half hours until we reach Pokhara, at the base of Mardi Himal & Annapurna South mountains.” And what a road trip it is!
The “City of Seven Lakes”, Pokhara at the foothills of the mighty Annapurna & Mardi Himal mountain districts, is just perfect for getting a local feel of different culture & nature-based activities.
Out here on both Lake Phewa & Lake Begna, the two out of the seven lakes surrounding Pokhara we choose to explore, peace is a natural companion. Even, or especially, travelling here during wintertime: The low season means less traffic, less international crowds, few incidents of rain or thunderstorms, and a pleasant, surprisingly warm micro-climate reaching almost 20°C in a day of sunshine! Besides opting for boat trips on the lakes, consider heading to the International Mountain Museum as well as the World Peace Pagoda on top of a hill overlooking Lake Phewa, and Pokhara City beyond. If peace has not reached you from sunny mountain views or lakeside boat excursions, then an image of the mighty “Bouddha” gold statue with 360°C panorama views of the Himalayas to the north and green hills to the south may just do the job.
Going local yet again is what I owe to the perfect organizational skills, networks & contacts of Rakesh and his Mystik Mountains Adventure & Holidays team. Fresh buffalo milk? Popcorn from a farm? Juicy local flavours? Bring on the (extra)ordinary!
“What is ordinary to you, is just so special to me, and vice versa!”, I laugh with a lady drying rice on the verandah in front of Rakesh’ sister’s house here in Pokhara. Being invited to a local family home is always special, no matter where you are on this planet Earth – and all the more so where “exotic practices” such as spice cuisine, harvesting (very) fat buffalo milk or drying big sacks of rice are concerned. The lady laughs back at me – we don’t speak each other’s languages (once again, I feel tempted to do a language course on Nepali next time!) – yet still manage to understand each other perfectly. Humour is what makes the world go round, and more so respect and sharing over each others’ differences and similarities. Some things you may just find to be essentially human across all cultures. Such as the feeling of warmth, and welcome, or family love in these beautiful local places.
On the way back from Pokhara to Kathmandu, make sure you stop in a little town called Bandipur, about halfway between the two cities. Coming up here is truly worthwhile – for there is more magic to be discovered still …!
“I have another sister here in Bandipur“, Rakesh tells me as we are about to leave Pokhara for going back to Kathmandu valley. “She too would like to meet you, and has invited us into her home.” I beam at him, happy for more close-up encounters of the wonderful Nepali people. This is just what I like. Bandipur furthermore happens to be in a place perched high atop a hill, whose small summit plateau allows for stunning, 360°C views of the mighty Himalayas to the north and the gently rolling middle hills / lower mountain ranges to the south. Standing here gets you a feel for the entire might of the country of Nepal, as I put together my knowledge about its natural formation & settlement history from Pokhara International Mountain Museum with what I actually see in front of me.
“This is just so beautiful”, I whisper to Rakesh as we climb the little summit above Bandipur village, just in time for another perfect Himalayan sunset to work its magic on us and other travellers who have come to enjoy it. “Just beautiful.” I smile, forever captured and overcome with emotion, for what this country, its people and all their beautiful experiences have taught me.
Nepal, I love you.
Disclaimer: I have been invited by Mystik Mountains Adventures & Holidays on this culture / nature trip around Nepal. All opinions are my own.