I flew to Kathmandu, Nepal, because everyone has heard of Kathmandu – the city you go to before tackling the Himalayan mountains – before climbing Everest – only to discover the old heart of the city has become a tourist trap of overpriced trek shops and curio shops.
After some discovery, I went to the hotel travel person and booked a car and a guide to take me far away to the Anapurna range, where I could hike for 2 days in view of the Himalaya mountains and local villages in the hilltops.
The 6 hour drive on a barely 2 lane mountain road a thousand feet above a river, with no shoulders and a thousand blind turns, with road construction and crawling gravel trucks (the dust so thick in one place we had to go a mile an hour), with motorbikes and tourist buses, all racing to pass each other, only to pull back at the last second to avoid certain death, was nerve-raking to say the least. My 19 year old guide, the smart one, had taken the back seat so he could sleep thru his death, whereas I was forced to face mine in the front.
But no, we made it to the dropoff point, the trailhead to Dhampus, and Luxman my guide led the way up the million steps to the top. Normally an hour and a half climb, it took us 2 hours because I had to stop 5 times and catch my breath.
I had muesli for breakfast, then off we went on a shortcut Luxman, my guide, had discovered that led us past several mountain huts, along a goat path maybe a foot wide – I had to watch each step for a misstep would be costly – on to the hilltop village of Sarangkot, only 5 to 6 hours away (depending on how many times Ray needed to stop). However this pathway was reasonably flat along the summit of several hills, and not only did I not tire, but I got to enjoy the great scenery.
Finally we arrived in Sarangkot, where I was surprised to see the sky full of a kind of ballet of paragliders. Apparently tourists come from around the world to do their first paraglide here in tandem with a skilled pilot, just as they come to hike or trek in the Himalayas, or raft in the Nepal river rapids.
A wonder to see them launch, head out over the valley, then catch the constant updraft and sail far above Sarangkot, throwing shadows on me, a mere mortal down below.
The hotel in Sarangkot was rough, with no hot shower, not even a bathroom in the room, and a bed made of cardboard I believe, but the view was magnificent, both of the Himalayan mountains and of the city Pokhara in the valley below; the hike was good for me, and people were friendly with their Namaste (Welcome). And as always I enjoyed taking snapshots of the children.
If only I didn’t have to risk my life again on that drive back to Kathmandu!