Where To Go
My Quest For Zest...
DESTINATIONS IN NEPAL
Chitwan National Park
Langtang Valley Trek
MY QUEST FOR ZEST...
Nepal opened up a world that I had never been exposed to. It deepened my spiritual practices and brought me closer than ever before to my 'truest' sense of self. The country, with the most genuine people, with chaos but with less intensity than India, with cows and monkeys wandering the streets, with amazing curry and food, with buddhist temples and spiritual practices weaved into daily life, with the power of the mighty Himalayas...it stole my heart.
I spent a total of three months in Nepal exploring Kathmandu's temples and cafes, trekking in Langtang Valley, climbing the Gosaikunda trek to arrive unexpectedly to the holy lake on a festival, hanging out in Pokhara, taking a week to relax at Begnas Lake, embarking on the Annapurna Circuit Trek (28days) making a pass over 5,416m, finding wildlife in Chitwan National Park and getting caught in the worst flooding they'd experienced in 15 years, learning meditation at Kopan Monastery, and beginning a pilgrimage along the historic sites of the life of Buddha.
The journey was transformational and yet trying. The experiences were deep, coming with intense highs and hardships alike. In beauty is pain, and in pain is beauty. As my sensory perceptions were stimulated, my brain and body were racing trying to keep up. The more I saw, heard, experienced, tasted, the more I began to lean on the teachings of the Buddha, and all enlightened beings and teachers, for guidance on how to process the world around me.
I feel beyond fortunate to have stayed at the Kopan Monastery for a 5 day course on the introduction to meditation. I feel fortunate not only for the opportunity but because just days prior to the course, I was caught in a serious flood in Chitwan National Park. It was the worst flooding the region had experienced in 15 years said the locals. Water was creeping up the stairs and into my bungalow the morning after the intense rain; when I stood on my porch and looked around, water was in all directions. Leaving the woods in waist deep water with no indication of where to step, the owner of the guest house guided me a mile to the main street. It took days for the water to recede, buildings were destroyed, where I had previously enjoyed dinner overlooking the river days prior was now non existent. Locals and tourists alike were unable to depart on buses, planes or elephants...Waiting patiently for departure and news was exhausting. The murky flood waters, several stressful days of waiting and a long bus journey back to Kathmandu caused my body to fall ill the night before the meditation course. I woke up experiencing intense fever. The hospital visit wasn't ideal under these circumstances, but allowed me to gain strength to attend the monastery later that afternoon.
This was the first time I was learning about the practice of buddhism, and the first time I ever turned my attention deeply to meditation and the power of silence. From 10pm to after lunch the following day all students would remain in silence. This experience planted the seed of introspection that would later be the catalyst for my now consistent meditation practice. I am forever grateful for this course along my life path and the personal shifts that began to manifest as a result.
Spirituality lingers even in the highest points of the Himalayas. Over the course of the Annapurna Circuit I spun countless pray wheels while passing through villages and walked past I'm sure hundreds of prayer flags. I completed the trek in September, just before the start of main season. It was ideal weather and not so many crowds on the trial. Although you'll find a lot of people only do a segment of the trip, taking a jeep partially up, I recommend doing the full walk. Every day is beautiful and different. The views must be some of the best in the world. The people some of the kindest. And the food never tasted so good (maybe from a long days walk but still...). A guide is not necessary and for sure a porter is not needed. Pack light, you don't have to carry your food (just a jar of peanut butter haha) and be responsible for yourself and your belongings. It is a must do to acclimate and enjoy the views at the highest lake in the world, Tilicho. Its just a couple day side trek. The Ice Lake and Milarepa's Cave are also good just day hikes from Manang. When you finish the trek, and even days (or weeks) before you start, you can take time to relax in Pokhara. I recommend staying in the north, where the hippy, scratch that, laid back vibe is. Its a beautiful city located on a lake with some great eats, cafes, and events (like free movie nights at Blind Tiger!).
A little ways outside Pokhara is Begnas Lake. You could easily spend days or a week+ here in the remote and relaxing area. Its a beautiful scene. Days are filled with relaxation and swimming. There isn't much to do or places to go eat, but you'll find a few gems and enjoy the peace and quiet.
The Langtang Valley Trek and Gosiakunda Trek are also beautiful experiences. I don't recommend going in rainy reason, or be prepared for a lot of leeches. You'll be walking in the rain for hours, have 10 on each ankle, if you stop to try and get them off more will try and climb on. They will inch up your hiking stick and get you on your fingers. I had one make it's way to my chin. And they would haunt me in my dreams. The treks are worth it, and if your only choice is to go in wet season, don't let me fears deter you, go anyway! They are both amazing!
Lumbini is the birthplace of Buddha. It was the start of my pilgrimage to sacred sites of his life. There is a beautiful energy here. There are many temples from countries around the world all situated in walking distance around the site. You can stay in certain monasteries for a small price, I took refuge in the South Korean Monastery. The food was sometimes hard to stomach, and the heat of the day was fierce, but the experience was one that won't be forgotten.
Nepal will forever have a place in my heart and the power of the Himalayas will be engrained in my being.
1. If you go in rainy season, be prepared for leeches
2. Pack light and carry your own belongings
3. Download an offline map to help with navigation (I used Maps.Me)
4. Pack some snacks in your bag (I like to bring nut butter and chocolate)
5. Bring enough cash. Calculate your budget then bring plenty of extra for 'just in case'
6. Pack a lot of layers, it gets cold
7. For rain gear, pack a poncho that can also fit over your pack. Pack covers can fly off easily in the wind and will get your back wet.
8. Have a good attitude. Stop and breathe in your surrendering every now and then.
9. Bring a camera!
10. Allow enough time to acclimate in high altitudes. If you start to have uncomfortable symptoms, back track to a lower height and drink lots of water. Rest until you are able to move on safely.