Annapurna Circuit – Part I: Kathmandu to Bandipur
Our 3 week long Nepal trip started in Kathmandu, where we landed the afternoon before setting off on Annapurna Circuit. We got settled into the Kathmandu Guest House shortly before meeting up with everyone from our Intrepid Travel group for a briefing. The day was very warm (around 30C), so we had our meeting in the garden. The meeting was straight forward, and there were 8 in our group, 1 lead guide, 1 assistant. We were to meet up with one more assistant and 4 porters, who will each carry two of our packs plus their own.
After the meeting, Kiwi Bird and I set out on our first venture out of the hotel. The Guest House was in the very touristy area of Thamal. Coming from quiet New Zealand, we immediately got a shock of the crowds, and people trying to sell us things every other step. Luckily, Brian who had arrived a few days before us, helped us get past the mob and led us to an array of ATMs, of which only one eventually gave us money. After that mission was completed, we decided the heat and the mob was enough already, so we retreated to the hotel and had some well deserved Nepali Gorkha beer in the company of our new Aussie friend. Dinner was in a nearby restaurant with the group, where nearly everyone ordered steak, perhaps in anticipation of not being able to have much meat for the next three weeks.
The second day, we left the hotel early to catch our bus to Dumre, enroute to Bandipur, where we are staying for the night. We stopped at a food stop by a big river for a Napali breakfast mostly consisting of curried potatoes and some bread a bit like chapati. The big river had a vortex with a dead cow going round and round – a perfect sight for our breakfast 😉 After that, we slowly wind our way up the very windy mountain road, with a Napali folk song playing on the bus which seemed like it was never going to end. (It wasn’t that bad, but just rather, eh, non-ending…) The small local bus we took from Dumre never had its door closed, and a person was always hanging half way out banging on the door. Finally I realised the person was acting as an “off road alarm”. The mountain road was so narrow and windy, by banging on the door, the person was signalling the driver if the bus was getting too close to the edge – a rather good safety precaution I though…
Finally, we arrived at the “Old Inn” in Bandipur. Bandipur is a very pretty little mountain village over looking very lush green valleys. After a little refreshments, Kiwi Bird and I set off for a wander around town, then the whole group caught up and went for a walk further up the hills for a view of sunset. We went past some peculiar toilets right in the open, and offers a fantastic view. We never found out why they were there or who they are for, but I imaging some serious thinking could take place on these toilets. (There were also baskets on top of the cisterns supposedly “protecting” the toilets…) The distant mountains were a bit hazy and cloudy, though we were told that on a clear day, you could see many of the 8000+m snow-capped peaks lining up in the distant.
We were treated to a traditional Napali buffet dinner of a few different curries served with rice and daal. We were even spoilt with a little ice cream after dinner. So far the food had been much better than anyone anticipated, which actually made us wonder if this is a sort of the “perfect weather before the storm”.
I woke early the second day, hoping the sky had cleared, and I could see the big mountains promised to us. But the village was surrounded by a mist that actually thickened with time. We left the village after breakfast, taking the local bus back down to Dumre. When we were walking to the bus, I was given a red flower by an old local lady as a sign of good luck, which was a nice surprise. Many of the guys also got blessed, and had a dot of red powder put on their forehead. I hoped the good luck will clear the sky for us and give us good weather for the rest of the trip.