Nepal, a few moments in a country of millenia
I am just back from Nepal, and starting to process an amazing month, and thousands of photographs, taken across the beautiful and ancient country. I am not sure what I expected as this was a particularly seat of the pants trip, in spite of months of planning (more on that soon.) Every plan it seemed had to be reworked, leading to better outcomes than anything we could have imagined. In some ways thats what makes an adventure.
Roz Groenewoud, Jen Gurecki and I ended up in the middle hills, after a week in Kathmandu, then traveled up into the extraordinary Mustang Kingdom in the Annapurna Conservation Area and visited the sacred pilgrimage site of Muktinath.
I walked the medieval streets of Bhaktapur, eating the famed delicious Bhaktapur curds out of the clay bowls, sat with orange clad chanting monks in the early dawn cool under the sacred Bodhi tree in Lumbini where Buddha was born, and watched the swallows at sunset over the time capsule mountain saddle town of Bandipur, viewing the sunrise from the summit the next day.
And we regrouped in Pokhara to ride with some of Nepal’s best female mountain bikers for World Bike Day.
People kept saying we were there in the wrong season. Yes the pre-monsoon heat and humidity was intense, especially for Roz and Jen who rode through a brutal week of constant ascent and descents in the Himalayan foothills (*mountains in any other country,) basically a lot of hike a bike. And most days the mighty Himalayas were obscured by the haze of humid air, surprisingly tropical. But this only made it more awe inspiring when the mountains appeared as if by magic at dawn and dusk when the mountain air cooled and the spires shimmered into view.
Recovering from the flu I was unable to ride, but an unexpected gift was the ability to focus on mending and photography. I spent days exploring magical cities like the hilltop city of Bandipur and meeting locals on buses and stupas. I stumbled upon community events, with no other tourists like the Rote Festival in Gorhka, the city of the founding kind of Nepal. Because we were there at “the wrong time,” with the exception of Pokhara and Kathmandu we were the only westerners everywhere we went. And as at the Rote Festival in photographs above and below, this made the experience utterly unforgettable. People welcomed us in, and we were privy to so much of the Nepalese experience. It felt like the absolute right time to be there.
Moved by the glimpses of the mountains, we made an unexpected trip into the Annapurna Conservation area, and the Mustang, which to me has always sounded like a mystical kingdom beyond our sphere of reality. And it essentially is, the Mustang is a land of impossibly sharp towering mountain peaks, tall enough that some actually are called mountains and warrant names, and arid high desert bleached by the strong light. The welcoming tibetan buddhist people, have a totally different culture than the rest of tibet, cut off for millennia. And our visit to thee sacred site of Muktinath, holy to Buddhists and Hindus for centuries moved all of us.
We were able to make this important Nepalese pilgrimage, to pray for our parents, which had me in tears, and wash away our sins under the intensely cold mountain spring water of the 108 holy taps shaped like the head of a bull. And on our way home we were a part of an impromptu Nepalese dance party when the traffic was stopped of hours. This single day might have been the most beautiful, fun and special of the whole month, which was in itself a wonderful month.
I will share out many more photographs and stories soon, of the many places and people I had the privilege of meeting as articles and more are published. Please check back soon!