Nepal Trekking: Kathmandu to Pokhara

Trekking with mixed feelings near the world’s highest mountain peaks
Thursday, August 24, 2017 to Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Nepalinfo-icon is an open gateway to the Himalayas

Since decades, Nepal has opened up and is welcoming visitors. It hosts by far the most visited region in the Himalayas, featuring the highest mountain peaks on our planet. Places like the Mount Everest Base Camp have become top tourist attractions. On the other hand, Nepal was hit by devastating natural disasters and high poverty. The last destructive earthquake in 2015 killed thousands of people. In comparison to its surrounding neighbors, Nepal offers a solid tourist infrastructure. The country is living from tourism and provides a variety of tours and packages. Getting in and around is relatively easy. As a traveler, I highly value this flexibility. My friend and I entered the country without a plan and organized everything on the go. Naturally, it turned into a road trip and a Himalaya Trekking!

Getting rushed into an adventure in Kathmanduinfo-icon

I envisioned Kathmandu as a romantic mountain city. Let me clarify this from the beginning: it is not! The best part of this not so charming city is its many religious sites and traditions. Kathmandu has a lot of wonderful Hindu and Buddhist temples and shrines to explore. We happened to arrive on a particular festival, where all the wives visit temples and pray for their men. Young girls to older ladies, all queued patiently in their traditional red dresses, quite a unique impression! Nepal’s capital, on the other hand, is an international melting pot with a vicious tourism industry. Backpackers from all over the world come here to embark on a life-changing adventure. In the streets, I was harassed by aggressive vendors and tour guides. Most of the mountaineering equipment is cheap counterfeit and tours, though cheap, are all a rip-off. While most Nepalese are living a simple life, tour operators all try to make quick bucks. Kathmandu made me feel rushed and uncomfortable.

On the rough road from Kathmandu to Pokharainfo-icon

Pokhara is the peaceful place to be, they said. The drive is a bare 200 kilometers, so we opted for a small road trip. The drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara turned out to be the worst road I have ever seen. It took us in a decent Jeep a whole day and I was shaken up to the bones. The driver was ruthless, overtaking trucks in dangerous passages. Believe me, I have driven many mountain roads before and I love the scenic experience. Also, I drove 25,000 km through Africainfo-icon, hitting many dirt roads. This drive, however, was deeply disturbing and dangerous. In the middle of the stretch, Nepal’s only cable car leads high up to a Hindu shrine. The smooth ride up and down was the only chance to relax and come down a bit. Without this break, I would have lost all my senses. I did not expect to wait a full hour to embark the ride – just because the stuff was having a lunch break. Nepal is full of tourism, yet not really tourist-friendly.

Decent trekking in the Annapurnainfo-icon Himalayas

After the ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara, we did a two-day trekking to the Australian Campinfo-icon. It was a modest hike, ascending more than 1,000 meters in a day. This is quite a popular track, not involving any difficult stretches or climbing. The panoramic view was just stunning! The scenery reminded me a lot of Switzerlandinfo-icon; the Himalayan mountain range is just much more impressive and less populated. From the Australian Camp, I could spot Annapurna, one of the world’s highest peaks on 8,000 meters. On the ascent, we passed by small mountain villages, where I could interact with locals. On the way down, I had a pleasant conversation with an exile Tibetan. To my surprise, he was much more friendly and happy than all Nepalese I have ever met. Our guide wanted to give us an extra experience. First, we took the local bus and then hitched a pickup. On the later, we stood on the open back and drove with the wind in our hair. This guy really understood to create an adventure.

Flying down with a paraglider to Lake Phewa

Our last adventure in Nepal happened high in the air. For the first time in my life, I flew with a paraglider down a mountain. The flight itself and the view were both mesmerizing yet extremely short. I would do this anytime again but strive for a longer flight! Getting into the air, however, was a rather annoying experience. When I was there in late August, it was the end of the rainy season, so the weather was changing rapidly. For many hours, it was not clear whether the flight could happen or not. Admittedly, waiting on top of a Himalayan mountain is not the worst thing. But being a digital nomadinfo-icon, I had a few things to work on and my laptop was waiting on the bottom. It made me nervous, gazing into the fog, unable to use the time properly. Moreover, the tour operator was not clearly communicating and left us in the dark. Luckily, the paraglider’s pilot saved the day by being super friendly. Pokhara is a beautiful place but it left a bitter aftertaste with me.

Nepal is high but far from being heaven

I don’t like to sound negative or harsh but Nepal did not convince me. Of course, every experience is different and not everything in life can be charming. The country of Nepal is located in an extraordinary place in the middle of the Himalaya mountain range. Its topography is truly stunning and a heavy burden at the same time. Nature is showing its most beautiful and most destructive forces. Through its welcoming tourism, Nepal can share its wonders and its sad faith with the world. The potential is enormous. However, the current approach of hospitality does not feel right to me. Its residents and countless visitors are turning heaven on Earth into a money-driven adventure land. Tourism is a competitive industry that is not bringing a better lifestyle to most of the people. It’s the pure opposite of how Bhutaninfo-icon is dealing with globalization. I wish, I had better words to say for Nepal.

Many thanks to the local guide who showed me the beauty of the Himalayas.

My waypoints on this journey

Kathmandu Airport - annoying arrival in Nepal after the most relaxing flight in first class
annoying arrival in Nepal after the most relaxing flight in first class
Regent Airways - free upgrade on the flight from Dhaka (Bangladesh) to Kathmandu
free upgrade on the flight from Dhaka (Bangladesh) to Kathmandu
Teej Festival - Kathmandu is packed with praying women in red one day a year
Kathmandu is packed with praying women in red one day a year
Pokhara Dohori - singing and dancing with a Nepalese band in Kathmandu
singing and dancing with a Nepalese band in Kathmandu
Bagmati River - a series of temples and a religious burning ritual in Kathmandu
a series of temples and a religious burning ritual in Kathmandu
Patan Durbar Square - historic city center of Lalitpur, home of the Malla Kings in Kathmandu
historic city center of Lalitpur, home of the Malla Kings in Kathmandu
Gorakhnath Temple -
one of many UNESCO protected temples in the Kathmandu Valley
Manakamana - Nepal's only cable car in between Kathmandu and Pokhara
Nepal's only cable car in between Kathmandu and Pokhara
Shree Manakamana - sacred temple for the Hindu Goddess Bhagwati on a mountain top
sacred temple for the Hindu Goddess Bhagwati on a mountain top
Prithvi Highway - very dangerous mountain road between Kathmandu and Pokhara
very dangerous mountain road between Kathmandu and Pokhara
Pokhara - Nepal's unofficial tourism capital surrounded by the Himalayas
Nepal's unofficial tourism capital surrounded by the Himalayas
Dhampus - laid back village in the Himalayas along the Australian Camp Trek
laid back village in the Himalayas along the Australian Camp Trek
Australian Camp - accessible peak near Pokhara with the best view on Annapurna
accessible peak near Pokhara with the best view on Annapurna
Annapurna - the world's 10 highest mountain located in the Himalayas in Nepal
the world's 10 highest mountain located in the Himalayas in Nepal
Nepalese People - mostly Hindu, somewhat happy but always haggling in their life
mostly Hindu, somewhat happy but always haggling in their life
Sarangkot - enjoying the great view over Lake Phewa and Pokhara
enjoying the great view over Lake Phewa and Pokhara
Kande - taking the local bus instead of hiking the entire way to Sarangkot
taking the local bus instead of hiking the entire way to Sarangkot
Phewa Lake - Nepal's second largest fresh water lake that is bordering Pokhara
Nepal's second largest fresh water lake that is bordering Pokhara
Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave - hidden underground Hindu temple next to a thundering waterfall
hidden underground Hindu temple next to a thundering waterfall
World Peace Pagoda - Shanti Stupa on top of Ananda Hill high above Pokhara
Shanti Stupa on top of Ananda Hill high above Pokhara
Advanced Paragliding - flying through the air in the Himalayas, overlooking Pokhara
flying through the air in the Himalayas, overlooking Pokhara
Kathmandu - from the gateway to the Himalayas to a dirty mega moloch
from the gateway to the Himalayas to a dirty mega moloch
Nepalese Food - slurping fresh Lassi and eating Dal Bhat and homemade momos
slurping fresh Lassi and eating Dal Bhat and homemade momos
Shamrock Kathmandu - dance like nobody is watching (even though they are), who cares
dance like nobody is watching (even though they are), who cares
Boudhha Stupa -
one of the world's largest stupas, surrounded by shops and cafes