The latest guest post on 501 Places is written by Kathryn Bullock, a travel industry entrepreneur who has just returned from a solo trip to Nepal. Kathryn shares with us a glimpse of her 6 day Himalayan trek and gives some valuable insights into her experiences of visiting Nepal as a solo female traveller.
Following his successful jaunt around Laos on trail bikes last year, my partner Dave proudly announced he was back off to Thailand this February. He would travel with his biking buddy for a jaunt around the hill tribe villages on a trail bike. I prefer more active holidays so I decided it was time to book a ticket to the country I’d wanted to go to for years: the stunning Himalayan kingdom of Nepal.
As it was too late to persuade a friend to join me I thought, why not just book it anyway? It’s been all of 24 years since my last solo adventure around Indonesia so I was well out of practice. I loved every minute of it! I had read that as a woman if you want to meet people you just need to sit at a bar and not sit at a table. So I tried this at a little bar in Kathmandu and I met some really friendly locals.
The city is overwhelming and I was a bit concerned about getting lost the first night. It’s such a labyrinth of small lanes which all look the same and are jammed with signposts of every shape and colour. I did some reading ahead of time and booked the first two nights in Kathmandu at the charming Hotel Courtyard which was blissfully quiet. I left the rest to chance. The freedom this gave me was liberating. I stepped into a small travel agency and had my ticket to Pokhara booked and paid for within minutes for the next morning. I enjoyed the first glimpse of the Himalayas in their full glory peaking above the smoggy clouds over the Kathmandu valley as I gazed out from our tiny Guna air plane.
On reaching Pokhara I explored the trail on the ridge between Serangkot Hill and Nau Danda, watching the paragliders in full flight. February is the best month for thermals in this dreamy place. I hired a bike to explore the lakeside villages and was invited into a friendly farmer’s home for tea and a chat, whilst we enjoyed the last of the sun’s rays on his terrace, watching the world go by.
The 6 day trek around the Ghorepani and Chomrung circuit was a real highlight. My expert guide Dal is a seasoned trekker and recounted enchanting stories of seeing snow leopard in the Mustang Valley and other amazing trekking adventures through snow drifts. The views from the guest houses in the early morning sun were breathtaking and everyone must have heard a series of excited exclamations as I stood on the balcony each morning taking in the views. You have to earn this treat as you climb the very steep staircases for what seem hours on end – but they really are worth it! A tip is to make sure you take at least one walking pole or ideally two, as they do help especially up to Poon Hill (3200m) on the ice for the very special Annapurna panorama at sunrise.
On returning to Kathmandu I decided on the slower route back and stopped off at the charming medieval village of Bandipur which is nestled in the hills. I loved the peace and quiet of the place. I imagined that I was living there in medieval times as it was so dark and quiet at night with the power cut and traffic banned in the village centre. I also stopped off at the original Nepali capital of Gorka and climbed another 1500 stairs to appreciate the views from the Hindu temple above the town, and saw the women preparing the goat sacrifice for the gods.
On coming back to Kathmandu I stopped in at the very friendly Everest Irish pub in Thamel to see a great Nepali blues band I had seen on arrival. I encouraged some new Dutch trekking friends to come with me and we had an amazing night of blues magic. The band had been thrown in prison and beaten up for playing just 10 minutes after a noise curfew at 10pm last year and have the scars to prove the brutality of the local police.
I learnt a lot from my new Nepali friends about life in this country and I’ve already bought my maps to plan my next trek. I would book another trip in a heartbeat. The only challenge now is to knuckle down to some work to pay for it and stop day dreaming about my trip.
For all the pictures on the places described above and more in Nepal, please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kb_adventures
Kathryn Bullock is a frequent traveller and an ecommerce expert and entrepreneur who has worked in the travel industry for the past 25 years. She is now working on a new business venture in social media for travel and is a regular blogger for business owners at: www.enterprisebritain.com and her blogs can be found at http://anothereb.blogspot.com/