When booking the bus to Pokhara, I was told to get the “tourist bus” because it’s quicker and I’ll be there in 6hrs max. LIES! The tourist bus and the local bus are basically the same, one has more character than the other and I’m not talking about the tourist bus. If you are one prone to have motion sickness, then you are in for a ride because Nepali divers are…. Not gonna say it! Come to Nepal and be your own judge. Anyway I said this was gonna be a serious post so let’s get to it.
Warning: I alternated the paragraphs to tell two stories at a time so pls dnt get mad if its annoying to keep track! i just wanted to kill two birds with one stone 🙂
Pokhara is in great proximity to many of the mountains in the Himalayan range so many people visit the area for relaxation and to do some trekking. I really enjoyed the vibe of the town when I arrived, most of the accommodations are right by the Fewa Lake, which made for some great relaxation and journaling time before I decided to make plans on how to proceed. I hadn’t fully decided where to head but after living in the main city areas of Nepal, I wanted to go off the map and see how people live in small villages and towns nestled within the Himalayas, preferably the Annapurna conservation areas. The best way to do this was through trekking because you can’t just waltz into the area without permits and what not. So it was decided! Some adventure in trekking to the Annapurna basecamp and learning experiences of what it’s like to live remotely in the mountains.
Before heading up there, what my time in Kathmandu thought me was that among Nepali’s, the strength of their social fabric and interrelations among families and ethnicities was very important. Considering the theory I’ve been exploring throughout my journey, I could see where the many cultures in Nepal could foster a sense of interdependence (Ubuntu) but I couldn’t really figure out how that would play out in terms of public health. Specifically since many people live in areas removed from several healthcare facilities, I thought it would be great to learn about their perceptions of healthcare since about 85% of the population utilize traditional medicine as their primary form of healthcare. And honestly with Nepal overrun by so many NGOs and tourism oriented organizations, I wanted to see and observe through the eyes of the locals not someone’s annual report- there are legitimate NGOs doing great work in Nepal but I just wanted to do things my way.
Getting the permits was easy but packing for a 10 days of trekking was tough as the lesser things you packed the better your chances of moving faster and smoothly. Apparently and truthfully the higher you went, the colder it got and the weather also unpredictable. Also trekking for 10 days alone in the Himalayas was a different level of loneliness I wasn’t ready for so I made friends with some fellow travelers that were headed my way. The journey started in the town of Nayapul where we walked for several hours- about 7hrs- to the town of Ulleri then the next day about the same time frame to Ghorepani (Poon Hill). The terrain was undoubtedly beautiful and local people you meet along the way even more beautiful and welcoming. Along the way, I noticed that many of the towns at least had a little health center equipped with mainly first aid materials which were mainly utilized on occasions but the people seemed to be generally healthy. Speaking to some locals and some guides who have worked in that region for a while, I found that most traditional Nepali’s utilize two forms of health practices, Ayurvedic Medicine and Folk Medicine, both of which are extensions of traditional practices passed down through lineages and gurus.
Trekking for 9 days to an altitude of 4130 meters, wasn’t all sunny and fun as it sounds, from one town to the next, the landscapes were either extremely steep of very downhill. At some points I felt like I would have fallen down had it not been for my awesome bamboo walking stick. The weather was incredibly moody, occasionally it would seem cloudy but then nothing would happen so my traveling buddies and I would just ignore it. However, on the 5th day, while walking through a really beautiful forest full of faunas and orchids, we got caught in the middle of a rain and hail storm. The sad thing was we had only 25 minutes of walking before the next town but it felt like forever as the hills were steep and the weather kept getting crazier. We arrived in the town Himalaya all soaked up and freezing because as the temperatures get lower the higher we went. It was a miracle that none of us got sick because we were literally drenched and the next day we had to proceed with mostly wet clothes- thank goodness I had one last pair of dry socks.
In each if the towns we visited and passed through, I often times didn’t get to talk to as much people as I wanted but in the towns that I stayed in, I occasionally met some people who were great to talk to. Generally after they fulfill their curiosities about what I was doing in around there, they were very chatty even with little English and shared what they thought about current situations in Nepal and their villages. In one conversation with a lady, she told me about how many Nepali communities have gradually become reliant on the help of NGOs for most of their health and development issues. Thinking about her comment now, I could certainly see why so because there aren’t many local people who can afford to take the initiative to shoulder an organization to benefit his/her community no matter how deep their sense of motivation and dedication is. Thus most people would rather be affiliated with outside NGOs than start up something from the very grassroots by themselves. Nevertheless I’d have to say I can see locals being able to champion change through health initiatives because there’s just a really interwoven sense of lived realities in Nepal that makes it definitely possible.
Oh yeah! So getting to the basecamp was quite an exciting feat. The terrain only got snowier after we got beat up by the hail but at the basecamp it was really beautiful with tons of snowy peaks all around and the occasional noises of avalanches around- no big deal! Sike! It was low-key scary! The sunrises at the basecamp were also to die for and really surreal, I hope the photos do give you a sense of it. Descending from the basecamp took us two days because although everything was great! Wearing the same clothes for long stretches of days on occasionally skipping showers (hot showers were expensive) made me feel icky. Anyway being back in Pokhara was great, I did feel a great sense of accomplishment in having gotten more data for my research and also getting to see the Himalayas so up close and personal. At this point, I had a few days left before I have to get ready for Myanmar so after nursing my many joint pains with Tiger baIm, I took a short trip to Lumbini (To see the Birthplace of Buddha) which was really great but also tiring because the 7hr bus ride felt like bumper cars without the bumping.
Alright! I’m tired of typing and you’re probably tired of reading so you’ll have to ask me other details about this journey/stories in person- hahaha! Nepal has been really great to me and I’ve had a really amazing time living here and getting to know the people. I’ll definitely be back later for more amazing food, adventures and to b among such friendly people. Next week I’ll be in Myanmar, where I’m only allowed to stay 28 days but I may or may not break the law and stay a bit longer for a daily fine of $3. Until next time! Namaste!