Chany's 2011 Trip

Nepal and India

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My Trip in 2011 was an "adventure vacation" trek of the Annapurna Circuit, a trail in the Himalayas of Nepal. And since we were in the neighbourhood, we popped over to India to catch some of it's sights, including the world famous Taj Mahal.

Here are trinkets representing the destinations of my trip.
The top/far item is Ganesha, the Hindu god and remover of obstacles (India).
The bottom/near item are Buddhist prayer flags, which greeted us all along the Annapurna Circuit (Nepal).

These can be found on my desk at work.

Annapurna Circuit Trek (2011 November 6 - 23)

Here is a map of the Annapurna Circuit trek. We trekked from Jagat, Dharapani, Chame, Pisang, Manang, Yak Kharka, Thorung Phedi, Muktinath, Ghasa, Tatopani, Sikha, Ghorapani.
Early on, walking down the trail. The first few days consisted of "Nepali flats", which meant a lot of up and down hiking, with not much net elevation gain.
There were quite a few suspension bridges in the first two days of trekking, as we crisscrossed the river. We would hike up the side of the valley, then down to the river to cross the bridge, then hike back up, then back down .... we learned to scorn te sight of a suspension bridge ahead.
Water seemed plentiful on the trail, Here was a waterfall that flowed right accross the trail. Note that the locals and porters carry their cargo with a strap across their forehead.
Day 2 begins outside our "hotel" in Dharapani. This is the last warm shower we were going to have in a while.
Yet another suspension bridge to cross. The views crossing the various bridges were spectacular, but were met immediately with a steep uphill hike after crossing them.
It's the morning of Day 3, and we're getting ready to leave Chame. It was a cool night, and my fellow trekkers were dressed warmly for today's walk. Chame's elevation is approximately 2600 meters above seal level.
Here's a view of the valley and mountains during the trek between Chame and Pisang. The forest here now consists of pine trees.
The Pisang Monastry overlooks the village of Pisang, which will be our abode for the night. The Monastry is located in Upper Pisang, which is 100 meters higher than Lower Pisang. The altitude of Pisang is approximately 3100 meters above sea level. In the afternoon, we hiked up to the Monastry and observed some Buddhist ceremonies.
Our destination for Day 4 was Manang. On the way, we passed the village of Humde, which had an airport. Here is the view of the mountains from Humde.
Here's a view of the mountains from just outside the village of Braka. These are some spectacular views of the Annapurna range mountains.
Entering the village of Braka, with a local escorting us. The elevation here is approximately 3400 meters above sea level.
Day 5 was to be an acclimatization day in Manang, so we were to do some local hikes around Manang and stay the night there. To assist in acclimatization, it is best to hike high, and sleep low. Here are some farmers fields in the Manang valley. The altitude of Manang is approximately 3500 meters above sea level.
We hiked up to a ridge approximately 200 meters above Manang. Here I am with the Gangapurna Glacier behind me.
The houses in Manang Village were basically made of rock.
It's Day 6 and it's time to leave Manang; here's a picture looking back at Manang. Note the terrace farmland to the left and the ridge to the right on which we hiked to the previous day, with Gangapurna Glacier Lake below.
The landscape is getting more barren now as we rise in altitude. Here's the view on our way to Yak Kharka.
Yak Kharka is located approximately 4000 meters above sea level. Sticking to the "hike high, sleep low" paradigm, we hiked the hill above Yak Kharka; here's the view.
At Yak Kharka, we stayed in these huts at the Hotel Gangapurna. It was a cold night!
It's Day 7, and half an hour out of Yak Kharka, we crossed the Chuli Ledar Suspension Bridge
We were on our way to Thorung Phedi; this was the view approximately one hour away from our destination. At this elevation (approximately 4300 meters above sea level), there was not much vegetation, other than small bushes.
We arrived at Thorung Phedi shortly before noon. At an altitude of over 4500 meters above sea level, this will be our highest abode on the trek. The accomodations were rustic and the air was thin, but I was actually feeling pretty good at this point.
Doing our "hike high, sleep low" thing, here I am approximately 200 meters above Thorung Phedi. At this altitude, it is basically alpine tundra with rocky terrain and small shrubs. Gungdang Mountain (6,600 meters) is the peak seen to the right.
Day 8 began with an early wakeup call, and we began our trek to the Thorung La High Pass in the dark with headlights illuminating our way on the trail. This will be a long day, as we are expected to be on the trail for 10 hours. This picture was taken shortly after sunrise, with the trail ahead to the pass. It was cold; my water bottles were frozen and my camera stopped functioning temporarily shortly after this photo was taken.
We arrived at Thorung La (approximately 5400 meters above sea level) at around 9 AM. It was important to get to the High Pass in the morning as the weather usually takes a turn for the worse later in the day. Even then, it was windy and cold. I was able to warm up my camera enough for it to be functional again for this picture; I am wearing almost all the clothes I had packed for this trip!
Here's the elevation of and location of Thorung La, according to my Blackberry's GPS. Altidude is 5375 m, Latitude 28.79346, Longitude 83.93878
We left Thorung La at 10 AM, heading to our next destination, Muktinath. Here we see the trail leaving the High Pass with spectacular views of the mountains through the glacier formed U-Shaped valley. There is little to no vegetation here at this altitude.
We got to Muktinath around 2 PM, after hiking 4 hours downhill to 3900 meters above sea level. This is actually the exit to a Hindu / Bhuddist temple area next to the village. This marked the end of a long, tough day.
Day 9 started with a visit to the Muktinath Temple (we had to pass through part of it the day before to get to town). Here are a collection of bells at the temple.
We boarded a van which took us to Jomsom, where we then boarded a bus which took us to Ghasa. The climate became more tropical (warmer and wetter) as we got lower in elevation. Here was our accomodations in Ghasa (elevation 2000 meters above sea level).
It's Day 10 and we're back on the trail on our way to Tatopani. It was warm and humid and threatened to rain. Here we were entering the Dana Village Development Committee (VDC) area.
Here's where we stayed in Tatopani. One of the interesting thing we did in Tatopani was visit the Hot Springs pools. The pools were slimy with algae and were quite hot. It seemed like the locals also use the pools facilities to bathe!
Our Day 11 hike was from Tatopani to Shikha. Here we see the don't want you pooping outside. Sometines, if you gotta go, you gotta go!
Here are marijuana plants growing by the side of the trail. This was not uncommon to find in this area.
This is the view on Day 12 from our rustic accomodations in Shikha. On the docket this day was a hike from Shikha to Ghorepani.
We bagan Day 13 before sunrise with a hike to Poon Hill, at an elevation of 3210 meters above sea level. There were suppose to be spectacular views of the Annapurna range, but unfortunately there was cloud and fog obscuring some of the mountains. Thus, just a picture of me.
Here was our "hotel" in Ghorepani. The morning hike to Poon Hill was cloudy, but it cleared up later in the morning. For this day, we were heading off to Tikhe Dhunga.
Here was our Guest House in Tikhe Dhunga (elevation 1540 meters above sea level, as per the sign). Yes, having a western toilet is a major feature, but due to the sanitary conditions of many of the "western" toilets on this trip, I prefered to use the squatters!
On Day 14, we hiked a short distance from Tikhe Dhunga and then boarded a van to Pokhara. There are some spectacular views of the Annapurna range from Pokhara, as this picture shows. We felt we were back in civilization in Pokhara, as it has an airport, restaurants, electricity, and WiFi. I was able to finally wash some clothes in the hotel bathroom sink here! The trekking was basically over.
Here was our hotel in Pokhara. Compared to the places we stayed on the Annapurna Circuit, this was a 5 star hotel. Day 15 was basically our last day, as we boarded a van that took us from Pokhara back to Kathmandu via the legendary (and scary) mountainside roads (an adventure in itself!).
We visited the Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) in Kathmandu. The Temple is located on a hill to the west of Kathmandu, and is occupied by many "holy monkeys". The Temple has it's origins that date back to the 5th century AD, and is an important Bhuddist pigramige site. From the site are views of Kathmandu, as shown by this picture.
Here's a picture looking down the stairs from atop the Monkey Temple. The walk up the steep stairs from the bottom to the top results in a good cardio workout, and the walk down will give your knees a workout. Did I mention there's a lot of monkeys here?
No visit to Nepal would be complete without seeing the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest. We took a sightseeing flight from Kathmandu to view Everest (elevation 8,846 meters above sea level).

India - New Delhi, Jaipur, Agra (2011 November 24 - 29)

As we were in the neighbourhood, we made a visit over to India. Here is a map of the three main cities we were to visit in the "Golden Triangle": New Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra.
The Presidential Residence (Rashtrapati Bhavan) is located in New Delhi and is currently the official home for the President of India. Completed in 1929 after 17 years of contruction, it is built almost of only brick and stone. In the background is what was formerly known as the Viceroy's House, and in the foreground is the Jaipur Column. Monkeys freely roam about the Presidential grounds.
Humayun's Tomb (Maqbara e Humayun) is the tomb of Emperor Humayun, located in New Delhi. Construction of the tomb began in 1565 and was completed in 1572. Emperor Humayun actually died in 1556; his wife commissioned the construction of the tomb to which his body was finally entombed after completion of construction.

The tomb is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been under restoration, as one can see by the green tarp in the photo. The architecture of this tomb was the foundation for future royal tomb, up to the Taj Mahal.
Safdarjung's Tomb is the tomb of Statesman Safdarjung, located in New Delhi. Construction of the tomb was completed in 1754, consisting of sandstone and marble.
We visited the Shri Lakshmi Narain Temple in New Delhi. This is a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu, with side temples dedicated to Shiva, Krishna, and Buddha. No photos are allowed inside the temples; it was quite colourful inside and there were ornate statues of the different gods that one would worship to. To me, it was interesting to see as the "gods" looked like porcelain dolls in a diorama that someone had a lot of fun dressing up and decorating.

Above the entrance to the temple on the facade are the Om symbol (a common sign for Hinduism philosophy and theology) and the swastika (a symbol for good fortune, luck, and well being).
Approximately 270 km south west of New Delhi is Jaipur, known as the Pink City of India (as much of the buildings are constructed with a pink coloured stone). We first visited the Amer (Amber) Fort, located outside of Jaipur. Much of the buildings inside date back to the 1600s. Much of the buildings are contructed of red sandstone and marble.
The Palace at the Amber Fort had toilets with modern luxuries such as hot and cold water and torches for visits during the night.
Maota Lake is located below in front of the Amber Fort. The gardens below offer a stark contrast to the ruggedness of the surrounding landscape.
The Jai Mahal Lake Palace (Water Palace) is located in the middle of Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur. The Palace was constructed in 1750 and was meant to be a lodge as opposed to be a palace. The lake itself was formed by a construction of a dam in the 16th century, providing water for drinking and irrigation.
The Jaipur City Palace was built between 1729 and 1732, which includes the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal palaces. Here is the ornate Peacock Gate, the northeast entry to the Chandra Mahal.
Our hotel in Jaipur was the Laxmi Palace. It was decorated like the real palaces we had visited during the day, so it was kind of neat staying here. Laxmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, love, prosperity (both material and spiritual), fortune, and the embodiment of beauty
Our next city on the Golden Triangle was Agra, and our first site to visit was the Agra Fort. The Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located northwest of the Taj Mahal, and had it's origins back to the 11th century.
Keeping watch on the tourists visiting the Agra Fort were monkeys!
Located inside Agra Fort were the Anguri Bagh Gardens, the "Garden of Grapes". This was a colourful collection of plants separated by a jigsaw pattern of masonry.
The Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan; however he was overthrown by his son and imprisoned at Agra Fort. This is the view of the Taj Mahal that Shah Jahan had from his detention facilities from Agra Fort.
I visited the Taj Mahal early in the morning, having to wait in a lineup with other tourists and fighting off mosquitoes. Once in, this was my first view of the Taj Mahal. It was quite a sight, despite the hazy conditions.
Construction of the Taj Mahal began around 1632 and completed in 1653. It is a white marble mausoleum built for Mumtaz Mahal, the third wife of Emperor Shah Jahan. Here is the south-east minaret of the Taj Mahal, at sunrise.
Here's the obligatory tourist picture of me and the Taj Mahal, looking north-west. The red building to the left is a mosque.
Back in New Delhi, one of my memories of the city was how crowded and crazy the traffic was. Here was an intersection that was jammed with cars, tuktuks, bikes, and pedestrians.

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