Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Kathmandu – Advice for travellers

1. Bring a reliable alarm clock:  You will need this for the mornings when you are asked to get up at an incredibly early hour to view the sunrise on the Annapurnas.  The Annapurna Range is long and large, and the sun rises every morning, so you will have many opportunities to do this.

2. Bring granola bars:  For those mornings when you get up before the hotel breakfast service is operational in order to see the sunrise on the Annapurnas.

3. Pack warm layers: For those mornings when you get up early to see the sunrise on the Annapurnas and the temperature still hovering in 40s as you drive out to the place with the optimal view.  It will be in the 70s by lunchtime so be prepared to peel like an onion.

4. Be philosophical:  On those mornings when, like us on Day 5, you wake at 4AM, dress in warm clothes, eat your granola bar, drive on empty freeways and one-lane dirt roads to the acclaimed vantage point…and the fog is in.   I saw the sunrise pink the top of the fogbank, but not a sign of the Annapurnas.  Such is life.

5. Study up on the Hindu pantheon:  It helps a lot as you check off the seven World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley if you are up to speed with the various incarnations of Vishnu and his consort, together with their assorted supporters, favorite modes of transport (Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, rides a shrew) and associated holidays.

6. These are active worship sites; don’t be squeamish about local customs: One shrine, beautifully decorated with hand-painted tiles featuring peacocks, was splatttered with blood from a recent sacrifice;  another temple was adorned with unbelievable elaborate wood carvings, and strings of dried buffalo intestines.

7. Bring your camera’s battery charger with an international adapter :  an auxiliary battery will not do the trick.    My fellow travelers and I had almost 2000 pictures to share AFTER we had culled the worst shots.  (But if you forget, everything you need is available in Thamel – for a price.)

8.  No matter where you go, there you are:  On Day 5 at the Holy Himalyan Hotel I  struck up a conversation with the lady at the adjacent free-for-guests computer who had just returned from a trek of the Annapurna circuit.  After a few rounds of “Where are you from? … You’re kidding!” it turned out that she works for my sister.   Later, it happened that  the only other American couple at the guest house in Tadupani lived on the same street as my son in Sacramento, and the only other guests at the teahouse on the way to Ghorepani actually lived on my street 4 short blocks down.  Good thing I wasn’t mis-behaving!

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