Nepal Photos

The Hiking is Spectacular

Nepal Hillside

Nepal is very definitely a third world country.  The people are poor, the government has been screwed up for a long time and the roads are terrible – it took 6 ½ hours to drive by car 135 miles from Kathmandu (the capital and largest city) to Pokhara (the second largest city), dodging people, goats, dogs, pigs and mudslides along the way.  While the poverty in Nepal is significant and ever-present, the people are friendly and once you get out of the cities, hiking into the Himalayas is utterly beautiful.  Pokhara is a pleasant town on a lake in central Nepal and it is a great jumping off spot for a number of treks into the Annapurna region of the country.

I am a mountain person and I have thoroughly enjoyed hikes in the American and Canadian Rockies, the Pyrenees and Alps in Europe, the Andes around Machu Picchu in Peru, and the terrific Southern Alps of New Zealand.  But the highest elevation in all of these locations is barely over 14,000 ft while the Himalayas include many peaks of 23,000 to 26,000 ft, as well as Mt. Everest at 29,035 ft.  The reaction I continually had as I constantly scanned the scenery on a five day hike was WOW!  I was somewhat leery of possible altitude sickness so I choose an “easy” hike as a starter – to Poon Hill, a mere 10,000 ft elevation.  (Here, 10,000 feet is a hill, not a mountain.)  For five days in the mountains there were no roads to the tiny Himalayan hill villages where we spent pleasant but chilly nights (typical lodging cost in guest houses, $1.50 per night per person).  All supplies to the villages were brought in by porter or mule as the people were too poor for helicopter drops.  We got up one morning at 4 am to trek 45 minutes up 1,500 ft to see the sunrise over the Himalayas from a prominent hillside.  The pre-dawn sky was full of stars and as the sun crept over the horizon to expose snow covered peaks truly at the roof of the world.

Second Trip:

I first went to Nepal in 2007 to do some low-level (below 11,000 ft) hiking and for my first view of the Himalayas.  The mountains were truly magnificent; this picture captures the countryside before getting into the many snow-covered 23,000+ ft peaks in the northern part of the country.

Like Bhutan, India and Tibet/China border Nepal. It is somewhat bigger than Bhutan – it’s about the size of Arkansas – but it has a much larger population, 30 million.  Nepal’s government has been in turmoil for years and it continues to struggle to achieve a democracy after throwing out an unpopular king two years ago.  A large Maoist (communist) faction plays on the abject poverty of the country, and necessary infrastructure – roads, schools, clean water, health care, etc. – are all sorely lacking.  As in most Third World countries, corruption is rampant in everything that goes on and daily life is both a challenge and a struggle.

On this trip my primary objective was to visit Nepal Orphans Home, an organization I became aware of on my initial visit to Nepal.  NOH was started in 2005 by an American with a big heart and a desire to make a difference.  Michael Hess has done an extraordinary job and currently has 130 kids, age 6 – 17, in four houses in close proximity to each other in the Kathmandu Valley.  The majority of NOH kids are girls who have been rescued from the Kamlari System of indentured servitude prevalent in western Nepal.  These kids now have a home, a loving community, an education, health care and a chance to have a real life. I took 100 pounds of old National Geographic magazines, books and a number of beanie babies from my daughter Chelsea’s collection – here is a picture of some of the kids with their new treasures.

Kids at NOH have a very supportive as well as a very structured environment, as evidenced by this schedule posted in one of the four houses:

I spent five hours one Saturday at NOH; the energy and exuberance of the kids was electric. Their website gives much detail about NOH, its goals and its kids; I would encourage you to visit it and to help them if you can:  The Nepalese have a greeting that means hello, how are you, have a good day, good bye – all in one word:  Namaste.