20 Days in Nepal – Part 1

About Nepal, Pokhara, Parahawking & Maya Devi – Not many people would regard Nepal as a tourist destination. However we found a recent 3 week trip there in January 2010 not only an amazing cultural experience but an extremely rewarding & soul cleansing one too.

Baring in mind that Nepal is a very poor country. Ranked as poor as the likes of Sudan, Ethiopia & Uganda. We were amazed to see a country of such beauty, friendship & generosity. A country land locked between China (Tibet) & India. Nepal provides a vast & wide ranging array of things to do & places to visit. From the splendour of Kathmandu’s temples, Stupas & heritage sites to the Pokhara area with Mountain villages, Fewa lake & the lakeside district the tourist hub for trekking the Annapurna circuit and such like places.

In Pokhara we were based at Maya Devi Village about 5 minutes drive from Lakeside. It’s a little hamlet of traditional style buildings along with a bar area. It’s close by to the landing area on another big tourist draw to the area. Paragliding. Quite an experience when you come out of you accommodation the first few times to see dozens of paragliders swirling around over the lake & landing nearby!

It’s also home to the Himalayan Rapture rescue centre. Run by Scott Mason. Scott not only rescues birds & tries to release them into the wild when not imprinted on by humans. He also cares for the ones which can’t be released & spends hours a day looking after & exercising them. Scott also runs Parahawking. A business born out of the rescue centre where by he has taught some of the birds which can’t be released to fly alongside his team of trained paraglider pilots & handlers whilst giving tandem flights to tourists & Raptor lovers.

We had the pleasure of doing a paragliding flight & parahawking flight. Both are an amazing experience! Although the Parahawking sensation of being guided by you pilot up to 2000m above sea level with these majestic birds of prey (Bob & Kevin) flying with you, landing on your glove, feeding and drifting off again is a unforgettable experience & real highlight of our time at Maya Devi Village.

Scott through both projects is raising awareness about the plight of Raptors in Nepal & India. As well as donating money from the flights & through other avenues to Bird conservation Nepal with the aim of setting up at Vulture safe Zone in the Pokhara area.

Vultures have seen a massive decline in numbers. The White Backed Vulture, The Slender Billed Vulture and the Long Billed Vulture have declined by a staggering 99.9% in the last 15 years. This is all down to a drug called “Diclofenac”, an anti inflammatory drug which is administered to sick and dying livestock across Asia. Diclofenac is lethal to the Vultures, if the animal dies with Diclofenac in its system, vultures that feed from the animal carcass die from liver and kidney failure. It is killing them in their millions. It’s a massive project, but having spent time with Scott we cans see its one he’s very passionate about & committed to.

Out with Maya Devi, The tourist Lakeside area is the hub of all things paragliding, trekking & sightseeing. Here you can find numerous travel agencies providing easy 1-2 day hikes to full on 20+ days depending on your itinerary, time & experience.

Annapurna base camp is a very popular which can be done in about 10 days if you’re based in Pokhara. Sleeping bags, equipment can all be hired here too; some companies provide you with the lot including guides, cooks & people to carry your stuff, all you have to do are the walking bit!! You can rough it & sleep under the stars or you can stay in very well appointed lodges. For longer treks which require more planning you should book in advance. The shorter ones run pretty much everyday. That said, most can accommodate a late addition.

Also on lakeside there are various offices for the different paragliding companies. Many looking after specific nationalities. Many are multipurpose offering not only trekking & paragliding but Mountain biking, Mountaineering, rafting, Nature treks & safaris too.  The best British one we found was Himalayan frontiers. Easily findable on the main street. No language barrier, expertly run & well organised.

As you would expect Lakeside offers pretty much everything you need. Tourist shops to buy souvenirs, cafes, bars, restaurant & a couple of clubs. A favourite of ours being the chillybar. Also grocery shops, outdoor wear, laundry services & plenty of taxis. Tip for the taxis is settle on a price before you get in. They are pretty cheap anyway. Ask for a card from the driver if you feel comfortable with him following your 1st journey. We had a great guy Mikel, quick call & 10 minutes later he was there!

Finally a couple of general points. Tap water should not be drank. Always drink only bottled water that you can see the cap has not been tampered with. We did drink straight from the steams up in the mountains with no problem, but still not recommended! In the cities don’t even thinks about it, not even for brushing your teeth with! Finally for much of the year the country has load shedding. Due to the lack of hydro power out with the dry season areas get divided up and can experience period of up to 7-8 twice daily without electricity. You hotel or accommodation will be able to give you a week in advance rota of when it will be off. Many have their own generators too but that’s not always the case.

As you will see from Part 2 Siklis village, you don’t need to worry about electricity up there! Look out for part 2 of our Nepal Travel adventure coming soon here on Girlie Gossip!

By Darren Gimber

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