AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

There are more than 20 tourist buses that ply the road to Pokhara in addition to mini-vans and taxis. You can fly instead for around $100 and it only takes 35minutes. This journey would take 7 hours including a breakfast and lunch stop to do 200km. A big improvement on the 9 and a half hours to do 130km to Langtang. We booked the bus via the hotel to secure a seat and it cost $10; the real price is probably around $7. We read that in the low season or the second season you can just turn up at Kantipath around 6.30am and choose your bus; with some negotiating you can get a ticket for around $5.50. There were many buses and most were not full. Also, don’t worry about breakfast as the Nepalese have this covered. You can buy drinks and food on the street by the buses, with many vendors selling pastries, water, etc. The buses leave for Pokhara at 7am, (apart from the Greenline, which leaves at 7.30am from near The North Face Store on Thamel Marg) and arrive in Pokhara at 2pm around 2km from the main hotels. There are fixed priced taxis waiting. 200rupees for the Lakeside. We took Metro Inn Travels and Tours. It was a very new bus with the luggage stored at the back rather than on the roof. The luggage space was also clean, so the bag didn’t get covered in grease and oil like it has on many other buses in Asia. We were given a bottle of water each and had comfortable reclining seats and air-conditioning. The journey was pretty good and the road for the most part was paved. The start of the journey through Kathmandu took a long time and then the bus had to wind down into the valley bottom. Don’t worry the road is fine and the tourist buses go slowly. It may be painful on the ears as the brakes like to squeal. Once down this one steep section the rest of the journey was in the valley. It is windy and it is bumpy but there is enough room for two vehicles and no real drop of the edge. The bus nearly had a bump 3 times due to local buses and crazy drivers overtaking on blind corners. Luckily, the tourist bus goes slow and reacted to these, always stopping in time. The view from the window was a good one. The water in the river was a huge contrast to the polluted, rubbish-infested river in Kathmandu. By the river’s side the road was lined with tall trees in Autumnal colours....

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Boredom & Bullshit in Kathmandu

Posted on Mar 7, 2014

Our final day in Kathmandu before going north to Syabrubesi and the Langtang Valley was marked by minor annoyances. We had arranged for the porter to come to the hotel in the morning and verify how he intended to carry the bag and to check we packed it OK for him. That was pretty quick and simple, my bag is lightweight and comfortable and Annemarie had packed it well. We then asked for the bus tickets to be arranged for us. Having had the pleasure of walking to the bus station a couple of days before we didn’t want to experience it again and we were willing to pay to avoid it. We told the manager we wanted the 7:30am bus. He made the call and the seats were booked, we had requested seats in the middle of the bus as numerous people on the Lonely Planet forum had recommended that. A 5 minute phone call was so much better than the 40 minute walk each way. We went back to our room to look up what to do in Kathmandu. I remembered that I had posted a message about a sharing a Jeep on the Lonely Planet forum and decided to quickly check on it and probably update it. A few people had replied and they had all said get the express bus not the local bus. The express doesn’t stop on the way so it isn’t overcrowded like the local bus, it also gets to Syabrubesi far quicker. The express bus leaves at 7am from the same place as the bus we had just booked. I quickly ran downstairs to change the ticket, but the manager was adamant there wasn’t a 7am bus. We went downstairs together and told him there was a 7am bus and it was the express, he said there wasn’t, but if we wanted he could easily cancel our tickets if we found an alternative. There was nothing left to do but go to the bus station ourselves and buy the tickets, so off we set. We quickly jumped in a taxi and negotiated a return price (which was still a rip off) and after a short but terrifying journey we were at the bus station again. Unfortunately all the seats were taken for the next day, and the day after that. Dammit, we should have known about this bus and had it booked well in advance. It’s another thing which in hindsight we could have done better. Now we were definitely taking the local bus which everyone had said was an horrendous experience and one best avoided if possible. We went back...

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A Low Point in Kathmandu

Posted on Mar 6, 2014

Day 1 This was our third day in Kathmandu and hopefully our last, the next day we planned to leave by bus to the Langtang Valley. The first task on our list was to go to the bus station and buy the bus tickets to Syabrubesi. We could get the hotel to arrange the tickets but that would be 700 Rupees (£4) each, as opposed to the 40 minute walk and paying 340 Rupees for the tickets. With not many things left to do we weren’t in a rush and this might allow us to see more of Kathmandu. The tourist area of Kathmandu is Thamel, almost as soon as we left this area the surroundings became worse. There are no footpaths and the road is just wider than two cars. Add a ton of motorbikes constantly attempting to weave through the traffic and the result is a terrifying walk down the side of a busy road with cars, buses, bikes and trucks narrowly missing the pedestrians. All this traffic made a lot of pollution, the vehicles are generally knackered and emit far more emissions than Western cars. Anything large just belches thick black smoke! The road was very dusty too. When the dust and the smoke mixed everything was just a haze. Our mouths tasted of grit, our eyes hurt and it was starting to affect our chests. The highlight of the walk was the river, a dark grey sludge filled with rubbish. The smell was bad, really bad. We finally reached the bus station. A small metal shelter with two men sat inside. We bought the 7:30am bus tickets for the next day and headed back to the safer, cleaner more sanitised view of Kathmandu. The walk back was just as unpleasant. Walking through areas where every building was in some state of collapse. It reminded me of photos I’d seen of European towns and cities in 1945, a building standing then a hole or pile of rubble next door, followed by another building in some state of disrepair next to yet another pile of rubble. We had seen enough of Kathmandu for one day and hurried back to Thamel. We ate lunch then went to the supermarket to buy snack food for the trek and food for the 9 hour bus journey. The supermarket knows its audience well and is filled with Western brand foods, at a hefty markup. Lindt chocolate can be bought for £2.50, Milka is a little cheaper at £1.45. Mars bars and KitKats are also available. We bought a small amount of chocolate, plenty of granola bars, mints, washing powder and Diamox...

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Shopping in Kathmandu

Posted on Mar 3, 2014

We arrived in Nepal with almost no suitable clothing for trekking in the Himalaya. The good news is that the tourist area of Kathmandu (Thamel) has hundreds of shops selling almost every piece of equipment you could need. Yesterday, we weren’t really sure on what clothing we needed. We don’t know the temperatures for most of the walks, nor the base camps. We can get temperatures for the start of the walks and some temperatures from the top of the walks, but nothing accurate for the length of the route. The shop keepers will sell you the item you are looking at, no matter what it is and tell you that is fine. There is no expert advice, so we had to know exactly what we wanted. We wandered around the shops asking about different items, writing down the prices and just getting a feel for what we do and don’t want. In one shop we were told the down coats would be too warm, but in many other shops we were told to buy down. We had planned on renting a coat, sleeping bag and rucksack each, but we are going to be trekking for about 42 days, plus travel and rest time in between, so maybe 50 days. After asking the prices of these items on a per day basis it was hardly any extra (and sometimes cheaper) to buy the items. By the end of our first day wandering we knew most of what we wanted, a reasonable idea on which shops to get it from and what to research that night in the hotel. We found that during the day temperatures were warm, shorts and t-shirt weather, only at night, early morning and in the evening was it cold. So a good warm down sleeping bag and thermal underclothing would be good at night. The synthetic coats for morning and evening would be good enough. And long sleeved t-shirt plus micro fleece would be warm enough for most days (we will be walking and carrying stuff so won’t need extremely warm clothing). Our second day we headed out and bought almost everything we needed. Here’s what we got: 2x down sleeping bag: 10,000 rupees. 2x synthetic coats: 4,500 rupees 1x (real) North Face trousers: 6,499 rupees 1x (real) North Face micro fleece: 7,499 rupees 1x fleece hat: 150 rupees 1x long sleeve t-shirt: 810 rupees 1x sunglasses : 700 rupees 1x thermal underclothes: 1,900 rupees 2x Diamox packs:  190 rupees 1x water purification tablets: 130 rupees 1x hiking boots: 4,500 Total: 36,900 rupees. ($370, £240) Along with the above we got a free pair of...

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