Our last train journey is the longest one. With three hours delay, but a very nice company of a Chilean man and an Indian woman with her young son, we finally arrive to Varanasi. Walking along the ghats (long and wide stairs that lead to the holy Ganges river) then taking a ride by boat we observe the different rituals, who prays and washes himself with the water and who watches bodies burning, these so called burning ghats are the main attraction, but it’s hard to tell how the ceremony is done just by watching. Fortunately we find, by chance, Baba Raju, a guru that takes us around the city to explore some hidden temples explaining the meaning of all what’s going on. We end up spending the whole day with him walking around, cooking and eating lunch together. We are very lucky to have met him, it makes our stay in Varanasi very interesting, now we know more about Hindus and their way of celebrating funerals.
It’s time to leave India, so at 5am we go to the bus station with our ticket for Sunauli, on the border with Nepal, but no one knows about the existence of the bus. Curious people gather around us looking at the ticket, some of them say something in their language, some make a phone call, yet nobody can help us until the station’s chief arrives and even not knowing what our ticket is, he puts us on a bus to Gorakhpur telling us that from there we can take another bus to Sunauli. After six hours we arrive at Gorakhpur and find out that our next bus doesn’t leave from the place where we are, at the information centre they tell us to take a rickshaw to the big bus station where there are hundreds of buses and nothing written in English, people point us the direction for our bus and somehow we find it, it’s very local and small which makes it the hardest journey of all, filling up more and more with people, squeezing us in our chair and with the conductor that continues spitting red stuff out of the window that keeps on coming back on to me. It only takes three hours to arrive, but it seems a lot longer. At the border we get our stamp out of India easily and on the other side, at the Nepali immigration office, they welcome us with big smiles making our visas in only few minutes. Tired of public transports for the day, we decide to take a taxi to our final destination, Lumbini. With a crazy drive we get there and find a clean and cozy room. After five weeks we have a hot shower and a comfortable bed. This is the place where Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Sakyamuni Buddha was born. We visit the temple that hosts the exact place where Maya Devi gave birth to him, then cycle around the area where different Buddhist communities from all over the world built some very spectacular temples.
The next morning we go to where our bus to Pokhara is supposed to be and surprisingly everything is the way it should be: the bus is big, comfortable, with other tourist and it leaves on the right time. We definitely are in a different country. The journey is long, but very pleasant, going up and down the mountains with some beautiful sceneries, blue sky and clear air. Pokhara is a very touristy town, from here many different trekking around the Annapurna and the Dhaulagiri ranges start, one of the most attended hiking area in the world. We take a nice room at New Tourist Guest House, is brand new with a comfy double bed, a real duvet and good running hot water so I can finally wash my hair properly. We are 800 meters above the sea level, we can see the snow on top of the great Himalayan mountains and after five months we feel some fresh air. Last time we felt cold was in Africa, after that it was always very warm. The atmosphere is really nice, peaceful and there are some very good restaurant, included an amazing Italian one where I eat some very tasty gnocchi and pizza.
Recovered from the crowd and the chaos of the last few cities visited in India, we organize a five days four nights trekking, as I’m a bit scared of how hard it could be, we arrange everything with a good patient guide and a porter. Happy to have heard and seen our two families back home through skype, we leave with our two small backpacks and a big one carried by Dinesh, the porter, whilst Krishna, the guide, explains us in detail what we are going to do day by day. The first one starts easy with a bit of up and downs, after lunch we climb up three thousand five hundred steps going from the 1540 metres of Tikhedhungga to the 1960 meters of Ulleri where we stop at a guest house with a beautiful view over Annapurna South and Hiunchuli. After breakfast we start walking uphill, soon Laura from Holland and Conny from Germany, whom we met in the evening, reach us and continue the hike with us, as the two guides know each other very well and are good friends, we will trek together for few days, which makes it a perfect deal as I and Conny walk the same “slow speed”. Late in the afternoon we arrive in Ghorepani at 2860 metres, our room is the best of all with a spectacular 180° view of the mountains. Very early in the morning we climb up to the top of Poonhill at 3210 metres over the sea level from where we admire the sun rising and slowly lightening up the snowy top of the biggest mountain I have ever seen, Annapurna I, 8091 metres, Dhaulagiri I, 8167 metres and all the “smaller” mountains around them.
Even though I thought I couldn’t breathe anymore on the way up, it was absolutely worth it. The day is very long and by the end I struggle a lot hiking up the last 300 metres to reach Tadapani at 2630 metres, fortunately everywhere we stay there is hot water, comfortable beds and very good food. The fourth day is the hardest one for me, it’s all downhill but I have a strong pain behind the knees, “bistare bistare” (slowly slowly) I get to Ghandruk, the biggest village we visit, with a population of ten thousand. The last day we finish our loop in Birethanti 1025 metres, where we started and in Nayapul the taxi picks us up to take us back to Pokhara. With only two blisters on my feet, a cold sore on my lip and painful knees, I managed to walk fifty six kilometres with two thousand eighty five metres of height difference. As if we didn’t do enough in these days, the next morning we wake up early to see the mountains from a different point of view, flying on top of Sarangkot with a paraglide.
This was the most amazing gift I could ask for my thirtieth birthday from my parents!