Thursday, April 5, 2018

Trekking to Manaslu March 2018

Our destination - trekking the Manaslu circuit - one of the more challenging treks in Nepal!

Mt. Manaslu 8163 m - 8th highest peak in the world
Soti Khola tea house


Some narrow trails following the Budi Gandaki river

Lots of stone steps with gain and loss of elevations

Many suspension bridges

New bridging above the river to avoid flood seasons

Many lodges and homes being rebuilt post 2015 earthquake

Wheat terraces

Narrow trails, valleys, and bridges

Bridge to Philim

Kani gate

Lots of variety in geography

Namrung

Manaslu at sunrise from Lho

Naike - 6211m

Samagaon 3500m) after rest day and a 25 cm snowfall -
this view to the north and to Samdo,
then Larke La pass at 5100m

Too dangerous to go up or to go down and more snow on the way!
How about a chopper out to Kathmandu?
It only costs $3300 USD one way.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A friend at Yoga for Today asked me to run a trip for her studio to Nepal, and 9 wonderful yogis joined me to Kathmandu in mid February. It is always nice to briefly walk about in shirtsleeves and practice yoga in some amazing places in +20C warmth while winter is still happening back home in Canada.
Yoga in the garden at Begnas Resort
A short day in Hong Kong allowed us to visit the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island not far from the airport, then the evening flight to Kathmandu, where our Nepal adventure began!
Big Buddha on Lantau Island



The 'silent" boat ride to Begnas resort
Organic Coffee family
A quiet boat ride on Begnas lake took us to the Begnas Lake resort, in comfortable cabins, western washrooms, yoga in the garden and delicious meals including fish from the lake! An ayurvedic doctor and spa for massage and warm oil treatments was very welcome for all. We walked local villages, visited a school and enjoyed organic coffee at the Begnas Coffee place.



Breakfast at Pokhara Damside

We spent 3 nights in Kathmandu and then off to Pokhara (the second largest city in Nepal) where it is a bit warmer (+23C) days and more of a resort town. We visited the Tibetan refugee camp, the International Mountaineering museum, several schools and shopped the Lakeside streets of Pokhara.

Sunrise on the Annapurna's
An early rise (5am) and short drive up a ridge to Sarangkot to see the sunrise on the Annapurna's, allowed us to experience the start of another amazing day. It was a bit hazy, but we could see Annapurna South and Machhapuchhre (Fishtail).

A short 30 minute flight back to Kathmandu, and visits to Thamel shopping, a Nepali Culture show and visit to Patan, another royal square in the valley, and then final preparations to return home.

Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu - now rebuilt after EQ

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Another successful Yoga and Culture tour to Nepal with two fine groups! We did our daily yoga practice in some unique locations and walked through the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara as well as some villages to experience the Hindu and Buddhist cultures. The food was good and beer or wine at 4 or 5 every day was a great time to reflect upon our day's experiences!

Yoga in garden at Begnas Resort
The Nepal people are still suffering from Government inaction following last April's earthquake and very little rebuilding has taken place especially in the remote villages near the epicentre where homes and schools were devastated. My school in Nalang has not begun rebuilding due to lack of supplies like cement (which comes from India) and expertise - the men have had to leave to find work and earn a living. A 5 month long blockade at the border with India held back all kinds of needed supplies for everyone including food, medicines, building products, and in particular fuels.

Hindu Temples at Pashupatinath
Lack of LPG gas has meant that most people need to use wood to cook their meals creating an unhealthy atmosphere of smoke and haze all through the country! It is being rationed and sold at exorbitant prices by the mafia. Even vehicle fuels like diesel and petrol is rationed resulting in long lines of cars and trucks waiting for days to even secure a half tank at inflated prices. The Nepal government is doing nothing to alleviate this problem.

Tibetan Gompa (temple) in Pokhara

Due to all the above issues, tourism is down anywhere from 50 to 75% and a noticeable absence of tourists when we arrived February 2. One way we can support this country is by travelling there and this employs staff in hotels, shops and restaurants. Fortunately, we were not inconvenienced too much.
Vajra Hotel, Kathmandu

There is still power shedding with no power for many hours in the day. One must expect to shower by candlelight some days and go to bed and read by headlamp at night. In spite of all these issues, the people remain calm, stoic, smiling, happy with what they have and appreciative of our presence.

Yoga in Pagoda room, Vajra Hotel
The weather was warm during the days to +20C and the nights in early February were quite cold. The hotels do not have any central heating so we used electric heaters when the power was on! Later in February we had warmer nights, birds were returning to nest, flowers were blooming and it really felt like spring in the foothills of the Himalayas!

Some of these photos will give one an idea of what we experienced.


With students and Arjun in Begnas


Silent boat ride on Begnas Lake



Up early for sunrise on the Annapurna range


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Return to Nepal post earthquake

Returning to Kathmandu after a year's absence I had some idea of what I might see in terms of the April 25 earthquake damage and its affect on the people in the valley. Yes, there are some houses that fell down and some historic temples fell apart. The top of the Boudhanath Stupa was damaged so it was taken down leaving a bare top and stacks of brick ready for repairs.

Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu missing the Eyes of Buddha


However, for the most part large buildings and some the temples are still standing, perhaps supported by braces, a few pockets where loose brick buildings collapsed. Other than some minor damages here and there, the city appears fairly normal. However, things are not normal...

Reinforced temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square

The real issues in Nepal right now are severe shortages due to a blockade at the Indian border by a minority Madhes group not happy with the new constitution. Fuel, food and medicines are in short supply deepening the hardship on the Nepali people. Winter is coming!

A fine view of Ganesh Himal

Long lines of people waiting for days for petrol and diesel for vehicles and motorbikes, waiting for half a tank of LPG gas for cooking. Now in the streets of Kathmandu and all rural areas Nepali's are using whatever available wood for cooking - scraps, tree branches and some wood distributed by some government agencies. This has caused a smoke haze all across Nepal. Flying above the haze, the Himalayas are visible, but not so at ground level.

Protest rally in Kathmandu
On Friday, November 20 I was drawn into a protest rally in Lazimpat, an area just north of central Kathmandu. This was similar to rallies across Nepal. The government is doing nothing to alleviate the blockade and is still, unbelievably, holding about 4 Billion US for reconstruction. Not a rupee has been put to use to help the people. Shameful. It has been NGO's from around the world that are acting and putting efforts into reconstruction in rural areas. The devastated Langtang valley has a well organized reconstruction committee to begin efforts to rebuild where they can and the trail has reopened for trekking. Most trekkers are safely camping as many lodges are still not repaired.

A few cracks in some old buildings and reinforcement
I just thought I would share my recent experience and hope that the blockade is removed soon with the help of the Indian government (currently NOT helping) and that reconstruction of damaged villages and homes can begin as soon as possible.





Hanuman Doka and some Durbar Square temples



In some ways, life in Kathmandu seems normal!

Feel free to email me if you need information on current conditions or need to connect with a travel agent or guides in Nepal. (nhaggard@telus.net)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Nalang School update

It has been about 5 months since the earthquake in Nepal. Despite news reports of devastation in some remote areas and especially the Langtang village, all trekking areas are open with the exception of Langtang. Many homes in the hardest hit areas of Gorkha and Sindupalchok were flattened and of course, the schools also hard hit. Education is so important and this will be a generation who will always remember the big earthquake!

The Nalang school in Dhading district is about 20 km away in the next valley over from the epicenter close to Gorkha and was also damaged. Nearly all the homes in Nalang village were badly damaged and people now living in temporary shelters during monsoon, some only under tarps just surviving. As soon as the monsoons stop (usually by the end of September) more rebuilding of village homes and schools will take much of their focus this fall and winter.

In January and February this year we were adding 2 more rooms to the 5 built 3 years ago. As you will see, the new wing is also badly damaged and will require much work to ensure it is safe for use again.

There has been a temporary shelter for school, but not all children are able to be accommodated. The fund raising activities and donations from many of my friends, yogis, relatives and many others amounted to about $7500 of which half was used right after the earthquake for emergency food, shelter, medicines, etc. and support of MSF - Doctors without Borders.

I will be sending the other half in November when I return to Nepal with a group heading into Bhutan. These funds will be used to buy supplies like cement and wood frames, doors, etc to rebuild the Nalang school.

It is so important that we travel to Nepal now as food, water, hotels and transportation is safe. This is a way to support the local people as the Nepal government is doing very little outside of Kathmandu. Our porters, guides, taxis, hotel staff, restaurants, shops, etc. will all benefit from tourism coming back.

Currently tourism is down 50% to 90%. However, Nepal is recovering, many cultural sights are not damaged and it is still worth seeing these amazing World Heritage sights and experiencing the culture of Nepal. Please email me if you have any questions! And huge thanks to all who have donated to this school and help with its recovery!
Namaste, Neil




Temporary classroom


Lok and students at Nalang school grounds


Temporary shelter 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Nepal Earthquake


As folks know there was a major earthquake in Nepal, April 25 which registered 7.9 on the Richter. The epicenter was in Gorka, about 100 kms west from Kathmandu however, it shook the whole valley through to Everest Base Camp. Apparently Kathmandu rose 1 meter in elevation! and Mt. Everest shrunk about 1cm. The last major earthquake was in 1934, and geologists were predicting another major shake up anytime. Some even said in March 2015! The Indian plate is subducting (pushing under) under the Eurasian plate which has been forming the Himalayas for eons.

There were many injuries and deaths in the Kathmandu valley and it seems the newer buildings withstood the shocks and aftershocks fairly well. Homes that did not collapse were cracked or damaged in some way. The old cultural buildings took on the most damage. So it seems Kathmandu was NOT reduced to a pile of rubble. Some cracked roads, damaged buildings (mostly made of brick) and unfortunately injured people overwhelming the medical system for a week.

The real devastation was in the rural areas! Many villages for 100km west and about 50km east of Kathmandu were demolished. The rural areas are where the bulk of Nepal's population live in stacked stone houses that are held together by gravity, not so much from anything like mortar, rebar, etc. That is why when the ground shook, so many houses simply fell apart causing all kinds of injuries, deaths and damage to property.




The Nepali people WILL recover! They are already rebuilding, repairing and recovering with what they have left. Many have no money to buy better materials and will simply use or reuse what they have. Currently their needs in villages such as Ghorka, Nalang, Sindhupalchok - Lamjung, Dhading and Langtang districts.

My beloved village of Langtang was almost totally obliterated by a rock, snow and ice avalanche that wiped out 50+ lodges and homes, and 400+ villagers. Such a tragedy there. My friend Jangbu, who just built the new Tibet Guest House (in which we have stayed with 2 trekking groups), we have found was up in a higher village of Kyanjin Gompa and is safe. His wife and children were in Kathmandu at the time and are safe. I lost some dear friends in this and I understand there are about 30 orphaned children as a result. See my photo from November 2014, and the day after the earthquake and landslide!

Before...

What is left...

 Durbar Square damage in Kathmandu