Sri Lanka has plenty to offer from tropical beach vibes, cool surfing spots to amazing wildlife, lush tea plantations and colonial architecture. It’s only a small island but its biodiversity is really incredible and the ease of travelling around to witness the changing landscape is an enormous advantage.
In the past 10 years, Sri Lanka has certainly flourished as a tourist destination but it’s important to mention that it’s still not as developed as some spots in Southeast Asia. The country opened up to visitors since the end of the civil war with more flights and various accommodation options ranging from family guesthouses and bungalows to surfer hostels and mountain-view hotels. You won’t find any high-rises with fancy rooftop bars, Sri Lanka has a more laid back atmosphere and is a perfect destination for people who love to embrace a local vibe at slow pace.
Once I have seen the main sites located centrally in Kathmandu I ventured out of the city to visit Boudhanath and Pashupatinath Temple. Although hiring a car with a driver or taking a taxi can be an option to get around the capital city of Nepal, I decided to opt for a microbus. It was cheap, quick and very local.
In order to catch my bus I walked to Kantipath, a busy road in Kathmandu and spent few minutes to find out if any were actually heading towards Boudhanath. There was no official stop or signs in sight. Each microbus was slowing down by the side of a street and I had to quickly grasp what was being shouted out by each young boy announcing the route. If I could not pick it up among the other names I just shouted a question back to make sure they cover my destination on their list of stops.
How many people can you squeeze into a microbus? That was a question that popped into my head when I was already on board. I definitely lost count after the eighth person and decided to exchange polite smiles with a woman and her baby sitting opposite me. A toddler was staring at me with her kohl-painted eyes. I later found out that some Hindu parents paint their children’s eyes black to keep away bad spirits.
My first impressions of Kathmandu focused on the dust and the street signage that did not make sense but the lasting ones are very much about everyday spirituality of this city. From day one of my trip I fell in love with it. It was something so extremely different from my European heritage and yet so embracing.
In Kathmandu, even before visiting any temples, you come across daily rituals including prayers and offerings. The all seeing eyes of Buddha, often painted on the stupas and the sound of bells near the temples, situated almost on every corner of the streets amazed me. I found it incredible how Buddhism and Hinduism, the two main religions in Nepal, are an integral part of all the surroundings as well as the life of local people.
Deurali to Annapurna Base Camp (4,130 m) via Machhapuchhre Base Camp (3,700 m)
My notes from trekking the Himalayas continue so no, there was no abrupt end to my adventure. I did not get stuck at 3,239 meters. I carried on but the whole experience became more demanding. From that point I could feel that I am getting easily tired. High altitude and a night spent at a cold lodge were taking its toll. I needed more stops to either have a drink of water or just rest my backpack on a side of a path. I admired the surroundings. The snow-covered Himalayas were a remarkable view that motivated me and excited me at the same time.
Trekking in the Himalayas was my main motivation for visiting Nepal. I wanted to disconnect from my work, clear my head from all the unnecessary distractions and enjoy this incredible and challenging experience. I have never done any trekking, only long-distance walking including the 60K Just Walk I did with my friends for charity back in 2012 and Barcelona Magic Line plus some hiking with different levels of difficulty. Still… these were only one day trips with a small backpack and the altitude nowhere near 4,000 meters.
Once my heart was set on Nepal at the end of 2013 I started all the planning. I talked to few friends about their experiences and found out that the Annapurna Region is one of more popular destinations with its breathtaking scenery and a variety of routes that would work with my rather tight schedule. Sadly I only had a luxury of 16 days dedicated to the whole trip. I also checked some blogs and exchanged a number of emails with other helpful people to fully understand what I am getting myself into and decided that it might be best if I hire a guide for this trek. A couple of months and several emails later I was in Nepal, finally met Indra, my very friendly and experienced guide, and the ABC trekking adventure has begun!