Reaching Kathmandu Airport, after the ride of my life on an Airplane that almost didn’t land. I was expecting the overwhelming chaos and mess of taxi drivers and collectors from 2012 but instead was met with semi organised peace. Walking into arrivals, there was Callum, my River and Soul Adventures meet and greet and of course, my partner in crime.
Greeted with Mala (flower necklace), tikka and the traditional celebratory welcome scarf I was whisked into our shuttle bus and drove straight to the hotel. It was now almost half 1AM, but I made it back to Nepal. It felt like coming home.
I was here in Nepal to lead River and Soul Adventures Explore Nepal’s Highlights, the first of the season, alongside Callum. We had a packed, luxury adventure lined up and we were both excited to meet our clients and introduce them to Nepal!
Thamel is a tourist hub, streets roofed in colourful prayer flags. Enticing you in with sellers, restaurants, beautiful artwork and great rip off adventure stores. It’s slowly becoming a non traffic zone, the perfect home base to explore the city. Two minutes away from the beautiful and peaceful, Garden of Dreams and fifteen minutes away from Kathmandu, Durbar Square.
Kathmandu has so much to see and once everyone arrived, we hopped in our private, air conditioned mini-van and headed off to see what all the fuss was about. First stop, the Monkey Temple or ‘Swayambhunath’. A buddhist temple atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley overlooking the ever growing city. Mixed with stupas, temples, ancient art and shrines (and of course, the resident monkeys) it’s shining gold and bronze colours, prayer flags and views attract locals and tourists alike. Watching monks pray, the prayer wheels spin and the monkeys swinging among the prayer flags is a beautiful introduction to the culture of Nepal!
Leaving on a high we jumped back into the van and headed for Patan, Durbar Square. One of the three original cities in Kathmandu Valley. This ancient city experienced damage from the 2015 earthquake but is now being restored back to its beauty. UNESCO protected and filled with history, many of the historic buildings are now museums offering an insight into religions and cultures in Nepal. The exploration didn’t stop there, after a snack of momo’s (of course) it was time to head to the spectacular, Bhaktapur. This ancient city is the highlight of Kathmandu and one of the most impressive ancient, religious sites by far. Literally translated to the Palace of Devotees, the wide open spaces, ancient palace buildings and religious temples it’s an incredible highlight!
Kathmandu is more than just Thamel and River and Soul, using the best local guide, really highlighted that. As much as the city can seem busy and the pull of outdoor adventure is strong, it’s worth spending some time exploring this city!
Out of the city and onto the river! Our five day expedition awaited and everyone was itching to get on the water! First up, the Trisuli River.
The Trisuli runs along the main highway from Kathmandu to Pokhara. There’s not a better way to break up a full days drive than taking to the water! Driving a few hours out Kathmandu, we hopped out, kitted up and got ready to hop into the raft and kayaks! We kayaked and rafted down the exciting Trisuli river over two days. Spending the first afternoon rafting, we hit some wild rapids, experienced beautiful scenery and camped on a beautiful riverside resort. Hitting the bank just as the monsoon rains began to fall. Good timing! Everyone took shelter in their bamboo huts as the rain poured and the thunder roared. While myself and Callum ran through the warm rain to help unpack the pack-raft. The rain was over in an hour and it was time to light the fire, enjoy dinner, drink beer and sing some campfire songs. What’s better right?
Arriving into the Pokhara the next day it was time for a comfy bed in a beautiful hotel, Sampada Inn, and eat some Momo’s, of course!
Waking up the next morning it was back to the river. This time, the mighty Kali Gandaki!
The trip was off to a great start with a morning view of the might Himalaya’s! An amazing view for everyone to see before we hit the river and left the mountains behind for three days. Kali Gandaki threw us down heavy rapids and the opportunity to scout them out before running them. If by now you wanted to see how well you’d do steering the raft, paddling a kayak or rowing the pack-raft? Now was the time to jump in and give it a go!
It wasn’t all paddling for the next three days. There were surprise cliff jumps, firewood collection stops, lots of swimming and backflip practice. We had three days of fun and games while getting to watch everyone break out of their shell, push limits and challenge themselves. By the end of the three days, or five if you count the first two days, our tour family was solid.
Rafting the Kali Gandaki was wild and for most, the biggest river they had ever experienced! Everyone came off the water with huge smiles, brilliant stories and the group was like a family. After three days of washing in the river, sleeping on mattresses in tents and sand. We were all in need of a shower and looking forward to an air conditioned room and comfortable bed for the night.
River and Soul Adventures promotes getting off the beaten track and we take that seriously. We wanted to introduce our clients to the rural Nepal, the one we fell in love with. Sirubari is a homestay village in the Syangja district. This beautiful village was one of the first villages in Nepal to offer home stays. Due to the success over one hundred villages have copied their model. The community are so welcoming. Not just because it’s how they make money, but they genuinely want to share their culture. Western tourists are rare here. It’s mainly domestic tourists that visit and they come all this way to see traditional Nepal culture in practice!
Spending three days in this beautiful hamlet is great for some rest and relaxation! But for those who can’t sit still, it’s time to hike! Sitting high in the mountains, Sirubari has a great view down into the valley and at sunset or sunrise often sits above the clouds.
A visit to Sirubari is like waking up in a dream.
On day three we opted to walk out of Sirubari and down into the Andechola Valley. More exciting and scenic than driving out the same way we came in. This gave everyone a chance to explore new villages and take in some epic views. Stopping half way at an incredibly rural teahouse for a well needed break, Chiya and biscuits (of course!).
We love being out, active and taking everyone with us! But by this point, it’s understandable that some are a bit knackered! Resting up at the teahouse the jeeps were on standby to drive anyone back down to save their legs! In the heat of the day and still an hour to go, it’s no shame to hop in, enjoy some AC and get down quick. For the rest of us it’s time to take on tiny stairs with some incredible views. I don’t know about you, but I love to hike and on the Explore Nepal’s Highlights, day hikes give a great taster of what’s possible!
After hiking it was an hour in the jeeps and we were back in Pokhara. This beautiful town sits next to Fewa Lake, is surrounded by mountains and offers spectacular views of the Himalayas. A popular spot for hikers, whitewater and adventure activities it’s also filled with laid back vibes. Here for the next few days the team had some well deserved, free time. So what did everyone get up to? After an early morning rise for the sunrise at Sarangkot the choice was to chill, go paragliding or join us to view the Peace Pagoda. Most felt adventurous and took to the skies! Did you know that Pokhara holds the Paragliding World Championships? It’s the most beautiful place to jump off a cliff, do some air acrobatics before gliding down.
The Explore Nepal’s Highlights tour was designed to do just that, show people the best of both sides of Nepal. The adventurous and the cultural side of Nepal. It’s a country known for the mighty Himalaya’s and the worlds tallest mountain. Our aim was to show the diversity of Nepal, it truly is a country that has something for everyone.
Introducing a group of adventurers to Nepal, was incredible. To see their faces light up and to watch them fall in love with a culture, that many years ago stole my heart was so rewarding. I can’t wait to be back later in the year and do it all again with River and Soul Adventures!