Starting with a midnight flight out of Melbourne we arrive in Kathmandu after lunch to be greeted by our private van and taken to the hotel. Our accommodation is a boutique guesthouse in the heart of Kathmandu’s Thamel district. That evening we enjoy dinner and a discussion about the journey ahead.
The next day we start early to see the Monkey Temple (Swayambunath) at sunrise and later in the day we visit the Hindu temple and holy men of Pashupatinath and then immerse ourselves in the chaos of Durbar Square. Well find ourselves confronted by Sadu of varying holy authenticity, we’ll walk through the Thamel streets where residents buy their produce for dinner and have time to talk about the camera and light in preparation for the journey. After Katmandu, we spend a night in the city of Bhaktapur, one of the former kingdoms in the Kathmandu Valley. “The City of Devotees” still retains its medieval charm and we get a chance to explore the laneways and Newari architecture with afternoon and morning light. The past glory of the Malla rulers are reflected at the towns Durbar Square while traditional industries of pottery and weaving are on show to this day. At dusk and dawn the streets fill with local produce vendors selling their goods to residents, adding an intimate range of subjects for our photography.
The next day we have a long drive to reach the Pokhara Valley and the hill-top town of Bandipur on the way we follow mighty rivers, stop for a local style lunch of Dahl Bhat and finish in a boutique hotel in Bandipur. These are also Newari people. We drive to the town of Pokhara with a few scenic stops on the way. This is our base for preparing for the Annapurnas ahead, and we make arrangements to ensure all travellers have warm clothing and snug sleeping bags. You may wish to shop for a warm jacket or gloves for the cool weather ahead, and Pokhara is wall to wall with vendors to sell you some outdoor gear. We’ll enjoy a tandoori meal and fresh fruit juices. We stay in the Fish Tail Resort and hope for a clear morning so we can view the Fish Tail Peak (Machupuche) from the hotel. The next day starts earely with a spectacular flight into Jomsom, a village in the Annapurna mountains of Nepal located at 2800m. We spend two nights to the south in the charming town of Marpha to explore a few villages, moraines and scenic locations. These few days also help us to adjust to the mountain air and high altitude.
The next day we head further into the former Mustang Kingdom where the landscape presents ever changing views of the Annapurnas and their peaks. Dhaulagiri and Niligiri present themselves in various facades as we head north from Jomsom. Getting to Kagbeni is a tough day of jeeps, a short hike and some more jeeps. The trail is better suited to mountain trekkers than photographers, so hold onto your pack and enjoy the ride. Once we arrive in Kagbeni we’ll have some stunning sunrise opportunities, colourful vistas and a Tibetan monastery to photograph. Kagbeni sits at an altitude of 2750m. This is where things get a little tougher. Muktinath is where the jeep trail ends and you have to trek to go any further. It’s also at an altitude of 3800m so we have to go easy on the thin air. The jeep ride is about on hour and it’s rough and tumble all the way. We spend two nights here so we can explore the sacred temple that attracts both Hindu and Buddhist pilgrams, plus visit surrounding towns. The most prominent shrine is a Vishnu temple where 108 spouts, fashioned in the shape of cows heads, pour forth water that is considered to be holy. There are great landscape vistas to be enjoyed at sunrise, and also sunset if the skies remain clear.
We spend the morning visiting local villages around Muktinath, then return to Jomsom after lunch for a single night with hot showers and hot food. We have a favourite guesthouse here that serves great fresh crushed apple juice, fluffy pancakes and potato & cheese mo-mos. We rest up before flying out very early the next morning, but also plan to get one last chance to shoot the peaks of Nilgiri at dusk and dawn as Jomson provides excellent views of these ranges.
We have a travel day with two flights, luch in Pokhara and a rest period….time enought opt take a boat ride out onto the lake! ……before arriving back in Kathmandu in the mid-afternoon. It’s a mad dash through the traffic to photograph the “Sadu’s” at their best during the festival. The next day we start early to see a small Newari village beyond Kathmandu where chickens are sacred and goats trample the stupas. We finish the day with sunset at the Tibetan Buddhist temple of Boudhanath before a farewell dinner.
On the final day we are transfered to the airport around lunchtime to fly home. Our group flight returns to Melbourne the following day, with the first sector in the afternoon and the final sector overnight…. arriving in Melbourne about 1.15pm
Everyone had the most incredible time, with so many photo’s to process and sort. A challenge to participate but memories for a lifetime!