Adrian and his wife Maria decided to do something a bit different for their honeymoon and embarked on an amazing adventure to Nepal. Fortunately for us, Adrian decided to share their story with weddings.co.nz - maybe he will inspire you to think about trying something more adventurous when planning your honeymoon.
Adrian picks up the story:
We have recently returned from 'The Adventure Honeymoon' - one month in the Nepal Himalaya. Ten days trekking, five days rafting and four days in the jungle. A few days thrown in amongst all that of temple viewing, carpet buying and wholesome chilling out, provided us with a unique experience and gave us a particular insight on a people and a place of awesome proportions.
Those with Lonely Planet guidebooks filled the right side, as instructed to do so. Those without craned desperately into the aisle, eyes following the endless stepping terracing below. The plane grew quieter as the snowy distance grew shape and we sought out the giant we had come to see. Sargamatha, Mt Everest, there she was and we longed to be on her summit. We wondered what bashed and broken relic of a flag still lay there. Wonderful white ribbons seemed to flow off her summit skyward. In reality the 300-knot winds of the jet stream lashed and bashed her surface and we suddenly felt cosy from our vantage point.
The assault on the senses that was the journey into downtown Kathmandu jolted us from our noble preconceptions. The dirty business of life was before us. Hugging our backpacks ever tighter in the back of the taxicab, cautious by it's harsh reality, and once again glad for our temporary haven. Smog, bustle, poverty, noise, dirt and smell attacked our defenses that were down from the surreal glide through the Himalayan mountain tops. Didn't these folk know what beauty lay above them? More importantly, didn't they care? How different was to be our understanding and our perception some four weeks later as we reluctantly jetted from the Kingdom.
The largest busiest city in Nepal and a crossroads of multiple intention, Kathmandu the capital is filled with ancient past glory and modern distraction. Medieval architecture meets satellite equipped Everest expeditions, Newar master craftsmen and Internet cafes. We began our discovery with a visit to Pasupattinath, the holiest Hindu temple in Nepal . An ancient site in a time warp punctuated by open air, open to all, hourly cremations; Sadhus and Yogins (holy men) in all manner of elastic contortions; and the sweet wafting plums of ganja smoke. Guaranteed enlightenment and a boost to your position in the after life, cremation here is a must for those that can afford it. The bizarre sight of a melting corpse in a raging pyre followed by the unceremonial shovelling of bones and ash into the holy river was almost as unsettling as the lost children who scoured the murky waters for a chance ring or lucky gold tooth.
Next on the temple agenda was Swayambhu. Perched high on a hill with panoramic vistas of the rambling city, and the site of the 2000-year-old Buddhist stupa - it is the proverbial pilgrim's nirvana. Here tourists take second place to the local inhabitants. Nicknamed the monkey temple it is over run by these curious characters. Wise excursioners come armed for the views with tradable goods such as apples and sugar cubes. Handy in creating diversions or barging for ones life whilst barreled up by these rouge traders, hell bent on destruction. Two days in the Kathmandu kaleidoscope and we were just starting to get a feel for the place. Our adventure had only just begun and we were already due elsewhere.
The Himalaya form the sheerest rise from subtropical base to icy peak of any mountain range on earth, and nowhere is it more evident than in Pokhara. Five hours of winding terraced highway south west of Kathmandu , Pokhara marked the start point of our rafting trip down the Kali Gandaki River .
A five-day challenge with whitewater (grade 3 to 4) starting almost immediately after the put in point at Baglung, and continuing for much of the first three days. We were a group of three rafts and a rescue raft, a happy bunch of 18 travelers from all over. Days a mix of pleasant river gliding, serious white water, hearty lunches and a bit of sun bathing were followed by nights spent on sandy riverside havens cosy in our tents or wrapped up in our sleeping bags under the clear stars, warmed by bonfire and Nepalese rum. We'd all muck in with the paddling, cooking and tent erecting and with the occasional team snap rescue of outstretched paddles and legs during episodes of man over board, by trips end we were a close knit group of self styled adventurers in need of a collective shower. Awesome upriver views of the Annapurna Mountain range where we were soon to be trekking were a bonus and a proverbial carrot, egging on our weary paddle arms to the end.
Back in Pokhara at rafting HQ and after much luxuriating and 'ooing' and 'arrring' as five days of wilderness washed off to tenderness under the warm soothing shower, we settled down to roast chicken on the spit and a farewell evening with our new found friends. We swapped addresses, drank cool beers and spoke excitedly of our next adventure. Our nine-day trek through the Annapurna Himal beckoned, with mixed emotions we settled into a well-deserved sleep on a well-deserved mattress.
The musty dawn broke with its accompanying package of sound and smell that had become so distinctive. We were up, all keen and eager to hire two porters for the journey ahead. A local shopkeeper who'd sold us tiger balm the night before had a friend whose brother was a porter - we were told of outstanding credentials. We haggled over the price as you do by way of just passing the time and then settled on two characters Mon and Nar. We had the rest of the day free in Pokhara to arrange loose ends and to eliminate as much gear for the nine days ahead as possible.
Initially we had mixed emotions about hiring porters. Were we just two more foreigners out of our depth taking advantage of these poor folk? It wasn't long into our journey, as our relationship developed in broken English and phrase book Nepalese that we realised the real benefit of our situation. It was this encounter that proved the most valuable experience and formed the greatest of friendship. For it is the kindness of spirit, the smiling, unassuming nature of these folk, often faced with extreme circumstance that endeared them to us and left us with a renewed perspective on life.
Central Nepal is dominated by the Annapurna Mountain range, popular amongst trekkers for it's accessibility, it's rich feast of spectacular scenery and varied hill culture. Dotted along the trail are numerous villages and clusters of dwellings all eeking out a hard working existence. This is real life on the move - one shares the route with caravans of over burdened donkeys; poorly paid, some times barefoot sherpas stoic in their approach to excessive weight; children on their way to school; buffalo trains on their way to market and all manner of other colour that is life on the Annapurna Circuit. After an arduous first day of nine hours up an endless stone corridor sandwiched between terraced farms, skirting one side of a high valley, we swaggered into our first night stop. Damp from an early evening shower, cold, sore and altogether not so sure. What powers of revitalization do come from a hot shower and a hot chocolate. Warm and cosy we looked out from our tea house accommodation high up some misty valley, weary yet content - after all we were in the Himalayas !
The next few days had the self-imposed goal of Hot Springs at Tadopani - end of day three. As we hiked up and down meandering staircase the deceptions that lie in this form of trekking became apparent. What seemed like short distance from ridge line to visible ridge line - one could almost reach out and touch, was in fact four hours down followed by five excruciating hours up! Our minds and bodies soon fell in to the surrounding atmosphere and with occasional outbursts of that old classic 'Resumpiriri - The Mountain song', a catchy Nepalese ditty to take ones mind off the pain, we soon felt like locals and were absorbed into the rhythm of the trail. The views here are the greatest on earth. Spiked snow peaks crystal sharp against a brilliant sky. Sucking cold air and blowing steam we marvelled and mind boggled at the dimensions of it all. As we stood at some 3000mtrs above sea level on top of Poon Hill we could hardly believe these giants extended a further five kilometers straight up.
As with all things in Nepal survival is a mix of industrious resourcefulness, and no more so evident than the tea house accommodations along the way. A family recognising a need would open its home to trail weary trekkers, provide a hot meal and some memorable exchanges for a small fee. It's a real chance to get inside a real family - an invaluable opportunity not found in a hotel or in the pages of a guidebook.
At some 4000mtrs Muktinath, the most religious site in Nepal, marked day nine and the climactic end to our trek. A holy shrine with 108 waterspouts and two miraculous eternal flames, nested dramatically amongst a thousand prayer flags.Heady with the effects of altitude and achievement we sucked in the thin air and looked out from our perch down the valley from whence we had come - and it felt like we'd damn near conquered the world.
Once again faced with the constant contradictions of old meets new, we hopped into a twin otter passenger plane and popped and bustled our way through mountain air pockets back down the valley. Half an hour's flight back over nine days of endurance, and we landed back in Pokhara and what seemed like a thriving metropolis.
A narrow strip of flat land covers Nepal 's entire southern border. In a country best known for it's mountains this lowland Tarai is a juxtaposed jungle out on a limb. The Royal Citwan National Park marked the final leg of our high-octane adventures.
The Jungle experience was the most adrenaline filled of our lives. Not until afterwards did we learn mainstream guidebooks advised against the three day jungle walk on which we so eagerly embarked. They point out that - since 1976 seventy people have been killed in this region, both tourist and local alike: fifty by Rhino and twenty by Tiger. We knew we were in for something a little different when our jungle guide, a self-styled Nepalese Indiana Jones, displayed with pride his missing calf muscle, apparently snatched away by some rogue Sloth Bear.
Led single file into the canopy with instructions of total silence this wildlife-spotting stroll soon turned from fun into shear fright. Approaching a watering hole with a possible chance sighting of Rhino in the business of ablution, we met head on and by accident with four ton of flared nostril, a pounding stump of a leg and an imminent charge - upon which it embarked. All hell broke loose; the large sticks our protectors carried ostensibly for our protection were instantly discarded along with the panicked cry to run for it. Fleeing like our lives depended on it - cause they did, we legged it, frantically scraping and clawing our way up the nearest tree. Hearts in our mouths we watched as the Rhino paced and pounded below. This was to be one of several moments of abject terror for which our guides thought we were getting value for money. Their sense of sorrow was matched only by our sense of relief as they would pause mid trail, go to ground, and rub Tiger droppings between texture-sensitive fingers smelling for some clue. "No chance today, old droppings," they would reluctantly admit. Thank god for that we would think and feign annoyance.
The close of the day in the jungle Tarai is a place of serenity and peace. As the days heat breaks into cool breeze all manner of creatures take leave of their camouflage and head to drink and to wash. High up in a viewing tower at water edge we were privileged to witness the ensuing parade, a colourful unparalleled spectacle of wild animals in their natural environment as only nature could provide.
Back in Kathmandu and the Adventure Honeymoon was all but at end. We had arrived some four weeks earlier loaded with expectation and intent. For sure the mountains had lived up to their reputation, we were struck by their size and shear beauty.
However, it is a strange parcel of factors that make Nepal what it is to those who visit - and then struggle to describe how they feel. Perhaps that's just it, and it's beauty lies in it's mystery. and maybe its best left unsaid, and left up to those, who do visit, to discover, and take from it what they will.