Adventure Travel in Nepal: Kathmandu to Tansen and a Few Places Between


Adventure travel in Nepal; I grew up looking through the photos in my dad’s mountaineering books. Reinhold Messner would stare out at me purposefully as he stood triumphant on yet another conquered Himalayan summit, willed into submission with ice-axe in hand and blistered, sunburnt smile.

I always knew one day I’d end up in Nepal and my chance came in 2009. After a period of volunteer work and travel in India I endured the sleeper train from Delhi to Gorakhpur. A three hour, cramped, pins and needles inducing bus ride delivered me to the border town of Sunauli. My adventure travel in Nepal was underway. This visit wasn’t going to reach the heights of Mr Messner, but I endeavoured to fit in what three weeks would allow.


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The 7am local bus saw me on my way to Kathmandu, an 8 hour lesson in Nepalese bus driving technique; more horn than brake. Not only memorable for seat-of-pants driving but also a brief history of Nepal’s vegetables! That friendly local sure knew his bhanta from his sag.


Kathmandu

On first impressions, I gave Kathmandu a fairly hard time for the first few hours. The dusty, windswept bus station was way out of town; my taxi into town got snarled up in rush hour madness, I then did the obligatory traipsing around various hotels/hostels until I satisfied myself I liked the first place I’d seen (my fussiness is my downfall) by which time my feet were sore, I had a headache and a full-body coating of Kathmandu’s finest dust. Nice.

Self-pity and whinging soon gave way to full-scale wonderment as I discovered the real Kathmandu; centuries old, layers of history slowly revealed through courtyard meanderings and alleyway wanderings. A city stitched together through the rhythms of daily worship and religious reverence.

To hear me espouse at length on the wonders of Nepal’s capital city, click here; travel to Kathmandu.


Gorkha

Gorkha greeted me with a chicken attack.

7.30am saw me standing at the road side on the outskirts of Kathmandu trying to find a shared taxi to Gorkha – a rammed Toyota people carrier, with me sandwiched into the back seat, bag on the roof. Five hours of stop-start driving down Nepal’s main east-west route, and I was finally delivered to Gorkha’s tiny bus stand. Perched high above the valley floor, the small town’s view stretched out to reveal a steep, green landscape; its surface moulded and etched with centuries of cultivation.

Enter the chicken. Possibly auspicious? Not sure, but the reception at New Prince Guesthouse certainly had a different twist with its guest-attacking guard hen.

To see who came off best, click here for my brief rampage through Gorkha.


Bandipur

After a day of exploring Gorkha I headed back down into the valley for the short bus trip along Prithvi highway to Dumre and the turn off for the national treasure that is Bandipur.

High above Dumre, Bandipur is draped elegantly along a narrow ridge; a living and breathing monument to Newari culture and architecture. As certainly one of the highlights of my time in Nepal, I spent four amazing days here, staying in a traditional, restored Newari building overlooking the end of the main bazaar and the town’s two tiered temple, Bindebasini mandir.

Made wealthy as a key stopping point on the trade route between Tibet and India, many of its proud buildings still testify to its heyday and status as a prosperous trading centre in its own right.

Click here for my own tour to Bandipur.


Pokhara

Leaving somewhat reluctantly, I embarked on the steep descent by Jeep to the valley floor for an early local bus to Pokhara. Two non-eventful busses later and I had arrived at the lake-side haven.

After days and weeks of constantly being on the move, Pokhara was a chance rest up and recharge myself in the numerous bakeries offering sticky treats. The resting-up part didn’t last long. Within a couple of days restlessness kick in, mountain bikes were hired and local hills conquered.

Pokhara NepalAdventure travel in Nepal: Pokhara, Sunset.

Accessible only by foot until the 1970’s, Pokhara’s tranquil setting and vertical, white Himalayan backdrop still persists today although it is now Nepal’s second city. Escape the tourist traps, the throngs of stalls hawking ‘ethnic’ crafts, Buddhist chanting CD’s and cheap hiking gear and you’ll find the unchanged parts of Pokhara that attracted the first Hippie travellers for adventure travel in Nepal.

Click here for my five days in Pokhara Nepal.


Tansen

After my five day Pokhara eatathon it was time to depart to Tansen, a lumbering four hour bus journey south along the Siddhartha highway. Weaved through tight, lush river valleys it traces a route of inconceivable steepness through narrow, windy switch-backs and defies precipitous drops that definitely didn’t look bus friendly. At the small town of Batung a small group of us transferred to a Jeep for the short, bumpy ride to Tansen.

Famed for its tight, narrow and pedestrian only streets, large areas of Tansen are still a living museum to Newari architecture with traditional shop-houses lining stone paved streets. Situated on the important India-Tibet trade route, in the 18th century the small town became increasingly prosperous, the vestiges of which can still be seen today.

For me the highlight was seeing the surrounding countryside, an energy-sapping all day walk brought me face-to-face with rural communities and spectacular scenery.

To hear me wax lyrical about all that Tansen has to offer, click here.


After leaving Tansen, my adventure travel in Nepal was coming to an end. I back-tracked to Pokhara for another few days of pampering and then caught the ubiquitous tourist shuttle to Kathmandu. On leaving Pokhara, monsoon rains moved in and followed be back to Kathmandu.

Although I didn’t partake in the traditional, mountainous Nepali trekking experience, I did get a feel for the country’s cultural and historical depth and breadth. Portrayed through ancient architecture, small market towns and rural communities, the spirit of Nepal sure is infectious. So much so that I’m sure to be back for more adventure travel in Nepal.


Travel to Kathmandu and Experience Nepal's Cultural Centrepiece

Gorkha Nepal: Sweeping Views, Lethal Chickens

Bandipur: A Breathing Monument to Newari Culture and Architecture

Pokhara Nepal: A Lakeside City with a Vertical Himalayan Backdrop

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