Plans made a decade ago and derailed by a number of factors over the years are finally coming to fruition tomorrow, when my sister Mary and I begin the initial leg of our journey to Nepal and Bhutan. On an earlier trip to India in 2018 I travelled west from Vancouver to Delhi. This journey begins going east from Vancouver to Montreal and then onto Delhi and Kathmandu. Total travel time to Kathmandu will be approximately 30 hours. Thank heavens for business class!
Nepal and Bhutan are nestled below China and above India, with a small strip of India separating the two countries. Although very different in some aspects, both countries as well as Pakistan, India and China are linked by the 3500 km Himalayan Mountain Range. A range home to more than 1300 Peaks over 6000 m, the crowning glory being the highest peak in the world Mt Everest. The location of Mt Everest and other peaks in Nepal have transformed Nepal into one of the premier mountaineering destinations in the world
As an exception to the fate of many landlocked countries surrounded by much larger neighbours, Nepal has never been invaded or suffered the religious genocide characteristic of the history of some of its neighbours. Nepal is a secular state, with a Constitution providing freedom to practise culture and religion. It also boasts 10 UNESCO Heritage sites, some of which we hope to visit. Interesting stories can be found about the Gurkhas – a Nepalese group of Soldiers who fought with the British Army in various conflicts from 1815 through to WW II. The motto “Better die than being a coward” described these men well, based on their exploits on the battlefields through the decades.
Kathmandu first came to western attention in the 1960’s as the so called “weed capital of the world”. Pot grows wild here and until 1973 when marijuana use was made illegal, Kathmandu was a major stop (sometimes the final one) for gringos and others on the Stoner Trail searching for enlightenment. Not sure that this is what Buddha – who was born in Nepal – was referring to.
Bhutan is a very different country. It is located on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayans, with most of the country at higher mountainous elevations of up to 7000 m. Mountain slopes are crisscrossed with rivers that drain southwards into northern India. The range of ecosystems from 700 m to 7000 m has created a biodiverse country with large tracts of the north designated as protected wildlife areas. Bhutan’s progressive environmental policies have enhanced its reputation as a global diversity hotspot designated by the World Wildlife Federation. Because of the largely unspoiled environment and cultural heritage, Bhutan is often referred to as the Last Shangri-La.
The combination of spirituality, wildlife, new cuisines, gorgeous landscapes and hiking has proved to be a powerful draw for us to these two countries. Our time in Kathmandu begins with a market visit and cooking class, followed by (weather permitting – keep your fingers crossed for us) a flight over Mt Everest! As always I will be blogging as we travel. Internet is apparently good throughout most of the two countries, a positive omen for getting posts off in a timely manner. A map of our travels is included in this post. I will be cross posting links on facebook or you are welcome to follow along at www.travelswithanne.ca.