To get out of the smog in Nepal’s cities, we took a ride into the foothills of the Himalayas, and a one-day trek through the villages of Dhampus and Astam. The sunrise was stunning, with glowing colors spreading over the mist, and the Annapurna peaks shining. As the day progressed, we wound our way up and down hills on small rocky paths, enjoying both the natural scenery and the small villages.
*Please note–all photographs of people were taken with explicit permission, here and in any other post. In this case, we stopped to have cha (hot tea) and chat with these women. The first one asked me to take her photo, and the second is laughing because she was surprised to hear me speak in (rusty) Hindi.
We spent our first week in Nepal in Pokhara, a medium-sized city centered around the Phewa Lake. Guidebooks of the area always feature crystal-clear reflections of snow-capped mountains surrounding the town, but increasing pollution in recent years has made the mountains a lot harder to see. Even though we were there in one of the clearer times of year, the views from the city ranged from hazy to cloudy, without a peak in sight.
Early one morning, we took a car up a windy road dotted with tourist guesthouses to Sarankot. The lookout there stands at 1600 meters, up above most of the haze. It was incredibly crowded, with people filling the the tower, clustered along the stairs, and spread across the grass at its base. Even packed in tight, we watched in awe as the sky slowly brightened, and a faint line of clouds hovering above the valley coalesced into the range of mountains. The sky brightened and colored until it was crisply blue, and then the fog spread up, we drove back down the hill, and the mountains disappeared once again.
Within the large wildlife reserve and research center that is Mpala, there’s a smaller area where researchers and staff live and lounge. This area is surrounded by electric fences that keep out the biggest of animals–elephants, hippo, giraffe, buffalo, and lions. Even just in this small space, though, birds and smaller mammals are abundant (and often very habituated to people). Also, the front porch of the kitchen/dining hall boasts sunrise views stunning enough to make jet-lagged 4:30am wakeups a blessing.
Impala (Aepyeros melampus)
Guenther’s Dikdik (Madoqua guentheri)
White-browed Sparrow-weaver (Plocepasser mahali)
Vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethipos)
Superb starling (Lamprotornis superbus)
Unstriped Ground Squirrel (Xerus rutilus)
Red-billed hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus)
Bush Hyrax (Heterohyrax brucei)