Category: Travel

Trek to Upper Mustang

Upper Mustang (the last kingdom of Nepal) is also known as “The Forbidden Kingdom”. The last Bista king of Upper Mustang was Raja Jigme Dorje Palabar Bista. After Nepal was declared a republican country, Government of Nepal no longer gave him (Raja Jigme Dorje Palabar Bista) the recognition of king. All the allowances he had been getting from the Nepal government has been cut off. As per the new constitution he is no longer the king of Upper Mustang. But, the people of Upper Mustang still regard him as their king. They still give him the royal respect.

Due to the remoteness of this region, the people of this region (Mustangi) are compelled to practice all the traditional tools and techniques of life. They still use horses and donkeys as a mode to transport goods from one place to another.

Only limited number of tourists are allowed to travel to this region. This area has been restricted to preserve its culture and traditions. With a view to preserve culture of this area the then His Majesty of Government had enlisted this region as a restricted area. Nepal Government charges 500 US$ per person as permit fee, for 10 days visit to this restricted area. Few years ago, the permit fee to enter this region was higher than it is now. Previously the entry fee was 700 US$ for 10 days. After knowing the importance of this region for tourism purpose Nepal government reduced the entry fee from 700 US$ to 500 US$. These days the Upper mustang region has been opened for the outside world for trekking and bike tours and jeep tours. But the tourists cannot travel individually in this restricted area. They must travel through the registered trekking agency.

Mustang region used to be the trade route to Tibet in the earlier days. People used to trade wool, medicinal herbs, animals, salt, etc.

Upper Mustang region has a very beautiful landscape. It is one of the most beautiful place ion earth. We can see massive red rocks formations. The Lo-kingdom lies in Nepal’s remote Mustang region. Mustang region is also known as the cold desert of Nepal. The cool and sandy wind blows in this region during the day time. So, almost all the flights to Jomsom departs from Pokhara before 12 pm.

Kagbeni village is located in the valley of Kaligandaki river. This village separates Upper mustang region with the lower Mustang region. Its the starting point of the restricted area.

Tiji festival is one of the biggest festival of the Upper Mustang region. It is celebrated in Lomanthang (the Lo-kingdom). This festival is celebrated to mark the beginning of a new season. It is celebrated for three days. The dates of this festival are fixed by the monks using the Tibetan calendar. This festival is celebrated to chase away the evil spirits and bring prosperity and happiness into the kingdom. There is a huge gathering of monks and people of Mustang on this auspicious occasion that is held annually. Various dances, acts, religious events, rituals and ceremonies are held during the three-day festival of Tiji.

The historical myth about the Tiji starts with a deity named Dorje Jono. He battles his demon father to save the kingdom of mustang. The demon creates the water shortage in the kingdom affecting the lives of the people in this dry and barren land. Dorje dono defeats his demon father and brings prosper to the land. The festival is the representation and portrayal of the story through dancing and many rituals. This rare and untouched heritage and culture of the people of Mustang is a beautiful and unforgettable sight to observe.

The trip to Upper Mustang for the Tiji festival will be of about 18 days. 18 days includes the day starting from Kathmandu and ending in Kathmandu. The trip starts from Kathmandu. Then you will either fly or drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara. If you go by flight then on the same day you will be heading to Jomsom by flight. But if you take a drive up to Pokhara then you will stay overnight in Pokhara and then take a early morning flight or drive to Jomsom. If you are interested you can make a short hike during you time in Jomsom then Marpha village is the beautiful village you would not like to miss. Marpha is a beautiful village south of Jomsom. There is Nyingma monastery from where one can enjoy the view of the village and the Kali Gandaki River valley.

From Marpha village we will head back to Jomsom where we will stay overnight. From Jomsom we will make a short hike to Kagbeni. Kagbeni has ancient Sakyapa Monastery with old statues of Buddha and Bodhisattvas. It has special Mahakala statue taken from Kathmandu by a high-ranking lama from Mustang. In Kagbeni there is check post to enter Upper Mustang. Tourist must have special permit to enter Upper Mustang. Upper Mustang is a restricted area. So, the permit fee to enter upper Mustang is also comparatively higher than other permit fees. A tourist has to pay 500 US$ to enter the Upper Mustang region.

From Kagbeni we make a long walk up to Chele. It takes approximately about 7 hours to reach Chele from Kagbeni. When we start from Kagbeni, first we meet the Tanbe village. Tanbe is the Mongolian village where all the villagers are Gurung. From Tanbe the trail again climbs to a high point around 3100 m. The trail then drops steeply and undulates along the east bank of Kali Gandaki for 1.5 hours to the village of Chhuksang. From Chhuksang we can see the Chele and in Chhuksang there is a small cave Gumba. On our way we move under a vast block of red sandstone.

From Chele we make 6 hours long walk to reach Syamochen village which is situated at an altitude of 3,820 meters. Immediately on leaving Chele, the path climbs steeply up to a plateau region through a small tunnel like gully. On our way to Syamochen we will have a panoramic view of Mt. Nilgiri, Tilicho peak and Yakawa Kang. The peak that dominates the Thorongla Pass on the Annapurna circuit. After short walk we will reach the Samar village. After leaving Samar the trails dives steeply for about 70 meters into a deep side canyon. Inevitably, it is a short steep climb out and after a brief respite it dives again into another side canyon. This second climb is steeper and longer. After about 2 hours walk from Samar, the trail reaches at an altitude of 3750 meters and descends slightly to the first tea house. The second tea houses can be seen in the distance.

In this way, we walk along the Dhakmar and Tsarang village for the next two days to reach Lomanthang, Upper Mustang. Lomanthang Village is situated at an altitude of 3,810 meters. We stay in Lomanthang for 4 days. On the first day in Lomanthang you will be taking a rest. If you are interested you can make a short walk around the Lomanthang village. On the other three days in Lomanthang you will be watching the Tiji festival.

After Lomanthang our next stop is Yara, one of the most remote areas of this trek. There are only two lodges and there is the scarcity of water. It is also the gateway to Damodar Kunda, one of the most visited place by Hindus. Damodar has its own religious importance among the Hindu community people. Yara is the village situated at an altitude of 3,650 meters. It takes nearly 4-5 hours to reach Yara from Lomanthang

The Luri cave also known as Luri Gonpa lies in the Yara Khola Valley. Luri Gumba lies at an altitude of 4,085 meters. The Luri cave is famous for the earliest stupa situated in the cave. The Luri Cave contains some of the earliest and most beautiful Buddhist mural paintings in the Mustang region. The mysterious Luri Cave Monastery in Upper Mustang is the 12th century cave monastery located towards the east of Lomanthang.

Fun With the Seals at Duiker Island

Sightseeing charter boats typically collect passengers from the small fishing village of Hout Bay Harbor and brings them to the famous island. But before you set sail to meet the seals from Hout Bay, take the time to admire the scenic harbor views that includes the Sentinel – the appropriately named steep side cliff that acts like a gatekeeper to the bay. Although it is called an island, Duiker is more accurately described as a small cluster of rocks that barely rises from the sea water. This spot has been the home of an unbelievable number of Cape fur seals. Thus, it is not a surprise that Duiker is usually referred to as the Seal Island.

Once you reach the shores of the island, you will be greeted by the sight of over 10,000 seals. But it is important to remember that the boat ride is not as smooth as cruising into the calm lake. The waters around the area frequently generate choppy waves. If you can overcome sea sickness, then it promises to be an adventure that’s hard to forget. Animal Ocean and Drumbeat Charters are just some of the established companies that offer guided boat tours to Duiker Island.

Some companies will have open boats, which accommodate around 60 passengers, while others have the bigger flagship vessels that hold around 120 passengers. It only takes about 20 minutes to reach the island from Hour Bay Harbor but the cruises can take more than an hour. Longer cruises usually choose to go back to Hout Bay Harbor via the Kabonkelberg mountain range or the Chapman’s Peak, which is home to a collection of fascinating caves and cliffs.

Once you get to Duiker Island, you don’t have to admire the thousands of seals just from distance, although it is an incredible sight and worth taking several photos. A number of tours also give passengers the opportunity to snorkel and swim with the seals. If you are a qualified diver in open waters, you can also arrange to dive and discover Duiker’s rich underwater world! Make sure to check if your guide can provide you with all the necessary gear. The Atlantic waters can be cold, so request thick neoprene wetsuits to keep your body warm. Some outfitters also rent GoPro cameras so you can take videos and pictures of your time with the playful seals in their own wild habitat.

The Breeding period for Cape Fur seals takes place around November/December but Duiker Island is not a breeding colony because of the rough waters. Trips to Duiker Island are usually scheduled from September to April as this is the time for the most favorable weather conditions. Nevertheless, take note that trips can be delayed, postponed or cancelled depending on daily weather conditions. But on a nice sunny day, you are guaranteed to enjoy your trip to the marvelous Seal Island!

Cerro Negro Nicaragua

So what is volcano boarding? It basically refers to an exciting ride that brings you down the slope of the volcano at a fast speed. To achieve this, you will need a relatively large piece of wood that will act as your board. How do you go about volcano boarding? First, you will need to engage one of the several organized tour companies that conduct volcano boarding at Cerro Negro area.

Next, you will need to trek to the top of the volcano which takes about one hour. From here, you can enjoy amazing view of the volcanic landscape. Then, with your wooden board, your guide will bring you over to a specific spot to slide down. And finally, you will need to get on that board and go down Cerro Negro’s slope, which is made up of small grains of volcanic rock over which you glide at a speed of 30 mph! Although the acceleration only takes a couple of minutes, volcano boarding is definitely an unforgettable and adventurous experience. This is the reason this activity is so popular among visitors and especially to backpackers.

There are two methods of riding the board. The first one is the safer one, which involves sitting down on the wooden plank as you would on a sled or toboggan. The second one is the more daring one, as it involves standing up similar to a riding a snowboard. The snowboard position proves to be slower and makes it more difficult for you to turn in different directions. What is guaranteed is that you will get more speed when sitting down as the center of gravity is lower. But don’t expect volcano boarding to be as smooth snowboarding as snowflakes are more slippery than volcanic rocks, which create more friction with the board.

The volcano boards are usually equipped with a rope, which your hands can hold for stability. And when you lean back and pull this rope, it will allow you to get maximum speed. Safety of course is a huge priority while doing this fun activity. Make sure to choose a tour operator that offers you the right equipment such as one-piece protective suit, goggles and leather gloves. Volcano boarding is of course not for everyone, and is ideal for physically fit people who have a good sense of balance. There’s always the risk of crashing into the sharp volcanic rocks, so make sure you have travel health insurance before attempting this challenging activity and that it covers you for adventures like this.

Majestic Tamul Waterfall of Mexico

Tamul Falls may not be as popular as other Mexican sites, but this often underrated attraction is every bit beautiful. The falls is located near the town of TanchachĂ­n, which is about an 8-hour drive away from the state of Texas in the United States.

Although it may not be easy to get to, Tamul Falls promises to be worthwhile trip. With a height of 344 feet, it is considered to be the highest and largest waterfall in the entire state of San Luis Potosi. But finding this falls is an adventure in itself. When you get to Tanchachin, there are barely any signs or markings in the area that will clearly point you to the exact location of the falls. The best way to make it to the falls is to ask a local to assist you. Although there may be a way to hike to the top of the falls; most tourists opt to reach it by boat because this method is the most accessible, organized and direct.

Despite its low profile, Tamul is a very impressive and powerful waterfall. Not only is the continuous flow of the large amount of water simply mesmerizing, the cascade’s surrounding landscape also deserves much attention and admiration. Tamul Falls is adorned by interesting rock formations, and the ancient ruins of Tamtoc are also close by. These ruins are believed to be the northernmost pre-Columbian city with a pyramid site in Mexico.

Tamul’s waterfall flows into the Tampaon River. To come closer to the drop, you will need to hire a boat and a local guide. The locally-made boat can sit three people. Take note that all three passengers need to paddle upstream to reach the base of the waterfall. As you come closer to the massive waterfall, you will notice the current becoming much stiffer, and the rapids becoming stronger. At this point, it is wise not to push your luck and move in closer. Instead, you can settle on the large boulder in the middle of the river. You can also move to a flat sandy spot just a couple of steps from Cuevas del Agua, a gorgeous water-filled cave just downstream the Tamul Waterfall

The rainy season in Huasteca province is between the months of July and August. During this time, the rapids are much stronger, and thus, it is much more difficult to go near the falls by canoe or small boat. If you go during low water season, Tamul is much more accessible. Before heading to the falls, remember to bring a good swimsuit. After hours of paddling upstream, you will most likely be tempted to swim just to cool off.

Pleasant Resort Town of Marmaris

The town is widely known of its fantastic nightlife scene. Along its coast stands a range of clubs, pubs, cafes and bars to keep tourists awake and partying until the break of dawn. Many revelers visit Marmaris for its high tech clubs, which feature the newest tunes in dance music. Bar Street is definitely one of the areas where you can enjoy this type of club and also outdoor dance venues.

But Marmaris also has a subtle and family-friendly side. Its countryside features not only scenic landscapes, but is also rich in culture. Around this area, you will find charming villages, unspoiled beaches and ancient ruins. Within the city are two waterparks where you can bring the entire family. Water sports and activities at nearby beaches are also offered by various hotels and available through travel agencies. In addition. there are secluded coves around Marmaris that can easily be reached by traveling by land or by going by boat.

If you are walking around the town center, it is hard to miss the castle, which is arguably that most important building in Marmaris. This impressive fortress was built in 1522 by the Ottomans, and replaced an older castle originally built by the Ionians. Today, the castle welcomes the public and also houses a museum and a lovely garden. The indoor sections maintains archaeological collections, which display interesting items excavated in the region throughout time. Examples of such pieces include coins, earthenware, and glassware.

Another captivating building built by the Ottoman is the Hafza Sultan Kervansaray. This building was a caravanserai or travellers inn, founded in 1545. These days, the building’s small seven rooms act as souvenir and gift shops. Also located at the heart of town is the Historic Bazaar, which still functions as a marketplace. However, you should know it primarily caters to tourists as opposed to locals.

If you want to see where the locals shop, don’t despair as it seems like every nook in Marmaris is occupied by a bazaar or market. When you head out to the neighboring small town of Icmeler you will discover a bustling street market packed with stalls. Other spots will have a market open only certain days of the week. Some of the famous products in Marmaris sold in these markets include spices, healing herbs, handmade rugs and pine honey.

Buck Island

This gorgeous island covers 176 acres of land area and is enveloped with the elk horn coral barrier reef. The coral system is highly admired for its extraordinary formation, and is home to an abundant number of underwater animals, which include reef fish, crustaceans and hawks bill turtles.

Since the island is a highly protected destination; don’t expect to find the usual water sports like jet skiing, fishing, surfing and kite surfing conducted here, as they are all prohibited. But what you can truly enjoy while here is hanging out on the beach, having picnics, swimming, snorkeling and just soaking in the tranquil and secluded ambiance. Although scuba diving is not permitted at the underwater trail, there are two scuba moorings in the north lagoon. There are no tourist accommodation facilities on Buck Island, and it is closed to visitors during sunrise and sunset.

To reach wonderful Buck Island, which is less than two miles north of St. Croix Island, you need to take one of the boats from concessionaires authorized by the National Park Service. Once aboard, you can sail to the island and admire it from different perspectives. If you are coming from overseas, you can first fly to Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix and then plan a trip to Buck Island.

You have the option choose whether to sign up for a half day or full day trip with the concessionaires. But if you do have the time, it is highly recommendable to linger on the island for as long as you can. It is the perfect spot to feel that you are away from it all. It is even more special for those who adore snorkeling, beaches and lush forests.

You can find the concession boats docked at Green Cay Marina and Christiansted Wharf. If you wish to come to the Island by private vessel, note that it is only allowed if you have obtained the necessary permit. Permit applications are processed by the National Park Service visitor contact station at Fort Christianvaern, located in downtown Christiansted.

Once you step foot on Buck Island, you can easily access the outer reef and underwater trail by boat. There is only one foot trail on the island and it connects Turtle Beach and the reef area. The trail takes about 60 minutes to complete, and makes a nice hiking experience. Turtle Beach is a very famous destination on Buck Island. Hailed by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, this is a dream-come-true destination for any beach lovers or romantics.

Bend Oregon

During winter, Bend becomes a playground perfect for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. The mountains all around Bend receives an average snowfall of 30 feet. Among these mountains is Mt. Bachelor, which has its own ski resort that has become a favorite among families, especially because kids who are 12 and under get to ski for free! The resort offers plenty of opportunities when it comes to skiing and snowboarding. You can also sign up for a snowshoeing guided tour into the stunning forests near Bend. There are many local tour companies that are happy to organize such adventures for you.

Summer is equally fun in Oregon, including the months of August through September. There are many activities to choose from; Cycling, golfing, kayaking, fly-fishing, rafting and more. It is difficult to get bored in a place like Bend. The outskirts of the city is a hiking mecca. Hiking enthusiasts from all over make their way to this American city to complete the Bend Ale Trail, dubbed by many as the biggest beer trail in the west. This distinct trail showcases 14 of the best breweries in the region. Tackling the Bend Ale Trail means adhering to a set of rules. Some of them are quite fun such as getting a trail passport that will be shown and stamped at each brewery you visit.

There are also multitudes of more traditional hiking trails in and around Bend. One of them is the 3-mile loop Deschutes River Trail that starts at Farewell Bend Park. This trail promises to be quite scenic leading you to waterfalls and whitewater rapids. Other equally picturesque trails are the ones at Century Drive, Shevlin Park, Smith Rock State Park, as well as the Green Lakes Trail.

Hardcore nature lovers test their limits by climbing Smith Rock, and they are greatly rewarded by the spectacular panorama when they reach its top. Smith Rock is located within a state park that was named after it. The park covers a land area of over 600 acres, and is set on the high desert plateau with an elevation of approximately 3000 feet. Even if rock climbing is not your cup of tea, you can still visit the park year round for picnics, camping and hiking.

Saas Fee – Switzerland

The town represents a true mountain village with its narrow streets, cow sheds and quaint chalets. It is actually one of the four villages in Saas Valley, Valais Switzerland. But it is most often called the Pearl of the Alps because its consistent snow and spectacular surroundings, made up of mostly alpine peaks standing at about 14,000 meters!

Saas Fee boasts more than 20 lifts and pistes stretching to 100 kilometers. If you are not an Alpine skier, you can also try to out walking trails, cross-country skiing paths and toboggan runs which are also available. You can explore the Allalin Ice Pavilion, which reveals the beauty of glaciers, or if you are up for some adventure, take on the fixed rope route that crosses the brook gorge. On this route, you will have to use cables and rope bridges, but you will be assisted by a professional mountain guide. Another attraction that is popular among thrill seekers and adventurous travelers is the Adventure Park. This is a suspension rope park that challenges its guests with a range of rope obstacles of various levels of difficulty. And while you are sweating it out in the park, you will always have a gorgeous glacier backdrop to remind you why you’re here.

Doing a toboggan run is a great alternative to skiing. The Feeblitz toboggan run is an excellent example. It features a 55-degree inclination that will guarantee an exhilarating decline! And if you think this is not special enough, try going tobogganing at night. The adventure will be magical with the route lit up to provide contrast to the darkness. All these activities will make you very hungry at some point. Although there are many restaurants and cafes in town, why not dine in style? Saas Fee’s Revolving Restaurant on top of the Mittelallalin glacier promises a dining experience like no other as you eat your delicious meals while looking over the fantastic alpine landscape.

From Saas Fee, you can get a lift pass that can get you to the other neighboring villages like Saas-Grund and Saas-Almagell. Saas-Grund lies at the center of the valley, and is a good jumping point for skiing trails, while Saas-Almagell, is renowned for natural dam Mattmark. The third Saas community is Saas Balen, whose main landmark is the late Baroque style circular church which is a national heritage.

Impressive Skytree Tower, Tokyo

This prominent structure was originally built as a television broadcasting tower and was opened in May 2012. Despite its modernity and hi-tech features, Skytree was designed to depict the traditional traditional Japanese architecture, particularly the concave sori curves and convex mukuri curves as seen in most of the country’s ancient temples and buildings.

Some of the highlights of visiting the Skytree tower are its two observation decks. The first observation level is named Tembo Deck, and is located about 350 meters above the ground. But its height is not its only jaw-dropping feature. This observation deck has 5-meter high panels that unveil a 360 degree view of the Tokyo and the whole Kanto region.

Just an elevator ride away and 100 meters above the Tembo Deck, lies the Tembo Galleria. Considered the highest skywalk in the world, this special deck is composed of a sloping spiral ramp that circles the tower. This ramp leads visitors to a 110-meter long glass paneled flooring. If you dare look down while walking the transparent flooring, you will be seeing Tokyo and its skyscrapers at your feet. Now this can be very challenging for those who have fear of heights. But if you overcome such fear, you will be rewarded by a wonderful experience – a bird’s eye view of the urban jungle of the prominent Japanese city.

If you have not had your fill of being up high above the city, then make your way to SoraKara Point, which marks the highest accessible point of the tower. With a height of about 451 meters, being here feel like the floating with the clouds in the sky. Aside from its observation decks, Skytree is a commercial hub filled with sections that do not fail to impress and entertain guests during their visit. The middle floor of the tower is occupied by a souvenir shop and the Musashi Sky Restaurant. This sky restaurant offer diners by a superb French-Japanese fusion cuisine menu. There is also café on the ground area.

About Travel and Disorientation

During the months we’d been gone, we drove back to check that all was well but stayed only for a few days; sort of feeling like visitors here, strangely more at home in our cozy, tiny space in the RV.

While it feels great being back in our home, I feel disoriented by the spaciousness of our home compared to the 400 square feet we lived in for 120 days. Also that I’ve missed out on time here; mostly Christmas. Back around December 22nd, we decided to have a party at home with our Nevada friends and their kids. Probably the best party we’ve had in years, I raced like crazy to put up Christmas decorations the morning of December 22nd, the day scheduled for the party, because we were expecting several children at the party. We had purchased gifts from Santa for them; giving them out made the party for us and everyone else but then we left only a few days later to return to the California coast leaving all those Christmas decorations sitting here in our empty house.

Since we just returned home yesterday, this morning was the first chance I had to put away the Christmas decorations and to switch out the wreaths on the front door from Christmas to Lent. Doing so made me think about Christ, of course, and for the first time since I’ve been a Christian, I counted up the days from the end of Christmas-Epiphany, this year on January 8th, to Ash Wednesday: 41 days.

Forty-one days to cover the birth of Christ, the smidgen we know about the lives of the child, his mother and father in Bethlehem, Egypt and Nazareth, his public ministry then whap; we’re in the forty days of Lent. He lived for 33 years and we cover his entire life in 89 days or so it feels to me as I ponder the timing of the liturgical calendar.

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