Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Monsoon Nepal – A Beautiful Time of Year.

Many travelers hear the words monsoon and shudder in dread, the last thing they want is a rain drenched holiday. Alas, traveling in the monsoon also has its benefits. Uncrowded streets & tourist attractions, beautiful landscapes and a rare insight in to Nepal’s Culture.
Many people get put off travel to Nepal during the monsoon. I think that the monsoon is one of the very best times to travel in Nepal if you want to see the true culture, way and beauty of life in the Himalaya. Granted you may not see the coveted snow capped peaks of the Himalaya, but the rewards of getting a bit wet and muddy are worth it. Just remember to pack your umbrella, a touch of good humor to sit out the down pours and your camera to capture the heart and soul of Nepal.

The monsoon itself is very much the life blood of both urban and rural Nepal. Life here revolves around the arrival and departure of the annual three month deluge. Festivals, worship and colorful celebrations are had to call upon Indra the rain god to bring the monsoon in good time and then again to end it to prevent the crops from being battered by rain. After the crisp winter days draw to an end, the spring time herald’s clouds and light showers and the snow capped mountains slowly disappear behind a cloud bank. Morning mist fills the valleys, but it’s dry. Bone dry, the winter harvest is finished and fields and roads are ground to dust by countless feet, hooves and bicycle tires. The winter harvest is done and dusted and villagers sit around spinning wool, winnowing wheat, corn and millet, brewing Raski and Chang. The air hangs thick with dust and pollution and the temperature rises. The harsh sun dries out the spring wheat crop and there is nothing left to do but prepare the fields and await the rains.

The bleak and barren country side creaks in the May heat, Kathmandu’s streets heave with rubbish and smell, the rivers trickle, taps in many villages have run dry and trees and plants wilt along with the people.  Eyes turn heaven wards towards the cloud bank on the horizon and finally a swift wind brings the first sweet patters of rain to the ground.  The first pre -showers of the monsoon clear the air, distill the oppressive heat and moisten the parched earth. The villages become a hive of activity as farmers harness oxen and plough the fields. Women cart doka’s(Woven Baskets) full of manure and nurture seedling crops of Dhan(Rice). Corn, Potatoes, Sag and Tomatoes are planted everywhere and men work hard to link intricate networks of hand dug irrigation channels to feed the rice paddies with water. But it’s not time yet, these showers are just the prelude of what’s to come. Next is a waiting game, a game of man against clouds, when will the big rains come? Sharman(Witch Doctors) and Priests are called to throw rocks and caste predictions. Rice, the life blood of Nepal depends upon the arrival of the big rains and getting the planting right is vital to the success of the crop. More clouds build on the horizon and more showers fall. Then as sudden as a clap of thunder from a seemingly blue sky the heavens truly open and the life giving rains of the monsoon arrive.

While the tourists flee and Kathmandu locals retreat to their homes, the villages come alive with activity.  The land also comes to life, the rivers carve ever change courses, the land moves and slides around making new landscapes and plants burst to life with a million shades of vibrant green. The rain has a thousand faces, soft and clinging, hard, violent, pleasant, lulling, cold, warm...rain rain rain, the sweet flow of life to the land of the Himalaya!

The very best thing about the monsoon rain? It turns the ever increasing amount of village roads back into single tracks and makes for a hell of a lot of fun on a Mountain Bike, test your stamina slogging it out through mud and test your skill against the rocky down hills, ruts and gutters made by the monsoon and the endless single tracks that traverse the vibrant green rice fields....be careful though, don't fall or you will EAT MUD!  

Lots of fun can be had mountain biking at this time of year, but there are also other things to do in Nepal During the monsoon - 

White Water Rafting
The rains swell Nepal’s River into raging torrents and for those looking for some adrenaline then this is certainly the time for a load of big splashy fun. River that are raftable in the Monsoon are the Trushili, Sunkoshi and Seti, but be sure to book with a safe and reputable company.

Village Treks
While most of the Himalaya may be off limits at this time of year due to unpredictable weather, landslides and snow, some village treks around Pokhara, Kathmandu and Dhulikhel are ideal for those looking to experience the real side of rural Nepal. Don’t forget that most village trekking route can be ridden on mountain bike as well!! Get down and muddy in Nepal.

Yoga and Meditation
If you don’t like getting wet then head to one of the many Yoga and Meditation Retreats around the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara. They are great places to learn about getting in touch with your inner self. Nowadays there are some outstanding value for money meditation and yoga packages around.

So now you know that there is more to the monsoon than just rain and mud. For more information on what to do in Nepal during the monsoon then you check out our website. 

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