Finding Zen in Nepal
What do most people do when life gets too stressful? Take a yoga class? Meditate? Book a holiday? I did all of the above.
I escaped for a weekend to a yoga retreat in Nepal with two of my girl friends. Being our first time in Nepal we had no idea what to expect. We had booked the accommodation online and requested an airport pick up. We were a little late exiting the airport due to confusion with the immigration lines and the visa upon arrival process for AUS/UK passport holders but after finally exiting and scouring the lines of people with sign boards, ours was nowhere to be found. None of us had activated roaming on our cell phones as we were using the weekend as a digital detox, but luckily my friend had accidentally packed her work phone which had service for us to be able to call.
“Hi, just wondering where the driver is to collect us from the airport?” “Oh, I’m sorry he’s already been & gone”
Luckily for us there are plenty of ‘taxis’ although some looked quite a bit dodgy. We asked for a quote to our final destination and then, just as we thought we were being ripped off, we negotiated a better deal and off we went on an hour and a half journey up the mountainside to Nagarkot.
As the driver stopped for a toilet break along the way, we were stopped at a fork in the road. This was when we were approached by a bunch of 7 or so young local girls. Their skin was golden brown, some aged as young as 4, all wearing make up; eye shadow, winged eyeliner, some with missing teeth, a few munching on chips. The first question they asked us was what religion we were. We chat back and forth for a little while, staring in awe of their beauty. Meanwhile the driver calls the hotel and confirms which direction we need to take and we carry on for a little further up the mountain.
Soon we pull up to what looks like a massive guest house but with no signs. The driver converses with some people at the gate. We ask if this is it? Having no clue as there was no signs to confirm or deny if were in the right place. Eventually we are told we have arrived and are lead inside the gates and introduced to a lady, the wife of the yoga Guru and their small child who is again eating chips.
We are shown to our rooms but one my friends had booked a separate room but it’s far from our room and has an outdoor toilet. We ask if she can share our room and just add another mattress inside which they were happy to accomodate.
Once settled in, we enquired as to when the first yoga class would be and the answer was a little vague. It was if there was no real schedule and they would just judge by the setting of the sun or the location of the moon. I learned very quickly that things worked differently here and ultimately I had to let go and just go along with the flow.
So we wander around the premises and take in the beautiful sunset and greenery in the gardens outside the house and change in preparation for whenever the class would start. Our first yoga class is conducted by a very flexible young man who lives in another building a short walk from the house. He’s zipped up in a track suit and as the sun disappears the temperature drops. Meanwhile I’m wearing layers of socks, shirts, pants just to try and keep warm. After completing our first yoga class, we laid down in shavansana and began a meditation. Although personally for me I couldn’t allow my mind to rest as I was so cold and the yoga mat between my body and the wooden floor boards did nothing to act as insulation.
Post mediation we gather in the adjoining sun room where we sit on large cushions, crossed legged on the floor and our vegetarian dinner is served. This is when we get to converse with some of the other guests at the retreat, some of which are undergoing yoga teacher training with the guru himself. We ask how long they are staying for and what they’ve been up to during their stay. A few of the guests had been on a hike in the surrounding mountains to some nearby temples and recommended we do the same, should we have the time.
We were only visiting for a very short time, however we had a break between breakfast and yoga classes so decided to head out around 11am to ensure we would return by sunset. We took directions from some fellow yoga guests and set off by foot with our backpacks. Not knowing how ling this hike would take us, or if we were actually going the right way, we soon realised we weren’t prepared. My friends backpack she bought had one sip of water left, I had a full bottle and my other friend just half. We had no snacks with us but we did eat a pretty heavy vegetarian breakfast of vegetables, bread with honey, all washed down with some herbal tea.
Hours passed and we start talking about how we would survive if we were in fact to get lost as we had no cell service nor could see any civilisation. But soon enough we see some other tourists walking back down the hill in the opposite direction so we knew we must of been close. The first temple we arrive at is sign posted and points up a hill. Apparently a guru lived up there in his hut. So we went to pay a visit. It’s an amazing view from up there and there was a few locals pottering around, some praying, others gathering food to prepare. The color flags above us were flapping in the wind. We asked permission to enter the guru’s hut where we sat on some straw mats on the floor. He had two guests already, middle aged men who sat in this small circle, rolling something in his hand. We couldn’t really communicate but we sat and tried anyways. Asking a few yes or not questions and getting limited answers. We stared at all the collections of clippings on the walls, some photos. There was groups of random vegetables laying on the floor, perhaps for dinner later than evening. We came across a guest book which hadn’t been signed in years and we added our names to it and then paid our respect and continued with our hike.
We walked through villages where locals went about their daily lives, not knowing anything outside of here even existed. That in itself blew my mind. The kids laugh and play, chase chickens and the mothers summon then to come for a bath, which is given by a bucket in the yard.
Soon we come across a place which claims to be a restaurant so we take our chances and order some food; momos & some fried rice. We sit upstairs in this ‘house’ and wait. Meanwhile as we nap, the old lady must of thought we had left as she couldn’t see our heads and when we woke, only then did she start cooking. They weren’t the best momos in Nepal but when you’ve been hiking for a few hours, food is food.
Realizing we weren’t going to make it to the next temple and back to the yoga house before sunset, we decided to head back. We meet some locals along the way who insist on walking with us and wanted us to take a picture with them.
Each morning we would use a neti pot and partake is nasal cleansing which is an experience in itself. It can take a few times to master it but it’s necessity before starting any breathing exercises.
Our yoga teacher was super approachable and very encouraging, helping us to learn new moves whilst explaining the benefit of each.
Our final day before heading back to the airport we stopped in at Kathmandu and walked around the city square and markets.
It was a short trip, but it was enough to switch off from the rat race and reconnect with ourselves and nature.
We visited December 2016.
Weather: Chilly, needed extra layers especially at night and early in the mornings.
Flights: Fly Dubai fly to Kathmandu daily.
Accommodation: We stayed at Nepal Yoga Retreat for a mere $US 90 for 2 nights.
Recommended for: Stressed out workaholics looking for a super chilled holiday in nature
Overall cost: Super affordable – You’d pay more going out for a weekend in Dubai.