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February 20, 2018

Nepal day 10 – Kathmandu

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 8:36 pm
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3/4/17
So today was a bit of a lazy day, a chance to tidy up a few things, some last minute shopping before I headed to Chitwan and a last chance to look around the Thamel area in central Kathmandu.
Seeing as I didn’t do a whole lot, here’s some interesting facts and observations from my time so far in Nepal and comparing it to Uganda where I’ve just been.

Today they arrested an ISIS guy at the Kathmandu airport. Then they had a leopard on the runway, further delaying flights, including the scenic mountain flights which some of our group were doing. Couldn’t find a leopard in Uganda in the national parks, but apparently there are leopards in Nepal – at the airport of all places!

Difference between Nepal and Uganda
Kathmandu v Kampala
White dust v red dust
Fallen down buildings v unfinished buildings
Loud music at times v extremely loud music much of the time
Hassled all the time instead of mainly at traffic lights
Other religions v mainly Christian
Less crime v more crime
Not constantly looking over your shoulder in Nepal like Uganda, or even other Asian cities for that matter
There does seem to be less evidence of corruption in Nepal than Uganda
Less motorbikes v more in Uganda. Many of the motorbikes here actually have a leg guard at the front of the bike, which of course is often used to carry things.
Bigger hills/mountains in Nepal
Nepal geared a lot more toward tourism
Elderly people – especially men. In Uganda 50% of the population is under 15 and you just don’t see many elderly at all.

Similarities
Same Pepsi signs advertising restaurants
Poor to terrible roads
Traffic congestion in the cities, especially the capital
Rogue cowboy truck drivers
Poverty
Same poor standard of workmanship on buildings
Vehicles in poor condition
Weird things: there were plenty, but I still don’t know why the wardrobe door handles are different heights!
People are friendly in both places, although there seems to be a lot less of a hidden agenda with the Nepalese.

Annoying things

The bell ringing around hindu and buddhist temples. Especially around Bhaktapur in the morning, the historical area. They started at 4.00ish in the morning and basically kept going every few seconds until we left. Of course I tried to get a video of it and there was silence for minutes.
The truck and bus horns on the major highways. It wasn’t just a horn. It played a fancy tune. Every corner, when the driver gets bored, if a car crossed their path 100m in front of them – well they didn’t really need a reason, let’s be honest.
The menu prices that didn’t include 10% service charge and 13% VAT. You never really knew exactly what you were paying till the bill came.

There was one point earlier in the trip when we were buying an ice cream. There were some kids hanging around the shop asking for ice cream. A painful, whiny voice "I want ice cream" coupled with a sorrowful, despairing look while they almost tug on you – yep, so do I and that’s why I’m here. They didn’t look particularly well fed, were pretty dirty but they had their routine which must have had some success. I didn’t see them actually be successful in getting anybody to buy them ice cream, but around the corner is a bin where many ice cream containers (think the equivalent of our little dixie tub ice creams) were thrown. The kids were pulling them out and licking them. It was actually quite horrible to watch, but put in perspective, this is ice cream. It’s not like it’s an essential requirement to actually live. If it was something more essential like water, perhaps you could understand, but it was almost like an addiction to them. For the record, it would be pointless grabbing my container to lick out, there’s never much left!
There’s not as many beggars around nepal as other places – especially india. They do exist though and the same rules apply – don’t give them anything, it encourages them, doesn’t help long term and rewards them for not working.
If you’re after a good works project you can start here, but let’s be honest: we’ll always have the poor with us and whatever we do there’ll still be those who don’t want to work or help themselves.

The good thing is that there are a lot more shops that have fixed prices or signs that say we’re happy for you to come in and look around without being hassled.
We did go to a shop today that helped deaf and blind people. They got them making different woven goods which were actually quite reasonably priced. You don’t mind paying a little more when you know it’s helping people and making a difference in people’s lives.
Met up with a few of the remaining group for tea at the momo hut. Momo is almost a national dish, we would more likely know them as dumplings. They were a little ordinary at this place I thought.

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February 18, 2018

Nepal day 9 Rafting – day 2

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 8:03 pm
Tags: , , ,

2/4/17
At the campsite they are in the middle of putting up some permanent buildings. We were talking to the man doing the building and he was from a different area and got paid I think about 1500 rupee (~$15aud) per day with meals and a place to sleep included (I think, from memory that’s what it was) which is pretty decent and had been working for about 8 days and expected to be finished in about 4. The concrete bench in what will be the kitchen looks like it will be a little dodgy once the supports come out, but I guess that’s how they do things. Slowly they are improving the campsite which will make it a really good facility when it’s completed.

The kitchen bench at the camp

The kitchen bench at the camp

It was actually quite cool that morning because it had rained overnight. I wasn’t really looking forward to getting dunked in water if we fell out of the raft. But it soon warmed up and we were under way on day 2 of our rafting. As we went down, we noticed that the other boat was not getting anywhere near as wet as us. Our rafting guide, Dil, the same as yesterday, said with a grin: We’re taking the tiger line, they take the chicken line. I’m glad he was happy to take us on the tiger lines through the rapids – these were still pretty tame rapids, grade 2 or 3 only. There was one rapid called danger, which after the rain last night was now a little higher and rated a 4+. Because it was an included activity in our intrepid trip, rather than something we did optionally, we weren’t allowed to go over it, so we had to clamber over the rocks and go around it. Normally the rafting boats would have just gone through it.
Otherwise, mostly we just ambled along the river and spent more time chatting than having any need to actually paddle through rapids. We had a race with the other boat, of course our boat won!
Back in 2015, I had some friends who were actually in Nepal about to do the rafting when the earthquake struck. I asked our guide where he was when it struck – on the beach at the start going through the safety briefing with a group of rafters. None of them realised the extent of the earthquake or damage caused by it at that point in time, so he offered the option of not going ahead or continuing on. I think he said most continued but as they went down they could tell something big and unusual had happened, especially with the river being different to normal, a lot more turbulent and muddy.
I know my friends said the drive back to kathmandu took a long time after the quake – it took us 6hrs due to traffic (maybe 50-60km), I could only imagine how bad it was directly after the earthquake. The road is ordinary at the best of times, but more on that in a couple of days.
So we wandered/drifted down the river, going through a few rapids and enjoying the scenery from a different angle. We got wet enough as we attacked the rapids rather than drift round the edges like the chicken line boat, so it was still pretty good, but the rapids were often a fair distance apart.

Our make shift change rooms

Our make shift change rooms

Suspended high above the river, as well as suspension bridges, are a series of cables with a cart which they use to pull stuff from side to side. Often they will move rocks from one side to the other, sometimes other goods and sometimes people.
Lunch was on the river bank, our change room was two rafts leant against each other and our shade was a raft held up by paddles. After lunch we headed back to kathmandu, the long drive back giving us time to reflect on our trip, for all of us the last real day of the tour, for some of us, the last full day in nepal.

One of the many colourful trucks on the road to Kathmandu

One of the many colourful trucks on the road to Kathmandu

The drive back was slow, but uneventful, which is what you want.
That evening was our last group dinner, we went to a restaurant next to the guesthouse and recapped some of our highlights of the last few

February 17, 2018

In Christ – above reproach

Col 1.21-22 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.

We are reconciled to Christ. No more darkness, no more distance. When we accept Jesus as our Saviour, we are reconciled to Him. No matter what we’ve done, it’s just a small step back and we are reconciled!!! We’re now blameless and above reproach in God’s sight.
Reproach – the expression of disapproval or disappointment.
In God’s sight, once we are reconciled to Christ, He is not disappointed in us, nor does He disapprove of us, or express that disapproval.
Think on that. In God’s sight, above reproach when we walk with Him.

February 8, 2018

Nepal day 8 – Rafting day 1

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:17 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

1/4/17
We left Nuwakot and thankfully it hadn’t rained overnight, so the bus was able to take us down the hill. Saying the road was "under construction" is maybe the most positive spin to put on it. It looked like they started some work, got bored there, then went somewhere else to do some work. It’s a one lane, one and a half in some places, bumpy dirt road, with reasonable drops on one side – but at least there were trees there to stop the massive slide if you slipped off the road. This road was a lot like the Mt Elgon road in Uganda, but to be fair, this was slightly wider. Or an Australian equivalent might be the back roads around our snowy mountains. It took a while to get down and you could see why it was preferable if the weather was dry.

The road from Nuwakot to the highway

The road from Nuwakot to the highway

Once we got back to the main road, the road changed. From dirt to asphalt, and just steeper and further drops on the side. Parts of the road we were on the other day, the sweeping river bends, with the rocky river bed and the high suspension bridges joining the two sides.

Trishuli River, from the bridge

Trishuli River, from the bridge

We stopped at one of these bridges. As we were parking, we knew we were reversing back toward a massive drop below, trying to get as far off the road as possible when this loud “bang” of something hitting the bus echoes through the bus. Turns out it was the driver’s helper was banging on the back of the bus to tell him it was safe to keep reversing back toward the side of the hill. Knowing what was below, each bang was a little unnerving and took a bit to get used to. Why didn’t we just parallel park? The only reason I could think of was that it was on a bend where you used the shoulder as an overtaking lane… which isn’t uncommon on that stretch of road.

A long suspension bridge

A long suspension bridge

As we arrived, coming across the bridge were a couple of ladies carrying huge sacks on their back/heads. We asked how much they weighed. I think it was around 55 pounds, so maybe 25kg. One had corn, the other potatoes. They stopped and had a chat to us with our tour leader interpreting. I think they were glad of the rest actually and were in no hurry to leave. Those suspension bridges are actually quite steep, but then, not as steep as the hills/mountains they and others walk up with the same sacks of goods that they had.

Carting the veggies to market

Carting the veggies to market

After we moved on, it wasn’t far to where we were starting the rafting from.
The afternoon was rafting, then we were camping the night beside the river, and doing some more rafting tomorrow.
We got kitted out in life jackets and helmets and went through the safety briefing and instructions. A couple of years ago, when the earthquake took place, I had some friends who were doing the same rafting trip that I was about to do. They said they were standing on the shore getting their instructions about the trip when they felt something a bit weird. They didn’t realise it was the earthquake, or how bad it was, so they went rafting anyway. The guides noticed a few odd things as they went – like landslides that weren’t there yesterday and the river being faster than normal. It wasn’t until later that they realised how lucky they had been and how lucky they were to even make it back to the Kathmandu area. I asked one of the guides where he was when the earthquake happened and he actually gave the same story as my friends, so that was cool!

Rafting instructions!

Rafting instructions!

The water was cool but not too cold, but none of us wanted to go in by capsizing the boat. We hadn’t rafted far when we stopped for lunch, with the rafting guides preparing a quick lunch that had come with us on the catamaran boat that was also carrying our overnight gear.

My boat

My boat

Anyway, today the rapids proved to be fairly tame overall, we weren’t even close to going in, although there were a couple of times we had to "get down", which means stop paddling and get down in the boat. The other raft from our group didn’t have to do that at all. Then we watched them navigate the rapids and figured out why – our boat took the "tiger line" not the chicken line, meaning we went the rough way through the rapids, not the leisurely way around them. I’m glad we did, it was still pretty tame doing that.

As we arrived at our camp (Aves tented camp), you could see a massive storm was brewing. Not the time you really wanted to be camping but anyway. The guides worked pretty quickly to get the boats and tents tied down as the wind picked up. It was really interesting watching the sky rapidly change. I was praying it would go round us and for the most part it did, thankfully we just got the edge of the rain and the wind died down not long after. The tented camp had quite good facilities, they heated some water for us to have a shower/wash and there were reasonable toilets*. Note that means reasonable for a third world country/nepal/campsite. There was no light and the flushing didn’t work, but there were 4 walls and a door!

New building at the camp

New building at the camp

The meal tonight was pretty good: chicken, spaghetti and a tomato sauce, a few other things and cake for dessert. Where we would bring out bread or biscuits and cheese as an appetiser, in Nepal they bring out popcorn. A bit random, but you get used to it. We had a camp fire later on where they cooked some chicken. It looked really good, but we were all full from tea earlier on. Maybe that was their plan, because if we knew it was coming, we’d have saved room.

Camp fire

Camp fire

The camp is perched opposite a sharp curved corner of the highway and the trucks drive like maniacs. Apparently it was fairly common to see vehicles not navigate the corner properly and plunge down the side of the cliff. Nothing happened while I was there, but when I was on the road a few days later, a truck was hanging over the edge.

Trishuli River, the bend opposite our tented camp.

Trishuli River, the bend opposite our tented camp.

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