Thumper…

April 2, 2018

Nepal Day 14-15 Home

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:49 pm
Tags: , , , ,

7-8/4/17
Good news! Today I got a refund of about 1000 Nepalese rupee, around 12 AUD for some of the activities I didn’t do at Chitwan. Downside was it was a token only, not nearly enough for what I missed, and they were useless outside of Nepal, so I had to spend it before I left.
I selected a book, the quickest book selection I have ever done, Nepal 1953, a story about what happened behind the scenes when the assault on Mt Everest was made. It was really interesting and clearly portrayed how much of a team effort it really was, even though Hillary and Tenzing were the only ones who made it to the top, and the only ones who are really known or remembered. It also described a lot of the gear the team used, some of which I saw when I visited Darjeeling last year and saw the himalayan mountain institute.

Kathmandu Valley

Kathmandu Valley

After the rush to spend the last of my local currency, which I succeeded in doing, I just got back in time to check out and catch the car to the airport.
Kathmandu airport is like most other smaller airports. People everywhere, long queues, gate waiting areas that aren’t really big enough any more. While I wad at the airport I saw a could who were on my tour. They’d gone to pokhara after the tour, instead of chitwan and had chosen to fly instead of catch the bus. They had spent the entire day they were meant to fly out sitting at the airport waiting for their flight to leave, which never happened. Suddenly a 14hr bus ride didn’t seem so bad because at least I’d made it without a days delay – it was only about a 6hr delay!
From Nepal to Delhi, Delhi to Dubai on jet airways, an Indian airliner. The Indians and probably Nepalese are on their phones, speaking as loudly as they can, right until the moment the plane starts lifting off and resuming as soon as the wheels touch the tarmac. If there’s ever a reason why they should never allow in flight calls, there’s enough right there. Rude, obnoxious, irritating, very annoying and making the first time traveller next to me very nervous!
At dubai, I had to change terminals via a bus, change gates via a train and could finally check in for my qantas flight home and ask for my bag to be diverted (changing airlines). Because that took so long, I was very doubtful it would make it, but if any airport could do it, it would be Dubai.

Arriving Dubai

Arriving Dubai

On boarding the A380 I walked right past my seat row as I figured there’d be no way I could be in seats that nice. I just kept heading towards the back. Slightly embarrassing when I had to walk back past everyone to get back to my row!
So my section of the plane was maybe 20% full, meaning I had 3 seats to stretch out on. How good is that! Everyone’s dream on a long haul flight is to have enough room to stretch out, sleep and just spread out generally without having to fight for the arm rests or step over people to go for a walk or toilet break.
Strangely they left the lights off for 80% of the Australian time daytime flight, so I didnt get a lot of my book read. But I caught up on other stuff, so it was all good. Oddly they only served one snack and one meal for the entire 13hr flight. That one meal was really good though and worth waiting for! Melt in your mouth beef stew with mashed potato just like your mother or grandmother used to make! They did have a steady stream of snacks flowing though – chips, cheese, biscuits, bananas…

It could have been a good sunrise...

It could have been a good sunrise…

Got in to Melbourne 25 mins early, but no bag, (no surprise there, it took til Tuesday to arrive, I got home Saturday) and through customs. And just like that my 5 week Ugandan/Nepalese adventure that took my across the world to two different continents was all over. Til next time.

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March 31, 2018

Nepal day 13 – to Kathmandu

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:24 pm
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6/4/17

Left Chitwan today after a quick look around the wetland areas of the Maruni Safari resort I was staying at, hoping that I would see some animals, birds, anything… nope the nearest I got was to hear the birds and I think a red wild dog as it ran off. The sun began to poke through the trees which was good. Oh well, I’m sure that chitwan really is an animal spotters paradise I just didn’t experience that. Or perhaps I’m spoilt from all the African safaris I’ve done.

Sunrise at Maruni Lodge, Chitwan

Sunrise at Maruni Lodge, Chitwan

As soon as I got to the bus at 7.30, we were on the way. Thankfully passed the roadworks reasonably early so we wouldn’t be spending 6hrs on the side of the road. Closer to kathmandu we stopped at the highway break point which offered some great views of the surrounding area. As we continued and entered the kathmandu valley, the traffic began to slow and build up and you could often look back down the hill to see the winding road snaking up the hill, choked with traffic, predominantly the colourful trucks. There were nice clear skies around Kathmandu, indicating that it probably rained fairly heavily overnight. It was great to see the city from above bathed in sunlight.

Looking over the Kathmandu Valley

Looking over the Kathmandu Valley

Strangely, many of the Nepalese hold on in the bus, gripping the handle in front of them as tightly as possible. Ok the road is bad, narrow, bumpy and dangerous in parts, but I didn’t think it was that bad… I noticed though that they seated all the foreigners on the side away from the road’s edge – I suspect that was intentional, as my ticket had a seat on the other side.
Around 3.30 the bus pulls up. The driver’s helper yells something in Nepalese and very slowly most people start getting off. Apart from the Nepalese, the rest of us have no idea where we are, because it’s certainly not back at the tourist bus stop where you’re meant to finish. Anyway, this was clearly the end of the road for this bus, and having no idea where I was, I took the easy way out and grabbed a taxi back to the hotel. At least the bus journey was much quicker this time, a respectable 8hrs for 158km instead of 14hrs. That’s an average of nearly 20kmh an hour instead of 11!!

Hand built retaining wall, roadworks, near Chitwan

Hand built retaining wall, roadworks, near Chitwan

Tonight was pizza at the restaurant next door to the Kathmandu Guest House, overlooking the hustle and bustle of a Thamel street, and pretty much my final Nepalese meal, as tomorrow I was departing.

A maze of wire, Thamel, Kathmandu

A maze of wire, Thamel, Kathmandu

March 28, 2018

Nepal day 12 – Chitwan

5/4/17
Today was my only day in the Chitwan area because I got there so late yesterday.
Early in the morning, not sure if it was early enough though, I left on a canoe trip. The traditional wooden canoe seemed a little unstable, but they wouldn’t put you in it if it was going to capsize or tip, so I sat back and enjoyed the ride. The canoes are propelled by a punt – think of the images of Venice with a guy standing in the back, leaning heavily on his long pole, perfectly balanced, moving the boat swiftly, yet gently and silently through the shallow water that bubbled over the rocks. I didn’t need to do anything except sit back and take photos. There wasn’t much around – very few birds, no crocs, no animals. So I have a few photos of the bank, trees and birds in the distance. I did see a stork of some kind which was pretty cool.

A bird of some kind

A bird of some kind

From there we walked through the national park, although it may actually have been the buffer zone. Before we headed off I got instructions on what to do if we came across a sloth bear, tiger, elephant or rhino. I highly doubted we would see or get close enough to any of those, if there was any danger, we wouldn’t be there.

There was a couple of spotted deer, not a couple of herds, or a couple of dozen, just a couple of single deer in different places.
The vegetation was different though. It changed as we went along from taller trees and ferns and an almost tropical feel to open plains filed with elephant grass and some swampy marsh area. It was in this area, away in the distance, we saw something that looked like a pale looking rock. That was a rhino. Our guides decided we would go and have a closer look.

There was no danger here!

There was no danger here!

Surprisingly it didn’t move and we were able to get reasonably close – maybe 60m, nothing like how close we were to the lion in Uganda though. One of the guides headed away a bit further round and climbed a tree. The one remaining with me motioned to the tree and said if he comes closer, get in the tree. The rhino took a couple of steps, then began a little run (3 or 4 steps), so the guide tells me to get in the tree. So I find myself in a tree avoiding a rhino. It sounds good. That’s the truth. But really, there was no danger from the rhino, it still wasn’t that close and was probably an over reaction by the guide. On the other hand though, it did give me a much better view of him so I do have some better shots. I saw a peacock and asked if it was wild. He said they only had wild animals around here. (In Australia peacocks aren’t native, but they are in Nepal.) Otherwise, that was about the extent of the animals on the morning walk.

A stream crossing

A stream crossing

The afternoon was a jeep safari, 10 of us in a jeep, many jeeps, all following the same path. We stopped for a few spotted deer – in Uganda there’s so many deer (cob) you don’t even bother stopping for them. I think Africa has ruined me for any other animal safaris now.
We saw a few peacocks, large rocks aka rhinos away in the distance and a few monkeys. We stopped at the Gharial crocodile rehab and breeding farm, it was interesting seeing the different types of crocodiles.

Growing tall

Growing tall

On the way back we climbed a very rickety tower to get a closer look at a rhino away in the distance. It was getting closer to dusk, so was probably heading to the water. Slowly it started coming towards us. Too slowly and the guide told us we didn’t have time to wait for it. Maybe there’s a time when you have to be out of the park perhaps is the best option I can think of. The road through the national park was like our dirt roads in the bush, and the later we were the faster we got, which means the rougher the ride was.

The rickety lookout tower

The rickety lookout tower

By the time we got back to cross the river by canoe I think we were all glad it was over. The sunset again was a brilliant orange against the dusty backdrop of the national park.
I had another traditional Nepalese meal tonight before heading to a Tharu cultural dance. The Tharu are the local people of the area, the best dance was probably the one where someone was dressed as a peacock, imitating the peacock, or where the girl came out with a long full skirt and was able to get the skirt flowing like a wave as she made herself dizzy.

Sunset scenes, Chitwan National Park

Sunset scenes, Chitwan National Park

March 25, 2018

Nepal day 11 – To Chitwan

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 7:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

4/4/17

Early start today, down at the bus stop at 5.30am. Bus left about then, off to a good start with the first road we tried to get down closed with road works.
Otherwise, we seemed to be making reasonable time, we travelled the first part of the road a couple of times in our tour, and it took ages.

Our comfy tourist bus with very patchy wifi (still cool to have wifi on a bus though!)

Our comfy tourist bus with very patchy wifi (still cool to have wifi on a bus though!)

For some reason we stopped for more than half an hour for breakfast at Malekhu. I say for some reason, because the road closes for 6hrs, so it’s in everyone’s interest to go as quick as you can to get past there before that.
There were some little market stalls on the side of the road here which were quite colourful in their displays of fruit and vegetables. They normally know how to present things in attractive ways at these market stalls, but I’m not sure whether that translates into sales.

The Makekhu roadside market

The Makekhu roadside market

One crazy thing you can’t get used to is the banging on the bus when the driver is reversing, usually to park at a roadside stop. You know you’re close to the edge on these hilly roads and a sudden thump on the side of the bus from the driver’s helper does not fill you with confidence that the bus is not about to topple over the edge.
On the roads on Nepal there are plenty of trucks, which are all brightly painted, with horns that play a pretty tune matching the paint. In addition, they drive like cowboys, you really don’t want to be sitting in the front seat watching the traffic!
Went past the tented camp we stayed in during our rafting trip and directly opposite on the bend was a truck with it’s front wheel hanging over the edge of the cliff. We did ask our rafting guide whether it had happened and he said he had seen a vehicle go over a few times.

Opposite our rafting camp the other day

Opposite our rafting camp the other day

In many places the road is only really one and a half lanes, 2 lanes push it out to being right on the edge and there’s not a whole lot of safety barriers. There’s also a decent (50-70m) drop to the river or ground below along most parts of the road. But at least it’s asphalt in most places.
The trip up to that point had been reasonable, with reasonable distance covered at a half decent pace.
Then around 11.50 we pulled up at Mugling. The bus parked. Most got off. I had no idea why, there wasn’t much english spoken. I asked a local who spoke a bit of English how long we were here for. Til 4pm. Oh no! The road closure my tour leader warned me about. We missed it by an hour and 50mins. So we were going nowhere for 4hrs. I talked to the locals a bit, then found some Germans who were heading the same way and talked to them for a while. Watched some locals cooking some roti just there on the streets, they had quite a good process happening.

Making roti

Making roti

It was a long, long, long 4hrs, but then we still had to get there. The next section of the road was even worse. It was wider, but maybe under deconstruction is possibly an accurate way of describing it. It was white dirt, steep drops, landslides, oh well it was an adventure. On the plus side, through the dust, the bright red sun glowed as it slowly sunk signalling the end of the day was near.
I suspected we were getting close as nearly everybody had gotten off. When i was the the last one left I wondered if I had been forgotten. It’s a little disconcerting being the only person on a bus late at night, with the driver/helper basically not speaking your language. The last lady who got off around 7pm said there was still another 25 mins to go.
Not long after that, I hear an "Excuse me, come with me, change buses" – there’s nothing around, we’re seemingly in the middle of nowhere and the bus is stopping… They were getting me to change buses. I didn’t move till I saw the other bus, then I had to run and catch it, I think they wanted me to do the Nepalese running trick to board the bus. That’s where the bus doesn’t actually stop, it just slows down, and they run and jump on it. It was a bit hard in the dark with all my stuff, so it did actually have to stop. I must admit I was pretty relieved to see the Germans on the bus! We eventually arrived, around 7.30pm at the bus station. That’s a 14hr journey for 158km or an average of about 11km an hour.

The road hugs the side of these hills

The road hugs the side of these hills

When I got to the bus station, I was meant to be picked up by the resort – Maruni Sanctuary Lodge. They weren’t there. Some random guy, who knows, maybe an angel, offered to take me by motorbike to the resort, for no payment. So with no other options, I accepted. I don’t normally get on motorbikes with random strangers at night in unknown places, but sometimes you do those things and you can normally sense whether things are ok.
He was a good driver, I got there and he even took the time to find somebody around the resort so that I could check in to my room.

They’d gone to pick me up around 12, left when I wasn’t there and not bothered after that. Anybody with any local knowledge would have known 12 was wishful pie in the sky thinking – certainly every other accommodation place in town did. When they asked me who had brought me there, I didn’t know his name, but rather he’d given me a general direction of where he lived and then taken off down the road that way. The staff looked at me puzzled – they said nobody lives down that way, he couldn’t have gone that way, the road goes nowhere. It really could have been an angel.

I think most people staying at this resort actually fly into this area. Ironically, I had some friends who were meant to be flying this way today, but on catching up with them later on, no flights actually left today, so if I had’ve flown, I wouldn’t have got there today at all.

The fried apple and banana

The fried apple and banana

Had some fried apple and banana for tea, and despite the fact it looked like it was fried to within an inch of its life, it actually tasted ok. The chicken though was not so fortunate and was very over done.

The weather at Chitwan is very different to Kathmandu and other areas of Nepal. It is more tropical and humid being the lowlands area of the nation.

February 20, 2018

Nepal day 10 – Kathmandu

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 8:36 pm
Tags: , , ,

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.

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 8, 2018

Nepal day 8 – Rafting day 1

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:17 pm
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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.

January 24, 2018

Nepal day 7 – Nuwakot

31/3/17

Around the farmhouse are a few villages and plenty of hills. We went for a walk around both this morning, but at a much more leisurely pace. There is plenty of damage here from the earthquake, some has been rebuilt, much hasn’t. There are many temporary structures still, houses with tin rooves instead of the usual tiles and houses that were more than one storey now reduced to one. Partial structures that were once homes are still attached to the existing dwellings, but clearly uninhabitable. They are not fixed simply because they can’t afford to fix it. After the earthquake struck, the government gave the people 200,000 nepal rupee each to help rebuild. That’s about $2500 AUD (I guess that is home owners). Even though you can buy more for the dollar here, it still doesn’t go very far. They also toughened building restrictions, meaning many had to start again anyway. Many haven’t in the outlying villages and they still dwell in the temporary buildings.

Houses on the hill

Houses on the hill

There were plenty of goats in this village and surrounding areas, left here to roam free – nobody steals them either. The villagers live a simple life – there’s no roads to most of the houses higher up, they have water – not running, gathered from a well, an outside toilet and maybe a one or two roomed house. Most have a plot of land to farm, barely subsistence farming. A few have started to establish a bit more of a larger farm, particularly chooks, but it wasn’t so evident in this area. The main difference between the goats here and the goats in Uganda is their end destination. The males are more valued in Nepal and become a sacrifice at the temple and are not eaten. The males in Uganda aren’t worth much and all of them end up as food.

Local goats

Local goats

On top of one of the hills there’s a bit of a lookout tower (actually I think it may be the framework for a temple). It’s not finished, I suspect may never be, but you can climb 2/3 of it and get a good view of the surrounding area. Of course we saw a few hills dotted by villages and a little further in the distance, the usual fog.

Hindu shrine

Hindu shrine

The walk back to the main village and palace/temple area was down hill and fairly easy. We passed a school and hospital at Ashok Batika, the kids at the school more than happy to pose for photos (on the other camera). We all commented on the fact that you could wander through the school, it really had no fences at all and how different it was to home. The main street of the main village used to be a row of 2-4 storey houses. Now it’s a row of single storey houses with tin rooves, interspersed with areas of rubble that used to be houses and shops. The main temple and palace was damaged enough to make it unsafe, but not enough to demolish it. They both sit there until funds are found to restore it, although I think work had started on the temple.
It’s amazing how some buildings remain, some don’t, some get rebuilt, some don’t. I guess whether they’re rebuilt or not could also have something to do with who survived and who didn’t as well.

Main Street, Nuwakot

Main Street, Nuwakot

What was left of the afternoon was spent hanging around the farm house, enjoying the view, their vegetable gardens and having a bit of a rest.
The view from our small doorway was pretty cool and the pink rhododendrons, which is the Nepalese national flower, provided a perfect frame.

Pink rhododendrons at the Nuwakot Famous Farm

Pink rhododendrons at the Nuwakot Famous Farm

January 17, 2018

Nepal day 6 – Nuwakot

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 3:56 pm
Tags: , , , ,

30/3/17

Today was a rest day. “Rest”. Just a leisurely drive in the bus a few km down the road (about 100), get to our accommodation and enjoy the scenery and comforts of a restored farm house. What could possibly go wrong?

Rice paddies at the place we stopped for lunch

Rice paddies at the place we stopped for lunch

It was still foggy in the morning, so unfortunately we still couldn’t see the mountains from the NamoBuddah Resort. This was the closest we were going to get to them and seeing them in real life. So you just had to use your imagination. The horizon partly obscured by cloud, but then clearing to reveal jagged peaks in the distance that rose high above the horizon, a light covering of snow, with the morning light causing the peaks to have a soft golden glow. It’s probably not too far off, because I did see the sun rise over the himalayas last year when I was in Darjeeling, just unfortunate that when I was closer and actually in Nepal, it was cloudy/foggy.

We left behind the Namobuddah resort, an almost mountain chalet, with it’s great food and low doorways – so low I even had to duck to go through them. Got stuck in traffic until we were able to get to the highway. We travelled along the Prithvi highway, a road I became fairly familiar with over the next few days. As we came down in altitude, the fog started to clear a bit, giving a view of the steep hills, looking lush and green from a distance, broken up by terraced patches of brown where new areas were being prepared for crops or had just been planted. Where land slides had occured due to the earthquake, clusters of mud brick houses, mostly with shiny new corrugated iron rooves, gathered together indicating a little Nepalese farming village. The road ran alongside the Trishuli River, which we rafted on later on. The river bed was often very wide and rocky, a lot like some of the rivers in New Zealand, but it seemed very low. Guess when it rains a lot, it fills up a bit. The banks were steep hills, suspension bridges often connected the two sides of the hill together.

Hills along the Prithvi Hwy

Hills along the Prithvi Hwy

Because it had rained a bit, the bus (it was only small, we had 11 in our group) was unable to get to the farmhouse at Nuwakot. Our luggage was put on a truck, which would hopefully meet us at the farmhouse…

We got dropped off to begin the walk to the farmhouse. Our tour leader didn’t really know what to expect or how long it would take. It was basically steps almost straight up, we took about 1.5hrs to cover 2.3km – the locals normally take 25 min. The view on the way up was quite good, the steep rocky stepped path lined with autumn leaves (its not autumn here, so are they still autumn leaves?) and as the day grew later, the setting sun became visible through the trees, giving off a soft orange glow. I’d like to say the view was worth it once we got to the top, but the fog was still there at the top, you could see as far as the next hill, the twilight light not helping the view either. This was a tough hill climb and there were plenty of stops to admire the view – so much for the “rest” day! I keep blaming the altitude, but surely by now I should have been used to it. Even my fitness levels should have approved after the last few days… so maybe it really was the altitude.

The autumn leaves, but it's not autumn!

The autumn leaves, but it’s not autumn!

By the time we made it to the top, there wasn’t much time left for much more than getting our room and enjoying our evening meal. We’d been warned the place was lower than the previous night – it was. We didn’t think it was possible but it was. All the doors were lower, to both the room and bathroom, but so too was the ceiling height lower. One guys room was so low he couldn’t stand up straight at all. The older Nepalese people are shorter, but I don’t think that explains the low doorways. We had a traditional Nepalese meal tonight, which generally consists of rice, curried chicken and then vegetables cooked in varying styles.

Glowing through the cloud

Glowing through the cloud

January 15, 2018

Nepal day 5 – Namobuddah

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:24 am
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29/3/17

As I awoke this morning in Balthali, something was missing… not much, just a little ray of sunshine. Our view was rather limited by fog, the village a short distance away and visible yesterday through the clouds was nowhere to be seen. As we ate breakfast, the fog showed no signs of lifting, the sun was still nowhere to be seen and the rain started falling. Despite that, it wasn’t freezing cold, but it was cool enough for longer pants and a jumper.

A questionable plant at the resort - that grows in the area!

A questionable plant at the resort – that grows in the area!

When we left our accommodation in Balthali to go on a little 3-6hr hike, it was also still raining, although only light rain, but enough to start out with wet weather gear. We weren’t entirely sure how long it would take, but we pretty much had all day, so it was more likely to take 6 or longer. I think our guide was playing it safe with us and letting us know that we had plenty of time and could therefore take our time doing the hike. It turned out that way and we had plenty of time to rest (which you needed at this altitude) and enjoy the view.

Wet weather gear!

Wet weather gear!

We started out easily enough, down the hill, through the potato crops, down a bit more to a swing bridge. The swing bridge crossed a shallow rocky river, the noise of the fast flowing water over the rocks making the river sound immensely impressive. Of course when you go down, you have to go up. As we climbed higher, the view got more impressive, until again, it became obscured by fog.
We walked, or ambled, along, taking our time up those hills (or mountains to those of us from Aus).

Fog and rain clearing

Fog and rain clearing

As we got closer to the monastery where we were going to have lunch, there were a few ladies digging in the paddock. They stopped and had a little chat to us; they were weeding and digging the ground over to get it ready for the next crop. They did invite us to join them, I think they would’ve loved that, but we had a lunch appointment! I guess you would get used to working at that altitude, but walking was hard going for those of us from Australia…

The ladies digging near the monastery

The ladies digging near the monastery

Surprisingly there was meat available for lunch at the monastery and the meals were quite cheap. The Namobuddah monastery is a training place, where they train the young boys in buddhism and to become monks. They live on site, away from their families and most are sponsored to be there. The actual training room, or shrine hall, had about 200 desks and was easily the most oppressive place I’ve been in for a long long time.

The temple training room

The temple training room

The next part of the walk to our resort accommodation for the night was relatively easy compared to the morning. Along the way though, we saw a group of Tibetians, dressed in national costume and singing and dancing. They were on a pilgrimage tour and were at the local shrine to give their offerings.

An observer

An observer

Our resort for the night was Namobuddah Resort. From the resort, you were meant to have great views of the himalayas. We could see plenty of fog… The accommodation here was quaint, kind of like cottages you’d find in Europe in the snow areas. You had to duck your head to get through the doorways and the ceilings in general were fairly low, although you could walk normally no worries. We sat on low seats with a low table in the dining hall, I was short enough for my knees to go under the table, but most weren’t! My room was like a chalet, with an upstairs and downstairs. It had an indoor toilet, but a separate private toilet and shower room. We were welcomed with the room heaters turned on, which gives you an indication of how cool it is here (they stayed on all night).

At Namobuddah Resort

At Namobuddah Resort

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