Thumper…

April 2, 2018

Nepal Day 14-15 Home

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:49 pm
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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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January 4, 2018

Onward travel – Uganda to Nepal

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 11:39 am
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23/3/17

Departure day was today. I packed up a heap of my stuff that I didn’t need in Nepal and got Dave to take it home with him.
The 11kg I checked in with contained 1.6 litres of water! A bit different to on the way over with just over 30kg (most of which was gifts).
Left Mike and Shirleys around 9am. That’s 5pm Melb time. I eventually arrived in Nepal 5.30pm the next day Nepal time, or 10.45pm melb time the next day. That’s a long time in transit!
The trip to the airport wasn’t too bad. There was quite a bit of traffic, meaning that it took as long as we expected to get to the airport. Stopped off for a bit of lunch just before the airport, around 12. We take the ease of getting around here in Australia for granted. To get into the shopping center, the car is stopped, passengers get out and walk through and the car is quickly searched for explosive devices. Pretty similar procedure to actually get into the airport grounds. It’s just what happens there, but I could imagine if you had to do it every time you visited a shopping center or designated “target” public space, you’d quickly get tired of it.
Eventually checked in at the airport, cleared customs easily and discovered free WiFi in the entebbe airport! Who’d have thought!

The flight through to Dubai was pretty good, spectacular sunset, arriving on time, 9.30pm Dubai time.
This was where Dave and I headed different ways, him to Melbourne and me to Nepal, I had to change from terminal 3 to terminal 1 at Dubai, flying out at 6am the next day. They couldn’t check my luggage the whole way through to Nepal, so I had to collect it at Dubai. Just before l went through customs, I asked at the info desk about it. He suggested trying the connections desk before going through customs, just in case.
The lady there said no worries, they’ll reroute my bag to Nepal and just collect it there… why would you have any doubts, airports never lose luggage…
Found a place to sleep, all was quiet except for the TV in the room and the continual airport announcements. I wasn’t sure I really slept, except that I was woken with a start by a voice "Excuse me, excuse me". The airport patrol man wanted to know whether I had a flight to catch and if not, he was going to take my passport and stamp it. Essentially I couldn’t live in the airport. What a shame, they are such exciting places… I was going to move soon but he suggested I spend another hour there when he found out my flight time.
From Dubai to Delhi was a bumpy flight, then a quick transfer for the last leg to Nepal. It was a little cloudy as I came in, you could just see some mountain tops poking out.
Waited for ages at the baggage belt for my bag. Finally gave up, giving a last walk past the belt in case my bag had fallen off. Over next to a pole a few meters away from the belt was a pile of unclaimed bags, one of which was mine! Who put it there and why, who knows, but good job Dubai airport!

I had a free airport transfer back to the hotel (Kathmandu Guesthouse) and by the time I made it out of the airport after waiting for my bag, everyone else was loaded and sitting waiting for me. It’s not too far to the city centre from the Kathmandu airport though, so within about 20-25mins, we were back at the hotel. Ended up eating in at the hotel restaurant as it was suggested it wasn’t that safe to go out at night by myself. They had some decent offerings at the restaurant, so I didn’t mind too much.

It was a great time in Uganda, but it’s amazing how a few short plane rides can transport you to an entirely different world, where the experiences of just a few hours ago seem so surreal and almost like a dream. A couple of days ago I was sitting face to face with a lion in an almost desert like environment. Now I’m in a completely different climate, flying near the highest mountain in the world, which is surrounded by snow.

February 3, 2017

India – Day 21 Migrating to Australia

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 2:19 pm
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21/10/16
On the train yesterday was an advertisement that advertised migrating to Australia. Another of the questions you continually get asked is "where you from"? I got sick of answering that, so I started saying India. It got laughs, and largely I could then avoid answering the question. So after seeing the sign yesterday, I thought today was a good day to migrate to Australia – aka go home!
It would have been nice to sleep in past about 7am, but then even that is a sleep in based on the past few days.
Did a final pack, and said a final goodbye to some who were around. Grabbed some tiger balm for 35 rupees! 35. How cheap, and the pharmacy over the road from the hotel was very quaint. A nice old guy ran it, he struggled with English a bit, but you have to have to respect him for giving it a go. I can’t do two languages.

One cool thing in India is that many of the packaged products come printed with the price on it. Very handy for when those vendors try to rip you off (this guy didn’t). Back in Jaipur at a shop in the bazar, I had one guy trying to charge me more than what was recommended. One look at the packaging told you how much you should have been paying and he quickly agreed to the lower price.

Leaving the hotel involved ignoring the beggar harassing us as we got into the car, then ignoring the banging on the window of the car as we drove off.
There was some kind of mosaic tiled roundabout on the way, with a few different sporting scenes pictured. Not sure what it was. Possibly put there when the Commonwealth Games was on in Delhi.

The mosaic roundabout

The mosaic roundabout

The drive to the airport was uneventful, it was pretty quiet and we arrived 3 and a half hours early… There’s only so long you can spend in an airport that doesn’t have all that much shopping.

Diwali is next week. The festival of light. The signs at the airport encourage you to spread the light, goodness, joy and happiness of the festive season. We celebrate Christmas, something we shouldn’t allow to be eroded by political correctness if we follow the Indian example. Other religions in India don’t believe in diwali, but it’s still celebrated freely and publicly.

Diwali Decorations

Diwali Decorations

Did some shopping, using the last of my rupees: a few Indian food souvenirs, chocolate bars and mission accomplished. All rupees successfully disposed of! Wondered how the guy in front of us managed to get on with at least 3 over sized bags, and another 3. How can you carry that many, why does the airline allow it…

So India. A land of contrasts. Cows that roam the streets freely. Because cows are like a god here in the hindu religion. It originated when they wanted a way to stop the people killing them for meat. So they told them off the value they had: dairy, milk, curd, cheese etc and that it was wrong to kill them. Supposedly the cows routine is to visit the temple in the morning to get the morning offerings in feed, then they wander to the markets to eat the foodscraps, a way of not wasting anything, they then spend time next to the roadside to get fresh air and they wander home via the temple in the arvo. Problem with that is that the cows don’t realise that’s the routine they’re meant to be following, most don’t have homes and you don’t get fresh air near the roads, it’s really polluted here. The cows are commonly found picking over the piles of rubbish at any time of the day, ignoring the “routine” and what they’re supposed to do. Mostly the cows will wander on the roads and everyone just goes around them: very few even toot their horns at them. They’d probably ignore it anyway.

Elephant at the Airport - The elephant is also pretty special in India

Elephant at the Airport – The elephant is also pretty special in India

Now they’re everywhere and have really reached plague status, with many thin and or unhealthy. Hardly the way to treat a god!
Next to the cows are the dogs. They’re feral and also everywhere, found picking over the rubbish and wandering the streets. Then comes the pigs, not so many in Varanasi area, but everywhere in Jaipur and Delhi. Not sure how the pigs fit into Hinduism, I suspect the Muslims just followed the Hindus cow example.
Then if the cows, dogs or pigs aren’t picking over the rubbish, you’ll see humans doing it. The level of poverty is high, many barely surviving. Ads in the paper would often have a photo of a body found at a train station, asking who the dead person was. I suspect many would go unidentified.

The food overall was pretty good, I think the hottest food I was served was on the planes, so if you don’t like hot food, you’ll still be ok in India.

And that was India. The plane arrived pretty much on time, I zipped through customs and then back to reality – quiet, smooth roads, peace and quiet, no horns and many many less people!

February 2, 2017

India Day 20 – Jaipur to Delhi

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:32 am
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20/10/16

It was essentially my last full day in India today and in keeping with the tradition, I was up at some super crazy time again, leaving at 5am for the Jaipur Railway Station. Zigzagging through the streets at that time was quicker, but not a lot. I was surprised how much traffic there was and once we got to the station, it was a traffic jam. The station is home to many people, literally. As we arrived, there were many sleeping in and around the area of the station, owning nothing but the clothes they were in and the rug or cardboard they were covered by. Some begged a little, some hassled you a bit, but at that time, most were still asleep.

Jaipur Railway Station

Jaipur Railway Station

The train looked more modern, the carriages were double decker, but the train was still around 20 carriages long. It was an express train, but somehow stopped at nearly every station and even in between. It arrived about 3 hours late, not bad for a 2 hour journey.

Beside the train, Jaipur

Beside the train, Jaipur

The approach into Delhi central station is not one you would expect of a capital city. The side of the railway line was a stream of shelters of rusty iron held together with rusty nails, serving as shelter for thoursands, clothes, often not much more than rags, hung from whatever was available, kids and women sat in the dust outside, while piles of rubbish could be seen on the rooves of the shelters and surrounding areas. The rusty iron soon gave way to a more improved standard of dwelling – two storey brick buildings with external ladders to get to the second storey. Both types of dwellings weren’t much more than a few square meters in size, but nearly all had satellite dishes…

The slum area, just near Delhi

The slum area, just near Delhi

The contrast in life styles was stark, as less than a few meters away, people sat on a train immersed in their phones, oblivious to the surrounding area and the struggles of many just to survive.
Back in Delhi the waiting continued as there were only 2 taxis arranged for 17 of us. Just another example of the lack of organization from our tour leader, but that’s another issue.

The contrasts in life, slums and phones

The contrasts in life, slums and phones

Outside our hotel we were greeted by a lady and her young child begging. They tugged on us, then followed us to where we had lunch, kindly waited outside for us, then followed us back to the hotel. As harsh as it sounds, giving the beggars nothing is the best thing for them. It reinforces that it’s ok to ask for money, without having to do anything in return, it perpetuates the cycle from one generation to another and in the long term does more harm. Often too, there’s a ring leader behind the beggars, who take almost all the money given to the beggaras, leaving them with barely enough to provide food. The circumstances the beggars find themselves in doesn’t diminish their value as a human, they still have thoughts and feelings and are loved by God, our challenge as a society is to find a way to help them without hurting further, a way that will bring about lasting change and a change in mindset, enabling them to realise they are loved and valued, and helps them utilise their gifts and untapped potential within. Training, shelters, rehab, childcare may all help, but whatever the solution is, it won’t come easily or cheaply.

At Delhi, finally!

At Delhi, finally!

After a quick lunch a few of us went to Qutab Minar, built around 1193. Took the metro out there, which was really easy. It was a little busy buying tickets, and it was interesting to note that some of the Indians got upset with those who started to queue jump – that was quite satisfying given our experience earlier in the trip. Once at the Qtuab Minar station, we thought we’d get a tuktuk the last part. Got a couple who agreed on a price, then just as we got in the drivers started saying it was more and they were going to take us shopping as well. Climbed out, tried another, argued with them and we started walking. It wasn’t that far anyway, just would’ve given us more time to look around when we were there, because it was already late. There were a couple of nice looking parks around this area if you have time to explore, one with some interesting rules!

The rules for the park, near Qutab Minar

The rules for the park, near Qutab Minar

At the Qutab Minar complex, the main part of the structure is a single minaret, a 73m tower of victory, towering above the surrounding buildings. The stones are engraved with verses of the quran, and the area is meant to record the triumph of muslim rule. There’s also an iron pillar, 7.21m high, weighing over 6T and in over 1000 years is yet to rust. That’s one impressive piece of workmanship. Overall, most parts of the complex were in remarkably good shape given its age.

Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar

The same tuk tuk drivers we tried to get to take us to the area were there on the way out, as we expected. We gave them a wide berth and jumped in another for the trip back to the Carol Bagh metro station. Half way there one of our drivers says I’ll take you to the shops… We told him no shopping, no talking, so he turned the music up loud and drove along, wondering why we weren’t answering his questions the odd time he asked. Who knew those things did music! Great sunset as we jumped on the train. It was peak hour going back into Central Delhi, so the train was packed, but pushing is an Indian national sport, up there with hockey and cricket, so we just joined in.

Ruins at Qutab Minar

Ruins at Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar Station

Qutab Minar Station

Sunset from Qutab Minar Station

Sunset from Qutab Minar Station

Tonight was our final meal together with our group and we got back just in time to wander up to the roof top restaurant of the hotel. The meal at our hotel (Hotel Perfect) was quite good, reasonably priced and they did a good job of hosting our larger group.

January 7, 2017

India Day 11 – Delhi 11/10/16

Late check out from the hotel let me take advantage of the gym and the pool. Sachin, the waiter who looked after us for most of our meals at the hotel gave us a cake and milk shake as a last day farewell. It was nice, but not what you’d normally have for breakfast! Took some breakfast again for lunch, worked quite well.

If you need to call a taxi from the Gurgaon Hilton hotel (and don’t want to use their private cars), they will do it for you – you just have to insist a few times (ask for a public taxi). It took us a while, but eventually we got a taxi to Hotel Perfect, the tour starting hotel, then tried to look at a few of the tourist attractions in Delhi. Art Gallery: closed. Observatory: closed. Fort: closed. It’s a public holiday here today. So there’s people everywhere, roads are packed (or maybe that’s normal), fireworks going off, loud celebrations for the hindi celebrations, and oh, did I mention people everywhere.

Celebrations, outside our hotel, Delhi

Celebrations, outside our hotel, Delhi

Good thing was though they’d closed off the road around India Gate so we got to look at that a little closer and enjoy the atmosphere of a public holiday. Although why they’d choose to paint road lines when there are people everywhere is a mystery… guess it’s better than cars.

Painting the lines, India Gate, Delhi

Painting the lines, India Gate, Delhi

India Gate, inaugurated in 1931, used to be known as War Memorial Arch – because it is a war memorial. It commemorates Indian WW1 soldiers and Indian and British soldiers who died on the North West frontier. Under the arch is another memorial, the Amar Jawan Jyoti, which was erected to remember all fallen Indian soldiers. I’m not sure whether soldiers guard it all year round or not, but they were out in force today.

Solider, India Gate, Delhi

Solider, India Gate, Delhi

Then to Humayun’s tomb complex for a walk around. You need a couple of hours to visit this, just because there’s quite a lot to see. I thought Isa Khan’s garden tomb, which is off to the right as you come in the main entrance was perhaps the highlight. There wasn’t as many people there which probably helped and you were able to enjoy looking around a bit more. Isa Khan’s tomb is actually older than Humayun’s tomb and is an octagonal enclosed tomb complex with walls and mosque still intact. A lot of work has been done restoring it. Surrounding this tomb is a 3-4m high stone wall which you can walk on, although that hasn’t been restored to the same standard as the rest of the tomb yet.

Isa Khan’s Garden Tomb, Delhi

Isa Khan’s Garden Tomb, Delhi

The actual tomb of Humayun has been and is continuing to be, restored to original condition. It’s actually one of the closest buildings to the Taj Mahal in terms of style and has some great gardens surrounding the area. The birds at the tomb were enjoying the water, but the smell was something you can’t take a picture of!

Drove past the parliament house on the way back, which was a reasonably impressive building.

Parliament House, Delhi

Parliament House, Delhi

Met our tour group tonight for our Intrepid India Getaway Tour, 16 in it which is really too many, went for a meal and now back at the hotel listening to fireworks.

January 5, 2017

India Day 9 – Church 9/10/16

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 10:01 am
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Went to church today in central Delhi area around the Embassies. It was an AOG church and they have two English services. I always enjoy going to churches in another country just to see how they do things, what songs they sing and how the service runs. It was a good service and I knew some of the songs, which kinda isn’t surprising really. We met a couple there who started a safe place for those wanting to get out of the prostitution industry. That was an interesting story – they’d seen a need and done something about it. So often we wait til the “time is right”, or until we feel “called”, but these guys just got in and did something about it.

After church we went for lunch with a few people, where we had pizza – of course. But don’t worry, it was healthy, it had corn on it! They put us in a taxi and sent us to our hotel. Except it was the wrong hotel, so when we arrived there, we needed to get the hotel staff to help send us to the right one, which was much further away.

Didn’t do much when we got back to the hotel. Ate our tea, which was a few things from the breakfast bar we got them to package up. For the record there, our waiter suggested it, then offered to pack it for us as lunch! We don’t normally run away with extra food from the breakfast bar! For dessert we had the left over chocolate cake from the other day, which I’d carted all the way from Siliguri, via my checked in baggage. Apparently the Indian airlines don’t always let you take food in your carry on, so in order to make sure it came all the way, I checked it in. Thankfully it had been packed up really well & it came out remarkably well.

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