Published: June 17th 2011June 15th 2011
View over Kathmandu
After an amazing trip into Tibet, I was back in Nepal, and I had a week to burn before i was due to fly to Indonesia! So, here is what I got up to :D
Ashok, my tour guide from my Tibet tour, was such a sweetie. Even though the tour was officially over, and most of the group had already left for home, he took us stragglers out to see some of the sights in Kathmandu.
First, he took us to the monkey temple, otherwise known by it's proper name Swayambhunath. This invovled about a half an hour walk, the last bit completely uphill. Still, it was worth it! Once I had conquered the millionth or so step I've climbed since I left home, I had a great view out over Kathmandu. It was easy to see that Kathmandu is almost completely surrounded by lush green mountains (easy that is, if the smog and general pollution isn't too thick), the city nestled in the valley, sprawling out in all directions.
Kathmandu is not a pretty city, there is too much dust, dirt and general mayhem for that. But it is a city with a soul and it's
own beat. I don't think I could live in Kathmandu for any long period of time, but it is a pretty exciting place to be for a few days, reminding me greatly of Hanoi (but dirtier!).
The monkey temple itself was a lot smaller that I was expecting but it certainly had plenty of monkeys. There was a traditional Nepalease stupa in the middle; the mandala at the bottom representing earth, the mound representing water, the spire representing fire, the umbrella air and the very top representing sky/space. According to Buddhists we have these five elements in us, and this is why prayer flags in Tibet and Nepal have five colours repeated over and over,
Like the first stupa I saw on my first day in Kathmandu, this had Buddha's eyes looking out in each direction, symbolising that Buddha will see all the good things and bad things someone does in their life.
We left the monkey temple from the back exit and stopped off to see some Buddhist statues. Then I tagged along to go see a Nepali orphanage. We stopped at a shop on the way and bought a football and some stickers for the
It is a pretty sweet life if you are a cow in a Hindu country as you can do what ever you want!
When we got there, it was nice to see that they had a nice home, and eight 'mothers' there to care for them. As there were only 20 children there at that time, it was almost like they had their own mother!
We didn't stay long, as we didn't want to disturb thier day too much, but we all left with smiles on our faces.
Then we took Ashok out for lunch to thank him for everything he had done for us over the last two weeks, me especially, as he had helped me plan and book what I wanted to do with my extra week in Nepal. It was lovely sitting in the sun, me enjoying my vegetable momos, talking about anything and everything.
After lunch I had to say goodbye to Ashok, and then head back to my hotel to sort out and pack my stuff as I would be leaving at 7am for Pokhara.
I met up with the other 3 from my group, who were still left in Kathmandu, and we went for a last dinner together at a place called Fire and Ice. It was an Italian restaurant, and for
being in Nepal, a place far removed from Italy, the food was pretty damn good!
The next morning I was up at the crazy time of 5.45am to catch my bus. The journey was largely uneventful, just long, hot and boring. Add to that, that I was sat next to a noisy Chinese man, trying to talk over his wife and daughter, who were sat behind us, and you can imagine the fun I was having!
I arrived at my hotel in Pokhara at around 2pm, after being picked up at the bus station by one of the hotel employees. I'd had my first experience riding on a motorbike, which was interesting to say the least as I was wearing my huge backpack! However, I rather enjoyed it!
I got to my room and just crashed for a few hours. The non stop to-ing and fro-ing was starting to really get to me.
Once I felt sufficiently awake, I went out for a wander. I was staying at Lakeside, which as the name suggests, is an area right beside a lake, Phewa Tal. Pokhara, although extremely touristy, was a very beautiful place, much less polluted than Kathmandu,
and seriously laid back. It is surrounded by the Annapurna mountain range, making some of the scenery truly breathtaking. Walking slowly down the main road of Lakeside, it was nice to soak up the atmosphere and recharge a little.
I went to sit by the lake and was approached by an Old Tibetan woman. There are a huge amount of Tibetan refugees in Nepal, most of who were born there, but are still not considered Nepalease citizens.
The Tibetans fled to Nepal in 1959, when Mao turned his sights to Tibet and decided to 'Liberate' it. While I sat there talking with her, two more Tibetan ladies came up and sat with us. Their English was very good, and we sat discussing Tibet, China and Nepal.
I had two of them in tear, when I started to describe what I's seen in Tibet, which made me feel awful. I showed them pictures on my camera, of places they'd grown up hearing about but had never seen (and probably never would). It felt so unfair that I'd been to beautiful Tibet, but that they could never go there.
Because they are not Nepalease citizens, they cannot get proper
jobs, so have to sell the handy work they've made. I ended up buying some of their stuff and paid too much for it, but I felt it was only fair after making them cry so many time......
I had organised to go on a trek to a village called Dhampus, as Ashok, my guide in Tibet and Kathmandu, had said it was beautiful.
I was met by Crishnu at 8am, who was to be my trekking guide, making sure I got there in one piece. We hopped into a taxi to Phedi, and then got a local bus (so much fun! Think crazy colours, music, people and you've got the right idea. Someone hangs out the door yelling out where the bus is going and you can get on/off at any point. The guy hanging out the door hits the bus once to tell the driver to stop and twice to tell him to do) to take us to the start of the trail!
Thank god it was a relatively cool day, otherwise I would have died climbing up steps for around an hour and a half! Even as it was, I was soaked through in about
5 minutes and breathing heavily. I had to have a few breaks on the way up, but I'd like to think I didn't embarass myself too much.
We got to Dhampus village just in time for it to bucket it down with rain. I threw on my poncho (thanks mum!) which covered me and my bag, and hurried on after Crishnu to the place we'd be staying for the night.
As it was raining, and therefore cloudy, I couldn't see theview of the Annapurna mountains that this hotel was known for. Waiting for the rain to subside, I retreated inside to have some lunch, read my book and take a shower and a nap.....
At sunset, it was still cloudy, but nevertheless beautiful. I sat there enjoying the peace of the mountains, watching the changing scenery.
I had to head to bed early as Crishnu wanted me to get up at 4.55am to see the sunrise, with the hope that the clouds would have cleared, allowing us to see the mountains around us. I could sense that i would probably be needing to have yet another nap the next day...
I was awake way
before 4.55am, as there was a mosquito in my room, buzzing around my ear! So with all the lights on, armed with a flipflop, I tried to find the bugger! After 30 minutes of searching, and finding various other bugs, I was about to give up, and then there he was! I gave him a good whack with the flipflop, but failed to get him properly. Still, I'd at least given him a headache, if not totally grounded him. With no further sign of him, I went back to bed.
Before I knew it, my alarm was going off, telling me to get up. I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed, and duely went outside.
It was still a little cloudy, but much clearer than the day before, so I had a pretty nice sunrise. The hotel dog came and joined me for a while, and I got a couple of good pictures of him. The cloud lifted further as the morning progressed, and looking out towards the mountains, I could see why people chose to live up there, even though the roads were unusable in winter. It was much cooler than Pokharam with less noise and fewer
mosquitoes. Still, every place has it's downside and Crishnu explained the downside of Dhampus as we started the walk back down to catch the bus.
The dog I'd been taking pictures of and fussing at the hotel, had been one of two dogs the hotel owned just the day before I arrived. Howeverm his canine companion had been attacked and killed by a Bengal tiger!
Tigers are a very real threat in the mountains because the livestock are easy pickings for them. Crishnu said that his village had even more of a problem, because they had far more sheep, goats etc than Dhampus, and that had attracted a lot of tigers to the area. Nearly every family in the mountains has at least one big dog to warn them when a tiger is out and about.
Unfortunately, the tigers do not limit their diet to livestock, and the occassional dog. Crishnu told me, that about 2 years ago, a 7 year old girl from Dhampus, went to a friends house by herself to watch the TV there, as her family did not have one. It was only a 30 minute walk, and a walk she had done many
times, but on the way home she was killed and presumably eaten by a tiger. All the evidence they found was a lot of blood on the path she would have been taking.
Crishnu told me this story as we were walking through a particularly jungly looking part of the walk, and I couldn't help but watch the trees and plants around me, warily.
Crishnu himself had come face to face with a tiger. He said they both froze, looking at each other. After two minutes or so, the tiger ran away, and Crishnu then follows suit and pegged it in the opposite direction!
After I managed to get back to Pokhara, without a tiger in sight, I retreated to my room for my nap (I warned you! And yes, i am a pathetic person who can now no longer function without naps).
I got up some while later, after having slept for longer than I'd been intending, and went for another walk. I walked all the way along Lakeside street, and down by the lake itself. It was very beautiful and there was a temple on an island that you had to get in a
row boat to go see. I was content to look at it from the lake shore, but many tourists were being rowed over there, and all around the lake.
Still lacking much energy, a gentle walk was all I was in the mood for, and while walking, I made sure to keep an eye on the sky, as the monsoon season was due to start soon, and the rain could come heavily, from absolutely nowhere.
I found a nice place to eat my dinner and watch the world go by. I was glad I had gone to Pokhara, at it had been more restful (even with the trek) than Kathmandu would have been, and I was sad I hadn't had the energy and time to go see more of it. Still, I couldn't stay any longer otherwise I would miss out on Chitwan National Park and my chance to see rhinos and tigers and all sorts of other animals in the wild.
I had an early start to catch the bus from Pokhara to Chitwan. I was gettimh pretty sick and tired of having to get up early all the time. Pretty soon I was going
to need to sleep for about a week straight to recover!
It was a long bus journey in a typical Nepalease bus (meaning no aircon and seats that bounce!), and the closer we got to Chitwan, the hotter and more humid it got. I was literally melting!
I arrived at the place I was staying feeling even scummier than usual, thankfully it seened like a quiet place, with lots of places where I could sit in the shade while looking at the scenery and wildlife.
In the garden of my lodge alone, I saw so many types of birds I'd never seen before, so I knew that I was really going to like Chitwan. My favourite bird from the garden was this beautiful white paradise flycatcher, with his long, long, tail trailing behind him.
Though I was pretty tired, I knew I only had a limited amount of time in Chitwan, and I was given so many options as soon as I arrived that I felt I had no time for my customary nap, and that I should get out into Chitwan National Park as soon as possible.
The National Park is a reserve that protects
over 932km squared of sal forest, water marshes and long willowy elephant grassland.
It is home to many types of deer and birds, wild boars, monkeys, wild elephants, one-horned rhinos, leopards, sloth bears and the Bengal tiger. Only the extremely lucky see the last few, but who can resist the chance of seeing them?
That afternoon I opted to go on a jungle elephant ride. I was sat in a wooden howdah (riding platform) with two dannish girls, on top of the elephant. Before we knew it, we were riding through the elephant grassland in search of rhinos and anything else we'd be lucky enough to see. It wasn't long before we had out first animal sighting, this big, brown deer (can't remember the name) that was nowhere near as shy as I was expecting, as the elephant masked the smell of humans.
It was sooooooooooo hot, even though it was well past midday, but it was great being there, seeing what we were seeing. I saw some fallow deer (least they looked a lot like them!), lots and lots of birds including several black-napped orioles, and I heard a barking deer. Our mahoot was lots of fun,
and got our elephant to growl by growling at it first. Whenever the mahoot growled, the elephant would join in. The elephant got all excited by the game and started to trumpet. When the mahoot asked the elephant to move, she fairly took off! I never knew elephants could move to fast. As we were all laughing and obviously enjoying ourselves, the mahoot let the elephant continue her gallop through the jungle, crushing small trees as she passed, trumpeting with joy.
We were on the elephant for an hour and a half but failed to see a rhino (and before you blame that on us charging our elephant, I have to tell you that that was done right at the very end, when we were almost out of the jungle), which was quite disappointing, but I had another full day in Chitwan, so I was still hopeful.
I needed a shower desperately by the time I got back, and after that I just sat and watched the sunset, enjoying a yummy dinner, and a slightly cooler temperature.
The next day I had to be up and ready to go by 6.30am, as we were told we were far
more likely to see lots of animals and birds early on, before it got too hot. I was going on a canoe ride down the river to see birds and crocodiles, and then I was going on a jungle walk. The canoeing was fantastic. We saw so many birds and monkeys from the canoe, and the temperature was so pleasant. I saw three different types of kingfisher; the common kingfisher, the stork-billed kingfisher and the white-breasted kingfisher. I saw storks, woodpeckers and lots of birds I can't even name, even after being told the names by our guide, who literally knew everything and had eyes like a hawk! The monkeys we saw were the rhesus macaque but there were also langur monkeys at Chitwan (disney's 'the jungle book' monkeys' were based on this type on monkey!). We saw the macaques jumping through the trees, and searching on the ground for grasshoppers (bad choice!), frogs and other yummy breakfast snacks.
We also saw crocodiles. There are two types in Chitwan; gharial crocodiles and another kind known as marsh muggers. Gharial crocodiles have a very long, thin snout, which I would have loved to of seen, but alas, it wasn't meant
to be. I did see lots of marsh muggers however, they were swimming in the river, guarding their young (only hatched about 1-2 months ago). The guide could spot the crocodiles from so far away; we had difficulty seeing them even with him pointing then out, until we were practically on top of them!
After we'd been on the canoe for about an hour or so, we got off to go for the jungle walk. We saw hundreds of birds, but the only name I remember the guide telling me is the dollar bird. I saw so many fallow deer (bami!!), with their lovely spots, and some with great big antlers, and we even found a tiger paw print!!! Alas that was the closest I got to see ing a tiger.
We went back to the resort before it go too hot, and I sat and watched some of the guests wash the resort's elephants (wasn't bothered enough to join them as I'd just had a shower and got clean, and besides, I'd done a lot of elephant washing when I was in Thailand).
The afternoon was spent chilling, and I got a henna tattoo done on one
of my arms and one foot. It looked so cool. The only hassle was having to wait for it to dry for so long. Naran, the manager of the resort, went to go get some lemon to put on the henna while it was drying, as it makes the henna darker and therefore last longer. I'm not sure it made the henna a lot darker, but I was still really pleased with the result.
The next day I was due to go back to Kathmandu, however I still hadn't seen my rhino! So I decided to go on one last elephant safari to try and get my sighting. Thisd meant I had to be up early to fit in the elephant ride before I had to catch my bus. Naran drove me there on a motorbike (my second time ever on a motorbike! I am really starting to likr riding on them) and I was soo off, back into the jungle. The weather was gorgeous! The morning was definitely the best time of day weather-wise to go on elephant rides. Again I saw lots of birds and deer but no rhinos..... I was so disappointed! I'd tried so hard
to see one and still failed, and I had run out of time and opportunities. I was particularly gutted as I knew that just about everyone else at the place I was staying had managed to see a rhino at some point. I was obviously the anti-rhino.......... :(
I got on my bus feeling a little bit depressed, but made myself feel better by telling myslef that I'd definitely go back to Chitwan at some point and stay there longer (and hopefully drag my dad there as he'd love it!).
The journey was just as long, hot and dusty as the others had been, and it took us absolutely ages to get into Kathmandu once we hit the outskirts as there was just so much traffic. We had to overtake so many lorries struggling up the windy, hilly roads that led to Kathmandu central.
Once I got to my hotel (much later than I'd been expecting), I just set about getting my stuff ready for the next day and then went out for a last dinner in Nepal (I chose the delicious Vegetable Momos!!).
I had a well needed lie-in the next morning, before having a leisurely
breakfast and then making my way to the airport. I flew to Bangkok where I was picked up by the hotel I was staying at, and was taken to the hotel. I was really close to the airport which was ideal, as I had to be back at the airport super early the next morning.
I enjoyed having Thai food for dinner, after having none for two months; the Pad Thai was heavenly. I also enjoyed the novelty of having a TV with lots of English channels (I know ,I know, I shouldn't be watching TV when I'm travelling but sometimes it is so nice to just relax while watching a little bit of TV).
I was up before 5am to catch my shuttle to the airport. I felt soooo tired! Got on the plane only for it to sit on the ground for 1 1/2 hours. Still, I wasn't bothered as they turned on the entertainment, so after a nap I watched 'Tangled' and 'Way Back' before arriving in Jakarta.
It was strange seeing so many muslim people walking around, I'd never seen so many all in one place. And I had never seen so many people
After a long queue, I got my visa on arrival and then headed to the hotel. I met my new roommate Sarah and a guy called Tom, and we chatted and chilled until the group meeting. My new group seemed really nice.
Most of us went out for dinner together and the food was gorgeous. Nasi goreng all the way!
It got a little interesting when a small fight broke out at the other end of the restaurant, and tables were over turned, and there was some shouting, but it all ended quickly.
Then we all went back to sleep as we were shatterede having all done a lot of travelling over the last couple of days.
DONE! I am finally caught up! Next blog will be about Indonesia, which is actually the country I am in right now. Woop woop! Hope you all liked this blog, let me know what you think.
There are more photos below