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Published: November 12th 2008
Well we have made it out of the heat and humidity of Indo China, via Singapore, to find that Kathmandu was just as hot but nowhere near as humid. After the initial shock of arriving at the aiport with no sign of our anticipated hotel shuttle. It was just grin and bear it time with a local taxi. We were taken to our car / shed on wheels, which had recently passed its road worthiness test (the horn must work), and we were off dicing with death to our hotel just outside Kathmandu. Our hotel had been chosen from the "Tinternet" and we thought it would nice and relaxing. It was that, but it was miles from anywhere and less than ideal. That aside we were only going to be here for two nights before we picked up our "luxury" trip taking in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Bandipur, a short 3 day trek in the surrounding hilldsides and 2 days in Chitwan National Park looking for rhinos and the elusive Bengal tiger. On paper it sounded great and overall it was very good, but it was a bit wierd as we had a personal guide for the whole period and for the trek
we also had a chef, 4 porters, 4 kitchen staff and an assistant guide. They could not do more for us, carry our bags, put up our tent, construct a dining room and dig a toilet for us. The Trek was the same trek that Prince Charles had done in 1980 and is now called the Royal Trek. We would imagine he had more porters and probably a proper toilet, but the image is not that good to think about for too long. The trek is not too demanding as it is not at altitude, although it was very hot and there is a significant amount of ups and downs. The key thing was that Gary's knees held up fine for his first visit to the Himalayas. We had spectacular views of 3 snow capped mountain ranges, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, and Manaslu with each having an 8000m peak associated with it. The post trip party was another wierd experince, we were to join other trekkers who had finished there significantly longer treks for a party at the tour operators office. It sounded fine when described to us but in fact as we were on a private "luxury" tour we had our
meal served by waiters, in the office, whilst the others had a buffet out in the courtyard. We could hear them having a great time where as we were not having a good time whilst workers were on the phone or accepting faxes. See really wierd!!!
Our tour also incuded a visit to a really quaint village on the top of a hill - Bandipur. This again afforded spectacular views of the three mountain ranges, but also allowed us to be part of a village party on the volleyball court. There were a couple of hundred teenagers listening to a variety of different music genres from Euro Pop to Nepali classics. A couple of beers helped us to enjoy this beautiful music more. The only real downside was the amount of litter that was left after the festivities had ended. It is really quite disconcerting when you see people throwing bags of rubbish down the mountainside in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
The hotel in Bandipur was an old mansion house that had been refurbished and although the rooms were small it was a great change from some of the characterless rooms we have been in.
No cars allowed.
The showers had large head height windows which allowed us to view the mountains whilst washing.
After Bandipur we moved onto Chitwan National Park , the road trip was undertaken with a taxi driver who was obviously looking for another career in rallying. He was a "nutter", overtaking on bends at high speed, intimidating bicycle riders and pedestrians and generally making us cringe in the back, whilst strapped into our seatbelts. The hotel inside the park was great and we were really looking forward to the animal viewing. We had an elephant safari for a couple of hours hoping to spot an Indian rhino and Bengal tigers. On completion of the safari we were pretty deflated as we had only managed to see two spotted deer and a spider. Not rhino or tiger in sight!! Not to worry, the following day, after our bird watching foray at 0630 hrs we were to move to another hotel which would give us a better chance of seeing rhino (there is no real chance of seeing tigers). The bird watching was actually really good even though we are not "twitchers" we in fact we saw more wildlife including monkeys, deer and a dog
as well as numerous birds including eagles, woodpeckers and king fishers (much bigger than the UK variety). The move to the new hotel was uneventful - we had a slower driver. The new place was great, just outside the park and with only 4 other guests, so not packed. All 6 of us were on a jeep safari in the afternoon which would encompass the sunset and a canoe trip as well. Within 20 mins we had spotted 3 Asian rhinos and were obviously very pleased with this fact. Although as a group we were too noisy and the rhinos did not hang around too long for the inevitable photo shoot. The canoe trip was very peaceful and the sunset was spectacular and a good day was had by all. The only thing that could put a dampener on it would be being forced to endure local dancing. We had no real choice being 2 of only 6 guests there. You just now that at some point they are going to ask the crowd to participate and this was no exception. Through gritted smiles we joined in. All we had to do was to follow the guy in front, do
what he does and make a noise with a sort of tambourine. It was pretty simple really, but the bloody dance lasted about 25 mins. We were very hot and very sweaty by the end especially Carolyn who had donned a fleece for the occassion and had the prime spot by the fire! To be honest the other 4 guests, who were in their 60's, held up pretty well, but the management had the paramedics on standby.
Another elephant safari in the early morning for just us allowed us to once again see the rhino, but this time we could get up really close as the rhino did not feel threatened by the elephant even though it was constantly breaking wind.
The road back to Kathmandu from Chitwan was long and winding, but as we had the rallying taxi driver again it was not boring.
Nepal has been fantastic, but it is another country that needs to be revisited as we did not allocate enough time for this wonderful country of mountains, nice people and dhal bhat. The food here is excellent - nice and spicy and loads for vegetarians unfortunately the hotels and trekking companies seem to think you
want to eat western food - egg sandwiches and chips - why??!!
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