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Published: April 28th 2014
Our last day in India, saw us travelling along a very rough road, on a bus which should have seen it's last days long, long ago. But the thought that we were nearly into Nepal, a place that both of us had wanted to visit for so long, took our minds off of what the brakes and tyres on that very old bus may, or may not look like.
Our arrival into Nepal, could be likened to someone turning off a light. The noise, rubbish, chaos, and confusion of India, all seemed to fade.
As we approached the border, the air began to clear, and the mountains became visible, it really was like a curtain had been lifted. Banbassa the last town we visited in India before crossing the border, is a busy little market town, typically Indian with lots of shouting people, vehicle horns being blown constantly, animals wandering the streets, rubbish, and dirt and dust everywhere.
As we stepped off the bus there, everyone seemed to want our attention, and were offering their services to take us over the boarder, but after seeing men, both young & old pushing rickshaws loaded with both people and
baggage right throughout India, we had made a point of not using them. I know that it meant that they didn't get our money, but to me it seemed so wrong that a very old man probably weighing about 50 ks should be pushing us along, while we sat back looking like we owned the place! So for our ride across the border, we settled on a horse-drawn cart.
So with us and our packs loaded, off we set, not knowing where we were going or what we may find. From the main street of Banbassa, we turned into a small market, then after crossing the railway line, we turned left into another world. The dust and noise has disappeared and we were were in an avenue of trees, with the only noise coming from the creaking of peanut shells that the lady in front of us had kindly shared. From there we crossed over a big river, and at the end of the bridge sat the Indian immigration. I showed the guard our passports, and he very quietly said, "you know that if you leave now, we won't not be allowed back into India on this visa"
I very politely thanked him, and reassured him that we wouldn't be going back!
After another short ride across no-mans land we arrived in Nepal, this time the immigration office was in a very small old wooden hut, where upon seeing us the guy there excitedly said " Welcome to Nepal". How nice what that, we felt like we had just finished a leg of the Amazing Race!
One of the first things we noticed in Nepal was that the children were playing and you could hear their laughter, something that we haven't heard the whole time we were in India! After a good night sleep, we were back on a bus for another five hour journey heading for Bardia National Park in the far west of the country. That bus ended it's journey at a T-junction along a very lonely stretch of road, but fortunately for us, there were a few people hanging around who also wanted to go to the park, so we only had a short wait before we were all loaded back onto another bus for the last 15kms.
Something we have come to realise is, that, sometimes you meet
certain people for a reason, and, in this case our man was Krisna. Krisna works for a small guest house located opposite the park, and he was at the T-junction to meet some guests, but had just seen them fly past in a car, so was catching the bus with us back to Bardia. He was telling us all about what to see and do around the park, and spoke very good English, he even ( thank goodness) told our 'out of town' bus driver that he was cutting across a recently dried up riverbed, and that if we went any further we would sink!
Situation diverted, we were dropped in the very small town of Bardia, about 4ks from the accommodation that we had booked, which by chance happened to be next door to where Krisna worked, and with our backpacks now weighting about 17 kg each it looked like it was going to be a very long walk. But as I said, you meet people for a reason, and within no time at all, Krisna has borrowed a motorbike off some random guy, and with one of our packs on his back, and the other propped
up on the front of the bike off he went wobbling down the road to deliver our baggage, this all came after he had ordered us some tea and samosas from a street side stall. What a great guy.
When we arrived at our accommodation, the place had a very strange feel to it, there appeared to be no other guests , and the two guys hanging around only knew enough English to tell us that although we had already paid, they didn't have our booking, but they could however find a bed for us. We also worked out that neither of them actually worked there,and that the manager would be back sometime that afternoon. We decided that we would leg it next door, in the hope that not only could we get a refund from that place, but that Krisna had a bed for us. Well as luck would have it, a very nice little room was ours, for five dollars a night. A super bargain as, we had paid $30 a night next door, for a very similar room. We ended up staying four nights, and not only enjoyed the company and food but, also the
great bonfires that they had each night.
Bardia is known for it's Tigers and all the guest houses can arrange a safari for you, but we, having been to a couple of parks already both in Sri Lanka and India decided against a tour, and instead enjoyed the local area. It really was very beautiful, very flat and how things used to be I think. Small mud and thratch homes, with the animals in the front garden, and the crops of corn, wheat and mustard out the back. Young children playing in the puddles, and the older kids following you down the road trying to sell you some of the cannabis that grows along the side of the road or hashish they make from it to supplement the families income!
Just up the road from where we were staying there was an Elephant Rescue centre, so one morning we walked along to check out the babies, they were so cute, and were reaching out with their trunks and wrapping it around our arms trying to take us for a walk. Other days we just wandered around enjoying the peace and quite.
After Bardia, we
took the bus trip from hell, I know, you have probably heard me say it before, but this one was really bad! It was the one thing that Krisna let us down on, he had promised us that we were on the tourist bus, OMG If that was the super dopper tourist bus I would hate to see the local bus! First we had to take a jeep back to the T-junction, and it was freezing, the jeep had no roof and the doors didn't open so you had to climb in, I was alright getting in, getting out was another matter, anyway back at the T-junction we waited for the magical non existent Tourist bus and was bitterly disappointed with what appeared. Never the less it did get us to where we needed to be and after 13 very uncomfortable hours we arrived in Pokhara.
We had had lots and lots of people tell us how beautiful Pokhara is, and they all got it right. From our hotel room we looked straight at Macchupucchre, the "Fishtail Mountain," and at the end of our street was Fewa lake. The town itself is lined which shops selling all sorts.
Trekking gear, Tibetan jewellery, paintings and of course post cards and prayer flags. There are also lots of restaurants, providing food from all around the world, and roof top bars, taking advantage of the amazing views. All in all we spent ten nights in Pokhara and really enjoyed it. We hired yet another motorbike there, and early one morning headed up to Sarankot to watch the sun rise over the mountains, the view was amazing. We also spent hours up there watching the para-gliders jumping off the mountain, and again meet some really nice people.
After our first five nights in Pokhara we headed up into the hills, to stay with an Australian lady, Jayne, whose name we had been given while we were in Bardia. Jayne is married to a Nepalese guy and has set up a small B & B on their property. Dean & I were the only guests there at the time and were lucky to get ' The View' room which happens to look straight at Fish Tail, and we really enjoyed our time with her. Jayne had two monkeys which she has been looking after since they were babies, and one day
we all ( including the monkeys) headed off for a climb up to what is known as Australia Camp, so called because the Aussies used to jump off there(and camp up there) with their Para-gliders.
Well you know what they say, when the going gets tough the tough sit it out, well, after climbing for about two hours I had had enough and decided to sit under a huge Cherry tree and watch the world go by, while Dean, Jayne and the monkeys made their way to the top. I sat under that Cherry tree for what seemed like a lifetime, chatting to the locals, when eventually I heard them coming back down. Dean was holding what I thought was one of Jayne's monkeys, but then realised that he had a baby monkey in his arms. When they had reached the top of the mountain, they found the poor little thing tried up with electrical wire, and being tormented by some very unkind children.
They decided that they couldn't leave her there, so untied her and simply walked away with her. Jayne said that she thought that the poor little thing would have died very soon
after if they had left her there, she was very hungry, dehydrated and her little nose and ears were very sun burnt. We decided that she needed a name, so have called her Dee Dee, after Dean & Di. I am happy to say that she has now recovered from her terrible ordeal and is now living the high life with Jayne, and has been well accepted into her little Monkey family.
Whilst at Jayne's, we decided that we would like to walk some of the Annapurna Track, so we arranged for Max, a guide and Jayne's friend to take us. The track is a "tea-house trek," meaning there are villages with lodges and restaurants to eat and stay in along the entire route. We started at Nayapole and walked for about the first five ks on a dirt road ( before the actual track started) then the weather started to turn, luckily a jeep came along and we jumped in just as the storm hit. Boy was that something else, the wind and rain came out of nowhere and the dirt road turned to mud very very quickly. I choose not to look at the sheer drop
hundreds of meters down one side as we slid around the corners. The driver took us as far up the mountain as he could, where we waited out the storm in a tea house with some other very wet trekkers.
Once the weather had calmed down a bit, we set off through the rhododendron forest for Ghandruk at 2000 meters above sea level. We had seen photos of the area, but they didn't do it justice, it really was beautiful!. The only thing that I personally was not that fond of was the 3500 steps to get there, but at the end of the day we made it, a little wet , hungry and cold but we got there.
After a good nights sleep we were up again, and heading for Jhinu Danda, the track went down for some way, and then along and around the terraces, past busy farmers working their fields with their buffaloes, and school children walking up hundred and hundreds of steps to go to school. We walked over river bridges, across fields and through forests with the most magnificent orchids growing in the trees. After another very steep climb, we arrived in Jhina
Danda again very hungry and tried, but we had walked far enough around, to see Annapurna 1 and Fish tail from the other side, which was really nice.
The next morning Dean & Max were up early to enjoy the Hot Spring which is about another 35 mins walk down hill and unfortunately about the same back up ( it was beautiful Dean said sitting in the hot springs with the river swiftly flowing past) a very nice way to soothe those aching legs. I decided that a stroll along the path to enjoy the Rhododendrons would be a nice way to start the morning. After three days, and I don't know how many stairs, we headed back to Nayapole, ( Max told us it was a two hour hike out but it ended up taking seven hours plus another bumpy bus ride!) and another relaxing night at Jayne's before again heading to Pokhara for the Holi festival which was very colourful with a lot of bright colours thrown around and rubbed into your face!
After some thought, not a very long thought I may add, we decided that we would take the easy option and
in a few days fly to Kathmandu from Pokhara. In Kathmandu we meet up with our friend Ros, who we had met some years ago in Hanoi when we were all completing our TESOL ( Teaching English to Speakers Of another Language) course. Ros is an Aussie from Queensland who does some wonderful work in Nepal for abused and uncared for children. We had a few meals together in Kathmandu and then headed up to Bhaktapur and Nagarkot for a few days with her, which was a really nice.
Bhaktapur was the capital of Nepal back in the 15 century, and is now an amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site. Negarkot is a hilltop station known for its spectacular sunrise view of the Himalaya. Our couple of days there gave us some time to catch up with Ros and learn about the wonderful work that she is doing in Kathmandu, and I also think it was nice for Ros to have a break away from all that she deals with.
On the morning that we were due to leave Kathmandu for China, we had decided to spoil ourselves and booked a flight to Everest. Wow what an
experience. The plane was a sixteen seater, and seemed to go straight up from the runway. We flew over the Kathmandu Valley, and then straight along the length of the Himalayas. It really was amazing. the morning was very clear, and each of us had time up in the cockpit. What a fantastic thing to do, so close to the highest mountain in the world, it truly was breath taking!
Well it was time to say goodbye to Nepal and head for Kunming in China. Nepal really is a very beautiful country, but sadly we learnt has some very big social issues, we can only hope they will be resolved real soon.
Nepal is definitely a place we would like to return to one day in the future, very nice indeed!
The journey continues.............
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