Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Nepal 2004 - Second Instalment

Sunday 31st October

Early start to visit the Hindu temple on Lake Phewa Tal. Eleven of us in one boat was a bit dicey but we make it without mishap! After breakfast at the hotel we climbed into an old bus to head for Dumre. Good lunch stop and then an even older and smaller bus was push-started to take us on the last leg of our trip. We sung along as we bumped over potholes for two hours. There seemed to be a leak from the clutch’s hydraulics which resulted in a few stops, but we always got going again. The scenery was beautiful, paddy fields with villagers working away and plenty of bullocks to add to the scene. The track soon became a narrow windy path climbing up the hillside and then on a narrow part we came across a muddy pothole where we became firmly stuck. Out we climbed and left it to the experts! The problem being that the engine was lying on a large stone. Lots of locals appeared with tools and advice but the hero was the driver who climbed under the bus and worked away lying in the mud ably helped by his assistant. The land rovers came up behind with our luggage and Howard, as there was no room for him in the bus. 45 minutes later we were off. We couldn’t drive right up to Okhle but all of us (except Howard) walked the last half hour up a steep hillside. Once there we were greeted by the villagers with garlands and a band played welcoming music. Seated under an awning we were served a meal of rice bread, beans and boiled egg, washed down by sweet tea. Then came the task of putting up 10 tents as it grew dark. After that we had beer and wine whilst our toilet facilities were being dug! Then a surprise – a large meal prepared by the cook. Soup and popcorn, rice and curried veg and pasta followed by banana fritters. And so to bed!

Monday 1st November

Early to rise with a fantastic view over the valley. The cloud was low and the hills peaked up through it. At 8.15 a.m. we went to the standpipe for the ‘opening’ ceremony. Richard made a speech and presented the photograph album to Dewdoj and cut the red ribbon and the water supply was declared open. After an explanation of how the money was spent – in Nepalese – Bimal gave a short speech of thanks and said we were all welcome back as friends any time we wished. The ceremony was conducted by the head man of the village, Dewdoj, and his speech of thanks and welcome was translated by Bimal. Then the ladies served tea and biscuits before we returned for breakfast. Afterwards we left for a tour of the village and the water system. We went to the five new standpipes, saw the two storage tanks and then climbed up to the source of the water. As we walked round the village we visited Bimal’s mother’s house. Sunita took us inside and showed us a typical old house – which is going to be rebuilt next year. We were offered a cup of buffalo milk by Bimal’s mother.
We then climbed up to the secondary school which is perched up at the top of a steep hill. What a surprise awaited us. About 500 children had turned out to welcome us forming a guard of honour and handing out flowers. We were then greeted by various members of the committee and the headmaster. The men received hats and the ladies received purses, bracelets and necklaces and of course, garlands. We were entertained to music and dancing and Richard made a speech before Richard White presented the money for the school. After lunch, served in one of the classrooms, we watched the heats of the football tournament. After a delicious supper which included the cockerels we’d seen earlier in the day, the Mothers’ Committee came to the camp and entertained us to singing and dancing and we all had to join in. After the presentation of gifts and money the ladies left for their homes.
Cathy pp Mike

Tuesday 2nd November

Woke at 4.45 a.m. to meet at 5 a.m. with all those who want to walk up to the view point above the secondary school. 12 managed the walk and they were treated to a spectacular view of the sun rising over the mountains. We had a good view of the Annapurna range (South, Fishtail, Anna 1,2,3,4) plus 26 others. Return for leisurely breakfast. At 9.30 walk to primary school. Bag full of goodies given to school and £400 cash. About 45 children and headmaster and assistant plus many locals greet us at the primary school with flower garlands. Many photos taken and tea and biscuits provided. We all signed a book at the school and walked round the classrooms, 3 in number. The building was opened in 2004 by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas who helped provide the money. Richard 1 agreed to provide about £40 for some books for the school.
We walked on to next village at Ghalegaun about 45 mins walk. Good view of Manaslu mountain. Arrived at village – more garlands and flowers plus oranges to eat and tea and biscuits.
Big excitement, Howard bitten by leech – no problem but more serious – Jo bitten by leech under big toe – very nasty.
Entertainment started, music, dancing etc. we had a dance, locals laughed. We left and inspected their school. Richard discussed books with Head, seems to want to supply books to all the schools in the valley!
Arrived back at camp, great excitement – the loos have moved!!
We have lunch and relax all afternoon. Howard, Des Keith (big) gone up to watch football.
After dinner young persons’ committee entertained us with singing and music, finally cash for new toilet and gifts were given and late to bed. 10.p.m.

Wednesday 3rd November

Up at 5.30 a.m. Our last day under canvas at the village. All went well with packing – until I realised I had misplaced my body belt which contained my passport; instant ‘panic’ but luckily Clive had found it outside the men’s toilet at 0315 a.m. Guess who was ‘relieved’?
After breakfast we had farewell committee from the village who gave us all flowers and the women were presented with a shawl and the men with a Nepalese hat.
After a half hour walk we joined our first bus, which took us to Dumre, a two and a half hour journey. Then a transfer to a second bus. Now I have experienced a number of unusual bus journeys in my time but this one takes the’biscuit’. This was a two hour journey over which must be the roughest road in Nepal. We arrived at Chitwan National Park at approx 14.15 where we were ferried to the Island Jungle Complex. After lunch we were split into two groups. Mine was to take part in a walk through the island by a guide to see birds and insects. We returned by boat on which we viewed a beautiful sunset.
Dinner at 20.00 hrs, in bed by 21.30.
Keith Tubbs

Thursday 4th November
Island Jungle Resort – Chitwan National Park

Leech count for the day –
Clive 2 Ruth - Richard 6 Judy B. – Sandra 1 Jo – Big Keith 1

Des 2 Ros 3 Angela - Richard W - Little Keith - Howard -

Judith 2 Mike 3* Cathy 2 Paul 3 Richard J 1 Frank - Louise –
Total 20 – only 1 making contact.

Shake at 0530, muster at 0615 for Jungle Walk for 1 group (mine) and elephant ride for second group. Jungle group saw 1 millipede but were alert at all times with correct evasion routine firmly in mind – 3 metres up a tree (?) or behind a big tree or run in zig zags for rhino. Look firmly in the eye whilst backing away (do not run) for tiger and who knows what for bear! A momentary excitement was had when a couple of wild boar (?) crashed out of the undergrowth and then across the path ahead of us.
Breakfast, a short break during which we could actually see in our cabins, so could get properly sorted out. Mike found a large leech attached to his stomach – yuk! Then elephant ride and river trip for the first group, bird watching for the second.
I am ashamed to report that Ros, Des Mike and Cathy rebelled and refused to get back on an elephant so we walked instead. Big mistake. The leech count increased and we were so concerned about our boots and trousers that we saw very little. We looked like members of some secret society – so firmly were we secured at neck, wrist, ankles and waist, with hats and sunglasses. We were also boiled. We did look up long enough to get a very good sighting of a rare grey headed eagle (most often seen only in Chitwan) and an Indian pond heron.
With relief we took to the board and were landed 2 minutes later on the other side to see a rhino bathing. He was very content and all attempts to encourage him to stampede us failed.
Return on river – wonderful with several water birds spotted. Drinks on balcony overlooking river. Coffee ran out and a coach load of Taiwanese tourists arrived. (The guide had suggested another short activity before lunch, but looked at our faces and said no more.)
Lunch – an unseemly scraping of chairs in a rush to beat the Taiwanese to the buffet (except Des who won’t queue, so had to put up with what was left.) Food was very nice.
1430 – watched the elephants (4) bathing in the river with their amazingly agile drivers/keepers. (Apparently the driver stays with the elephant for life.) A few guests joined in.
1530 – a birdwatching walk. We were really enjoying ourselves and saw a bright minivet and a yellow coloured oriole as well as many others. Then 4 of us discovered leeches – most well past our knees and after that we were all eyes down again – not ideal for bird watching.
The hot water came on at about 1700 when it was still almost daylight and the sunset was spectacular.
Just when we thought that all the excitement was over for one day, we were treated to stick dancing before supper by a group of local young men. Richard B was invited to join them and represented the group and the U.K. in a most energetic manner for around 15 minutes.
The final thrilling thing of the day was that lights didn’t go out until around 2125.

Friday 5th November

Journey back to Kathmandu
A short boat ride was followed by an 8-hour coach journey to Kathmandu. The first 2 hours of which was the nightmare stretch to Mugling (see Keith Tubb’s entry for the 3rd for a full description). Arrival at the Hotel Vaiishallii with everyone knackered.
Out at 1915 for our evening meal at the Gorka Restaurant. Highlight of the night was the dwarf dancing which captured the imagination. Keith Tubbs was left on the dance floor gyrating with the ‘lady in pink’. Will he be seen again?

Fines (Rupees)

Des 350
Ros 250
Richard 1st 100
Judy 250
Richard 2nd 50
Mike 200
Cathy 150
Paul 100
Howard 350
Clive 350
Ruth 50
Keith (big) 50
Sandra 150
Frank 100
Louise 100
Judith 100
Keith Tubbs 100
Jo 250

Saturday 6th November

Our usual early start. Met in the foyer at 0545 to await arrival of Bimal and transport to the airport for the Everest flight. Fourteen of us had opted for this excursion, six had a lie-in, including Bimal! His ‘fine’ was to pay the balance of the drinks’ bill last night. (What happened to little Keith at the club, he was last seen dancing on the stage with one of the girls?) The usual confusion at the airport, typical for East Asia, you even had to pay an airport tax for an internal flight – 165 rupees. Our aircraft was a Beech 1900 with a seat either side of the central isle – everybody gets a window seat! Of course the views over the mountains were fantastic, Everest was very clear as were all the rest. Unfortunately the aircraft windows were quite dirty outside so photography will be a bit hit and miss I think. We all had a visit to the cockpit where the view was much better. Nobody touched any of the knobs or switches! A bad landing was expected – well they dished out the sick bags just before we landed! A certificate was also issued to commemorate the trip however I’m sure the impressions we formed of those majestic mountains will outlast any certificate. The rest of the morning was spent repacking again ready for our departure this p.m. What a holiday, so many different impressions – people, places scenery! The remainder of the day, until we departed for the airport was spent shopping and wandering around the area of the hotel. In the afternoon we went, proceeded to the airport and joined the throng attempting to actually get into the terminal. We put up a brave show of typical British skill in queuing and keeping the French out. FINALLY after three security checks we boarded our flight for Abu Dhabi.
Richard Jones

Sunday 7th November

Here we are back at Abu Dhabi airport. We have six long hours to while away and it’s early in the morning. Time to chat, drink, eat and wander round the shops – a great cappuccino, it reminds me of Hamilton’s.
We eventually board the plane and the long, long flight back to Heathrow begins. Time to doze, sleep, have dinner, crisps and breakfast and watch the same film that had been shown on the previous flight! Everyone feels weary, tired, bedraggled and exhausted. Home still seems a long way away. At last Heathrow and a typical grey misty November day. The coach is a welcome sight and soon we are driving through beautiful countryside. Autumn has arrived and colours are wonderful. Back home safely and Nepal already seems like a dream.
During 2004 we spent many happy hours discussing our proposed holiday to Nepal. The entire holiday was way beyond our expectations and was full of contrasts. Kathmandu is a lively vibrant city surrounded by rubbish, pollution and noise. The Nepalese countryside, that we saw, was beautiful – steep sided, deep valleys, rushing rivers, green and lush. Even the weather had its contrasts – there was pollution over Kathmandu, snow on the mountains, mist in the valleys with the hills peeping through and wonderful, clear, blue, sunny days.
Farewell to Nepal. It was a holiday, an adventure and experience but most of all it is a memory of a warm, friendly and welcoming people. Judy


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