Monday, June 2, 2008

The ways of Kathmandu, Nepal

Day 1 Departure from Paris

Cancellation of the flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines due to the mist, postponed to the next day. We are six persons, the usual quatuor (Jacques, Nathalie, Christian and Alain) plus Fred, the young brother of Nathalie and Delphine the girlfriend of Fred.

Day 2 Flight from Paris to Kathmandu through Dacca

Flight is delayed a couple hours, arrival at Dhaka, Bangladesh at 06h00 in the morning. We spend seven boring hours in the dirty waiting room. Arrival at Kathmandu at 13h00. We take 2 taxis to Thamel. We choose Marco Polo guesthouse near immigration office. Double beds chamber with shower at $6 and $8. First contact with the busy streets of the city. Rickshaws, bicycles, cars, scooters, traffic jam is on the way, many colours and smells. We take contact with several travel agencies for a tour in Bardia national park in the Téraï.

Day 3 Kathmandu

The streets of Kathmandu are full of tiny statues of god especially Ganesh (the god with the elephant head). During the morning we visit of Durbar Square, a large plaza full of Hinduism temples. Foggy weather. Animal inhabits also this place, holy cow, monkeys, dogs and birds. An impressive long beard sadhu blesses Alain with a red mark on his face called "tika". Today it is the day of Hanuman (the monkey god). Nice statues of Ganesh, Garuda, and Hanuman. The most representative temples are theses of Krishna, Vishnu and Taleju. Temples are made in red bricks, the number of roof varies from one to seven. At noon we draw cash nepali's rupee at Grindlay bank and eat a curry in a small shop.

In the afternoon we visit of the hill of Swayambunath, 3 km outside the city. Sunny weather. On the hill's top, a huge stupa look after the valley. A stupa is a kind of cairn, on the summit of which are painted the eyes of Buddha. We feel a great atmosphere of peace among theses Buddhist monks with red dresses. Some funny monkeys play all over the monument. Fine view of Kathmandu.

Evening shopping inside Thamel. The streets are overcrowded. It's full of people asking if we want rickshaw, change, or hashish! Finally we choose Sunny river adventure for a 3 days tour in Teraï. We clinch the deal for $500 for all, including the flight to Nepalgunj.

Day 4 Kathmandu valley’s holy places

Visit of Pashupatinath, on the banks of Bagmati river. Holy place for Hindu. Sanctuary of Shiva. A lot of Nandi statues. Near the river stand the gaths where the body of dead are burned, ashes follow the flood until the holy Gange. Sadhu who propose us to lift a 50 kg stone with his sex!

Afternoon we walk to Bodnath, the biggest stupa of the valley, 40m high. Praying rolls all around the monument. The coloured praying flags float in the air. It is said that the wind read these prays. Noisy Buddhist ceremony with a huge olifant. Bodnath is located among a Tibetan district. Most of them are political refugees. May be Tibet free again.

Our flight to Nepalgunj is cancelled because of mist. We celebrate Delphine's birthday in an Austrian restaurant, her boyfriend, Fred brought champagne from France!

Day 5 Kathmandu-Bardia

The flight to Nepalgunj is cancelled again. We decide to save time and money. We hire a van and a driver. Very long way, 550km on uncomfortable roads. We leave Kathmandu at 16h00. The road belongs to huge coloured Tata trucks and old overcrowded buses. The driver listens Indian music, especially the song "Shankita". We spend a short night inside the car.

Day 6 Bardia national park

We arrived at Bardia at 12h00 after a trip of 17h. We are tired but satisfied. We met our guides from Rhino Lodge : Ram Shahi and Ram. Walk inside the park. Bardia is in the Teraï a lowland close to Indian border. The park is located in the western part of Nepal. Fauna and flora are similar to Chitwan National Park, however Bardia is far less visited. Fauna includes about 60 one horned rhinos, 7 elephants, 50 tigers and even some rare Ganges dolphins. We are stressed because at foot we are subject to dangerous encounters. We walk among clear forest, high grass savannah. We see axis deer, blue bulls and peacocks. We spend 30m to spot the river, unfortunately no dolphin at all. On the way back, many fresh footprints of tiger make us feel a little bit scared.

Day 7 Bardia national park

We rent 3 elephants for 650 rupees each. All elephants are old females (one is 98's years old). We ride about 2h. Elephant back safari is a very exciting experience. We feel safe on such big animals. We see axis deer, monkeys.

Afternoon we trek inside the park again. We climb into a tree near the river to wait for rhino. Where are there? We spot axis deer, monkey, and vulture. Walk into a nice sal forest where we see otter and pheasants.
During the evening we entertain with a lovely Tharu traditional dance.

Day 8 Bardia national park

Visit of the tharu village near the lodge. Smiling childrens, clean huts, life seems to be quite. The classroom is an open place under a tree. Water buffaloes take bath in an ingenious network of small water canals.

Again we take elephants for a final ride. Ram want to show us rhinos, he decide to chose an other place. Christian sees an orange flash among the long grass, a tiger? We hear a deep sound, Ram say it is a rhino.

We enter into a fierce bush; elephant are obliged to break a tree to go away. Finally we are in front of a huge rhino. It 's a male, he is very close from us, elephants are nervous. Behind, a noisy female crosses the no man's land. It is an unforgettable moment; we can hear the breathing of the monster. On the way back we see 2 vultures on a tree and an enormous snake, a python. We feel like characters of the "Book of the jungle" from Kipling. We congratulate both Ram for their marvellous tracking job.

Transfer to Pokhara with the same car and driver than previously. We sleep in a nasty hotel near Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.

Day 9 Pokhara

We arrive at Pokhara at 12h00. Impressive view of Machapuchare (6997m high) the holy mountain, and lake Phewa. The summit of the peak looks like a fish tail. We go to Baba lodge from $8 per chamber (very comfortable room with hot shower and TV). Our goal is to do the trek of the Annapurnas Base camp (A.B.C) at 4000 m of altitude. The Tridevi trek agency provides us the trekking permits, a guide and one porter.

Day 10 Pokhara –Birethenti- Gandhrung

We drive to Birethenti, 40 km from Pokhara, the starting point of the trek. Our guide belongs to Brahman, the highest cast in India. His name is Chakra Pani, the porter’s one is Hostha. We stamp our trekking permits at the checkpoint. The high is around 1200 m. The climb to Gandhrung is tuff, it takes 4 h to climb the huge stairs. Altitude is now over 2000 m. We sleep to Trekker Inn Hotel voted the lodge of the year 95,96,97. It is a pleasure to hike without cooking and bringing the tent.

Day 11 Ghandrung- Chomrong
Fine scenery and wonderful view on the Machapuchare (6977m), South Annapurna (7273m) and Hiunchuli (6441). This is country is inhabited by the gurungs. The road goes up and down crossing several valleys. We lost 2h1/2 waiting for a long meal. Chomrong (2400m) is our next step. Fine weather, mist on evening. We stay at Lucky guesthouse. This is the New Year’s celebration. Jacques brought special " foie gras " from France for the diner.

Day 12 Chomrong-Himalaya hotel

Long stairs to go down. We cross a noisy orchestra going to a wedding. Up through a bamboo forest. The way is muddy at moment. Arrival at Himalaya hotel (2850m). During the night a noisy mouse enter into Fred and Delphine's room, looking for food.

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