Archive for January, 2017

Crocs, Rhinos and Nepalese Dancers.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2017 by David Palmer

Dosed up with tablets I rattled down to an early breakfast. Feeling ok, I managed cereal and two slices of toast, washed down with a small glass of mango juice. I crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t be seeing them again, but thanks to the powers of modern chemistry I needn’t have worried, the valve was well and truly closed.

We came together as a group to walk down to the river, passing a large enclosure with a great many elephants and their mahouts astride, patiently waiting for customers. At the river bank was around a half-dozen  dug-out canoes each one made from the trunk of a large tree. Several of which were loading up with chinese tourists. We fitted 14 into ours, plus a guide and steerer, all sat in a line on low wooden seats resting on the bottom of the craft. Fully loaded the water level was just a hand span away from flowing over the side.

I had the benefit of the guide sitting behind me, giving a running commentary on the passing flora and fauna as we gently eased down the course of the river. There were a few crocs lying dormant on the river bank, but most were in the water with just their eyes peeping out in hope.’The water is too cold at this time in the morning for the crocodiles to feed’, the guide reassuringly told us. When I put my hand in the water it felt as warm as bath water. I hoped he was right and that crocs don’t get frisky until nearly boiling point!

We passed water buffalo taking a morning dip and also spied tourist laden elephants meandering along on the bank in and out of the trees that appeared laden with all sorts of birds with exotic names. I am afraid I only remember hornbills, mostly because they look so funny in flight. The rest either moved so fast, or didn’t at all that they weren’t committed to memory other than they were all sorts of bright colours. Sue has much more interest in such things and I leave that side of the marriage to her. All to soon we had to disembark our stable little craft and venture out onto the crocodile infested shore.

After a short walk we found our way to the Elephant breeding station. It is part of a government scheme to keep the population of tourist elephants going without having to take them from the wild. Sensible solution I guess, but I have mixed feelings. The breeding elephants were chained by the foot to a stake, with the very young ones allowed to roam freely and play, which they did as all youngsters do. It did seem so hard on the mothers. At 11am each day they are taken out for three hours by the three mahouts per elephant, to the jungle to feed and exercise. Sounds like a prison sentence, but who am I to judge?

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We returned to the hotel via a rickety wooden and sandbag bridge over the river and a short Land-rover drive. There we had lunch and afterwards Sue took a short nap while I caught up with yesterday’s blog.

Taken with Lumia Selfie

At 3pm some of the group had arranged to go elephant riding, I had negotiated with the rangers to take me on a walking safari after the riders had left on their steeds. After watching them nervously mount their elephants I and two rangers set off across the river in one of the canoes. My  guides were very knowledgeable on all things Nepalese, but more so on the subject of birds. I learnt a few more names; bobo, fish eagle etc. I had intended to give quite a long list of names that I had made a concerted effort to remember, but I have forgotten them. Sue was back at the hotel reading her book by the pool, so I can’t use her to reference. We carefully came across several beached crocs, so that I could photograph them, but noticing my guide’s edginess, I opted not to get too close on each occasion. I guess the paperwork would have been horrendous for them if I had been eaten. Then I remembered that Sue and I had read in the Kathmandu Times earlier this week that 6 people had been killed by animals in this park in the last 6 months! Mostly by rhino with young! Phew!

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Then of course we came across a rhino, with its calf. Luckily, they were feeding in the river with their backs to us, we retired gracefully into the jungle and this tourist did not insist on getting closer for a better photo. You don’t get such useful news items in the British press.

We saw many monkeys, water buffalo, more birds, some tiger scratching on tree trunks, more birds and a couple of cranes, which are birds I have just remembered.

We returned to our start point by the elephant ‘lift-off’ station via another canoe ride hitched by my guides on a passing canoe returning home. I had a little time to waste before my elephant riding friends lolloped back and I used it to watch a troupe of Rhesus monkeys feeding around a pile of freshly laid elephant dung. I hope they were careful and washed their hands afterwards because you can pick up some nasty bugs in this country!

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Early in the evening our group boarded a couple of Landrovers and drove into town to watch some authentic Nepalese dancing, their speciality we were told was the Peacock Dance. Our group was first to arrive and secured front row seats, the chinese came next and swarmed everywhere, taking selfies at every opportunity.The theatre filled up and the show began. It wasn’t particularly colourful, nor was it brilliantly choreographed and it would have helped if all of the dancers had the proper equipment and didn’t have to pretend they were holding it. But, this is a third world country that was nearly knocked back into the stone-age just 2 years ago, so I can forgive them if they cobble together some routines and have the courage to demonstrate it to foreigners. Of course the repetitive power failures we have experienced is an ever-present reminder on how fragile their recovery is. And the Peacock Dance? Yes, it was enjoyable and funny.

On returning to the hotel we had our evening meal and retired to our rooms for yet another early start in the morning….. Down that same damn road!

Journey to Chitwan

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2017 by David Palmer

Up again at the crack of dawn (5.15am). An early start was needed for our journey to Chitwan as part of the road is closed to all traffic after 9am, for 6 hours. The government is doing a lot of necessary road improvements, much-needed after the 2015 earthquake.

Unfortunately I woke up with a ‘dicky’ tummy, which heralded the start of more unpleasant things to come! Popping Immodium before a very light breakfast, I thought would see me through the coming journey and it did. Despite being bounced around inside a tin can along the worst tracks (you can’t call them roads when there is an absence of tarmac) I have ever been on. Worse than the one experienced yesterday, and this one went on for hour after hour. The traffic was nose to tail on a single track road in both directions and any error meant a couple of 1000m’s drop for someone. Thankfully not for us today.

We eventually arrived at the Jungle Crown Hotel, which through bleary eyes I guess is some way outside Chitwan. Looked a very nice hotel, even has a pool. While we waited for rooms to be allocated I pressured reception to give me one straight away as I couldn’t stay awake any longer. While  Sue chatted with the rest of our party I went to bed and slept until woken by her at 6.30am the following morning.

While I was dreaming of waterfalls and elephant dung, Sue went along with the rest of our party on an afternoon safari. She saw a million different types of birds, loads of elephants and crocodiles and some water buffalo. Wish I had been there, but nature was calling (constantly) in a different fashion.

And that is as much as I know about yesterday.

Zippety do da!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 29, 2017 by David Palmer

We didn’t have to keep the heating on over night, down at this altitude it is much warmer and we slept well. I had to rise early as I had an appointment with a harness and cable, but Sue opted to remain snug in bed while I dressed and went down for breakfast. As I finished my curried potato pancakes Sue arrived for her helping, just as I departed with four of our group to walk to the meeting point of our morning activity.

After completing in the obligatory disclaimer forms we boarded a ramshackle minibus. We were joined by two young Chinese girls and a Nepalese from Kathmandu. As I have already mentioned the roads here are atrocious, however this  journey took it up another level. In fairness the authorities were trying to improve the road, but working on the road surface without stopping the traffic is down right dangerous, especially when any mistake is rewarded with a several thousand foot dive to the valley floor. I guess we tourists would have got high marks for style but scored poorly on technique and execution!

Despite many near misses and after passing the hotel we had stayed in Sarangkot (trekking up would have been safer) we eventually reached the top station of the Zip Flier.

It was a gorgeous day. No clouds and Annapurna across the valley was as beautiful as could be against a blue backwash. More photos. We read from the information board, listened to the heavy Nepalese accented instructions and prepared ourselves for the flight down.

We were to fly in pairs and I was to be in the 3rd flight. The two Chinese girls were first, after being strapped in and last-minute instructions had been given, the gate that they were pushing against with their feet was opened and they flew. Screams I guess all the way down. I can’t be sure as 1.8km is a long way and I lost sight of them very quickly as they disappeared into the landscape.

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I was paired with the guy from Kathmandu. After instructions: if you see a white flag, pull on the right-hand rope, and if you stop, pull on the left hand rope. Good. No problem there, I had no intention of pulling on any rope and this Nepalese was going to eat my dirt!

As the gate opened I gauged I had stolen a march by launching my body forward to gain momentum. That was when the race was over and done with. As he dwindled behind and I picked up speed I felt the rush of the wind increase, and the flesh on my face became increasingly contorted. Tears began to be forced from their ducts, but I couldn’t wipe them away as I had to fight the straps to keep me falling straight, at the same time attempting to keep my legs straight and splayed out wide. It then dawned on me that the instructions to keep legs as wide as possible, though seemed counterproductive at the top, now made sense, streamlining at this speed was not needed, using your legs as air brakes was! I kept my legs out.

To be honest everything is a blur. Looking at your harness, trying to focus on the scenery passing swiftly by, with a howling tornado in your face is not easy. Remember, when over the river focus on the flag. Well there was the river below, where the bloody hell do I look for a flag? Oh s**t, there it is, too late, no point now, goodbye world!

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Ooooooooh, how did that happen? I stopped with hardly a judder. What was all that about at the top? If you don’t slow down enough you will slam into the buffer, so brake on the white flag. Perhaps miracles do happen.

After all of us had flown, we watched some Chinese bungee jump from the platform in front of the restaurant. Most had to be pushed, and all screeched demonically on their way down.

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The journey back to the Pokhara was in a Landrover and very uncomfortable, but thankfully shorter as we had obligingly shed 1.8km in height, which is the equivalent of several thousand bends in the road here.

 

I arrived back at the hotel to be greeted by Sue from the 3rd floor balcony. We exchanged stories of our mornings activities. She had been shopping and bought a jacket and a much treasured Christmas bauble. After a coffee we set off on a walk down through the town and back along the lake shore. We stopped at a restaurant and had a rather larger lunch than planned. We were joined at our table by a guy from Leigh on Sea, who I guessed craved British company. He had just arrived from a 14 day trek around the high Annapurna, and had only his sherpa for company. He showed us some of the photos on his camera, and we exchanged stories of past holidays. He was a postman and had saved up 3 weeks holiday and this is what he did. Brilliant.

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He finished his meal before us and moved on. We carried on with our low Annapurna trek around Lake Fewa, stopping at a bar when we came across a couple from our group. We took refreshments with them before returning to the hotel. Sue to watch BBC world news and me to snooze.

Later that evening we packed our cases in readiness for a very early drive to Chitwan and then had a walk into town to see and listen to the Pokharan way of life for one last time. We stopped at a very comfortable bar, choosing pavement seats to watch life go by. I have been to some places but this one is certainly different. Progress will change it I am sure, the Chinese will see to that, they are certainly here in very large numbers. However, on an optimistic note, when we first started coming across the Chinese on our travels they were certainly unique, different, odd, but over the years they are slowly becoming westernised and I guess soon they will be no more worse than your average stentorian American.

Returning to the hotel we discovered most of the rest of our party still in the bar and much the worse for it. Glad we chose to say goodbye to Pokhara!!

Annapurna Sunrise

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28, 2017 by David Palmer

Around 10pm the clouds disappeared revealing not just a heaven full of bright twinkling stars but way down below was the equally jaw dropping lights of Pokhara, as if this was not enough the horizon randomly flickered and flashed with electrical discharge creating a light show that left an imprint on your retina. Amazing. Standing on the balcony we could have watched this free light show for hours, but the problem with altitude is that at night it gets freezing.

We moved inside to the warmth of our room. We had left our heater on all evening and its welcoming glow as we opened the door promised a comfortable night. Not so for the other members of our party who did not have any source of heat in their rooms and were huddled together around a wood burning brazier, putting off the inevitable return to a chilly room and an equally cold bed. We left our heater on all night, though just on one bar. You can have too much of a good thing. We both had large single beds, though Sue had a mattress mine only had a board for a base. This was the same in other rooms.

I did fall asleep straight away, but awoke probably an hour later with aching bones and muscles. I chose the wise option, relocated and joined Sue. A lovely, snug and cold free sleep ensued until the alarm went off at 6.00am.

Quickly dressing we joined the rest of our group on the restaurant balcony. They had not had a good night’s sleep. We said nothing. It was still a clear night, lights were still twinkling but now there was a thin line of orange across the distant horizon.

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Marching up the mountain path at the back of the hotel we joined the hundreds of other excited people intent on witnessing dawn over Annapurna. Climbing in the dark was twice as exhausting as in the daytime, not sure why, but it was. We paid our 50 rupee ticket to reach the platforms at the very top and found a place among the throng of photographers and waited. It was cold. The sky gradually brightened and changed colour from a line of orangey red to an expanding band of yellow, until some 15 minutes later the sun peeped its head over the mountains. The excitement was tangible with the clacking and clicking of cameras and ooohs and aaahs as the golden disk rapidly cleared the distant mountains and took off into a mauve coloured sky. Wonderful. We could now see the clouds flowing over the Annapurna range as if being poured from a cauldron. Magical.

All too soon, disinterest took hold and people started to disappear like the dark of just a few moments ago. Our party stayed awhile and took selfies and then of each other against a still un-matcheable back ground of mountain, rock and snow. We retraced our steps to the hotel and breakfast.

Appetite satisfied and the sun soaring overhead pouring down heat on all, we checked out and assembled for the trek down to Pokhara. I was hoping to see my canine friend of yesterday, but I was disappointed. I had squirreled away part of last night’s evening meal for his consumption, but he was no where to be seen.

We set off back down the trail. There was now a bank of cloud below, obscuring the city and Lake Fewa promising to make at least part of our descent a cold and wet one. In the end this was not to be as we enjoyed a clear hike all the way down when the clouds blew away as we reached their level. There were frequent stops for muscles to recover, drinks to be taken due to the increasing heat and wildlife to be ogled at. We saw small birds of many species, leaving Jeff (the twitcher) to tell us what they were and even more impressive, much, much larger birds; Griffin Vultures, Kites, Buzzards and a solitary Golden Eagle. The thermal currents had now been triggered by the rising sun and among the circling birds began to appear brightly coloured paragliders. It was fascinating to see them wheeling and mingling,  round and round as if rehearsing a dance. The further we descended, the greater the number of human and avian dancers took to the sky. How they didn’t collide was down to individual skill. Wish I was there with them.

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We passed through a small group of shacks, outside one a family was sitting and enjoying the sun. They had two puppies gambolling amongst them. Seizing the opportunity I called to the little woofers, to which a puppy and children came rushing over as I ferreted in my rucksack.Oh, how disappointed the children were when I produced the remains of my dinner and gave it to the puppies. If looks could kill, this blog wouldn’t have been written. I moved quickly on.

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We started to meet would-be paragliders on the trek upwards. The carried their machines in huge packs on their back. I chatted to one, stopping him briefly on his journey. He informed me that his pack weighed 19 kg and that he was going to feed the vultures. He had a supply of meat and a whistle. When he had taken to the air, he would use his whistle, hold out a piece of meat and the birds would take it in flight. Aaaaah! so that is why the two were dancing so tightly ! Marvellous. I wish I could do that.

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We eventually reached our starting position of yesterday and boarded the minibus.

Returning to the hotel we checked in and agreed to meet again after lunch at 2.30pm at the end of the road to go boating on the lake. Sue and I chose to eat at the Rainbow as from its balcony we could see our meeting point. We ordered our meal and drinks and was engaged in consuming them when most of our party appeared in the street below and came and joined us. They ordered food and drinks. We finished our food and chatted. By 2.30pm their food had not arrived, but the rest of the party were at the meeting place. Sue and I left to explain the delay. Eventually we all arrived at the lake-side and began to work out how we were going to go boating. There are different rules for Foreigners than Nepalese, we had come across this frequently when paying for tickets and visiting temples and museums etc.  Interpretation of rules led to frustration by  some members of the party, particularly as the place was packed with locals intent on getting a boat and we appeared to be way down the list of priorities for allocation. Four left in a huff.

I decided enough was enough and picked out the one who I thought was the most senior of the allocators, smiled at him sweetly, explained what we wanted and slipped him 100 rupees. Sue went off with him to procure a boat.

The six of us enjoyed our hour on the lake. We took photos of the mountains, now clear of any cloud. We came across a lot of species of water birds (luckily we had the twitcher on board) and our oarsman managed to ram several other boats in our meandering.We stopped at a small island which seemed to be the focal point of most of the boats. It had a small temple in its centre with many worshippers. Other than that it appeared to be of little interest. I have no idea who the deity was that the temple was dedicated to.

Returning to shore we made our way to the hotel. I stopped on the way to purchase two Nepalese hats. I had bought myself one earlier in the morning at Serangkot and Sarah had been impressed by my photo of it sent on messenger, she wanted one, so I got Charlotte on too.

We met up with most of our group later that evening at the Paradiso Bar and took advantage of Happy Hour and 2 for 1 cocktails. Not a lover of these drinks but they had a band playing and they were good. Even ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was included in their set. We chose to eat there. We were the first to leave as I wanted to write this blog before retiring and tomorrow was another early start as I am going Zip Wiring down a mountain. Hope I don’t have to trek up first!

 

Trekking to Sarangkot

Posted in Uncategorized on January 27, 2017 by David Palmer

Three fried eggs, a bunch of chopped sausages, two grilled tomatoes and a slice of aloo somethingy was washed down with two cups of coffee then two slices of toast and I was good to go. I have no idea what Sue charged her batteries with but it was probably fruit, cereals and jam on toast. We shall see which fill-up will get us to the end of todays trek.

We met the rest of the group outside the hotel after first having our suitcases safely stowed away some where. There was some discussion as whether Joyce would travel by taxi or walk. She had both knees replaced e few months ago and didn’t think she could do it. In the end she opted to join us. I lent her my walking pole as an aid.100_9756

It was cloudy and rain was in the air.

After a short minibus ride we set off purposely along a dusty cart track towards the mountain in front of us. Thankfully his wasn’t as high as those to the left and right.After a km or so Josie and I both agreed that this was boring and we had expected to be on something more challenging. Half a km later we got our wish. The track turned into a trail and proceeded to become evermore vertical. At times I had to give Sue and her shorter legs a helping hand scaling the larger rocky steps. The mountain trail we were following had few buildings along its route but the higher we got the poorer the inhabitants appeared. We had frequent stops for extended rests as it soon became apparent that the rest of the group had not prepared for such an exertion, but to their credit no one complained other than to say that this was not an easy trek as described in the information sheet.

The higher we climbed, the better the views became and Lake Fewa below, gradually diminished in size. It began to spot with rain and the vista started to become obscured by clouds. The rain and the clouds came and went with the will of the mountain gods. During the clear times we sometimes spied Griffin Vultures and Kites circling overhead, but as we climbed higher we saw them wheeling and diving from above.

We came across a little hut perched on a promontory. Sue and I were at the front with our guide and the rest of our party were somewhere below and out of sight. For fun we hid in the hut shutting the door. It began to rain heavily as the first few arrived. Unsure, they stared at the hut but it was quite some while before the first one ventured to open the door and discover our presence. The silly things grown-ups get up to when there are no children about. The rain stopped, we had amused the gods.

Ever higher, we passed through a little farmstead and I struck up a relationship with the farm dog. He followed dutifully by my side for the next couple of kilometres. Show a dog a bit of affection and they reward you with shed loads of loyalty. We crossed a dirt track where our guide phoned for some one from the lodge we were staying in that night to come and pick Joyce up on a moped, as she was suffering. We waited until he appeared and whisk her away. We carried on, though by now our goal was in sight.

Determined, I was the first of the trekkers to reach the lodge, followed by the guide then Sue. So I guess that makes it official: fried eggs beat fruit when it comes to charging your battery. I had lost my faithful friend at a farmstead some time before, but he tracked me down and bounced into my presence just before I arrived at our destination, we were both glad to renew our relationship, though one or two of our group considered him to be a manky dog. Some people just cannot see the inner soul.

As the last of us arrived the rain came down and the Lodge become immersed in thick chilling cloud. What would have been great views all around became a grey blanket.

Lady luck was with us again, it was up to us to allocate our rooms and without seeing it we chose number 5, which turned out to be the best one in the hotel (according t the guide). We have the only heater and both a bath and a shower and a TV! Luxuries compared to the rest, we decided to keep quiet about our good fortune, to prevent any retribution. Ssssssssshhhh.

After settling into our room we visited the hotel restaurant for something to eat. Eventually the rest of the party joined us and  with the rain pouring outside we sat down and waited (at length) for the drinks and food to arrive. By the time we had finished our meal the rain had stopped.

Returning to our room Sue and I kitted up for an exploratory walk. We set off through the tiny village chatting and gazing at the scenery below. The road was just a dirt track but work was going on to improve the surface, the reason became clear around 2 km from the lodge where a huge new hotel was being built by the Japanese. We had to wonder why so big and why there, the view was good but not of the lake or even of the Annapurna range, they over looked a meandering river just visible far below. Strange are the Japanese.

Walking back to the lodge we came across my loyal friend who had tracked me down again. He was so pleased to see me and I him. He received an extended ear fondling for his tracking skills. We lost him again when we stopped to shelter from the rain and chat to some other members of our group.

Returning to our room we put the heater on full blast and sat in front of it toasting our toes, not feeling the slightest bit guilty.

Later, we had our evening meal downstairs in the restaurant and chatted with some trekkers from the USA and Denmark.

Here, there and everywhere.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 26, 2017 by David Palmer

100_9693After breakfast we all met up in reception  in readiness for the short journey to Gupteswar Mahadev. The peaks of Annapurna, capped with wispy clouds, glowed in the early morning sun as we boarded the minibus and rattled our way along to our destination.  We arrived at the gorge and cave complex, paid the entrance fee and set about exploring.

We stood awhile on the bridge over the narrow gorge, gazing down at the racing torrent way, way down below. I think ‘gorge’ is too grander term for the sight before our eyes, I think ‘crack’ would be a more accurate description as it appeared to be no wider than 2m at most. What was impressive was the depth. Further along was Davis’s Falls. As it was the dry season, it was not as impressive as it can be, but none the less the story of the Naming of the falls was interesting. A Mrs Davis went for a bath in them and not surprisingly she was swept away, hence the name. To be more accurate, they should have been called Crazy Woman Falls.

Before moving on we had a bit of silliness with photographs and statues displaying local native costumes. Even grown-ups can regress at times.

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Next we delved into the bowls of the earth via a very ornate staircase that was still being sculptured by a very talented Nepalese lady using concrete and rubber gloves. The steps led to a Hindu shrine, that we were not allowed to photograph, but as it was hidden behind iron bars, there wasn’t much point in trying to do so. After circling the stalactite come griffin come icon we left the cave and moved across the road to dive again into another grotto. This one displayed a sign saying ‘Cattle Pen’ pen located around 100m into the system. It smelled like one too, but on squeezing down through the narrowing tunnel we came across a concrete cow. Apparently it too is a holy icon, not to be photographed, but for 100 rupees we could touch its nose. There was a lady sentry there to ensure that things were kept in order. No rupees were handed over and we passed on. If the cow was concrete where did that awful smell of cattle come from? The lady?

Winding our wet way ever deeper into the system we eventually reached the end of the navigable route set aside for tourists. Confusingly we had descended for around 20 minutes, yet in the distance  we could clearly see an underground stream bursting out into daylight through a narrow crack in the cave wall. How did that happen? Was the magic cow responsible for this? I might have to re-think Hinduism!

We returned to the surface back along the tunnel, magically not coming across the concrete cow and sentry. It is all beyond me. Nepal is truly a mystical country.

We moved on to a refugee camp and carpet weaving establishment. The refugees had fled from the north away from the Chinese who were intent on a bit of genocide. They were homed in Pokhara and made their living by making carpets and acting as trekking Sherpas. We looked at the various displays informing tourists of their plight. Sue bought a carpet with a woven picture of Everest in it.

Next stop was the Gurkha Museum. As you would expect of a military museum it was full of uniforms, medals, photos of soldiers and information on regiments. This was no exception. The difference was that these soldiers gave up their lives in the tens of thousands over the last two hundred years to defend another nation. Reading accounts of their bravery in action was inspiring. Watching a short video of a soldier returning home to his mountain village with parents plus extended family exuding pride in bucket loads was quite humbling, especially as this tough no-nonsense warrior is seen wiping more than a tear from his eyes. They stand by us, as a nation we should stand by them.

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A very late lunch was taken short a short step away from the museum. As we were not in the mood to hurry, this became a very extended lunch. A lot of team bonding took place with Ghorka as a lubricant.

Next we travelled to the Mountain Museum. Very interesting. Lots of photos and stories of climbers and lots of the paraphernalia of serious mountain climbing, including a large display of the rubbish collected from Mt. Everest. We were joined by a large part of Nepalese school children. Very young, very sweet and remarkably well-behaved. Not a lot of education went on as they were marched past each display in military fashion, with no more than a few seconds to glance at the exhibits. Hmm, what can you say, no doubt in the not too distant future Nepal will be usurping Britain in the international league tables!

For the final activity of the day we visited the Barahi temple, located high on a hill above the town. The views of the Annapurna range were superb, so a lot more photos got taken, many to be destined for the ‘bin’ on return to the UK. This temple is where the wealthy of the city get married and we were lucky, one was already in progress when we arrived. The temple is incredibly small, only the bride, groom and mother of the bride (I think) fitted inside, with presumably the religious leader to conduct the ceremony. The rest of the family had to stand outside looking bored. As the couple left the temple to pose for photographs they looked so young and the bride appeared absolutely terriffied.I watched the first few photos, but I guess they were destined for the bin too, unless Photoshop has copy and paste on smiles.

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Sometime during today we were due to spend an hour on the lake, but it was not to be. Too much dawdling, food, coffee and beer stops just gobbled up the time. It is now scheduled for another day.

Returning to the hotel, Sue and I spent a little time in our room resting, before walking into town, exchanging some cash for rupees and finding a restaurant to have our evening meal. The town was very busy with many tourists engaged either in promenading, shopping for trekking gear, or like us, choosing a place to eat.

Hunger satisfied, we returned to beds.

Journey to Pokhara.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25, 2017 by David Palmer

Rose at 6.30am, breakfasted by 7.15am, sat in reception by 7.30am waiting with the rest of our party for our transport. Slight hiccup when it came to paying my bill, I opted to use card, but Nepal is way behind most of the world with niceties and conveniences that living in a modern technological society affords. The little card machine tried and tried to connect to my bank but every line it tried displayed busy. We tried once more (at length) but again failed, the frustrated receptionist offered to try again in 10 minutes or so, but I kindly put her out of her misery and paid in cash.

We boarded the bus and set off on time with suitcases stowed away on the roof of our mini-bus. This was to be a long journey.

It took an hour to travel the 10km necessary to leave the city. The traffic and roads are truly appalling, as is the  driving habits of the locals who refuse to give way and seem to revel in playing the game of chicken. The rule is: pedestrians give way to everything, mopeds and cycles get off the road when anything larger is on their side of the road, mini buses over take all except if an oncoming lorry might cause and inconvenience, and for some strange reason, cars drive slowly and are overtaken by all but lepers on crutches. Crazy.

Much of our route was being upgraded from UK class C roads status to K class B status, badly!! The Nepalese have mastered the concept of laying tarmac but have failed to understand that there is the necessity for a heavy roller to be used to ensure a smooth surface. Over 250 km, that amounts to a serious full body massage!

After numerous choruses of ‘The wheels on the bus’ had  fizzled out we set about admiring the scenery. Truly inspiring. Through the diesel fumes, dust laden air, smut covered vegetation and shattered buildings we could see the germs of a traumatised society rebuilding for its future. The road was being worked on and improved, albeit in an apparently disorganised fashion. The population was building their homes from the bricks of the old and hopefully learning from the past. The fields appeared to be productive and absolutely everyone seemed to be ‘doing’ something.

However, we did have fun. First stop was a toilet and fuel stop. Second stop was a toilet and coffee stop. Third stop was for lunch and refreshments. Fourth stop was a bit of silliness, after passing numerous rope bridges crossing the river and gorge that we had been following for what seemed forever, it was decided that we should traverse one of these bridges. Our guide gauged that his tip at the end of the trip may be drastically affected if he didn’t comply and found one. Eagerly, we joined a few locals carrying outrageously heavy packs on their heads across the ravine. Photos were taken, jokes were made and we retraced our swinging, swaying steps back to the mini-bus.

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Eventually we reached our goal, Pokhara. A ‘seaside’ resort in the centre of mountainous Nepal, alongside a beautiful lake. Finding our hotel we checked in and made our way to our room. A perfect top floor location affording views over the mountains and lake side. Sue made coffee.

Keen to discover the delights of Pokhara we set off to explore. Running short of rupees we found a Money Exchange booth and swapped some now pointless Euros for more useful Nepalese rupees. We found our way to the lake shore and stood awhile taking in the beauty of the place. Flat calm waters with brightly painted boats anchored randomly along the shore with that stunning, humbling backdrop of jagged snow-capped rocks called the Himalayas. How insignificant can you feel?

We wandered along the paved path winding its way along the shore with restaurants and bars invitingly lined up waiting for customers. We came across Jeff and Chris sat at one hostelry, they invited us to join them in Happy Hour. We complied. We were later discovered and joined by the two ladies from Hull. As the sun set and a bit of a chill set in we went our separate ways.

We made our way back to the hotel where Sue washed her hair before changing and venturing out again for our evening meal. We chose a balcony restaurant overlooking the main road. The food and drinks were good and we promised to return again. Yes, it was still Happy Hour.

Returning to the hotel we came across several of our party celebrating the 66th birthday of one of our members (Jim). We had more refreshments and talked way into the wee small hours before pressing some new pillows.