A Travellerspoint blog

Rhinos, Bears & Peacocks- Oh My!!

Ging has been a little kid in a candy store since the moment we got here about riding an elephant. She is grinning ear to ear as we enjoy a breakfast overlooking the pastures- the usual, boiled eggs, banana (and cinnamon) porridge and banana pancake (oh and copious amounts of coffee too) spread across the table.

When we "board" our elephant we are instructed to hop into what can only be described as a giant shipping box, only without a lid, and without solid sides- and is strapped in the back of a giant mammal. There are 4 of us per elephant and G6 has drawn the lucky card today. The 4 of us are to put our legs straddling the corner of the box (so we don't fall off of course!), we all have our backs to one another and are getting cozy, bouncing around on the back of the largest elephant in this herd.

Seeing the jungle in the morning was spectacular- it was cool and hazy when we headed out in the morning, but the clouds began to burn off as we moved further into the jungle. B is the designated spotter- even without her glasses the kid seems to locate animals like a pro. I am fully equipped with an unnecessarily large camera (which I cannot operate well), so I am the photographer. Ging is the question asker, and G6, well he was just lucky to be with 3 beautiful Canadians I think. We were lucky enough to see (in no particular order): spotted deer, monkeys, peacocks, and the highlight- a rhino and it's calf. They look so archaic that describing them as descendants of dinosaurs is the best I can do.

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After we finished on the elephants, Ging and the Aussie triad had signed up to wash elephants... Which turned to more of them being tossed off elephants into a river.... Very entertaining for B and I!!!

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All that before lunch!! After scarfing back (more) dal bhat and paneer masala we headed out on our jungle safari which departed from Chitwansari (cost is Rs 11500 for the jeep, split between how many people are in the jeep, so for us it was split between us and the Brits). At first, I will admit it was a little slow. It was midday, so many animals are likely having an afternoon siesta or are far enough into the jungle that we were not going to spot them. By the time we reached the Gharni (alligator) breeding centre, we had seen a (read: one) bird, and two monitor lizards. In two hours. Ging had a nap in the jeep, while B convinced me that standing up and having the wind blow through your hair makes you feel like you're in Jurassic park. Trying not to fall out of the jeep helped pass the time.

Post gator stop- things got more intense. Coles notes: we drove off the road to track down a rhino, a black bear jumped out of a ditch, a leopard ran across the road in front of us, we spotted Rhesus monkeys doing their thing, and rounded it out by chasing more black bears through 8 foot tall bamboo while our guide hollered mating calls while wielding a large stick. Needless to say we were back to Chitwan much later than the other group- with a much broader list of animals spotted. Full props to B for spotting the leopard (by yelling "what the hell is that?!!")

When we got back to Sapana we were starving- and predictably ordered the same three Nepali dishes we had for lunch (dal bhat and paneer), an order of momo (veg dumplings- so amazing) and a big pot of black tea with milk (chai). Apparently we were getting a bit of a reputation as the waiter first guessed our order and then second asked why we weren't having any drinks with dinner...

We have been playing the question game a lot since being away- some "would you rather" questions, but mostly open ended questions geared to spark conversations. We continued the tradition by sitting cross legged on small benches under the stars with Skinny, Curly, G6 and Chewy and a few large pots of tea. Who knew tea parties in the jungle could be so much fun?

That's all for this jungle book-
L, Ging & the Animal Spotter

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Posted by ellie nicole 20:26 Archived in Nepal Tagged elephant village safari rhino chitwan Comments (1)

From Mountains to Jungle

The Ging and I woke up in a bit of a panic as I had set the alarm but had failed to turn it on... So instead of having piles of time to get ready we had about 20 minutes. This compounded with the fact that the electricity was out when we woke up made our early morning routine quite difficult- so we improvised and got ready by candlelight, quite romantic. We both know as we're struggling in the dark, B will be cruising around with her headlamp- and will be more than happy to let us know how functional it is when we see her (it was the first thing she told us actually!)

After having to scale the marble stairwell in the dark, we headed off on our 20 minute ride to Sarangkot to catch the sunrise over the Himilayas. Sarangkot is on top of a hillside with a great vantage point of the mountains. I believe it is about Rs25 to enter, however Chewy takes care of those details so I'm not sure.

As we enjoyed a cup of coffee while the sun came up we couldn't help but talk about how amazing it is to watch the sun come up in the Rockies in the winter when you're headed to the hill, or what it's like to drive through the Okanagan Valley in the summertime. Funny we can be so far away from home but still be reminded quickly how beautiful our home country is. The sunrise over the Himilayas is quite spectacular- and although the Rockies are home- the Himilayas are impressive.

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After sunrise we enjoyed a lovely spread of coffee, mixed fruit porridge, boiled eggs and banana pancake at OUaT... We are pretty much regulars now, and we have all found our item of choice for breakfast. No sense in messing up a good thing.

After breakfast, we left Hotel Stupa behind and hit the road again to head to Chitwan, south of Pokhara by a 5 hour drive. Goodbye Pokhara- we'll see you in couple of weeks.

We are staying at Sapana Village Lodge in Chitwan, and it's gorgeous. It is set at the boarder of Chitwan National Park in south east Nepal. The scenery (and temperature) is vastly different then in Pokhara. It's jungle, wetlands and agriculture. The balcony of the restaurant overlooks the river and onto the green space behind the village. The sky is a beautiful blue and there is a calm peace here. Love.

We were invited on an orientation walk through the village in the afternoon. After learning that the average income in Nepal is around USD$450, you start to appreciate that the Nepalese people are very self sufficient, however have a different quality of life than we do in Canada. Our guide was very busy giving the group information about the houses, food and people when the three of us started spotting the women and children...

The difference a smile and Namaste will make. Children were curious about us- the three of us girls in particular as we were waving and saying hello to as many as we could. B & I encouraged the Kitten to go give a Canada pin to one of the littlest girls we had seen running through the street. Watching Ging have that experience for the first time- putting a smile on the face of a child who speaks no English, who will likely grow up in this village and who might just keep that maple leaf beside her bed until she is watching her own daughter run into the road towards smiling strangers. It's so much more rewarding to experience this part of culture. The information is interesting, and important- but the people are what makes Nepal.

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The three of us enjoyed a spread of dal bhat and a couple bottles of red wine for dinner back at Sapana. We have all been quite surprised how every restaurant seems to offer so many types of cuisine- Italian, Mexican, Chinese. We all seem to immediately flip to the Nepalese/Indian part of the menu. Ging and B are teaching me their ability to translate food items- dal, paneer, palak- are all now part of my food vocabulary.

Chewy sat with us for an hour answering our questions about Indian culture, tradition and customs. About his family and how the caste system works (or used to work). All while enjoying a couple of rum's- he's an intelligent and quiet guy- who has been keeping his eye on us since the moment he met us.

Tomorrow morning is our elephant ride and our jungle safari... No big deal.

xo
The Tender Trio

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Posted by ellie nicole 20:26 Archived in Nepal Tagged sunrise nepal chitwan sarangkot himilayas sapana Comments (0)

A day in Pokhara

16 °C

We'll call this our first full day in Nepal. We had a free day today as Chewy thought it would be unfair to expect everyone to get up at 5am after spending the entire day getting to Pokhara yesterday... I agree.

We're staying at Hotel Stupa, a little off the main road, it's a nice place with decent sized rooms and a restaurant. B is bunking with Poutine, as the hotel has no triple rooms. Unfortunately both B and I were up at the crack of dawn today but didn't want to wake each others roomies in order to have company over coffee. When we all finally met up at 745, we walked down the road to Once Upon a Time for some breakfast... The dieticians were craving oats and I was on the prowl for banana pancakes... Yahtzee. This place had large pots of black coffee and steamed milk and everything we were after for breakfast (not to mention free wifi).

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Being our free day we were the masters of our own destiny. We headed down to Lake Fawa to figure out what we could get up to. The Kitten had her first paparazzi experience at the water, as we're discussing what we should do

We had the option of doing several things- hiking to the World Pagoda, canoeing on Lake Fawa, paragliding (was our #1 choice, it was unavailable today), renting bikes or scooters to head to the caves and waterfalls, or just relaxing in town. For Rs700 we rented a boat and paddled ourselves across the Fawa so we could walk up to the World Peace Pagoda.

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The hike wasn't too strenuous- but it was awesome to be able to get some physical activity in considering we'd been sitting for a majority of the past three days!! returning to town we stopped in at the hotel and dropped a few things and then headed back to Once Upon a Time for some coffee and free wifi. We are all a little (ok, a lot) excited to have a few emails from our families asking how our adventure has been so far... I am trying to articulate as much as I can through this blog- but there really are not enough words to explain the experience we are having.

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Almost all hotels and restaurants in Pokhara have free wifi- not an essential service considering we could all do with being a little more disconnected from society (says the girl online with an iPad in Nepal). I am however taking a 6 week hiatus from Facebook, a social reprieve if you will. That combined with me not bringing my blackberry from work has been a welcomed relief from the world for me. But an hour or two and a few pots of black coffee with steamed milk on the side, discussing all of the little things we have seen and experienced in two days has been nothing short of a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.

B & Ging packed in when we got back to the hotel as we are getting up at 5 tomorrow to go to Sarangkot to watch the sunrise. I rounded out the night with a dinner with G6, Skinny and Curly. Lots of green tea, naan, curry and chats. A nice way to end a pretty fantastic day.

Nested in Nepal,
L, B & Ginger

p.s
Uploading pictures is tending to take longer than expected... When we get a solid connection and some free time- I will add photos in here!!

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Posted by ellie nicole 03:26 Archived in Nepal Tagged hotel eating canoeing pokhara Comments (0)

Super Chill and Fun Lovin'

18 °C

For the first 15 days of our adventure we are with a group on a Gap tour. We're not too sure what the game plan is for the day, so we get up early to catch our group and attempt to not hold the group up.

We've got a good group, another Canuck (Poutine), a couple from England (the Brits), two Norweigans, and three Aussies (G6, Skinny & Curly), and our lovely guide, Chewy. Age range is early 20's to 60... The Brits rounding out the top of the pack.

We pile our gear on top of the van and head to Swayambhu Mahachitaya, a stupa in Kathmandu. En route we begin to discuss my fear of monkeys (little buggers). Sure enough we arrive and are immediately told not to feed the monkeys, and to be careful as they are a "little naughty". Needless to say we saw the little monsters rip a bag of oranges out of someone's hands, and then swarm like kids on a piñata.
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The stupa was a great way to be introduced to the city- from the hilltop you have a great vantage point of the massive city- the pollution is rampant in Kat. The entire city is a haze, the hills barely visible rough the smog.

After our quick view of Kat- we're off on our 150km (8 hour) drive to Pokhara. On the way, we began to learn of the resourceful nature of the Nepalese children. Every few kilometers, 4 to 8 children line the side of the road, holding the ends of a rope, blocking the road way. Every time we encounter one of these impromptu check-stops, our driver tosses the kids 100 rupee. We quickly realize that this is a real money maker for these kids and we wonder if we could make this work in Calgary... When we arrive at our roadside turnout, we mention to Chewy how pricey this must get and he tells us the reason is only because of Shivataari, a winter festival in honor of Lord Shiva. The children collect the money (primarily from tourists) for firewood for the large celebrations they have in the evening for the festival.

Our lunchtime stop (which included a lovely spread of mutter and veg curry) turns into more of a layover than a stopover when Chewy advises us that the locals from a village a few kilometers away have closed the road to protest to the death of a child who fell off a cliff as the police tried to break up one of the Shivataari road-blocks. So one Nepal Ice turns into five, and the three of us had a chance to have some pretty candid chats with G6, Skinny and Curly on the terrace of the restaurant.

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When we finally got on the road- cars were backed up for kilometers. We would drive 100m and then kill the engine and wait... The van was hot and muggy, the beer buzz has worn off, and we are now getting a little hangry (def: hungry+angry=hangry). When we finally do start moving, we are caught off guard by the children throwing fire logs at the side of the van. I can't even really explain this.... But no one seemed concerned there were flaming logs being launched at us.

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We finally got to Pokhara at 10pm. After a 38 hour transit to Nepal, a 12 hour day to get to Pokhara was not really what my body needed- but you have to be super chill and fun lovin' to travel some times.

Tired and Hangry,
The Trio

Posted by ellie nicole 05:01 Archived in Nepal Tagged temples to drive kathmandu pokhara Comments (2)

We're not in Kansas Anymore

16 °C

Turns out not even strangers think that the three of us should be in Nepal. We met a fellow on the plane from HK to Kat who was shocked we were there, and who's parting words were "just be careful... Seriously"

Getting a visa was easy, all we needed was a passport photo and USD$40... Thank you visa on arrival. We considered doing this before we left, however I would recommend just doing it when you arrive- it was pretty seamless.

Leaving the airport we walk through a gauntlet of local military (with large guns and sticks which I can only imagine are for some type of physical punishment) into  a sea of taxi and rickshaw drivers all more than willing to take us on an adventure of Kathmandu at 11 pm on a Sunday. Luckily our driver is there to pick us up (A godsend really, for all you female travelers-swallow the CAD$20 and get a ride to your hotel...) after being harassed for a tip from the porters, we were on our way to our hotel. (Side bar: we get into the car, and get asked for a tip. I have just changed CAD$200 at the airport, Ging and B have had an unfortunate disagreement with the ATM, and are left without any Rupees. The porter is aggressively asking for a tip- another rogue male has blatantly opened the passenger door to grab for cash... So I hand him 20 rupee... He is unimpressed, so I panic and hand him 100 more. We start driving away when I realize why he was so unimpressed.... 20 rupee is CAD$0.25. I'd be annoyed too)

The streets are dark, for a city of 7 million it is poorly lit, but there are people everywhere. The roads are lined with rubbish- bricks, trash bags, refuse- we are driving pac-man style, mid road with out concern- packs of young males line the streets, hoarding in droves enjoying the night. Occasionally there are women, but they are sparse. Buildings are showing the wear of years of neglect. We are nowhere I have ever been before.

The hotel is hidden in a labyrinth of brick buildings and mismatched streets. We are not finding our way here even in the middle of the day. But when we arrive, it is gated, guarded, and clean. We have three single beds, a door with a deadbolt and a hot shower- its really the best we can ask for (Hotel Fuji, Kathmandu). 

So here's the good news Mom & Dad, Merv & Lauren, Jenny & Lynn... We have made it to Nepal.

L, Ging & B

Posted by ellie nicole 03:42 Archived in Nepal Tagged hotel on visa nepal kathmandu arrival Comments (0)

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