A Travellerspoint blog

Trekking in Annapurna Area

Some photos from our trek

sunny 24 °C

Some photos from our four day trek in the Annapurna Conservation Area, with Trekking Team, Nepal. Www.trekkingteam.com who were brilliant. Many thanks to our guide Bikram and porter Udzel.
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Posted by Mick G 16.11.2013 20:01 Archived in Nepal Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains skylines people children sky snow tourist_sites Comments (0)

Kathmandu to Border with Tibet

Life is suffering - so says Buddha

sunny 22 °C

Why do people have 'bucket lists' or 'life lists' as the more positive amongst us prefer to call them! And why do Buddhists believe all life is suffering? I was reflecting on this - or at least i would have been, had I not got a death grip on the safety rope of the raft I found myself in. At this precise moment it was in white water against a rock that managed to throw out two of our fellow crew. At the same time, our skipper was imploring us to paddle, he could have added "paddle for your lives"!! but he didn't have to; a level 3+rapid had been our downfall - that and over ambition, lack of skill and a bucket list.
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We survived, but I am about to renew my agreement with fish - I will stay out of the water if they keep off the high street!

The day before we had said "let's ride to the Tibetan border and the friendship bridge", not an apt name however by any stretch of the imagination. You point a camera at China and the Chinese guards point a gun back at you, or so we had been warned, a mistake we had no intention of making! The road, in the loosest sense of the word is crammed with trucks bringing in cheap Chinese goods destined to appear on British tv's 'knock off Britain', fake merchandise in every shape and form. Still, I now have a text message on my phone from a Chinese service provider telling me the rates to call home, very reasonable they are too, now, what's the number for that TV programme!
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Earlier in this part of the journey we travelled out of Kathmandu again to Bhaktapur where we stayed at a Hotel next to the tallest statue of Lord Shiva in the world and very impressive it is too, if you're into that sort of thing. Bhaktapur is impressive as well, a bit more like Kathmandu was in times gone by before 'civilisation' took hold. The streets have far less traffic and so it's a great place to wander.
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And so, having braved the chaos that is Kathmandu three times we returned for a fourth time to do battle once again, this time we were returning our trusty Royal Enfield motorcycles (built like a bullet) and hanging up our helmets for the last time. We all returned safely with bikes intact but our nerves in tatters to reflect on our journey.
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What is riding in Nepal like? - it is a bit like Nepal itself, full of contrasts and contradictions. There are no traffic rules, just as at the moment there is no effective Government, however people just get on with things, trusting to fate. There is no road road rage, no accidents (that we saw) just a reliance that someone will do the right thing. Religions are everywhere but the Maoists are a powerful party. Beauty is everywhere but so to is horrendous pollution. There are massive untapped natural resources for clean energy but frequent power cuts. Tourism is the life blood of their economy but the crumbling infrastructure struggles to support it. The only firm conclusion we have come to is that the countries strength is its people, so to experience more of that we were off to the mountains on foot. As Buddha said 'life is suffering'.

Posted by Mick G 16.11.2013 06:54 Archived in Nepal Tagged mountains buildings people boats motorcycle tourist_sites educational Comments (1)

Pokhara to Khatmandu

Divali in Pokhara

sunny 23 °C

Having arrived in Pokhara safe and sound we now had two days to explore the place. It's a favourite destination for tourists, Trekkers ,para gliders and in our case motorcyclists. Imagine a mixture of sixties hippy, "adventure " blue rinse tourist, young backpackers from all over the world, and local night clubbers. There are good bars and restaurants, many serving western food and many shops selling Chinese imitations of everything imaginable. While we were there, it was Divali or the Festival of Lights , so groups of children were performing their dance and song program's on the streets and all the shops,restaurants and hotels were dressed with the equivalent of Christmas lights.
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Pokhara

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After two days of eating ,drinking and people watching we were off on the road to Kathmandu ( that rare, unreleased Bob Hope and Bing Crosby film) . A major tourist route, it was full of local and tourist buses. The local buses,crammed with people, inside and out, belching out black smoke, and barging through all the other traffic on the road. The tourist mini buses, carrying people in air conditioned luxury.

The road condition is great, until you get within a few miles of Kathmandu , when it detiorates into an assault course of deep ditches,rock and sand. This causes vehicles to try and pick the best route through the bends, making riding the bike like a game of dodgems.

We survived this to tackle the chaos of Khatmandu traffic like old professionals! What a difference a week can make to your confidence. Last week we left the city full of trepidation ,only to return, riding like locals. Passing on both sides, filtering on pavements,squeezing between buses and trucks and missing pedestrians by inches. (Note to self: must re read the Highway Code when I get home).

Posted by Mick G 08.11.2013 20:59 Archived in Nepal Tagged landscapes mountains people motorcycle tourist_sites Comments (1)

Chitwan to Pokhara

The Birth place of Buddha and armed Police escort

rain 10 °C

From Chitwan we travelled to Lambini, the birthplace of Buddha. It is now a World Heritage Site and is visited by Buddhists from all over the world. Before entry shoes must be removed, It's a place I really wanted to visit. The story of Buddha is worth reading, but briefly he came from a privileged family, but came to meditate on the poverty he saw. As a result he came to the conclusion that existence is suffering and the cause of suffering is desire. The taming of desire ends suffering and this can be achieved by following the eightfold path. It is this objective that Buddhists seek.
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Suffering is what we experienced on our journey through the Western Highlands on our way to Pokhara. Elections are due in Nepal on the 19 November. Since the Civil War between the Maoists and the Goverment ended in 2006, elections have failed to form a majority Government and the political situation has become very complex. Maoist groups are divided between those who want to be part of Government and those who do not want the elections to take place. So it was that the Maoists called a general strike across the country, on the very day we were travelling from Lumbini to Pokhara .

Although this caused no problem for us as tourists, it did cause a potential problem for our back up team of two mechanics, who if accused of breaking the strike could have found themselves beaten and the truck they were driving which was carrying our luggage burnt out. So at the start of the journey we travelled as a convoy with them in the middle. This managed to get us thought the numerous Police check points, until we got to Butwal. Unfortunately Butwal was our Rubicon!
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Here, we were stopped by armed Police who refused to let us go any further without an armed escort and here we waited for what seemed like an eternity. We did however provide the locals with a great deal of entertainment as crowds gathered to witness our plight! Our journey was to take us through the Western Hills which is a Maoist supporting area and after trouble with Police there they were taking no chances with any traffic passing through. Consequently we had a long wait until a convoy had been formed, consisting of a truck, a school bus, some local motorcycles and ourselves, plus around 10 armed police.

By this time it was 2pm and we still had 150 km to go over twisty mountain roads at around 30km per hour. We quickly realised it was going to be a long hardous journey.

We were right. The police had arranged it in sections, so we had to wait for an escort to form between villages as well as Police taking their tea breaks, this slowed our progress considerably. As night fell, we still had at least 50km to go and to make matters worse, it started to rain. Not just any old rain, but at times monsoon type rain.

Sometime after 8pm we arrived at our hotel in Pokhara. Tired, but safe, thanks to the work of our guides, Peter and Lorraine, and some careful riding by the rest of us. We had no desire to suffer any further and retired for beer and contemplation of the meaning of rubicon and the eight fold path.

Posted by Mick G 03.11.2013 03:25 Archived in Nepal Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains motorcycle tourist_sites Comments (3)

On the Road

Kathmandu to Chitwan

overcast 25 °C

Travelling by any means in Nepal is an adventure. Our few days watching traffic in Kathmandu, travelling by kamikaze taxi, and dodging,cycles,rickshaws,motorcycles,cars, trucks and buses while on foot,had given us some serious misgivings about choosing to travel by motorcycles. Still, too late now.

Having met up with our guides, Peter and Lorraine of British Bike Tours, and our fellow travellers, we collected our Royal Enfields (motto: built like guns) and ventured like lambs to the slaughter onto the battlefield of Kathmandu roads. There is only one rule of the road and that is ,there are no rules of the road. It is a free for all where 'Might is right' I can share with you, that motorcycles are way down the pecking order.

Heading for Chitwan National Park, somehow, we all managed to get out of Kathmandu in one piece and eventually turned onto a beautiful, peaceful winding mountain road, heading south through jungle to Hetauda. There we turned west to reach our destination of Tharu Village on the outskirts of the National Park.
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Unfortunately, because of a delay in collecting the bikes and a puncture to one of the bikes en route, we rode the last hour in the darkness. An interesting adventure. Nepalese drivers see headlights on vehicles as an optional extra, only to be used when absolutely necessary and definately as a last resort, when it's so dark there is no other way of seeing. If you happen to put your lights on before its pitch black it is seen as aggression and you are flashed at repeatedly......But, what an experience !!

Chitwan National Park contains some 400 + wild Rhino, elephants, sloth bears ,crocodiles, to name a few. During our stay here we did an elephant safari through the jungle, a guided walk through the jungle and an early morning canoe ride down one of it's rivers. Gopal, was our guide throughout and with his encyclopedic knowledge we were able to see animals close up, in their own environment. On our walk we came incredibly close to a Rhino. Literally feet away from us, it's as close as anyone could get to wild Rhino without serious injury. Where else in the world would get that opportunity? On the canoe ride we floated right over a crocodile,no more than two feet below the boat. Perfectly visible ,basking in the clear warm water of the river.
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The working elephants stole the show though. Especially a three month old baby, intent on climbing a gate, even though she had been told off and knew she shouldn't be doing it.
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Posted by Mick G 02.11.2013 20:45 Archived in Nepal Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains trees birds boats motorcycle tourist_sites educational Comments (1)

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