A MOUNTAIN AND CULTURE ADVENTURE ;
FAST FORWARD YOUR WATCHES BY 15 min’s
AND YOUR CALENDAR TO THE YEAR 2063!
WELCOME TO NEPAL
17th DEC. 2006 MAHENDRANAGAR to BUTWAL
The Nepalese side of the border didn’t open ‘til 8am so we had some time to waste sitting outside the immigration building, which is right beside the tourist information office. We opened up the back of nessie to get breakfast and not a soul appeared to hassle us, in fact, the loudest thing you could hear was Dave munching his cornflakes!! This was bliss. We could feel ourselves immediately winding down. The office opened on time and we sailed through the procedure within 15 minutes. The roads were fantastic, wide, smooth and almost empty of vehicles and the scenery was even better, with a mix of jungle, forest, glacier blue rivers and rice fields. It was just what we needed and well worth the terrible drive from Agra just to drive through western Nepal and it’s beautiful scenery.
We came upon a line of stones placed across the road, obviously a make shift road block, which we promptly drove over, and a little later saw over 100 people walking toward us. Our initial thoughts were that the Maoists had attacked a village ahead, but no-one seemed distressed so we carried on. We eventually found somebody who could speak English and they explained that the road was closed because of an accident. We decided to push on for a look and on the way kept our eyes open for a shallow bit in the river to ford if need be. When we finally reached the accident that had closed the road , 4 miles further on, we were dumb-founded to find that it was only a bus that had gone off the road. The road was clear of debris and all the traffic had stopped for no apparent logical reason. All the bus passengers were walking past the accident to reach the next village when in actual fact their bus could have carried on. Maybe it’s some Nepalese law that all road users should stop until the police arrive. Being tourists we just drove on. We wanted to stay at the Royal Bardia national park but the peace treaty is still new so nowhere is open as yet. At Nepalgunj the road began to twist and climb-we started to see some bad driving but still nothing compared to Indian drivers. We spent our first night in the Siddhartha Hotel Butwal.
18th DEC. 2006 BUTWAL to TANSEN
We drove all of 38km’s today and set up camp in the Srinagar Hotel . At 4,620ft it was very cold at night and we had to sit in the reception area ‘til bed time, but the views of the Himalaya were lovely. Unfortunately the lovely town Durbar was badly damaged in a Maoist attack in October, (all that is left are burnt out cars and some walls) but we still really enjoyed walking around the traditional village and relaxing for two days. We bought powdered milk as sourcing liquid milk is almost impossible here, unless you want it straight from the cow!
20th DEC. 2006 TANSEN to POKHARA
The cold has driven us to leave Tansen rather quickly and drop down to the warmer climes of Pokhara. It took just over 3 hours to get there along an unbelievably twisty road passing through some beautiful scenery. We tried a couple of places in town and then found the ABC hotel on lake where we could camp– there are a huge choice of hotels in this area and it’s worth shopping around. We stayed because they had a campfire every night and it was well placed for the net café, german bakery and the shops. We spent the next few days relaxing, eating and enjoying the great weather and beautiful views. I got invited to a funeral (not the usual thing to do on holiday) and the family even offered for me to participate and take photo’s, which I wasn’t comfortable with, but oddly enough I enjoyed watching the tradition of a Brahman caste Hindu funeral from my elevated position above the river. I waited long enough to see the pyre being lit with the body on top and left. Meantime, Dave was trying to solve our web-page problems- yet again! The days are really warm and sunny and it’s only at night that it gets a little chilly. We drove up to the world peace pagoda and had a picnic lunch there admiring the views.
Another day we visited the bat cave and Dave got stuck at the exit, luckily the guide was able to give him a push from behind as I was too busy laughing and taking photo’s to help. There have been Maoist marches and strikes since we arrived in Nepal, with tyres being set alight in the middle of the road and windows getting broken, luckily the dispute seems to have been resolved and on Xmas eve talks commenced and calm ensued.
On Xmas day we packed a special picnic and drove up to Sarangkot, where we sat overlooking the lake in one direction and the Annapurna mountains in the other, with the paragliders and eagles competing for air currents overhead. Then we drove back to town and had a delicious steak dinner at the Meera Hotel before rounding off the day with our Xmas presents - a bottle of red wine and a packet of chocolate hob nobs. What a perfect day! We also decided to drive out to Beni via Baglung under the misinformation that the mountain views from there were fantastic. The drive was very pretty but at Baglung the road became a track that you can only drive at 10mph max. It killed our backs and, because the bridge at Beni is not completed, you have to drive the same way back, not only that, Beni is at the bottom of a valley– there are no mountain views! We’ve found 3 nails in our tyres since arriving in Pokhara and luckily only one caused a puncture. It was at this point that we discovered that our Oz plug kit doesn’t work because we were stupid and bought plugs that are only long enough for a car tyre depth. Silly sods! So we will wait until we get to Kathmandu to get it repaired properly. We decided to leave Pokhara after only one day of the New Year festival celebrations, it was getting too busy for us, and said goodbye to our friends before driving to Kathmandu.
29th DEC. 2006 POKHARA to KATHMANDU
After spending 9 days in Pokhara, we have recovered from the drive to Banbassa and Beni and decide to only drive half way so as not overdo things. We stopped at Bandipur for a walk around this lovely traditional hill village, the views are meant to be amazing, but the weather has changed and there was a lot of low lying cloud. So we drove onto the river resorts, past Mugling, in the hope of spending the night. We had 3 choices: one wanted $30 a night, the other was closed and the last one was very unsuitable-we found ourselves in the position of having to complete the drive to Kathamndu. It went wellup to the check point 6km’s before town, where we were met with a huge traffic jam. It took 2 hours to travel 6km’s. We couldn’t believe it. We expected to come across a major incident of some sort- it was only the crossroad that joins the city ring road. It was in chaos. There were no traffic lights, it was rush hour and the police just stood blowing whistles rather than directing the traffic! When we finally got into the centre it was dark and very, very busy and we ended up driving around the edge of Durbar square onto the narrow lanes of Thamel- it was at this point we gave up and drove to the Astoria Hotel. It is in the embassy area, which is easy to find, has great parking and good food, but at $25 a night it was too expensive for us. So the following day we got up early and went in search of a cheaper place to stay. After several tries we found the Marshyangdi Hotel which is right on the edge of the Thamel area- $11 a night.
30th DEC. 2006 KATHMANDU
We spent the day relaxing, as I was having trouble walking after changing the punctured wheel, and Rose caught up with emails and postcard writing. We sourced the Land rover garage and booked her in for tomorrow.
31st DEC. 2006
We took nessie to the garage today and got all the oil levels checked, new oil filter, a brake pad check, general look over underneath, our puncture patched and a new landy horn all for £42. Not only that, they scrubbed her clean from top to bottom, inc. the engine compartment. (The new oil accounted for almost half the bill). We ended the day with a New Years Eve treat meal of steak and chips.
1st JAN. 2007
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL! Last year we spent new years eve on a private balcony overlooking Sydney harbour and opera house- we never imagined that we would be here a year later. Wonder where we’ll be next year? We spent the day wandering around Durbar square soaking up the atmosphere and sights, then posted our mail. WARNING: Do not post anything bigger than a postcard from Nepal, it cost us almost £17 to send 7 small calendars! We also found a place to print up business cards for us and, at 4Rs per card, it was a bargain. It was a great day all round.
2nd JAN. 2007
We went back to Durbar square again today and had a look in the palace, which was not worth the entrance fee, then followed the 2 walks around the surrounding streets before catching a taxi to Swayambhunath ( monkey temple), which was worth the visit, before heading back to town to collect our business cards. The printers we used are in The Kathmandu Mall on Karmachari Sanchaya Kosh Bhawan, which also has a fast food café that serves some of the best and cheapest food in town.
3rd JAN. 2007
We went to Patan today and looked around the Durbar square, which was nicer than Kathmandu’s. Patan museum was well worth a visit, as was the golden temple, with it’s amazing atmosphere and beautiful shrine.
4th JAN. 2007
We got up really early today to escape the city before the rush hour chaos and drove to Nagarkot. Just over one hour later we were rewarded with what turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip so far. The views were stunning, with the valley below shrouded in mist and clear views to the Himalaya and Everest in the distance. Absolutely breathtaking. There is a perfect bush camp spot here; turn up the rather steep, bumpy track signed Manla Resort and at the top you will find a lovely flat bit of land overlooking the valley. Perfect. After our picnic lunch we reluctantly left and drove back to Bhaktapur. The entrance fee was a wallet popping 750Nrs each but worth every penny as this turned out to be the best Durbar Square yet, and a real treat just to stroll around the quiet streets and alleys observing every day life. Our top tip would be to drive out to Bhaktapur first and after your visit head up to Nagarkot to bush camp for the night- that way you get to see sunset and sunrise.
5th JAN. 2007
ARRIVAL DATE: 17th DEC. 2006
134 Nepalese Rupees = £1
$1.96 = £1
World peace pagoda A tight squeeze at the bat cave! A great Xmas day out
Nessie getting some TLC Patan Durbar Square A typical street scene in Kathmandu
The best durbar square in Nepal.
PASUPATINAH & BODHNATH STUPA
6th JAN. 2007
Today we drove the short distance to Budhanilkantha, ( sleeping Vishnu) ensuring that we arrived before the 9am prayers and the inevitable tourists - worth a visit. Next we drove to Bodhnath which is the largest stupa in Nepal and the Tibetan area of town. Parking in this area is a nightmare so we snuck into a supermarket car park, turned out that this was the best supermarket we’ve found in Kathmandu, it’s called Gemini Supermarket and is just before the stupa on the opposite side of the road. Vishwa Maske
( the owner) is a 4x4 fan and was pleased to see us and have a chat about nessie. Fully stocked up we drove to Pashupatinath, which is the most important Hindu temple in Nepal, where they try to charge 250 Nrs each to get into the OUTER complex.
Do not buy a ticket. All you get to see is a rather dirty river bed and the outside of the temple. Instead, park behind the temple, between numbers 13 and 16 on your lonely planet book map, walk straight ahead through the walled garden area and there you can look down into the temple complex. Then walk down toward the main entrance to see the backside of the huge gold bull through the open doors. You do not need a ticket to walk in these areas and you get great views -worth a visit.
7th JAN. 2007
We had planned a mountain flight over Everest and the surrounding Himalaya but, after seeing the views from Nagarkot, we were more than satisfied so we have decided to leave Kathmandu tomorrow and take the mountain road to Daman. We spent the day relaxing, eating and stocking up with frozen chicken from the bluebird supermarket.
8th JAN. 2007 KATHMANDU to HETAUDA
We had a job getting out of the city as just on the outskirts we met our first roadblock of the day. Luckily we spotted a track that led us past a tented village and took us out at the other end of the queue. The next road block was not so easy and the men were in no mood to talk, so we turned around and were wondering what to do when we saw a local car disappear down a track. We followed him as he squeezed past a makeshift wood blockade, that we had to drive over, and ended up on a track that passed brick factories ultimately coming out at the police checkpoint at the top of the hill. We managed to talk our way through the next blockade before we turned off the main road toward Daman. It was a lovely drive up there, but unfortunately the view of 8out of the 10 highest mountains in the world was obscured by mist so, we drove down from 2,422m on constant switchbacks and through some stunning scenery until we reached Hetauda where we booked into the Advocado Resort and set up camp for the night– the restaurant is cheap and VERY good. We met 2 Toyota landcruisers that have been stuck here for a day because of the blockades!
9th JAN. 2007 HETAUDAD to CHITWAN
The landcruisers set off early and returned within 30 min’s. No luck. Then news came through that the road was open so they tried again, we followed after 30 min’s only to meet them 20 min’s later on their way back to the hotel! We decided that being in a non Nepali vehicle may help, so we carried on and met little resistance at the first blockade. Over the next 4 miles we came across half a dozen roadblocks made of rocks and small tree trunks, which we were able to either drive around or drive over- they were all unmanned. Then we came to a large manned barricade at the start of a bridge, these guys were pretty agitated and it took some fast talking to convince them that we should be let through, but just as Dave was moving the logs out of the way, they started to change their minds and we had to move very quickly. At the far end of the bridge were their colleagues, who we told the same lie about our visa’s running out, luckily they let us through before they heard the shouts from the crowd behind us. That was close.
We were beginning to worry that we may get stuck between 2 blockades, so when we finally met the next blockade, who made it perfectly clear that they were in no mood to talk, we were almost relieved to make the decision to go “off road” and into the countryside. We spent the next 30 miles on a mixture of farm, mud, sand, forest and jungle track, at one point we were on a panic when a raised and extremely narrow farm track suddenly pitched at an alarming angle. It’s at times like these that you find out if you’ve packed your vehicle correctly! We were utterly lost! We knew that if we could find the river then turn west, we should be able to find Sauraha but we still had to stop several times, switch off and look plus listen for sounds of life. Eventually we made it into town and booked into the gardens of the Royal Park.
WEST TERRAI ROADS
UNBELIEVABLE NEPALESE STAMINA!!
Locals illegally logging the park Wild rhino. with baby
10th JAN. 2007
Today we decide on alternative transport and, after watching the elephants getting washed, we set off down river on a dugout canoe with our guide. After a relaxing hour watching the wildlife of the river we stepped ashore in search of wild rhino, with no sightings we took an oxen driven cart back to town just in time to meet our elephant for our safari. There are tigers, leopards, sloth bears, rhino’s and several types of deer in the park, we hoped to be lucky. A shout carries through the jungle- a mahout has spotted the rhino. Suddenly we are thrashing through dense jungle and forest, wading through rivers, to be rewarded with 3 separate sightings of rhino. What a treat! The animals have no fear of the elephants, allowing you to get really close. Fantastic.What a perfect trip to Chitwan, which started with our own variation of safari in Nessie and ended with the real thing!
Our elephants big brother
11th JAN. 2007
We make the decision to leave Nepal early as the situation seems to be escalating so, we get up at 5.30am to try and beat the blockades and, after driving for 2 hours through thick fog, we make it to the border uninterrupted. It meant missing out Lumbini but we didn’t want to get trapped so close to the Indian border. The border was busy but we made it through in 30 min’s almost driving past the passport check point by the archway! OOPS.
BUDGET COMMENTS: We have not included Nessies service costs but have included 2 very expensive food shops which totalled 5,600 Nrs!
HIGHLIGHTS: Western Terai scenery, general views around Pokhara, Bhaktapur Durbar square, golden temple and streets, Patan museum and Durbar square, Nagarkot views, Chitwan and finally, great food.
DISAPPOINTMENTS: Kathmandu Durbar square and overpricing in some shops.
FUEL: Readily available but not good quality as it’s commonly mixed with kerosene. It didn’t cause us any problems. 53Nrs per litre.
SHOPPING: Good corner shops and excellent supermarkets in Kathmandu, go to Bluebird or Gemini supermarkets in the city.
See 6th + 7th Jan entries.
WATER: Good quality and readily available but we continued to use our filter system just to be safe.
ROADS: On the whole, very good with only some being a bit rough.
POLICE: Very friendly and helpful but terrible at traffic management!
SAFETY: Peace treaty has been signed but you still see daily incidents of strikes, road blocks and general unrest. Best to check regularly on the situation.
LANDY: We took Nessie for her usual service. See diary entry 31st DEC 2006 for details + top tips page. You can buy your filters here but the oils are expensive. Indian insurance also covers us in Nepal.
THOUGHTS ON NEPAL: In case you haven’t guessed– we loved it. It is a country that has something for everyone, with trekking galore amidst some of the worlds highest peaks, an amazing mix of cultures and people combined with stunning Newari architecture. You also have the opportunity of meeting the people of Tibet who have made Nepal their new home and experience their culture. We will definitely be back for more fantastic Nepalese hospitality and hope to see some festivals next time.
WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE BLOCKADES??
A truck driver ran over and killed a cyclist resulting in a newspaper story stating that the police had beaten the man into admitting he had deliberately killed the cyclist.
A few days later we read that he had been accused of deliberately reversing over the cyclist, and was now facing 15 years in jail and a 2,000,000 Nrs fine! We were shocked and confused as to why the police would behave like that.
The truth turned out to be far worse...........
In Nepal if you strike and injure someone you have to pay for them for the rest of their life, BUT if you kill them you normally only face 6 months in jail and a 15,000 Nrs fine. It makes financial sense to do the job properly hence drivers reversing over their victims to ensure death!!!
The government have decided to make an example of this particular driver, and have increased the normal punishment, so all of the bus and truck drivers are protesting to try and revert the law.
STOP PRESS***************STOP PRESS******************STOP PRESS******************STOP PRESS
Shortly after we left Nepal things became violent, in total 18 people have died and several government offices have been attacked and burnt down. Within 3 weeks the border had been closed leaving some overlanders having to re-plan their route, we’re glad that we made the decision to leave the country early because of the blockades.
© www.nessiesadventures.com, 2006, All rights reserved.
Spent the day relaxing after all our sight seeing, the hotel staff arranged to get our gas bottle topped up for us– apparently you take it to any stove repair shop.