“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes….”

AuthorAndrew

“We came, we saw, we got sick… But only for the holidays!”

Well that’s it, as of this morning the Intrepid tour has come to an official end and we’re back on our own in this strange foreign land. It’s been great fun hanging with the five other members of our group: UK Matt, Anika the German, Steve the Botanist, Scott the hearty Kiwi and our Indian leader Naji. We have a lot of good memories, some we managed to catch on film, while others will just be between us until we eventually meet again. It is a small world after all!

Anyway the final days of our trip had us lodged in the tourist district of Nepal’s capital; Kathmandu! This lovely city sits within a massive valley, surrounded on all sides by mountains and is home to 4 million people. Perhaps thanks to the earlier rains, the city lacked the dusty air that had dominated Varanasi and many other Indian cities and towns. The sky was also a fair blue and clear, making the nights far cooler than we’d previously encounterd and requiring a thick dooner or a few layers of thermals!

Of course being the climbing capital of the world also has it’s perks; that being the numerous shops selling cheap camping and hiking gear. Of coarse a lot of it is fake and of poor quality to the originals, it’s certainly temping even with the risk.

This is also the first city we’ve seen a major presence of Buddism around, with small to large temples being scattered everywhere alongside the numerous prayer wheels and flags which accompany them. I have to remark Buddism runs a very efficient religion/philosophy to follow with just a couple of spins of the prayer wheel each day, or merely a breeze to gently move the colourful prayer flags.

There are many monks on pilgrimages to the two major temples in Kathmandu: the Monkey temple and the Buodha, which are in tern followed by more ambitious salesmen trying to earn a little money from the tourists. Some of the artwork is really high quality, such as the Tibetan paintings, stone carvings and brass work, but there’s so much of it around it’s hard not to be overwhelmed.

Thankfully we were given a wonderful opportunity this morning with a 7am flight to get up close to Mount Everest, the tallest peak on Earth. Hopes were a little low thanks to having the previous mornings flight being cancelled after nearly 3 hours waiting in the airport, but thankfully the fog cleared and we were on our way. The little turbo prop plane rattled it’s way up to give us some fantastic shots of the surrounding mountain ranges and prize itself. In fact we had ample opportunity to see it with poor weather forcing the plane to keep airborne for another hour. We certainly got our money’s worth of the $177 US tickets 😀

Right now we’re resting in a little hotel in the neighbouring town of Pokra (a 30 minute flight or a 6-8 hour drive from Kathmandu :$), a pretty little town nested by a large lake, surrounded by mountains and the adjacent to the Anapuna sanctuary! Hopefully we’ll be over the worst of the bugs and fatigue by then to really get into the hiking!

Wet time table in Nepal.

Three days so far in Nepal and it’s starting to get me homesick with the rainforests, large mountains (hills to the locals) and winding dirt roads which criss cross many of these mountain ranges. Though so far the thick clouds have been hiding many of the higher ones in the distance, we got a good view of the closest ones early today before the rain set in again.

Talking about rain, we really have underwhelming thunder storms back in Melbourne. Last night, huddling in little mud huts, the thunder went on for almost a minute at a time; rumbling and booming again and again alongside lightening which streaked the sky.

Why we were huddling in said huts is thanks to the little safari walk we took through the jungle, seeing rhinos, elephants, deer, crocks and many varieties of birds. Everything didn’t seem to fazed by us though as we walked and floated past, either basking in the afternoon sunlight or munching on grass. The local rangers were a good laugh and very helpful with local knowledge, such as what to do when confronted with an angry elephant: run!

The little village we stayed at was quite basic, but for a little of civilisation in the middle of the jungle, it was more than we needed for just a short overnight stay. The locally made dinner was delicious, our evening entertainment was a rhinos coming across the river below us with the back drop of the spectacular thunder storm. Far more entertaining was one of the young members of the village, Sherma, talking to us in fluent English and a little German. Victoria and Matt both had a good time chatting with the little fellah, though his attention was a bit side tracked when the iPhone came out.

Guess boys are all the same then eh 😛

Anyway we’re bunkered down next to the bar (how surprising…), watching the sun try to come out and dry the pitch for the afternoons cricket game. We’ve already had a few rounds of cards, with Phil becoming very competitive and Victoria playing way too fast for people’s preferences. No spoons though, “you’re way too violent playing that game” says Phil, like she’s any less competitive in Cheat!

A little town called Orccha

Listening to the sound of birds chirping, water flowing down the nearby river and the odd calls of prayer at the many temples surrounding us (22 in fact), the small town of Orccha is by far the most serene place we’ve visited on our trip.

Back in the 17th century, this little town used to be the capital of the small Hindi kingdom of Rajput, coexisting alongside the larger Mogul kingdoms in Delhi and Agra, which has some of the most magnificently persevered palaces and temples surrounding it and a prime example of Hindu design at the time.

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So far we’ve been moving at a slow pace, dining at the local restraunts, checking out the wares at the local shops, playing badminton with some street kids and taking a tour of the ‘haunted’ kings palace. It seems almost strange to not be hearing horns and traffic while outside the little tents we have as accommodation; which still fit two beds, a storage room, bathroom with shower and a tele in there some how.

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All this relaxing has caused us to take a beating from the merciless sun however, which while hot is comforting in the early morning and evening thanks to the cold. I could have sworn it was below ten last night 🙁

The area around the town is mostly farmland with the odd village mixed in, sugar cane seems to be the local favourite I think, with one of these having a little paper factory that’s sponsored by Intrepid. We took a little tour of this earlier today and caused a bit of a stir with the locals when Scott, the groups single Kiwi, was asked whether he was married by one of the women working there. What followed was a humorous little conversation where a couple of marriage proposals were passed around, by the end he’d managed to make it out still a bachelor and the women had a good laugh at the entire event.

Anyway, tonight we’ll be heading up to one of the grandest temples before dinner, after which we’ll witness a proper hindu ceremony at the more local temple. The town seems to have spread out around these larger monuments from ages past, quite the contrast considering the high towers of the temples compared to the two/three storey building around them.

Victoria hasn’t been feeling 100% for a little while, she’s now resting along with Phill and Matt whilst I enjoy some R&R out in the lovely afternoon sun.
Now all I need to do is find a handkerchief…

P.S. I’ve realised the reason why motorised Rickshaws last forever; there ain’t much to them!

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes….”

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