A Travellerspoint blog

I heart Nepal

Hello all, hope you are doing well. We are fine here, having finished at the soup kitchen and begun our travels. Please read on...

Having trouble trying to leave Nepal. Our plan was to go to a national park for an elephant safari and rafting, then go by bus over a couple of days to the eastern border with India. However! not so simple in this interesting country! ...a few riots, roadblocks, deaths, protests and general disruptions have meant a change of plan. (see Annies earlier blog).

We now have gone back on ourselves to Kathmandu and plan to fly to Biratnagar to attempt to cross the Indian border there. We had intended to fly directly to the border crossing that we were heading to by bus, but the airport there is closed for a month for maintainence work. Biratnagar is the next closest airport, although we had read that it was not a border crossing point for tourists, but have double checked this with travel agents AND the british embassy who give us a Nepalese guarantee (...erm, well, probably, ...ahh, hopefully, good luck sir!) that we can cross at this point as we have our Indian visa. We will then get ourselves to Darjeeling as planned.

So, to backtrack, we finished at the soup kitchen with mixed emotions. The last day felt celebratory with the biggest turnout of customers, many of whom had bought us thoughtful gifts like purses, jewellery and scarves. They wished us all well and we took a long time to say our goodbyes. We then had to dismantle, clean and transport it to ROKPA's childrens home which took a couple of days. We had an enjoyable last meal together before people went their separate ways- back home, onward travelling or trekking to everest basecamp!

We headed to Pokhara via an interesting bus journey through the countryside/mountains. Pokhara is a beautiful city with Nepals 2nd largest lake. Popular with tourists for paragliding, trekking, rafting and relaxing by or on the lake. Unfortunately Annie was ill again, so as the dutiful husband/nurse that i am, i made sure she had a plentiful supply of loo roll before heading out to hire myself a motorbike. 5 quid to hire a bike for the day! I don't have a bike license nor have i ridden a bike with gears before. But i did have hard currency, so took the bike and spent the first hour or so learning how to ride it, then hit the open road to learn how to avoid lorries, buses and potholes - don't worry mum i'm fine and the bike has been returned!

Annie wasn't ill all the time in Pokhara (and is now better) and we did manage to bike up to the top of a mountain for a view of the "real" snowcapped mountains at sunrise which was great, especially as they have been mostly covered by a misty haze during the day. We also walked up another mountain which gave us great views of the town. We hired a boat (and boatman) to get to the other side of the lake for that walk. A few of the others from the soup kitchen have been around Pokhara, in between rafting and trekking so we've hung out with them too.

So fingers crossed for our great escape tomorrow...

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Posted by berrysblog 10:25 Comments (0)

Halted at our first stop!

Hello! We packed up and left the kitchen a few days ago, which involved lots of dusting down and folding of tarpaulines! It was quite sad to go, but we have been looking forward to moving onwards.
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We are now in Pokhara, on a lakeside, with mountain views in the distance...especially when there are no clouds (which there have been most days)!
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Things have been getting a little tense here, firstly because I (Annie) got quite ill and was stuck in bed for two days, so we were late moving on. Secondly, now that we are ready to move on, there is no way out the way we wanted to go: the east-west highway is blockaded and there are strikes all the way along it, so no traffic can get to the eastern-most crossing we were going to use. There are about as many reasons for the blockades as the people participating - they happen if people want compensation for some reason, political recognition, police action, etc. So talks are taking place, but meanwhile road traffic across the country is not really possible.
This means that we can't get to Chitwan Park that we really hoped to see - no elephant safari or rhino spotting for us :( apparently Chitwan is all locked up and no one can get out - so in some ways a blessing in disguise that I was ill so we were not stuck there.
To add something else to the mix, protests happened in Pokhara because a girl was bitten by a dog and died after being given a rabies jab. The locals then trashed the hospital (!) and police sprayed tear gas resulting in a young girls passing out and dying on the way to the second hospital - so that then also got trashed (!!). We always thought hospitals were except from these kind of things.
Another blessing in disguise is that we had antibiotics on us meaning that we weren't at either of the hospitals when they were trashed!
Good news is that we now have a flight booked so have to go back to Kathmandu to then fly to a less used crossing at Biratnagar-Jogbani. We then have to make our way overland to get to Darjeeling/Sikkim as planned. We should hopefully arrive on time for our plans for India - this has only messed up the travels in Nepal! Other good news is that I'm feeling completely better and finishing off the antibiotics.
Wish us luck on our way to India!!

Posted by berrysblog 01:13 Comments (0)

The daily routine...

Namaste! Thought it was about time I explained what we are up to every day. We start serving breakfast - a cup of sweet tea and rothi bread - at 8am. There is a mad swarm if there are extras left over. Not that because the people are still hungry, but the kids especially are so keen to have more and more, even if it's not needed, because they are so used to having nothing.

In the meantime, the lunch is being prepared. The team of rota'd on veg-choppers can turn up a bit later each day. The two Nepali cooks prepare lentils - daal - and rice (we get through 30 kilos of rice each day). We chop 35 kilos of potatoes, and 40 kilos of vegetables. These are cooked in another enormous pots, with bags full of spices!

Lunch is ready for midday and we usually have an hour and a half off before serving it. Our 'customers' are ready lined up along the benches and we go along with water for washing hands, then the bowls, rice, daal and veg, to crys of 'soup, soup' because the soup is the spicy liquid at the bottom that everyone wants because it's the tasty bit. Then water to wash hands again, and a bit for drinking. We get through 1000 litres of water per day - and this is dependent on having had electricity at the right time in order to power the water pump! Having 24hr power will be such a luxury when back.

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We have about 300 people for both breakfast and then again for lunch, probably half of them are children. Many are alcoholics, limb-less, or simply they just find that a free meal helps them out. Some the children have homes, that they have run away from as they are so used to life on the street. They actually get a lot of money when begging (as dean mentioned with the dogs and pigeons, the stupa that we live near is a magnet for this, because giving money shares the merit of the givers...but it also provides the kids with sweet and video game money, so it's quite a tricky circle) and it has really made us think a lot about the problem with giving money to the kids, who look so needy - and obviously are - but they don't spend it on clothes, or food. As one person said, looking clean and healthy is not good for their profession - they wouldn't get much money that way!

Giving at full moon apparently shares double-merit, so monks and beggars turn out in the masses and line up for people to go long the line dropping rupees into their hands, or bowls. Also on occasions the monks of nearby monasteries make an enormous pile of crisps and sweets, which get given to the children after the ceremonial offering. One of our 'customer' kids goes down with a big bag on these nights! And on these days many women sit around the stupa selling food for people to buy in order to give onto this pile. It's an interesting cycle!

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I think I've rambled on enough now. Just a bit of insight into the daily goings on. There are so many interesting and funny sights that we see...carcasses for sale - we haven't worked out what they are or what they are for!
Love to all!
Annie

Posted by berrysblog 07:10 Comments (0)

foods great, diarrhoea aint

Warm greetings from Nepal!

Things are good here, its been nearly 3 weeks now and we are getting used to our work, getting to know the friendly colleagues, clientel and weird & wonderful Nepali customs, such as the friendly greeting of "Namaste" with hands held in prayer position, and the morning ritual of clearing out yesterdays pollution from ones lungs with a few hacking louder-the-better coughs and spits.

A country of animal lovers, scabby, flea ridden dogs are given the same affection as "Fido" back home, despite biting children and keeping us all awake at various times each night barking, barking and barking some more. Pigeons are not the "flying rats" i used to know, but fellow creatures to buy feed for to gain "merit" as an act of kindness. Rats are a deep fried delicacy enjoyed by unsuspecting KFC loving tourists (urban myth?? Annies guts don't think so).

We joined 4 other workers on a lovely trip out of the city last friday, to a place called Nargakot. We took a taxi half way and walked most of the remaining 12 km (hitched the last 1.5 km in the back of a pickup, which they insisted was a free ride). We had booked the top floor of an interesting octaganol building, which was on top of a mountain with amazing views of the himalayas. Our room had a fire and its own viewing point on top of its roof. We had dinner downstairs where 6 drunken Nepalese were dining and occasionally dancing to the music on one of their mobiles. In the morning we all woke before dawn, climbed up to the view point and watched the sun rise over the snow capped mountains - beauuuutiful! We walked about 16 km back to where we're staying, through a huge green valley and along a high ridge, via an old town with Hindu temple, before hitching a ride in the back of another pickup. We were all stood up enjoying the wind in our hair, when we came across a crowd, some police and an overturned pickup! But our anxiety was soon erased by the fairground feel of the potholes we were bumping over.


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Posted by berrysblog 06:40 Comments (0)

Sporadic power=sporadic messages

Hello! The power situation here is getting amusing. We have power from 8pm to midnight by which time most places are closed. No one knows when the power is on at other times - it changes all the time and also in different regions of the city. They used to have a neat schedule, but now that doesn't seem to be true. So here we are about to be turfed out and we can't upload photos! All is going well though apart from that. We're in a nice guesthouse now, bargain price of a fiver a night. "Interesting" decoration of pastel, with black and flourescent curtains. We're getting familiar with the work. Getting to grips with the streetlife customs and how the kids get by - complicated but eye-opening. Dean is getting to grips with minimum bandages and equipment to deal with neglected wounds.
Our favourite thing so far is the food and the cakes. It's amazing, so much variety and all so tasty. Nepalese dumplings - momos - are the best.
Til next time!...

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Posted by berrysblog 07:30 Comments (0)

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