Thursday 30 November 2017

No view and fertility temple

Today were drove over the top of the Dochu La pass, which is a 3,000 metre high pass between Thimphu and the town of Punakha.
We were hoping that it would a clear day as there are fantastic views of the Himalayas, but a couple of minutes before we got to the top we were suddenly in the middle of a cloud, and then there was snow by the side of the road.
No views today then, but there was a good temple, lots of monuments and we get a second chance in a couple of days as we have to go back the way we came. 
Our second stop was much more of a surprise as it was a temple and village devoted to fertility,  specifically helping couples who were keen to have children. 
The village was full of brightly painted houses with dubious murals and the shops were full of large wooden objects!
Our young guide thought the whole place was hilarious, and so did we. 
We walked to the temple across paddy fields and stopped at a stupa to spin the prayer wheels and look at the flags that commemorate the dead I think - don't quote me on that. 
Finally, Bhutan is full of fluffy dogs that lie around silently  in the sun all day, and at night they wake up and bark all night. The Bhutanese call them Solar Dogs and I have decided not to be scared of them! 

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Thimphu, Bhutan 🇧🇹

We were collected at the airport by our friendly guide and driver who were dressed in traditional costume. 
We then drove from the airport to the capital of Bhutan and the views along the way were incredible. The roads were also unbelievablely twisty and turny as they clung to the mountainside.
We stopped at an ancient bridge and temple on the journey. There are prayer flags everywhere, particularly on bridges and mountains and they flutter in the breeze to send prayers up to heaven.
That was yesterday, and then I was struck down quite badly with altitude sickness,  so I spent almost 15 hours in bed, but I have rallied and almost back on form now.
Today we visited temples, stupas, a giant bhudda and the national animal of Bhutan which is called a takin. It is a sort of buffalo/goat type of thing. 
We also went to see the taking down of the flag ceremony at the government fortress. 
What a beautiful flag, with a thunder dragon across the centre. 
Strangely four brightly dressed monks blowing horns led the ceremony. The soldiers were very serious and marching in a coordinated manner, but the monks just wandered around chatting happily amongst themselves. The overall effect was rather surreal. 

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Mount Everest I presume

We caught our flight from Kathmandu to Bhutan and were lucky to get seats on the left hand side of the plane.
We had a fantastic view over the Himalayas and the captain made an announcement when we passed Mount Everest. 
All of the mountains were really high, but there was one that stood out above the others and I am pretty sure that it is Mount Everest.
An unexpected treat on our journey!
We were met by our guide and driver who welcomed us with scarves.
Got to finish now as I am struggling with altitude sickness and my brain has turned to mush. 

Monday 27 November 2017

Photo with a tiger

It was our last morning at the National Park so we set out on our own to try and find a tiger. Unfortunately we were out too early and the mist was so thick that we couldn't even see across to the other side of the river.
Instead I had to make do with saying hello to the well dressed tiger that hangs around all day just outside of our hotel. 
Straight after breakfast we were off to the airport for the flight in our almost private jet back to Kathmandu. 
It was a very small airport, but right next to the Departure terminal was large and friendly rhino with her baby. 
In the background to my rhino photo is a plane owned by the exotic sounding Bhudda Air, and Yeti Air also fly from this airport. 
I was also very taken with a hotel just around the corner from our own called the Yak and Yeti. 

Sunday 26 November 2017

Not so many animals today

I think that we had a bit of beginners luck yesterday in the Safari department. 
I had high hopes for our outings today, but animal wise, nothing matched the rhino from yesterday.
Today started with a wonderful, peaceful canoe ride down the river and we saw lots of birds, including kingfishers and peacocks as well as more crocodiles. 
We then went on a long jungle walk with our helpful guide who carried a very big stick. Unfortunately we only saw a few deer and monkeys, although there was lots of evidence of the more dangerous animals all around us. 
I only took a photo of a tiger's footprint as I assumed that no one really wanted to see fresh rhino and wild boor poo, or scrapes allegedly made by bears.
After that we went to the elephant breeding centre where obviously we did see lots of elephants as they were tied up with very strong chains - not really sure how ethical this is. 
After lunch we took a boat across the river and went on a jeep safari. We saw little in the way of animal life, but miles of huge elephant grass. 
The most exciting thing to happen was when a group of jeeps were all jostling together to get the best view of two rhinos, and our driver reversed aggressively into the side of another jeep that was trying to steal our view! 
We gave him a tip for that when we left. 

Saturday 25 November 2017

Chitwan National Park

We arrived at our hotel to be handed a sheet of paper with a packed itinerary for our whole stay. The first item was 4pm Sunset - village visit. 
We sat in the back of a truck for the five minute journey and quickly noticed that the traffic was very different to Kathmandu! (see pic 2)
However, instead of the expecyed wander around the shops, our guide took us straight to the nearby river bank and into the National Park. 
We immediately saw a giant crocodile lying on the sand with a matching smaller friend to keep him company. 
Our guide then said that if we were lucky then we might see one of the rhinos that come down to the river bank most nights. 
Apparently they also like to swim across the river and raid the cauliflower field next to the village,  and late at night they are even known to march down the main street. 
We didn't see that, but along with about 100 other people we crouched quietly on the opposite bank and watched a rhino drink and plod about in the mud. Actually our guide said that he was 'eating water', but I am going to call that drinking. 

Pokhara to Chitwan

We knew that it would be a six hour bus trip and that the roads would be bad, but we didn't know how bad.
The road was just bumpy as usual for the first part of our journey, then we drove over a bridge and it all changed. I was next to the window quietly listening to a podcast when the road disappeared and we were just driving over rocks and huge potholes. Almost immediately our bus decided to overtake something and my side of the bus was right on the edge of the gorge - with no barrier and just a mud bank!
For a while I was in denial and tried to ignore what was happening, but then on another scary bit the guy behind me actually screamed. 
I took off my head phones, looked around the bus and realised that I should be getting worried! 
For about the next 30 miles we chugged along and the bus bounced around like a ship in a storm. We were also overtaking or being overtaken ourselves whenever the driver could find an inch to squeeze through. All of the drivers coming the other way were doing the same, so it was one big free for all. 
The variety of vehicles was interesting and included the big Tara lorries that drive all over Asia, buses of all sizes and shapes, cars, tractors, loads of motorbikes, fork lifts and construction traffic and even one person on a bicycle. 
There was also lots of workmen scattered along the route - apparently they have been working for about three years and they will probably still be there for at least another five. 
The only blessing for us is that our lane was the one furthest from the edge and we do not have to go back in the opposite direction. 
However, it was also exciting and we arrived safely at our hotel, which had a huge lunch ready for us and is lovely. 

Friday 24 November 2017

Hike to see Mount Annapurna and the Fishtail

We have a good, but distant view from our hotel room of part of the Annapurna mountain range, but as you can see from the first photo, a big hill is in the way.
Today I decided that we should hike to the viewpoint at the top of the hill so that we could get a better view of the mountains. 
The big problem is that every day they begin in full sun but then clouds gather and hide them from view. So could we hike to the top in time to see them?
Well, obviously we didn't set off early, and then the route was difficult to follow. A friendly local lady advised us to hike up a dry riverbed to get back up onto the road. The rocks in the riverbed were very big, so we ended up climbing over them until we got to a section that was impossible to scale. We looked for alternatives and then found that there was a very good path running along the riverbank! Maybe there was a misunderstanding somewhere.
We then had to skirt around cows and monkeys while the path changed into endless and steep steps. We stopped for a breather at a cafe and then passed dozens of  paragliders before we made it up to the viewing platform. 
As you may guess, the whole mountain range was covered in cloud and we could see nothing. The only other people there with us were two Scotsmen dressed in kilts, so to try to cheer myself up I said hello and we started to chat. 
Within a couple of minutes one of them said that I looked familiar, but I didn't recognise him. 
We quickly worked out that he worked for the same company as my sister and they probably met a few years ago when they both won 'best of the best' company prizes!
Well that's a small world. 
We stayed chatting for so long that the clouds actually cleared a little, so we even got a photo of the top of the mountains.
We then hiked back down the hill, and this time we found the right path and we were soon back by the lake. The final photo is of the hill that we climbed. Yes it was a long way so we headed straight to the hotel for a shower and a lie down. 

Thursday 23 November 2017

Exploring Pokhara

We had a guided tour of Pokhara this afternoon and as we found out, it is a very attractive town next to a lake. 
It has some strange attractions and we saw a river in that disappeared into a gorge that is named after a Swiss lady who drowned there in 1961. We then went into a very dark and wet cave that took us to the bottom of the gorge.
The cave is having some building work done inside of it so we had to clamber over various pipes, scaffolding, bags of sand and extremely steep steps, both on the way down and back up the same way.
We then went to a Hindu temple and today was a special day so lots of couples were getting married. They were beautifully dressed and covered in garlands. 
Our final stop was for a boat trip around the lake and to another temple on a little island in the middle.

Flight to Pokhara

What a way to travel this morning! We caught a 40 minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara and the plane only carried 16 passengers. Everyone had a window each, although it was pretty cramped inside.
To us though it almost seemed, and looked from the outside like a private jet! 

Wednesday 22 November 2017


We set off from home at 10am yesterday, and at 12.30pm local time today we touched down in Nepal. They are 5.45 hours ahead of us, but it was still a pretty long journey.
The two flights were both on time and very efficient in a slightly weird way. On the first journey they ran out of wine with dinner so I had gin and tonic instead. Unfortunately, they were also running out of tonic so I was handed a plastic cup full of almost neat gin to go with my chicken curry - (they had also run out of pasta.) 
On the second journey we set off at just before 2am, were served breakfast at 3am and then the lights were turned down so that people could try to sleep.
Anyway, we are here now and it is extremely busy, the traffic is mostly gridlocked, petrol fumes are everywhere, but the hotel is nice, the people are extremely friendly and we have just had a lovely cappuccino and a slice of cake. 
Heading back to the hotel for an early night and then back to the airport in the morning for another flight. 
Very, very happy to be travelling.