Sunday
Mar062011

Into Africa (always wanted to say that)

Wow. We're in Africa. 

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to be precise. It's not what I expected. It's not like I thought Africa was all mud huts and aids but it was not the intense bustle of a city I'd experienced in Bamako, Mali - the rollercoaster of an introduction to the continent. This place was bright, white, and there was space. You could tell we were by the coast. 

It'll be no suprise to anyone that it was incredibly hot. 

A flag on the government building threw a blinding burst of colour out against the white buildings. 

We took a taxi after much negociating. I found the whole thing ridiculously good fun. I'd perfected my barterring routine after a 5 week apprenticeship in the world's centre of the art, India. 

'El nonchalant' would have been my mexican wrestling name in the ring against 'Big bad Taxi man'.

Of course it helped that the round-faced driver/all-round tourist guru-safari-snorkelling-'fish, you want fish?'-spicetour?-mini bus very cheap-brother price man was standing directly in front of the price board as he quoted a price two times as much as was written. I mean come on, put up a fight.

We finally agreed with much laughter that I had won the bout, shook hands and jumped into his gleaming white super-injection unfeasibly long taxi. To Dar es Salaam please.

 

Sunday
Mar062011

Kathman-done

On our last day in Kathmandu Chris and Jo took us out for dinner in Thamel. 

The place we chose was popular with their friends, so popular in fact that some of them from the party were also having dinner there that night. We all pulled up chairs round a big table and as the sun went down for our last night in Asia we drank beers and chatted about Africa and the future.

A great way to spend our last night.

We'd had such a good time in Kathmandu, seen the sights, a different side of life in the city and partied on a rooftop with amazing people from all round the world. 

Such a pleasure to have spent time with Chris and Jo.

We arrived having 'friends of a friend' to stay with, we left having stayed with our friends.

Amazing people, an amazing few days in the 'Du'

 

 

 

Sunday
Mar062011

I'm pretty sure Buddha was an Art Director

 Because look at this...


 From Hindu pilgrim site to Buddhist centre within a 10 minute walk.

This is the World Heritage site of Boudhanath (Boudha), Kathmandu. It is an incredible place.

We made our way from Pashupatinath past angry monkeys ('don't look them in the eye' the worrying advice given to us by our guide) to this serene place 10 minutes away. Away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and as colourful as anything I've ever seen on our travels, it was no suprise we spent the whole day there soaking it in and finding out more about the place.

Boudhanath is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in KathmanduNepal

The ancient Stupa is one of the largest in the world. The influx of large populations of Tibetan refugees from China has seen the construction of over 50 Tibetan Gompas (Monasteries) around Boudhanath. As of 1979, Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along with Swayambhunath, it is one of the most popular tourist sites in the Kathmandu area.

The Stupa is on the ancient trade route from Tibet which enters the Kathmandu Valley by the village of Sankhu in the northeast corner, passes by Boudnath Stupa to the ancient and smaller stupa of Cā-bahī (often called 'Little Boudnath'). It then turns directly south, heading over the Bagmati river to Patan - thus bypassing the main city of Kathmandu (which was a later foundation).[1] Tibetan merchants have rested and offered prayers here for many centuries. When refugees entered Nepal from Tibet in the 1950s, many decided to live around Bouddhanath. The Stupa is said to entomb the remains of Kassapa Buddha.

What an amazing place.

As we followed the flow of traffic of monks, old ladies, buisnessmen an tourists clockwise around the Stupa it was a sensory overload, a visual feast. I couldn't have photoshopped it together in a million years. The colour, hustle and bustle and pristine white structures. 

A magical place.

My fascination with Buddhism continued.

 

 

 

Sunday
Mar062011

'The Death body is coming' spouted out our guide with a disturbing enthusiasm

I was aware that Varanasi in India was famous for it's bodies being sent down the ganges, the holiest of funerals for Hindus. I knew little about Pashupatinath, Kathmandu which, our guide began  his lengthy introduction with, was 'the hindu Mecca' - a slightly odd contradiction it terms I thought but I got his point. It was an important place, a holy place. As our tour continued we realised that it was also a place that would leave our jaws dropping and our heads shaking with bewilderment.

On the banks of the Bagmati river, pilgrims come to worship, the holy water being the focus for all ceremonies life and death. Children bathe in the filthy water (for sanitation in Kathmandu has to be up there with the worst in the world) The sick come in hope of curing their ills and every day people are cremated on funeral pyres on the banks of the river. 

We'd heard that this was a unbelievable experience to witness.

As opposed to being the morbid tourist circus that it sounds, it was a poignant, peaceful thing to have witnessed- The truth of life an death in this world, out in the open, with merely a bit of fabric softening this total truth of our immortality.

The exception to this was the presence of a group of Korean tourists with their huge lenses jutting into the air, tripod legs fledging about like a new-born robotic deer, their bags scapping the sides of the temple steps as they tried to get the perfect shot (on auto) of the mourners.

How on earth you can justify, as a tourist, taking photos of grieving faces of relatives I do not know.

There will not be any photos attached from me I'm afraid - I'm sure you understand.

As we stood above the many funeral pyres on the bank, our guide explained how each caste had it's own platform for cremation. From the highest caste, the royals' platform on the far left winding round the river to the platform of the lowest of 'common' men (in the past the lowest of castes was not permitted to be burnt here) they looked like unfinished statue bases, awaiting their stone figures. The figure we were to see was not one of a heroic brute standing tall but the simple and humble sight of a deceased stick of a man wrapped tightly in cloth being brought toward his final place of rest. 

'Death body is coming' spouted out our guide with a disturbing enthusiasm. 

A small procession carrying the man approached the area beneath our front row seats for this, a sellout show of the truth of life and death.

The bearers and party following were all men. They were led by, the guide explained, the deceased's sons. The eldest son had a shaved head, the sign of mourning. The deceased had died just that morning and according to custom, he was to be burnt the same day. 

We did not witness the lighting of the fire.

After some time being shown around we saw another pyre which had been burning for several hours and was now coming to a smoldering end. Only large piles of ash remained and charred logs remained.

A boy was waist-deep in the river shoveling the remaining ash from the platform with his bare hands into the murky slither of a river in which he stood.

The river was no more than a trickle at this point as it snaked around the funeral pyres. The ash remains added to the struggled flow of the water. The almighty holy river I'd imagined as a constant gushing body was merely a stream full of sediment and ash. Such a contrast from the powerful force of good and strength that the pilgrims believed so passionately in. 

Pashupatinath is also the home Sadhu (holy men). 

 As Madness And Beauty by Violet Dear blog puts it 'A sadhu is a Hindu holy man, a Shiva worshiper who abandons his family to become a wandering contemplative, steeping his brain in bhang (strong marijuana) and religion. Most of these men dress in bright orange and yellow, but a rare sect called the aghoripaint their bodies in human ash, hovering near cremation sites to obtain it. They eat the ash, bones and flesh that they find out of human skull bowls – a gesture to say that “all paths, even the horrible, lead to God.”

Yikes. Here's a photo from Flickr (not one of mine). I'm not certain if these guys are tantric sadhu but I believe these are the men who totally obstain from sexual desire - hanging things from there penises thus er, removing the 'ability to feel sexual desire'.

We did not witness this but the thought of it is enough for me to move on from the subject...

I didn't take a photo myself. At the time I thought I was shunning the tourist madness (They were sat there to earn money from photos being taken) Regret it now. 

 

Sunday
Mar062011

Tibet in Nepal

Tibet in Nepal

One of the most amazing experiences of Nepal (and Sikkim in fact) for me was witnessing Buddhist life and in particular that of the Tibetan refugees whose lives are now entwined with the Nepalese.

 From culinary delights of Momos (Dumplings), chanting monks, prayer flags and monastries through to the Tibetan women selling jewellery, I’ve felt I’ve wanted to know more and more.

Tibetan 'momos'. Delicious dumplings fried or steamed

Buddhist Stupa at Boudda

I’ve been eading some amazing words by the Dalai Lama at the moment. Beautiful words in a beautiful place.

Without over-simplifying what I think of it too much -  Buddhism makes a lot of sense. The Dalai Lama’s words, compassion, pursuit of happiness and end of suffering. This is not some mumbo jumbo madness, it’s so ridiculously aligned to what most of us want to achieve in our lives.

The core thoughts aren’t religion. it’s mind science.

But that’s just my opinion.

 Listen to Om Padme Shanti um over at the sounds section soon.

Sunday
Mar062011

The Ex-pat party

It just so happened that Chris and Jo were having a party on the Saturday after we arrived. Brilliant.

‘Ex-pat’ conjures up a load of sunburnt East-Londoners in Marbella eating English breakfasts so maybe it’s not the right term.

It was amazing to meet so many people from all over the world, in Kathmandu for different reasons, brought together in the ‘ex-pat’ community.

They were all foreigners in Nepal, working for schools, NGO’s, The US embassy and the VSO. Incredibly interesting people.

It was a great night chatting and laughing about stories of the city, tales from back at home and lessons learnt by travel.

Everyone person at the party was ridiculously well travelled - put us to shame. These are people who’ve lived in multiple countries for considerable lengths of time. They are the real people of the world, not us few-monthers.

Such a chilled out setting, sitting around fires on Chris and Jo’s rooftop, it felt good to be at home, so far away.

Sunday
Mar062011

From the Cat’s back, Putney to the dog’s bollocks, Kathmandu.

Meeting up with friends along the way is one of finest things about this trip.

In Kathmandu this was particularly special as the friends in question welcomed us with open arms having only met us on a handful of occasions - most of which were at the Cat’s back pub in Putney.

Good pub.

From the moment we got to ‘The Du’ we felt ridiculously welcome and it was so nice to see familiar faces from home.

Chris and Jo have lived in Kathmandu for 6 months, Jo teaches at an International school and Chris works for VSO (Volunteer services Organisation). They live in Patan, below Kathmandu, just over the world’s dirtiest river, the Bagmati. Patan is home to most of the NGO’s, embassies, the UN and the Ex-pat community of Kathmandu.

Chris and Jo are one of the nicest couples we’ve ever met (as proved by the fact that after I’d emailed them to ask for some advice, they offered us a place to stay and their company for the duration of our stay) It was no surprise that they had a big group of friends after only six months.

It felt good to slip into the ex-pat lifestyle for a few days. 

When you see a city through the eyes of fellow (ex-)Londoners it’s a darn interesting thing.

In Kathmandu, we learnt a lot about powercuts, the lack of water and the rubbish and how living in the city affects you day-to-day rather than having the travellers in-and-out attitude. That’s not to say worse, just different. A lot of people we met loved Kathmandu although the majority did seem to say that at times, it was a bit too much.

When we arrived, Chris met us in Thamel, the busy back-packers district. Someone told us that this place is now more of a Nepalese vision of a backpackers haven (what they think travellers want) rather than an actual backpackers haven. There isn’t much of authentic Nepal here (apart from the thousands of handicraft shops) but it’s a great place to have a drink and get good food and many travellers stay in guesthouses here and rarely leave.  You can’t argue it’s lively and good to hang out in. Who knows, if we hadn’t had somewhere to stay we’d have probably done the same.

 

We joined Chris and Jo for dinner that night with Jo’s colleagues, a very lovely bunch of teachers.

The restaurant was a little haven of luxury on what has been dubbed ‘restaurant road’ in the ex-pat district of Patan. Steak, cooked to perfection in a swanky restaurant, a very pleasant surprise.

Chris and Jo’s house was lovely, a bit too big for them they said but I don’t know, compared to living in London, why not have a bit of space when you can afford it! Lovely place.

They’d set us up in a nice room, with carpet! and bed sheets just like the one’s we had at home – which sums it up very nicely. For the next few days it felt like home.

The dog's bollocks.

 

Sunday
Mar062011

The Paraglide

‘And now, RUUUNNN’ said the South Korean man attached to my back.

He meant off the side of the cliff, I came to realise after deciphering his code.

What an amazing thing.

After flirting with hysteria on the way up in the truck, I found myself remarkably calm just before the flight (it’s not called a jump, it’s a flight. So now you know.)

Maybe the fact that I was too busy checking myself out in a suit which I thought had a remarkable resemblance to a Top gun pilot acted as a good distraction.

You think that the first feeling will be terrible, one of plummeting to the ground a disorientating blur but it’s not. Instead, it’s more of a ‘oh is that it’ gentle rise into the air. Reality doesn’t really set in that you are that high up for a good while as you smoothly float upwards.

Then, what I can only describe as tiny panic attacks take place occur as you realise your strapped to a Korean holding a sheet 6000 ft in the air.

You settle, enjoy floating for a while then ‘oh yep, yep we really are high’.

 

‘Don’t look down’ Jeong my pilot said to me in broken English. ‘Or you will womit’.

I could see how this might be an issue for him and those below and slightly take the shine off things for me too so I refrained, for a while, it’s just that there was so much ‘down’ to look at.

It’s never all that great to have a language barrier when someone who’s about to hurl you off a cliff is explaining the emergency procedure.

I felt remarkably calm though, thinking that in any case, he was a pro and I’m strapped to him, what can I do in an ‘emergency’. All under control.

It was incredible. It was to be a 30 minute flight. The views of the Himalaya were, not suprisingly on such a clear and perfect day. Un-describable – So un-describable I feel I must describe it…

 

It was amazing. Almost too amazing, too much to take in. All you want to do is to concentrate on the view of the mountains but you’re 6000ft in the air and there’s someone else hanging on to another sheet about 20ft below you.

A solo flier bullets past you and waves, another tandem screams above you. It’s all a bit too busy up here.

The thermals mean that everyone is in and around the same place, on such a nice day after so much cloud, everyone clearly thought the same thing – lets go jump off that cliff.

 

The best bit was when we broke from the thermals - ‘Down’ I guess.

Away from the crowded skies, an ‘eagle’ (I’m not sure if Korean-English was translated properly but was a large bird of prey ) soared with us, at one point brilliantly close. We were flying. Incredible.

 

‘You like acrobat?’ Jeong said as we started to circle the lake and as things started to become more familiar below. ‘errrrr small amount…’ I squealed.

But it was too late.  He jolted the reigns of his flying bed sheet one way and then the other and we crashed from side to side, plummeting towards the water of the lake. It was like the best fairground ride ever.

‘Enough. We run out of height’ Jeong said and I concurred, we very much seemed to have run out of height. I was glad when with one more swift manoeuvre, we were gently floating again.

I was relaxed and on the look out for a small Min shaped dot on the ground below. The landing didn’t go as well as it could have (if the thick accent of a Korean speaking English made it impossible to differentiate between ‘stand’ and ‘sit’. Still, we were on the ground so mission accomplished.

An incredible experience, and I don’t care what Min says from now on, Paragliding goes down as one of my ‘hobbies’.

As Min has heard numerous times already, ‘The thing about flying is….’

 

I was lucky enough to have filmed and photographed the whole thing

(I shall be editing out any signs of weakness at takeoff)

As with the whole trip, we hope that when we get time this will all turn from words and stills to beautiful moving pictures when we get home.

Sunday
Mar062011

'Yeah, should take no time at all to get up there'

So these Himalayas, we heard they were there, we think we even saw them on the first day but that big wall of grey up there is beginning to make us doubt their existence entirely.

This feels familiar, in Sikkim it was the same. It seems out trip is turning in to some kind of cloud conspiracy.

Being optimistic and seeing that it was supposed to be clear the next day, we planned to head up to Sarangkot, high above Pokhara and an amazing view of the mountains. Many people make this trip in the morning before sunrise and head back down again straight after. Being us, we thought we’d be clever and head up the night before and stay in a hotel up there.

The familiar ‘Why doesn’t anyone else do this?’ could be heard as we headed off.

The reason - because no one else fancies tackling an hour walk up a mountain top in the dark with limited torch light. We’d got it all horribly wrong again.

It was a painful few hours, we had no idea if we were going the right way (up seemed to be a good guess). We were lucky to happen upon two sari-wearing ladies who were making there way home from down in the valley. They seemed shocked and then amused to see us up the mountain at that time but seemed to be happy with the light provided by two geeky westerners’ head torches.

The ladies were carrying heavy loads on their heads. Being the man that I am, I offered to assist. One of the ladies handed my a small hand bag and proceeded up the steps with the heavy load on her head.

Herein lies a brilliant example of a how split second’s eye contact between two people can be so effective.

She and I both knew it would have been an embarrassing affair if I had attempted the heavy load. For that, I liked this woman. When she offered me some popcorn, our friendship was sealed.

I’d carry her handbag for her again.

 

 

We left the ladies on a ridge where steps led up to lights of their homes  dotted above. We must be close we muttered, to which the ladies added ‘yes, just 15 minutes more up’

We finally made it to the Sherpa’s lodge hotel, past barking dogs and steep drops into nothing, We’d made it back to civilization, or so we thought.

The Shining, In Nepal. We walked through the reception into a deserted hotel.

All the lights were on. No one was around.

After walking round for some time, a voice called out from the darkness outside, a torch shone directly at us. Not knowing the Nepalese for ‘I’m an axe murderer and I’m going to kill you’ we took a punt and guessed that this was in fact the owner of the hotel. We found all the staff, his family, huddled around a fire under an elevated barn. They seemed suprised to see us. ‘How did you find this hotel’? but it seemed to be more out of interest than anything else as ‘not many people came up this way in the off season.’

After being shown to our room we headed out in search of food at the hotel. We were shown to a huge dining hall. One blue spotlight shone over a corner table, the rest of the vast room was an eirey void. We were shown to the table, recommended Noodle soup and then left on our own to contemplate whether we would in fact survive the night.

The hotel staff turned out to be very friendly, totally bored but very friendly. A particular past time of the hotel owner’s daughter was to move salt shakers from one table to another something that looked like it might have been her only  entertainment since August.

In the morning we rose for sunrise. We made our way up further still to the highest point, negociated our way around 17,000 Korean tourists and a spatter of americans and rounded the hill to take a look the incredible view…

…of more clouds. Oh well, just wasn’t going to happen for us, so we packed our things and headed down the mountain.

I say mountain… It’s more of a big hill.

Most people come to Nepal to trek up great mountains, Min and Tom walk down a hill. Even more embarrassingly we were to be in total and utter pain when we reached the bottom. Walking down  a thousand steps, we should have warmed up those calves.

On the way down we met a group of paragliders about to propel themselves off the cliff. We watched from above and as I realised my bluff had been called (I’ve been saying for a while to Min that I’d love to paraglide) we headed down to get a bit more info on how, when and how much.

 We set off again down the hill, my mind changing on whether I’d do it or not with ever step I took downwards. In the end, it had to be done.

 No Himalaya but still a pretty good view on the way down

Sunday
Mar062011

Breakfast at the lake

Beats a bowl of cornflakes at your desk

Sunday
Mar062011

Pokhara

'I'm at the lake, where are you?'

There are three types of people in Nepal, the Malaysian spiritual dude next door told me. 1. Trekkers 2. Volunteers and 3. Those waiting to go back to India.

He was in the third category, waiting for the 40 days to be up on his multiple entry Indian visa.

Where we fit in, I’m not so sure.

We stayed at the ‘family peace home.’ A tiny row of rooms high up amongst tiny building sites and other ramshackle guesthouses and a meditation centre with a kind-of-round the scaffolding-view of the lake.

The lake in Pokhara is where it all happens. It’s just we’re not sure what ‘it’ is.

 

The Centre is packed with restaurants, bars, Tibetan souvenir shops and shops selling nearly-real trekking gear.

 

To the northside of the lake it gets a bit quieter, more relaxed but an easy walk to the relative madness.

 

We loved Pokhara. After the madness of cities, the brilliance of the jungle, it was a perfect place to chill out (as if we’d been frantically busy)

By a lake, with the Himalayas in the distance, it’s pretty special.

Sunday
Mar062011

Those clouds look a bit odd

Our first glimpse of the Himalaya.

 

Sunday
Mar062011

Bloody tourists

We’ve turned into travel snobs

Well, we reckon it’s inverted snobbery though.

We wished we’d got the local bus. 

Six hours of an annoying load of Aussie wingers.

I am aware I should not generalise - These people were unique idiots.

One must feel slightly embarrassed surely when you’ve booked two seats each,

(I assume due to some previous discomfort) on a packed, packed bus where many other people have been forced to sit in the aisle for 6 hours.  Surely?

To still not give up your seat, but instead to go for the option of clutching your bag on the seat the whole way well if you ask me, it’s just not cricket.

It’s just a bit weird.  What happened to all the nice people?

There’s no way that would have happened on any of the local buses.

Bloody tourists.

 

Nepa-tism:

It’s not often that a gem of a pun lands on your plate but the bus conductors over in Nepal made it easy. There’s a policy over here of bringing your family on the long distance buses. Now they haven’t paid for a seat, oh no. They haven’t even got a seat booked but they’ll get on the bus no matter how packed. 

Today we witnessed a conductor forcibly placing his daughter on to the lap of an unsuspecting French lady.

 

‘It’s ok, this is my daughter’ was his only explanation.

Zut Alor. Well that’s all right then.

 

Thursday
Feb242011

The Elephant driver

On our last evening in Chitwan, we realised that the entire time we’d been staying there, an elephant had been next door, hanging out.

It was a trained elephant of course but still, it was an elephant and we couldn’t resist taking a closer look at our 10 tonne alarm clock.


We had some reservations about ‘trained elephants’ due to some bad experiences in Thailand and India and so we’d decided to say no to the elephant ride that morning. Now was our opportunity to see an elephant up close and like good citizens, check on it’s welfare.

 

As we approached, a man was tending to the elephant’s wounds, presumably  from carrying it’s heavy load, not a great start.

As we got closer, it seemed at least he was doing it with care; delicate little touches and soothing ‘shhh’s’ as he dabbed the wound. It was almost the tenderness you might see between an owner and his beloved pug on Clapham common.

 

The man explained that he was the elephant’s ‘driver’, which in English, is quite a funny concept. He’d had her for a long time and he was his best friend.

 

We gave dumbo a good rub and patting and generally stared in awe at it’s massiveness. He snaked his trunk towards us as if to say, hello, (in what I imagined to be a very slow deep voice) and let out a very distinct elephant noise. We said our thank yous to man and mass and were on our way.

An amazing experience, we we’re glad we’d turned down the elephant ride in the morning but we enjoyed we were glad to have met dumbo. She'd been much more friendly than that rhino. 

Friday
Feb112011

Safari time - Er, where’s the Jeep? 

We’ve done a safari before, in South India so we thought we knew what to expect. However, last time we were in jeeps, with a cage, today, we were er… walking. In the jungle.

It’s ok though, our guide had a stick.

There were two things about this that seemed at odds with each other.

  1. We were on foot, but we’d be ‘absolutely fine’ as long as we didn’t encounter any Tigers, Rhinos, elephants or sloth bears.
  2. We were doing this safari so that we stood a great chance of encountering Tigers, Rhinos, elephants or sloth bears.

It would have been a comedy epitaph.

‘Died walking into a Rhino’. 

or ‘Who knew that bounding up to that Bengal tiger could have been dangerous’

It was, in fact, very ‘safe’ and of course, the real reason for doing it on foot was to capture the sheer pleasure of blending in, getting that feeling of seeing something magical, something rare that no Indian tourist in a 4x4 with music blaring out would ever see.

Our guide had been walking the jungle since he was a boy, he knew how to ‘see the animals before they see us’. As long as we kept to the ‘path’ we’d be safe. (Off the path dry branches and leaves would make too much noise, although in practice we were pretty noisy)

Our guide, Govinda. With Stick.

As we boarded a canoe for the first part of our journey, our guide, Govinda, went through a comical routine of explaining our exit plans if anything went wrong

 

It’s funnier to imagine a camp air steward from Croydon for this bit…

 ‘In event of an emergency, please climb a tree’

 ‘On encountering a Rhino, please run for the nearest big tree and prepare yourself for multiple charges’

 ‘On encountering a tiger, please retain eye contact and back away slowly’ (easier said than done mate)

 ‘If in the unlikely event that you  an encounter an elephant charging towards you. Run.’

There was a distinct lack of mention of what was necessary if you met a sloth bear in the jungle, our guide decided to leave that explanation until a bit later when we were well and truly too far in to go back ;

‘Sloth bears are the worst thing you can possibly encounter in the jungle. They can do anything, following you up trees, anything. And they go for the eyes’.

 

Now I’m no animal expert (like the incredible Mr K, who’d lost one eye and a finger to exotic animals in the name of touring school assemblies in Bucks in the 80’s – I must look him up as the memory of him sounds too good to be true). 

Sorry, off the story there. As I was saying, I’m no expert (He brought 3 owls and a python into St. mary’s once) but I thought sloth bears were er, slothful. Slow and lame.

This new revelation intrigued me and also made me slightly doubt it’s authenticity. Was this the in-joke with guides, a product of boredom of endless jungle walk-throughs with tourists?

I hoped so.

Turned out it’s absolutely true. But it got me thinking.

How brilliant would it be if you were a guide and had some fun with it.

I’d stop every twenty seconds, suddenly, crouching down, my hand raised in the air to force silence, peering around nervously… only to rise up and say ‘na, it’s nothing’ again and again.

They must do it occasionally surely.

Maybe I could buy some land somewhere and convince gullible American tourists that ‘this incredibly rare habitat of the Chesham Bois tiger, the leser spotted Hervines Park Rhino and the Chiltern Elephant was a once in a lifetime Safari experience. So incredibly rare in fact, that no one has ever actually seen them, thus meaning you would be the first’.

We stepped off the canoe after a couple of hours, the plan being to enter the jungle on foot.

It was an absolutely amazing feeling. That feeling of being so small, so low in the food chain, so shit scared.

 

The feeling of truly never knowing what might happen, not knowing if the chances were high of seeing something amazing around the next corner or coming thumping out of the incredibly high grass either side of you or whether this was all over-hyped madness and we had about as much chance of seeing

 

And then, you see this….

 Rhino footprint

That’s exciting, heart begins to race, you start hearing a lot of things, convincing yourself that’s the breathing of an elephant the guide hasn’t heard, watching ever tiny movement of the guide in front of you and trying to replicate it yourself so as not to break a branch.

 

And then this…

Tiger scratch marks  

By the power of greyskull now the ticker is really going, adrenaline pumping, lots of excitable looks exchanged between you and your girlfriend.

 

That dung is er, steaming. It’s also Rhino or elephant feast sized. Something has just been here.

 

Now the monkeys have started above you, branches drop, you become a bit more hunched as you walk, aware of every little…

 

And then…

Shit…
A rustle, on the right.

The guide has stopped

(the Danish girl hasn’t and goes straight into the back of him - smooth).

 

Your heart is going so fast it feels like a tiger is bound to hear it.

 

There is something there. 

A glance at the guide and back again to the mass of grass from where the noise came from but nothing…

 

Again the noise…

 

Oh for ****** sake, it’s a deer.

We get those in the back garden at home.

Ah, and just when we thought…

 

Wait a minute, no it’s not. The guide’s wrong. It’s a Rhino. Up ahead.

Wow.

 

As we creep further on into the clearing to get a better look, we see that we’re not the first. Two jeeps (damn them) loaded with local tourists have parked up in front of the amazing sight.

 

Our guide is annoyed with the locals in the jeep, and we quickly adopt the same anger. They whoop and laugh, 50 metres away from this amazing, powerful machine who for now, seems unperturbed by the two imposing 4x4’s ahead of him. The guide shakes his head and gathers us all with a whistle. ‘If he charges, we head for this tree (as he points to several trees to the left, I’m too nervous to get full clarification I needed).

 

This is exciting. We are the real deal, on foot. Those ‘jeepers’ don’t have a clue and they’re about to get rammed.

 

The jeeps eventually navigated very slowly toward the Rhino. The one-horned toy-like creature meandered off back into the thick jungle and our opportunity to get closer on foot had gone.

 

It was still an incredible experience. ‘Pre-historic’ is the only way I can describe the one-horned rhino. It didn’t look real. It was also incredibly big. Much bigger than I’d expected.

With a wave of his stick, Govinda our guide too us back off onto another path deep into the jungle.

 

Another croc and a wild boar followed aswell as many different kinds of birds and as we hit the river at the end of the day,  we both said to each other, that this was one of the best days we’ve ever had.

 

As we waited for our canoe ferry over the river we could see the bank on the other side teeming with people, noisy and rammed on a Saturday evening.

We looked back at the jungle we’d come from and wanted to head back.

The tigers, Rhino’s and Sloth bears seemed much more inviting.

 Sloth bear marks (no they're not gentle and slow at all)

Check out the sounds of the jungle coming soon (when internet is cheap enough!) at the sounds part of the site.

Wednesday
Feb092011

I know we're 'travelling' but don't get the wrong idea 

 

Amazingly, this is the bush behind our hut, canabis grows wild in the hills of Nepal (as pointed out by a French Canadian traveller who looked like he might know a bit about it)

Wednesday
Feb092011

Er...

 

‘Yeah yeah, there was an elephant in the field [in front of our hut] two weeks ago’

Says Govinda nonchalantly


‘It’s ok, we haven’t had a rhino here for a long time’

'Tigers? No it's ok, they're very shy'

Oh that's a relief. If we encounter one in the night, I'll be sure to invite him out for a couple of beers and try and up his confidence levels, the poor thing.

Wednesday
Feb092011

Wednesday
Feb092011

Free ranger 

This is Beryl (I have decided)

You cannot possibly get more free range than finding a chicken in your room.

Here's the cheeky devil in stealth mode.

She made up for it by donating her beautiful eggs in the morning.

I've not told her about Nando's yet.

Wednesday
Feb092011

The first signs of life in the jungle

 

The first night at the farm was quite eventful, or at least we thought it was.
‘Listen, monkeys on the roof Min. Big ones too, listen to them calling’


We woke in the morning excited as hell about having experienced this amazing jungle phenomenon… that is, until over breakfast one of the forementioned big monkeys, looking distinctly like quite a small and common bird, flew down to our table.  ‘Yeah, that’s the noise we heard last night. yeah, that’s not a monkey.’

From then on though it did get exciting...






Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 7 Next 20 Entries »