Hi all, still alive and kicking although internet access has not been available lately. I won't have an opportunity to upload photo's at this time as I am not using my own computer ( I will try to add photo's tomorrow).
As previously mentioned, our hotel in Bhaktapur was fantastic. Only a couple of years old, large rooms, and luxurious. Other than regular blackouts, which are a feature of Nepal, the Hotel Heritage was superb.
In the morning we visited the Changu Narayan Hindu temple, which is world heritage listed, A stunning temple complex, although non believers are not allowed in the actual temple itself. Afterwards, returned to Bkaktapur for a walking tour of the town and Durbar Square A Durbar Square is the square which contains the palace of the former city king, Nepal had three early kings in each of Kathmandu, Bakhtapur, and Patan. These kings were later replaced by a single Nepalaese monacrchy based in Kathmandhu, although this monarch was deposed in 2008 and replaced by a government. The Durbar Square in Bhaktapur contains incredible buildings and sites. Lunch was in a converted temple in the square. After lunch, had the opportunity to roam the square and look at the shops. The street vendors are persistent!
Today we left Bhaktapur at 8:30am for a solid day of driving to Pokhara. Lunch was prepacked lunch box of sandwiches eaten by the side of the road. Arrived at the International Mountain Museum aprox. 5:30pm. The roads in Nepal are narrow and badly in need of maintenance. The mountaineering museum contains many photos and displays of the many mountaineering expeditions. It was interesting, but coincided with a another blackout, so many of the displays were difficult to see. Encountered rain and a storm this evening. Pokhara is famous for its views of the Himalaya's, which we hope to see in the morning after the storm passes. Our rooms at the Hotel Landmark were small and not very appealing. My back door opened onto a small balcony that overlooked the metal roofs of the local homes
This morning we walked down to the lake at 5:30am to see the sunrise on the Himalayan mountains. Unfortunately, only got a brief glimpse before the mist settled in. Went for a canoe ride on the lake to a Hindu temple located on an island in the lake, then back to the hotel for Breakfast and departure for Chitwan National Park. The island and temple were very peaceful and the canoe ride was fun.
Chitwan park was previously a hunting reserve for the royal family but was converted to a park when the monarchy was overturned. We were supposed to be staying at a resort within the park, but the government within the last month has closed this and all other resorts in the park. As a result we stayed at a sister resort just outside the park. The facilities were basic, but the management are making improvements to the resort (during our stay, air conditioners were delivered but not yet installed). We arrived at the resort for a late lunch, and after a couple of drinks, did an afternoon tour of the local village. This evening, the local villagers put on a short stick dancing display at the resort.
The resort was fully booked for tonight, and Lynnette & myself, being the two singles on the tour, were put into small rooms that looked like converted workers accommodation.
4th - 5th/10/2012
Although the facilities are the resort are basic, the organised events are fantastic. Started off with a bush walk, in which we saw rhino's. We were all excited on our return to the lodge, where we then engaged in the removal of leaches. After lunch, went on an elephant ride where we again saw rhino's and their calves.
The following day I elected to do another elephant tour, in which more rhino and calves were sighted. Unfortunately, we did not see leopard or wild boars etc which also inhabit the park. After lunch, a definite highlight was swimming with the elephant. They were bathing in the river and their handlers would get you on the elephant back, and then have the elephant either throw you in the water, or roll over with you on its back. All of us who did this were thrilled by the experience. I have some great photo's of me on the elephant, and landing in the water. Afterwards, did another village tour whilst we dried off. More drinks after dinner as there is nothing else to do.
Left Chitawan at 7:30am for the drive to Daman, which is also famous for its views of the Himalayas. Arrived at the Everest Panorama Resort at 1:30pm The resort is set back from road and not accessible by vehicle. Thank goodness porters carry the bags. The resort is old, and in need of some upkeep, but the bungalows in the bush setting are a spectacular site. After lunch, did a trek to a Hindu monastery established by a single monk approximately 35 years ago. There are 800 steps (both up and down) through the forest to reach the monastery, and the same to return. We were all short of breath during the walk, and couldn't blame the altitude (as we did in Tibet). The monk is in his 80's and his son and daughter now live with him (although the son is also a famous monk and often goes into seclusion in a cave for weeks at a time). There is also a wonderful Stupa built for the old monks wife who died 3 years ago. The monk does not leave the monastery, and relies on donations and supplies provided by the local peoples. Some rain during this walk, and a cool night. However, the resort placed hot water bottles in our beds, and the beds themselves were very warm. We were treated to a performance by a local Sharman (witch doctor) before dinner, which was impressive, especially when he started licking a burning piece of wood from the bonfire.
Up at 5:45 to see the sun rise on the mountains. Unfortunately, didn't see Mt Everest, but did see a couple of the others including Annarpurna. After breakfast, onto the bus for the trip to Kathmandu. Although only 80kms from Daman, it took about 5 hours to travel, as the roads are steep, winding, and in poor condition. Even when we joined the main road to Kathmandu, it still took an hour to travel 25 kms.
Reached Kathmadu in time for a late lunch, and check-in to the Hotel Annapurna, which is quite luxurious and a change from the last few nights. This will be my first hot shower in 4-5 days! Went for a brief walk, but the effort of crossing the intersections was too much for me. Even with traffic police manning all the main intersections, crossing the roads is dangerous, as vehicles seem to ignore traffic lights and traffic police.
Kathmandu is incredibly large city, but very crowded, and dirty, although this is not helped by the street widening that is taking place, resulting in dirt and dust being continually stirred up by the traffic. Rubbish is everywhere, including the river.
Dinner was at a local Nepalese restaurant which puts on a short cultural show before the food is served.
5 of us chose to do an early morning flight over the Himalayas. The flights leave from the domestic terminal of the Kathmandhu airport, and just getting into the building was an experience. Crowds of tourists and trekkers trying to get past the police who were attempting to control access to the building, then once inside, a mad scramble to get through the scanners etc and too the departure gates. Fortunately, our guide arranged for an airport official to escort the 5 of us through. The flight itself was in a small 18 seater, but the weather was fine and the flight smooth. Although I was sitting beside the wing and engine cowling, the mountains were spectacular, and we saw Mt Everest. The fight lasted almost an hour, and we were back at the hotel in time to join the group for the days activities.
We started at Patan, which is an adjoining city (although in reality, it is only separated from Kathmandhu by the Bagmati River). Viewed the World Heritage listed Royal Palace, and tour of the Durbar Square. Although the palace is undergoing restoration, both it and the square are impressive, and extremely crowded.
We had lunch on a rooftop restaurant overlooking the massive Bodhnath Stupa, the largest stupa in Nepal. The food was western and much appreciated, and the view of the stupa superb. spent a short time walking around the stupa and the surrounding shops.
For something different we then went onto the Pashupatinath Temple. Whereas the stupa is Buddhist, the temple is a holy of holy for Hindu's. Whilst we weren't allowed in the temple itself (only Hindu's are allowed), the building and surrounds were spectacular (I seem to be using that word a lot). The temple is on the Bagmati River, and also contains water cremations sites. We were in time to see several bodies being cremated, and the ashes washed into the river. An unbelievable site, and in Nepal, the public cremations are accepted as the norm, with tourists and anyone else able to watch. The temple also contains many monkeys, with their young, who wander around the sites. An incredible day. Dinner was at a local restaurant, and western food was again on the menu.