Saturday, November 17, 2007

Around Nepal

After resting I head south to the small town of Palpa. After hopping off the bus, I was crammed into a jeep for the ten minute ride up to town. Palpa is a traditional old town, and quite a change from the tourist scene of Pokhara. Narrow windy streets trail around the town, so it was long before I was lost, but not to worry after another 5 minutes I magically appeared back at my guesthouse. The next day I did a day hike along to Bagnas and beyond, a simple trail across the mountain ridges through some small villages, and farmland. Decent views, but a little bit hazy still. I chatted with a shopkeeper and then took the bus back, soon it was dinner time. I headed to Nanglo West for some Newari food. Sitting in the courtyard I had flattened rice with buffalo cholea (ginger & chilli) with potato curry. A bit different from the dal bhat, but interesting flavours.

Next stop was down close to the Indian border to the pilgrimage site of Lumbini, where the Buddha was born. Nowadays lots of Asian visitors to the Temple Development sites. Basically land set aside to build Buddhist temples for various countries around the world. I visited quite a few on my bike - Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian etc. Almost ran over a small turtle on the road, he must of escaped from a temple pond. Also visit the exact birth place of the Buddha, while I was contemplating under a tree, I heard "Uncle, uncle! Photo?" from a group of Indian tennagers. So I took their camera and was going to take a group photo, but they wanted me to be in the photo. Probably because I'm so handsome!

I was a bit templed out after that, so the next day it was off, I was planning on continuing to Chitwan, but I couldn't be bothered with all the bus rides that day, so I sat on the bus roof for a bit over an hour (which at Nepali speeds means around 15 miles along) then stopped travelling at Bairawa. Here I stayed at Hotel Glasgow :)
The staff there didn't seem to know where the name came from though. Just have a look around a normal Nepali town, very different from Thamel, nobody trying to sell me stuff!

Anyway the next day I got to Chitwan and was surrounded by the usual hotel touts. I picked the first guy to spot me, and went off to his hotel, same as the Annapurna Circuit, they don't make the money on the rooms, but on selling you a guide for trekking. So I only paid 100rupess for the room, but need to pay for permit for the park and also a required guide, in fact I ended up with two. One guide and the kitchen cook! Still he carried my bag :) Ram was the official guide and talking good English. Esram was the other guide, with a bit less English. The first day we came very close to a rhino, scurrying back down the round we rounded the corner and seeing it closeby. We ducked behind some trees to a safe spot, where we could watch it. Rhinos don't seem to move much. Don't like to be disturbed! In fact the next day we saw another rhino in the middle of the road and after watching and taking pictures we wanted to continue down the path, except a rhino was in the way! So Ram beat his stick to try and scare the rhino away, hoping the rhino would think an elephant is on the way. The rhino didn't seem much bothered by the beating of sticks, but evetually ambled off leaving the way clear to continue the trek. Also spotted some deer from a distance, but they don't hang about. A few wild pigs, and erm.. wild chicken. Quite a lot of different birds, stork, hawk, parakeet, hoopoe and kingfishers, and some peacocks flying through the air (never seem them leave the ground before!)

On the third day we headed to the other side of the park, actually part of the trek was along a road. Hmmm, not quite what I had expected, still very little traffic. At one point both Ram and Esram stopped, a sound was heard to the right, sniffing they thought it was tiger scent. We creeped back, two sounds in the jungle, one a pig snorting and the other a tiger. Apparently. Esram spotted some stripes in the dense jugle, I tried to follow his line of sight, but could see nothing. Then a motorbike came chugging along and the sounds were no more. That was the closest I would get to seeing a tiger. Saw a few footprints in the mud, but no actual sighting except for a tiger in a cage. She was caged as a young tigress after found running about in a village, caught by an old woman into a cloth sack. Her mother had killed four people, and the other two cubs had starved, so the decision was taken to place her in domesticity.

The fourth day wasn't that interesting as we walked back to Sauraha, where the hotels were. Did see some crocodiles, sitting on the banks of the river though. Again hard to see unless they are moving. Oh yeah, also had some mozzies, leeches and tics. Urgh!

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