Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
We had 80 kms left to do at 5:13 pm, and made it through to Shigatse for 6:15 pm. We had to go straight to the police station to have the Trucks accepted to China and Ian and Tamar had to pass a driving test. We arrived at the Holy Land Hotel about 8 pm. Its fabulous! Nice and clean. TV, a/c, shower cubicle, brand new toilet, hot water, telephone and a fabulous computer panel to play with that controls everything in the room such as lights, TV, maid call button, etc. There is also a haｉｒ dryer. We quickly went out to eat and funnily enough when we got there, many others from the group turned up theretoo. Just can't get away from each other!! Food was great. Back to hotel and sleep about 11 p.m.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
18th/19th - Kodari
20/21 - Zangmu - border crossing to China (Tibet Province)
22 - Lablungla Pass Area
23 - En route - over mountain passes
24 - Baipa Area (Passes over 5000 metres high)
25 - En route to Everest and Base Camp (5200 metres)
26 - Baipa Area (Going down from Base Camp and Continue on Friendship Highway
27 - Shigatse - Hopefully stay in hotel with Internet available.
In the meantime, enjoy the many pictures we have managed to upload through the highspeed Internet in Kathmandu.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
We are thinking of all of you and hoping things back in Canada are going OK.
Friday, May 15, 2009
First, Swayambu Stupa, also known as the Monkey Temple. The monkeys were amazing. The little ones were diving and swimming in the “Monkey Swimming Pool”. They were having such fun doing cannon balls into the water on top of each other, sliding down the shute into the water, swimming under water, and swimming lengths just like human beings. We wandered around the various temples, spun all the prayer bells, and thoroughly seeped ourselves in the Buddhist culture.
We drove further south to Patan to visit the Darber Square full of ancient monuments, temples, and shrines which are renowned for their craftsmanship and architectural beauty. We also went in the Golden Temple built in the 12the Century and dedicated to business and marveled at the incredible carvings. We saw a traditional wooden chariot in the streets, and one that had collapsed and was being rebuilt.
Our next stop was the Pashupatinath site. This is a Hindu and Buddhist religious site rich in temples, idols, shrines, and seems to date back to 459 AD. It is also the “national” burning ghat site where bodies of all religions are cremated within 2 or 3 hours of death, and the ashes sprinkled in the Bakmati River running along the side of the Ghats. I read today in the paper that there is a 5-year project being planning to clean up this river. It will be in three stages, and involves prohibiting rubbish to be dumped in the river, and changing the sewage system to prevent fresh sewage going directly into the water.
Our final stop was in Bouddhanath to see one of the world’s largest stupas. This is a highly religious site for Tibetan Buddhist exiles. It is thought this stupa was built around 600AD but there are several legends as to who built it. We wandered around the compound around the stupa and ended up seeing a Thanka art school and some of the beautiful art work that the artists had completed. One piece, sold for $US 25,000 to the Mercy Corps in Portland, Oregon, was absolutely fabulous. It took 3 years to complete and I reckon they have got a really good price on this magnificent piece. We also went into another Buddhist monastery and generally tried to keep dry and out of the rain.
The intricate details of all that we saw today are beyond the scope of this blog. Suffice it to say we learned a ton about Buddhist and Hindu culture, saw much ancient art and architecture, heard monks chanting, and meditative music playing, and felt the reverence of prayer bells, ghats, stupas, and prayer flags.
We returned to Kathmandu around 5:30. We saw Anthony off to the plane for Hong Kong and Beijing, ate pizza for dinner with JP, Caroline and Sarah, and turned into bed around 9:30 p.m. As I lay writing my diary, a huge big cockroach rolled across the floor from under Ray’s bed. It’s only about the second or third one I’ve seen on our trip and never one as big. Yikes! It gave me quite a scare. I spoke to the front desk the next day and asked them to fumigate the room. They said they would. We’ll see!!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
All in a flurry our bus arrived, we grabbed our backpacks and ran to catch it. I guess I was the bright spark that said, “let’s ride on the roof”, and innocently we scrambled up the some-what ladder at the back of the bus. We sat on what you can imagine as a metal luggage rack secured to the bus roof. There were sheets of galvanized steel, some piping, and some eavestroughing we had to maneuver around as well as about 10 other people sitting in the lotus position. The chap I squeezed in beside was a Tibetan living in New York and just visiting. Half way along the ride, we suddenly had an extra passenger, a young boy, who appeared from nowhere – I think he was running along beside the bus and then hopped on the ladder and made it to the top. If yesterday’s ride was tame, today’s ride was madness. It was a beautiful ride up the mountainside. The road deteriorated from a narrow paved road, complete with potholes, to a dirt road complete with big boulders. We climbed most of the way with a few downhill segments and of course we maneuvered through countless bends, met a few vehicles coming the opposite way, and generally shuddered our way up. The worst was the “S” bends when you hoped and prayed the driver didn’t mis-judge the corner and end up with one or two wheels suspended in mid-air. Other nerve racking parts were when you suddenly lurched sideways and felt as if the bus would topple over either down hundreds of feet drop on one side of the mountain or straight into the steep bank on the inside of the turn. When Ray and I eventually spoke about it, we agreed it was one of those “out there” moments. We put all our faith into the driver and the equipment in circumstances where neither warranted it! We have heard enough stories, and seen enough accidents to prompt some really serious “what are we doing” thoughts on the trip. But….we were on the way to a Buddhist monastery and temple, and it was a pilgrimmage for others on the bus, so, I prayed along with them and trusted in Buddha which was obviously the right thing to do, as we made it safely to the top. We jumped down and hugged each other with relief. Then we walked the last 5 minutes up to the Thrangu Tahi Yangtse Temple set high on the mountaintop and surrounded by forest. The monastery/temple was only opened in December 2008 and houses over 200 monks. It is splendid. The colours and decorations were vivid and depicted life in the world of Buddha. The large temple was still being worked on by the artists painting various scenes on the walls with paints mixed by the monks. I knelt on one of the monk’s meditation stools and for the first time on our trip felt the “reverence” of the religion around me. It was another of those “special” moments in life that urge you to stop, and reflect. We wandered all over the monastery grounds seeing the various shrines and places of worship. Anthony and I spent a few reverent moments among the prayer flags at the very top point of the monastery. Prayer flags come in red, yellow, blue, green and white depicting the 5 elements of the universe, earth water sun, moon and air. They are written all over with mantras. Devotees buy the flags and pay something for the specially trained people at the temples to mount them. When they blow in the wind, the concept is that they spread their good “karma”.
When our guide called us away from the monastery, we wound our way slowly down the mountain path stopping for lunch on the way and visiting the original Namo Buddha Temple. We emerged out of the forest to over look the valley richly cultivated with corn, potatoes, wheat, and all sorts of vegetables. Once on the valley floor we wandered past hay stooks, bags of potatoes, small villages, dogs barking, baby lambs, and people working in the fields or on the terraces. It was simply beautiful. After reaching the town of Namo Buddha, we had about a 1 ½ hour’s walk through the countryside to Panauti where we saw the burning ghats on the river’s edge before visiting the temple which many say is the oldest temple in Nepal. Panauti is a small, quiet, hamlet, which with French help has recently had much of its traditional architecture restored. Our driver met us in the middle of the small town and we crawled into the van exhausted, but happy. We made it back into Kathmandu just after 6, then after a refreshing shave and change of clothes, we grabbed dinner and were in bed by 10. Sleep came easy!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Life off the Truck is a little more relaxed, so we woke up around 7:30 this morning to a view stretching out over the mountains. I took some pictures, but they can never pay justice to the magnificent view over the valley and on up into the mountains stretching far behind. The hotel was excellent, staff charming and efficient, food very good, and hot water for our showers and warm beds! This morning the sun was out and thankfully, all our clothes were dry. We were all cheered up and happy to be on our way. We left about 9:30 and were just getting happy with our “downhill” trek, when Ragu, our guide, turned up the hill and for the next hour or so it was pretty steady climbing on a mixture of dirt tracks and narrow tarred roads. We passed through some beautiful pine forests where we had to be careful that a tree didn’t fall on our heads as 3 guys were in the midst of felling one when we passed. We passed the military camp and hear the bullets being fired seriously hoping it was target practice and not “tourist” target practice! So, we smiled ever so sweetly at the officers guarding the perimeter and said “nameste”. We climbed up a tower to a lookout point and became the object of photography by a Nepali couple who were also visiting the tower. The only thing was, they were so tidy and clean, and the woman even had high heels on and a beautiful colourful sari. I felt really grotty in my trekking boots, convertible pants, and sweat soaked t-shirt. From this point, the trail started down hill, and we trekked down the terraced sides of the mountains, through areas of corn, potatoes, and rice growing (although this doesn’t start yet, the farmers are getting the terraces ready). We passed little villages, communities of houses, and many schools. I think school is compulsory till about age `12, and free to that point, but literacy is still a major problem. We passed cows, goats, chickens, ducks, and of course dogs. The children we passed were always excited to see us and gave us beautiful smiles and big waves. The odd one asked “give me chocolate”. Adults were chatty and always friendly. We came across a “low cast” wedding in one little village; we watched people building houses, and we saw others going about their daily chores of washing, preparing food, and cooking and sweeping. Occasionally we would pass a piece of land where chicken shit or cow shit, or some other fertilizer had been spread by hand on the fields and terraces, but generally the aromas were sweet with the country air and foliage. We sat and ate our packed lunch in the middle of a terraced field. The dogs soon joined us but then the landowner came along and chased them away because he was trying to grow cabbages and he didn’t want dog shit all over them. I guess he wasn’t scared that we would do anything to hurt his crops, but admittedly we were sitting on an unplanted terrace. As we approached the valley on our dirt track, the villages became a little more plentiful and slowly turned into the town of Banepa and before we knew it we were in the main street of a large town and in the middle of a political protest. They had laid out “bodies” of certain dignitaries as a symbol of the people they were gunning for. Ray and Ant thought they were real bodies, so that was good for a laugh! We walked through that then our guide suggested we take a local bus as the last bit of our hike was along a busy highway. So after 5 hrs 57 mins since we left the hotel we thought the bus experience might be fun. It was quite tame, and about 10 minutes later we arrived in Dhulikhel where we are staying overnight at the Dhulikhel Lodge Resort another nice hotel with a beautiful mountain view and just off the main street, again on the edge of a mountain. We arrived about 3:30 and had till 7 to relax before dinner. The time passed very quickly and we went to dinner and were in bed by 9:30. The electricity is so erratic – it’s a huge problem here. Most places have generator back up but our hotel room was plunged into darkness shortly after we got back from dinner for apparent reason – we really can’t work it all out. The TV of course was toast from the last power outage around 4:30. Can you imagine trying to run a business? No light, no phones, no visa, no computer – its quite horrendous. The Maoists are threatening violence, the parties can’t come to a decision or a new leader, and all the people want is peace and to have an opportunity to live a good life.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
We met our guide Ragu and car this morning at 9:00 am for the start of our three-day trekking program (cost US $165). We drove for about an hour through the congested streets of Kathmandu and out into the country. Our first stop was the town of Bhaktapur, a UNESCO site (population about 65,000), the third largest town in Nepal. It was a lovely town, made up of 3 squares joined together by narrow, cobbled, streets, full of vendors, selling goods for both the tourists and the locals. The town is so much less busy and less polluted than Kathmandu. It’s an ancient Newar town and at one stage was the capital of Nepal way back in the days of the Malla Kingdom until the 15h Century. We walked slowing through the Durbar Square and its exquisite array of temples and royal palaces. Apparently the town was badly damaged in the 1934 earthquake, which is why the Durbar Square appears so roomy, compared to the squares in Kathmandu and Patan. In particular we loved the 55 windowed, 5 story palace. The next square is the Taumadhi Square with the famous 5-story Nyatapola Temple. The last square was the pottery square, or Dattatreya Square which was covered with pottery and wheat drying in the sun. We went inside a little potter’s workshop and took pictures of a man at his work. Of course, then there was the usual payment of rupees. The town is known for its beautiful woodcarvings, potters, and weavers. The German funded Bhaktapur Development Project has funded the restoration of buildings, paved dirt streets, and established wastewater management programs. The town is an absolute treat and definitely shouldn’t be missed on any visit to Nepal.
After seeing the town we climbed back in our van and drove through the countryside to Changu Narayan, also listed as a world heritage site. The temple there “The Changu Narayan Temple” is about 323 AD and is the oldest in Kathmandu Valley and it is charming with beautiful with stone, wood, and metal carvings. It is devoted to Shiva and has a spectacular image of Vishnu with 10 arms and 10 legs. The walk up a long street of artisans and peasant carvings and weaving to get to the temple was also interesting.. After spending time there we had lunch in a rooftop restaurant overlooking the valley and the agricultural terraces and the mountains looking towards the trails we would soon be trekking.
The route was fairly challenging in that it was mainly up as we climbed from Changu at 1700 m to Nagarkot at 2175 m, but it was absolutely beautiful. We walked along paths that the local villagers use past their mud-baked houses, through the agricultural terraces, and just through the most natural Nepali scenes. We said “namaste” to everyone we met, tasted berries along the way, and came across a sadhu high on dope. The only downer was the rain. We had one heavy downpour around 3 pm that cleared up but then started again and didn’t stop. By the time we got to our hotel at the end of our 3 hr 45 minute walk we were soaked and cold. The hotel Country Villa, thanks to the agent we booked it with, is beautiful. It is right on the edge of the mountain looking over to the Himalayas stretching from Mt. Kenchenjungo in the east to Annapurna massif in the west. Although the hydro was off we had a lovely hot shower, a cup of delicious masala chai, then sat and chatted till dinner. After dinner we went to bed around 9pm. My only problem is I am freezing and although I brought my rain jacket, its now soaking and unlikely to be dry by tomorrow morning. But it was a fabulous day and we all enjoyed the exercise both of the mind and the body.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Late morning we set off with Sarah, an Aussie girl from our trip, to investigate the city. We walked to Hanuman dhoka Durbar Square, a world heritage site. There are apparently 7 UNESCO sites in Nepal and I think we will see them all except one. The square is a complex of temples and shrines, both Hindu and Buddhist. The population is apparently about 80% Hindu, 10% Buddhist, 5% Muslim, 2% Christian, and the rest is mixed. I heard someone say that there are over 58 temples in the Square, but I am not sure of this figure. The building are mainly built in the pagoda style with ornately carved exteriors and built in the 12th – 18th Century. The kings of Nepal are crowned here. It was certainly a very interesting area. One of the temples was especially interesting. It is the Kumari-ghar and the home of the “kumari” or living goddess who is said to be the incarnation of the Goddess Taleju. If you go to the temple around 4 pm (which we did), you see her appear at a third story window to be seen by her admirers. Apparently there is quite a process to choosing a pretty little girl for this task.
We spent the afternoon wandering through the less traveled areas of Kathmandu and saw a plethora of temples, shrines, hitis (water tanks where people wash their clothes, and bahals (courtyards) as well as fabulous street scenes of people living their lives and going about their daily business. It was really fascinating, not always pretty though as there appear to be still the remains of buildings devastated in the 1934 earthquake. We also experienced a ferocious thunder and lightening storm complete with hailstones. We managed to shelter in the stairway of one of the temples (which non-Hindus weren’t allowed in) and really felt as if we were just one of the people living in Kathmandu. It was a fabulous afternoon and we got back to the hotel around 5 p.m. We went for dinner to the Road House Café and had a delicious pizza, then back to the hotel to prepare for tomorrow and our 3 day hiking trip.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
We met our group at 7 and went for dinner in a cheap, mediocre Thai restaurant, then back to the hotel and bed around 10:15. Generally the Nepalese, as the Indians, are not around late at night and the only people you meet are the tourists. They warn you here not to walk alone at night because of “drunks”. They also warn you that if you take a taxi be sure to check the driver isn’t drunk! We are wondering how you do this? Uh, “Excuse me, would you mind taking a breathalyzer test before I get in your taxi?”
We had a long chat today with a guy we met in the travel agent’s about the government, and how inefficient they are. He said, no planning! For example, he has been without water for 2 weeks now. Nepal apparently has a supply of water next only to Canada. The electrical power cuts have been going on for 3 years. According to this chap, the government simply has not planned for expansion of the population, progression, or done any “sustainable” planning.
There is apparently no hope of the 2 political parties forming a new government in the near future, according to the local paper. “Begging” is “ profession” and is not to be supported and “spitting” is a way of life. There is actually a whole process that precedes the “spit” which us westerners consider vulgar, but to the Nepalese, it is acceptable. I worry about disease, because we did notice a tuberculosis hospital, which means they must have this disease. You always remove your shoes when you enter a Nepalese home; you never step over anyone, and you never pat children on the head because the feet are the “lowest” part of the body, and the “head” the highest. So many customs to remember.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
The Lodge we are staying in is by far the best place yet. Rooms are clean, and a good size; the gardens are nicely designed and colourful; and the service is efficient and the food is good. A lovely place to be for 2 days.
This morning we had a delicious breakfast at 6:00 a.m. then at 6:30 a.m. we walked down to the river and got into wooden canoes for a 5 km “float” down the river. There was a chap with a long pole standing at the back end of the canoe. He propelled us lazily down the river. As with rowing, the boats seemed a little tippy whenever you moved in them, and of course your bum got so sore and numb, but the sensation of floating down the peaceful river was like being in Camelot. We saw a couple of crocodiles on the bank, and tons of beautiful birds.
After the boat ride, we trekked back through the forest always hoping to catch a glimpse of rhinoceros, bear, or even deer. But sadly, we scared them all away with our heavy footsteps. Saw lots of “paw prints”, a place where rhinos had mated, and the pee of the rhino which is squirted in a 4m area to mark its territory. Other than almost stepping on a deadly common king cobra much to our guide’s alarm, the trek was uneventful. We ended up opposite the Lodge at the end of the trek and were once again gently propelled across.
As we walked back on the river bank we saw some elephant handlers giving the elephants a good wash in the river. They use stones to rub them down and their voice to get them to stand up, lie down, roll over, squirt water, etc. We were supposed to have gone elephant washing but the people who do it are “on strike”, so there is none at the moment. This morning it is about 36C so thankfully, a little cooler.
After our morning activities we had about 1 ½ hrs relax time. I thought I might sleep, but in the end just sat quietly outside our room enjoying the garden, writing my diary and chatting with some of the group. At 12 we had lunch, then time to pop over to the internet to check some details on our China/ Russia trip before setting of at 2:30 for our elephant ride. By this time it was about 38-40C – not quite so “cool”. None the less, we have become used to heat and don’t find it as tiring.
Riding on an elephant was huge fun! We climbed on to the “howdah” from a tall mounting block, four up. Imagine a foot-stool turned upside down and cushions placed inside the frame. Each person sat at a corner inside the frame with legs straddling the legs of the stool. Got the picture??? The motion is a little confusing because you are more or less sideways as opposed to facing forward and the stride is gigantic. Going up and down hills was surprisingly smooth. We crossed a river, praying that the elephant wouldn’t spray water over us (the cooling effect would be great but it wouldn’t be so good for the cameras!). We followed well worn paths through the forest feeling the tickle of spider webs on our skin, the scraping of branches against our legs, and the whip of the smaller upper branches against our face. We also seemed to forge through the jungle creating new tracks which meant quite a bit of extricating yourself from leaves, branches and wines. We ended up covered in spiders, little bugs, and leaf debris. Every so often our elehant pooped and the strongly pungent smell was nausous! All our efforst were rewarded. We cam upon a wide open space and 5 rhinos, 2 bathing in a water hole and 3 grazing in the grass. They are huge, scaley anmilas with mean, visious faces, but elephant and rhinos live well together so we were able to get within about 6 feet, and being high on the elephant, we had a splendid view. Happy and contented at seeing these huge beasts, we returned to the elephant station and then the hotel.
I went down swimming in the river with Dave to cool down remembering that morning we had seen two crocodiles basking on the banks of the river. We met a Spanish guy riding his Marawi horse along the edge. He had moved from Spain , bought some horses, and set up a riding center. It never ceases to amaze me the confident with which some people run their lives.
In the evening we saw Tharu stick dancing. This is a powerful tribal dance with clashing sticks, loud drums, and chanting. It was very arousing and the opportunity to join them in the ritual dancing was very stirring and emotional. Then, it was all over and it was off to bed. Today was filled with memorable moments.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Here are some initial “quick facts” on Nepal that I can glean mainly from Lonely Planet. It has a population similar to Canada, about 26 million people, although the people here tell you less. Life expectancy is 61. Literacy rate is 63% for men and 28% for women. 82% of Nepalese live on less than US$2.00 a day. Average age of the population is 20. Nepal has apparently never been conquered or ruled by anyone else, but its political background is totally unstable. It is a democratic republic – some times! The King was stripped of all of his powers in 2006. Currently, there is a political emergency because the Maoist Prime Minister fired the Chief of the Military. The President said he couldn’t do this and re-instated him. So now there is no government but the Maoists seem to be in control. There are numerous parties several of which are communist and the Maoists. There is a democratic alliance, which is struggling to negotiate with the Maoists who are intimidating the rural residents by violence in their struggle to take supreme power. Nothing has happened for the past 8 months in the way of government management. The Prime Minister has been sacked and replaced in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2003, 2004, 2005, and again recently. 25% of the state budget comes from foreign aid, and the people say that only 75% of that actually goes into the country, the rest goes into the pockets of the government. Some people are scared that the King will take over again and that they will lose democracy. There is virtually no infrastructure. The government has invoked 20-hour load shedding (power-cuts) a day because there is no electricity despite Nepal having tons of water available for power.
We arrived at Sauraha at the entrance to the Royal Chitwan National Park and to the Rhino Lodge where we are staying for the next two nights in time for lunch. We immediately walked down to the Rapti River and paddled in its gently flowing waters. Lunch was delicious. We had about an hour’s free time and skipped into the small town to the Internet Café. We are happy and excited. Our trip to Mongolia and Russia is not cancelled. Someone booked a t the zero hour and saved the trip! I can’t quite believe that, and it has been suggested that either our agent or Sundowners were trying to do an “up sale” on us for $2000 each. But then, I can’t believe that either….so who knows!! At 4 p.m. we loaded into our Oxen-drawn carts to take us for a visit through the Tharu Village to the Elephant Breeding and Training Centre. It was a wicked afternoon and evening. The Brahma oxen are the most amazing animals. They are so pretty, and strong, and have such courageous hears. I feel for the way the carts are loaded though. The yoke lies directly on the skin of their necks in front of their hump. However, its not rubbed raw, and the animals seem in good condition. The village provided an insight into the Tharu way of living. They are so clean, and tidy- no garbage or litter anywhere, and their houses are full of character. Unlike India, the people and children are shy – and oh, so cute and pretty. It’s a great feeling when you make eye contact with a little kid whose face just literally beams when they realize you are focusing on them and a small wave solidifies the communication. We walked across a river in water to our knees, taking time to skip a few stones across the water. The elephant center breeds elephants, which they train at the age of about 1 or 2 for use in the National Park for things like trekking to protect the rhinos from poaching and other conservation and safety issues in the park. They use elephants because of their size and strength. We saw elephants of all ages, played – cautiously – with the babies and saw them being fed (100 sachets of rice and grass a day). It takes 3 people to prepare the food for one elephant. When we walked back to our oxen-drawn carts, a herd of oxen and water buffalo were being driven towards the side of the river and we dallied in amongst them talking to them and taking pictures and just thoroughly enjoying the sun-set and the shadows in the river.
Once back at the lodge, we were no sooner in our rooms than we heard quite a commotion in the main street of the town, so of course, we had to go and look and found ourselves in the middle of a Maoist rally. I haven’t mentioned that a couple of days ago there were riots in Kathmandu. The leader of the Maoist party has said that tourists will not be targeted, but they should be careful not to get involved and get caught in between the opposing parties. So once all the torches had been dimmed, and the protestors went home, we went in to dinner. Now, I am lying in bed, secure from mossy bites under my mosquito net. I haven’t slept under a mosquito net since I lived in West Africa in the ‘50s. It brings back a lot of hidden memories from my childhood.
The sad part about this Maoist thing is that one of the people we talked to in the street, said that people in the village feared for their safety, so were supporting the Maoists. I can believe this because even in Canada during the recent municipal elections, I heard this same story from a new candidate who told me that residents had indicated they couldn’t vote for the new candidate otherwise the incumbent could make their life difficult. How to clean up politics to remove the elements of power-over and fear?
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Our last 400 km drive was not an easy one. The roads were narrow and congested which required constant passing of slow moving vehicles. The temperature was very hot, 46C; and the facilities along the way were limited. The scenery was flat, stony, dry and un-noteworthy. I doubt that many tourists take this route.
The border crossing into Nepal was uncomplicated. The Indian immigration office was a house in the middle of the congested main street of Belahiya. The Nepalese customs was a slightly larger house and we paid our US $40 for our 30-day visa, and were welcomed into Nepal by a friendly border official. We walked from there through the streets to our hotel and sank into the air-conditioned restaurant of the hotel where we substituted Nepalese “Everest” beer for the Indian “Kingfisher” beer.
The power in Nepal, as in certain parts of India, is erratic. Fortunately, the hotel has a generator but unfortunately; we were unable to check email and still don’t know the fate of our China/Russia trip.
To be honest, I never woke up today. The short sleep, the hot temperatures, and the long drive left me sleepy all day and at 10 in the evening I literally collapsed into bed exhausted.
So on this our last day in India, in an effort to put it all into perspective, the following is a summary of our thoughts:
We have traveled from Mumbai in the western upper limits of southern India to Nepal in the northeast border of India, and although this is quite a distance, there are many other regions of India, which offer a different experience, such as the Great Himalayan circuit. India stretches you in every way; it forces you outside of your western-norm, and it challenges you to learn more about its religion and history both of which add a layer of colour over society and affect modern living on a constant basis. The journey has been an unforgettable experience. We have seen sights that exceeded all expectations such as the Taj, the ghats in Varanesi, the ruins at Mandu, and the forts and palaces; and we have come to discover the personalities of the Indian psyche which in many ways have disappointed us due to the greed/expectation of something for nothing/the scourging of the tourist, and the lack of compassion. But, we have also met the opposite: the kind-hearted giving nature and the realization that great change is needed to give the majority a quality life. We have struggled to come to grips with some of the social problems such as abuse of women, poverty, child labour, and we have been appalled at the environmental issues such as pollution, garbage littering the towns and country side villages, contaminated waterways, and the lengths of plastic found in the cows stomachs. We have come to love some of the Indian characteristics: the cups of masala chai, the head woggle, the big wide smiles of the adults and children; the ringing of the bell in the temples to wake up the God and say “hello”. We have lived through its dynamic history from the invasions by Muslim armies in the north in the 1000s, to the Mughal Empire and the Rajputs in the 1500-1700s, the British onslaught in the 1800s, and finally independence in 1937. We have tried to learn about its main religions, Hinduism, Muslim, Buddhist and Jain, and although we have learned and seen much there are still many more layers of society that we have not even touched. People say you either “love” India, or “hate” it. I think I love it and hate it all at the same time. It is a fascinatingly different country!
So far, our group has been really terrific and together has an interesting mixture of knowledge levels and personal skills. There hasn’t been much time for partying or physical activity so life has been a little “serious”, but all in all, it has been an amazing experience that has broadened my mind and stretched my senses.