Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nepal Part 1

Kathmandu Valley
As most of you probably know, I've been a bit disconnected lately as I've been trekking through the Himalayas for the last week. I still have two days left, but I just so happened to have an afternoon free in a village that has working internet (while the power is on, it could cut out at anytime). I apologise if this post is a bit rushed and not my best, but you will get the gist of what has been going on up until the trek. My next post after this one will go over the trek, in an effort to keep things from getting too long.

"You have now left hell and entered into heaven," were the first words spoken to me after I crossed the Nepal border. "Sure, sure," I thought. Little did I know that those words would become my mantra. Nepal, the rooftop of the world, is a dream. An organic wash of greens, grays, browns, and blues cover the landscape, dotted with ramshackle little villages and a patchwork of terraces. Rising above it all are the Himalayas, which tower in the distance, framing the whole scene with jaw-dropping beauty. It's just coming to the dry season, one of the best times of year to be here as everything is still green, but the skies are mostly clear and it's not too hot. The only sign of the chaos of India is a smoggy haze, blown up from the south, that sometimes lingers in the air.

Walking on the elephant
I've spent most of my time so far in the subtropical lowlands. By "lowlands" I mean no snow capped, 3000 meter peaks, it is still far from flat, with sharp changes in in elevation and very hilly. My first stop was Lumbini where I visited the birthplace of  the Buddah. After I short stay, I went to Chitwan National Park where I jam packed about a billion activities into 2 days. Chitwan is beautiful in itself but the highlight for me was all the elephants. I went on an elephant trek, visited the elephant breeding centre with all the little babies, and then got to go swimming with some elephants! For the swimming,  I watched the elephants crashed into the river with their trainers on their backs, rolling over and splashing around with glee. Once laying down, I climbed with the trainer onto the elephants side. Gripping it's huge neck and holding on for dear life, the giant animal stood up. Once upright, I was sitting on the bare back of the elephant while he splashed around. I could feel his rough skin and prickly hair beneath my palms and hear his ginormous breath beneath me. I then was able to stand up and walked up and down his spine, all the while being shot with water from the elephants trunk. When he had had enough the elephant rolled over again, sending me flying into the river. It was one of the best experiences ever.
Trainer on his elephant

Next it was off to Pohkara where I was the random western guest at a Nepali wedding. How did this come about you may ask? Well I happened to be walking down the street when a massive bus with a 5 piece band on the roof drove by. Liking the apparent party bus I waved and clapped at them, and then they stopped and asked if I wanted to see a Nepali wedding. Really? Hell yes I do! So off I went in my hiking boots, dirty jeans, and 3 days unwashed hair. I was introduced and passed around and tried to make conversation with only broken English to play with. I watched the ceremony quietly wondering if the bride or groom were wondering why the hell there was a random white girl at their wedding . . .but they didn't seem to even notice or care. Everyone kept asking me if I liked to dance and not knowing what I was getting myself into, I said sure. Before I knew it the band was being reassembled and everyone was shouting at me to dance. I was being dragged against my will by both my hands, so what could I do? Before I knew it I was busting a move with 3 Nepali guys to indecipherable music with about 70 people watching. I tried to encourage more to join but no one would budge. So, as a last resort, I looked around for the alcohol at this party, I needed a drink badly, but alas there didn't seem to be any! It was an equally humiliating and hilarious experience.

Wedding Ceremony
When I'd finally had enough (much to every ones disappointment) they insisted that I stay and eat with them. I looked wearily at the unknown foods at the buffet. Anyone who knows me has seen my more than average selectiveness when it comes to food. In other words, I'm very picky. So as the unknown curry, sloppy vegetables, and scary looking sauces were piled on my plate I watched with terror. On the first bite a mass of unknown spices exploded in my mouth. Spicy, spicy, SPICY!!!! The second mix looked a bit more promising...But wait, no...It was terrible! Between each bite I shoveled a cleansing pile of white rice into my mouth, plastering a fake smile on my face. "Mmm, good," I lied. Finally a bowl of yogurt was pushed into my hands for dessert. Oh thank God something normal. After eating I'd had enough culture shock for the day and quietly (and quickly) left.

Next I arrived in Kathmandu. Despite some hype, the city resembled most of those of the third world, a tangled maze of indistinguishable streets, congested traffic, too many people, and too many piles of trash. After India, I was anxious to get out of the city, so me and two guys I was with promptly booked an overnight white water rafting trip down the Bhota Khosi. The first day was fairly mellow, we meandered our way through the mountainous jungle , impressive terraces, and picturesque little villages perched on the sides of cliffs. Children could see us coming and would thunder down the river banks screaming "Naaamaaasstte!" and waving vigorously. It was just us, our boat, and a few friendly Nepali along the way. We swam a bit and jumped off some cliffs, even though the water was icy cold. As we floated under a suspension bridge (very popular in Nepal), a line of crimson robed monks stopped to watch us pass beneath them. As we came closer, they waved, and I noticed one monk pull a cell phone out of his pocket and take a picture of us. A small reminder that the modern world is creeping in everywhere, even in a land seemingly so medieval.

Me in Pohkara with Himalayas behind
That night we made camp on a grassy bank beside the river. It was an incredible setting with the mountains rising 360 degrees around us. We were 'real' camping, sleeping on the hard ground, cooking by fire, and using mother natures toilet, the kind of camping I most enjoy! The next morning we were back on the river and it was a much more intense day, featuring only class 3 and 4 rapids. It was all going well until our emergency kayaker flipped over and got wedged up against a rock, held head first under water. Unable to stop ourselves against the rapids, we hurled right into him, hitting him hard and trapping him under our raft. In the impact, most of us were dislodged from our seats, and flew from the boat. The shock of the cold water was told me I was out of the raft before my eyes had surfaced. I pushed through the current back towards the boat,  only then noticing almost everyone else had fallen out too. Our guide, a chiseled little Nepali guy with 0% body fat was right on us, and yanked me and a fully grown German guy simultaneously back into the raft like ragdolls. Luckily, our safety kayaker survived the crash, but was shaken and lost his paddle, so we had to continue on without him. But all was well and everyone, myself included, had a blast.

So that concludes the highlights of what's happened up until the trek. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up quickly when I get back to civilization! Until then :)



  1. Loved this blog entry! I think its one of my favorites! You really had me laughing about the wedding shin dig, and Your elephant experience sounds incredible! You not only rode an elephant, you WALKED on it (which I didnt know you could do), and frolicked in the water with it! WOW!

  2. I love reading about your adventures AFTER they've happened as that means you've survived them! Miss you. Mum

  3. Jordan,
    I am so envious of you and your escapade with the Elephants!! I would love to do that, but can't see it happening - Good on you!!! Enjoy the rest of your time in Nepal, sounds like it is just what you needed after India.

    Val & Harreson