The Himalaya country Nepal

| August 23, 2011

Sunita Ramanand travelled to Nepal and discovered that in addition to its stunning mountain scenery the country also offers a varied and fascinating wildlife.

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I arrived into Kathmandu on a fine June day in 2068.

We are not talking about a science fiction movie here depicting Nepal in 2068 - according to the official Nepalese calendar, the VikramSamvat, the year is 2068. Although the Nepalese are 57 years ahead of other countries around the world with their calendar, in terms of the pace of life a visit to Nepal is like stepping back in time.

 My first stop was Kathmandu – a growing city,with  rampant construction everywhere and the usual manic traffic. However, you can find some calm in amongst the chaos by escaping to the Durbar Square area right in the heart of the city. Here you can see the Kasthamandap (the wooden building after which Kathmandu is named), the Kumari temple and Talejubhavani temple.  

There are many other things to do in and around Kathmandu, like visiting Swayambhunath or BoudhnathStupas, Pashupatinath Temple or Patan city. Half day hiking trips from Kathmandu to the medieval towns of Bungmati, Khokana or Kirtipur are a good way to see this beautiful country. You can start a hike from any of these towns and walk to another through lush paddy fields and interesting villages - seeing wood carvers and carpet weavers at work in Bungmati, or the extraction and bottling of mustard oil in Khokana. You can also take a spectacular flight over Mount Everest. 

Moving on from the big cities to the jungle, a short flight to Bharatpur flying over paddy fields and the Shiwalik ranges dotted with houses, brought me to the Royal Chitwan National Park. After a one-hour drive from Bharatpur I arrived at Narayani Safari Lodge on the banks of the river Rapti, the first lodge in the buffer zone. In the evening we were given a briefing on elephant behaviour.

The most exciting part of the next day was crossing the river to get to the National Park on elephant-back. The river is no more than 3-4 feet deep, but it was hard to make out if the elephants were wading or swimming as the ride was so smooth. Once in the National Park, a trip through the jungle through trees and tall elephant grass brought us face-to-face with a one horned rhino that didn’t seem to mind our presence and appeared to have a silent conversation with the elephant. “Champakali (that was the name of the elephant), please take care of my guests and show them around. Introduce them to all the other members of the family who live here.” And off we went to see spotted deer, leopard, wild boar, as well as various species of bird and monkey. Upon returning, we were invited to bathe an elephant. It was bath time for all as the elephant enjoyed spraying water on everyone around.

Next I moved into the National Park and stayed at the Temple Tiger Lodge. The lodge is fairly primitive, but this only enhanced the experience for me and didn’t make me miss the city at all. There is no television and limited electricity (you only get it for a couple of hours in the morning and evening, so as not to disturb the animals or pollute the jungle with generator fumes).

From here it was time to move on to Pokhara and with a heavy heart I said goodbye to my friends in the jungle. Pokhara was a pleasant surprise, not the bustling city I expected to find myself in. It is a serene town sitting on the banks of Fewa Lake. There are lots of hiking and trekking opportunities, such as a hike up to the World Peace Pagoda or a boat trip on Fewa Lake, where you can stop off at a small island to see Barahi Temple.

After a relaxing time in Pokhara it was time for me to start my Annapurna trek. Not being the fittest of beings, I did not know what to expect from this trek, except leeches as I was setting out in the rainy season. Equipped with a guide, porter and plenty of salt (weapons of mass destruction for the leeches), it was time to head for the Himalaya. The route was made up of crude log and suspension bridges, paved and unpaved roads, steep steps and walkways, through the paddy fields and villages. The young schoolchildren, walking along the route with smiles on their faces and a spring in their step were a real source of inspiration.   

Nepal is a small country filled with limitless options - the Himalaya, national parks and the smiling faces of the people, all contribute to its charm.

Cox & Kings offers a number of cultural tours to Nepal.

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