10th November 2011
Side note on ATM’s
I forgot to mention the heart stopping afternoon I had my second day when I attempted to find an ATM that liked my card. I tried every one I came to and even tried waiting in a bank for 30min before giving up and looking for more ATMs. At my fifth one I was on the point of panic, as Nepal is very much a cash based society. The guard looked concerned and suggested I try a Nabil bank just down the street. I had been told by other foreigners that Nabil seemed to work, but had already tried one of their ATMs. Oh well got nothing to lose. So I walked over, tentatively put my card in, said a little prayer to whichever almighty is in charge of money dispensing and waited for that special drrrrrrrrrrr sound of money being counted out. After a few heart stopping seconds I heard it, did a little happy dance and breathed a sigh of relief. The Nabil bank does like my ATM card it really does.
So to all those would be cash with drawers in Nepal, persistence pays off!
Off to Chitwan
Rolling out of bed at 6am I lugged my big bag downstairs of Hotel Silver Home to be put in storage and prepared to leave on my first bus experience in Nepal. I had been told that someone would pick me up and take me to the bus station. Unfortunately the night manager had no idea what I was talking about and it started to become painfully obvious that my ride was not showing up.
Just as I was about to say screw it and find my own taxi, the night manager said he would take. I assumed he meant take me to the taxi. Nope he meant walk me to the bus station as high speed so he could return to the desk. He didn’t offer to carry a bag (thank heavens I only had a small one) and walked ahead of me the whole time.
After a good 15min job we arrived at the Bus Station, better known as a very long line of very old decrepit looking buses. Ahhh the joys of travel. Of course my bus did not turn out to be the rather nice, clean looking one that was first in line but rather the very last one (adding another 5min jog through masses of confused tourists). I have traveled in all sorts of contraptions but I must admit I raised my eyebrows a little as I had been told I was in the safer tourist bus… mmmmmmm sure… The most exciting part (please note the word is dripping with sarcasm) was that we had seat assignments and mine was at the very back in the very right hand corner. Not a promising start to this journey. But then again that’s what adventure is all about…right? Isn’t it?????
When we finally pulled out of the station, pretty much on time, which is always a surprise in any country. Within an hour barely outside of Kathmandu we hit a monstrous traffic jam. The roads in this country are the windiest I have ever seen and at this particular spot they are so angled and so narrow that only one line of traffic can come up at any one time. We sat for close to 45min before moving again, giving all the men a chance to jump out and water the bushes… MEN! We had gone about 2 meters when yelling caused us to stop, one guy had taken a little longer to water the bushes than the rest. Kind of amusing.
It took 6 grueling hours of windy, dusty roads sometimes at top speeds other times at a crawl, all the time honking the horn/ blowing the hooter (depending on your version of English). The roads were unbelievably dusty which meant keeping the window open was more likely to cause dust induced bronchitis than make you feel better, it didn’t take long for the pounding headache and bus sickness to start making me feel miserable. But on the bright side it brought all of us squished in the back a little closer and there were many moments that only travelers in these kinds of situations can make light of.
Here are a few pics to help you relive it with me:
One of the most amusing sights while driving were the fabulously decorated buses and trucks. All of them also had a saying painted on the bumper, we spent a lot of time trying to find the most unique. Here are a few:
As the trip bounced closer and closer to 6hrs, the elusive end time, I realised, along with every other foreigner, that none of us knew where we were supposed to get off. We drove down a “highway” of sorts, through a town and out in to more rural areas, all the while wandering if that should have been our stop. On one particularly bumpy section my phone rang and it was the hotel guy asking if I had arrived as he couldn’t see me. The bus was lurching and bouncing so much that I could barely keep the phone against my ear let alone hear him. I was so confused. Then suddenly we turned into a dead end, apparently the last stop and end of the journey and there was my guy to pick me up. It turned out that he was expecting me on a bus that had come about 15min before and so had called Yogi at Hotel Silver Home and asked where I was. If I wasn’t so exhausted it would almost seem funny. I met my fellow hotel goers, Carolin and Daniel from Canada. We climbed into the back of the bakkie/truck and bounced along again to the hotel just round the corner.
When I had been told about the trip a poster was pointed out showing this incredible hotel right on the river in the heart of the National Park, it seemed amazing and the low price was unbelievable. Unbelievable indeed, it turns out that poster was pointed out because it showed the activities I could join, not the hotel. Oh well at least the beds were clean and there was a fan. Over lunch we discussed what we could do that afternoon and then I went and passed out as I felt like I had just done a 6hr + bus ride over a bumpy road with blasting horns and tons of dust…wait a minute I just did, well that explains things!
Elephant Breeding Center
Around 4pm we headed out to the Elephant Breeding Center. This is where all the females and youngsters are kept, the females are trained along with the babies and some eventually become trekking elephants. For the most part the females were pushing 30 and the youngsters averaged 3yrs. The animals were stunning and there was very young one that stole the show. It was sad to see that the mothers were chained at the end of their day, but if not they would wander off and cause severe damage or get injured, apparently. But then again, the elephants are almost the same as horses to these people and you have to lock horses up at night… still sad though.
At one point I was watching a female walking from the forest with her Mahut on her back and her twin babies walking in front of her. Another youngster tried to join the fun which annoyed one of the twins and a few of us clumsy tourists, including yours truly, nearly got stampled!
Here are some pics from that visit:
Back at the hotel I slept, ate dinner and slept again, actually taking something to help me sleep through my now full blown headache. Tomorrow is an elephant safari and so much more!