A Travellerspoint blog

Parked in Pokhara

sunny 20 °C
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It's been hard keeping this blog going in Nepal. Our planned two week trek in Eastern Nepal turned into a 21day epic and upon return to Katty we scurried up to Pokhara to recover. This is easy to do in this lakeside tourist town nestled in the foothills of the Annapurnas, which in comparison to Katty is a relaxed haven. I wouldn't say its pretty anymore but there is a plethora of hotels, restaurants, shops and activities catering to western tastes making it easy to park and put on a bit of subcutanious fat. In this regard I lost 7kg on our trek and am back to my schoolboy weight of 66kg, which actually feels great. Lute and the boys didn't have any love handles to start with so they don't look much different, but I am sure they are also a kilo or two lighter.

I am busy writing up a summary of our trek to the East but my diary is so heavy with entries it might be a few weeks before I get around to publishing it online. Needless to say we survived, but it did push everybody to their limits at one stage or another, the result being that I was recently unable to convince the rest of the family that a short 6day trek from Pokhara up to Poon Hill to view the mountains would be worthwhile. We also decided that the tailend of our journey should be easy and pleasurable, so the concept of visiting India was shelved in favour of searching for a tropical paradise in the Philippines...considering the subsequent developments in Mumbai this looks like being a good decision.

"Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."
Jelaluddin Rumi

Posted by Estebaan 18:42 Archived in Nepal Tagged events Comments (5)

Heading East

semi-overcast 20 °C
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We are on a plane to Tumlingtar tomorrow morning. If all goes well I won't be logging another entry for another three weeks, during which time we will be hiking up the Arun River valley. Its a remote region that sees few trekkers and supposeldy has a fairly pristine environment. We have a guide and a porter from the original company we talked to (Shiva Outdoors) after they shaved $700 off the price. Our guide comes from the area where we are going which I hope will ensure everything goes smoothly.

Today Nepal was busy and all the dogs had garlands of flowers around their necks. This turns out to be only one of the many activites that are occuring in the five days of celebration going on here. Right now I can hear fireworks going off everywhere.

Posted by Estebaan 06:03 Archived in Nepal Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Stinky Katty

20 °C
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Day 1 - as we stepped off the plane one of the first things that caught my eye was that the soldiers at Kathmandu airport carry rifles that look like they're from WW2, a sharp contrast to the splinter new light weight automatics on routine display throughout Amman.

Following a time consuming visa acquisition process we headed into town and I soon saw that the last twenty years hasn't been kind to this city. Choked with cars, motorbikes, rickshaws, bikes and pedestrians the chaos reaches an almighty stinking, ear piercing crescendo in Thamel and thats were we now find ourselves based. The pollution is excacerbated by the regular power blackouts which necessitate many of the shops turning on and running generators. Its such a pity that nobody has grasped traffic managment by the horn and pedestrianised vast slabs of Thamel, because I like whats on offer.

We are now in the process of sorting out guides, porters and a trekking itinery and have liaised with a couple of companies. I am finding this process challenging, partly because of the almost overwhelming compulsion i have to get out into some clean air.. This compulsion caused some conflict with Lute and me today after I gave the go ahead to a trekking agent who she thought was too expensive, the fact the she didn't say so until we came back to our hotel annoyed me. Anyway I ended up agreed with her and quickly went back and put things on hold.

Day 3 - We still haven't decided on a trekking agency but Thamel is too much and I have voted out. Today we took a taxi, which wasn't nearly as challenging as in Amman and had a squizz at Patan, which is about 5km South of Kathmandu centre. With our trusty guidebook in my hand we proceeded to walk from the backdoor of Patan into its heart and it really is much less scarred than Thamel. The first guidebook recommended place in the low/med budget range was full and after reviewing a couple of scruffy places we found the calm oasis of the upmarket Summit hotel hidden near the Norwegian and Dutch embassies. I drank the relative sweetness of the clean air and wandered past the grassy poolside stewn with relaxed people reading books in the sun in their swimmers! Shit I thought, they're having a real holiday! I checked out the prices and was about to walk away when Lute noticed that they offered some budget rooms (20Euro/double), which turned out to be very simple (no TV, no Aircon etc) and very clean with hot water - Purrfect. Our room was reserved within 5min and we are moving over in the morning.

Both the boys and Lute said tonight that today had been heavy for them. We saw a dead dog lying on the side of the road, some dead rats and beggars were commonplace including one young boy with only one leg and no hands. The fetid stench of rotten things and raw sewerage wafted past us regularly and the smell that engulfed us as we crossed the Bagmati River has cemented my newfound no fish/no meat diet.

I learnt today that 500 people/day fly in and hike up towards Everest basecamp and there is no way we want to be on such a treadmill. We have purchased some maps for Eastern Nepal and are talking about a 16 day trek in the remote restricted region between Makalu and Kanchenjunga. I am getting excited!

Posted by Estebaan 09:51 Archived in Nepal Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

"Life is a big school!"

sunny 27 °C
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"Life is a big school", said Akran the taxi driver as he ferried me from Qatar Airways office back to the Cameo Hotel (which I wouldn't recommend). He didn’t realise how pertinent his statement was, but with the series of unfortunate events that have occurred to us over the last few days, it resonated. My trip to Qatar Airways offices was the highlight of these events following the airline canceling our "confirmed reservation" to Kathmandu. This occurred due to a critical condition not explained on my internet booking response. The condition was that I had to go to their offices in Amman to pay a minor validation surcharge (due to a reservation change I made months ago) at least 72hrs before the flight. I went all the way up to the area manager and maybe they are going to upgrade what is an apparent weakness in their booking system, but we are now have three unexpected days in Amman before we can get on another flight.

Overall I must say that Jordan has sometimes been a difficult place to travel as an independent tourist. Accommodation in the RSCN "camps" (which are not really campsites at all but expensive hotels with tents) is geared towards tour groups which book out the accommodation weeks in advance at this time of year. Fortunately we have our camping gear with us and have been able to stay in some great offroad locations for free. We have had no hassles from the locals doing this and I think it is very much an accepted practice, no doubt remnants of the Bedouin culture. I think the hire car company wouldn’t have been too happy if they saw where I took their Citroen C5....

Some advice for other travellers is as follows:

• If you go to Petra, don’t bother with the Petra by night tour, it's a dud. It is too busy to appreciate the music or the talk (I estimate 400 people did it on the night we were there) and the Treasury is not lit up very well.
• Don’t expect to go to the Dana nature reserve and find maps and books on the reserve available at the information centre. You also are required to engage a guide to walk the route to the camp, which you need to book in advance. Also, don’t get convinced to use a local non RSCN guide, unless you pay much less than the 35JD we shelled out for a "guided" walk from the village to the local springs.
• If you stay in the Dana Hotel (which is OK) make sure you put some fresh insecticide pads in the anti-mosquito devices and check the toilets and showers work properly.
• Most taxi drivers in Amman (where they agree to use a meter!) have tried to increase the charges for us in some way or another. They are quite inventive in their excuses and it gets tiring arguing with them.
• Get on an overnight camping tour in the mountainous desert region around Wadi Rum - we hired our own guide and vehicle thru Jordan Tracks for two days for 240JD. We got to drive through and scramble around some of the most amazing scenery and our guide (Sarle) compensated for his rudimentary English by entertaining us at night with arabic songs whilst strumming his inlayed Egyptian Lute.
• Don't believe anybody if they tell you there are no mosquitoes in the desert.

I was surprised to find that Jordan still uses cans with ringpulls and leaded petrol.....and those damn black plastic bags are everywhere. I propose that the Jordan Government makes the sale of biodegrdable plastic bags mandatory.

Posted by Estebaan 01:36 Archived in Jordan Tagged family_travel Comments (7)

Stop - there's a girl in a bikini!

semi-overcast 33 °C
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massive petrol guzzling GMC rod hogs slide up and down the coastal road which leads to the Saudi border. Crossing the road is a necessity to get from our budget hotel to the public beach where fully clad Muslim women wade into the water next to ogled bikini clad foreigners. I observed in amusement today as the traffic slowed and stopped twice to let some scantily clad women cross the road to the hotel.

The difficulty of swimming in a robed outfit makes me ponder how many of the local women from Aqaba have ever actually had the chance to see the reefs - alas it's just one of the many restrictions placed on them in this culture.

Our hotel (the Bedouin Village) is costing us 50 dinar (about 50 euro)/night for two double rooms with bathrooms - which is bout 1/4 of the midrange hotel up the road. I dont begrudge the price as it has allowed us to enjoy the finest snorkeling I have ever undertaken - yes, I dare say its better than the Great Barrier Reef, and a hell of alot easier to access.

Jordan is more relaxed and advanced than Syria but littering is a common habit that turns the beaches, streets and carparks into rubbish tips. Although there is a rubbish collection team working the beaches the shear volume of rubbish sometimes left behind and the strong winds invariably mean that there are regular plastic jellyfish and other trash floating round the reefs. I remember being similarly dismayed 20years go when I first saw the same attitude in Tunisia.

Off into the desert tomorrow!

Posted by Estebaan 10:04 Archived in Jordan Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

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