Whoa! What was that?!

I’m not really squeamish about bugs with the exception of cockroaches, perhaps?  But even then I will take them on armed with a shoe if I have to…But take a look at these critters…!


Dozens of them, crawling around on trees in Chiwan


Crawling on the exterior wall of our house. WTF?! What are the yellow things on its back? Something like pollen appears to be stuck to the antena? Stepping back…..!


Stepping back is definitely what was needed with this one. I never saw it. A young kid in Chitwan fished it out from the grass with a stick. I’ve long forgotten the name he told me, but apparently its a really poisonous one.

Travel Theme: Broken


This tractor is wearing a flower garland for the Dashian holiday, Nawami.  On this day income-generating vehicles and machinery are worshiped, and sacrifices are made to gain a blessing from the goddess Durga for protection against accidents. (Perhaps, a few road rules around here might go a long way too….)  But even this sad, abandoned tractor with flat, moss-covered tyres was being blessed. I’d like to think that someone remembered the importance of this piece of machinery in years gone by and decided to honour it as an old friend. Maybe a bit too romantic for a tractor?….but it was charming nonetheless.

See here for other travel  insights on Broken.


Nepali Slam Poetry

I would never think of “slam poetry” as something that would interest me.  But when I saw this short performance by the slam poetry group, Word Warriors, I just had to share it here. I think its astounding.

Like Indian women, Nepali women often suffer abuse in silence.  The are taught to accept gender-based violence as something that comes with being married, and the stories I hear are more than appalling.  They have no voice, no say, no rights.  Its time for things to change and, as women like this speak up, hopefully things will start to change.

This three minute performance is a powerful presentation.  Please take a few minutes to watch it.  Things will only start to change if they are heard.

About Word Warriors:  In November 2010, Quixote’s Cove organized the QC Awards 2010: The Poetry Slam and, with the US Embassy cultural program, brought three American slam poets to Nepal. After the success of this event, a group of around 15 young poets wanted to keep writing, sharing and performing poems and formed Nepal’s first ever slam poetry group, Word Warriors. Since then, Word Warrior members have performed at countless events, schools and colleges. They have organized two interschool slam competitions in Kathmandu Valley and Surkhet (outside the capital Kathmandu), and host monthly poetry performances in Kathmandu. The Word Warrior facebook group has over 9000 members and is one of the most vibrant online literary groups in Nepal. These young poets represent the beginnings of a grass root poetry movement.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Beautiful Dreamers

Most days when I’m out and about, I see someone sleeping in some unlikely spot, grabbing a quick snooze when and where they can.  Most of the time, I don’t have a camera to hand or the opportunity to take a snap. But sometimes, I do!  Here are some beautiful dreamers captured:


A quick snooze in Bhaktapur


These chairs were for sale at an action. I’m guessing this guy wasn’t interested in buying!


I wanted to sneak up and put a blanket over this one.

For more dreamers see: Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

How (not?) to garden in Kathmandu

One of the weird things about bouncing around the planet so much is having to continuously adapt to different climates.  We are here for two years in Kathmandu, and have now been though the annual seasonal rotation once.  In theory, we are back where we arrived, at the end of the rainy season, except that it doesn’t really remind me very much of last year. But then again, I’ve only done this once….when does it start to get cold again?  What’s the season for tomatoes?  What can you grow in the winter if it there’s hardly any frosts?  Its confusing.

In theory, October and November are very warm and sunny during the day and starting to get cool at night.  December and January are sunny and mild during the day, and can get down to frost at night (occasionally).  I didn’t have much in the garden last December.  I have no idea how our geraniums are going to handle it.  They certainly didn’t like the rainy season very much.  Almost nothing did.  Pots became waterlogged and septic if we didn’t move them into a covered location.  Plants just went yellow and died.  But finally the rains are going away and the soil is begging to be turned and planted.  Who are we to say no?!

There’s a plot to the side of the house that was a kiddy sand pit when we moved in.  The previous tenants very kindly left it there for “other families with kids.”  As Latham is a little to old to play in a sandpit we were stuck with the problem of getting rid of it.  The sand was dumped in the corner behind the mango tree, but the soil underneath was dusty and lifeless.  Our staff threw in a few flowers higglety-piggedly and it was hard to access or water.  Security guards stepped on the strawberries.  Nothing did very well.


The ex-sand pit.  Not quite the “before” picture.. more like “before the flowers went in”

Finally I got smart.  I bought some cheap local bricks (with swastikas I might add – explanation here) and made a  simple path through the mess. Then I did triage on everything that was growing there, dug it over and added compost.  Everything is looking so much healthier, and I can get in to water and weed .  Next we went shopping for fall plants and a few supplies.  You can find plants and compost, but things like supporting sticks, wire, ties, that kind of thing are non-existent.  Robert made sticks by quartering big, fat bamboo poles with a cleaver.  We didn’t need much else, but what we did need had to be ordered from Amazon.  There’s very little in the way of gardening supplies here.


So my path is lined in swastika bricks. Isn’t everyone’s?!



Shopping for plants always fills me with joy. Lots of new colours!



Robert’s very healthy looking tomato plants. They are starting to flower so we should have fruit set starting in a couple of weeks. Hopefully with a little plastic each night once it starts to get colder they will survive the cold and get enough sun during the day. Unfortunately, the house next door is blocking too much sunlight already.


My finished garden. Just waiting for the mums to grow and blossom. Hopefully it will look pretty for the next couple of months.

I remember how much I missed having a garden in Manila, and its taken almost a year (or half our tour) for me to head out to plant things.  It was Robert’s insistence on planting tomatoes that got me past all the challenges of gardening here and back outside again.  Even if we only get a couple of months outside poking around in the dirt,  its valuable time outdoors while we still can.  Who knows where we’ll be living this time next year.  More photo updates if all grows well!


As I mentioned yesterday, this is our fourth visit to Chitwan and I’ve been lucky enough to go on an elephant ride the past three times. We didn’t plan on going on one again, but the very kind staff at the Nepali Center for Nature Conservation invited us over for tea and an elephant ride. While we were taking a look at their facility, something came running up to us….

baby rhino chitwan

More like a big dog than a baby rhino, she was curious and friendly. Who were we? Why were we there?!

It was an eight month old baby rhino. She had been badly injured after a tiger attack and the staff were taking care of her. She had suffered injury to her back leg, losing the pad to her foot and was recovering from an operation to repair the damage.  Its a great facility for her to safely wander around while she recovers.

baby rhino chitwan

It was so fun to pet a baby rhino! I never thought I’d get a chance. She was so tough and strong. The folds of skin are amazing.

baby rhino chitwan

…and she was playful too. Obviously feeling well enough to break into a run here and there

Charmed by our new friend, we set off to ride an elephant for an hour into the park. You never know what you’re going to see, although this is not Africa and there isn’t an abundance of wildlife roaming in packs. I go for the pleasure of the ride and the early morning peace of the park. If we see something, its a bonus.

After a little while we spotted a rhino sleeping under a tree.  Elephants and rhinos get on fine, and a sleeping rhino often won’t move when an elephant walks by.  This one stood up and gave us “the eye.”


Well? What do you want?!

Then we found out why. She wasn’t alone.

baby rhino chitwan

Another cute baby rhino! This one was even younger and sleeping..


All drowsy, she stood up and joined with mom in a curiosity stare ,,,

mother rhino with baby

…and they very kindly did a mother an child photo opp for us ;o)



Amazingly our rhino experiences didn’t stop there. A couple of days later, I headed out birdwatching with a guide.  He asked me if I would like to see a rhino and took me to a spot down by the river.  In a muddy ditch sat an old curmudgeon-like rhino who gave us an impatient snarl.  The guide said he was too old and weak to go into the jungle as younger rhinos would attack him.  So even often hangs out in the ditch for a bit of peace and quiet, if you can call taking photos from tourists peaceful.


Remember th e1990s Jim Henson series “Dinosaurs”? He reminded me of the dad!

old rhino

Yep. Definitely not impressed! Poor Guy!

Travel Theme: Inside a Twin Prop

twin propeller plane

Our ride’s arrived!

I’m slowly getting used to the idea of flying in a tiny twin propeller plane. I usually do a couple of domestic flights a month, and I know what to expect. I’m not one to get panicky about flying.   Nepal in general has a bad safety record with flights, however aircraft accidents dwindle in comparison to road accidents. Every week there’s another story about a bus with 24 passengers hurdling off a windy mountain road plunging 250 meters down to the valley floor, usually taking another couple of vehicles with it. If the choice is 20 minutes in the air or driving 8 hours on windy, treacherous roads, I take a statistic approach to the danger.

One of the upsides of flying on tiny aircraft from tiny airports is that the procedure for embarking and disembarking is less of an ordeal. You simply walk across the tarmac and board.


Yes, we’re really getting on that…

My flight back from Janakpur earlier this year was on the smallest twin propeller yet. It seated only twenty people: eight single seats on each side, and four at the back. It was cosy to say the least. You could lean forward and watch the pilot in the cockpit, yet the flight attendant still came around with candies and water.  I looked out of the tiny window as we flew north across the sparsely populated, but dramatic hill country towards Kathmandu.  Twenty minutes later we were back in the city, having avoided the particularly windy road from Hetauda to Kathmandu and lived to fly another day!


The cosy interior

For more stories on the travel themes of “interiors” visit: http://wheresmybackpack.com/2014/10/10/travel-theme-interior/

More Chitwan River Life


I just made my fourth trip down to Chitwan for a few days, staying at our favourite spot, Sapana Village Lodge.  There’s lots of things I like about Sapana, but one of its greatest attractions is how it makes me comfortable with hot water showers, comfy chairs and places to relax, but doesn’t cut me off  from local life.  From a comfortable reading spot, I can watch everyday life going past me on the river.  Locals are washing clothes, fishing, or just using the river to get around.  Abundant bird life hovers overhead.  Majestic cranes, ibis, storks, hornbills, sunbirds, night jars, and the beautiful asian paradise flycatcher are all here, swooping down to the water to drink.  (We come to Chitwan to see the amazing elephants and rhinos, but for sheer variety and volume, you really can’t beat the birds.)  I find it so relaxing.  I love the wild life and the river.  They keep me coming back for more.


This was our first visit during the rainy season, and the river was very swollen. Recent flooding had washed away the small bamboo bridge that was here before.


The swollen water raced by. It wasn’t very deep, but it was fast, rushing reeds and branches away in its current.


One of many white ibises that stopped by for a visit.


He caught something. I didn’t see what it was.




Back from his early morning chore of collecting feed for the other elephants.  What tusks!


Mom and baby are still fine since our last visit and still loving their daily baths!