The Big One


Opening that baby up….

We live in an earthquake zone. A high risk earthquake zone that is due to experience “the big one” every seventy years or so. The last big one was in 1934…you do the math. It’s overdue. Knowing this is part of the Embassy’s strategy to try and keep us safe, and with that policy comes an “earthquake kit” that we store in our garage. It looks a lot like a dumpster, but its full of essential supplies in the event of an emergency. What’s more in contains supplies for about four families. We are the rally house for our Embassy community as our home is deemed the most earthquake resistant in the area.

Annually we’re required to do an inventory of the contents to make sure they aren’t expired, damaged or missing. So this past weekend we did a thorough check of the contents. What’s in it?  I wondered the same and opened the big metal bin to go through everything. There’s mats, blankets and tents for sleeping, water and MREs (meals ready to eat), a wide selection of medical supplies, ropes, axes, hammers, crow bars, torches, batteries, even pens and pads of paper for leaving messages.  We did search and rescue training back in October, which teaches the basics on what to do in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake.  The helmets, head lamps and crow bars brought up memories of training on how to move huge concrete slabs with wedges and levers. The list of items was long and it was a reality check of what it might really be like if a disaster happened. It so hard to imagine a scenario when the contents of the chest are all we have to survive for an indefinite period of time. Let’s hope it never happens.


Everything was dusty from sitting around for a year in the world’s dustiest city (almost)



Items were stored in plastic containers that looked like they needed replacing more than their contents.


Checking items off from the list

According to this blog — at least lately — my life is one long resort visit. Its not. But its more fun to post about the joys of life than its problems…at least that’s the way it works for me. Occasionally, I think its interesting to share some of the less romantic, gritty realities of living in a developing country. At least, a few of them as the pertain to me. Earthquakes are the flip side of the coin to living in this extraordinary place.

Flag Day

In the foreign service, flag day means the day that you are handed a national flag representing the country of your first post. Here is Nepal, on our second assignment…in meant something quite different….

There are lots of nice trails around Namobuddha. You can walk to the stupa itself, or head in the opposite direction to the monastery, or even combine them both in a 3-4 hour loop. We decided to head out towards the monastery, and explored some of the woods and trails on our way. The views were still fantastic, even as the sun got higher in the sky. One side of the valley was still blanketed in cloud and the other side was completely exposed. We sat on the edge of a terrace and looked down across the rice fields.


The amazing multi-leveled view.  It was hard to stop looking.

The trails winded along the hill, passing small farms, kids playing and farmers working in the fields. It was a beautiful spot and everyone made their hard lives look tranquil. Sometimes its easy to forget how difficult their really are.


Namobuddha monastery




As we moved into the forest, the flags started.  Prayer flags were stretched across the landscape from tree to tree, blowing in the wind.  As we walked on, the strings of them grew thicker and thicker.  There were new colourful flags, fading ones, and some that had obviously been around for a long time.  Robert couldn’t figure out why no one picked up the old ones, and why they were left lying around like more of the garbage we have seen strewn around Nepal.  My instinct was that the old flags weren’t the same kind of problem as garbage in this country, where no one seems to care about throwing plastic, glass or trash down on the side of the road. Perhaps they were representative of someone’s prayers or dreams and shouldn’t be removed ?  I resolved to research it once I returned to my computer.

It turns out that I wasn’t quite right about the symbolism, but I was right that symbolism is involved.  The prayer flags are added to the environment as a way of promoting peace.  The wind blows over the prayers printed on the flags and spreads their message through the air, purifying it.  The flags become permanent fixtures of the environment, aging just as with all life, and new flags go up alongside, symbolizing change and renewal.  All of which, is a much more understandable approach that the thoughtlessness of the garbage-tosser.


First flags…




…and then strings and strings of them


Some had a little too much wind pass over them


Its easier to look at the faded flags caught in the fence, now I know a little of why there are still there.  They do look a lot like plastic garbage bags deteriorating along a fence.  Now I know better ;o)

Chillin’ in Namobuddha

namobuddha resort

Sorry…I can’t move…I’ve got a cat on my lap…











With a three day weekend upon us and the prospect of staying in dusty Kathmandu was heavily outweighed by the opportunity to take a two day break somewhere pretty. So we headed 1.5 hours east of the city to stay at an organic farm, near Namobuddha, a famous buddhist stupa, which is largely in the middle of nowhere except for holy holidays when the crowds descend. This was a quiet, winter weekend and a great time to go to get away.  However, our stay at Namobuddha resort didn’t get off to the best of starts. (This is becoming a trend!) This time it was the weather, which turned bad almost the moment we checked in, and it started raining and raining, which was odd because it is the cold, dry season here and there hadn’t been even the threat of rain for a couple of months.  We spent the reminder of Saturday afternoon huddled up reading and napping, and remembering to enjoy the enforced rest that the weather brought.  By nightfall, despite the continuing rain and darkness, we made our way tentatively over to the restaurant for dinner.  It was traditional and charming, lit by candles but also heated by two electric heaters so it was cosy and pretty. The vegetarian the dinner was good, and we ate great plates of it from trestle tables, shared with the small group of other guests. After dinner, we stumbled the few meters home with our flashlight and the remainder of the resort remained undiscovered, hidden from us by the bad weather and dark.

The next morning the weather was clear and we awoke to this extraordinary view….I had no idea!:

View from Namobuddha

Its so hard to try and explain the other-worldliness of the scene. The massive mountains were hidden yesterday, and were now revealed, along with what looks like a massive lake, but is actually the top of the clouds that are covering the valley thousands of feet below.













After chasing views of the Annapurnas (twice) with only limited success, suddenly we were treated to an amazingly clear, other-worldly scene of mountain majesty that only National Geographic usually delivers. I sat and ate breakfast in awe.

What was extraordinary also, was the “cloud lake” below us, which complete obscured the valley.  It felt like we were flying over Nepal, looking down, but only seeing the mountain peaks that had broken through the clouds.  Interestingly, later in the day the fog below started to lift and slow hugged the mountain peaks, until the scene was total reversed with the mountain tops obscured and the valley below revealed.  It was like watching the world from God’s control box.

namobuddha resort

Beautiful blue skies and flowers in January











The little cottage they gave us was delightful. Robert called it a hobbit house and it was just like one. Built of stone, with really well crafted local architectural features, it was both charming and functional. The ceilings were purposefully low, making it easier to heat. and the windows were designed to let in as much light as possible while providing the least opportunity for heat loss. Everything was scaled down to fit with the beds being almost on the floor and the chair legs shortened to about eight inches. The steep wooden staircase let up to a bedroom upstairs with windows so so low you couldn’t see the sky. The staircase was also convertible, with side panels that lowered to close off the stairs, offering privacy and a way to keep the hot air trapped upstairs at night.

After a freezing cold visit to Bandipur last month, I was prepared with slippers, blankets and hot water bottles. But actually the house design, along with a small electrical heater worked really well at keeping the temperature in the house very comfortable. Even the bathroom had an old-fashioned wall-mounted heater …the kind that we had when I was a kid before central heating.  It’s electrical coils poured out intense heat at the pull of string so you could dry in comfort after a shower.

At the back of the resort is the organic vegetable garden, with a small greenhouse, which is charmingly kept. The crunchy granola part of me just loves seeing food grow. Although I haven’t been able to realistically grow vegetables for years, I loved visiting them at the organic farm we belonged to in NJ. And the organic farm is one of the few things I really miss about our NJ life.

namobuddha resort

Our little stone cottage

namobuddha resort

Downstairs was a bed that doubled as a reading spot.  Look at how short the chair legs are!

namobuddha resort

Traditional windows.  The walls were painted a terracotta.  Traditionally they would have been made from mud.

namobuddha resort

The staircase panels.  Release the hooks and lower them down to cover the staircase.  This gives privacy and traps the heat upstairs during the night.

namobuddha resort

The main entry door was so tiny, I had to duck to get in and out of the house.  Robert had an even harder job.  Whacked my heat — twice — badly!

namobuddha organic garden

The Winter vegetable garden:  broccoli, cauliflower, greens and bananas (no fruit yet)

namobuddha organic garden


From garden to table:  broccoli quiche with fresh veggies!

Review of Sapana Village Lodge, Sauraha


One of the 4-unit hotel buildings

Our arrival at the lodge didn’t get off to the best start. The resort was full and our names weren’t on the arrival list. But the manager somehow managed to find us rooms anyway. It was the start of a really different level of friendly service that I hadn’t seen anywhere since the Philippines.

sapana village lodge

They had great covered decks outside of every room. The chair was comfortable and the view was great.

I have to say, Sapana Village Lodge is really my kind of place. It was pretty and designed with thought and care, but it wasn’t too fancy which made it more charismatic and welcoming in my opinion. There were balconies outside the rooms with views, and places to sit in the shade and read…pillows and footrests..  There was a really chilled out bar area with giant floor cushions where you could just hang with a cup of coffee or something a bit stronger.  I loved the large deck overlooking the jungle and the river.  I could have hung out around the resort all day reading, except that I had to get the elephant bug out of my system….and I had to go ride in a canoe…..But now that I have experienced those, if we are lucky enough to come back, it will be to chill out, read, and just enjoy the countryside and friendly atmosphere for a few days.

sabana village lodge

The ultra chilled lounge. Just hanging out next to the jungle and river! This is where we spent new years eve in the dark, sitting next to a fire pit.

sabana village lodge

The rooms were pretty nice too. The bedspreads were made locally by a fair trade organization. We liked them so much we bought our niece one!

sapana village lodge

“Development Project for Poverty Alleviation” Not only was it a wonderful, friendly place to stay but it was run as a community project for the benefit of locals.

The lodge store had handicrafts made by locals from local materials. As we sat drinking our tea, we could watch people collecting the reeds from the river to make the baskets. 50 meters away was the elephant barn, and in the little shop they sold notebooks made from elephant dung.  (Which are actually very nice….  The elephants actually do most of the work making pulp out of straw for the paper making if you think about it that way!) There was a constant connection between the resort and its surroundings…their elephants footprints were definitely bigger than their carbon footprints!

They had a culture of friendliness and interest in the guests that was unusual too. The service ethic was there, but sometimes a waiter would come over and talk just to get to know you, or ask about your experience in Chitwan.  It was very engaging and yet laid back at the same time.  I started my Christmas plans in October and initially booked Tiger Tops Resort, as everyone told me that it was the best, the most romantic, and well worth the very high price they charge . However, I’m really glad we changed our plans.  I’m sure Tiger Tops has a lot going for it, but Sapana Village Lodge was excellent, friendly and very good value for money.  I highly recommend it and am already working on ways to get us back for a few days!

Sign Language: Back of the Bus

nepalese bus

Please, please can we overtake this bus? If I have to look at the misspelling of adidas for one more minute, I’ll freak out!

As much as I liked being on the road for a week, I disliked being stuck behind one of these things. For the majority of the time on the Nepalese highways you have just overtaken one or there’s one in front that you’re looking to overtake. Its competitive and different degrees of dangerous depending on the road and who you’re sharing it with!  However, quite often it was surprisingly cooperative and there was a spirit of teamwork as drivers honked and signaled back and forth.  I say “surprising” because of the contrasting attitude of sheer belligerence and adamant non-cooperation that is the status quo on Kathmandu roads.

nepalese truck

See you! The most popular tailgate message on Nepali trucks.

Basically, the horn is everything on the highways.  It signals “I am here”…”I plan to overtake”  …or “I am overtaking”.  I don’t think I can recall it being used in retribution or as “fuck you get out of my way” as it does in Kathmandu.  It was interesting to learn that the trucks use their right-turn indicators to signal to the driver behind that he can overtake.  As mad as this sounds, it actually works quite well, as long as everyone understands the rules.  Nepalese highway drivers know that a truck signalling to turn right is not actually planning to turn right off the edge of the cliff, but is giving the ok to overtake.  (I suppose it puts the turn indicators to work in a world where there really isn’t anywhere to turn right or left …just a straight road to your next destination.)

There were times when everyone seemed to be cooperating and paying attention, and then some arsehole (there is no other word) would show up with a blatant disregard for anything going on around him, speeding and overtaking without looking or signalling, creating numerous near misses with oncoming traffic, and causing waves of winded drivers in his wake.  Those I fear more than steep drops or windy roads.  And on the way back home, heading for the final uphill climb before the descent into Kathmandu valley, there were a fair few.  Question is, do we do this next time, or the marathon wait at the notorious domestic airport. It will be one or the other because I loved what I saw and tolerating either of those evils is the only way to get back.  See you!


The hip and cool roadster. No time for love, baby!

nepalese truck

I never did figure this one out. Wait for side signal, maybe?

Chitwan New Years 2013


The pretty bar area where we saw in the New Year

We had a slightly chilly, very chilled New Years Eve, camped outside in front of a roaring fire in Chitwan. It’s funny because December 31 was just a date while I was figuring out our roadtrip schedule and what exactly we would do wasn’t really discussed. As it transpired, the resort laid out a decent New Years Eve meal for everyone, and organized some local Tharu cultural entertainment and a Nepali three piece band who sang a mixture of Nepali folk songs and The Doors. Unlikely I know but, hey, it worked! It was simply done, easy to listen to and fun.

As the sun started to go down, we settled onto the wide outside sofas next to a newly roaring fire, sipping tea (or beer) and chatting with our Dutch neighbors. It gets pretty nippy in Chitwan, in December, after dusk….so we bundled up and fed the fire.  We had all had a day full of adventures and our fill of elephant experiences, so there were lots of stories to share.


Outside deck of the restaurant and watching the sun go down over the river

tharu stick dancing

Watching traditional Tharu stick dancing


Early evening. Lighting the bonfire for New Years Eve. It was too dark and chilly to try and take photos later. But we huddle up here for the evening, sharing stories.

Sitting around listening to the music, and feeding the smoky fire, it felt more like someone’s backyard party than a hotel and I liked it that way. If I wanted another drink, I could ask for it, but no one pushed drinks or bothered us. The waiters got up and danced with the Dutch medics who had shown up for their annual childrens health care clinic, and the party took off…. I’m sure the kids would probably have liked a more of a young persons New Years party, with more people their own age, but they didn’t complain and seemed to be full of so many new images from the day that it didn’t matter.

I couldn’t help but reflect on the last New Years we spent in Siquijor in the Philippines. There we had strolled barefoot on the beach, here we were bundled in front of a firepit. In Siquijor there had been a flashy floor show, big buffet and champagne.  Here we sipped tea and shared a bottle of wine. And yet, some how they were similar:  both years we looked ahead to the New Year in a beautiful, remote place, some how still with family,  but in a culture that wasn’t our own. Isn’t that the best way to travel? Happy 2014!

Chitwan: All Things Elephant

elephant ride, chitwan

We headed to Chitwan because we wanted to see elephants. And see them we did. Lot and lots.  They were everywhere.  But we almost didn’t go to Chitwan because of the elephants. To explain, I had heard some not so good things about how elephants are treated. I’d seen pictures of elephants in chains, and I was really starting to doubt whether going to see them was a good idea at all. I asked around but found it really difficult to get a clear picture. My dilemma was that I didn’t want to support the inhumane treatment of elephants, but by not going, we were potentially missing out on one of the best attractions of the trip and, after all, my information was incomplete. In the end it just felt smartest to go and see for ourselves.

We met elephants almost immediately, as our resort had two resident elephants.  Once of which was very, very pregnant.  I heard that she was ready to give birth any day, but unfortunately it didn’t happen while we were there.


pregnant elephant

Now that’s a real “bump” Apparently it takes 20-22 months to make a baby elephant!

That afternoon we got wind of something going on in the village, and we were told we should walk down and see the Elephant Festival and watch “the game”. It was a beautiful walk down small lanes, through the yellow mustard fields, and there was a buzz in the air as everyone around was purposefully heading in the same direction. The closer we got, the more it became obvious that the Elephant Festival was very popular and there were going to be crowds. We almost turned around as we entered a bottleneck of people near the entrance, but we pushed through to get a quick look of what it was all about.

Sea of bikes

This is just one corner of a massive sea of bikes. Looks like everyone came to the festival on a cycle. There must have been a couple of thousand.

Pushing onward through the stalls on the ground, we headed diagonally over to the elephant soccer game. This wasn’t elephant polo — which I had heard of in Chitwan — but a football game. I think elephant soccer was actually cooler as the elephants kick the ball or whip it with their trunk. There’s even an elephant goalie. They looked like they were enjoying themselves.

elephant football

elephant soccer

elephant football

Yes, its really an elephant goalie!

It was fun to see, but it soon became tiring stretching over everyone else’s head to get a view and the match looked like it was coming to a close. We headed back to the hotel to book more elephant activities for the following day, and early the next morning, while the mist was still pretty thick, we headed off on an elephant ride into Chitwan Park.

elephant ride, chitwan

With four to an elephant it wasn’t too crowded….but a long way up

It took a while to get used to the roll and pace of the great animal’s stride. At first I could barely hold the camera, let alone click it, but you got used to the swaying after a while. The best thing of all was seeing her close up. The wrinkly skin and big fat hairs on her head, and the amazingly strong trunk. They are so large, gentle and strong. They seem so kind and intelligent.

We set off into the mist.  The first stop was a river crossing, where she stopped to drink and also to pee. We watched in amazement as she dumped about 10 gallons of pee in 30 seconds…I wouldn’t want have been standing behind her!  Of course, she probably drank twice that amount, but at the back end we didn’t get to experience that in as much detail!!

We rode for about 1.5 hours with about 10 other elephants, all following behind one another at an easy pace.

elephant ride across a river

Elephant ride on the river

chitwan national park

jungle terrain

The goal was to spot wild life, especially rhinos. Mounted on the elephant, we were able to go “off road” with ease, and I’m told that the elephant smell masks the smell of humans and rhinos, especially, are ok around elephants (apparently). I’d been warned that the wild life in the park had decreased significantly in the last ten years, and that spotting a Royal Bengal Tiger, was possible but very rare. We weren’t that lucky, but we did later meant one Dutch girl who had spotted one that day. We did see a couple of different breeds of deer, some exotic birds and then, finally, we saw two sleeping rhinos sleeping under a tree. They looked like a couple: Mr and Mrs Rhino. They didn’t seem bothered by us at all. And we didn’t bother them, we just took a few photos and left.


Spotting spotted deer (look at those impressive antlers!)


Mr and Mrs Rhino, cuddled up!

The elephants took several rides that day, I don’t know how long and hard they worked. But they seemed well fed and cared for, and relatively happy with their lot, which was encouraging after some the negative things I’d heard.

After lunch, Jess and Latham were booked to go down and bathe an elephant. Apparently bathing elephants frequently is important. Keeping the folds in their wrinkly skin clean is good hygiene, but they do get cold easily. In December there’s only a few hours warm enough to bathe them, and only if its sunny, or they freeze. We had such a misty start that it looked like the bathing would be canceled. But miraculously the sun came out and the kids put on swimwear and headed into the river on the back of a small elephant. It was so fun to watch! The elephant seemed to know the bathing drill very well, laying down in the water at the first opportunity…completely submerging herself in the river, except for her trunk. It was interesting to watch and surprising too. I never knew that didn’t that…but then it makes perfect sense if you have your own built in snorkel.

They didn’t stay on her back for long. They both slid off when she lowered herself down, and they then had to learn how to climb back up using her truck. As they sat perched on her back, the trainer gave a command and she filled her truck and sprayed them…over and over again…it was so fun to watch! Part of me wished I’d had the nerve to do it too but then I would have missed watching the fun.

elephant bath

Taking a bath…elephant style

elephant snorkelling

Elephant snorkelling

After the kids were dried off and rested, we headed out to see the last elephant activity of the day: the elephant breeding center. This is a government-run enterprise that breeds captive female elephants with wild males. The babies are reared at the center and the resident elephants are put to use maintaining the park and preventing poaching. (These aren’t the same elephants that take tourists on rides.) The working elephants spend their days out in the jungle and then return to the center in the afternoon. Here they are chained and fed, and spend the night with the babies.

It was hard to see them chained up. But its complicated. When I asked why the were chained, I was told that elephants are too strong and that they couldn’t build pens sturdy enough to contain them. Chaining was the only way to keep them inside.  The center helps to maintain their natural habitat and to go some way to keeping up the elephant numbers. I’ve heard bad stories of how elephants are trained in Chitwan, and how foreign NGOs are trying to introduce new training methods that are more humane. It was hard to see, but at the same time, their conditions weren’t worse than the human caregivers who lived and worked on the surrounding compound in very basic conditions. Until someone finds the money to build elephant-proof fences, the chains are the only way to keep them doing important work for their own survival. As, I said, its complicated.

I’m glad I went to see it. Not only because the elephants and Chitwan are beautiful, but I got at least a partial understanding of conditions there,  and gained my own perspective. At least now I am able to pass on a much better description of elephant breeding in Chitwan than anyone was able to offer me.


Elephant snacks:  a mixture of rice, grains, and molasses in a crispy tied treat!


I wasn’t sure of this and no one could explain. Why did the light the elephant dung right next to the chained elephants? Was it to reduce their fear of fire? Or just ignorance?






Chitwan River Experience

Chitwan is about a five hour drive from Pokhara –on a good day– with no delays or divisions. We left on a good day. About an hour later than planned, after five hours of straight driving, we got into Chitwan around 1pm. It was a fascinating change of scene once we took the turnoff at Mugling and went up and over a mountain, descending into the flat, warmer terrain of Chitwan district.


Thatched roofs….


…mud houses….


…and wide open terrain that made me feel like I was in the wild, wild west about 100 years ago.

The temperature was a bit warmer and it felt like a different country.  And it was mustard seed season, with brilliant fields of yellow as far as the eye can see.


We settled in our hotel room and then headed down to a table next to the nearby river to watch the world go by.  I just loved the terrain.  From our hotel table we could watch everyday life and the river interact.  Everything was going on.  People walked or cycled from a nearby town to the main road, through the resort.  Others washed their clothes on the banks, children played in the water, and women collected river reeds which I guess were being harvested to make baskets.  With my binoculars I watched birds –  especially herons — hanging out on the river banks.


Crossing the simple bridge, going back to town


We also attracted the attention of some very cute local kids who came over to have their photos taken


Why is it that kids everywhere do the same pose for the camera?!

Later, we took a canoe trip out on the river. There were six of us in the canoe, with a guide and an pole-pushing oarsman, and it was the most unstable boat I have ever been in. The water wasn’t that deep…perhaps waist-height…and as we wobbled around in the dug out canoe, lurching at the slightest move, getting wet wasn’t really the concern. I wasn’t even really concerned about getting our cameras wet once I spotted what was on the banks of the river:




Alligators…now they were a concern! As the oarsman balanced himself at the back of our boat, he took small, gentle stabs at the water to direct us downstream. For our part, we tried to manage the water coming into the canoe from a very small leak, and all of us tried not to twitch or move suddenly, as any action seemed to escalate down the canoe and threaten us with capsizing.


Heading out in the canoe


Mmmmm…they look wobbly in that canoe. I wonder if I can be bothered?……


Precariously punting down the river. This ain’t Oxford!

The funny thing was that we felt protected inside the canoe. As though the alligators couldn’t have tipped us over if they wanted to. However, they did seem more interested in basking in the sunlight, and it was eerie how none of them moved. Not even a little bit….not even the blink of an eye.

Scary as it was, I loved being out there and seeing the peace, wildlife and danger of its banks. I especially liked our time at the hotel and how close we were to the water.  It may be a lot less enjoyable in the summer with humidity and bugs, but in December it was warm and clear and bug-free.  I look forward to returning.

Pokhara Revisted

The next stop on our roadtrip was Pokhara, my second visit since our first time back in November. It was much more interesting to arrive by road than by plane, especially since the last visit had been very foggy and there was nothing to see from the air. Mist still hung around the town and lake, but this time the Annapurnas weren’t so shy and we had great views each day of our three day stay.

Fewa Lake

Early morning mist on the Pokhara lake

We took a morning boat ride across Fewa lake, while the mist still hung around. It was beautiful and a bit eerie at the same time as we watch silhouettes of oarsmen gliding over of the sparkling water.

Fewa Lake

…with a tantalizing glimpse of the Annapurnas in the distance

Our destination was the trail head up to the Peace Pagoda, a pleasant 1 hour hike up to the top of a hill. Halfway up we stopped at a small cafe for a cold glass of water and took in the views.

Annapurna mountains

Views of the Annapurnas from the halfway point

Annapurna Mountains

…and the view from the Peace Pagoda at the top

Pokhara Peace Pagoda

The Peace Pagoda sort of has a Greek thing going on with the white dome against the bright blue sky…

When we’d had our fill of stunning Himalayan views, we drove back down the mountain by car, which took over half an hour on the dusty narrow road. (We’d walked up in an hour). When we arrived back in town the police wouldn’t let us drive our car back to the hotel, so we parked out of town and walked. Pretty soon it became clear why, as music start and a group of Nepali VIP’s lead the start of what turned out to be a very long parade.

Pokhara Street Festival

Horns blazing at the front of the parade during Pokhara Street Festival

Pokhara Street Festival

Pokhara Street Festival

The colourful parade went by for a good half an hour: an amazing array of clubs, societies, musical and dramatic displays. It heralded the start of the four day Pokhara Street Festival, now in its 15th year, aimed at the tourist celebration of New Year. Restaurants took their food out on to the streets at night, and competing vendors with tinny music systems blared out distorted music over one another. I could have done without that! From our street-side hotel the racket went on til late, but some how we managed to fall asleep anyway.

The next morning we had originally planned to take Latham paragliding and, although I wasn’t eager to pay good money for my son to jump off a cliff, I knew how badly he wanted to do it and are several reputable companies in Pokhara….so I agreed.  Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) they were fully booked.  So instead Latham and Jess launched themselves down from one hillside to another on the Zip Flyer, the world’s longest zipline.  Pokhara is rapidly becoming the Nepalese center for extreme sports, with a giant bungee jump in construction too…

After the thrill seeking duo returned, we headed out to lunch at Krishna’s Kitchen, a popular Thai restaurant on the North side of the lake. The food was good, but the best part of the experience was watching the paragliders land on the beach in front of us, some so low we could see the expressions on their faces.  The location was perfect too…a beautiful sunny day, peaceful sparkling waters and no noise or crowds.  Staying at Lakeside has been fun, but if we return for a few days, I think I’d like to say on the quiet North shore next time… it was a beautiful spot!

Pokhara Zip Line

Coming in for a landing!

Zip Flyer Nepal

At 1.8kms long with a vertical drop of about 2000 ft, riders catapult as fast as 100 miles per hour down to the magnetic brakes at the end of the ride. Latham arrived much faster than Jess just because of the difference in weight


Watching the paragliders land. This one was some distance away. Many practically came in over our heads.


The serene view from Krishna’s Kitchen

Sign Language: Bandipur…Signs of Something Different


Its a little contradictory: a sign that encourages garbage to be put in garbage cans with a pile of garbage right in front of it. But its a very good start, if a little imperfect.  And one that seems to mainly have taken hold in Bandipur, which makes the town pretty exceptional just for that reason.

Its an attractive village with pretty views and the potential for tourism with so many trekking opportunities in the surrounding foothills.  Its not the only village like this I’ve visited in the short time I’ve lived in Nepal, but one thing really soon out for me…no garbage.  As the sign clearly indicates, they have a community mindset on the subject and it makes a huge difference.  I’ve seen other potentially, equally attractive towns that are trashed with garbage piled at street corners, and blowing down the street… plastic bags scattered everywhere.  Its hard for me to walk past shopkeepers on garbage-strewn streets and try to comprehend why they don’t take responsibility for the small space outside their shop.  If every shopkeeper swept up their own space, every morning their communal space would be a great deal more attractive.

In Bandipur they seem to have the message:  visitors like to admire the village sans garbage, and the streets are swept and clean. Its an excellent role model for other villages and a joy to look around. Well done!


A rare sight…the Nepali public garbage bin. I spotted several in Bandipur


More signs of outside investment…


A wider view of the restoration going on…


The main (only) street in Bandipur…swept and traffic free