Rhinos for Breakfast

We came upon them so quickly I wasn’t ready with my new camera, so the photo isn’t focused properly on the subject.  But you can see them hiding there in a mud hole, looking very much like giant clumps of mud, except for the giveaway ears.  We see you, Mr Rhinos!

Chitwan rhinos in mud bath

…And they saw us. Sitting on an elephant looking down, we watched them take an early morning breakfast bath in the glorious mud. Last night it had rained for the first time in four months, heavy jungle rain that left everything soaked and steaming, and we had lain awake listening to the thunder and lightening the night before.  Everything was now so wonderfully cooler, and the rhinos were enjoying what must have been their first mud spa of the season.

chitwan rhinos in a mud bath

Not surprisingly they were not too happy about being disturbed, but they weren’t really skittish or aggressive, just a bit put out. It reminded me more of young kids forced out of the backseat of the bus now that the big kids want their seat back. And the big kid was the elephant, not us. Apparently rhinos and elephants get along just fine. They don’t notice us humans freeloading on the elephant’s back. Its all about the elephant, not us, and the rhinos knew to move over so the big guy could take a turn.  Sorry guys!

chitwan rhino is a mud bath

We stopped to take a close up and the last rhino posed for the shot. I love his mud stripe!



Moving stuff around in Nepal happens on the streets right in front of your face, all day.  Its not that it doesn’t happen in other places of course, but here there are less trucks and more individual sellers, all independently trying to get their goods from A to B any way they can.  If you can’t afford a truck or don’t even have a bike, then you get to carry things by foot….which is how most people get things done.  So, the traditional “dokos” or cone-shaped baskets are ubiquitous here.  Everywhere you look they are either being sold or used, secured to the carrier with a very painful looking headstrap.  I have watched tiny woman carry loads this way that look twice their size and three times their body weight.  They look like ants carrying impossibly large loads.

The  load-bearing cyclists are everywhere too.  I did an post a while back on the Nepalese trusty bicycle, and they still grab my attention on a daily basis today.


the broom bike guy

Or there’s the head-basket method that I see in the rural areas, especially in the South.  Its mostly women carrying laundry loads or small items for sale on their heads with only a mat or straw for padding, which levels their loads and helps protects their heads from the strain of the heavy, precariously-balanced weight.  And they are very good at it!

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h too.  At Pashnupati temple, family pallbearers carry the deceased to tfuneral


Life is always on display here…and death too. At Pashnupati temple, family pallbearers carry the deceased to the funeral pyre.



..and last – but by no means least – had to include this little guy!   Carrying, monkey momma style!





This post participated in A Word in Your Ear’s,  A Word a Week Challenge: Carry


Sign Language: Single Women


It wasn’t that I was unaware that women here undergo a great deal of discrimination and denial of basic human rights. Its just that the label “single women” to me just meant unmarried.  I had noticed signs all around the city using  the “single women” term, but it was only when I became aware of  how shameful the word “widow” is in Nepal (and how difficult their lives are), that I began to understand how using the phrase “single women” had become a positive attempt at creating an all encompassing term for unmarried, widowed, separated and divorced women.

Through awareness raising and lobbying, womens’ groups are battling to achieve changes in discriminatory laws against single women.  Piece-by-piece that are making changes to the law, but there’s still a long way to go. Discrimination against widows here is deep-rooted, and I was also surprised to learn that it cuts across all castes, religions and categories of society.  A woman from an educated, middle-class family can still be as vulnerable as one from a poor, rural one.

However, things are slowly changing:  Now the law says that the property of deceased husband does not need to be returned after remarriage.  A widow no longer needs to be 35 years to inherit deceased husband’s property. Male consent is no longer required while acquiring a passport and citizenship.

Through the efforts of groups like Women for Human Rights, widows are increasingly aware of their rights and WHR works to increase their skills, and social and economic status.  Job creation programs teach women how to start their own businesses and learn to be financially independent.  I’m hopeful that things will change dramatically for the next generation of Nepali women, but sometimes — looking at the size and extent of the problem —that feels like a long way off.


Hitting the Trail: On the Move

This week’s photo challenge inspired me to look at my favourite way of moving…along trails. And what a lot of different trails, leading to beckoning destinations just over the horizon..! Suspiciously missing here are Nepalese mountain trails. I’ve yet to do any real Himalayan trekking.  Still working on that one….:

on the move anagari

Family hike on Spetses, Greece

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On the Coast to Coast in Northern England

The long haul across Lairigmor

The long haul across Lairigmor, West Highland Way, Scotland….

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…a couple of sheep friends join us on the trail…

on the move ridgeway

…with more of our sheep friends on the Ridgeway, Southern England

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Cliffside trail, Dumaguete, Philippines


Trekking through the Himalayan hills, Namobuddha, Nepal


Desert climb, Phoenix, Arizona


And just for good measure, Southwark, an urban hike on the London end of the Thames Path. I guess I prefer it when I’m not on the move with others.


This post participated in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Move.

Visting Godavari Knowledge Park

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The Knowledge Park at Godavari

When I first learnt about a knowledge park in Godavari, about an 1.5 hours drive east of Kathmandu, I didn’t know what to expect. I think I thought it was some kind of interactive educational place, although in Nepal I wasn’t quite sure what that meant….

Turns out its a 30 hectare “educational farm” developed by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) as a demonstration and testing site for sustainable farming in the Himalayas. With modern development and climate change threatening the livelihoods of so many rural communities throughout the Hindu-Kush area, ICIMOD tests different environmental farming methods and environmentally-sustainable agricultural practices.  That means Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, and Pakistan,,, not just Nepal. The center serves as a resource for visiting groups from all over the region.

There’s lots to see, and in the short 1.5hrs that we were there, we only saw highlights, but I really enjoyed the tour. The park was well kept and groomed, with labels and information boards explaining what we were observing. We strolled through a variety of different areas including orchards, crop fields, greenhouses and a display of alternative energy. There are nursery gardens, pigeon roosts, chicken farming, angora rabbit raising, and composting areas. We also viewed mushroom farming, forest floor management programs, and the raising of unusual crops including medicinal herbs. Their training center runs classroom and practical training courses on the many different kind of practices they maintain, training trainers so they can back to their respective communities and build on the idea.

Here’s a few pictures of the different practices going on there.  I found it really interesting:


Solar heaters like this can boil water in about 30 minutes, providing families with free fuel to cook their meals.


Briquettes can be manufactured from paper, mulch and other organic matter, which are mixed with water, compressed, dried and used to make a pretty efficient source of fuel.


Briquettes like the ones manufactured above can burn for 30-60 minutes which is enough time to cook a meal.  Not only are they another free source of energy, but their use means less wood burnt for everyday use, and helps prevent deforestation.


Demonstrating a pedal-powered water pump for irrigation


Forests in the park are maintained to keep them healthy, and the cut logs are injected with mushroom spores.  The logs produce mushrooms for several years.



And finally, a couple of pictures from the orchard. There’s probably something more I could say about what they were doing there, but I enjoyed being in a blossom-filled orchard so much that I wasn’t really reading the signs! A beautiful break from the dust and grey of the city….


Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring


I was having problems with this challenge as its been a long, long time since I’ve experienced (or photographed) anything that is remotely “spring” from my personal definition and memories.  No daffodils, tulips, or melting snow. So I decided to pick a nostalgic route using my most favourite memories of spring: Easter in Greece when my son was little. Spring was Easter egg hunts, wild daisies on the mountainsides, fantastic flower displays in the garden and hikes before it got too hot. I miss much!

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Easter egg hunt with Susie and Stephanos


Oh the Spring flowers and clear blues skies!

This post participated in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Watch


Kathmandu school kids watch a concert by an American eco-rock band….but the party really gets started when they play a few Nepalese folk songs. Then the audience gets up to dance and we are watching them…great fun! For the full story see Power of the Sun.






This post participated in A Word a Week Photography Challenge: Watch

Daily Prompt: Worst Case Scenario



I’m ready for work but my driver hasn’t shown because some big wig minister is driving through town and the police have blocked some of the roads. This has made him late, and now its going to slow down our drive to work too, making me even later.  We sit in traffic behind buses belching black smoke, and arrogant motorcycles honk their horns and menacingly weave around us, pushing to the front of the jam.  An almost useless traffic cop does a half-hearted job of controlling the traffic (there are no traffic lights) and finally its our turn to move.  Except we can’t go anywhere until over 100 motorcycles (blocking both lanes now)  unjam themselves from the chaos at the front of the line.  It takes way too long and we almost don’t make it through.  But we move forward on his last wave and turn on to the dust and bumps of what should be the main road.  It is still unpaved.   For the last three months we’ve been tripping on the dug up road, and last night it rained and the street is a sea of mud and puddles.  The street-widening project now just feels like street obliteration.  There’s nowhere for pedestrians to walk or drivers to drive.  It just straight mess.

As we pull up,  I’m realize that I’m wearing the wrong shoes.  Yes, I know heels are a bad idea, but flats look awful with this outfit, and I didn’t stop to think about the consequences of the rain.  Jumping over massive holes where the curb should be, I skid on muddy gravel and twist my ankle, getting mud on my clothes and shoes. I arrive to work late and muddy.  It is only 8.30am and I’m already pissed off.  I’m also cold because, in my mad late frenzy,  I forgot my jacket.  No-one’s turned the heating on properly.  A cup of coffee would warm and cheer me up, but the cappuccino machine is not working and they are only serving that Nescafe crap…..

First world problems, are trivial inconveniences that the developed world bemoans, but developing countries only wish they could have the luxury of experiencing.   They’ve been the butt of many jokes recently, as complainers are ridiculed for an over-inflated sense of entitlement and blatant ignorance of the plight of others.  Yet, its an easy mindset to fall into, especially living in the developing world when, on some days,  my worst case scenarios are fueled by my first world expectations for how things should be, not how they are.

First world problems in a third world country truly takes the message to a new level.   The mental challenges of handling frustrating experiences here means walking a line between trying to remember (at least most of the time) how privileged my life is compared to so many, and yet reserving the right to complain (at least a little) for the sake of my own sanity.  Plus not complaining sometimes just feels like acquiescence to something that is just plain wrong.    And hats off to those that do more than complain, who generate higher expectations and elicit positive contributions from others, so that  — little by little –  Kathmandu becomes a healthier, cleaner place to  live.  For their sakes, I’ll try and keep my first world problems down to a minimum.

This blog post is a participant in the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt: Worst Case Scenario