Over 260 bird species, plus mammals, insects etc.
Kathmandu; Chitwan National Park; Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve; Phulchowki Mountains.
'You can take my body out of Nepal but you can never take my soul or heart.' Suraj Dahal
'Nepal doesn't have speed limits. Road conditions are so bad that a limit would be beside the point.' Sigmar Gabriel
'If Nepal doesn't bring a smile to your face every single day, you're a lost cause.' Jack Witts
Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. With an area of 147,181 square kilometres and a population of approximately 27 million, Nepal is currently the world's 93rd largest country by land mass and the 41st most populous country. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India, while across the Himalayas lies Tibet. Nepal is separated from Bangladesh by the narrow Indian Siliguri corridor. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and largest metropolis. The mountainous north of Nepal has eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali. It contains more than 240 peaks over 20,000 ft above sea level. The southern Terai region, where we were based for most of the holiday, is fertile and humid and full of wildlife, delighting everyone on the trip.
Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal and is located just outside the Kathmandu valley. It is surrounded by four major mountains. Kathmandu is the gateway to tourism in Nepal and indeed its economy is mainly focused on tourism. In 2013, Kathmandu was ranked third among the top 10 travel destinations on the rise in the world. The city has a rich history, spanning nearly 2000 years, as inferred from inscriptions found in the valley. Religious and cultural festivities form a major part of the lives of people residing in Kathmandu. Most of Kathmandu's people follow Hinduism and many others follow Buddhism.
I was feeling very ill. So ill I had asked my companions to just shoot me and leave me by the roadside. I was lying across the seats at the back of the coach trying not to fall off while the coach driver traversed the seemingly endless potholes along the roads taking us towards the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. We had left Kathmandu around 7-ish in the morning and it was only just after 11 and we had another 7 hours driving to do of a never-ending journey. Shoot me, PLEASE JUST SHOOT ME!
|The intrepid trekkers!|
We landed in Kathmandu in the middle of the afternoon and, after a free-for-all rugby scrum to retrieve the baggage, where I had started to meet some of my fellow travellers, I made my way through Customs and managed to change up some USD to the local currency, the Nepali Rupee. Outside we met our Tour Guide Leader, Suchit Basnet, who proved to be worth his weight in gold. With all the baggage stowed away and the 13 of us safely on board the tour bus we made our way to the Hotel, the Marshyangdi. After all the rain and bad weather we had left back in England it was nice to find that the weather here was sunny and dry with the temperature in the high teens. The drive from the airport to the hotel took an hour due to the traffic rush hour, but we were entertained by the hub-bub and hustle and bustle of people trying to get around the city. From what I could see the most popular form of transport was the motorbike. But, regardless of the mode of transport, the noise was almost deafening, with horns going off from seemingly every vehicle. It was also refreshing to see the colourful clothes around the area, rather than the boring, drab black garb we see at home.
We arrived at our destination and were met by a host of Porters all transferring our baggage into the hotel. A brief introduction by Suchit (pronounced Soo Chit) about what we could expect from our holiday followed by the ritual of the hotel keys and the evening was free for relaxation. I took the opportunity to repack my gear, have a quick shower and meet the rest of the party over dinner. I found all to be extremely nice and all like-minded birdwatchers. We were all to get on famously.
The next morning, after an early breakfast, we checked out, loaded the baggage up and departed for Chitwan. The weather was a little poorer today, cloudy and overcast; misty and foggy, but the sun came out eventually and gave us some great views when we finally cleared the city limits. We had lots of time to appreciate the mountaineous area around us as we had come to a dead stop on the road. A traffic jam. Eventually we got going and wound our way down the mountain. The trip itself was quite an introduction to life on the road in Nepal. The roads themselves were an eye opener. Well, you could hardly call them roads - more akin to gravel tracks interspersed with lots of pot-holes. We barely made it over 30mph. Bouncing along, shaking my bones up and making my teeth rattle, passing at least one accident, I figured that this was going to be a long journey, so I settled in and debated whether to get my book out.
|The only way to travel!|
The Chitwan National Park is a World Heritage Site that protects 932 square kilometres of dry deciduous forest, tropical evergreen forest and riverine grasslands. A larger number of bird species (over 480) has been recorded here than in any other part of Nepal due to Chitwan’s diverse habitats and tropical lowland location.
|Red Grass Hawk Dragonfly|
|Scarlet Minivet female|
|Blue Tiger Butterfly|
Back to the Lodge for the usual cup of tea and some delicious biscuits. We did the bird call before dinner. At dinner we found other tourists had turned up. First a party of Germans soon followed by a party of French. Calls of 'Don't mention the war!' were heard. After another great day I only had enough energy to have one beer before falling into bed.
Next morning, after the obligatory alarm call, packed and ready to go after breakfast, we boarded the big bus and headed across country towards our second destination - Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. Unfortunately I had woken up in the middle of the night with 'Delhi Belhi'. Readers of my reports will no doubt not be too surprised to hear this, despite bringing half of Boots the Chemist with me. It's now a requirement of any trip for me. In fact, I've been ill in all the best countries.
Which is where I began this story. I'll gloss over the gory details and just state that it was the worst 11-hour journey of my life, also promising that I would do no more overseas trips ever again. Just please make this awful stomach-churning journey stop. If there was a Hell on Earth, this was it. Suchit was a marvel, giving me some hydrating salts to pour into the endless bottles of water I was chucking down my neck. Maybe 'chucking' is the wrong word.
Finally, at around 6.30pm we made it into camp. Thank God. Apparently I had missed a few birds during the day. And lunch. I wasn't too bothered about the lunch. I practically begged Suchit to let me have the nearest tent to the toilets. After downing another bottle of salty tasting water I managed to get my head down around 7.30. Enough said.
Koshi Camp, a very comfortable tented camp, is situated in an otherwise isolated area on the edge of Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, part of a vast expanse of open water, marshes, lagoons, sandbanks, mudflats and dry woodlands that lie to the north of the great Koshi barrage. This is one of Asia’s finest wetlands and a fabulous birdwatching area. My tent was very nice and, although there was no electricty - torches only here, I found the place to be a wonderful area to spend 3 nights in. I could have stayed for a lot longer.
After lunch we set off on jeeps, bouncing down to the central and southern side of the reserve to find Swamp Francolin, a speciality here. We also spotted an Asiatic Wild Elephant and some Wild Water Buffalo, plus a couple of Asiatic Golden Jackals. Spectacular somehow doesn't seem to describe it. There followed the by-now usual routine of dinner, bird call, beer and bed.
The next morning and I was feeling on top form again. I even managed to rise early to beat the rush to the showers. There were 6 showers between 13 of us. And I soon found that, of the 3 nearest to me, the middle one was the best. It didn't run on candlelight. Actually, I forgot to mention one of the quirks of Nepalese life here. To save power they use generators during the day. Which meant that you couldn't, for instance, use the battery chargers until 10pm when the power came back on. Which didn't really matter too much, especially at Koshi Tappu where you did everything by torch and candlelight. Welcome to Nepal!
We headed off with a packed breakfast at around 6.30. We soon found ourselves exploring an area outside of the national park but we were assured of very good birding. The place was called Jabdi. It was a windy-ish morning but the skies were clear, thanks to overnight rain clearing the clouds away. And, with clear skies, the sun shone warmly down on us, forcing everyone to redistribute their layered clothing. We had our breakfast on a sand bank near the Koshi River, seemingly in the middle of nowhere but it gave us some tremendous views of the area.
|Red Cotton Bug|
Back at the camp I found that half of my tent had collapsed! Which ultimately meant that I was last into the showers. And not the middle one. In this one I found the toilet to be 'interesting' - you had to turn a little wheel to allow the toilet to flush and then turn it off. The shower head then fell off. Welcome to Nepal! After dinner and bird call I collected my torch and headed straight to bed, drifting off to the sounds of the wildlife around me.
|Yes - it's the Himalayas!|
|Our brilliant Tour Guides!|
Back at the hotel I must have been so tired that, having dumped the bag and rushing down to do the bird-call I inadvertently locked the door with my key inside. Doh! Later we decided to head down the road to a restaurant that Inge recommended. The food here was just like everywhere else - brilliant. It had to be really, with my stomach! After dinner we bade farewell to Inge who was staying on for a few more days. One of my other companions, John and I used an Internet Cafe to book our flight seats.
Not much else to report really. Next morning we were driven to the airport, bade Hathan farewell, checked in and duly waited for our departure. Another short wait at Doha, arriving on time at Heathrow around 10pm. I managed to get through Customs, retrieve the luggage and get the coach back to Stansted where a short taxi ride home got me in around 1.30.
Now, where to next?