Last week I had the possibility to go on an amazing adventure in the beautiful country Nepal. The trip started early in the morning with a drive to Chitwan, where the biggest natianl park in Nepal is located. The drive was quite pleasant since we had the luxury of a private minivan with a private driver. The roads in Nepal are not the best but the skills of our driver took us to Chitwan in five hours or so.
Arriving in Chitwan I didn’t know where to look, the spread-out landscape with rice fields, a beautiful river and traditional houses amazed me. We stayed in Safari Adventure lodge, a hotel which lies between small villages and next to the national park. Our local guide took us on a Tharu village tour, he explained about the culture and their traditional tools and took us to the river to spot crocodiles, births and elephants. In the evening, there was a traditional Tharu dancing group which performed different cultural dances coming from their old combat techniques. The next day we rose early again to go on a canoe river tour, which is in the top three of this trip. Our guide was so good at spotting all the different animals that we saw over 20 king fishers, a couple of crocodiles and two or three eagles. After the canoe tour our guide took us for a walk through the national park back to our hotel. During the jungle walk our guide pointed out different plants, roots and herbs and how they are used in the Tharu culture. We came across a few lakes which offered the most amazing views in the jungle and our guide spotted too many birds to count and a crocodile taking up sunlight on the bank of one of the lakes. We arrived back at the hotel, had our lunch and set off again to join a jeep safari. When we arrived at the commencing point, where we had to cross the river before the tour could start, we saw a young elephant playing with the water and darting around in the river, which was so mesmerizing we almost missed our tour. During the jeep safari, we had the privilege of spotting two adult rhinos and a bay rhino (which crossed the road together with his mother jut 10 meters behind our jeep), a couple of crocodiles and an Elephant. The sight of seeing a Rhino with a young will never leave my memory, it was an amazing thing to experience. At the end of the day we drove back to lodge and could enjoy some free time, which I gladly used to jump in the pool and cool down a bit. There is one more thing I would like to share with you, during our trip to Chitwan we saw a lot of elephants being used to carry tourists around and controlled by a sharp hooked stick. We did not quite know what to think of this, is it bad? Is it good? The elephants are taken care of and have shelter and food but after asking about the health and treatment of the elephants to our guide was not happy to talk about this subject and quickly diverted the conversation to a different topic.
The next day our driver took us to Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha. We arrived in Lumbini quite early in the afternoon and had the rest of the day to spent by ourselves. Since it was the time of the Dashain festival, almost everything was closed and we could see tractors with trailers filled with the local youngsters dancing on loud music coming by multiple times. In the village, they had made special place for people to stop and dance on the music. In the evening, the restaurants opened and we had a lovely dinner in a local restaurant. The next day we had a guided tour across the Lumbini complex of temples. Our guide explained that next to the old castle of Buddha, the complex also hosts the world peace pagoda and many different temples from or supported by different countries across the world. We first visited the Thai, Indian, Cambodian, Myanmar and Sri Lankan temples before we had a lunch break. During the tour our guide (who spoke very English for the Nepalese standard) explained about the different perceptions of Buddhism in different countries and how the Hindu and local culture together created all different beliefs in the Buddhism religion. After lunch we visited the visited the wold peace pagoda, an immense, white pagoda with the four different poses of Buddha displayed in gold statues. We continued the tour with the Japanese, Tibetan, Chinese, Korean and the European-Austrian temple. All the different temples and the idea of place for world peace was very intriguing and with the Dashain festival going on a lot of Indian and Nepali people came to visit and pay their respects to this place. As a final sight our guide took us to the Maya Devi temple, the birthplace of Buddha. The old ruins of the castle are protected by a building built around it, a holy pond and a holy tree surrounded by prayer flags can be found on the complex. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I believe (even though I am not a religious person) that a kind of spiritual power was present at this place. In the evening, we enjoyed the local cuisine and went to bed early since the next day we had a long drive to Pokhara.
The Next morning, we headed to Pokhara early since the drive was almost 7 hours. The drive took us from the hot, flat and dry landscape of Lumbini, through the lush green hills to the second largest city as well as a lake side city Pokhara. We could spend the rest of the day in Pokhara and I used this time to stroll around the city and the lakeside. The next morning, we had to leave at 5 am to reach the view point of Sarangkot before sunrise. At the viewpoint, we waited until the sun started to rise and I can say for a full hundred percent: this place offered the most amazing sunrise I have ever witnessed. When the sun was not even above the horizon, we could see the sun shining on the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna and when the sun rose above the horizon a few moments later I was struck with amazement. The sun shining over the mountains with clouds hanging over the valleys is something I will never forget. We headed back to the hotel for breakfast and later on set of for a guided tour around Pokhara. Our guide took us to Tibetan Buddhist monastery which was created to host Tibetan refugees, the Seti Gorge river, the Hindu Bindebasini Temple, the international Mountain museum which offered great insights in the Himalaya’s, it eco system and the human influence, Devi’s Fall and the Gupteshower cave. The tour was finished early in the afternoon so the rest of the day we did what most people do in Pokhara: relax at the lakeside. Pokhara offers plenty of restaurants and bars where you can relax, have a drink and enjoy the view over the lake. The atmosphere in Pokhara amazed me since I only experienced the chaos of Kathmandu and the relaxed and friendly vibe that can be found in Pokhara is almost the complete opposite. The next day we went back to Kathmandu by tourist bus, which was the longest drive of the trip but also offered the possibility to have the best lunch (Dal Bhat, what else?) of the whole trip.