Friday, 27 November 2009

08.09.09 - Afternoon - Pharping

We caught a lift on the back of a truck into Pharping this afternoon, me, Kris, Ad, Travis, Cristina, Kareen, Jo and Sophie to get some dinner - not Dal Bhat, yahhhh!

The views around here are amazing! Lots of hills and miles and miles of rice fields. It was a bit hairy on the back of the van as there was so many squashed in and I had to keep a death grip on a bar to stay aboard.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

08.09.09 - 12.00 am - Monastery

Our 1st lunch in the Monastery was to set a precedent for all future lunches and dinners. Dal Bhat is the local dish here and they eat it sometimes 3 times a day. Here at the Monastery you eat it twice - at 12 for lunch and at 6 for dinner. Dal Bhat can vary slightly from place to place and although it can be very nice, I was already finding it wearing, having to eat it so often.

Our last class of the day is 2.00pm - 3.30pm and afterwards a few more tourists turned up at the Monastery to stay for a night - Jo from the US, Sophie from Oz and Kareem from Canada.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

08.09.09 - 6.00am - Monastery

Breakfast starts at 6.00am here but I wanted to have a quick shower beforehand.

It was terrible. The whole bathroom smells of pee and we couldn't get the showers to work, instead we had to use a tap and always here the water is cold.

The whole thing put me in a terrible mood and to top it off Tempo hadn't locked the joining door to the Monks dormitories and the risk of Monks coming in was high. To get back to our room from the bathroom you have to walk through a corridor which has a floor of dirt so we must always remember to wear our shoes.

Breakfast is monk bread and very sweet tea. The monk bread comes with butter and jam and tastes really nice. Apparently, Travis was telling us that it's a really simple recipe, just wheat flour and water but it's twice cooked, baked and grilled we think.

Our first class was at 8.00am today and Ad and Kris wanted to do one together so it left me and Cristina to do the other. Cristina was a trooper! Her parents are English teachers back in Spain and she teaches English also on the weekends so she had a real flair for it. She had also bought along a load of worksheets which I was so grateful for as I had no idea what we were going to do and you are given no guidelines, just told to teach what you like!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

07.09.09 - Morning - Kathmandu / Monastery

We set off for the Monastery and our new home for the next 2 weeks at a fairly respectable hour today. It takes about an hour in a taxi and things get alot more rural as we climb higher into the mountains.

Our first glimpse of the Monastery is amazing, it's brightly coloured and looks lovely.

We arrive and are met by a guy called Tempo, who is sort of the administrator of the Monastery (not a Monk) and who calls himself a 'jack of all trades'.

Beds are set up for us in a small stone room, there is no other furniture and for the first time we are introduced to really basic accommodation.

We will be sharing a room (Kris & I) with a Spanish girl called Cristina, who is here with the same volunteering organisation as us and arrived on the same day also.

The only other volunteer at the monastery at this time is an American called Travis. He comes down to meet us but seems a bit distracted and doesn't want to leave his class for long so we are left to settle in.

We are told not to walk around with little clothes on and to make sure we take our clothes and change in the bathroom, not walk back to our room in only a towel.

Tempo tells us that one of the bathrooms will be closed off from the Monks and will just be a girls bathroom as all showers etc. are communal.

The first look at the bathroom, which is down the hall from our bedroom, confirms our worst fears - it has a Nepali toilet.

The bathroom situation will be one of the hardest for me. A Nepalese toilet is basically a hole in the floor and as a rule they don't use toilet paper, they use their left hand! then manually 'flush' the toilet by throwing a bucket of water down the hold. AHHHHH!

Friday, 16 October 2009

06.09.09 - 9.00am - Chitwan

Today we are going back to Kathmandu to start our placement. The bus journey will be about 6 hours so most of the day will be taken up with that.

As you drive along (in a tourist bus, much, much nicer than the local buses) it's so easy to remember both what a naturally beautiful and what a poor country Nepal is.

We spend a night back in the hotel in Kathmandu, ready to leave for our placement in the morning.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

05.09.09 - Chitwan - 12.00 ish Midday

This was the elephants bath time and we watched the trainers taking them down to the river. Then one of the best things ever happened, they asked us if we wanted to ride them into the river!

It was amazing being on the elephants back while they squirted you with water from their trunks! It was lovely and cooling as it was such a hot day.

Later the elephants led down on their sides and we helped the trainers scrub them with flat stones. The stones looked really harsh but they assured us that the elephants skin was so tough that it wouldn't hurt them

We headed back to the hotel after this for a quick shower and change of clothes. The clothes situation was becoming desperate, as we only had one change with us and we were getting wet far more than we had imagined!

After lunch there was another elephant related activity - the elephant safari. This time the elephants had harnesses on so they could carry 4 tourists plus their trainer.

The safari was amazing but it was much more painful being in an elephant wearing a harness than it was bareback!

We trekked for about 2 hours through the jungle and managed to see a rhino and a deer. Apparently this is a slow day and we didn't get to see any Bengal Tigers (Nepal is the only place you ca see them) but to be honest just being on the elephant was so much fun that I didn't mind.

That night we had a Chinese for dinner! It was the first time in ages that we didn't have Dal Bhat and it was so lovely to have something different.

After dinner there was a culture show in a nearby building which had all kinds of Nepal tribal dancing. The dancing was all done by the men and mainly involved sticks but was so skilful that it was amazing to watch.

At the end of a very long day it was lovely to fall asleep with a fan on!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

05.09.09 - 6.00am - Chitwan

Up early again today to do a morning canoe ride down the river. It was amazingly peaceful at that time of the morning and I could see I wasn't the only one feeling sleepy in the boat. We saw another crocodile and lots of varieties of birds, including a peacock (which I hadn't realised could fly!).

After the canoe ride we went to the elephant breeding part of the park. We saw loads more elephants here, including some babies and the first baby twin elephants born in Nepal, who were about 4 months old I think.

The babies were amazing and we fed them some biscuits out of our hands. The trunks were so gentle! They were allowed to roam around loose so you could really play with them.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

04.09.09 - 12.00 Midday - Half Way Between Kathmandu & Chitwan

We stop at a shack to do our rafting. We get trussed up in all the gear and our instructor gives us some basic rafting instructions that we can barely hear as his Nepali accent is so strong.

We set off and immediately everything is amazing! We are rafting down a fairly slow river between mountains and the views are fantastic. Occasionally we hit a few rapids which is very exciting and we all get absolutely soaked!! I even enjoy the soakings as it takes the heat out of an otherwise boiling day.

At some points the instructor tells us to jump out of the raft and have a swim. The rapids feel much stronger in the river and its amazing how far from the boat you can float and it was really hard to swim back!

Getting back into the boat would have been a nightmare but the instructors assistant, despite looking a little skinny was surprisingly strong and hauled us back in.

After rafting for a few hours we finish and get back on the road to wait for a local bus to take us on to Chitwan.

The local bus was a revelation. There was no space inside so along with a fellow French and Canadian tourists we jump up on top. As you can see from the pic there is not much in the way of a safety railing and to the right just out of shot is a massive drop down into the river we had been rafting in!

Being on top of a bus, racing along a mountainous dirt track was brilliant but much more painful than you would think! There were a series of bars on top of the bus and you really felt every bump in the road!

At some point it started to rain and they stopped the bus to let us inside. It was rammed with people and I must have spent about an hour standing in the isle facing the wrong way.

Arriving in Chitwan, Suman (our guide) was waiting for us with a 4X4 to take us to the hotel. Chitwan itself appeared to be very poor but we were to stay in the middle of a national park and it was an amazing place! So pretty and with all sorts of wonderful animals around.

The hotel we were to stay in (Park Side) looked lovely from the outside and didn't disappoint inside either. In each room there was one double bed and one single and had its own en-suite and fan!

Kris chose the single bed and so we set about settling in. We didn't have long as we were due to go on a sunset walk within the hour.

The guide took us all over the park and we saw some elephants (Hattie) for the first time. They were amazing and so big, but the guide actually told us that they are smaller than their African counterparts.

The walk ended down by the river and as we watched the sunset we were feet from a sleeping crocodile!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

04.09.09 - 6.00am - Kathmandu / Chitwan

Up early today to catch the bus to Chitwan. We are only going there for 3 days so they told us not to take our backpacks and just to pack a change of clothes. This was a bit of a nightmare as I hadn't really bought a bag big enough to live out of for a few days, but I was at least in a better situation than Ad and Kris who had really tiny bags. Literally I think Ad took a pair of swimming trunks and a change of T-shirt.

The bus ride was long but we were taking a break half way through to do some rafting.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

03.09.09 - Late Afternoon - Kathmandu

The festival of The Living Goddess was on today and the streets of Kathmandu were rammed. The pic shows just one of many stands that were jam packed with people hoping to get a glimpse of the Goddess.

The Living Goddess is a pretty child picked from the city, always a girl and she is the Goddess until she reaches puberty. After that she's in a bit of a sticky situation, she is given a large dowry for a future husband but no one really wants to marry her as it's considered unlucky to marry a Goddess.

Monday, 28 September 2009

03.09.09 - 10.00am - Kathmandu

This morning we did the monkey temple visit. The monkeys were absolutely brilliant and I saw a mother and baby which was so cute. Another monkey stole a bag of baby clothes off a woman and carried a pair of trousers up a tree!

The temple itself was up an absolutely massive hill and we were sweating and panting by the time we reached the top. The views were amazing though and you could see Kathmandu stretched out below us, as seen in the pic here.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

02.09.09 - Kathmandu

The breakfast was very interesting, eggs, toast, salad (!?) and a banana with strong, sweet, black coffee. It was actually very nice.

Our guides took us site seeing today to a temple. For the first time in my life I saw a dead body. They have rituals whereby they wrap their dead in pretty cloths and build a fire besides the river. Once burning the body is placed in the fire and sent from what I can gather but im not 100% on this, they send the body into the river.

There were two 'funerals' going on today and although one body was totally wrapped up, the other had an exposed face. The lady looked peaceful, like she was sleeping and the only sign that she wasn't were the fly's that kept landing on her face.

There were alot of monkeys hanging around the river and the temple area and our guide told us to watch out as they like to steal tourist's cameras. To save my camera and to avoid provoking them therefore I abstained from taking their picture. Opting instead to wait for the monkey temple visit the next day as im told the monkeys there are much friendlier.

Our guide also warned us about looking the religious peeps in the eye. Since all the Nepalese people look the same to me this was a bit tricky but apparently they may curse you if you do. I wasn't sure if he was having us on but to be fair one white clothed dude did shake a stick and hiss at me as I went past. Although it was a bit difficult to know if he was actually hissing at me as I didn't look at him!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

01.09.09 - Sometime In The Evening - Kathmandu

We arrived at the hotel fairly latish, after what seemed like a long taxi ride. It was a nice hotel - TV, own bathroom etc but it was soooo warm, it was warm in Kathmandu anyway but especially so in our rooms and the one fan they gave us didn't work.

That said we were pleasantly surprised as we had no idea what kind of places we would be staying in. We went in search of some dinner and this was where we first experienced just how cheap things in this country could be.

I had a curry and the whole thing along with an iced lemon tea came to about a pound! It was really nice as well and there were plenty of veggie options for Kris, probably more than at home in fact.

It was hard to sleep that night as Nepal is nearly 6 ahead of the UK and it was so hot!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

01.01.09 - 7.00pm (Roughly) - Kathmandu

The drive back from the airport to the hotel is the first we saw of Kathmandu. It seemed like a bright city and full of life, but there was no escaping what a relatively poor country it is compared with the UK and what we are used to.

The traffic was manic and people were beeping their horns constantly! It took me a while to work out that they actually drive on the left as it seemed as if they drive straight down the middle of the road, occasionally swearving for the odd animal or person.

The cars all seem to be the same, tiny little white something or others, I don't know why they don't have them in more colours at least. Motorbikes are a big thing here as well, there seem to be just as many bikes as cars.

The old style traffic directors are still in operation here. It's not a job I would want, they stand in the middle of the busy junctions, pretending at least to direct traffic, but it seemed to me as everyone was just driving however they wanted.

Many people here in Kathmandu wear face masks when walking around the city. We asked our guide and he said there were two reasons for this - swine flu and the horrendous polution.

Nepal - 01.01.09 - 6.00pm - Kathmandu

Landing at Kathmandu airport was a bit of a shock to the system, it wasn't like any airport I have been to before! It was raining really heavily but you could already feel the heat.

The first thing that happened was a doctor looking guy came up to us and stuck an infrared looking gun thing on our head. Turned out he was taking our temperature but we wern't to know that at the time. We also had to fill out a medical form saying we didnt have a cough, cold, swine flu etc. This sounds easy but we couldn't find a pen and couldn't find anyone to lend us one. Eventually, after about 15 mins Kris found a pen in the bottom on her bag.

That done we went on to change our money into Ruppees, the exchange rate was roughly £1 to 125 Ruppees, so we were now thousandaires :-)

Getting the visa's would have been fine but they wanted us to pay in £'s! We had thought they would prefer Ruppee's but it turned out they wanted anything but. Luckily I had £20 on me (visa's were £27) and they accepted the £7 in Ruppee's. Ad and Kris had to change some of their Ruppee's back into $'s though and so ended up paying two exchange rates, nightmare. Thinking back on it now, I think if we had pushed it they would have accepted all Ruppee's, damn it.

The luggage took an age to come through and I was amazed at the amount of TV's and other electrical goods that were coming through. The belt kept breaking down and random travellers kept jumping up on it to try and fix it!

The best part of landing was getting waved through customs :-) I saw them asking some natives to unpack their whole suitcases and I would possibly have cried if they had done that to me, so jampacked was my backpack that im sure I wouldn't have got it all back in!

There were loads of people outside and locals tended to dive on you asking if you wanted a taxi. Luckily the guy from Quest was there to meet us and without too much issue we packed out bags into the (tiny) car and we were off .....

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Pills Ahoy

Well I feel at the mo to be totally inundated with pills of one sort or another.

On Sunday we started taking the malaria pills (2 everyday and an extra 2 once a week), we have been taking the B1 tablets for just over a week now, plus I take my normal pill every day. It can get quite hard to rememeber whats going on.

The malaria pills are an interesting bunch, i've never before had to take tablets that didn't taste very nice. In fact I don't think I can remember tablets tasting of anything before but these defo do, a very funny taste that is very unpleasant, you do not want to leave them on your toungue too long!

The B1 tablets have their interesting side too, they turn your pee illuminous green! Now if you remember from my last post we have 2 kinds of B1 tablets, cheap and expensive ones. Now im alternating the days on which I take them because basically we worked out that the expensive ones are twice as potent as the others. Anyway it's the expensive, potent ones that make your pee green. They are massive things as well, quite hard to get down and I really hope they work after all this.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

B1 Tablets

Well im totally gutted about my recent B1 tablet purchasing.

My bro and dad are regular shoppers at a place called Bean Freaks, which is kind of a health food / vitamin store and on one of their recent trips they picked up a leaflet which advertised B1 tablets. B1 tablets basically are supposed to help keep mosquitoes away by making you give off some sort of odour (which can't be smelt by humans).

This sounded like an ace idea for Nepal as apparently the mosquitoes are rife over there, so along we trotted and bought 2 bottles each containing 30 tablets for just over £6 each. We actually needed 3 bottles but 2 was all they had in stock so we planned to go back today when they would have had another delivery in.

However on the way to Bean Freaks we happened to be passing Holland & Barrett and thought it was worth a look to see if they stocked B1 tablets. Oh boy did they! A pack of 100 was just under £2. I could not believe the price difference! We were well and truly had at Bean Freaks.

My advice to anyone needing B1 tablets is to run straight on past Bean Freaks and into Holland & Barrett.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Credit / Debit Cards

Im expecting to use my cards quite a bit in Nepal as we arn't planning on taking too much local currancy with us. I have just recently had a new debit card and a little pamphlet with it said that for each transaction abroad I would be charged £1.50! Has this always been the case?? I don't think I have ever checked before as well i've always been working and haven't worried too much about it. £1.50 seems like a lot though.

Also my bro has told me that he needs to notify his bank when he is planning on using his card abroad (he is with Barclays, im with Halifax). Im not sure if I need to do this with mine, i've never done it before but then it might be a new thing they have bought in. I know back in the day you used to have to tell your bank in case they thought the card had been stolen but I thought with everone leaving the country every 2 mins these days that they had done away with things like that.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Malaria Tablets

I am about at the end of my tether with malaria tablets specifically and my doctors in general. There has been so much confusion over what injections we need for Nepal and what and how we go about getting our malaria tablets.

Today I had another doctors appointment, as the nurse who did my last injections suggested I see the doctor and get them to write me out a perscription as the type of tablets you need depend on the pill you take etc.

Anyway I get to the docs about 10 mins early (big mistake!) and then sit there for a further half hour until they actually call me in. The normal doc was off ill so there was a lovely hady standing in for him however she tells me that the doctors do you write the malaria tablet perscriptions, the nurses do!? and then they just sign them. Ahhhhh. I asked if maybe she could write one out since I was there with her but she couldnt, she wrote some notes on my file and said the nurse would sort it out when I next saw her.

It's just crazy that there can be so much confusion within one tiny doctors surgery, so they never talk to each other? The one good thing though was that the stand in doc was very nice and did spend some time checking things on the net for me re whether any of the tablets interact with the pill im on (they don't) and giving me advice on precations to take against malaria in the first place.

Well Friday is my next injection appointment with the nurse so we will see if I actually get a perscription out of that!?

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Travel Insurance

I have finally got around to sorting out my travel insurance. I went with a company I found through Money Supermarket in the end as they had by far the cheapest options out there. Some I had tried were crazy prices, the Post Office topped the list at £60 for a single trip! In the end I paid £14.19 and looking through the policy it had good cover so I was happy. I can't understand why the Post Office and a few others were so expensive!? Who on earth buys these policies I want to know, when you can get them so much cheaper elsewhere.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Jabs Cont ....

Well troops im getting there with all the jabs that I need for Nepal. So far i've had:

2 x rabies
2 x hep B
1 x hep A (and something else mixed in one injection but I forget what)
1 x tetnus / diptheria / polio

Left to have is:

1 x rabies
1 x hep B

plus I have to sort out my malaria tablets for which I have a docs appointment coming up. There has been some major confusion over the malaria tabs let me tell you! I thought that was going to be one of the more simplier things to sort out but our docs surgery seem to like to change their mind about malaria advise depending on who you are talking to.

The first nurse I saw said that she would sort out a doctors perscription for us, excellent I thought, job done. I then had a different nurse for the next set of jabs and when I reminded her about the perscription she said that we didn't need one and to just buy them over the counter at the chesmist. Ok I thought, will do - however my sis was then told by the original nurse that you have to have a docs perscription as there are many types of malaria tabs and things like being on the pill can effect which ones you need. At this point I thought I had better double check at the docs as I didn't want to buy some random pills and then have them not be effective or whatever when mixed with my pill. I saw the 2nd nurse again and this time she pretty much gave up and said just make a docs appointment and he will sort it. So that's where I am at the moment - totally confused about malaria pills lol.

Monday, 20 July 2009

All The Info

It's surprising how much information the company we are going with needs. By the way the company is yesterday we scanned our passports to email them along with the flight details which is understandable them wanting that as they pick us up from the airport etc but amoung some of the stranger requests was a selection of photos of ourselves lol I do wonder what they are going to do with those.

Sunday, 19 July 2009


Well I assumed I would have to have some jabs for Nepal but I was not prepared for how many! I thought it would be one trip, a few sticks in the arm and jobs a good un, oh how wrong I was. It turns out I need 5 appointments in all, 5! I need Rabies (taken in 3 seperate shots on day 0, day 7 and day 28), hepatitus B (again taken in 3 shots on day 0, day 7 and day 21), tetnus, typhoid and diptheria (which thankfully is all in one) and hepatitus A (only one shot), plus we will need to take malaria tablets before, during and after the trip.

The nurse frowned upon us a bit when we went in for the first round of shots, saying that we hadn't planned far enough in advance and that it would be tricky to get all the injections in now. Seems to me it's going to be fine though, my last shot is on the 14th Aug and we fly out on the 31st, plenty of time really. The only worry is that after having the 3 rabies jabs you are supposed to wait 2 weeks and then have a blood test to check whether it's worked. The nurse said well it looks like we won't be able to fit that in, but she didn't seem that concerned and reading up on it myself it seems that they don't automatically test everytime anyway, just when the doc thinks there is a specific need.

So with just over a month to go I have had my first rabies and my first hep B jabs. Tentus next on Wed.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Up Up and Away!

Hey All,

In Sept me, my bro and sis are planning a volunteering trip to Nepal and I thought I would start a blog about it as it might be of interest to others. I will document our adventures through the planning stage as well as the actual trip, you never know it might help others who are planning the same type of thing. Also feel free to comment if you have any tips / advice yourself, any info would be greatly received! :-) xx