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.