Hi Everyone
On the 17th April I returned home from another fabulous trip to Nepal, this time it was quite different and exciting as I was joined by my 16 year old great niece Sara. It was wonderful to have a family member the first apart from Alan to share my 18 years of passion for Nepal and having Sara join me was a wonderful gift.

One of the reasons for Sara joining me on one of my Nepal adventure is that she would like to help underprivileged people in poorer parts of the world. She won a scholarship to Oxford Falls Grammar and is in year 11 and has had high marks in art, music, science and English, so she is a very smart responsible young lady. When she mentioned she would like to come to Nepal I said to her if she can save her airfare then I will do the rest, and she did!! How by working hard and teaching piano to her friends and cousins. She also raised $250 from friends by having a movie night where she made popcorn cakes etc and this money was used to buy much needed equipment for a remote area village where I have been involved in helping for the past 3 years. So you can understand why I am so proud of my niece and I loved sharing all of my knowledge of Nepal with her, we had such fun, riding on elephants, top of buses, bathing in rivers and waterfalls, laughing and talking to the locals. We had a brilliant time, and she described Nepal as being exotic and bewitching, the people are warm, smiling and so very friendly, everything we have done has been so interesting and of course there are already hundreds of photos and movie.

We were accompanied by 4 lovely ladies who took Sara under their wing and enjoyed her company and always including her in their adult conversation. On our flight into Kathmandu as usual involved a complicated and somewhat lengthy track through the mountain peaks before we entered a vast extremely polluted valley, visibility was quite limited due to the pollution and lack of rain for the past 8 months. However we did not spend much time at the airport, just grabbed our bags and headed out to Bhaktapur about 30 mins from Kathmandu. This is a UNESCO sponsored town with some very beautiful temples and stupas built around 2 squares, with lots of little narrow alleys, these are overlooked by many guest houses and restaurants and even a fabulous café that serves real Lavazza espresso coffee!!!

After locating our guest house and dumping our bags we set off to explore the square outside our guest house – the first sight that met us was the sacrificing of a water buffalo!! Real knives, real blood and really quite surreal especially for the unsuspecting tourist !! However not to be deterred we took in the beauty of the architecture and continued on our way. It took little time to become orientated and our bartering skills soon returned!! Dinner that night was excellent with an array of spicy meat, vegetables and rice washed down with a fine red wine!! After seeing the slaughter of the buffalo I was surprised that everyone selected meat on the menu.

We left Bhaktapur early next morning driving a short distance before setting off to walk the10kms to Nargakot, this also involved a vertical climb of 800m. We walked past beautiful temples and visited Nepalese family homes – a cooking room complete with open fire (virtually no ventilation), also doubles as a family room, a multipurpose room next to it and sleeping quarters upstairs and no I didn’t forget the bathroom, there isn’t one! All washing takes place outside using buckets and large bowls which are filled with water from the local well or if you are lucky there is a pump in the garden. On our arrival at Nargakot we were greeted by an awesome sunset over the magnificent Himalayan ranges.

After leaving Nargakot we drove to this amazing holy area called Pashupatinath, there are temples, shrines, monkeys and holy men everywhere. It is also the place where the ordinary people are cremated and we saw several while we were there. They build a pyre using very thick logs, the body, wrapped in very bright fabric is carried in on a stretcher by family. It is then taken to the edge of the river and the feet are placed in the water (the river runs into the Ganges which is of course the mother to all) and the family pours milk and scatters barley to help on the journey. The body is then taken back to the pyre and placed on top, blessed by the holy men who then place a flame in the mouth the rest of the body is covered in straw and set alight. Afterwards the ashes are scattered in the river to join the Ganges. It was just a mass of color and bells and drums quite spectacular and no you couldn’t smell anything!! Sara has had very strong Christian up bringing so it was quite a shock for her to experience another religion, but she accepted it and soaked up the culture like a sponge.

Next stop the domestic airport for a short flight to Chitwan Jungle Reserve – in typical Indian and apparently Nepalese fashion the plane eventually left one and a half hours later and there is nothing to do in the domestic terminal!! Sara chatted to some children and spent the time teaching them English and reading them some of the books we were taking to the school, the rest of us chattrosemarygressier@yahoo.comed and read our books or wrote our journals. We spent 2 fabulous days in Chitwan riding and bathing elephants, saw many rhino’s with baby’s, crocodile, bears deer and many species of bird life. Every time I visit Chitwan I experience something new, everyone loved their visit. Next stop Pokhara for 2 nights and of course we stayed at my second home the Hotel Stupa which has now been renovated and has had massive extensions. The owner Mrs Raj Kumari is my long time friend (like a sister) we visited an orphanage whilst we were there and the girls had bought gifts from home to give to the children.

The ladies left us in Kathmandu to continue their travels to Bhutan. Sara and I had 1 more night soaking up the luxury of the 5 star Yak and Yeti, we were upgraded to the executive suites where every evening at 5pm they have happy hour of wonderful delicacies and wine – yes wine!! The following morning we said good bye to our luxury and hopped on the local bus which was to take us on a 5 hour journey (sealed road) to the city of Dharding situated 120 klms north west of Kathmandu. On our arrival in Dharding it was hot and dusty, we waited for our jeep which was to take us on another epic 6 hour journey on a dusty rough road to the village of Maguwa situated 2100mtrs. After waiting in Dharding for 1 hour I decided to see what had happened to our jeep, as I had just paid the owner 7,000 rupees (Aust$120) for the hire of the jeep to take Sara, myself and 3 of the village boys home. In my mind I had a feeling something was not right so I asked the guide why is our jeep taking so long to arrive. The answer “oh it has been here all the time they are just doing some repairs to the roof” as I walked around the corner to the jeep, there was a young boy welding (no eye protection) something that looked like a roof, I new exactly what he was doing, yep I had paid the 7000 rupees and the owner decided to use this money to make more money by adding on a roof putting a couple of bench seats in the back and instead of just 5 of us traveling to the village we had 20 – 5 in the cabin 3 on the roof and 12 in the back – good old Lyn was paying for everyone, plus the owner was increasing his income, and the answer from our guide was well the more people in the vehicle will lessen the impact of the rough road.- well that’s Nepal at least they use their initiative. After waiting for 3 hours we finally said farewell to Dharding and set out on a dirty dusty rough road. Although it was a tiring journey their was always something happening along the way, buffalo ploughing the field, women pulling out the rice, children playing, buses loaded with Nepali’s on their way to Kathmandu.

We finally arrived covered in what they call free Nepali powder I call it DUST, at least we only had a 5 mn walk to our home stay which was very comfortable even lino on the floor, posters of famous screen stars, and a comfortable bed, and a shower – well just a hose passed over the top of the door, but at least it was water, Sara was not impressed with the huntsman spiders whilst peering at her whilst she was showing, and not impressed when she dropped her soap down the toilet hole, forgot to mention we showered in the toilet. During our stay we visited both schools. as you may already know I have been involved with raising funds for Saraswasi School which is situated 1 hours walk from where we were staying and now I am helping with another school in the area. Up to date $10000 has been raised for the school and this money has been spend on building new classrooms, new equipment, seats and benches, toilet and connection of water. We took over 60 kgs of new school uniforms kindly donated by Lindfield East Public School this all went on the bus and jeep as well as all the equipment Sara bought. With the money Sarah raised. she purchased magnetic boards, numbers, letters, readers, hundreds of pens pencils and 300 copy books, with all of our gear as well as a couple of goats which were being transported to the village there was not very much room for anyone else, but it was fun and we laughed and laughed.

The next couple of days we wandered between the 2 villages we were beckoned every 5 minutes to join a family for chia (nepali tea). We swam with the children at the local water hole and waterfall where Sara spent an hour in freezing water teaching the children water safety. The next stop was a visit to the school to hand out the school uniforms and school equipment. Even though it was school holidays the children were there to receive the gifts, they even wore there own school uniform and Sara gave them an English lesson. It was such an amazing rewarding journey but sadly after our 3 days we had to leave and return on another epic 12 hour journey to Kathmandu this time we opted to walk the 9 hours down to another city, stayed overnight in what as a nice local home, but no water so in the dark we walked the 5 minutes to the river and had a wash just in time as a huge storm approached just as we returned to our home for the night. So much for the washing it was blown off the roof and onto the dirt oh well this is Nepal. On our arrival to Kathmandu we were once again greeted at the Yak and Yeti hotel and taken to our upgraded suite where we enjoyed hot bath, massage, happy hour and a good nights sleep before departing on our flight home the following day. For me this was one of my most memorable visits to Nepal and I hope the same will be for Sara because I know she will return again one day soon. Maybe to take over her Aunt’s work and dreams of helping people in need.
I leave on my next adventure to Peru,Chile and Argentina on the 6th May for 5 weeks.

Happy Traveling Everyone
Cheers Lyn

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