Campfire NY Eve, Pokhara Sky View & reunions

Trip Start Sep 30, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Nepal  ,
Sunday, January 22, 2012

Summary:
29th of December, time to go to Nepal, at the border all is in the clear at customs and I meet up with Hiralal to visit his family unexpectedly. We have a lovely campfire New Year's Eve together. After a few days I make my way to Pokhara, a great place by a lake, where I am parked at Freedom café surrounded by amazing people. Lucky me get to do a free paragliding dive, thanks Dinez! After another campfire night at Begnas lake with some hitchhikers and a dog in my van ;-) we make our way to Kathmandu. Cold, various shortages but as always great to be reunited with Sini & fam and other people! Far too soon it is time to pack up again, parking my home in a safe place (it is not allowed in India until end of June) and have my backpack ready for my travels to East India, where I shall be part of 2 weddings…


29th of December….time to hit the road… ultra last minute van things arranged in Rudrapur, lunch with the family and I am on my way! Have to make it in time for the last time slot to cross the bridge into Nepal at 17.00PM. Music playing… strange yet thrilling to me driving with my home again!

Indian roads…hectic, full of all sorts of 'traffic’, no road rules but one (= the bigger vehicle always goes first!). But I have done my share of Indian way driving so feel ok with the chaos. Asking the way a few times I make it just in time at the border… bye bye India…hello Nepal!
My first stop Indian Immigrations for the passport stuff, easy, the guy knows me from before, chai pio?....sure not in a rush. Then the big stop at Customs: arranging things with my 3 open Carnet de Passages. It only takes about 2 hours!!!! But by then the necessary phone call is made, forms are filled out and I am officially customs claim clean. Stay out for 6 months and please choose another border crossing into India! Sure Bhai. By now it is evening and dark, just what I wanted. As there is 2km no-mansland between the Indian and Nepali border posts I park up in the middle for the night, which will give me the opportunity to enter Nepal on the 30th of Dec. (winning one official day, good for the van). And surprisingly nobody comes to question me all night!

Next morning I meet Hiralal at the border, I quickly arrange my visa and have the Carnet filled out (I had to tell the guy how to do it…please write ‘6 months’ please!) and we are on our way for the unexpected family visit in Deep Nagar. The roads are empty compared to India, easy driving!
Plenty of police checks along the way, Smiling, waving and saying Namaskar gets me through every time without stopping, which is a good thing cos I seem to have misplaced (lost) my driver’s licence…
It is a full family reunion as also Naresh the middle brother is living at home again. Of course Amma (=mother) goes straight into the kitchen to prepare respect food, which as tradition demands, I have to  eat alone (guests eat first) in the special chair. I had to do it many times before at different occasions but I cannot get used to this, people staring at me when I eat like a queen on her throne. When they mention the fact that their house is my house I request that I wish to be treated the same as family then, no more respect-food-first, just eating with the rest of the family in the kitchen, on the ground, with my hands. Luckily Amma understands and accepts this.

Village life….lots of work to do daily; working the land, feeding the animals, preparing food for the family. While I am there the cow shed is repaired with mud and sticks and the daughter cuts leaves for the cows by climbing free style into a 25m high tree! Just to name a few things. I see it all with admiration and slight rebellion as it seems that the women have to do most the work. Me (guest) and the boys are free to hang around doing ‘nothing’. Wishing to give Amma a break I ask her if she like to go on a road trip with the van…yes! I let her choose something. So with a small group we go and visit a famous temple and lake, to get an important (to her) blessing from the gods.

On the way back we shop for New Year’s Eve. I arrange the drinks and Babu apparently bought some meat, a special treat. That evening we are all gathered around the campfire, drinking, eating and talking (somehow ;-)) with an amazing star-bright night above us! Simple, shanty yet amazing! I am happy to start 2012 with my second family…. Bringing a toast to my first family in Holland!


Before departing them I let Amma sleep with me in my house. Because I like her to have the experience but more so because I cannot bare the fact that she had to sleep a shed for 5 days while it is so cold at night. Reason being: she has her period and old tradition does not allow her in the house, prepare food or touch her family during this time. This for me is difficult to understand. At best it can be seen as a monthly holiday away from her daily duties. Yet I felt very uncomfortable when Dinesh made me a small fire on the veranda (due to the light rain) and Amma was not allowed to join me. She herself seems to take it lighthearted though. Cultural differences…one of the many I encountered throughout my travels.

Amma tries to stop me, persuading me to stay at least one week more… but I have to continue, this time only 1 month in Nepal, more people to meet and a good parking place to be found for my home. So she makes me flower mala and gives me a protection tika (= red dot on my forehead) and lots of vegetables from the land… last hugs and the promise to visit again, during my longer stay in Nepal later this year.

Driving through Nepal again…there really are so many differences between India and Nepal. Most of all there is less of everything here, less variety… less vehicles…less electricity…less water. I look in dismay at all the dry river beds I cross all along the Terai plains. How can it be in a mountainous country like Nepal? The roads are dotted with walking bushes, women gathering fire wood whilst taking the cattle out to graze, busses/jeeps are overloaded with passengers, mud houses decorate the landscape. In its own way it is a beautiful country with amazing people, who live their lives with a smile and determination.

After 2 nights of wild camping, driving into the hills again admiring the views and a natural bath in a spring I arrive in Pokhara. The second most visited town (city?) in Nepal, but which I somehow have not seen yet during my 5 months stay before…. I suppose to find the football grounds where I should be able to park up for free. Somehow I completely by-pass the turn-off and stop in front of Freedom café to ask for directions. Mend to be…. Sam Dhai tells me it is not nice to park there and gives me a  great alternative solution: Parking right at the lake, using the café facilities, for free! It turns out I am parked in the best part of Pokhara Lake Side, surrounded by chilled people. The day after Sam asks me a favor (sure) to bring his boys, 2 guys from Turkey and their gear up the mountain. They want to do paragliding. There is another strike and local traffic is not allowed on the road, foreign vehicles excluded. No diesel money needed. Deniz, one of the paragliding masters offers me a free paragliding dive! What!!!! So the second time I leave the van parked up on the mountain and glide down….it doesn’t happen often, but I was lost for words! Incredible experience!

The next morning I walk up (2 hours hike) to collect my home again! It proves I am not in the best of shapes, but I make it, with a smile. My days in Pokhara are spend chilling at freedom café with a good crowd of people and hanging out with Christina at her Farmer’s Guesthouse…..there I fall in love…….with a puppy! The cutest thing ever!! Pokhara is one of those places (like Pushkar) where you can easily stay, relax or do lots of sporty stuff. Most backpackers who intend to stay a few days only, are still around weeks later! Part of me wishes to do the same, but I have other things in mind. So after a great last evening campfire bbq and meeting up with Lamy, another overlander, I pack up and hit the road again. This time with 5 passengers and a dog on board! We will visit Begnas lake together and some will continue with me to Kathmandu!

We supposed to find this French guy’s house, but no luck, so we park up at the lake and have another campfire evening with music and a curious talkative Nepali visitor. 6 people sleeping in my van impossible, so 3 sleep in a tent. The next morning the mountains great us (Himalayas in sight) and a clear view of the lake, unfortunately too cold to jump into! When a colorful bus arrives loaded with Nepali picnic-people, it is time to move, before they start playing very loud music from the enormous sound system they always tend to bring with them!

Driving all day brings us to Kathmandu by nightfall… just making it with the diesel I have been able to scrape together from different petrol station and Lamy, who was so kind to sell me some. Reason: Again diesel strikes going on in Nepal, making it impossible to fill up your tank easily. In Kathmandu the situation is even more stressful as the petrol cues are looooong…people waiting in line for hours to receive the maximum 10lt fill-up. Again I am lucky as Naba arranges something with a guy, who opens a closed-off petrol station especially for me and provides me with 76 liters of diesel! Not cueing up as well! Masse later explains me that this diesel problem occurs every year around this time, due to ongoing price-negotiations between Nepal and diesel-provider India; Leaving the people in limbo-land whilst this is going on (for months!).

All in all this is not the best time to visit Kathmandu as it is very cold, there are many hours of load shedding (= electrical power cuts), water shortage, gaz shortage and diesel shortage. But of course none of this really bothers me that much ;-) Very happy to be back! Reunited with Sini and Masse and soon the kids (coming back from Finland holidays). Wrapped up in blankets, sitting close to the heater  in 3 layers of cloths the wine still tastes nice and the talks are great! We even have the impulsive urge to paint ‘my’ bedroom door….no more Jessica ;-)

The following week is spend relaxing at home, arranging a parking spot for my van (via a woman who runs an orphanage with super sweet kids), spending time with Olivia and Anttoni, enjoying great food and seeing Rene and Naba’s family again. Far too quickly it is time to sort out my things once again. Taking things from the van store safely at Sini’s house and packing my backpack for my travels to East India! The van has to stay out, but I can travel freely in India on my still valid visa. So I this gives me the opportunity to be part of 2 weddings and do some other stuff I have on my mind. Bit sad however to leave my home parked up so soon again. We will meet again in March… hopefully unharmed and with a running engine!

Today my last day in Nepal for now….going on a night bus to the border this afternoon, followed by a sleeper train through East India the night after…meeting up with Lulu and Nama in Guwahati on the 24th if all goes well… but first one more hot shower (my second of this month) and one last game of Jungle Speed?

....until next time…
Xx Angel
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Comments

corrie van leeuwen on

mooie foto.s wat een mooi meer daar ben benieuwd naar de
foto.s van de komende 2 bruiloften vooral naar de kleding liefs mama

Erwin on

Hi Angel :-)
What an admirable woman you are!
Enjoy your trip and your way of life!

Blessings,
Erwin

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