Chitwan to Kathmandu

We had to get up at 6.00am in order to leave half an hour later for our boat trip before breakfast.  We were pleased to see that it wasn’t raining when we looked out of our window; in fact, the water level seemed to have receded slightly since last night.

Only four of us went (plus our guide): Trevor, John, Julie and me.  We set off in our little open-sided vehicle, driving through the awakening streets, before arriving at the “boatyard”, where a number of the long, hollowed-out boats were lined up, along with their removable seats (we were actually happy that they had seats this time!).

We donned the life-jackets we’d been given, then followed our guide down to the riverside and waited for our boat to be punted down before we could board.  It wasn’t yet 6.45am and the morning air was sweet and fresh and quiet; all we could hear, along with the sound of the water flowing, was the occasional bird call and the drone of flying insects.  It was so peaceful and tranquil.

We all got into the boat and set off, gliding along in the cool green Narayani river.  We soon spotted a mugger crocodile basking on the bankside, ready to slide into the water.  We also saw lots of white egrets and the occasional flash of brilliant blue as a kingfisher flew past.  Sometimes we spotted monkeys in the trees, as well as another crocodile swimming along, with just his head and snout visible.  You had to be sure to look on both sides of the boat and keep your eyes peeled at all times.

Everyone just spoke in whispers and we all enjoyed the silence and the sounds of nature.  Vee and Charles, who opted not to come, didn’t know what they were missing, although they did have the advantage of a lie-in.  🙂

Our boat ride lasted about an hour and our vehicle had gone down the riverside to meet us when we disembarked.  Then we handed our life-jackets in and all piled back on the minibus to arrive back at the Hotel Parkside for about 7.45am, enough time for us to finish the majority of our packing and get ourselves sorted out before breakfast.

We were ready for our breakfast by now, and we enjoyed the usual (sometimes odd!) selection of dishes and accompaniments.  For example, they would sometimes bring out the cooked breakfast before the cereal, and it might contain potatoes and onions (an unusual choice for breakfast) as well as eggs and tomatoes.  The coffee was good, however, and we also quenched our thirst with a refreshing glass of fruit juice.  One thing was for sure, no way had they let us starve at this rustic jungle hotel, even though the electricity supply was intermittent and unreliable at times, a fact of life in some developing countries.

Anal had checked that the road to Kathmandu was clear after yesterday’s rains (no apparent landslides or blockages) so he reckoned it would take about 6-7 hours to get back to the capital, including rest stops and some time out for lunch in a restaurant along the route.

We therefore set off about nine o’clock, after our cases had been loaded into the back of the minibus and we’d given the local guide a tip for his excellent service in the last couple of days.

We left behind the peace and the greenery of the rain forest and ventured once again into the dirty, dusty, crowded, bumpy, disorganised streets.  Lots of cyclists and pedestrians wore protective face-masks, which was perfectly understandable in the almost palpable clouds of dust and exhaust fumes.  Our vehicle rattled, jolted and lurched its way over the uneven road surface, zigzagging round motorcyclists, pedestrians and many stray cows, who would sit placidly in the middle of the road chewing their cud.

We continued back along the winding mountain roads, our vehicle starting, stopping, starting and stopping. We’d been travelling for about an hour when we came to a halt at the back of an enormous queue of stationary traffic, which stretched down along the winding road as far as the eye could see.  Drivers had left their vehicles and were speaking to each other, finding out what was happening; eventually the message reached us from the front of the queue; there had been a landslide and the road was blocked with earth, rocks and rubble, dislodged by the heavy rains.

There was nothing we could do but sit it out.  We got out of the vehicle and walked about at the roadside to stretch our legs a bit.  It was over an hour before we saw the vehicles at the head of the queue finally begin to move, so we all took our seats once again, turned up the air-con in the already-hot bus, and thankfully continued on our way once more.  🙂

We soon came across the “road repair” gang who were shovelling cement into a mixer and appearing to do work of some sort.  There were young ladies as well as men, all of them with an air of importance in their yellow hard-hats, but with their safety flip-flops on and no high-viz vests.  A far cry from the strict H&S rules at home!  🙂

We continued on our merry little way in the usual white-knuckle fashion, until it was time to stop for lunch.  We found a nice little restaurant that offered tables and chairs outside among the trees, so we thankfully ordered ourselves a cold beer each (we were ready for it by now!) and I opted to try a dish of Nepalese thali, which is rice served with a selection of accompaniments.  Dishes served in a Thali vary from region to region in South Asia and are usually served in small brass bowls, called katori. These ‘katoris’ are placed along the edge of the round tray – the actual thali: sometimes a steel tray with multiple compartments is used. Typical dishes include rice, dal, vegetables, roti, papad, dahi (yogurt), small amounts of chutney or pickle, and a sweet dish to top it off.

There was an awful lot of it and, tasty though it was, it was impossible to eat it all.

Afterwards we had a loo stop and then off we went once again, to continue on the road to Kathmandu, passing some of the things, like the cable-car, that we’d experienced previously.

Around 5.00pm the minibus pulled up once again in front of the Hotel Himalaya, where we’d started off a week ago.  We’d done so much in such a short time that it seemed ages ago, a lot longer than a week.  So it was with a grand sense of déjà vu that we walked into the lobby and waited until our cases were brought in, and our rooms allocated.

This time Trevor and I were on the fourth floor, in room 4017, which was more or less the same as the one we’d previously stayed in.  I felt tired and grubby and I was dying for a long shower to wash off the grime of the city, and to wash and blow-dry my hair.  This I did, and we had time to relax for a short while before making our way down to the dining room for the “last supper” with Vee, John, Charles and Julie, as tomorrow we’d all be going our separate ways:  John was going home to Blighty, Vee was off to Bhutan for a further four days, Charles and Julie were staying in Kathmandu for another couple of days, and Trevor and I were spending a couple of days at Bhaktapur, one of the main cultural cities in the Kathmandu valley.

We all met up in the restaurant but, as we appeared to be the only guests remaining in the hotel in this, the low season, there was no buffet tonight, it was the à la carte menu.  When the waiter came over, however, he said there was no pork and no prawns, which immediately meant a number of the dishes were off the menu.  😦

As it transpired, I’m sure the chef and waiters must have trained at Fawlty Towers, because the ordering and the service was a complete fiasco.  I’d ordered minestrone soup and then vegetable biryani, and the others had placed their orders too.  However, when the dishes came, one of them hadn’t been ordered by anyone, and my biryani was delivered to me about five minutes before my soup arrived.  One by one our dishes arrived, until poor Charles was sitting there with nothing and had to ask what had happened to his meal. Eventually they brought it out and we were all eating something, even if it only vaguely resembled what we thought we’d ordered.  🙂

When we’d finally all been fed and watered, Trevor and I gave out our calling cards with our email address on, and I obtained all the others’ email addresses too, so I could send them some photos and let them know when my website and blog had been updated.  Then we all went out to the hotel foyer where we asked the hotel’s manager, who was passing by, to take a group photo of us all for posterity.  🙂

John, Trevor, Debbie, Julie, Charles and Vee in the Hotel Himalaya

Then we all said our goodnights and our farewells and wished each other a pleasant and safe onward journey, and we all went our separate ways, Trevor and I invariably into the hotel bar where they were showing the highlights of some of the World Cup games.  England were due to play Colombia, but because of the time difference the match wasn’t due to start here until 11.45pm.

After a couple of nice gins and tonics we returned to our room, where I settled down to sleep after reading for a short while.  I put in my ear plugs so Trevor could watch the football without disturbing me, and was asleep a short while later.

Waking up after what seemed like ages, I was surprised to find the football was still on; it had gone into extra time so Trevor was still awake and watching it!  Just as well we didn’t have to leave the hotel until 11.30 tomorrow morning; we could enjoy a lie-in and spent the greater part of the morning relaxing before visiting our final destination this holiday – the historic city of Bhaktapur.

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