It comes to an end

The Annapurna circuit was great. It took 18 days for all the hiking. Check out the pictures on the my flickr site. There is not much to say about the trek, every day we woke up ate breakfast, hiked, had tea, hiked some more, had lunch, hiked again, ordered dinner, ate dinner, ordered breakfast went to bed. I know it doesn’t sound to glamorous, but it was, it was great. We really had a great time. The weather was pretty good, compared to Edmonton or Prince George the weather was very nice, some days with above 20 degrees, other days that it snowed it was like that late spring snowfall, not much like winter at all. There was a group of 12 of us. We all got to know each other by the end. Tanya and I couldn’t stop talking about our next trip, in about 18 months from now we are going to go on a year long trip, hit up South America, then South Asia, maybe China, maybe some of southern India or Sri Lanka, then Turkey, Mocorrow, Spain, and then probably New York (just to say I have been there). I am pretty excited, and that will probably happen the day after I write my RPF exam. In the few month before I write I won’t be spending any money, I will be too busy studying, so this will be a great opportunity to save money. Traveling is the best thing I have done, and for all of you guys right now that are thinking of spending the money on a down payment for a house, forget it, go traveling, it was an amazing experience, something that will stay with me forever, something that I cannot sum in words.

The best 6.5 weeks of my life, it was just amazing.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
 – Saint Augustine

Posted from Pokhara, Western Region, Nepal
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This is written back in Prince George, all from memory. We left Chitwan heading for Katmandu, the road strike was over, and people were aloud to use the roads. Apparently this is something that happens all the time and really has little bearing on the life of a Nepalese. The drive was long, about 6 hours, and we went up a steep road. It was like driving in the Fraser Canyon, but the view was different, and better. Then we arrive in Katmandu just before dinner time.

Sadhus, the holy men of Hindu.

We see some of the sights in Katmandu, which are cool, but we are too excited to get to some civilization we don’t really notice anything. In hindsight, I wish that we spent more time to see more things. We didn’t go to Dunbar square, we didn’t go to the monkey temple. We did go to the biggest Buddha stupha in Nepal and the Biggest Hindu Temple in Nepal. Both of which were cool and interesting. When we went to the Hindu temple it was like we stepped though a portal. The people were more pushy, more demanding and more persistent sales people. It was like we were back in India. Very weird. There was a snake charming thing going on as well, about 6 guys, sitting down, blowing in flutes, snakes moving about.

I took some pictures, got up really close and then this guy comes over to me, put a boa constrictor around my neck. I thought it was pretty cool, I have no fear of snakes, not Boa’s at least. Then he gives me his hand and is like, “come on up here.” Being the brave Canadian Forester I am, I do. He sits me down, puts a funny hat on me, gets me to put out my hands and then places a container in it.

So, you want how many rupees to get this snake off my neck?

He pulls the lid of the container off and the King Cobra comes out of it….A boa is one thing, a king cobra is another, and then this guy goes and tells me that the jungle is a dangerous place, and that I need to be careful. In fact, he tells me that I need to pay Rs2000 (30USD). I then realized what the heck is going on here.

You want what? rupees?

This is a scam, but there is this cobra in front of me, and I really didn’t know what to do. I do the only thing I know how, I negotiate with him. I tell him that 2000 is too much. We argue about this for a while, and then I say all I have on me is Rs200 (a lie, I just changed money and have Rs8000). I remember that I put my money is my pocket a special way, so I go into my pocket and pull out two bills. There are both Rs100 bills. “This is all I have” I say to the guy. He accepts (I guess it is better than nothing), he takes the Cobra and the Boa away and I get off of the plat form. Kind of shaky, all I wanted to do was get away from that. What a rush, very cool.

The rest of our time in Katmandu was hanging out, eating the best food we had since we left, the food tin Katmandu was just great, and they had all the things you could want, real cheese (all they have in India and Nepal is Paneer, which is not real cheese) different types of meet other than mutton (goat) and chicken, Italian spices. It was great. The next day we start our next trip which was the Annapurna Circuit.

Posted from Kathmandu, Central Region, Nepal
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Chitwan National park is a beautiful place. This park is a jungle and there is the promise to see a lot. We were staying in these little cabins, that were very nice, they had a bathroom and a western toilet, which was good, because this is about the time my body decided that it was not going to like the food here. You can last so long before your body decides it can’t handle the spice, and that was today. I had bowl problems, but it wasn’t too bad, but it is depressing when you want to eat this great food and you can’t. Oh well such is life. The good thing is, once you stop eating the spice your body can digest food again. The next meal that I had was rice and curd (curd is yogurt). Yummy, at first it was not so bad, but after 3 mouthfuls you get tired of the blandness and you want some good tasting food.

But anyway back to the story. First thing that we did was go to an elephant breading place. At this site they bread elephants for domestic purposes (kind of like a horse). They cannot bread an elephant and then let it go into the wild, which is really too bad. The army here uses them for patrols and other tasks. This was pretty neat, but also kind of sad. The mother had to be chained up, or they may kill the workers, so there were a bunch a small elephants running around, having fun, eating the biscuits that we gave them, but it was also sad, when you looked into the eyes of the mother elephants, you know that they didn’t want to be chained up.

There is a huge problem with poaching in the park, both for ivory and for rhino tusk. Our guide got into some of the politics of the park and it is not a pretty site. The UN has declared Chitwan a World Heritage Site, and there is huge support form WWF (World Wildlife Fund, the NGO that has the Panda as its logo). There is one guy who has pretty much full control of the park, and our guide was telling us that he acts like a judge. So if someone is caught poaching, this “judge” can make the call of the sentence of the defendant. As it happens, rhinos have been decreasing at an alarming rate recently, since the last count there were 300 rhino missing, that is a reduction of 50%. Which is scary, and considering that this judge recently gave a minimum sentence (5 years in prison and a fine) to someone who was caught with 10 rhino horns. Our guide thinks the “judge” was paid money to give the minimum sentence. I don’t know, it is sad, and to hear this makes one really sad.

Don’t go swimming, it’s dangerious here.

After the elephants we were headed off for a hike through the jungle. First there was a 2 hour canoe ride in a super tippy canoe. Water came over the side twice, the seats were really hard, but other that it was pretty cool. Saw a few crocks and many birds. Then we were in the jungle, this was kind of like work, but there was a road, and when we were off the road there were game trails (created by elephants and rhinos, so they were very wide). There was also elephant grass, which grows like a weed and is over 3m tall. Elephants and rhinos like to hide in the grass, and it is like walking in the thickest alder grove in the summer (for those that know what that is like). We saw one bear (a sloth bear) which looked like a black bear, nothing really exciting, unless you don’t work in the bush, and then it is really exciting. We also saw a couple of crocodiles and many birds. I wanted to see a tiger, so I made a bet with my tour guide that if he showed me a tiger I would buy him a couple of beers. By the end of the day we didn’t see any tigers, not any rhinos. That wasok , we walked to our accommodations for the night. We had dinner and I bought my guide 2 beers, he told me that I would see a tiger tomorrow and if I didn’t he would buy me four beers the next night.

The next morning I awoke early, we were headed to the jungle. Within five minutes we were hiking through the thick jungle chasing a bear (something I have never done before, but with 4 guides and a camera around you neck, it was pretty cool). The bear here are very quiet, no noise, I have never heard a bear be so silents (or didn’t hear, you get the idea). We kept moving along, saw another bear in the fog in a burnt field. Then we headed for a crocodile breading grounds. Saw a lot of crocks. It was pretty neat, they are huge.

And then we walked a little further and there was a cage. Inside the cage there was a tiger. What an animal, it was very large and aggressive. I was really glad that there was a cage there. The tiger was a man eating tiger, if it was not in the cage, it would have been killed long ago. It already killed a number of people living in the nearby villages. It is said that once a tiger tastes human flesh, it will prefer to eat humans. Kind of scary, I could tell it wanted to eat us. I made eye contact with it, and ran towards me and then jumped up and tried to pounce on me, there was however fence in the way of it, but that was very cool. You would not last long with one of those stalking you. I wonder if a cougar is like that?

Man eating tiger, avoid eye contact.

We had about an hour long drive back to our hotel, and then it was time for the elephant ride. This was very cool. Elephant can carry a tonne on them, so four people and driver is nothing. This is the way to go if you want to see a rhino. Within about 20 minutes we had seen two rhinos. You can get right close to a rhino when you are on a elephant. I guess they tolerate each other, but when there are four elephants surrounding one rhino, the rhino got a little disturbed. Then we took the elephant from the elephant grass to the jungle and walked around in there. There was not much to see there, just a lot of trees, and a lot of a weed.

What happens when a tiger has a taste of your hat, he was lucky to get to keep it.

The weed is called the Kudzo, I remember hearing about it in school. It is introduced to Chitwan, so as you can imagine, it was doing very well. The weed grows on everything, up the trees and all over the leaves of the host. This blocks the sunlight and eventually kills the host. It is sad, because it moves at a very fast rate and there are no predators of the weed. So sad, the Nepalese government will do nothing about it either, for some reason (not really sure why). If that weed is not brought under control, there will be a lot of damage to the park, it has the potential to do what pine beetle is doing right now, but this weed grows on anything and kills everything. If there are no plants, elephants and rhinos can’t live, and the Chitwan park will not be much of a park.

After this we head back to the hotel, the next day we will be heading to Katmandu. That should be exciting.

Posted from Jhuwani, Central Region, Nepal
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