River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Further adventures of Anne Brown

July 2010

Anne describes her trip to Nepal.

As soon as the volcanic dust cloud lifted I set off on a trip to Kathmandu....

Start of holiday did not bode well...I left my sandwiches on my kitchen table, my leather purse split, dropping coins all over the underground and, after removing belt from my trousers, while being searched at Heathrow, I felt my knicker elastic break!

Next day, arriving in Nepal after showing my flight tickets I so could claim my luggage,met by Hari, my guide, who took me to Bhaktapur. A world heritage site, so I had to pay ?7.50 to get to my hotel! temples everywhere, and two wheeled tractors! Time for a look around and a well baked egg from a dish of hot sand. Sleeping dogs were on every street plus a few cattle.

Tea-time and the electricity went off. A great power shortage here, (India who helped with hydro electic power has half of Nepal's output). So in wet season it is OK but in October the power is off for an hour a day, November two hours etc. and April off for seven hours, (so the lights,T.V., mosquito repeller and fan in my room only worked in the day time, when I was not there). Candle lit meal of sweet and sour veg. with rice, milk tea and home brewed whiskey (Roxy).

Breakfast, curd and muesli, omelette and toast, then shown many temples, pots being made in the town square and women queuing at the wells for water, before being crammed into a local bus. Glad I was not on the upper deck as the passengers had to lift up all the wires as the bus passed underneath. They never say no more room, just push more and more in and on top. A small lad climbed everywhere taking fares. Journey so much more interesting than the temple we eventually reached. Celebrated our arrival with a bowl of chick peas in chilli sauce. Later, lunch was a sort of omelette cooked on rice bread (great) and steamed meat dumplings, very slimy and hard to swallow (the only thing I would not try again) I noted the calendar, on the wall of the cafe, showed some months had 32 days! And learnt there are 4 different new year's days here, and the main calendar is 2067

Guide's small son was taken ill, so I was left to my own devices. I talked to, and photographed, people. Such interesting faces. Saw ground floor corners of buildings were left as galleries, where people met for a chat, a barber was using one to shave and cut men's hair. Had my evening meal with an Australian girl, and we both watched the rats as I ate tomato soup and garlic toast followed by the highly recommended rice pudding, containing lumps of coconut, cardamom, sultanas, cloves and cinnamon, really good..

After breakfast it rained, washing pollution into my tea cup, leaving oily rings on the surface. Well if I breathed it in yesterday may as well drink it today. A four hour journey (as the crow flies 50 miles) up and down, round and round; where the road was surfaced there were pot holes! Straw was spread on the road to be thrashed by passing vehicles (women's work to collect the grain). Arrived at Newakot and the restored, hillside farm-house with views over the valley, and weather permitting, one could see snow capped mountains. Money paid by tourists to stay here supported the local school; they were aiming at self-sufficiency with goats and vegetables on small fields going down the slope. This meant some tree-tops, pomegranate, lime, jack,mango and walnut, were at eye level..great for bird-watching. I saw a black eagle and scarlet and yellow blackbird types. I had tea in the kitchen with the staff. (No cutlery) Rice, popadums, water buffalo (tasted identical to beef, which they were not allowed, but I just said it tasted similar), beans, carrots, potatoes and cauliflower, followed by apple fritters. All organic and fresh (no power to keep things cool so everything was alive that morning). When the power went off a hurricane lamp was used. The walls of the three storey building had ground lentils added to the cement, to enable them to withstand earthquakes..must work as they were 300 years old; no glass in the windows, just wooden lattice work and shutters.

All the fields here, as it is a warm climate, produce three crops a year. I was very surprised when I was asked what is it like when it snows? What does snow feel like? Snow could be seen on the mountains, and I had always assumed that all Nepal was snowed over in winter.

Next morning after a full English breakfast, I looked around and bird watched..The cook asked, 'Did anyone know how to make bread?I was the only one to offer to show him. No scales, no idea of types of flour or yeast, just checked they had an oven, and gave my lesson. Where to leave it to rise? Outside in the sun 40? C would do well. Oven was lit..no idea of temperature..but the loaf sounded hollow after a while and must be done. Everyone gathered and cups of tea were produced and bread sliced..none was left so must have been ok. Thank Goodness! Visited more temples and saw where the deaf and dumb children boarded at school. One or two to a bunk, ten to a room, clean and bright but absolutely no personal possessions. A football pitch, some balls made from stuffed socks, swings and climbing frames. No children about as there was a sports event elsewhere. Lunch was chips, toasted cheese and tomato sandwich and veg. After checking my bed was not soaked, after water came through three stories from the roof tank (everything soon dried out) I went for a stroll !!! up the hill side to see fields of rice and the river.

European meal, for the tourists, of roast chicken,cheese omelette and mash. Was the chocolate pudding instant whip? Served with wine and followed by their own roxy; as the others did not like it I had two glasses. Slept well!

After a light breakfast a journey on the worst road ever! Very windy, up and down and no real surface just potholes Some had to be filled in, with small boulders, by the guide before we could get across. 50Km took 3? hours. Could I have walked quicker? On arriving at Trusuli centre I had to cross a 300yd suspension bridge to reach my tent. It swung a little and I could see the river and boulders through the spaces under my feet. Strangest part was that the last half was up hill! They have to be blindfold cattle to take them across; people who are nervous are not blindfolded, they just don't go. Crossing at night by torchlight was something else. The tents had beds made of breeze blocks topped with foam rubber and a nearby purpose-built loo and shower.

Then the GENERAL STRIKE HIT. Everything in Nepal closed ! Roads, schools, white water rafting, shops but not hospitals. I think 60,000 Maoists had been bused into Kathmandu to protest against the government. We 3 tourists would just have to sit it out.

No traffic meant boys of all ages could play cricket on the road. We swam in the fast flowing river..too much current for me but cooling in 40?c sunshine. We females had to keep covered when we swam as it would not be right to show much more than an ankle. Through the back door of a shop I managed to mime playing cards and we had mini Olympics. You will be pleased to know that England, only one in the team, did well. USA cried if she lost and Switzerland was often neutral. The Nepalese with the largest numbers came second in the golf. I was allowed the keys to the school to give computer lessons!! but the leads were worn out, so I had to settle for reading and talking instead. The children were keen to come in and the books were in English. Goldilocks and the three bears a favourite. The maths games involved finding the answers on bingo cards and were good. (When I got to Kathmandu I found some better books and hopefully they have got them now) I had time to stalk butterflies with my camera, and learn and use the deaf and dumb sign language. I visited a larger (closed) school and noticed no pictures on the walls, but a good sports hall (built by British scouts) and a football pitch. The canteen was open plan and drinks and food had to be bought. Fizzy drinks everywhere came in old fashioned glass bottles, which all went back to be refilled.

We had too much food, including radish (about the size of a cucumber) and potato curry, bowls of noodles, coleslaw patties,eggs, peach jam, bananas, eggy potatoes, spring rolls, goat and rice. Coffee, tea and filtered water always available. I was allowed to use a private internet, when the electricity was working, upstairs (ladder) in a bedroom with no windows or lights The slowest ever! Sent two messages in an hour to say I was safe. Why did I bother, as no news from Nepal had filtered through to UK. A passing pilgrim, long white hair, touched his nose (not allowed to speak) and was given water and food.

A handy tip..if you need to use a candle outside in a breeze... put a couple of inches of sand into an open polythene bag, two or three twigs round edges to keep upright and the candle in the middle.

I spent the night of the storm sleeping on an open balcony in a breeze. My mother always said it was good to wash your hair in rainwater, not sure about the pillow!

Next night a local party..dal-bhat to eat..(rice, meat and veg. all on one plate and use your right hand). Beer turned up at about the same time (9.30pm), as it was decided it would be safe to move me, under cover of darkness, to another destination. The car had 'Tourist only' posters on front and back windows and we set off. Road had many blocks where large rocks had been placed to stop traffic, people were walking home from Kathmandu, as they could not waste another day away from their farms (and in the city the water was rationed to every other day, no fresh fruit and vegetables so sickness). They lay on the side of the road to sleep. Road had stretches of potholes and where mud slides had occurred no one had cleared them. Twice we were stopped by Maoists and I had to feign illness as I was 'being taken to hospital'. Never done this before!

Shown to a chalet on a safari park..Chitwan National Park, another Heritage Site! At breakfast I discovered the 54 other chairs were empty....no one else had got through..I enjoyed my omelette, sausages and tomato and was ready for my personal tour of the area..with a Tharu guide (his relatives had lived here for centuries and had their own language). It was hot, damp and birds every where, also geckos clicking

The cuckoos here shouted 'Peru', and I saw the smallest bird in the country, a 'white eye' (similar to a gold crest). I was hopeful of seeing a horn bill, but no luck. Lunch just for me and my guide..tomato soup, buffalo steak with an onion sauce, chips, rice, fried cabbage and cucumber, followed by mango. Another walk, on flat ground! To a museum, no exhibits, just writing and pictures on the walls. I was shown marijuana growing as a wild plant, but not allowed to taste it. A dugout canoe ride to see wildlife, just a few more birds. Later saw the long nosed crocodile, at a distance. Next a Government elephant breeding centre. Lots of females and young, tethered, but no bulls, so I had to ask the question. They used to have a bull elephant, (which could be dangerous) but as the wild ones can visit nightly there is no need! They were all trained to give rides to tourists, and do carrying, especially the tons of food they needed.

I had to cross a bridge made of sandbags balanced on bamboo; my instructions were, rescue camera first and take a picture of me, but I made it! A bullock cart ride (two bullocks) took me back to the camp in time for tea. Rice, chicken, spinach stalks, mixed veg. and Nepalese tea. Still the only guest, but a second waiter had arrived, (he cycled for 3 hours to get to work).

Next morning after a breakfast of omelette, fried potatoes with onions, toast and jam, I asked if I could have whatever I wanted for lunch? Bit of a worried look from waiter...Just 2 rounds of bread and a tomato, please!.. Then out on an elephant, it took 2 hours before I saw the back view of a rhino and could return. I was more interested in a 3ft high yellow billed stork. Also saw some deer, wild boar and peacock. The previous week someone saw a tiger...but not my luck. It took 2 men to haul me off at the end of the ride. Now for that tomato sandwich....which had grown to a toasted cheese onion and tomato one with chips. I could not have my jeans washed here as too humid for them to dry!

I escaped all guides in afternoon and crawled through a very low hole, into an illegally open cyber cafe, which could have no lights on (shops were still shut, apart for an hour in the evening) I sent messages home to say I was safe. Then went for a walk and managed to buy some water and was asked into restaurant to talk to 13 year-old daughter, who went to a good school and had Nepalese, English and Social lessons. Her parents gave me cup of tea. I was so surprised that she had no idea of, where England, Europe or America were! Did not try other countries, but drew maps and she was interested. I showed every-one photos, on my camera, of my home and where I had been. Gave her a card from Downham and she was pleased (or very polite). I noticed that they all said "if my child grows up whereas we say When One of my guides then took me to see the sun set over the river, before more buffalo with mushroom sauce and chocolate pudding, all eaten in the dark, and neither electricity nor generator working...as I said, did not matter, I know where my mouth is

7am STRIKE OVER. A quick slice of toast and off in a small bus ( my driver was too ill to drive car) on not too bad roads, calling at Trusili centre to see friends and get a cup of tea. I saw overturned cars and a burnt-out bus and still some boulders on the road left from the strike. Also small cable-cars crossing the gorges, just two wires for support and rope each end, by which they winched the metal bucket across.

Then Kathmandu! Locals and tourists everywhere. Shops were open again today and the vendors working hard to recoup their losses. Arrived at guest house in time for a second breakfast, curd and fresh fruit, sausages, tomato and croissant. I looked around the tourist area, shops sold Gurkha knives and very thick knitted gloves and socks, avoiding beggars, except one lad who signed he was hungry, so I gave him some of my salted dried broad beans. He did not eat them..just wanted money for the man who put him on the street. Very hot so I stopped for more water and a Danish pastry, and found someone who would wash my jeans! (Hoped I would get them back again!). Meal in 'Big Foot', every group who makes Everest base camp writes their name on a big foot which goes up on he wall. One wall was covered in several hundred names of those who had scaled The mountain. English football on the TV so I went to my bed.

Up at 5 am for a flight to see Everest. A small plane (one seat on each side) took me along the Himalayan Range. We took turns to go to the cockpit for an even better view, and on the return flight the other side had the best view. I have now seen the Highest mountain in the world, and have a certificate to prove it! Next a visit to the Great Stupa of Boudhanath (an enormous square building topped by a dome, with a tower on top and eyes and nose of a face on each of four sides). 150 ft high, very famous! Built by a prince in penance for accidentally cutting off his father's head, and now a place for Buddhist's pilgrimages. Then to Hanuman-dhoka Durbar Square with its 42 temples, dating back to the 14th C (scene of the demonstrations associated with the strike). All neat and tidy now, and no damage done. It was interesting but so hot. We then walked through the local shopping street/market and then the tourist shopping area. After a rest on my bed I visited the garden of peace (a real haven), built by a king 100 years ago, and now restored., with an upmarket restaurant..green and peaceful in this chaotic city.

My last meal here was shared with Hari, his wife (an arranged marriage....meeting just 3 days beforehand and still looking for love) and very small son, who took a while to get used to his first sight of grey hair. It was in a local restaurant,a mutton (really goat) dal-bhat followed by a 'sweet' aniseed, course sugar, whole cloves and ? nutmegs. All washed down with rice fried in butter and poured onto local hot roxy. I could get used to this..but then discovered that here only men drink alcohol.

Gave money (tips) to almost everyone and had enough left to buy myself a pack of playing cards, the face of each a having a different picture of Nepal. Then to the airport (where I had three body checks before being allowed on to the plane) to go to Delhi and visit my Indian friends. On arriving I thanked them for inviting me and was told A visitor is a gift from God, whom we must look after. Never been described like this before!

It was hot, 44.4? C but I enjoyed my porridge for breakfast. Day one, I was a typical housewife, first going to see how the building of their new home was progressing...two storeys, no roof, so another storey can be added later. Every bedroom has an en suite wet room.Everyone (including the house boys) will have a bed was said with pride; and as it is on a corner site most rooms have windows. Then to the market to buy melons, fruit juice and vegetables. Discovered ladies' underwear is the same as ours, ordered new glasses, mine had worn out in Nepal, and walked home dripping sweat! Rice, meat, spinach and salad (neatly sliced carrot and cucumber) for tea, followed by melon, which was eaten with a fork. MANY gasses of water and cups of milk tea. Could not understand a TV programme, a soap, which seemed the same every day.

Next day was spent in the office. My self appointed job, to talk English to the lads. I think I enlarged their vocabulary. Lunch, which looked identical to last night's tea, plus chapatis was served first to boss, myself and top man, then the rest was shared between the staff. We used the internet to see Downham and when they saw the temp. was 10? C they innocently asked 'Is it winter there?' Taken to pick up my new glasses, about half the price of England, and then to a Southern Indian restaurant for a large, very thin and crispy pancake, with a potato and mixed veg filling and various sauces for dips, followed by a real chocolate all-the-way-

through 'cornetto'.

Friday had arrived and time to check the state of the dust cloud, give the house boys tips, thank my hosts and make for the airport.

As my son said The strike sounded awful Mum, but I bet you still enjoyed every minute of the holiday"

Anne Brown

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