Leaving Bardia, Bardia Hideaway Cottage and Nepal

Leaving Bardia, Bardia Hideaway Cottage and Nepal February 27thth 2009 After nearly three months in Nepal and about 3 weeks in total with B, Kali and their family and friends it finally came time to head for Delhi to catch a flight. The Chinese weren't letting us in to Tibet, the Karakorum is closed because of snow until April, Southern Pakistan is too dreary to cycle through (Police escort all the way) and there's no other way West from India apart from via Afghanistan!!!!!! We are forced to fly over all these countries to either Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan from where we can continue West to Turkey. We also have the problem that if we want to fly to Uzbekistan we must get a visa in Delhi, we must also pick up an Iranian visa in Uzbekistan (Tashkent) if we want to be able to get a Turkmenistan transit visa. Travel in these countries is never easy. We were so sad to be leaving B and Kali and there wonderful little bit of paradise, but this time we won't be away for 7 years. We have plans to come back very soon to see how it all goes. Diliram, Simon, B, Kali, Bina, Isa, Bibek and Resham Riding proudly with our flower garlands. When we left we were presented with flower garlands by Bina and Kali and it was all very emotional, we'd spent all day everyday with them and they were all worried about us on our cycle ride to Delhi. We had to promise to ring them every night. It was very sweet. Cycling through one of the little villages on the way back to the main road at Ambasa Little kids running along with us just for fun. From Bardia we only cycled 50km that day to a small town with one guest house and then the following day had a fantastic 100km ride to Mahendrenagar the border town in the West. It's a great place and the people all the way along the road are super friendly. The only problem we had was that as ever Nepal seemed to know we were trying to leave and the wind decided to blow against us for the last 40km. We arrived absolutely knackered after 8hours of hard pedalling. The same thing happened in Mongolia, Russia and China! From the border we had 3 ½ days of riding to Delhi on the smoothest tar. Despite occasional crowded sections it was relatively peaceful, they're building a highway which we cycled on and this avoided most of the busy crazy sections through towns. There just aren't quite enough people in this part of India with cars to make the road horrible. We were very sad to have left Nepal, but we will be back. 'Twice is never enough'!!


Building Bardia Hideaway Cottage - a slideshow

We were the first guests to stay at B and Kali's place: Bardia Hideaway Cottage and between December, when we first stayed there and February, they managed to get lots of work done. The local Tharu builders were amazing, everything done with hand tools, no power, making tables, doors, rooms etc. Here's a slideshow of the progress:


The Elephant Rehabilitation Centre at Bardia National Park

While were staying at Bardia we spent a bit of time visiting the Elephant Rehabilitation Centre. It's only about 15 minutes walk from Bardia Hideaway Cottage; or the park entrance and easy to find. The same elphants are used to give people rides for 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening. The babies often come with the mothers and are very playful and convinced that all humans have food for them.


Camping trip at Bardia National Park

Here is a slideshow of a camping trip we did on the edge of Bardia National Park. We went with B, Diliram and Bill from Bardia Hideaway Cottage


Crazy Christians all over Nepal – Plymouth Brethren skulking about

We've had an absolutely ridiculous and amazing experience here in Bardia, we cycled from Pokhara the 600km to Bardia and as we arrived back at B's place – 'Bardia Hideaway Cottage' he had a minibus arrive with 5 guests, 1 Nepali, 1 Russian and 3 Americans. We were very pleased for him because they took a room each and with the place being nearly full we offered to stay in one of the half finished rooms.

We chatted to them a little that night, but to be honest we spent most of our time with B and Kali and their family, so didn't come up with a firm opinion of what the guests were like, apart from that they were a bit evasive about why they were here...'running some conferences', 'organising some meetings'. We assumed they were probably from an NGO and thought nothing of them.

The next morning we were awoken by the most amazing sounds coming from the room nearest ours. Because we were in the unfinished room, it hadn't had the glass put in the windows yet and just had mosquito netting, so the sound was enough to wake us up......

We could hear the sound of chanting, but not just any old chanting, they were 'speaking in tongues'!!

We woke up and lay there amazed as they waffled on ' kdinga parabaraaaaa ambatrakiboo nidiboopee...etc'

This wasn't just a short thing, the whole thing went on for about an 45 minutes, with various crescendo's and sometimes a bit of wailing or singing interspersing the constant nonsense that was coming out of their mouths....'odoriniko spedibooki inorinoo....' (I quote!)

Every now and then there would be a voice that said something in English such as:

'We take dominion over Satan'

'Help us fight the powers of evil, destroy your enemies, Oh Lord!!!'

'Give us strength Oh Lord, to believe, to have no doubts, to have the confidence to preach'

'Protect Pastor Bill and give us the power to succeed today'

We just lay in bed giggling, yet slightly scared...and then got out the sound recorder to see how well it could record them – the sound was good. We left our room before they had finished and went to see B and Kali and all the Nepalese builders who had arrived by now to finish some of the roofs. They all thought that the men were speaking a foreign language and it was almost impossible to convince them that it was just nonsense...'speaking in tongues' They couldn't stop laughing when me and Isa did our own little bit just to show them how easy it was (in fact we continued to do this every now and then for the next week or so)

Eventually the nutters came out of the room, completely unaware that we could hear them so easily. Then they had their breakfast and went off in their white van to their 'conference'. We were glad to see them go and spent ages trying to tell B and Kali what they were....crazy christian nutters!

That night they came back late and sat right outside our room unaware that we had gone to bed at 7.30 and proceeded to talk about their day. Two of them immediately rushed off to have showers because 'I'm burning inside from all the witchcraft that I've seen today in the villages'. We lay there absolutely fascinated (and even more scared) listening to them for the next couple of hours.

They were bragging to each other about how they weren't allowed to be in Nepal but that they had come in as tourists, they talked about other countries that they were visiting on their 6 week trip: Bhutan, Cambodia, Vietnam. They bragged about the fact that to get round restrictions in Bhutan they had bought up a local travel agent so that they could go freely into the country. They kept saying to the Nepalese guy that 'You Nepalese need to sort out your government!'

They were patronising to B's staff as they brought them their food, knowing that they didn't understand English very well, they'd say things like 'Did you go and get this water from the river... boy?' and laugh a lot as he walked off. The atmosphere was one of bigotry and superiority....horrible!!!! They kept calling each other 'Brethren' so we assumed that they were Plymouth Brethren.

They insisted on having two hot showers a day each, seemingly unaware that B and Kali were waking up at 4am to start boiling the water that they were demanding. They bitched about the food on the first night and went on and on about how much better food was in the US. We were relieved when they finally went to bed because their conversation reflected the obviously ridiculously sheltered world that they came from.

The following morning we were woken up by the same nonsense (which we recorded) and off they went again in their white van. That night we had to listen to them bitching about the Russian and then slagging off the Nepalese guy when he wasn't there. Horrible messed up people meddling with other people's lives in countries that have their own proud traditions and religions.

There's a bit of a history of Christian missionaries meddling in other countries and creating huge problems, for example the First Indian War of Independence (called the Indian Mutiny by the British) was largely created by the fear that the British were going to convert all the Hindu sepoys to Christianity; Bush's 10 years of nonsense was largely down to the support of the Christian right, and their meddling stopped all US government funding to hospitals or doctors that promoted condoms as a form of contraception rather than the Christian method of abstinence. Millions of extra Aids deaths later Obama almost immediately revoked the decision; the same nutty Christians are behind the whole anti-evolution nonsense of 'Intelligent Design' and they're preying on the dalits (lower castes) of the sub continent who think that they're being offered something that will help them escape the prejudices of the Hindu caste system.

The morning that they were leaving they forced Kali, B and Bina into a room with them (they were too polite to refuse) and proceeded to do the same weird service that woke us up every day. B said later that the three of them just stood there giggling and that every time they giggled the head guy slapped them gently around their head and told them to listen. B had thought that we were already in the room and that it was some sort of Christian service he was being invited too. He's always interested in new things but wasn't really prepared for this. We sat outside, getting angrier and angrier with them as the chanting seemed to go on for ever. After an hour B, Kali and Mina emerged, gave us a little smile and whispered 'We'll tell you about it when they've gone'.

10 minutes later the guys got in their van, tipped handsomely and gave us their card. They weren't bad people, just absolutely crazy and with too much money and time. I guess that they collect money in the US to fund these 'Church Planting' trips and they even described what they do as their job and said it was great because it gave them a chance to travel. They seemed to have no idea of the impact that they have, although from the list of places that they visit it seems fairly obvious that they're after the poorest people who have suffered the most. They don't actually do any helping, just converting!!! They call it Church Planting!!

We've emailed the Bhutanese government their details and we'd like to find a way to stop them going to Nepal and all the other countries that they visit. These nutter evangelists have been everywhere that we've travelled on this trip...Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and all over China. They should stay at home and leave everyone else alone!



Multinationals moving into the Annapurna region?

Walking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

We spent the end of January and the beginning of February walking round the Annapurna Circuit. It's a great walk at this time of year because there are very few tourists and prices come down and the people in the lodges have a little more time for you.

We saw about 10 people in our 10 days of walking, meeting most people in Manang where it's wise to have a rest. One thing that puzzled us was how little people seemed to know about altitude, yet the Thorung La at 5400m is at a height that causes serious altitude sickness if people aren't careful.

We were really appalled at the guides, who were telling their clients that lodge owners don't like independent trekkers and telling them nothing about the dangers of altitude and making them sleep far too high on consecutive nights. Most of the guided treks were sleeping in Manang at 3500m, Letdar at 4200m and then High Camp at 4800m on consecutive nights...this is absolutely crazy.

They weren't even telling them to climb high and sleep low or telling them about the 'never sleep more than 300m higher each night over 3000m' advice given by all health agencies and by the National Park authorities. Without exception everybody was suffering from moderate altitude sickness, and without exception everybody was ignoring the advice on notice boards around them...another sign of altitude sickness!!!

We spent every day walking short distances, dropping off our bags at a lodge and going on amazing high walks above the valley, finding a great Ice Lake above Manang, reaching one of the base camps above Letdar and we even visited the Thorung La twice, once on just a day trip from Thorung Phedi. Going over the Thorung La was easy and we both slept like babies every night.

One thing we were also amazed at was the way the groups set off at 4am to cross the pass, positively dangerous at this time of year. We left at 9am from Thorung Phedi, took about an hour and a half to reach the top and spent ages on the pass basking in the sun.

We urge everybody to stop taking guides around the circuit, as it's causing all the prices in the lodges to shoot up, any lodge must provide alcohol and meat if they want guides to visit their lodges and every tourist is paying for it. As far as we could see, many of the guides were just having a free 'piss up' at the expense of their tourists and not even offering them good advice. We talked to many lodge owners who re-iterated that the guides were getting greedy and that their worst nightmare was the lone traveller with a guide and a porter!!

To cap it all we had to help one hung-over guide over the Thorung La pass because he was too ill to keep up with his client!!! The park authorities need to do something about this!!