Monday 12 December 2011

✁ Snippet: Nepal, June 2010

The stunningly beautiful Nepal! Situated at the foot of the Himlayas, a clear day at Sanga from the orphanage home I could see masses and masses of snow-capped mountains.

- The friendliest people in the world.
- The kids at the orphanage.
- My crazy love for motorbikes.
- Daal Bhaat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Rice farming.
- My trip to Pokhara.

Nepal was unforgettable. Indeed, my blog entry is a year late. I can't blog a daily entry unlike South Africa. Nepal has yielded unforgettable memories for me and having recently felt very nostalgic for it, I thought a blog post would be in order :).

A Brief Introduction 
  • Nepal was my first solo trip abroad, at 19.
  • I flew via Delhi to Kathmandu, Air India @ £320 return, my accommodation and food did not equate to more then £30 a week. Travelling does not break the bank! 
  • How did I find out about it? 'lalala, walking round uni, "Ooooo, a flyer for volunteering in Nepal/India/Pakistan for FREE?! I'M THERE (compliments of Tiija)"
  • Of course there are post departure doubts. Is this a good idea? My parents disapprove. Oh maybe I should get a summer internship instead and run round making cups of tea for people. Can I afford this? Will I be shot for being a stupid tourist? Language barrier!? I'm a utter kluntz and witless with directions??
  • Tip from me: Please please, don't ever let nagging little doubts stop you from travelling. Like the other 80% of people who want to go, love the idea, but never pursue it. You only live once, jump into everything and experience everything you can! :) 

The Highlights split into: 

  • Thank you to the lovely Tiija who advertised around SOAS asking for volunteers, I would not have experienced Nepal without Volunteer East.
  • Sangita, my didi (big sister in Nepali).Wonderful, brilliant girl you are. Just a year older then me, you're a volunteer co-ordinator, you cook beautifully and you shoulder so much responsibility. We had a mud fight when we were rice farming. I sprayed you with the water hose in front of the kids. We never stopped laughing. 
  • Udaya: The teacher at Jagganath School with the kids. We went to the statue Shiva together. You took  me to meet your mum at Panauti and showed me the most stunning landscape in the world. Hills, green rice fields and a beautiful body of water flowing through. A image I won't forget :). We came back soaking wet to your village when we got caught up in the monsoon rain. You took me atop of Banepa. A viewpoint showing the border of China and endless hills and mountains that characterise Nepal.
  • Oihana, fellow Spanish volunteer. There is a strong need in the world for more people like you. You complimented everyone. You worked so hard at the orphanage, and always made me smile. I brought back your positive attitude. People so rarely give compliments nowadays. Thank you for making me so happy.
  • Mummy. You couldn't speak any English yet that did not stop a relationship from blossoming. I trailed along with you to cut grass for the cows, you always brought chai to my room when I was reading. One thing that warms my heart so much: I asked Sangita to translate to you that: I thought you were beautiful because you were always smiling. You replied that you were always smiling because you liked seeing me around. I was really tearful to leave, thank you for being so welcoming. 
  • The Children. Incomparable to western kids and brilliant in each of their individual ways. Smiley/hardworking and so easy to relate to :)
  • Mummy (The orphanage mum too), Rossan, Nirmal, Ivan, Morag, Kshitij, Belen, Puotli, Didi (Black kitchen! :)) Pradip, everyone, thanks so much for making Nepal so great. 

Nickname: I was known as Maya (love in Nepali) to everyone in Nepal, the name that Sangita adopted as for me when she first met. A nickname I still love til this day :)

  • Anyone who knows me well = I love food goodies! I love trying new things, you can really experience the world on a plate. Nepal was no exception.
  • Momo's! YUMMY, LOVELY little dumplings served with a spicy sauce! 30 rupees (30p) for a lovely, filling lunch. You can't go wrong. 
  • Pani Puri - Served by the street side, normally with people on bicycles. These lovely crispy hollow biscuits, filled with flavoured sauce and normally a small piece of potato/onion in the middle. 10 to 15 rupees (15p) for a plate of 6.
  • Daal Bhaat. The staple in Nepal. Rice, lentils and a veggie curry accompaniment. Beautifully cooked by Sangita/Nirmal's mum. I had it everyday for a month and I still loved it.
  • Corn on the cob smoked on a fire!! STREET FOOD :). 20p for a healthy, simple yet lovely snack!
  • Chai. A necessity for Nepali people :). I remember mum always saying "maya, chai :) :)" and bringing me a lovely cup of chai tea made fresh from milk from the cows. 
  • chapatti w/beans/samosas/picked chilli/eggs/cherry tomatoes growing wild/and a crazy crave for sugar while I was there, as I wasn't getting my fix from all the junky processed food of the UK. 
  • Chow mein with spicy sauce! Crazy Memory: trekking up to sangarot with no food and coming back down to the town starving hungry. I left my bike with these lovely people at a shop and brought chow mein from their little cafe. We talked for ages while I was eating, she told me all about her family. I showed her my photos. She thought I was crazy for travelling solo and thought I was 16?? We swapped facebooks and she insisted I stayed with her family if I returned to Nepal...:)

Food was fresh, cheap and healthy! I had close to zero processed foods while there and lost about 2kg for the month I was away. Meat was a luxury there that I had once or twice. What Nepali food lacks in variety comes back in flavour :). 

  • Cheapest Country Ever. Heres a rough idea of how much stuff was when I was out and about. No exaggeration! =)
  • The Volunteering: 400 Rupees a day for room and board (£4 a day). £28 a week!
  • A hotel room in Thamel (tourist district): I stayed in Hotel Florid, standard and safe (was alone!), double bed/shower/TV/Air con = 400 rupees per day. (£4.00)
  • 300 rupees for a 7 hour coach ride to Pokhara (£3.00)
  • Meals vary from 30 - 500 rupees, depending on where you are and how much you want to splash. (30p - £5.00)
  • Bike rental: 150 rupees for one day (£1.50) I asked him if he wanted my passport or anything as insurance, he was just like 'huh.....', Nepali people are so trusting! =)
  • A 40 minute bus ride from Sanga to Kathmandu - 25 rupees (25p). A 15 minute bus ride from Sanga to Banepa - 10 rupees (10p)
  • Half day horse uphill trek - 2000 rupees (£20.00) including a guide!
  • Various touristy attractions: Bat cave, waterfall, underground cave, museums, all around 20p to £1.00 for entry.

For a month in Nepal, including the flight cost all in country transport and my touristy ventures, the total came to less then £1,000. Under £250 a week inclusive of absolutely everything. Same cost of just staying in London and paying the rent!

  • Beautiful, beautiful country. I didn't go Chitwan nor venture too far from Kathmandu and Pokhara even! Definitely worth another visit to this amazing country. 
  • A country at the foot of the Himlayas. Mount Everest view? No description needed there :)
  • Greenery, everywhere. Hilly with rice fields dotted everywhere. Almost a cartoony light grass green. 
  • Pokhara lake. There is something so serene about a lake surrounded by hills and moutains in the backdrop.
  • Kathmandu: A literal splurge of history and modernity. Busy road one way, then turn a corner to a historical Durbar Square. Colourful prayer flags, little food stalls and religious buildings and statues. 

Experiences (Just a snippet)
  • Rice Farming - slippery, wet, muddy and a lot of exhaustive yet fun work! It was only me, Oihana, Sangita and some local ladies. They sang while they did the work and seemed delighted with our presence. You are about knee deep in watery mud, with a clump of a grass like plant, you plant every strand individually about a inch apart in water, pushing it deep enough so it doesn't float. Rice being such a staple food, I didn't realise it required so much labour. Another thing which I really appreciate about travelling, its a eye opener to things that come typically wrapped in packaging on everyday shelves.
  • Motorbikes! A form of transport typically embedded in LEDC cities. I love the feeling of being on one so so much. Can't drive one, just love the ride. 
  • Boating on Phewa Lake - hmmm. Rented a boat for an hour to check out the temple in the middle of the lake. Got a lot of skepticism, the boat guys asking if I needed help and a boat full of tourists blatantly pointing. See the annoying thing is, if I was a guy no-one would give a dam ;).
  • The actual volunteering - Just the simplicity of helping kids with their homework and giving a hand with making their dinner. 

Wrap it up: My mini snippet of Nepal. I loved being there so much I felt almost lost when I flew back to the U.K. Suitable for absolutely anyone :)

Monday 22 August 2011

Getting up to mischief, as usual.

The Short Story
Here it is in a nut shell: Rock-o-nore, went climbing on a extremely erosive cliff, got reported by a member of public and rescued by the coast guard search and rescue team very near the top.

I don't really know why I'm blogging this really, it's a secret, I'm not telling my parents. I don't want the lecture: condemning my actions, you are careless, you're a girl so you have to be careful (Asian mentality).
This is just for a means of remembering it and definitely in the list of some of the crazy yet exhilarating things I've done.

The Full Story
Me and my sister have planned for ages to go to the beach together! We looked up the low tide tables for Hastings and walked to Rock-o-Nore, arriving about 10:00am to an absolutely beautiful beach setting.

Rock-o-Nore, Hastings! 

We ignored the warning sign of course, hence the first move that gets the ball rolling for our crazy little adventure....

Who conforms to signs anyway :D 
I saw the cliff. It looked easy from the bottom. The mere sight reawakened my inner stirrings for adventure and adrenaline! The thought of scaling all the way from the beach, up to the East Hill Country Park, woaah! Hence I announce the idea and we clamber up a few metres. It was easy and felt a little dangerous. Just a brilliant thrill so we continued. We learnt from the first few metres that the rock was extremely erosive, basically comparable to crushing a sandy stone in your hand. Did we turn back? naah! 

As we got higher, the crazy lingering fear increased, my legs started shaking and cliff inclined incredibly sharply to the point where it was not possible to stand on two feet securely, requiring four points of contact (hands and feet). 30% of the way up, we came across a extremely hard bit to climb. Literally requiring brute strength (pulling up body weight on extremely crappy crumbly handholds), a bit of sheer luck and a lot of sisterly encouragement. We surpassed this bit, then it kicked in: there was no turning back. There was no way in hell I would be able to get down safely. 

My lovely sister (the only person in the world who would want to do things like this with me)
A crumbled rock (tennis ball size) fell on my arm during this. Not hard enough to do damage but enough to scare the wits out of me. I was just lucky it wasn't my head! :). We hear a shout. There's a man and his son down on the rocky beach, warning us that it was very dangerous. We tell him we're ok and continue upwards.

Safe sitting bit :)

50% high. A dog walker stands watching us, probably thinking 'stupid teenagers'. The most difficult part of the climb here. I managed to give my sister a boost up using my hands positioned on my shoulder for support, then it was my turn, I had no boost :P. Just a single foothold and nothing to grasp my hands on. I literally went through every emotion here: frustration, anger, fear, determination, enthusiasm etc etc! I admit it. It took me at least twenty minutes to get past this mere bit. I just couldn't do it. Everything I tried to hold onto crumbled in my fingers and there were no plants to grab like earlier on. My sister couldn't reach me to pull me up, merely risking herself if I pulled too hard and if she leant over too far. 
Tah dah!! The brain wave, I took off my red hooded jacket, we doubled it over to prevent ripping and I handed her one end. A count in, a massive exertion in effort and WOO. I crawl up in a very undignified manner, lightly scraping my arms but we're here! Past the most horrible bit of the climb.

Here, the cliff gets extremely, extremely steep. We sit down, and literally slide our way up, using our bums as the 'anchor' and our feet and hands for moving and stability. We hear another shout. There's two people in blue overalls, helmets and with binoculars. We're too far up to hear what they're shouting, so we merely give the 'OK' hand signal and continue onwards. My first reaction: annoyance. We don't need help. We're nearly there. I wonder who called them etc etc. 

WE'RE HERE!!! THE TOP. or not. I was deceived. We crawled through the small trees and plant growth at the top and find a small tent and fire! There is a homely flower decoration stuck in the tree and old coffee pots on a 'log' table. The site looks very, very recent. I still wonder to this day how the person got there and how they managed to bring camping things to this location.

Undergrowth near the top 

We continue upwards, not so much on a cliff anymore, just a very very steep/slippery fine stoney hill. There are a lot of plants and we realise the way forward is blocked up by prickly plants and thorny blackberry bushes. We're so near the East Hill! There's plants!!! We shuffle along the extremely steep hill. It is stoney other then the odd growth of horrible spikey plants that put tiny splinters in your hands when you touch them. 

We reach the clearing I was aiming for, and see a 30 ft crumbly cliff-face. I knew East Hill was here. Then there's a shout. There's a man in blue overalls and a helmet. He asks if we're ok and to sit down somewhere safely and that his team are here. I do what he says, thinking garrgghhh!!! How did you find us all the way here. I was so near the top and wanted to scale it without help. 

We wait for about half an hour. I check the time and realise there is no phone signal here. My bellys rumbling because I left home without breakfast. The guy is setting up some kind of tripod and a lot of ropes. 
As he abseils down, we watch and the cliff crumbles everywhere, He tells us quickly to turn around to duck our heads to protect from falling debris. He's talking on his radio again, referring to me and my sister as "the two casualties". Heheheh. We weren't hurt or anything. 

He reaches us, says he's glad to find us unscathed. He attaches a harness on me and a million ropes and hands me a pair of goggles and helmet to wear. Jeez, safety or what? 
We begin to abseil up, while my sister waits. Then it dawns to me, there was absolutely, no way up. No foot holds/grabs. Just nothing but a 30ft crumbly cliff face. I realise then that me and my sister would've been stuck here and I'm up suddenly really grateful that they followed us here. I mumble my thanks to him, a little embarrassed of this whole search and rescue thing. 

I clamper over the top, the ropes quite taunt. I notice a digital camera filming. Grr I wish they didn't take photos/film this. Then I realise, WTF?! There's a team of eight of them looking for two of us! I immediately feel really shy, one of the guys ask if I'm ok then tells me to sit in the corner. I watch them work as a team, bringing up my sister. 

I make conversation, asking one guy how they found us. (East Hill is MASSIVE). He said with difficulty, and said they sent out a lifeboat to help work out our location on the cliff when the undergrowth covered us from view at the bottom. There's one lady amongst the guys, and she asks why we 'ran away' from them midway up the cliff. We didn't run away! I told her I thought we were very nearly at the top and were unable to come down anyway.

I see my sister come up and the guy asks me to write down both our names, addresses and age. We walked through the undergrowth/blackberry bushes that looked very recently hacked at and they drove us back home  in their coastguard jeep thing.  

  • I know it was stupid and dangerous, yet extremely exhilarating, I felt extremely energetic/adrenalised for the rest of the day.
  • The coastguards were all volunteers. They found us again near the top and did such a wonderful job. The cliff-face was impossible to climb and extremely brittle. We had no phone signal and would've literally been stuck there without their help.
  • We climbed and looked down, the tide was in. Reckless, I know.
  • They didn't threaten to tell our parents. They didn't tell us off for climbing crumbly cliffs, nor did we get a 'slap on the wrist'. They genuinely were there just to help us when we really needed it and I'm really grateful for that. They did a brilliant job :).
  • Cliff climbing is fun, but don't do it. It is very dangerous and it was merely luck that I got up there unscathed.
  • I'm so thankful a random member of public phoned the coastguard when they saw us, otherwise what would we have done? I will always bare this in mind when I'm out and about. The 'I'll mind my own businss' mentality never helps anyone and it was out of a random guy's good will that the coastguard knew we were there. 
Low Tide....

High Tide...

Tuesday 12 July 2011

First post, yay. International Primate Rescue

Writing a blog always struck as a weird idea to me. Someone publicly reading your perspective and view on things? Naaah.

But it's been 2 days since returning from International Primate Rescue, South Africa. I can't stop thinking about it. I've had a amazing time, and my love for animals has trebled tenfold. I miss living in a dormitory with 10 other people. I miss frozen soup for lunch and stew concoctions for dinner. Even the freezing cold nights wrapped in a sleeping bag, 2 blankets, with a hot water bottle and a flurry accompaniment of cats or a dog on the bed.

I thought blogging would be a great means of reflection. I'm a travel junkie. It's always the small things that make travelling so wonderful, so when faced with the forever reoccurring question of  "How was your trip?" The reply is always along the lines of simple, one worded replies such as "Good" or "Great".
It's incredibly difficult describing vocally all the crazy little happenings abroad, the amazing people you meet and the things you see. Hopefully my blog will give you a better insight of my trip to South Africa (and maybe other countries too) and what I got up to :).