Our fabulous Traveleyes group has just returned from holiday in Nepal!
Tour manager Jenny Loweth shares her thoughts on a truly unique adventure…
There are no words that can quite describe arriving into Kathmandu; it’s certainly a sensory overload! We soon learnt that crossing the road through the smog is a near-impossible task, punctuated by honks from scooters balancing whole families precariously and rusty buses jostling for space.
The following day, we discovered that exploring Kathmandu on foot is no less of an experience, and we all got caught up in the sheer energy of this bustling city. Arun, our guide, showed us the famous house of the Kumari, the “living goddess” of Nepal, where she even graced us with a brief appearance, her expression haughty. We then battled the midday traffic to the famous Swayambhunath, or Monkey Temple, where Arun explained the meaning behind these beautiful structures.
All around the temple were prayer wheels, which when turned create a striking noise. Turning these is considered to have the same effect as an oral Buddhist prayer, as they often have a Buddhist mantra written on them. This added a real touch of spirituality to an already unforgettable experience.
The rest of our time in Kathmandu was a blur of torrential rain, but we still managed a visit to the Buddhist Kopan Monastery, although we did suffer a certain stuck-in-the mud incident on our long drive to Nargakot (where we unfortunately ended up stuck in the clouds once at the top!) But, undeterred, we battled through, and most would agree that our time in Kathmandu was both incredibly interesting and a challenge!
The next morning, we departed at 5.00am for Chitwan. I don’t think any of us were quite prepared for the Nepali roads, and the coach ride was an experience in itself, but, in true British (and American/Italian) fashion, we remained stoic, taking it all in our stride!
Upon arrival at Chitwan National Park, two things hit us instantly. Firstly, the air was significantly hotter and more humid than in Kathmandu, and secondly, elephants seemed to be their version of horses. Within five minutes of arriving, we had spotted so many men riding high atop an elephant that many of the visually impaired members of the group pronounced we must be lying about the sheer numbers!
The next afternoon, we all departed for our jungle safari in roaring jeeps, sitting up high. As soon as we entered the jungle, we were bombarded with sight, smells, and sound. At one point, we cut the engines so we could simply listen to the birdsong for a quiet moment of bliss. Chitwan National Park is home to hundreds of different species of birds, and sitting amongst them, listening to their songs, was an incredible experience. Another was our dugout canoe ride, where our guides continually (and quite loudly) reminded us we needed to be quiet, lest we disturb the vast numbers of crocodiles languishing on the side of the riverbanks – perfect when our canoes were not particularly sturdy! Luckily, this too, provided a great chance for enjoying the songs of the numerous birds, and we were lucky that our guides were an endless fountain of knowledge.
Our last stop of the holiday was Pokhara, where the sunrise walk was certainly a highlight of the holiday. We arrived, slightly dismayed with the amount of tourists, but were soon proven wrong when we found our own beautiful serene spot to witness the spectacle. Whilst the local shop keeper brought us all yak blankets to keep us warm, our guides provided us with local Himalayan coffee, which we enjoyed as the sun peeked over the horizon, reflecting off the mountains directly in front of us. We paused for a moment of silence and reflection, taking in the true beauty and significance of the Himalayas. This was a truly magical moment and I think I can speak for all members of the group – both sighted and visually impaired – that this was a true highlight of our trip to Nepal.
Overall, Nepal certainly was a holiday to remember, and offers a huge variety of unusual and sensory experiences. From its beautiful, untouched landscapes to the overwhelming sounds and smells of Kathmandu, to the peace and tranquility of Pokhara, Nepal has an immense amount to offer. I can only offer this short description of a country that really does assault all the senses (in a positive way!)
Thank you to all who traveled with us to Nepal and made it such an enjoyable experience.
Nepal, until next time!