A Travellerspoint blog

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Spur of the moment Bhaktapur

An early start out of Kathmandu as we tempted a rickshaw and had a final ride of craziness through the streets of Thamel. The little dude rode his heart out. When the hills were too much he jumped off and pushed his heavy western load.
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He’d asked for 100 rupees, we gave him 150. He was over the moon with his 50p tip and thanked us ten times.
The bus to Bhaktapur seated 40 there was 60 people on it at one point. Not an inch of space was wasted. The hour and a half ride cost us 25 rupees (25p). We needed to walk through Bhaktapur to find another bus to Nagarkot our destination.
“This town is cool”, said Sarah. “Shall we stay the night?”
“Why not, I’ve read the cheaper guest houses are the other side of town”
Within 15 minutes we were in a guest house haggling.
“900 for the room”
“I’ll give you 700 rupees and not a penny more”
“Ok”. Easy, but it was a dump.
We have a strict accommodation rating system, 1-10. Anything over a 5 means we’re willing to sleep in the sheets. Anything over a 3 means we’re willing to sit on the toilet seat. This was a definite 2. “Which side of the bed do you want? The side with the black hairs, or the side with the brown hairs?”
“Good job we have our silk liners!”
Bhaktapur is a world heritage site and a beautiful city. We spent the day looking around photographing the many colourful festivals that seemed to be happening and sitting in cafes.
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It was a great day.
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Posted by asprey 22:50 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Stunning Nagarkot

“Bus to Nagarkot?”
Eventually someone understood us and pointed us in the right direction. It was another 40 seater bus where there were already 60 on board.
“There’s still room on the roof”, said the driver. It was pouring with rain so we forced our way inside the bus. “the roof is more comfortable said and aussie guy who’d got his knee in my face.
“And fresher” I added. Out of the 60 people on the bus I guessed 3 had bothered having a wash in the last month. I had 3 armpits touching me at any one time. Sarah was the same. “try and breath through your ears”.
An hour later we were in Nagarkot. A hilltop villiage famous for one thing – the views of the Himalayas. We arrived in thick cloud.
We found a place called ‘the last hotel in the universe’ and haggled for a room.
“1200”
“500”
“1000”
“Listen to me 500”
“ok 750”
“500 or I’m walking”
“ok 500”
“deal”
The room was 5.5/10.
The aussie guy Ben and three others, Simon (Belgian), Anton (Isreal), and another guy who’s name was complicated (Israel) all stayed at the same place. We sat on the patio eating lunch. Ben suddenly looked up, “wow”. We looked round where there had been cloud there was suddenly the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas stretched over the whole horizon.

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It was breathtaking. Amazing. Words cannot describe. We’d travelled for two days to get here and this view made every knackered bus and b.o riddled local worth it.
The evening brought another power cut. The bar filled with candles which made for a great atmosphere. We chatted with the guys we’d met on the bus and two welsh couples. It was a great evening.
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Posted by asprey 22:51 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Trekking through local villages

At 5:30am we were stood on the hilltop temple. After a few minutes the first rays of daylight broke over the stunning Himalayas. We stood in silence watching the sunlight flooding into the valley. It was a magical moment.

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We had a quick breakfast, said goodbye to our new friends and started walking, our destination Dhulikhel. We walked for an hour to the top of the hill and spent some time at the lookout tower where we were treated to more stunning views of the Himalayas.

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Another hour of walking down the valley took us through pine forests and eventually to farmland. We walked through the tiny farms saying ‘Namaste’ to the locals we passed, all our greetings were returned with a huge smile and a wave.

After a total of 5 hours walking we reached Nala, a small town with about ten buildings and twelve chickens, also, and more importantly a bus stop. We got the crazy local bus to Banepa and a connecting bus to Dhulikhel.

After the usual trudge we managed to find a hilltop guesthouse with a creepy owner who smelt of onions.

Posted by asprey 22:51 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Tackling the landslides

An easy day, a couple of hours local bus to Barabise then a 30 minute local bus ride to the Last Resort, the hillside luxury tented resort a few miles from the border. The plan was to meet Kristina and the crew as they crossed from Tibet into Nepal.

The first bit did indeed go fairly easy, we managed to find the correct local bus, and there was room inside so we didn’t need to sit on the roof. Our luck got even better when after 10 minutes of standing a guy in commando flip-flops kicked two guys out of their seats so we could sit down. Three hours later we were pulling into Barabise. “Boarder bus other end of town” advised the guy who we’d asked for direction, we walked through the town stopping at a bank to change some currency.

The bank manager was a really nice guy and asked all the usual questions, “What your name? Where you from? Where you going?” We explained we were going to the Last Resort, “Oh no my friend, not today. Road closed. Big landslides maybe open in the next few days. Maybe. Maybe longer.”
“But we have to be at the border by tomorrow morning.”
“I think no,” he replied.
We asked a few more people and they all said the same. Although there were differing stories about the landslide being 1km out of town or 15km out of town, but they all agreed that nothing was getting through and it wouldn’t be for days. We’d travelled on local buses, town to town, for four days to meet the guys at the border and now we’d been scuppered just 30kms away.

“We walk!” said Sarah,
“It’s 30Kms, that’s like, 20 miles!”
“Something will come up.”
I wasn’t convinced but Sarah seamed confident so we started walking. Ten minutes into our walk the heavens opened, the usual big dropped, straight down, Asian rain that blocks out things in the distance. We were soaked within minutes.
Soon the road was lined with trucks, the other side of the trucks was a huge landslide, the mountainside was where the road should be and the road was in the river. We were shocked how big it was and could understand why it would take days to clear it. A bulldozer had already started but was making little progress. We stood and watched for about an hour, it was obviously dangerous work; the mountainside had turned to mud and was still coming down carrying huge boulders with it. Locals ran the gauntlet of climbing the landslide and carrying on up the road.

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“We can climb that!” said Sarah, with a determined look on her face.
“That’s a ridiculous idea!” I said.
Ten minutes later we were stood on top of the landslide, up to our knees in mud, looking down on the bulldozer. Then we carried on walking up the road in the rain.

On the other side of the land slide there was a guy with a builders truck, the back full of locals, “You want life to next land slide? 500 Rupees each.”
I’m sure the locals were paying 50 so I told him to ‘go away’; the only problem is he did. He just jumped in the cab and drove off.
“Nice move!” said Sarah.
“I expected him to haggle”.
We walked.
Two hours later we were still walking, the rain was heavier than ever and our bags were getting heaver with every raindrop that soaked into them. We reached the next landslide, much smaller but still a truck-stopper. We climbed over it fairly easily but still had to dodge small falling rocks. Another hour up the steep mountain road we met real excitement, a huge boulder, the size of a transit van 30-40 metres above us, on a ledge that was crumbling by the second. “That boulders going to go any minute, we need to run this bit!”
We ran as fast as we could with our heavy bags, just the other side we stopped and turned to watch the boulder freefall then crash to the ground, shaking the fabric of the road. “Jesus!” it has missed us by less than 10 metres.
It was starting to get dark, it was raining, we were dodging falling rocks and we’d been walking for hours; we had to start making some decisions. A passing local said it was still another ‘5 or 10kms or maybe further’ to the Last Resort so we walked into a small hut at the side of the road and asked the locals if there was any way we could have a lift, “I take you to next landslide for 500 on my motorbike” we negotiated him down to 300 and to have two bikes instead of all of us on one. I asked him to go slow because of the road conditions, he told me they had to go quick to avoid falling rocks. After a white-knuckle ride we reached the next landslide. It was a big one but we managed to scramble over it. A guy was waiting for us on the other side. “You want lift?”
“Car or bike?”
“Car!”
“Yes, lets go!”
At 8pm the guy dropped us outside the gates of the Last Resort. We thanked him and smiled with achievement, we’d made it. I turned and my smile slipped from my face, “Oh my god!” the blood drained from my face and the gap it left was replaced with fear. There in front of us was a 100-metres long rope bridge, 160 metres above the white crashing river below. Even walking to our luxury tent wasn’t going to be easy.
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Posted by asprey 22:52 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Our reunion with Kristina on friendship bridge

Kristina and the guys would be crossing the boarder around lunchtime but we’d heard there were more landslides on the boarder road so we set off around 7am. We thumbed a lift from a 4x4 heading towards the border and reached the first landslide about 10km up the road. We could tell it was a regular landslide spot; the road had been destroyed and fixed a number of times. This time a truck was stuck in the middle of the whole thing blocking the road altogether. “This is going to stop Kristina coming through.” We climbed over and walked the destroyed bit for about 500m where we met a guy with a 4x4 who took us the rest of the way to the boarder town of Kodari.

The boarder was odd. Just a town with a huge gate across the road, we walked through the gate without any security checks and wondered out onto Friendship Bridge, the 80m long bridge between Tibet and Nepal. There were two red oil drums in the centre of the bridge marking the actual line between the two countries. Chinese guards made there presents well known but Nepal seeded to have forget to send anyone to guard their border. We walked right up to the oil drums making the Chinese guards very nervous. As we took out our camera four people, including a 5 year old girl, screamed “No Photo!” so we missed out on the one picture we wanted, a cheesy pic on Friendship Bridge. It was 9:30am.
Just then we looked over to the Chinese side where gates, resembling the Nepalese ones we’d come through, opened and a huge orange truck moved onto the bridge, “There’s Kristina” I shouted. We’d forgot about the time difference.

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The guys looked genuinely happy to see us and it was great to see them. They got their passports stamped into Nepal, Sarah and I just wondered from no-mans land back into the country unchallenged.

We were all back in Kristina for the first time in two weeks.
We were right about the landslide stopping Kristina “We walk from here!” said Noel.

After the landslide we managed to flag a huge builders truck, we all sat in the back in the rain, it was a hell of a ride but twenty minutes later we were at the Last Resort and enjoying the walk across the rope bridge. Daniel stayed with Kristina and spent the night asleep on the back seat.

Posted by asprey 22:52 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Chillin at Last resort

After the excitement of the last few days we wanted a chill out, we sat in the bar, drank tea and even went for a dip in the ice-cold plunge pool.

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Dan arrived ready for evening beers, the road had been cleared and he’d managed to inch Kristina down the broken roads.

Posted by asprey 22:53 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Landslides Part 2

This was going to be an adventure. For the third time in four days our fight would be against giant landslides. The rain hammered down as we all climbed into Kristina, not a good sign when you’re in landslide country.

Within 2km we came across our first obstacle, the road had fallen away and it was barely wide enough for a car to get through.
“It looks like we end here!” I said to Dan.
“Na! I can drive that!” he replied.
The road fell away and there was probably a 50m, near vertical drop into the river below.
“Well I wont be on the truck at the side of you, that’s for sure!”
Everyone pitched in and filled the gutter with rocks to widen the road by a few feet and Dan inched his way across. The road crumbled and small pieces fell into the river as the truck tyres rode the very edge of the tarmac. Everyone cringed but some how the road edge held and the truck made it through. Dan jumped from the truck screaming and shouting, mostly from relief I think.

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Another 5km down the road we reached a real showstopper. A massive landslide that had happened since we travelled up this road three days before. The road was… well, just gone. Dan put on the hand brake, knowing it would be a few days before it came off again. He also knew he would be staying with the truck.
We said our goodbyes to Dan, climbed the landslide and walked.

A local guy with a bog-eye offered to carry Colleen’s bag to the next landslide for 200 Rupees, she agreed, he picked up the bag and started walking. After 200m he asked for the money, she paid him and he put the bag down, putting the money in his pocket laughing.

“Oi, pick up the bag!” I ordered.
“Yes, ok. For $2” he replied.
Simon had a go, and Nicola, but the guy just demanded more money.
He really annoyed me, “You open your mouth again and I’ll poke you in your good eye, you cheating scumbag!”

Further down the road we came across a huge waterfall crashing down the rock face and flowing across the road. There was a small bridge made out of rocks and planks. Sarah approached it, “You can cross my bridge for 500,” said a young guy on the bridge, obviously a friend of bog-eye.
“We’re stuck on this mountain, just let us cross!”
“No, you pay or paddle through!”
I saw the anger in Sarah’s face, she began to take her shoes off, I wasn’t quite sure if she was going to hit him with them or not. “You are scum, if you believe in a god you are all going to hell!”
I walked up to the short guy on the bridge and he looked up at me. With a quick swipe of my hand he was in the river. “Now you can paddle!” I said before walking across the bridge.
Noel was giving another guy grief that wanted money for something else.

After finishing playing Billy Goats Gruff we found a truck going in our direction, we negotiated a price and jumped in. this took us to the next landslide, the one we’d climbed across on the way up. The landslide had been cleared but somehow a truck had ended up on its side in the middle of the whole mess.
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I know Barabise was just down the road from here.
The news was that the road was clear to Kathmandu from the town, so we agreed a price for 4x4 to take us back to the capital. “Are you a good driver? Does your car have good tyres and breaks?” I asked the guy.
“I am a very good driver, look here is my car key!” he replied.
He snapped a cigarette in half and wiped tobacco on his windscreen, then jumped in the car and started driving.
“What’s the tobacco for?” I asked.
“No wipers, so the tobacco helps me see through the rain”
“Great!”

Three hours later we pulled into Kathmandu.

The evening was time for celebration. We’d taken on the force of nature and won. The beers flowed and memories were lost.

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Posted by asprey 22:54 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Hungover

We woke up with painfully huge hangovers. The Day was lost to pain.

In the evening we were sat in a restaurant when Dan walked in, he managed to get the truck through again. No big drinks though, it was early to bed for everyone.

Posted by asprey 22:55 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Chillin

Just another chill out day. Shopping, chips and beer in the evening.

Posted by asprey 22:56 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Hilarious Rafting to Gorkha

We wanted to head to Pokhara but decided to take our time and see a village or two on the way. We could either get a local bus or raft down the Trisuli river, we fancied a white-knuckle ride, but we’d done a lot of local buses already so we decided to go rafting.

Sarah, Simon and I headed to the rafting centre. There we met Rosemary, a 60+ New Yorker who didn’t really get what was going on. She turned up wearing jeans, a blouse and slinky sandals. “Will this boat have a toilet on it?” she asked. She’d been sold a ‘boat trip’

The raft got carried out and we were all handed helmets and life jackets, Rosemary’s face dropped, “Oh my god! I was expecting something with more of a hull.”
We couldn’t hold back and all burst out laughing.

We hit the water and we all got into the rafting, Rosemary provided us with laugh after laugh, although she was totally serious.
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“I would have thought we would have had seat belts… do you think my camera will be ok if its gets wet? Its not water proof… if we go in, do you think I’ll get wet?”
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After 2 hours Simon said, “wouldn’t it be great to raft in a thunder storm!” within 5 minutes we were being pelted by thumb nail size raindrops, being shaken by earth trembling thunder and being blinded by flash lightening.
“Wouldn’t it be great if you kept your mouth shut!” I said.
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As the rain stopped the river became shrouded in a 3 metre high vale of mist, it just added to the beauty of the landscape.

At the end of the rafting we sat in a small shed and ate a pack lunch included in the rafting fee. Rosemary asked to see the manager because everyone had two boiled eggs and she only had one. “I don’t think this is the sort of shed that has a manager. You can have one of my boiled eggs.”

Things got really exciting when we got the local bus to Gorka, we clung onto the seats in front as the driver wrestled with the 30 year old bus trying to keep it in a straight line on the mountain side roads. I noticed that his windscreen wipers weren’t working but there were bits of tobacco stuck to the screen. There was a 50-metre drop into the river less than a metre from the side of the road.
At Gorkha we checked into the Gorkha Inn, Simon got talking to the manager’s son, who was about 16 and a bit... special. The conversation went like this:
Simon: “Namaste, what’s your name?”
Manager’s son: “André”
Simon: “did you say André?”
“No.”
“Andrew?”
“No.”
“André?”
“No, André!”
“André?”
“No!”
As Simon got more and more frustrated with the special kid Sarah and I were wetting ourselves laughing. We decided to call him Ruprikt the monkey boy.

Posted by asprey 22:56 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Gorkha and goats

When you’re going to climb 1500 steps to a Palace you have to get up early. By the 500th step sweat was running into our eyes, it was a hell of a trek, and not much fun. Eventually we reached the top and was treated to the view of absolutely nothing.
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The weather had come in and we were in the clouds. We hung around for a while trying to avoid the guides that were trying to force their services onto us and eventually gave up and headed back down the 1500 steps. All in all, a bit of an anticlimax to a town famed for its Palace.

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By 1pm we were risking our lives again on the local bus, heading for Pokhara. We learnt an important lesson; don’t sit on the back seat of the bus when there are six goats in the boot. Every bump in the smashed up roads sent the goats into a frenzy head butting the underneath of the back seat with their horns. The fun lasted 5 hours.

As the bus was careering along yet another cliff top Simon read from his guide book, “due to crazy bus drivers, poorly maintained vehicles and treacherous roads, you are 30 times more likely to be killed on a Nepalese local bus than any other bus in the world.”
“Thanks for that!” I said. I looked out of the window down into the sheer cliff and then up at the driver who was squinting through his rainy, freshly tobaccoed windscreen.

We made it to Pokhara and managed to beat the manager of a posh hotel down into our price range. Result.

Posted by asprey 22:57 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Is your name Lesbian??

Simon’s 29th Birthday, we decided on a typical boy’s birthday present, no card, just a bottle of whiskey.
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The daytime was pretty uneventful; I had a dose of Pokhara-splash-back so I stayed within a 10m radius of the toilet. Sarah and Simon went for coffee and cake and ended up bumping into Stephen who’d just made it into town ready for the birthday night out.
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The evening, however, will be a talking point for years to come.
It all started out quite normal, the food was good and the beer was flowing, and we were having a real laugh.
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Simon was drinking two drinks to our every one and he was slurring, but it was his birthday right!

We headed out and hit a few bars; we found a bar with a really good live band playing all the old rock classics. It was good times.

Stephen disappeared for a few minutes then came back saying we had to go and sit with some girls he’d met. Carolyn and Jessica, two New Yorkers. Carolyn seemed well travelled and was living in Nepal, we got the impression Jessica had never left the States until a few days ago. Stephen was flirting with Jessica; we all hoped she had a nice personality, if you know what I mean.

Simon, who was seriously slurring by now, and had introduced himself twice, tried it on with Carolyn. Carolyn played it cool and explained that she was a lesbian living in Nepal with her partner. She also said she had a two year old daughter and showed us the pictures. Simon looked on with one eye open.
We continued drinking and laughing, suddenly Simon asked, “Carolyn, will you go out for a drink with me some time?”
“We can, but only as friends. Remember I’m gay.”
“Are you? Gay? What like a lesbian?”
“Not like a lesbian, actually a lesbian”
Another ten minutes went by before Simon asked, “Carolyn, is your husband Nepalese?”
“No Simon, remember the lesbian thing?” Carolyn was taking it all in good jest.
“Oh, sorry.” Slurred Simon, “Is it your son that’s Nepalese?”
“No Simon, I just showed you a picture of my blonde daughter!”
“I think I’m drunk, I’m very sorry. Will you ever forgive me?”
Carolyn walked over to Simon and put her arm round him, “I’ll forgive you if you can remember what my name is.”
Simon, who was staring at the table lifted his head and stared her straight in the face, everyone paused waiting to see if he could remember.
“Is it… ‘Lesbian’?”
A lot of drink got spat across the table as everyone laughed with embarrassing shock. Simon asked what everyone was laughing at.
It was turning into a great night, all of us entertained by Simon.

We drank more, sang more and even danced a little. I may have air guitared with a huge wooden chair that I could hardly lift.

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At kicking out time we moved onto the Bamboo Bar our unofficial local. It overlooked the lake and was run by a Walsh woman married to a Nepalese guy. When we got there it was closed. “Open your f###ing bar! We want a drink!” Shouted Simon at the top of his voice. The lights came on and within minutes we were inside. It was the husband who was behind the bar, “Where’s your missus?” asked Simon.
“In Bed.”
“Thank God, she scares the crap out of me.”
Simon sat down with his bucket of cocktail.
“Is it your mission to offend everyone tonight?” I asked.
“He-he” he giggled, “I don’t mean to offend, but thank god the lesbian has gone, I kept putting my foot in it with her!”
“Simon, she’s sat at the side of you!”
He looked round, Carolyn gave him a little wave from two feet away as he looked at her, Simon screamed like a girl, then apologised seven or eight times.

This was getting funnier by the minute.

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Stephen and Jessica disappeared into the darkness not to be seen again that evening.

Simon did a few last minute tequila shots, using pepper instead of salt, and we all headed home. The street was deserted, it was just us and three stray dogs who followed us down the dark high street. I told Simon the dogs were following him because they fancied him.
Suddenly a police van turned up, “Simon! Look Sober!” I shouted. The van stopped at the side of us; there were 8 or 9 police inside. The driver wound down the window, before he could speak Simon stuck his head in the window and shouted “We’re going to ###### some street dogs, wana watch?”

I slapped my hand to my face; I really should have slapped Simon. Sarah grabbed Simon and walked him off. A Policeman in full body armour, gun and wooden stick jumped out, “He’s drunk, we arrest him!” He explained there was a 12:30am curfew in Pokhara and we were still on the street at 2:00am.
I spent the next twenty minutes explaining to the policeman that it was Simon’s birthday and in the British culture it is expected that you should get this drunk on your birthday… “You can’t arrest someone for following their culture, it’s like a Nepalese person coming to Britain and getting arrested for eating rice! Everyone has the right to follow their culture.”
He paused, I thought he might be buying it, before he said, “I think you are full of shit, but I like you. You have ten minutes to get him back to the hotel, we come down this road again in ten minutes, if you are still on the street I will arrest you both.”
I thanked him and double-timed it down the street after Sarah and Simon.
Simon refused to be ordered around by police and stood in one spot, “I’m not going anywhere” we argued for ten minutes until we saw a set of headlights coming down the street. I grabbed Simon in a headlock and dived down a dark ally as the Police car cruised by. It took Sarah and me another 45 minutes to get him back to the hotel.

Posted by asprey 22:57 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Beautiful Pokhara

Thick heads all round. Ouch!
Simon had no memory of the police or the street dog romance but remembered something about a lesbian. We spent most of the day recovering. In the afternoon we hired a rowing boat and went for a paddle on the lake. The weather was beautiful and it was the perfect cure for alcohol pain.
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Posted by asprey 22:58 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Peace Pagoda

We’d spent the last few days doing nothing so we thought it would be beneficial to get off our arses and see some of the place. The two-hour hike to Peace Pagoda seemed the perfect way to get us moving again. Simon had started his eight-day trek so it would be Sarah, me Stephen and Isabel an Australian girl who’d been out with us a few times.
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Posted by asprey 22:59 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Chilling in Pokara

Another chill out day in Pokara.

Posted by asprey 23:01 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

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