After the high octane maneuvering through India’s intensely overpopulated Golden Triangle we headed north to Nepal in the hope of getting some respite before returning to the madness. Thankfully, this is exactly what we got. The instant we strolled under the arch in the town of Nepalgunj crossing the border, auto-rickshaws seemed to magically transform into bicycle tuk-tuks and the incessant beeping faded into the distance behind us.
Just a word of caution to any travellers planning this route: We arrived at the immigration office expecting to pay Nepalese rupees. Alas, this wasn’t the case. We offered Indian rupees, euros and even British pounds but only US dollars were acceptable. As it was the weekend, all banks were closed and they told us we could exchange money in a hotel one kilometre away. However, they required our passports as insurance so that we wouldn’t run off into the Himalayas. Of course the hotel only had a hundred dollar bill when all we needed was forty. Upon our return, the officials informed us that they didn’t have change either. The paranoid part of me suspected a scam but in that moment, the slow pace of the main road was enough to put us off any idea of returning over the Indian border and so we took the financial hit.
Apart from that occasion however, our experience of this region of Nepal was quite blissful. Nature seemed abundant in this monsoon season and we could have strolled all day were it not for the humidity. Instead we took short walks before returning to our accommodation in Bardia National Park. On our trips we found all sorts of creatures from monkeys to dragonflies the size of my hand.
Flowers were in bloom everywhere and we sampled local fruits that dangled from trees at the side of the roads. This natural landscape was something to both admire and respect. At one point the local leeches took even advantage of Olga’s short trousers and sampled her leg. While on our self-led tours we acquired a canine companion named ‘Girl Dog’ who followed us around all day. When we retreated to our cabin to relax she would follow us back and sit with us as we all panted to say cool. During midday, hours were spent just sitting on the porch sweating, drinking water, staring out over the rice fields and listening to the buzz of the rainforest.
On what I now consider to be one of our busier days there, we rented a couple of bicycles and cycled to a nearby elephant sanctuary where we were given the chance to make up rice pellets wrapped in grass and feed them to these magnificent mammals. It was incredible to be so close to such large living beings, to feel the fear that they had the strength to stamp your life out but be comforted by the calmness and serenity in their eyes.
The remainder of our time was spent exploring the countryside, chatting with local children and watching the farmers riding their ox-drawn carts through the village. Life seemed very simple there. Homes were built of mud, electricity was barely used and there seemed to be little in terms of material possessions. Yet, people seemed content, and focused completely on whatever task they were engaged in. The Westerners seem so torn by the endless possibilities we have in our lives, so many options. It almost seems as much our curse than it is our gift.
Nepal recharged us and we returned to India a little more tolerant and calm, yet able to hold our boundaries, not letting the exterior intensity invade our personal space as much by calling upon mental images of those tranquil fields at the foot of the Himalayas.
- Experiencing Nepal on a Break (thejakartaglobe.com)
- Thoughts on Nepal – Kathmandu, Nepal (travelpod.com)