Bandipur and beyond…

Saturday 24th May 2008

Ok, so after my sad and tearful goodbyes to my lovely gorgeous children, and my wonderful Nepali family (who will stay in my heart forever, obviously), Karla, Amy and I headed west on a bus to Bandipur, early Tuesday morning.
I was really glad they both came with me for a few day’s break, as it meant I had some people to hang out with and didn’t get too sad and lonely after leaving everyone.

Bandipur is a gorgeous Newari village/town tucked up in the hills off the main road between Kathmandu and Pokhara. It is literally balanced along the top of a ridge, a main street with houses on both sides, and then off each side is a drop straight down over the terraced rice paddies.

It was utterly spectacular – amazing views, despite the clouds and rain, and so peaceful and quiet. After Kathmandu it seemed like the most calm place on earth, and we ended up staying for two nights instead of one as it was so nice!
We wandered around the village a lot, visited the local silk farm and then we hiked 4km along the edge of the ridgeline and down the side of the hill to Siddha Gufa, the largest natural cave in Nepal. The walk was seriously hard work, almost the whole thing was down these steep stone steps, and I tell you, going downhill is just as hard as uphill – especially on the knees! By the time we got to the cave, we’d been going steadily down for an hour and a half, and I was dreading the walk back up again!
The cave itself was pretty awesome – and very big! It was pitch black inside, but the guide gave us torches and showed us around.
Afterwards we decided that instead of attempting the uphill climb (which would have taken us hours!), it was quicker to continue on down to the next village and hike up to the highway and take a bus back! So we cheated a bit, but still walked a good 7 or 8km, which was very invigorating!

We were totally knackered by the time we got back, but for some stupid reason decided we should get up at 5am the next day and hike back up the ridge to see the sun rise. We duly did that, and although it was too cloudy/misty to see the Himalayas, it was still very pretty, and we were high enough up that all the surrounding hills and ridges looked like little islands in a sea of clouds!

Later that day we took a bus down to Pokhara, arriving on Thursday afternoon. On Friday, despite still having insanely stiff legs from the hike, we went horse-riding, as Karla has never been on a horse before and was desperate to try it. Having not been on a horse myself for over a decade, and with already pretty sore legs, it was a bit of a struggle, but I’m sure it was good for me! The horses themselves were TINY – possibly even ponies – I don’t know the difference, but my feet were only about a foot and a half off the ground in the stirrups, which made me feel rather silly! We walked at a very slow pace around the lake, which was really nice and relaxing, except that we occasionally got yelled at by passing hippies (something about cruelty to animals).

I find the horse situation to be a bit like rickshaws over here. You see, Rickshaws are an incredibly impractical way to get around, being bumpy and slow and uncomfortable (not unlike our horses!). However it’s also really fun, and something you have to try at least once. But then you see the driver and the guilt kicks in. Here’s a wrinkled and skinny old man, probably well over sixty and about half my body weight, about to haul my arse around on the back of a large bicycle. Well obviously you think, “Actually, maybe I’ll just take a cab”.
But then the second wave of guilt comes around – this guy makes his meagre living by humping fat tourists around, and by saying no, you might be depriving him of the ability to buy rice for his family that night.
Etc etc.

Similarly with the horses. I honestly don’t know enough about horses to know if they’re well-treated of not – they looked alright, in the sense that they were a bit on the skinny/scrawny side, but didn’t have, like, mange or anything. And yes, possibly they are badly treated and therefore I shouldn’t pay money to ride one as this may continue the cycle of animal abuse. However, I suspect that simply because I choose not to ride a horse, the owners are not suddenly going to give up on the whole business. Also, I get the impression that the horses are probably not allowed to roam free when they’re not in use, eating all the crops and trampling the rice seedings etc – there’s more than enough cows and buffaloes doing that anyway!
Therefore, given that I suspect they’re probably kept in a small stable somewhere, surely by riding them, I’m doing them a favour? Three hours of slow walking around in the fresh air?

It’s impossible to tell which is the right thing to do, but I did get annoyed at all the self-righteous hippies shouting at me in the street without even considering the alternatives for the horse. (I got especially annoyed because I was only sitting about 4 feet off the ground anyway, and therefore felt really silly!).

Anyhoo, after that we did some shopping and then went out to celebrate my birthday down the pub! We met some lovely people and played some pool etc. It was really nice and fun.
Today Karla and Amy had to head back up to Kathmandu, but before they left they bought me a beautiful necklace as a birthday pressie, which was really sweet of them.

So, I’m mostly just relaxing now, and getting my stuff together, as tomorrow I’m taking the night bus down to the border, and then over into India for a bus and then train onwards to Delhi (I should arrive on the 27th).

That’s it for now, but I”m afraid there’s likely to be a lot more emails in great detail as I travel about for the next month, as there’s so much to see and do, and also I’ll be by myself, so if I get bored I’ll be writing long emails to amuse myself! (God help you all, you poor bastards!)

That’s it for now, except to say a big huge thank you for all my lovely birthday wishes, and I think that I might enjoy being 27, despite feeling a bit old!

tons of love

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