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NEPAL  DIARY 6    2014 - 2015

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From India I return to Nepal, this time in the fare east.

2/2 The border from India is made up by the bridge over the rather dry Mechi River. On the walk across the bridge, I see a lot of people. Even the riverbed underneath is quite busy. It seems like the no-man's-land is rather relaxed between these two Hindi countries.
On the other side, I have to find my own way to the immigration office. Here are a few, rather laughing officers, who very helpfully hand me a single form, and real relaxed let me enter, after having seen the old 90 day visa in my pass. Due to the relaxed atmosphere, I ask for directions to the market and the bus. Outside, another officer ask if he can help me with my continuous travel. Sure a country that appreciate tourists and make their life easier!
Here are several exchange offices, and I might as well change the 8650 Rupees from India, to something useful here. Then I find the marked easily, but I guess I have seen enough of these for some time by now. As with the Bangladeshi border crossing, there are not really that much in difference on either side this near to the border.
I walk straight to the bus, and without any waiting, we leave.
The tea plantations continues from India, so does the large but rather dry rivers. As in India, they are used for rocks and gravel for constructions. The passenger in front of me speak quite some English, and advises me to continue to Biratnagar. The city I had noted as closest to the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve does not offer hotels. That might be right; I could not find any online. He recommend a specific hotel he prefers in Biratnagar, and even make a reservation for me, to Nepali price.
The bus end up pretty crammed, and we reach Biratnagar after dark (I later learn, it is the second largest city in Nepal with a population of 170.000). My new friend guides me to the hotel, which might be a bit overpriced, at 700 Taka, but clean and rather close to the bus terminal. I make a few notes, and then try their fried rice with chicken. It is high time locating some internet. That turn out to be rather difficult in the dark town. I finally succeed, and get up to date with emails, but not uploads.
It is strange that Nepali cities tend to close around seven, where Bangladeshi kind of start waking up at seven - or eight in the evening.
It is a mild climate, and I can walk after dark in a single fleece jacket - and skiing underwear, which was way too warm during the day. Here are several ox-driven carriages in the streets and plenty of trishaws.
Back to work in the sound from the hotel's generator. I have forgotten these black-outs and brown-outs, but not really missed them. I proceed photos and write diary. In the bathroom, a huge gecko control the mosquitoes. It is way too late once more, when I kind of finish.
The madras is merely a sheet, but the spare cotton-blanket make is quite pleasant.

3/2 It is nice for once to be right at the buss terminal, not having to walk several kilometres, several times. BUT: When the busses start at four, they use their horn eagerly for at least fifteen minutes each, before taking off.
The target for the day is Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, around half hour back the road - I was told. The 175 square kilometres of wet- and grassland is teaming with close to 500 species of birds, and a rare water buffalo: Arna, The Pointyhorned; Bubalus arnee. There is no mist this morning, and I hope for a nice, warm day.
I find a bus right away, but it is immense slow! What can be done in half a hour, take two. We load and unloads goats, stop for ten minutes or more, several places and so on. When we finally reach Itahari after 42 kilometres, I find a significantly faster bus for the last 50 kilometres.
Itahari is way fancier than I have though, and it does have several nice looking hotels - despite what I was told. I guess I been loured into another hotel, than I wanted. I could have saved two hours - three times!
Where the first bus mainly drown through outskirts of larger villages, this one cruses through farmland. Here are rice, maize, sugarcane and grassland. Here are also some grass fields, covered in the thin plys for plywood, laid out to dry.
I get kicked off at a gravel-road with the right sign - except the 2,5 kilometres note. At first, it is boring, then I reach a village, consisting of only grass-huts. I think I get some great shoots, but I can't see the screen on the camera, due to the bright sun. I'm not sure how they make a living, but cow's dung for fire, seems to be the main industry.

I reach the entrance for Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, and after quite some time, they find the tourist tickets. I try to get information on the elephants rides, the Jeep safaris and the boat trips, but despite every thinkable effort, none of the ten persons present in the rangers office, get it. It might just be out of season? Or they have not seen their own sign down at the road? After a long time, I manages to get a folder with a map. If I interprets it right, I have a 20 kilometre long dam with a sealed road, along the river to walk on - that's it.
I meet it in the middle, and head north-east for an hour. Here are actually many different birds, and I even see a skink (lizard-like animal). With the exception of the Greater Coucal; Centropus sinensis, and a Openbill Stork; Anastomus oscitans, I don't even try to capture them with the camera. I find animal trails parallel with the dam, and walk here, except in the more dense bushes. Here are some huge animals that like to sleep in the shadow, and they don't appreciate to be disturbed. If they are grassing, I can hear them, but not if they are relaxing.
On one side of the dam, a smaller river forms a swamp from time to time. On the other side, a dry, almost yellow grassland dominates. In some places covered in bushes or small trees. Besides from five invasive plants, all in flower, here are really disappointing few interesting plants. A single big snail encasing, the flowers on the cotton tree and the spines on a young tree, is the only interesting finds.
A single viewing tower lack the lower steps, and the upper part is about to give up as well. Never mind, here is nothing to look at anyway. But the area is frequently visited by elephants, based on the amount of fresh dung.
After an hour, I turn around, and head down south-west. It is a gamble: Does the road actually lead all the way out to the highway after fifteen kilometres, or do I have to walk back ten, plus the two and a half?
In the small river, some locals are fishing with small nets. On the wild side, I manages to sneak in on a huge buffalo bull. It could be the Pointyhorned or just an normal one, but it is for sure a wild animal.
A stretch of the road is lined with elephant dung, and I look closely into the bushes along the road. Then I spot a huge, gray thing. It is slightly mowing, and it has huge ears and rather big tuskers. It is sleeping fifteen meters from the road, and I let it!
I cross over the little river, to meet the highway. The water is crystal clear, and the bottom covered in plants. By running the last bit, I reach a bus, heading for Itahari. We drive through what look like a sandy desert; the old riverbed, I guess. In Itahari, I go right into the next bus - I would have like to wait a tea's time though. It has been a warm day with 30C, and the locals tell me, the summer started yesterday.

At least, we reach Biratnagar significantly faster than we left it, and I head out to get my tea. While I'm at it, I try to find the market. I finally get close to one of the ox-wagons, and just like two other photos I have from other places in the world, the driver talk in his cell-phone. A group of men stand rather close. It is yet another game of Ludo that draws them.
Here are many low-tech work-shops. Fixing old potato-bags, cleaning used bricks, packing boxes for recycling and so on. Biratnagar is not a pretty city in any way, but it does have a market with smiling faces.
I return to my room at five to work, before I can upload at a internet cafe at six - they promised yesterday. Photos must wait till later. It actually works, and I get everything up to date (it is a great way to back-up my work).
Back for supper; fried rice with mutton. The plan for tomorrow is to catch the bus for Janakpur at 9;30. Rather that, than 6;00 or 7;00. It should be a five hour tour, and I have the entire day.
I sit in the small restaurant and work, while a customer comes in. He immediately draws up his cell-phone, but can't find a internet. Many have thought I had it, but I recon they are not used to see someone making pages, just looking at them. Then he have to settle with a few photos of me.
I make a slideshow: Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve & Biratnagar city .

4/2 I catch the 9;30 bus for Janakpur from the terminal. By getting here early, I manages to get the good seat behind the driver: Room for my legs and in shadow, giving better photos. It is 215 kilometre long tour through the lowlands in the southern part of Nepal. The road crosses one river after another, but here are surprisingly few larger cities.
It is mainly cattle country. Here are big herds of both the little Jersey-type, the big white Indian oxen and black water buffalos. Here are also some pigs. Some mind their own, some are herded like the sheep and cows. In Itahari, we do a short stop. Some boys try to sell water on bottles for the first time this spring. Afterwards, they play a game, throwing coins, but winning notes.
After Itahari, some sugar-cane fields are being harvested. It is done by hand, and the harvest transported to centrals. Here, the canes are loaded on to trucks - by hand. Just before Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, we pass the almost snow-like sandy deserts of the old riverbed. Then the road do a big U around the reserve, and cross the huge bridge from which Ganges Dolphins can be seen. It is a combined bridge and dam, it seems. This is the lowlands; the Terai.
It is still early spring on the fields, and the oxen are pulling the ploughs in many places.
Just after we leave the boundary of the reserve, a massive explosion  sounds, and the bus have blown a back-tire. Within five minutes, the four employees of the bus have change it, and we are rolling again. It was simply worn through. We drive through a open and flat landscape with scatted grass huts. Then the first foothills of the Himalayas occurs to the north. We keep following them for the rest of the tour, almost touching them a few times. Then the grass-huts start to have some mud on the walls, and a few larger villages are found. We keep crossing mighty rivers - of sand.
On the entire tour, we might have meet 100 ox-wagons, transporting every thing imaginable.

Around three, after five and a half hours of intensely driving, we meet Janakpur. I have planned a hotel, and find a trishaw to take me there. The entire tour is on a rough, unsealed road through real poor neighbourhood. The hotel is next to a square, and look all right from the outside. I get the room down to 300R, but kind of regrets it, when I see it. No light from the outside, little electric light. Dark brown, probably dirty and real dusty.
I drop my bag, and try to orientate me in the surroundings. I am within 500 metres from the centre of what should be a "electrifying religious atmosphere with a rich historical and cultural heritage". It look more like the worse places in Bangladesh! I try the four roads leading out from the square; Bhanu Chowk, and they all sucks! Only one is sealed - or use to be it.
I had planed to save the sights along Station Road for the day tomorrow, but desperate situations take desperate actions. At the centre, I see a fancy hotel, and give it a shot. Hotel Manaki is pretty nice, and I can get a room with light (even under brown-outs), Wi-Fi, hot shower and toilet paper for 1000R. I can't recall when I last had a hot shower?  I get my backpack from the other hotel, not even discussing a refund.
Drop the bag in my nice room, and in the low evening sum, I do some of the miner roads in the centre of town. Here, I see the charm, and the huge Sagar; a square pond with Ghats around for bathing. I see the huge marble Janaki Mandir, but save the inner for tomorrow. I try to get a picture of the western side, but a huge, ogle brick wall, covered in cow's dung block the view. Here are cows wandering around everywhere.
I stop several times to recharge with tea. In one place, two students want to know everything, but at the same time pay my two cups of tea.
The huge Gunga Sagar is not the only pond in the inner city, and here are several temples scattered around as well. I find one of the tailors street, and see how they fire up in the flatting iron on the sidewalks. A few pigs are wandering around free along with the usual goats and cows.
I find a humble restaurant which fries noodles outside, and even have some cakes inside. One more tea on the way home, and then some final laundry and the usual working.
                                                                                                                               Part of the huge Ganga Sagar - holy pond.
At nine, I decide I deserve a tea break. From what I can hear, the town is still alive - included the generator, hammering away. I was wrong, and have to settle for a drink of water.

5/2 It seems like this city start way later then I. Only the pigs can find breakfast before eight - or nine. It is a slightly cold (17,3C) and pretty misty morning, and I retreat to the hotel, waiting for the sun. Glad I chosen the light and clean room. Despite I'm in the city's most fancy hotel, I am still the only pale around. The roomers about Nepal being drowned in tourists seems a bit over exaggerated. Thinking about it, I actually think I saw the most tourists in Bhutan!
At nine, I find a filthy joint with roti and dhal and even some odd tasting milk-tea. At ten, it is just as misty and cold, but I got the time. I do some work, among other; how to find to Daman. I had a plan about driving on a special highway, but I guess the 220 kilometres on the direct road will be enough. And it will still cover roughly 70% of that road, and of the more steep part.
The tailors street is just around the corner, and I get my bag fixed - once again. It is suffering from the winter cloth I have been caring around, only using it two mornings. Then I checkout the backside of the city. It is kind of fitting for a greyish day like this. Pigs going through the ubiquitous trash, open sewers and buildings falling apart is the general characteristics.
At noon, the weather situation is unchanged, and I start to doubt for a change. I guess I should have seen the sights yesterday, or at least taken some good photos. Now, I just start working again, catching up on the pages and data I'm have saved for a rainy day.

At two, I get impatience, and seek out the sights in the mist. It might be the lack of sun, but besides from the large Janaki Mandir, I fail to find anything interesting. Janaki Mandir is quite impressive. It is a Hindu temple, dedicated to the goddess Sita. It forms a square with small temples in each corner and a larger in the middle. The Rajput architecture is a modern inspiration on older forms, and the temple was build in 1912, and is still maintained. In front of it is a open yard with various traders, mainly religious items.
Next to it is a huge, square pond; Ganga Sagar which have Ghats around for religious bathing. None attempt today. A bit further up the street, Ram Sita Bibaha Mandir is found with its strange, kind of modern roof and glass walls. Behind Janaki Mandir is Ram Mandir from 1882, but it seems to be forgotten, although well maintained. It is a way more classic temple with the usual buildings. In front of it is Danush Sagar, a huge tank with Ghats.
Due to the lack of sun - or even proper daylight, I have a hard time spending much time looking at these sights. I do another loop in the vicinity, and once again, I am stunned over the decay this city is in! Strangely enough, the three slightly English talking persons, who have addressed me, have all asked; what do you think of my city - I lied every time.
I get some more tea, and try some of the local cake specialities. Then home to check the weather forecast. Sun all day, they claim! That make checking the forecast for tomorrow's goal; Daman, a bit useless. At three, I am kind of through the most, but it is too late to travel.

Nothing else to do, but seek out to get some awesome photos, some milk-tea and try some cookies. The centre of town is quite small, and outside it, only decay and misery is found, it seems. I check the route to the bus terminal for tomorrows tour. Well, that was the plan, but I end up somewhere else. Here, the decomposition is, if possible, more dominant. I recon I will make the day for a trishaw driver in the morning.
On my way home, I pass a game store in the larger street. They have a drawing of a Carrom board in front, and I ask for the men. I get a box with the 20 required men and the "queen", but have to buy the "tiger" separate. I figure it will be easier to build the board at home!
I find a dog, sleeping in a trashcan. It is without a doubt the safest dog around here: Nothing will hit it there!
More and more small bonfires are popping up around in the streets. Not more than 30-40 centimetres in diameter, but room for 6-10 freezing people. These temperatures below 20C are not their cup of tea - either.

Supper in a restaurant at lakeside, 100 metres from my hotel. Women with firewood on their head passes bye along with cows, bicycles, trishaws and motorcycles. I get some fried noodles with vegetables and moderate spices. I'm still a bit peckish, but I don't expect to be full for half an Euro! I top-up with two rotis from the shop next door, and a tea from the newspaper-shop.
The evening is spend working, among other on the Janakpur slideshow.
This evenings tea-brake is just before eight, based on experience from yesterday. Strangely enough, it is almost only the tailors which still are there. They were the only one this morning - I wonder if they ever sleep?
The plan for tomorrow is simple: Find a bus for Dhalkebar, then Pathaiya and Hetauda to end up in Daman. It is rather close to Kathmandu and in rather high altitude - and cold. But from here, I should get a great view to the huge mountains and the Mountain Botanical Gardens is of cause a must!

It is time to start the last page: Diary 7

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