By Steve Newman
Mention Nepal and most people will immediately think of the Himalayas, Everest base camp trekking and the Yeti. But of course, there is much more to this ancient nation, where nature shines in many splendours.
Kathmandu is a fascinating city and is an amazing experience. Not just for the bulls which lay across the path and bridge, forcing you to take another route or the smoke from the cremation fires drifting across the tops of the gold pinnacle miniature temples but also for the Holy Men with their painted faces, wild hair and startling saffron robes.
Just as impressive but in a totally different way, the Boudhanath Stupa is a circular dome surrounded by tall shops and houses. Many of these carry a Tibetan stamp as do the faces of some of the people milling around mixing with Buddhist Monks. Watch the hill people in their vivid colours, turning the prayer wheels as they circumnavigate the Stupa’s walls.
We took a 20-minute domestic flight to Pokhara. Home to a beautiful lake and the fascinating Buddhist Temple of Peace. It’s a steep walk up but the view from the top over the lake is magnificent, with the Himalayas clearly visible to the North, calling you to them.
In fact, the next morning we drove to the celebrated viewing point. And to watch the sunrise over the Annapurna Range — quite a sight I can tell you.
Nepal has the distinction of being the only place in the world where the tiger population is increasing.
Chitwan National Park
We visited the Chitwan National Park. If you want lasting memories of Nepal other than Everest and the mountains, visit here. I suggest you stay in Sauraha village, the tourist hub of the Park. The hotel selected for us by the company was called Rhino Lodge. Walking with the Rhinos in Nepal is a whole different experience. A good choice, as the animals come up from the park and river at night and you can watch them from your table.
Indeed, one walked right past where we were eating. We had to beat a quick retreat onto the steps of the hotel. It walked sedately through the hotel garden to join the elephants and mopeds without a care in the world!
In the Chitwan National Park, you can take a dugout canoe. Also elephant or jeep safari.
The dugout canoe is a little bit unstable and indeed uncomfortable. But it’s an incredible way to experience the sights and sounds of the river as it flows sedately along with Gharial crocodiles swimming alongside.
Now virtually extinct in their original habitats these long-snouted fish-eating reptiles are gradually being reintroduced into Nepal’s rivers, it’s a privilege to see them, there is also a breeding centre you can visit in the park.
The Jeep Safari
The jeep safari brought us close-up views of Sloth Bears, deer and rhinos and some of the most beautifully coloured birds I have seen anywhere. Do sit at the back of the jeep as the seats are slightly higher and you can get in and out a lot easier.
Why not try an elephant safari? As we have some incredibly close views of rhinos and birds as the elephants are accepted by the other animals? Looking down on a female Rhino and her calf wallowing in a forest pond is not something you will forget in a hurry.
Some areas now have a walking tour. Where you walk with the elephant along the forest parks. You are strongly advised not to walk in areas of the park on your own even if you have paid the entrance fee. This is a national park with free-roaming animals. Many of these are predatory, and it is essential to always pay attention to your guide.
Two rhinos were only yards away on our walk but the guide was excellent, Heaven knows what would have happened had I been on my own walking with the rhinos in Nepal.
Sadly, we never saw any tigers. But there are many parks where you are virtually guaranteed to see them if you wish to travel.
Bordia National Park is virtually uninhabited. It is a mixture of dry woods with bunches of cotton and silk trees. Open meadow and island-filled streams. It is often described as what Chitwan was like some 30 years ago before its development.
Nepal is changing; so go quickly and enjoy!
Steve Newman is a Member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. His trip to Nepal was hosted by Liladhar Bhandari, founder of Going Nepal.
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