Thursday, March 12, 2009

12 March – Heading southeast

We posted 8 new texts today, covering the period 27 Feb – 12 March. Please check in the archive for March to see all new posts.

We are now heading back to India. Our destination is Madras, where we will try to put our car in a container and ship it to Malaysia. The family will fly to Kuala Lumpur and collect the car there. Then we want to explore South-East Asia during the spring. New adventures await us there!

11 March – Bodnath Stupa, Nepal

It is now exactly 50 years since the Tibetans revolted against Chinese occupation and Dalai Lama was forced into exile. We decided to visit the significant Tibetan community at the Bodnath Stupa to see what the atmosphere was like on this special day.
The stupa is the largest in Nepal and the surroundings are very peaceful. Hundreds of Tibetan monks are walking around the stupa in their purple robes. But there were many heavily armed policemen, and we could read in the papers that there had been riots the day before.
The streets around the stupa are packed with Tibetan souvenir shops. The Tibetans are souvenir superstars!

10 March – Holi festival, Nepal

Today the Hindus celebrate the Holi festival. It is the festival of Color and Water, marking the beginning of the hot season. We are staying in our camp today. Otherwise we would get completely soaked in water and sprayed with red color powder. Foreigners are apparently very popular targets, as some of our fellow overlanders have discovered today.

7 March – Swayambunath Temple, Nepal

We climbed the 350 odd steps up to the ”Monkey Temple” in Swayambunath in western Kathmandu.
A large Buddhist stupa dominates the hill. The all seeing eyes of the Buddha look drowsily out from the top of the stupa. A few tired monks and pilgrims are in stupa orbit.
Small souvenir shops try to attract the few tourists who have climbed the hill. But the tourists seem to be more interested in a cold drink than a small Buddha statue, a miniature prayer wheel, or a painted mask.
Some monkeys were clinging to the smaller stupas surrounding the main stupa. A thousand pigeons were busy doing what pigeons are good at. Hindu pilgrims were burning sacrifices to their gods. As usual, this temple visit was a colorful but rather smelly affair...

6 March – The Step, Kathmandu, Nepal

We visited a new orphanage, The Step, which has been created through the efforts of Sofia Lindblom from Sweden and her Nepali friend Rajeev Singhania. We were shown around by Rajeev and had a very interesting afternoon.
There are currently six girls living in the Girls Home: Srijana, Samjhana, Rista, Yuta, Mina and Smriti. They are between five and eight years old. The plan is that the girls will stay at The Step until they are 18. Gradually, Sofia and Rajeev would like to expand the orphanage.
Our children played with the girls. They would like to come and visit again in the future. We donated some money to help fund new school uniforms for the girls.
You can read more about The Step at
We think it is a great initiative.
Well done Sofia, Rajeev and everybody else who has been involved!

4 March – Old Town, Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu also has a Durbar Square, beautiful and similar in style to that in Patan.
From the square we walked north through the old town, enjoying the street scenes and the crowds.
Nina even found the Dentist Street, and at its center is a wooden lump where people come to pray to the toothache god! If you have really bad toothache, you should nail a coin to the wood. There are many coins there…
The Kathesimbhu Stupa, nestled into a small square in the old town, is beautiful with all the prayer flags flapping in the breeze.
Buddhist monks from the neighboring monastery are walking around the stupa, clockwise, turning the prayer wheels containing the infinitely repeated mantra: Om Mani Padme Hum (hail to the jewel in the lotus).

2 March – Patan, Nepal

South of Kathmandu, the city of Patan has a wonderful historic center. We strolled around in the narrow alleys, watching the local crafts people at work, using the same methods as their ancestors.
We visited the small temples which are interwoven with the houses, courtyards and small squares.
We were very impressed with the Durbar Square, with its collection of palaces and temples.
Women were filling their water containers from ancient taps, designed as mythical animals. The scene was beautiful, but we suppose that the women, if given a choice, would have preferred a more modern way to get water.

27 Feb - 11 March – Kathmandu, Nepal

We are spending ten days in Kathmandu to extend our Nepali visas, arrange new visas for India, service the car and buy new tyres, and to explore the many attractions of this bustling capital city.
We are enjoying the handicraft shops, the espresso cafés, the trekking gear shops and the laundry service!
We are camping at the Nepal Scouts headquarters. There are a handful of other overland vehicles, from Germany, France and Holland. Two families have children and all the kids, including a couple of local boys, are playing together in a very international way.
When we are not occupied with the bureaucracy at the Indian Embassy, we go sightseeing in and around Kathmandu. There is a lot to see here!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

26-27 February – Tribhuvan Highway, Nepal

In Nepal, we think that Highway means a road which runs at a high altitude. The Tribhuvan winds its way up from the plains (200m altitude) to a 2488m high pass south of Daman.
It took two hours driving, and we were suddenly in a different world. Rhododendron, pine trees, cool air, eagles in the sky.
However, the advertised view of all the highest peaks in Nepal (including Mt Everest) was covered by clouds today.
We reached Kathmandu. Even if it is the capital, the Maoist government is only switching the electricity on for a couple hours a day (like in the rest of Nepal). They are probably selling the electricity to India in order to finance all the weapons needed to keep the power they recently gained after an eight year civil war against the king and his supporters. This country has a lot of problems!

25 February – Crocodile bath, Chitwan, Nepal

Since we are bush camping, we have to use the available bathing possibilities. Here is means taking a bath in the river. And there are crocodiles in this river. We knew that one crocodile is occupying this territory, and we could see him lying on the far bank of the river, about 30 meters from where we went to have a swim. We tried to keep a close watch on the crocodile, but suddenly Temba declared the croc had disappeared! We ran out of the water, luckily with all body parts intact.
We calmed down with a gin tonic sundowner in our camp, watching the sun set across the river. This is such a nice place!

24 February – Elephant ride safari, Chitwan, Nepal

The whole family hitch-hiked into the Chitwan National Park on the back of an elephant. We ventured deep into the jungle in search of wild animals.
We were not disappointed. We saw the almost extinct one-horned rhino. It is really a beautiful animal. And since we were on an elephant, we could get very close.

23 February – Elephant bath, Chitwan, Nepal

We camped in the most amazing spot, right on the banks of the Rapti River in Chitwan. In the morning the elephants strode past our tent on their way to the river.
Bathing with the elephants was a fantastic experience, and we tried it many times!
First some pictures of the kids.
Then some pictures of Nina in action - quite some acrobatics there!
And Temba helped his father to gain enough courage to take a swim as well.
The kids also loved to ride bareback on the elephants along the river.
Atlas showed a lot of courage when he sat on the elephant Basantikali, matching his baby weight against a four ton elephant.

22 February – Twin elephants, Chitwan, Nepal

We visited the Elephant Breeding Center in Chitwan in the south of Nepal. What is presumably the world’s only twin elephants are amazingly cute. They are three months old, and full of mischief.
A nine month calf was running around among the tourists, giving us all the photo opportunities we ever wished for.