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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

12 May 2004

RTW 04: Nepal

NEPAL 01/05/04 – 11/05/04
Selling the Sadhu – 04/05/04 (Kathmandu)
Having passed through India, we reached Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, on the 1st of May. Our tour should have begun – at least in terms of meeting/socialising – on the 2nd, but ‘B2’ (his real name was double-barrelled, both beginning with ‘b’ – he told us to call him ‘B2’, presumably from annoyance at people getting it wrong), our tour guide, was ‘too tired’! So instead, we ended up walking by the rather disgusting, but still somehow charming river, which mainly consisted of pigs, water buffalo (not to mention rotting piles of their legs!) and lots of rubbish fuming pungently in large heaps.

On the third day, our tour began properly, and first of all we went to Pashupati Temple. Our first encounter was relatively authentic, as we saw the ‘holy men’ in their caves. We then went to the complex proper, whereupon commercialism steadily took over. Several murals decorated the walls with mythological Hindu motifs, apparently drawn by an Italian devotee of the ‘Milk Baba’, a man of 75 who had allegedly drunk nothing but milk for the past 25 years. He was not in residence because he was at a ‘holy man conference’ in India, and had been travelling the world previous to that. Incongruously, there was a little guy playing very badly on a keyboard, the demo tinkling painfully along as he clumsily attempted accompaniment. This tacky soundtrack fit perfectly with the scene about to greet us.

Entering another courtyard, we saw several ‘holy men’ touching up their make up and getting into suitably photogenic positions. One man unwound his mass of matted hair, while to the far right a younger sadhu threw his leg up behind his head, his hand resting on a stick for balance. For the privilege of photographing these ‘mystics’, a ‘donation’ was expected. Spirituality had become a business.

Monsoon Kayaking – 05/05/04 (Pokhara)

Pokhara could be summed up in one word: wet. We had a downpour the first day, well ahead of monsoon schedule, which continued without fail every afternoon. We were also chased mercilessly by Tibetan women clutching umbrellas and backpacks full of handicrafts, whose main selling strategy consisted of telling my friend she was a ‘nice lady’ and that their marvellous wares would produce ‘many miracles for you’.

Early on the second day, we took a walk with a rather irritating 67 year old member of our group up to Sarangihot, a look out point for the Himalayas. Unfortunately, once we arrived at the summit, 1500 or so metres up, the majestic Anapurna range was completely obscured by cloud.

Clambering back down to lakeside around 12, after eating ‘chocolate puddings’ (actually chocolate custard in a bowl, which nevertheless I rather enjoyed) we went to go kayaking. Reaching the half-dressed boat rent man, who advised a rowboat, we were taken all the way back to his house to drag the kayaks to the beach. Having achieved this, we set out in our rickety vessels.

As my friend sped off to the other side of the lake, I found myself in trouble. Upon each attempt to go forwards, I found that I’d simply spin in a circle, no matter the direction, or how desperately I paddled on the opposite side. As my friend got further and further away, I became more and more frustrated. Eventually I was reduced to floating aimlessly in the middle of the lake, my chin morosely balanced on my palm, fearing that I was going to be stuck there for the rest of the day. As I imagined the humiliation of a towboat back or being trapped in a rainstrom, the little dot that was my  assumed I was merely taking a break, as I had ironically commented to her earlier that I’d ‘like to go out to the middle of the lake and relax’.

Eventually I did get moving again, having finally realised that I could arrest my spin by dunking an oar in the opposite direction – previous frantic paddling had only served to make me spin faster. Once I caught up with my friend and bemoaned my wasted 20mins stranded, it began to rain shortly after. I gleefully put on a waterproof, stashed behing me in my bag, and had the pleasure of being the only person on the lake not getting soaked – indeed, perhaps the only person in town! Paddling back to the shore in a monsoon certainly made for an intriguing experience.

But it wasn’t over yet! In the evening I dragged my  back for more row-boat action, deciding at the last minute to pack a raincoat once again just in case. Reaching the dock, it looked deserted – only a few children clambering along railings and some local women. I asked a guy if the place was still open, whereupon he sent for someone else. Eventually another guy appeared, took a bottle out of the bin and cut it in half to create a bucket for bailing out the rowboat, filled with an inch or two of rainwater.

Finally we set out, though I was a bit unsure what to do with the two paddles on offer. My friend sat across from me with her newly purchased Tuborg, and I single handedly rowed her back and forth across the lake – fortunately for me, we saw a Nepali boatman on the way, so I copied his far more efficient style of rowing.
On the way back, I got a second opportunity to reach smugly for my raincoat as the rain spattered down. All in all, a very wet day!

Safari in Chitwan – 07/05/04 (Chitwan)

Next stop was Chitwan, a famous National Park full of rhinos. The highlight of the stay was bathing with the elephants, which seemed to mainly consist of getting on the elephant, then being thrown off as the elephant driver directed.
It also meant I finally got to ride on an elephant bareback as it waded into the river from the beach. The leathery skin made for an easy grip, though the high ridge of spine was more problematic – I ended up with a hand gripping in front and behind, made more difficult by the characteristic swaying motion of the elephant.

Having experienced the dubious pleasure of being thrown off an elephant into literally @#%$-stained river water (you could watch it drift by) we then proceeded to an elephant safari. Armed with my trusty Suzhou fan, I climbed aboard the remarkably uncomfortable four-person frame and we set off for the jungle. Once there, we saw some rhinos – one submerged, one with child – and some less interesting sights, like a stork, peacock and deer. Unfortunately, my friend didn't enjoy this much due to the non-English speaking driver plunging through trees so that the branches slapped my poor friend in the face!

Returning from the unpleasant episode, we went to the riverside café, where a young orphan rhino wandered unimpeded (not that anyone could stop him…). For some reason, the enormous child took a shine to my groin, and had a good nuzzle on my left hip!

Next up is Bangkok, stopping over in Mumbai waiting for flights (depending on when, or even if, Royal Nepal Airlines manages to leave Kathmandu some time this week), from which I'll be going to Cambodia and Laos. 

Looking forward to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, where apparently there are some bas-reliefs showing that muay thai actually originated in Cambodia, the Thais having nicked some fighters in the 15th century. But thats just going by the Lonely Planet, which isn't all that up on martial arts.

< India - Next: Cambodia >

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