Resort inspection, Elephants & Warm Indian welcome

Trip Start Feb 05, 2009
Trip End Dec 16, 2010

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Flag of India  , Uttarakhand,
Sunday, August 15, 2010

After spending about 2 months in and around Kathmandu it is time to leave. With deep respect for Rene and Stichting Veldwerk, a difficult to part-moment with 'my' home in Patan, leaving behind my motorbike and a bunch of amazing people, I make my way to 2 resorts for inspection and recommendation, taking part in excursions and staying there for free in exchange. Life as working traveler is hard ;-) My last 2 days in Nepal I spend with Hiraral and his family in Deep Nagar, a warm and hospitable reunion. I am traveling with Nina, my NZ friend, who will come with me to India. On our very last visa day we cross back into India, nice but stressful; life is much more hectic here in many ways! After our magical first Indian night, we visit Rachel and her family, who welcome us in the most hospitable way, letting us stay in one of their cottages and sharing their meals. Sadly we have to leave after 2 days, but I will return again in 6 weeks, to long-term park the van and spend more time together! A day visit to Nainital is enough and we make our way the long-way-round to Rishikesh, the place I am now…

While in Kathmandu I meet a great Dutch guy, Rene, who dedicated his life to managing an NGO: Stichting Veldwerk. Through this NGO he and his team try to help out the poorest Nepali people with a focus on Mothers and children. At one of the project sites Hamro Gaun (Our Village) there is a day care center, a women learning center and it houses 30 college children. The whole site is run self-sufficiently with re-use of water, septic tanks, irrigation system, solar heating etc. A really inspiring place and one of the best organizations to join if you like to do some voluntary work in Nepal! Yes, this is a sort-of-promo-talk because I believe they deserve all the help they need, by donation or otherwise. Keep up the good work Rene! See you later (in India? or back in Kathmandu!)

Leaving Kathmandu after more then 2 months…but not before I buy a motorbike, which I repaired and then decide to leave in Nepal for now. Long story, but cheap, financially helped out Stichting Veldwerk with it and just miss motorbike riding! Decision was quickly made. Kick-start a bit rocky! Was going to bring it into India in my van, but left it with a Nepali friend, so I can come and ride it in October, when I come back here again. Next day more repair work, this time on my van; some small things to be done. I was introduced to the best garage-owner ever, who helped me out big time. Having done an overland trip himself in the 70-ties, we hid it off and had amazing talks, shared meals at his house and he gave me a very low bill for all the repairs. Dere Dhandewath! Good luck with your amazing old automobiles.

Time to drive to Chitwan NP, one of wildlife national parks… In Kathmandu I got in contact with Dharma Sir, owner of a Tour & Travel company and 2 resorts. We agreed that I would spend however long I wanted at his 2 resorts, doing different excursions, all for free. In return I would make an observation and recommendation document. Life as a working traveler is hard ;-)

So it happened that I am sleeping in a lovely jungle cottage at Hotel Jungle Lodge the next 3  nights, situated in a real jungle setting, listening to the animals at night. During the day going on an Elephant safari, doing a canoe trip spotting crocodiles, visiting the Elephant Breeding center and enjoying a local culture show. In between eating good food and spending interesting talks with Manager Isori. Might spend time as his house next year, helping his family out with farm work. Hotel Jungle Lodge staff, thanks for the amazing service!

On my way to the next resort, Rhino Lodge in Bardia NP, located in West Nepal. This national park is less visited, the wild element more tangible then well-tramped Chitwan. The village is not yet taken over by souvenir shops, day-to-day local village life next door. The next 4 nights I sleep in one of the big lodges, enjoying my tea on the veranda, meals in the jungle dining hall with Ganesh. Also try roxi, Nepali home-brewed alcoholic drink, nice ;-) During the day again riding on an elephant (they are huge animals!) through the jungle, visiting the Elephant breeding center, going on a rafting safari and a jungle walk. Due to the high grass and monsoon we don’t spot many animals, but the jungle feeling is  great. Nina, a NZ-girl I met in Tamghas before, also made it to Bardia. We will travel to India together from here. Could have spend much more time at this place, but my Nepali visa is running out, so time to move on…leaving behind another observation and recommendation document. Rhino Lodge staff, thanks as well for the improvised service! We meet again.

2 more days left on my visa, which I like to spend in Deep Nagar, to meet up again with Hiralal and his family. They welcomed me so warmly on my first day in their country and as I am l eaving Nepal at the same border, I promised to visit them again. Nina and I are welcomed with a flower-mala and Ama (the mother) claims I have to stay at least 5 days this time! Sharing meals with the family, but eating first as we are guests, this time without 40 other villagers watching. They know me by now (and we arrived here in the dark) ;-) The next day we go for a long hike, meet more family and drink from a natural cold water spring. Time flies and on the very last day of our visa we have to say goodbye and make it to the border. Dear family, I will come back again!

I make the last we-see-us-in-2-months-phonecalls and it’s time to cross back into India again. Planned to stay the necessary two months which turned into a full visa-stay…does is surprise anyone?

Nepal (May-August): The country of rice fields as far as the eye can see, Monsoon rains, snake season, lots and lots of butterflies, mosquitoes and leeches (in the mountains). Poor hospitable curious people, wooden houses, bicycles, buffalo-and-carts, electricity load shedding, dal-baath meals, roxi and not always visible amazing mountain views! A country I love to go back to October!

Border crossing process easy and quick without a full vehicle check, good because I forgot about the bit of charras Mara gave me, still untouched in the van! 9th of August: I am back in India! Feels good and stressed…driving on the roads here is much more hectic then in Nepal.  Glad we get to Nanak Sagar lake a few hours later, giving me an easy re-adapting day. Our first Indian evening: sleeping on the top of the van, listening to singing from the nearby Sikh gurudwara, good talks and lots of stars in the sky!

I met Rachel in Kathmandu and she invited me to their farm near Rudrapur. As this is on our way, we kindly accept. Could not have gotten a more warm Indian welcome! She and her Indian  husband run a eco-friendly resort (and cultural orientated holidays) in the most amazing green flower-rich surroundings. She lets us sleep in one of the cottages and we spend meals with the family. She has been in India already over 10 years, lots of knowledge and inspiring stories. The kids are lovely and know lots about nature. She and Bhooi even offer me to park the van here when go back to Nepal (and later to Europe). Cannot express my gratitude in words, wish I could return the favor one day! As Nina and I have some things to do in our (short) time in India we decide to stay only 2 days, in stead of the 2 weeks (or however long you want) that they offered. I am looking forward to returning here in about 6 weeks and spend more time with you all. Phir Melange!

Lots of Indian and Nepali people have told me about Nainital, the holy Swiss village of India. As we are relative close-by, we decide to take a detour before heading for Rishikesh. Nainital in monsoon, such a difference with the views on a sunny day! But both ways it feels tacky, looks run-down and is far too touristy for us. The setting is beautiful, with a lake in the middle and surrounded by mountains, but it just does not have the right vibe for us. One day is enough…to taste the best blueberry cheese-cake ever…and move on again.

The next 250km we enjoy divers landscape views, eat Indian local food (no more dal-baath), wash ourselves in one of the many waterfalls (one of monsoon gifts) and wait patiently for the  road to clear because of one of the many landslides (another monsoon gift). Just before Rishikesh we share our food with a Baba and then we are there: Rishikesh, the yoga city based at the Ganga with its numerous souvenir shops and temples. Stories and photos about this Holy place I leave for next time!

Back in India, back into Hindi speaking, back on the phone with friends, again avoiding cows on the road, joining in an aarti at the river…hectic, colorful, divers, intense…I am happy to be back!

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Charon on

Truly incredible to read your stories! It's almost as if I was there, puts in perspective the things we worry about here back in Holland. Wish I was there with you, somehow I have the feeling that you will be travelling for quite a while; so who knows. Thanks so much for sharing your stories and impressions, do continue, please! Groetjes, Charon

mara and martin on

girl looks you having a good time, so back in india till when... we al ready in beijing what a city... going mongolia next week... loves... by the way, how did the milk tasted... muaksss

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