The Beginning of my Adventure in Nepal

Trip Start Oct 29, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Nepal  , Central Region,
Saturday, March 31, 2012

So here it is – the final part of the bit adventure. I can't believe that it’s now the Nepal bit. When I planned the trip out this seemed such a long way ahead and here it is. It’s now just two months to go until I have to face reality and the rest of my life.

So a bit of an update – following on from my South American adventures I went to the USA and visited Florida and Texas and basically did some visiting of my friend Tracy and my Dad and a lot of driving (it really is a long way from Houston to Orlando) and a lot of shopping. Then on March 21st it was time for me to head back to the UK.

So I headed home on a British Airways flight from Tampa back to Gatwick. I only managed one hour sleep on the flight as stuck behind the family from hell. We got in late because of a head-wind (aren’t you meant to get home quicker) which goes against everything I teach about the south-west prevailing wind in the UK (creates Longshore Drift – Dan you must be loving this – I know you are an expert on coastal transportation processes).  So Mum and Bill picked me up from Gatwick and then we headed back to the Midlands. When we got home I had – what else? a bacon sandwich (words cannot express how good that one tasted after 5 months without proper white sliced bread and bacon, and then did what any sensible person would do after being away from 5 months, having a lot of stuff to unpack and having had only 1 hour sleep – that’s right I went out and bought a new car (well not brand new). It was a very sad day because I had to trade in the Lizmobile after 4 wonderful years together, but he was getting on a bit and he was looking very much like he was going to fail his MOT test and cost me lots of money.  So instead I spent far more money than it would have cost anyway on getting a newer car – genius. To be honest it was also because Mum and Bill both had ew cars on the drive and I didn’t want to feel left out.

Piece of advice – if you are off to a garage to buy a car ensure it’s not just a few hours after you have got off an overnight flight and only had one hour’s sleep. It means you are completely useless in terms of deciding what kind of car that you want and also you have no ability to negotiate whatsoever. Fortunately I had taken along Mum and Bill – the double act of car buying. It was completely the opposite of what happens on the Apprentice when they don’t attempt to negotiate on the buying task. I just had to pick a car, perch on the fish pond (yes I did wonder why it was in the middle of a car showroom as well) and let them work their magic. I will be hiring them both out for a reasonable fee if you are buying a car.

So the next few days were spent trying to see as many people as possible before I headed off again. I also managed to get my own MOT by getting to see the nurse (welcome Linda to my blog – Linda was very keen to hear about my travels) at the Doctor’s surgery and the Dentist.  The great thing is that now people know about my love for Mcvities Dark Chocolate Digestives they have them in for me. I went to visit Auntie Marg and guess what we had.

So this time I did manage to pack a lot more lightly than last time. I did take an extra bag with me but this was because I was taking out some clothing for the charity Porters for Progress.  For this trip I was taking out only outdoor clothing and accessories. Oh and 13 rolls of Andrex 'On the Go ‘toilet paper (the one without the tubey bit in the middle) . So if you did try to purchase any recently in the London or Birmingham area and Boots had sold out that was me – sorry but I’m off trekking in the middle of nowhere and needs must (you also get a free labrador puppy with every 10 rolls – he’s being delivered next week Mum! Hence why I needed a bigger car as well!! )

So on Thursday we headed back down to Heathrow. Mum and Bill are now extremely familar with the sights of the M40. I first of all flew to Bahrain and then after 6 hours sat in Bahrain airport (there is nothing more to do than when we were last time Katherine) I headed off to Kathmandu. You could tell everyone who was going to Kathmandu as they were in the walking boots and had the rucksacks. On the flight were a group of school kids from Bexley Grammar School who were off to do Everest Base Camp. I ended up being at with them in Bahrain. It was just like being on a Haydon School Trip. I had to fight the urge to keep counting them to check we had them all every few minutes and to take in passports. It was quite useful though as one of their teachers did look after my bag for me as I went for my 22nd lap round duty free. I wasn’t quite sure why I was torturing myself by going round all of the beauty products.  It was like I was trying to rub it in with myself the exact stuff I would not be using for the next 2 months. I did then try to apply as many free products to myself as possible without arising suspicion (because someone in walking gear and a backpack wouldn’t look out of place on the Clinique section). I think I thought that by applying copious amounts of expensive beauty products would in someway offset the fact that I would hardly be able to wash at all over the next couple of months (on the trekking bits, will probably shower and stuff when I’m back in hotels –will see how I feel at the time). 

So on Friday night I landed at Kathmandu (well not me obviously – it was the pilot, although he didn’t make a brilliant job of it – and going to send him to you Caroline for some practice in your simulator). Weirdly enough my first sight of Nepal was not a temple or a mountain but instead a big light blue painted plane covered in Manhester City branding (It was an Etihad one). Had the usual (well usual for me)panic about immigration/visa/getting money etc but as per usual all was fine, basically because I knew what was going to happen and I was prepared (I am not too sure when the day will come when I won’t panic – I just can’t seem to get my head around the fact that I have travelled quite a bit and actually in some way know what I’m doing and that most immigration officials aren’t out to get you. Even the immigration man when I flew into Miami was quite nice). There were three women I’d been chatting to in the visa queue (teachers obviously -  from Northwich – I did mention who’d lived there Katie and Rich),  they’d  not got their bags. They’d got them checked through from Manchester, and obviously they’d not got onto the Bahrain flight at Heathrow.  They were heading out first thing the next morning to Lukla and Everest Base Camp and they hadn’t got a spare pair of pants between them.

So a bit of information on Nepal. Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked  state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. It has population of approximately 27 million, Nepal is the world's 93rd largest country by land mass and the 41st most populous country.

Nepal is of roughly trapezoidal shape, 800 kilometres (497 mi) long and 200 kilometres (124 mi) wide, with an area of 147,181 km2 (56,827 sq mi). It lies between latitudes 26 and 31N, and longitudes 80 and 89E, which is a similar latitude to that of Florida.

Nepal is commonly divided into three physiographic areas: Mountain, Hill and Terai (lowland plains). These ecological belts run east-west and are vertically intersected by Nepal's major, north to south flowing river systems.

The southern lowland plains or Terai bordering India are part of the northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic plains. They were formed and are fed by three major Himalayan rivers: the Kosi, the Narayani, and the Karnali as well as smaller rivers rising below the permanent snowline.

The Hill Region (Pahad) abuts the mountains and varies from 800 to 4,000 metres (2,625 to 13,123 ft) in altitude with progression from subtropical climates below 1,200 metres (3,937 ft) to alpine climates above 3,600 metres (11,811 ft).

The Mountain Region (Parbat), situated in the Great Himalayan Range, makes up the northern part of Nepal. It contains the highest elevations in the world including 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) high Mount Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepali) on the border with China. Nepal claims 10 of the 14 highest mountains (all of which are over 8000m).

So a bit of information on Nepal’s time zone because it is a little bit special (and causing me a lot of confusion when trying to work out what time it is back in the UK). Nepal Standard Time (NPT) is the time zone for Nepal, with a time offset from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) of +05:45. Nepal Standard Time, is one of only two official time zones with a 45-minute increment from UTC. The Chatham Islands, which uses Chatham Island Standard Time also has a 45-minute increment from UTC, its time zone being UTC+12:45. It is also the only time zone in the world that is only 15 minutes different than that of an adjacent country (India)

So why the 15 minute time difference from India Liz? (I hear you all ask).  In the Malla period (13th to the 18th century), Kathmandu residents had their own traditional way for telling time. If you wanted to know the exact time, you went to a pond near Hanuman Dhoka where an official would tell you how many pala (not the foggiest idea what a pala is) had submerged since dawn. Each pala had a tiny hole and would fill up in exactly 24 minutes.  Then  in 1884 came global time zones, it agreed to use the Greenwich meridian as zero (not Paris !!) and measure 24 standard meridians on longitudes 15 degrees apart. However, Nepal was a closed country until the 1950’s and it was not till 1956 that Nepal set it’s watches for the first time to Nepal Standard Time. They use  the meridian at Mt Gauri Shankar, which is a mountain 100km east of Kathmandu (roughly the centre of the country). They didn’t use the obvious Mt Everest because Gauri Shankar was closer to Nepal's centre of gravity, as it were. Even more confusingly – Nepal used to be +5:40 and changed to 5:45 in 1971. Nepal had  set their clocks 10 minutes ahead of India, which at the time used the longitude that passed through Calcutta to determine it’s time zone. However, when our Nepal switched their meridian to Hyderabad in 1971, Nepal officially had four degrees of separation, and presto, found themselves a further five minutes ahead of the Indians.

Now common sense would say here – surely it would be better to have the time zone as India which is 5 hrs 30 mins ahead of UTC. However it is very important to Nepal to have a time zone that is all it’s own so that it could express it's independence as a nation (specifically, from India). Incidentally Nepal is one of the few nations in the world that has never been conquered or occupied by another nation.

Oh and another interesting time zone fact (can we take anymore?). It that thee whole of China is one time zone. So when it is six in the evening at the Friendship Bridge at Kodari (border between Nepal and Tibet),  it is already nine at night across the Bhote Kosi on the Tibetan/Chinese side.

And one final thing - it is actually 2069 in Nepal as it follows the Vikram (Bikram) Samwat (and I thought that was a type of yoga) calendar which started in 57BC.

So onto flags -  The national flag of Nepal  is the world's only national flag that is non-quadrilateral in shape. The blue border symbolizes the peace and harmony that has been prevalent in the country since the age of Gautama Buddha, who was born in Nepal. The crimson red is Nepal's national colour, and it indicates the brave spirits of the Nepalese people. The two triangles symbolize the Himalaya Mountains and represent the two major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. The red triangular flag has been a Hindu symbol of victory since the time of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The depiction of celestial bodies represents permanence, the hope that Nepal will last as long as the sun and the moon. The moon symbolizes that the Nepalese are soothing and calm, while the sun symbolizes fierce resolve. The moon also symbolizes the shades and the cool weather of the Himalayas, whereas the sun symbolizes the heat and the high temperature at the lower part (Tarai) of Nepal. Another interpretation is that the flag's shape symbolizes a Nepalese pagoda. Putting a mirror at the side of the flag closest to the flagpole will generate an image of a pagoda.

The final thing I’m going to harp on about is how Nepal is often termed as a Shangri-La. Various states, geographically and politically isolated from the West, have been termed Shangri-Las. These include Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and Mongolia (Welwyn Garden City did attempt to make the list but sadly wasn’t allowed in, apparently you can’t be a new town and the Shangri-La). For those of you needing to brush up on your Shangri-La knowlegde (no I didn’t know anything either). Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains. Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise but particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia — a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. In the novel Lost Horizon, the people who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance (so a cross between it’s a Small World from Disney – yes Mum, you can hum the tune – and that film Forever Young with Mel Gibson and Jamie Lee Curtis in).

Shangri-La is also used as a metaphor and a figure of speech and is often used in a similar context to "Garden of Eden", to represent a paradise hidden from modern man. It is sometimes used as an analogy for a lifelong quest or something elusive that is much sought. For a man who spends his life obsessively looking for a cure to a disease, such a cure could be said to be that man's "Shangri-La". It also might be used to represent perfection that is sought by man in the form of love, happiness, or Utopian ideals (so nothing at all like my quest on this trip !! Actually there’s no search for Utopian ideals going on – just a quest for chocolate buscuits).

So to bring you up to speed on where I am now (no I’ve not found Shangri-La – although it is also a Kink’s record apparently so I’m sure if I had a look on iTunes it would be there). Yesterday was my wobbly day. I really hate my first day in a place because I hate it when I don’t know where I am and how it all works. But by the end of the day I’d found my way around a bit of Kathmandu and got myself some Nepalese Rupees out of an ATM etc (ATM’s aren’t my strong point). Today I have met up with the rest of the group. We are 5 girls (I say girls but perhaps the term women would be better– they are all around my age – that’s right – young ). There was one guy called Edward on the trip but apparently he cancelled at the last minute. He probably found out he was going to be stuck with 5 women trekking for 18 days. They all look rather fit which is a bit of a worry.

Also this is the start of the diet.  All that drinking and eating badly, and lack of exercise in South America didn't really do the waistline any favours.  I’m hoping that by eating just vegetarian food (the mushroom issue – well the fact I don’t like them - could make this one interesting), as you are less likely to be ill, not drinking alcohol at all and doing a lot of trekking should help me lose a few pounds. If not it will have to be the tried and tested dodgy water infection.

The first trip I am doing is the 18 day Annapurna Curcuit which is meant to be one of most amazing (and hardest) treks in the world. Then I’m following it with a few days in Kathmandu to update the blog and then I’m joining another group and we are doing  the 15 day (yes one of the most amazing and hardest) Everest Base Camp trek. After that I’ve a couple of weeks seeing some temples, doing some rafting etc and then it’s back home to face the music and dance (well unless I have found Shangri-La after all).  

(N.B. There will be some photos in the next post – blog post that is – I’m not sending them to you in the mail, for a start I don’t know where most of you live and secondly 60p for a first class stamp !! ).
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