While flying 35000 feet above Russia I write this last post. In about 150 minutes I will land in Amsterdam where I will be welcomed by at least; Lia, Leo, Fenna (who arrived one hour earlier with her flight from Delhi) and Jos. At this point my holiday has almost come to an end and I can look back on a great but especially a very educative past 30 days. This summer I saw a world that is completely different than the one I am used to, with poor people and chaotic life but also beautiful nature, culture and important religion. And though ofcourse I already knew that this world was out there, experiencing it is a complete other thing. I think everyone should experience it once in his lifetime, it made me respect the way I live much more and it makes me proud of how things are arranged in my world. It changed my view on the world in a way that I think I see things much wider and more relative now. I feel very lucky the way my life is here and the fact that I have the opportunity to live in the Netherlands and Europe. Maybe most Indian people also love the way they live and wouldn’t even want to change their life with mine, but I am very glad to be dutch, that is one of the things I learned past month.
I can write a lot more of all the things that go around in my mind right now, but I’m not sure it will be that interesting, so maybe I will stop writing now and save those things for any future extra blog or something. Maybe one final conclusions for the future:

– I like Nepal as a country, with its culture, nature and religion. I really think about going back there to make a trekking sometime in the future (the nature is beautiful overthere), but then maybe in a better season.
– India (the touristic north) really impressed me, but I will never go back there if not necessairy.
– I am very curious about Rajasthan, Darjeeling, Ladakh and the southern part of India.

So after this small philosophical talk I just want to thank all the people that left a comment on my posts last past four weeks. I really appreciate the effort of reading my sometimes very long stories.

Next journey will bring me to the USA, where I will probably visit NASA and a variety of national parks, together with my father. Those who are interested can also follow that trip on this website from the 13th of september.

Our last two days are already there, time really flies when you are having fun. Because you see so many new things there is no time to think about what day it is or how long of our trip is left, but now I realize we are soon in Netherland again. In one hand I am very glad to go back: no bad smells anymore, no irritating salesmen, no crazy traffic, no stomach ache because of the spicy or bad prepared food. But on the other hand I kind of liked the whole trip, especially the Nepali part but also India, it is very interesting to be in such another environment.
Today and tomorrow we will take it very easy, visit some touristical highlights and have some last shoppingtime. Fenna joined us again today after her short time in Udaipur. It was great overthere so she says; clean, no irritating salesmen, beautiful palaces, etc. (kind of what we hoped to find in India somewhere along the way). Maybe next time we will go to Rajasthan and the more wealthy south of India.
Most interesting of all the touristical highlights in Delhi is the Gandi museum, I think. There is a very complete graphical exposition about his life together with many of his original belongings. Also we find one of the three bullets that killed him in 1948 and the sheet with his blood after the asassination. The whole gives a really good impression of the person behind the sandals and the wooden stick, fascinating!
Most disappointing of the touristical highlights was by far the Hama Masjid mosk. At the entrance we have to pay 200 rupee each (like 3,20 euro) for every camera we have with us, even if we don’t use it. Crazy! And we can’t store them somewhere so it is paying or leaving. When I say I will ask a policeman about this, the guy gets very angry and shouts all kind of things I can’t follow. We decide to try it again at another entrance and this time we find a nicer guard. In the end we let one of us wait outside with the cameras so the other two can go in to take a look at the biggest mosk of India. It is pretty big, but not much more, not really worth all this effort we think. And when we go out I also get another argument with a guy who kept my slippers. He wants money for watching my slippers for about 3 minutes and I only have it in my backpack 10 meters away, because I had to change trousers since they don’t like short trousers in a mosk. So when I point and say I will get it from there he shouts and gets angry at me. Probably he doesn’t speak any english, but it is unbelievable how rude, impatient and moneyminded all this people are here. This is not very good advertising for this religion, because today many of the people at the mosk were kind of aggressive and not very nice to us. It was not a positive experience at all.

To end the story a bit positive; we shopped very well here in Main Bazaar Street and found a very good small restaurant, with occasionally briljant banana-mango lassi. Delhi is not really a place where I would go again for holiday, but maybe that is because we had very little time and were kind of tired after our long journey. Tonight at 02.00 am our taxi will bring us to I.G.I. (Indira Gandhi International) Airport, hopefully we can get some sleep untill then.

First I will tell about our experiences with travelling in Jaipur. After we dropped Fenna at the trainstation the day before yesterday, a bikerikshaw promised us to deliver us at the Evergreen lodge for 20 rupees. I accepted the offer and got onboard. Halfway the ride suddenly the driver asked us where we had to go in hindi. Finally we noticed that he had no clue of where the Evergreen lodge was, even though at the trainstation he said to us “yes, I can bring you there”. Luckily we were already known in the city a bit and we could tell him where to go. When we finally arrived at the alley that leads to the Evergreen lodge, we told him it was ok to drop us here and even gave him 30 instead of 20 because he had to work hard to get us here. But unbelievable enough, he looks at me and shouts for 10 rupee more!!! I really felt like taking back the extra 10 now, how disgraceful can you be!
Yesterday we were driven around by a tuktuk (or motorrikshaw) the whole day, the same driver picked us up everytime. Ofcourse also here in Jaipur we had to go to “commissionshops” for him several times, declining every “great offer” we got, but we think it saved us some tuktukmoney. Last night we paid the driver 300 Rupees to take us to the Amberfort again (a good deal for him) and even went into a shop for him. Because of that he says he will bring us to the trainstation this morning for free, a nice offer from the guy. This morning however, there is no tuktuk here and we start thinking about last night and what could go wrong. Suddenly I realize we accidentally paid him 50 rupees more than we should have so now it’s clear why he is not here. He rather disappoints us than giving us back that 50 rupee, I think that explains a lot about the mentality of some people here, but maybe I just don’t know how it is to be poor.

By the help of another driver (and ofcourse another 40 rupees) we make it to our train, which departs in time for the first time we are in India, yahoo! The trip is hot, 6 hours (too) long and halfway I get a small maximum-irritation-attack, when we stand still at a station for like 20 minutes. It is very hot outside and if the train holds like this the temperature is tropical inside without the ventilation by wind. Besides there is the constant rehearse of a message on the platform with a very annoying tune and every second there is someone walking through the hallway calling: “Chaaaai! Chaaaaai! Chaaaaai!” (selling tea!). And on top of this all there is the well known, constant smell of sewer, but than worse. Maybe you can imagine how glad I was when the train started moving again.

Arriving in Delhi by train can be disappointing for those who expect to see some well organized urban environment. Litterally untill Delhi Main Station there are piles and piles of dirt and garbage alongside the track. Sometimes you see some dogs, pigs or cows standing on top of it chewing a nice piece of plastic or paper. In other parts there are people living there in many many houses made of the garbage that is the foundation of their home at the same time. Children are playing on the traintrack (their backyard) with kites made of two sticks, a piece of paper and a rope, what a world! I keep feeling kind of strange making pictures from the train of this misery.

By motorrikshaw we arrive at Hare Rama Guesthouse where we drop our stuff in the shoeboxlike room. It is not really stylish here: everything is a bit dirty, the toilet doesn’t flush properly and the room is very small with no outsideworld window, but for only 400 rupees a night (6,40 euro) we can’t complain. In the evening we have dinner at the rooftop restaurant and walk a little bit in the neighbourhood. The hotel is situated on Main Bazaar Road, a very busy street with lots of small shops with every souvenir you can imagine. I guess the woman will like it here…

Today and tomorrow we will visit many of Jaipurs famous monuments, like: the Pink City, the City Palace, Jantar Mantar (an observatory), Hawa Mahal, the Amber fort, the Jaigarh fort and the waterpalace. To spare you every detail I will only talk about the things that impressed me the most. Fenna will leave to Udaipur for two days to see a friend of her overthere, we will meet her again in Delhi.
The Pink city with the City Palace, Hawa Mahal and Jantar Mantar inside, was the first thing we saw. I can imagine that it used to be a very beautiful city around the year 1800, but now it is very crowded, dirty and demolished everywhere. Sometimes I really feel like walking in a movie, especially when through the pink city at night and all the lights are on and the salesmen try to sell their things. The information about the buildings and what they used to be are telling a complete different story than what we say today. If you have a good imagination you might visualize the picture that must have been here before, but for me it is too hard.
The best things in the pink city are in my opnion Jantar Mantar and the Hawa Mahal. Jantar Mantar is an observatory built in 1728 by great warrior and Astronomer Maharaja Jai Sing II (1693-1743), this is also where the city owes its name. There are several very interesting structures here to measure and observate the astronomical movements. Also the time could be determined ith a precision of 2 seconds, with the help of a more than 20 meter high triangle. There is a book of astronomical architecture here, but it is too expensive and big to take it home unfortunately, maybe next time.
The Hawa Mahal is a building where the women of the Maharaja could live without being spotted by people from the outside. The beautiful thing is, however, that they could see the people living on the streets from behind special windows (a lot of them). I really like the architecture and ideas behind this building, I’m really glad I took a look inside when the girls went shopping across the street.
The thing that impressed me the most here in Jaipur is the Amber fort, the old capital of Rajahstan, built in the late 16th century in Rajput architectural style. Though the fort is in bad condition, I can see and feel the history in this place more than ever before in India. The fort is built on top of a ridge in a valley, what makes it a very dimensional structure. Inside there are so many hallways, doors, rooms and other places where visitors can walk, that we almost get lost. I think this must be a paradise for children to play hide and seek, or maybe a new season of fort Boyard. How beautiful must this place have been in the early 17th century, just after completion. I really think that in that condition it might even beat the Taj Mahal. In the eveneing we come back to the fort and watch a light and sound show from the valley. Really beautiful to see, especially the scene where all the windows are lighted and you hear the ancient fireworks through the speakers. For a few seconds it is like I am a traveller in 400 hundred years ago and I arrive here through the valley on my horse, seeing and hearing the magnificent fort on the ridge, that must have been very impressive!

Today we leave to Jaipur, about 6 hours by train and we leave at 06.15. In the beginning it was tough to get up this early, but in some way I got used to it now. Ofcourse we are already in bed at 22.00 in the evening (mostly) and that helps a lot.
When we arrive at the main trainstation of Agra, it soon becomes clear that our train is delayed for 2 hours. A very bad thing, there we don’t like to stay on the disgusting platform for too long. Luckily we find a pretty good waitingroom with ventilation and seats, made for waiting first class pessengers. Although we are not travelling first class, we rudely take a seat, and no one complains. Sometimes I go out the waitingroom to stretch my legs and take a look at the station. Unbelievable scenery here: shit and pee everywhere on the track (also the smell!), jumping monkeys in the roofconstructions, sleeping bumps, skinny people, salesmen with fat things that should be eatable, etc. I’m glad to be in the train at 08.30.
Succesfully we have arrived in Jaipur by 15.00. The Evergreen lodge is our place to stay the next days for only 350 rupee per room per night (about 5,60 euro so 1,87 euro pp). Very cheap and the rooms are not much worse than those in Agra. Ofcourse the room is not very clean, but as long as we have good beds and a bathroom with shower, we don’t complain.
The rest of the day we are not very active, Fenna and Nieneke go shopping for half an hour and I stay “home” to lay on my bed, since I have a stomachache. The sickness started this morning, after eating the pancakes our hotel in Agra made for us. Maybe there was something wrong with them because it really feels like I ate something wrong. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

The second best thing to visit in Agra after the Taj Mahal is the Red Fort, built in the late 16th century and completed 7 years after the Taj. We go there today, after a good morning of sleep and a nice breakfast at our favourite rooftop restaurant. Our Lonely Planet already told us that it would be very usefull to hire a guide at the entrance, so we think about doing that. When we arrive at the gate of Agra Fort we first have to work through at least 10 salesmen who insist on selling something to us. At first it was funny (the first day in Varanasi) but now we get irritated by these people every day the fun is quite over.
At the entrance gate we get the same experience with 10 guides so out of principle we enter the Fortress without one. However after a few minutes we are already sorry because the Fortress is very big and we have no idea what we see. e walk back to the entrance and hire the guide that we liked most for just 150 rupees (about 2,40 euro). A really good deal for this good guidance that takes more than 2 hours. In the end we know everything about who built the fort, when, why and how. There are many fascinating stories about it’s history, where Shah Jahan (the emperor that built the Taj Mahal) gets captured by his son in his grandfathers Fort with a view on the Taj. He wanted to built another Taj of black marble, but since the family had already lost loads of money and power to built the Taj Mahal, his son took him in prison. The guide tells us there are several secret tunnels below the fort, one to the Taj Mahal (a few kilometers away from here) and even one to Delhi (more than 200 km away from here), unbelievable! I really liked the visit to the fort and the guidance was very usefull.
After our visit we get in a tuktuk with an old guy, let us call him grandfather. We tell him we like to see some shopsbecause especially the ladies still need some nice dresses from here. Soon it becomes clear that grandfather has more in mind with us than we thought, he drops us several times at big shops that we don’t want to see. We told him to drive to the city center, but again and again he says; just look around in the next shop for 5 minutes and than we go to the citycenter. Ofcourse we soon realize that he gets a good commission from the shops where he drops us, but the price of the taxitrip is not that high so we agree. On the way we even buy some things in his shops, exactly as we are supposed to do.
At 17.00 we have seen enough shops and without going to the citycenter we ask him to bring us to the hotel. Because we have to come back to one shop in the evening to collect something, we ask the grandfather to pick us up again at 19.30. He is very happy with that and agrees.
After our dinner and some shopping in the neighbourhood of the hotel, we find the grandfather already waiting outside at 19.15. We get in and not much later it is there again; “excuse me sir, we first go to a very good marble shop, just look around for 10 minutes and than we go to your shop. Very nice marble, very cheap, very cheap!” Ofcourse we really don’t like this persisting behaviour of him, but we dicide to visit just one more shop for him. It is a good shop, with many nice marble pieces, but too expensive for us unfortunately.
We go outside and before we leave again with grandfather, he gets inside to collect his commission, what a world. After our visit to the shop we needed to go to, the grandfather drops us just a few minutes drive way. We ask him what is going on and he tells us he is going home and has to take another road, this guy is really crazy! We can pay him what we want he says, so we give him just 20 rupees (32 eurocent) because of all his commission he already got. We take a riksha to the hotel and arrive there at 21.30. We have been away for 2 hours just to collect something in a shop… Thank you grandfather!

As planned we arrive at Agra Fort railwaystation at 08.00 am. The 14 hour journey really exhausted me. My back hurts, I am hungry, very tired and have to go to the toilet because in the train the situation was a bit dirty. We take the first tuktuk we see and drive to Kamal hotel (we saw that one in Loney planet) through rainy Agra. On the way we get our first sight on the Taj Mahal, in the misty wheater it is a huge, mysterious, powerfull object, something you just have to respect.
Hotel Kamal is nice but a bit expensive compared to our hotel in Varanasi, so we go to two other hotels, suggested by our tuktukdriver. These hotels are not much better and even more expensive, so we go back to hotel Kamal. After a while we end up at the Shaunti lodge, close to hotel Kamal but half as cheap. The rooms are a bit worse, but the roofterrace with Taj-view compensates everything. One hour later we have breakfast with a good view on the Taj, the day is already a succes.
At about 14.00 Nieneke and I visit the Taj, since Fenna already saw it and the entrance fee is a bit high, she rather stays in the hotel. We enter the Taj-area at the east gate, but that is not without trouble. My tripod can’t come with me (why? that is a question I haven’t been able to answer untill today) so we have to deposit that (and the food in Nienekes backpack) at a place 1 km back, costing 20 rupee. Afterwards I (the men) should stay in a line of 30 minutes, which I kind of avoid by using Nieneke as my counterpart (the line of the woman is 1 minute and we don’t wait seperate I say). You go through a metaldetector, get bodysearched and once inside I also have to deposit my videocamera since filming is not allowed, unbelievable! It is like entering a royal palace and having a meeting with the queen, I think they have gone mad a little here.
But when this trouble is over, the fabulous Taj is in front of us and we see the most famous picture of whole India, the symmetric Taj reflected in the rectangular pool. In some way I feel like I’m at the maximum of my journey through India now, I kind of looked forward to this moment. The Taj and its environment is very impressive (though it is extremely touristic here), a piece of real art as I never saw it before. The beautiful white marble is full with colourfull decorations and very well formed in shapes of flowers. It took 20.000 people 22 years to create it, but I think it was really worth the effort. Only really great buildings survive the ages, like the pyramids and the chinese wall, and the Taj is definitely one of them.
After the impressive visit to the Taj we get back to the hotel and take it easy. We read a bit, pay a visit to the internet shop and have dinner, while heavy rain is falling and we talk about how lucky we are that we didn’t go later to the Taj. Tomorrow is also a whole day of Agra, but since it is Friday the Taj is closet as we heared today. It has been a relaxed day with a beautiful memory.

What a good sleep I had! For a long time we could sleep as long a we wanted today. I’m awake at 09.00 and go to the swimming pool for a fresh morningdive. Fenna and Nieneke join me a bit later. Today we have to check out before noon and our nighttrain leaves from the main trainstation at 17.20.
We take it easy today, have our last breakfast and dinner at our favourite restaurant and in between we visit the old city of Varanasi. The tuktuk’s really drive like crazy here, unbelievable there are not that many accidents on the roads. And tthe prices are also unbelievable: for like 1 euro you can be in a tuktuk for about 30 minutes with 3 persons here, very reasonable I think. And the hotel costed us 6 euro per person per night, that’s very different from what I’m used to in America. And we had the feeling we were in one of the most luxury resorts in the neighbourhood.
In the old city we walk through many alleys and finally arrive at the ganges where there are 3 bodies being burned a few meter away from us. Actually we stand between the family of the death persons, but we didn’t know. Really strange to see what they do here with death people, but also in some way very natural. Soon we go on because the enormous smoke and bad smell is not very attractive. Also we like to respect the family and let them be on their own, without irritating tourists.

At about 17.00 we arrive at the trainstation by tuktuk. Our train should leave from platform 8 (is what we found out after walking too much with our very heavy luggage). The platform is really crowded and also here there are stubborn children begging for money all the time. I keep rejecting them but they keep coming back, it is frustrating.
When we can’t find our train, we ask around a lot to non english speaking Indians. In the end there is someone who tells us that our train is almost ready to leave at platform 9. Apparently the signs on the trainstation were not right and we are lucky to be on board.
Our beds are very old and small but it is doable. Only thing is that we are in a non AC (airconditioned) section of the train (second class) in the middle of local people, while we paid for the AC-one (first class). Our agent in Kathmandu who arranged these tickets is responsible for this, so we will contact him later.
The train leaves at 18.00 and will arrive the next morning at 08.00 am. For me the night in the train was not very comfortable. Actually you have watch you luggage carefully since there are many stories about robbing things. And when I have to watch my stuff I can’t really sleep very well. Besides, my bed is not that big and with my giant backpack and other things there is not much place left to sleep.
In the evening Fenna makes friends with two young local girls, aged around 6 and 7. They speak english very well and like to speak with my sister in english very much. Their father watches proudly from aside while they are getting a small geography lesson of Nepal. I thinks these girls must have a great future with their big knowledge of english language compared to the other Indian people we met today.

The excursion we have today is lead by a guy named mister Tripati. He is very interesting and it is told that he hasn’t got any complains for the last 11 years. We join his excursion with 8 other tourists, mostly from Italy and Spain.
We start at 05.00 am by going on the Ganges river by boat to see the Ghats (different places where people can reach the water by giant staircases) and the ceremonial cremation of death bodies. Afterwards we pay a visit to one of the biggest universities in India and a very big temple in the center of the campus, dedicated to Shiva. This is all very impressive and mr. Tripati tells us a lot about the Hindu religion, since he is a priest from the Brahman caste and knows everything about this subject. In the end of the excursion we visit an old weaving fabric in the old city where they make very beautiful scarves, dresses and decorative things of 100% silk.
We arrive at the hotel around 10.00, tired and hungry. We fuel ourselves with good food, take a shower, subscribe for the evening excursion on the Ganges and settle down at the swimming pool. This is the first time I really have a feeling of holiday, laying in the sun, next to the pool, doing nothing. I hope we can book hotels with facilities like this some more.

Dinnertime! We go to the restaurant we used to visit when we are hungry, it is part of the hotel actually. So far things have been very good here, but this time things are different. I will just sum up the things we noticed durinng our dinner, so you can decide whether or not this is normal;
A waiter drops a spoon on the floor, another one stands on it, picks it up and puts it on a sidetable, yet another one puts it back in the drawer… We see a mouse several times, the table sheet is dirty, the music goes from very loud to almost silent, the food is cold, and when we send it back to the kitchen it is burned after coming back, the waiter just trows forks and knives on the table somewhere, almost from a distance, and so on. Unbelievable we could eat here so nice the last few days. Luckily the deserts are very good and I get a discount because of my cold food, so after all good service, we will be back for breakfast tomorrow. 😉

17.00 pm: time for the eveningtour. Unfortunately the evening tour is not what we expected. We were told to be on the Ganges by boat for about 2 hours and could see the evening ritual and the cremation place. After all the boattrip was less than 60 minutes and we did not even see the cremation place. And the most amazing fact is that the morningtrip was 50 rupees per person cheaper and was at least 2 times longer. Unsatisfied as we feel we confront the traveldesk at the hotel with our comments. Apparenly the young guy that gave us the discription of the tour was wrong and he is very sorry. Too bad we didn’t see the cremation place. But in the end we get one thirth of the tourprice back, so we feel kind of justified.

After just 5 hours of sleep the alarm is doing his job. We get up in our dirty room and check-out without taking any shower, there that’s no option here. Luckily the trainstation is at walking distance and a few minutes later we stand at platform 2, where our train should leave in 60 minutes. We thought it would be a smart thing to be a bit early, but now we have to wait for 60 minutes.
At the station there are loads of bumps and other poor people. Some of them, mostly very skinny ones, lay half naked on the dirty floor. Some children come to me and just ask for money, pulling in my clothes all the time. I don’t give anything to them, but sometimes that is a bit hard when you know that they are really poor. The smell is very bad at most places at the station. On the railwaytrack there is human exrusion everywhere an there are a lot of flies transferring dirty stuff, it is disgusting.
60 minutes later we are in the train finally, a really big change compared to the platform. We have first class seats with airco, and that is one of the better choises we made. The temperature is very good, the people all from a higher class, so they don’t smell bad, the seats are very good and there is even electricity. There is even a possibility to lay down on your own bed if you want to. Therefor it doesn’t take long before we arrive in Varanasi, who could have think that!
In Varanasi we take the first tuktuk we see to the Surya hotel, a very nice place to stay and mostly only used (and affordable) for tourists and richer indians. There is a very good restaurant, a swimming pool and a nice garden. We drop our suitcases, take a shower and reserve a place on the excursion on the ganges tomorrow morning, starting at 05.00 am. Since we have to get early we have dinner and go to bed before 22.00 pm. We can use a good rest after this travellingday, even there it was quite comfortable.

Today we will hopefully cross the Indian border. Unfortunately there are strikes today (as we heared yesterday evening), so we can officially only travel after 17.00, what means we have to cross the border in the dark (at around 20.00) and we will arrive in Gorakhpur late (around 23.00). Luckily we have very good help from the locals here and Prakash, so everyhing will be fine.

In the moning we sleep a bit longer than normal because we don’t have any plans before afternoon. Our taxidriver is prepared to leave at 16.00, so till then we eat a little and play some Nepali cardgames with Prakash. It is strange to realize that these are our last hours in Nepal, especially for Fenna who has been here for 6 months. I think it must be hard for her to leave this vivid country, both the good and the bad things create a very intersting environment here that is in no way like Holland. The mountains, the people, the food, the sounds, the life; she will miss it!

At 16.00, as planned, we say goodbye to Prakash. He prepared a little goodbye in Nepali style for us, with red tika on the forehead and special white scarve. I really think he is a great guy; he did a lot of effort to show us Chitwan, arranged many things for us here in Nepal and is always very kind, helpfull and I can have a good laugh with him. Hopefully I will see him again once in the future when I come back to Nepal, I really hope so.

The drive to the border is much faster than expected. Besides a few ambulances, UN-vehicles and a lot of bikes, there is no traffic at all because of the strike. Only the cattle on the road sometimes causes slow driving and horning. We drive 100 km/h almost all the time so we arrive earlier than expected at the border at 18.45. When we try to get out of the taxi almost immediately 6 man run to our car and shout that they have a ride for us to Gorakhpur. And yesterday we were discussing about what to do without a taxi at the border… silly us!

Crossing the border, changing money and getting a taxi to Gorakhpur took us one hour all together. In the end we took the most quiet taxidriver with the best price offer. It is a kind Nepali guy that tries to speak Nepali with Fenna all the time. Along the way we stop 4 times for mysterious reasons (then the driver gets out and comes back after a few minutes), but maybe that’s just the way it goes in India. The ride to Gorakhpur is in the dark, a very dangerous situation because half of the traffic here has no or bad lights and every minute you get blinded for a moment by a big headlight from upcoming vehicles. It is a small miracle we arrive in Gorakhpur safely 150 minutes later.

India is comparable with Nepal, but also different. Like in Nepal also here you can see the many small trashy houses alongside the road, the many little shops, the dirt, the many people, the traffic, it is kind of similar. But different is the very bad smell at many places like something is really wrong or rotten and the really dirty people and many bumps. A plus is the good infrastructure, like the condition of the road, which is much better than in Nepal, and the railways they have.

We are in Gorakhpur at 22.30 and take a hotel in front of the railwaystation. We saw a few hotels here, before deciding which one we would choose, but they were all very dirty, so we just took the cheapest one. Let me discribe the facilities a bit: the toilet is a dirty hole in the floor, there is no shower, the sink is full of hair, the ventilation is full of dust and makes a lot of noise, the beds are filled with very little crouching creatures and when I open the window I see the biggest cockroach I have ever seen, Welcome to India!

When we wake up in the watchtower in the morning (05.30, really jungle times) we spot the two rhinos we saw last night at a little bigger distance ut now by daylight. Luckily they are close enough for my videocamera to appear fullscreen.

We go back to the resort, take a shower, have breakfast and then the next special activity begins. Today we go on jeepsafari, what means driving in an open jeep through the dense Chitwan jungle and hopefully spotting some wildlife. Only risky thing is that it is a two hour drive to the entrance of the park and we might not be possible to go in because of the monsoon and the bad conditions of the road in the park. Plan B is to just go to the entrance, visit the crocodie breeding center and return through a bufferzone. We hope plan B won’t be necessairy.

When we arrive at the park entrance it soon becomes clear that there is no possibility to enter the park by jeep, too bad! The roads are too bad and even the next month there will be no jeepsafari here they say. Being sorry for the disappointment, Prakash however comes with a new plan B. We first visit the Crocodile breeding center and afterwards we walk through the jungle to an observation tower. From there we can have a good view on a part of the park and on the way we might see some wildlife. There is some danger though, because rhinos, crocodiles, elephants or tigers can appear everywhere and they are not always nice animals. After a small discussion we decide to take the risk and make the jungle walk. “I live on the edge” (first heared from my good friend Haiko van Alebeek) is a quote I use for about a year now and it sometimes really helps to make this kind of decisions.

The crocodile breeding center is interesting to see. There are two kind of crocodiles here in Chitwan, the Mugger and the Gharial crocodile. The Mugger crocodile eats mostly (small) animals like birds and mammals, but can also eat bigger animals or even a human being. The Gharial only eats fish and is very recognizable by his very long but slim snouth. In the breeding center there are crocodiles of every size, from 30 cm to almost 4 meter.

After the visit to the breedingcenter we start our junglewalk. The two guides we have both carry a stick in case they have to defend us. On the way we understand why this walk can be so dangerous, on each way of the path there is very dense and high greenery (like 4 meter high plants). On many places you see a hole in that greenery made by a very big animal, mostly a rhino. There is a chance you run into one of those and he attacks, then you have to run very quick and try to hide behind a big tree. But there are not many trees here and the path we walk on is very muddy and slippery. After all not the most comfortable junglewalk you can imagine, but in some way I really enjoy it.

Halfway we suddenly hear a very big animal moving in the bushes next to us. It moves quickly when it notices us, luckily in the other direction. The guides are very alert instantly and they later tell us it was a rhino.

The view from watchtower is good, but the only thing you see is the very high greenery. Even an elephant wouldn’t be seen because of that according the guide. We continue our way and after an hour we reach the jeep by canoe. The whole day it was tropical hot, but now the rain starts falling like emptying a bucket. The weather is really unpredictable here. On the way home we drive trough a bufferzone and see many deer and special birds. We make a stop at 20.000 lakes and spot a Mugger crocodile swimming around.

When we had a shower again and have dinner in the evening, we hear some bad news; tomorrow we have to go to Gorakhpur (India, a 6 hour drive) but there are strikes in Nepal and no local bus or taxi is moving. Officially only government vehicles, emergency verhicles and tourist busses can drive, but since there is no tourist bus driving to the indian border, we have a problem. Finally Prakash finds a taxidriver that is willing to take the risk of people trowing stones at his car or put his car on fire, but he only leaves after 16.00 when the strike is almost at his end, to minimize the risk. We agree, even though this taxi is 60 euro instead of the 10 euro bus and the approximate arrival in Gorakhpur of 22.00. Also we have to cross the border in the dark at around 20.00, but we don’t have much choise since we have to catch the train in Gorakhpur the next day at 06.35. Tomorrow will be an interesting day I guess.

Though yesterday afternoon was very hot and dry when we arrived here, this morning it’s very rainy. But however the weather is bad, the planned elephantride of today through the jungle is on, so we prepare to get very wet. From our lodge, the Riverbank Inn, we walk to the place where the elephantride starts. For me it is the first time to sit on top of one of those gigantic monsters, I’m very curious. My brave sister is the first to get in the basket of the huge male elephant we are travelling with, but since she was here before, everything looks smooth when she gets in. Nieneke and I follow in the heavy rain and the ride can begin. In the jungle we spot several deer, a monkey and three rhinos (one of them is even a baby). There is the feeling of being in a real wild environment on the back of our “taxi”, I like it a lot. After 2 hours we return to our starting point. It is still very rainy and we are wet everywhere, but it was really worth it. Maybe the name rainforest is not only because of the many times it rains, but also because everything is very vivid and beautful in the rain here.

After having breakfast and changing our clothes after the elephantride of this morning, we watch the elephants wash themselves in the river. It is a funny sight, especially when the small one is throwing sand and plants all over himself, probably to cool down and relax. They earned it after the two hours of carrying today I think.

In the afternoon we take it easy and make a boatride on the river that runs near our hotel. There should be some crocodiles in this water, so we hope to see one. The boats we use are made of wood from a single tree, very impressive to see. There are small 6-person boats, but also huge 15-people boats made out of trees that must have been at least a hundred years old. Since we are with 6 persons (Me, Fenna, Nieneke, Prakash, an official guide and a boatman) the boatman decides to take a small boat for our trip, just enough for the 6 of us. After just 100 meters downstream we already feel this was not the best decision he made, because every time someone moves, the boat shakes dangerously close to the watersurface. Especially with the flesh eating crocodiles in this water not everyone is amused with this fact. On our advice the boatman goes back to get a bigger boat and a few minutes later we are back on track, happy and smiling.

Unfortunately we do not see much wildlife this afternoon, besides some special birds and elephants at the elephant breeding center, but the boattrip was very relaxing and really worth the effort.

In the evening we arranged a special activity; this night we will sleep in a watchtower in what is called “the bufferzone”. This is a tower with bedrooms in  a jungle-like area between the village and the jungle, so there is a very good possibility to see some really interesting animals here. At 19.00 we take our positions 7 meters above ground and have dinner in the almost dark forest. We see a lot of fireflies that evening, hear some rhinos and in the night, at about 02.30, we spot two rhinos just a few meters away from the base of the tower. I try to make a picture or video but it is too hard in the very dark to get a shot of what is down there with only a few small flashlights. It is really special to be in the middle of the jungle at a night like this, with all the wild animals and jungle-sounds you hear. I think we all are a bit wilder after today!

Today we got up early to go to Chitwan, a big national park with all kinds of animals. After a fresh fruityoghurt from our very good hostess we leave to the central busstation to meet Prakash, the ex boyfriend of Fenna. One year ago he was in Holland, where I already met him, so it is nice to see him again. Very strange how modern communication makes it possible to see the same person at a whole other place on earth on a fixed time.

In the bus on the way to Chitwan, Prakash tells us what’s the plan for next days. There is a canoe trip, an elephant backride, a cultural program and a birdwatching hike. Besides we might be able to go in the national park by jeep for a whole day if we are lucke and there is a possibility to stay overnight in a watchtower in the jungle. I’m quite excited about the things we might see here, like elephants, rhino’s, deer, boar, tigers and crocodiles. I never had such a wild animal experience before, except for the dutch zoo.

When we arrive in Chitwan it’s like 40 degrees Celcius, a lot warmer compared to Pokhara. We play a game of cards with Prakash, see some cultural things about the Tharu people that live in the village and in the evening there is a cultureshow, with Tharu people and a lot of sticks, performing a ritual fightdance. We even see our first crocodile (my first wild crocodile), that tries to catch a drinking dog. In the evening the muskitos appear, so we soon take it safe and go to bed (there the muskitos here could have malaria and we have a big clamboo to sleep under). Lets see what happend tomorrow in this jungle environment.

Everything I knew about Pokhara in the monsoon period is true, it rains at least twice as much as in Kathmandu, the average rainfall is 71 cm in august! The first day we are lucky and in the evening we even get a clear sight on the nearby mountainrange for a moment. I can distinguish the amazing Machapuchare (or fish-tail mountain) and the Annapurna range. An unbelievable sight, those snowy giants with in front the Phewa lake and a lower forested mountainrange. The difference in height is enormous there Pokhara is about 800 meters above sealevel and the highest mountain I can see is 8000 meter plus.

Next morning we join a group of tourists to view the sunrise at Sarangkot at 05.30. It is very rainy and clowdy, but we hope for the best up mountain at 1500 meter height. Unfortunately the weather upstairs is not much better so we are back in bed at 07.30. Too bad, because sunrise at Sarangkot should be one of the best sunrises on earth (on a clear morning at least).

Later in the morning the weather is still cloudy but dry, so we hire a boat and a boatman to cross the lake. It is hot but very relaxed to be on the water and we see a lot of nature in the 2 hours we are on board. On the way back we even see a lot of paragliders coming down from a nearby mountain, some of them dangerously fast and quick.

In the afternoon Pokhara shows us her real monsoonface, a really heavy rain falls down and within minutes the whole shoppingstreet is turned into a small river. Luckily we are already inside a reastaurant and in the evening we also play a nice game of pool (with a special cocktail called Lia Lia).

The second day in Pokhara we start with the Devi’s fall and the International Mountaineering museum. Both kind of worth the visit, but not more than that. After our morningprogram the rain starts falling again and again we run to the nearest restaurant (actually this time the rain was so heavy we ordered a taxi). Unbelievable where all that water comes from.

When we have dinner in the evening and the weather starts to clear, I can see the big snowed summits again. This time I really want to see them closely so I take a taxi to Sarangkot (alone, the ladies don’t really like the mountains that much) and 30 minutes and 500 rupees (like 5 euro) later I see the impressive mountains from the top of the lower range I talked before. I am just in time bcause it is allmost dark, but it was really worth the effort. I really come back some time in the future and do the Annapurnatrekking for 3 or more weeks.

For those who follow us by schedule and might be confused after reading the title of this post; we will go to Pokhara at 09-08-2010 (tomorrow). We switched our visit to Chitwan and Pokhara because we heared that this way our trip will be more relaxed, there Chitwan is a perfect last stop in Nepal.

Our trip to Pokhara started early in the morning at 06.30. A friend of Fenna (Rene, a volunteer here, aged 40+) offered us a ride with his jeep to Pokhara (like 5 hours) and well behaved as we are, we took his offer generously. Ofcourse it also saved us a nasty 7 hour bustrip so we were quite lucky.
Rene wanted to leave early, because of the possibility of trafficjams and so we went in the very rainy, dark morning.
The jeep we had was exactly like you know from Afrika, white and prepared for every roadcondition. We really needed that with the heavy rain and the doubtful road close to Kathmandu. After maybe a 1 hour drive from Kathmandu there was a sudden stop of all traffic. I walked to the front of the trafficjam and there I saw a lot of people standing around a little blanket with two little shoes next to it. My bad thoughts came true when I realised that wthere had to be a little child underneauth, dead! I went back to the car to announce the bad news and later on we heared that it was a little boy that got hit by a truck, so our day startet very sad.
While waiting Rene told us what the procedure is when a person gets hit on the road and dies. The guilty driver has to pay 5000 euro to the family and the body is only removed after that money is paid. And since the father of the poor child was in Kathmandu, we had to wait for someone to bring him here, to the accident. That took at least 2 hours so at the time we saw a taxi passing by with approximately the father, the trafficjam was enourmous.
When we continue our way to Pokhara at 11 o’clock there is no more sign of the disaster that took place here this morning. Strange that bad things can come and go this quick. Along the way we listened to the kind of dated music of Rene (of which he knew every lyric) and whe looked for the first white mountain to appear.
At about 15.00 we arrive at the Mountainhouse, our place to stay for next 3 days. The room is very big and new and we can see a tiny peece of the lake from our balcony. We eat at Boomerang, near the beautiful lake, and in the evening we can see the first snowtops of what could be the Annapourna (1 or 2) and the Fishtail mountain.

What an amazing city this is! We’ll explore the ancient temples and cultural habits here for the next 4 days now. This time I wil not discribe every activity we had per day, but I will only show the highlights and impressions, for me at least.

As I told you before Kathmandu is really an crazy city. Not only the first cow I saw in the middle of the road contributed to the cultureshock I talked about earlier, but there are many things that are even more strange to me. People looking for something between piles of dirt, horning cars and motorcycles everywhere, children playing in the dirt and rubbish that you see everywhere, a strange and sometimes dirty smell from unidentified objects or wholes in the street, and this is just a start, there’s a lot more. It seems that there is something wrong here, everything is completely out of control and everyone just does what he likes. Because of that also the traffic is really a disaster, just horn and drive and hope you will make it safe from a to b alive. I have seen something like this in movies (like “Idiocracy”), but to see it in real life is something completely different. I can imagine better now how things must have been in the middle ages, with the constant smell of everything, it is just here!
But after all, if you try to forget about your own opinion and take a good look at the people, sometimes you can see they are very happy the way things are. They do things the way they like without any rules (at least it seems…) and there are nice little shops with proud owners everywhere. And for the children this city is like paradise, playing materials everywhere and no rules at all. Maybe it all depends on what you are used to.

During our days in Kathmandu we visit a lot of old temples and stupa’s, for example Swayambhunath (the monkey temple). The story is that once this valley was full of water and the temple was a lotus flower floating on the surface. In order to allow people to worship this lotus, called Swayambhu (means: self created), Manjushri drained the lake. Eversince people came to worship this place near Kathmandu. You sometimes really feel the history in this places. Ofcourse the many praying believers contribute to this impression.
At Swayambhunath I see my first baby monkey, screaming like a squeezetoy. I try to film it but he is too fast for me. Te relax some more after our trips we take a Nepali massage and steam bath. For only 15 euro we are settled for 2 hours. Reborn we enter the crazy streets of Kathmandu again.

More things we saw were Durbar Square Kathmandu (I only heared the Kumari, but did not see her unfortunately), Bhaktapur (a very beautiful ancient village), Boudha (a huge stupa) and Pashupatinath. Most impressing was the visit to Pashupatinath, where death people get cremated alongside a river. We stayed for more than 3 hours to watch the rituals and actions overthere. It is very strange and confrontating to see real death people laying and being burned in front of you. But as death is part of life it also feels natural in some way.

About the food: The food in Nepal is very good and different. Every restaurant has many kinds of dishes, from typically Nepali food to Italian, Mexican and even German. Most of the time people eat Dal Bhat here, a combination of rice, dal (a kind of souce/soup) and curry (potatoes with vegetables). Personally I don’t really like it, so I’m glad with the long list of possibilities in every reastaurant. And now I will tell you about the best thing there is in Nepal, the holiest thing on the menu in my opinion, the Lassi! This is a kind of basic mix of milk/yoghurt, sugar and banana or other fruits, which tastes like a healthy and fresh milkshake. I have it everywhere and it is always great, it makes me happy!

Finally, after 2 heavy nights full of Paracetamol, we see a helicopter flying our way through the valley. It is just 07.30 but the conditions are fine now, compared with yesterday afternoon. Mostly the morning is pretty clear here this time of year, but between 09.00 and 11.00 the whole valley becomes clowdy for the rest of the day.
When our personal helicopter touches the ground several villagers walk with us to see what is happening. Even some supplies for them are taken out quickly. We get in the still active object and depart immediately because of the bad weatherconditions ahead.
For me and my sister it is the first time to be in a helicopter and especially she likes it. I still feel pretty bad, but I’m happy to go back to Kathmandu finally. Unbelievable enough the flight back takes just 30 minutes. Compared with the 4 day travelling it took to Kyanjin, this is really fast.
When we touch the ground in Kathmandu I feel very relieved. The headache is much less and the feeling to be close to some medical help is exactly what I needed. We drive to the CIWEC clinic, a western clinic with good facilities, to get me a full check-up. After an hour or two the diagnosis is Acute mountain sickness, so it is good to be back in Kathmandu again.
At 13.30 we meet Suman (a very kind girl and good friend of Fenna) to welcome Nieneke, who is arriving from the Netherlands in a few minutes. Nieneke is surprised to see Fenna and me, because the plan was that we returned from trekking the 6th. We (try to) leave by Suman-taxi, which succeeds after a lot of creativity. Nienekes culture-shock is less than mine it seems, maybe because she has already been in Kenya for some time where conditions aren’t much better. She likes te finally here and is a bit tired from the flight, especially in the evening (reasonably, I had the same).

The rest of the day we take it easy. We have a good lunch (just what I needed after just soup and tea the last 24 hours) and rest a bit. In the evening we have dinner at La Dolce vita, a very good italian restaurant with very reasonable prices. Now I go to bed in Kathandu, finally!

The idea was to walk back to Lama Hotel today, but since I still have a bad headache we try to contact our travelagent Nilam to discuss our options. After a few hours my headache gets worse and I really want to be back in Kathmandu. I’m in bed whole day and sometimes it seems that my head is just exploding. Besides I’m not hungry and I didn’t eat anything for hours, just drinking water and soup because the guide insists on it. My caring sister calls several times to Kathmandu and Holland and after a while it is clear that we go back to Kathmandu as soon as possible by rescue helicopter, since my symptoms point out that I might have altitude sickness and I am really not able to walk for 3 days down again. Unfortunately it is too clowdy to land a helicopter in the valley safely after 13.00, so we have to wait to the next morning. Another night with a heavy headache has begun.

Today I got up early (05.30) to climb up to 4773 meter. Earlier the plan was to climb the Tsergo ri (4984 meter) but our guide told me that the view from Kyanjin ri is much better, since you have a good sight on the Langtang Lirung Glacier and mountain (the highest mountain in Langtang, 7227 meter). So we started at 06.00, a little foggy but hopefully that will change when we reach the top.
The climb to the first summit (about 4300 meter) is steep and heavy. I have to take a rest many times, just to keep breathing. Luckily there is no sign of altitude sickness at all. Only thing is that my guide has problems with his throat, and halfway he tells me I can go first, he will follow. So a bit later I reach the first summit on my own, an amazing feeling and fabulous panorama. There are no clowds that block the view so we are very lucky. After making a lot of photos and video’s and enjoying the fabulous view on Langtang Lirung, we went to the next and final summit, Kyanjin Ri.
We walk across a ridge to reach the next top, and on the way we see some Yaks grazing at this height. The big animals look like a big carpet, moving around chewing slowly. At least now I know where the cheese came from.
I reach the summit of Kyanjin Ri very slowly. At this height it is very important to take it easy and after a few steps you have to rest for a moment. Still there is no sign of a big headache, vomiting or walking like a drunken guy, so I go on. On the final altitude of 4773 meter I’m litterally at the maximum of my journey. Again the view is fabulous, though there are more clowds than at the first summit. If I look back I can see the first summit downhill, far away from here. The view on the Langtang Lirung mountain and glacier is also great, as promised. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it is possible to post any pictures on the internet next weeks, otherwise I could show you the view.
The way down we speed up a little. I don’t know why but at least it seems good to reduce the risk on altitude sickness. However almost immediately after our descent I feel a small headache coming up. It is not very serious at first I think, but when I’m back in Kyanjin one hour later it is still there. We hire two horses that afternoon but the mood is not really there for me. After two hours horseriding on very difficult tracks (unbelievable a horse can do that, crossing a wild river with someone on his back and on nothing more than loose rocks) my headache is worse, and I go to bed. Here I lay down for the rest of the day, in almost every position to reduce my headache, but it doesn’t help. At least I made it to the top today!

The climb to the last hotel is already there. Today we just climb about 300 meters to 3800 meter height, so a perfect day to take it easy and acclimatize a bit. As we walk to Kyanjin the valley opens itself and transforms from a v-shape to a u-shape, a result of the glacier that was here long time ago (so I read). At this point the woods make place for a more grassy environment.
On our way we rest in what looks like a glass teahouse. A woman is drying garlic inside, so we smell like it when we come out one hour later. We had some good Dal Bat (it is really a mistery how they prepare this tasteful food under this difficult conditions), a traditional dish containing rice, dal (a kind of souce/soup) and curry (potatoes with beans in a spicy sauce).
In the afternoon it starts raining and we use the ponchos I bought in Holland. At some points we walk in the clowds, what makes me feel getting higher. The fog adds a mysterious ingredient to our day. Sometimes we get a glimpse of the snowy peaks, a sign of reaching our (or at least my) target.
Kyangin is bigger than we thought it would be. There are many houses, a monastary and a little Yakcheese factory. After storing our luggage in our room we visit the Factory and have a taste of the Yakcheese. It is not very tasteful or spicy but it is a real local and natural product so eating it makes you feel like a real local.
We are at 3800 meter now, our final stop. Tomorrow I will try to climb higher. Fenna is staying home, because she likes one day off and she doesn’t feel like climbing anymore. So I will go on and try to reach some peak with our guide, Prakash.

Today the weather is also fine when we wake up. It seems we are very lucky this week. Following the river we cross several waterfalls and walk through sometimes dense woods. Luckily for Fenna today is less hard than yesterday, there we have less differences in height during the climb. Nature is beautiful here, especially this time of year when there is a lot of water everywhere. And because it is low season there are allmost no tourist here, what contributes to the special natural feeling. On our way we also visit some tea-houses where we have lunch and meet local people. They are all very kind and prepare very tastful food for us.
Langtang village is little better equipped than Lama Hotel. At least there is power here and the possibility to land a helicopter. Also there are more houses, where we see inhabitants dry their weeds. In combination with the wellknown Nepalese flags this completes the picture.

Next 7 days me and my sister will be travelling in Langtang, a national park that is part of the Himalayan mountainrange. Though this time of year is not the best to make a trekking (it is monsoon season with lots of rain), Langtang is supposed to be doable in this time of year. Here is our schedule for the next 7 days:

Trekkingday 1: Syabru (2118 m) to Changtang (2385 m)

Distance: 12 kilometers

Trekkingtime: 4,5 hours

Height gain: 774 meter

Height loss: 527 meter

Trekkingday 2: Changtang (2385 m) to Langtang Village (3500 m)

Distance: 10 kilometers

Trekkingtime: 4,5 hours

Height gain: 1135 meter

Trekkingday 3: Langtang Village (3500 m) to Kyangjin Gompa (3749 m)

Distance: 9 kilometers

Trekkingtime: 3 hours

Height gain: 249 meter

Trekkingday 4: Kyangjin Gompa (3749 m) to Tsergo ri (4985 m)

Distance: 20 kilometers

Trekkingtime: 11 hours

Height gain: 1236 meter

Trekkingday 5: Kyangjin Gompa (3749 m) to Langtang Village (3500 m)

Distance: 9 kilometers

Trekkingtime: 2,5 hours

Height loss: 249 meter

Trekkingday 6: Langtang Village (3500 m) to Changtang (2385 m)

Distance: 10 kilometers

Trekkingtime: 3 hours

Height loss: 1135 meter

Trekkingday 7: Changtang (2385 m) to Syabru (2118 m)

Distance: 12 kilometers

Trekkingtime: 4,5 hours

Height loss: 774 meter

Height gain: 527 meter

Today we started at Sybru Besi after recovering from the nerve wrecking trip yesterday. The weather is good, no rain and clowdy, perfect for a big hike.

On our way to Lama Hotel we travel parralel to a very wild river, with a definitely fatal ending when you slip and fall into it. To give you an impression, the river is even to dangerous to raft on. We cross several shaking bridges to reach Lama Hotel, exciting to take. The green woods we see on our way up are very beautiful and full of life. It was really worth coming here.

Just before we reach Lama hotel, we see big bee-nests hanging on a big rocky slope, maybe 100 meters above ground. I saw them once on discovery channel when local people with ropes tried to get honey out of them and our guide explains that this also happens here sometimes. It is really unbelievable how animals can build something like that.

When we reach Lama Hotel Fenna is very happy. Walking is not her strongest side and she repetedly asked our guide how long we had to go. Poor girl, tomorrow might be even worse than today, climbing another 1000 meter. And at Lama Hotel there is even no internet for her. At least I can enjoy my pancake with (what might be local) honey.

Well, where will I start… Yesterday we arranged a trip to Langtang, a big mountainarea with beautiful scenery. We hired the transportation (including a personal driver), we hired a guide (who will also be our peronal porter) and bought all the permits we need. We will be picked up at our hotel in Kathmandu at 09.00 o’clock.

The trip from Kathmandu to Syabru Besi is little more than 100 km but takes at least 8 hours by bus and at least 6 hours by jeep to reach it. Why this is the case is what we learned today. Because we had heared that taking the jeep to Syabru Besi is more safe (because of the vehicle, the driver and the communication you can have with him), faster and more comfortable, we decided to hire a jeep today (the price of the jeep was litterally 10 times more than the price of the bus, but we agreed it would be worth it). Although we knew that the ride was very bumpy and sometimes dangerous (everyone who did the ride did confirm that) our experiences today were worse. The first couple of hours were fine; Sometimes a car had to pass and our jeep had to make place, but nothing heavier than that, the road was fine. But when we reached the real mountains everything changed. The smooth gentle road was replaced by somekind of offroad testtrack with side-effects like mud and water and the smooth hill became a steep and dangerous slope. So we followed a very bumpy and unpleasant road for hours and hours and when we were about 2 hours drive from our destination, and we finally thought we allmost made it, the road was blocked by a fresh landslide, which meant a big rock laying in the middle of the road. Soon we realized that there was no other option than to walk from here and try to get a bus on the other side of the blockage. So there we went, from “relaxing” in a jeep (we even tried to play a game of pictionary on the bumpy road, that was kind of hilarious) to hiking across a landslide with maybe more falling stones to follow and to make it worse, there was fog verywhere so any falling stone wouldn’t be seen. Our guide told us we could better pass the landslide fast to minimize the risk of getting hit by a stone, so we did.

Luckily after maybe 15 minutes of walking, the dangerous landslide was gone and there was a bus we could take to Syabru Bensi. So we did. It was an extreme ride of 3 hours, along very steep and deep cliffs, on a road full of mud (even trails of 40 cm deep!) with a bus full of nepali mountainpeople and nepali music. Crazy! The bus had to climb such steep and slippery roads that sometimes it slipped and had to give full power in first gear. I can tell you that at least fenna didn’t feel safe in this sliding and very dangerous object, but after a few scary hours we made it to our destination. Even the thought of going back this way to Kathmandu makes me feel bad. But lets don’t think about that, next 7 days are going to be really good I think. Tomorrow we start out first hike, now pray for some good wheater.

Dag 1: Kathmandu!

Arriving at Kathmandu airport was a great experience. That already started in the air, where I could see very different and amazing clowds with now and then a high snowy peak in between at the horizon. You could already taste the attendence of the enormous mountainsrange and the rough but beautiful nature that had to be out there.

Once landed I met my sister, who immediately welcomed me with a special flowerneckless, a traditional symbol of welcome to Nepal. It was strange to meet her at this hot, crowdy and foreign airport after travelling for 27 hours, but it also felt very good to see a known face between all these Nepali.

The trip we made by taxi from the airport to the hotel was really unbelievable. It was just if you stepped into a movie, everything you see is unbelievable; Sleeping cows in the middle of a very busy road, many many shops and craftsmen who try to sale their stuff everywhere, People looking for worthy things in piles of nasty smelling dirt, Children playing in and with everything they can find or begging at your carwindow, Monkeys, and so on. And on top of that there is the enormous smell of a combination of exotic foods, piles of dirt and all other things you can thinks of in a chaotic city like this. Unbelievable is the only word I can discribe this with, but you really have to experience that by yourself I think.

Overall my first impression of Kathmandu was like a very chaotic city without any rules. For example the traffic is really an experience on its own; old, small cars with 10 people inside, very old busses, many motors with people transporting things like big panels of glass or 1000 eggs, very fast, white cabs and so on. And they all go from left to right and right to left at the same time, honrning like crazy. At the junctions there are even no traffic lights, what makes that you have to wait for several minutes sometimes just to move 2 meters.

In the everning I have dinner with fenna and Ranjan (a kind nepali guy that Fenna just met a short time before) at a very beautiful and really luxury restaurant named Dwarikas, a place where every big international star will stay during his/her time in Kathmandu. The place, a sort of old courtyard combined with a lot of greenery and wateractivities, looked really ancient (even though it wasn’t unfortunately, I like those historical backgrounds) and the ambiance was great. The contrast with the city I saw today and this nice place is bigger than anything. Affordable for western tourists, unaffordable for most residents of Kathmandu.

Along the way to the hotel we pass lots of shemales, some kind of womanly dressed guys, that crowd the streets after the sunset and create a strange (semi) prostitutical sphere. Interesting city!

Since my wake-up call by radio I’m highly excited about the three flights that are scheduled for today. I’m not that relaxed as it comes to flying, every landing is a personal victory for me.

Around 08.43 my father arrives to pick me up at my mothers house. He said he should be here at 08.30, so in his therms he is quiet on time or even early. Luckily we planned a little delay so it is no problem that we depart a few minutes later. I say goodbye to my brother and off we go, heading to Schiphol.

Even though it is holyday time, it is not that busy at Schiphol. I find my check-in desk easily and before I know it I have to say goodbye to my dad. It feels kind of strange to go through the bordercontrol alone for the first time in my life, but at the same time it is giving me a feeling of freedom. On my way to the gate I pass a small airport version of the Rijksmuseum and I decide to go in for a short time. My plane leaves in 1 hour so there is plenty of time. Inside I find a dozen of paintings made by dutch masters showing mostly cows and farms as a national pride, I like the idea.

When I enter the plane and take my windowseat next to two real russians, I look out of my window and immediately have a surprising view. On the observation deck, which I can see from behind my window, I can see my dad staring at my plane. He told me he should go there but I didn’t think he would be able to come this close to my plane. Unfortunately he doesn’t see me, even when I wave to him or try to push my face against the window (that must have been a funny experience for the russians next to me). I make a picture of my dad as some kind of evidence later on and prepare for take off. The moment I loose sight on him it feels like I am definetely on my way and the journey really starts. I really don’t like flying, but if you want to see the world in short time, you just simply have to!

Airborne! It is just another 60 minutes to Moscow and I have to pee enormously, but I don’t want to annoy the sleeping Russians next to me, so I hold up. I made the flight to Moscow before in early 2009, but this time it is much more nerve wrecking. Even though I read a book and made some video’s and pictures, there is a lot of time left to think about the fact that I am more or less 10 kilometers above ground. I know I shouldn’t think about this nor what will happen if something goes wrong, but I can’t help it. Hopefully after three flghts this will be over.

Getting out of the airplane in Moscow I immediately felt the overwhelming heat as promised by the wheaterforecast. The terminal where I have to wait for about 4 hours is at least 30 degrees celcius and very crowded. In the utopian hope to find a nice cold spot without people and with energy for my laptop and a toilet that doesn’t smell like everything except flowers, I walk along the whole terminal, because there is plenty of time. After maybe 15 minutes of walking I enter an area that is completely empty and I take an escalator upstairs. I actually can’t believe my eyes, I find a very big open space, it looks like a huge new terminal that is in use for just 10 minutes. It is nice and cold, there is power and there are less than 10 people. When I even find a toilet my lucky day is complete.

On the flight from Moscow to Delhi I meet a kind Indian guy named Anoop. He tells me a lot of things about his country and what we can see in Delhi, where he lives. It is really a nice conversation and I even don’t think about the plane that just departed. Though the flight from Moscow to Delhi was longer than the flight from Amsterdam to Moscow, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all.

When I got out the plane in Delhi my cultureshock immediately started, the moment I step from the plane into the airporttunnel I smell India! It is hard to discribe it but a very dense, moisturous Mac Donalds smell comes close to it, hopefully this is not too negative… In a few minutes I feel like I’m covered with a thin, sticky layer of this smell. Once I’m outside the airport there are sultans and uniformed Indians with guns everywhere. It is kind of frightening for me, everywhere people with beards and tulbands, praying and hanging around in combination with that smell. I don’t really feel comfortable here, as pity as I think it is. Hopefully I will be used to it in about 30 days and I can enjoy the culture here.

While I type this text in a kind of Lunch/waitingroom, the power is gone in the building I’m in. All the lights go out at once and it scared me for a moment. But since nobody is taking any serious action like jumping up or screaming, I think it must be ok. And indeed, 10 minutes later the power is back. I have to wait for 5 hours now, hopefully time will fly now I am this close to Kathmandu.

In two days I will start my first trip, to Nepal and India. I have to fly 3 times (A’dam-Moscow, Moscow-Delhi, Delhi-Kathmandu) to reach Kathmandu for a reasonable price. But I don’t care, as long as I get there safe. For all of you who don’t know exactly what I am going to do in Nepal I made next chart and map:

So next thing to do is to pack my bag and hope that it doesn’t exceed the holy 20 kg. But I’m optimistic since I can only bring a “small” backpack (for the first time in my life I have to leave my giant suitcase at home).

Hopefully the next post will be from the Himalaya!