Category Archives: NEPAL

Prologue – I Quit

September 8, 2016

Delhi from the air Kuuzira Travel

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt like I need to go on some form of epic adventure. Just up sticks and leave.

If honest, part of me thought this day would never come, but as I type, I’m sat in Delhi airport waiting for the second leg of a one way to Kathmandu, Nepal.

By myself. Completely.

The last few weeks has been a whirlwind, emotional goodbyes, emotional surprises, emotional emotions.

But right now? I feel on top of the world. I’m sweaty, Ive had 3 hours sleep, but I’m doing it, I’m actually making my dream a reality and it feels effing awesome.

I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing, I might add. I’ve only ever stepped foot on non-European soil once – that amazing trip to Malawi – and even then it was only 5 days. This time I’m planning six to twelve months and thats terrifying and liberating in equal part. I’m officially unemployed, when my money runs out, it’s out.

Hoping to work in Aus for a bit but I haven’t got a clue when or what I’ll do. The term ‘all over the place’ doesn’t even cut it right now. My brain is looping like whatever rollercoaster loops the most. Did I mention I’m tired? I think I just nodded off.

Part of me thinks I’ve lost the plot, but the rest of me knows this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Right now, this way.

Right? Well, it’s got to be worth a try.

Come with?

Silent conversations

September 9, 2016

Cows in Delhi airport Kuuzira travel

The lady next to me on the plane from London to Delhi was brilliantly nuts.

She was quite elderly and didn’t speak a word of English. She couldn’t figure out the seatbelt worked and was getting beyond confused at the concept of lifting the flap to release the belt, which both a stewardess and I had to help her out many a time. She kept asking me questions in Indian, waving her hands at me and I didn’t have a clue what she was saying, I just nodded in hope I was on the right track – it seemed to work. At one point I think was was asking me whether she could eat the packed food in a plastic box she had in her bag, I tried to say no – we were about to take off and I’m sure she wouldn’t want paratha and curry on her face. I figured that was the right thing.

She got the hint, shook her head and hands and put the box away. I soon realised that she was not a fan of take off. There’s me, sitting staring out of the window so intently my face might as well of been outside when I got the (now pretty frequent) tap on the arm. At first I tried to ignore it, but she was persistent. When I turned, she was half flung over the middle seat, one hand covering her frightened face, and the other reaching out to me. I was needed. Naturally and without thought, I held her hand. I had understood, she squeezed my hand in fear for the entire ascent. We were now friends.

Up in the air Kuuzira travels

She pretty much left me alone after that, but little did she realise, she had helped me too. My thoughts had been whizzing and whirling from the moment I got airside so by looking after her, I relaxed. I realised the beauty of people and communication without language in that very moment, and felt overwhelmed with content about the trip.

Apart from me having to climb over her – literally climb – she just wrapped herself up in a cocoon of hoodie and blanket and didn’t stir. Well, apart from devouring the contents of the lunchbox, finally.

Thoughts from Delhi airport

September 13, 2016

Chewing gum in India Kuuzira Travel

Cute cricket guy. He was nice. I forget his name now but he said he was the number 1 cricketer in Surrey this year. He was flying home to Rajasthan. I think. Or was it Jaipur?

Birds. Weird birds. Like white crow/heron/seagull things. There were 5 flying right by the plane as we taxied in Delhi airport. They were cool.

Also when we landed, the cabin music choice? ABBA. Mamma Mia. WHY? Of all things. But a kind of Indian instrumental version. Why not, I guess.

The wifi is SHIT

People seem pretty friendly in Delhi airport so far – although I have been stared at quite a bit. Maybe because trying to fob my pjs as trousers aint foolin’ no one.

There’s a smoking area. WIN. No lighters allowed though?! There’s a weird metal box thing on the wall to light off. Not a clue.

Oh yeah, it’s SO hot. The smoking area is outside in a cage thing and omg the heat.

Flight number 2. Delhi to Kathmandu. I’m so tired. Coffee?

notes from strangers Kuuzira travel

Want to see the view. Dilemma.
Food choices in Delhi airport:

  • McDonalds – With ‘The Maharaja Big Mac’, of course.
  • Crispy Chicken
  • Idli.com ?
  • Curry Kitchen – Went for this. Ate chickpeas. At 6.30am UK time. My body is confused. Tasted awesome though.

notes from the plane kuuzira travels

You want taxi?

September 14, 2016

Arriving in Kathmandu airport was an experience in itself. Having never applied for any form of visa, I was praying the task would be a simple one.

I followed the crowd from my packed flight through to the passport control area and a series of high tables, surrounded by people frantically scribbling on pieces of small paper. I figured that’s where I should be. After brief interrogation I took my piece over to the lone man at the visa desk, and waited in anticipation for my fate. Looking back I probably looked like a criminal, sweaty and on edge, so when he took my $40 and gave me two brightly coloured papers I beamed. I was allowed in.

nepal visa papers

Apparently that’s not the visa. I felt like a right tit when I practically sashayed over the passport controller beaming like the cheshire cat only to be told I haven’t got a visa yet and to go over to another desk. Now, tail between my legs I did just so. Handing over my paper to the new passport man, I felt uneasy once more. “Have I filled in everything correctly? Is this all I need?” I asked, nervously. I hadn’t.

“Have you got this paper? Where is this one?” He questioned. I didn’t have it. Where do you get that!? He gave me the right paper and said to fill it out there and then, and attached a photo which thankfully I stocked up on pre departure. “2 minutes it takes”, he said. It took me more. So much more that he eventually just got a little fed up with me. “Just give me that” he barked. Stamped in my visa and sent me on my way. I made it through!

namaste nepal kuuzira travels

I’d been warned of the madness of the Nepali taxi men, but I had pre-arranged an airport pick up from my hostel so I wasn’t too worried. I soon realised the truth in nothing really working to time here, when my pick up was no where to be seen. “Taxi miss? Taxi?” “You want taxi?” “Where you going, taxi for you?”

Slight panic.

After some time of swatting away taxi proposals, head of one business, Diamond (really), offered to help me.

“Oh Fireflies Hostel? No they not coming. I see all the time, they no come. I can take.” He explained, with a sense of sincerity, although I politely declined. We stood and chatted over a cigarette and he helped me figure out what to do, whilst also now swatting away others on my behalf. I liked this guy.

He gave me access to wifi so I could message the Hostel, to which they eventually replied someone was on the way – they’d forgotten me.

The airport emptied, and I stood all together for over an hour waiting for the pick up, under the constant surveillance of my new friend.

In an instant, a young Nepalese guy with very good English popped up with a Fireflies poster, hugged me hello and exclaimed his sorriness for forgetting me, whipped my bags up into a small, run down car and we were off…

Fireflies

September 15, 2016

It’s true your senses heighten when you’re on your own.

Whizzing through the manic streets of Kathmandu filled me with wonder – mostly as to how on earth people don’t constantly crash. There’s a lot of dust, a hell of a lot of beeping, and a lot of awesome things to gaze on. Royal, my hostel pickup buddy, sat in the back with me, pointing out monuments and places to go and avoid.

Kathmandu nepal kuuzira travels

We passed the highly patrolled Royal Palace, now a museum due to a very dark day in Nepalese history. June 1st 2001, when almost the entire Royal family were massacred. A crazy tale of bloodshed over a family meal, with many conspiracy theories as to who, and why and how. The main idea seems to be that the King’s son, Prince Dipendra turned multiple machine guns on his family, heavily under the influence of drink and hash, before eventually turning the gun on himself. All over a dispute in his choice of bride.

We chatted as we swerved through the endless congestion, whilst Royal told me his two dreams in life – to study law in Harvard, and the find out the truth about the massacre.

fireflies hostel Kathmandu nepal kuuzira travels

When we got out, it was dark and I had no clue where on earth I was, or where the hostel was for that matter. I followed Royal towards a dark alleyway. Totally legit, right?

“So this is where I kidnap you!” He said to me, in the dark. I paused for a second in slight panic, when he burst out laughing. “Don’t toy with me Royal!!”

Finally, we set eyes on Fireflies. A cute little hostel nestled just away from the busy streets on Thamel, Kathmandu. After a quick tour, I sorted out all my stuff on my little cubbyhole bunkbed, and braved the social room for a beer. I felt like the new kid in school. Everyone seemed to know each other, and I didn’t feel confident to break anyones conversation just yet. One girl was getting a tattoo on the rooftop, another playing guitar, no one seemed to have shoes… What was this place?!

fireflies hostel Kathmandu nepal kuuzira travels

Pilgrims

October 9, 2016

Kathmandu is a crazy place. People drive anywhere, people walk anywhere, people do anything, anywhere. Myself and Bridget ventured out in to town in search of Durbar square, a nice place to see for her last day in Nepal, and my first.

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A lot of people have told me in the past, the world really is a small place and I now found this to be true. One of my best friends lives in a small place called Banbury in Oxford, there’s not an awful lot to do there, but it has a few nice bars and lots of country lanes – props to you if you’ve heard of it. As Bridget and I sat crossed legged waiting for momos, an awesome Nepalese dumpling dish, we got chatting. “Where are you from back home?” I asked as my legs started to fall asleep. “Oh, Oxford” she replied. “Oh cool whereabouts, I have a friend who lives in Oxford”, “Just a small town called Banbury, no one ever knows it so I just say Oxford.”

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Durbar Square wasn’t quite what it was cracked up to be. We finally navigated the streets and crossed over a small barrier, only to be ambushed with people saying we needed to pay 1000NPR to go any further. As Bridget was leaving in the morning for Delhi, and had pretty much not a penny left, we decided against it. Later we discovered this was the right move, as it’s only chargeable for foreigners and it shouldn’t be that much – two guys from our hostel went and really weren’t that impressed.

We did meet a lovely guy there though, after he realised we weren’t interested in buying his ‘special price for you’ ticket, he helped us navigate to the 5 storey bookshop, Pilgrims. He was totally infatuated with Bridget, his round Nepalese face grinned with pure adoration for her ‘regalness’ and her intelligence and the fact she was from Oxford. Me? Well I was wise because my forehead was large. Great.

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Pilgrims stole us for a good hour plus. Five floors of books, ceiling to floor from all over, largely in English which was a plus. Although not very cheap. That is, until you get to the ‘discount room’, where books went for as little as 50NPR – thats just a few pence. We soon realised why these books were so cheap. “Hay fever”, was my favourite. The back read;

  • A step by step guide to understanding and coping with hay fever and other allergic reactions.
  • What hay fever is and the diseases developing from it.
  • How to decide whether to take drugs to alleviate your symptoms.
  • Self-help measures – and how to lessen your symptoms without drugs.

A steal, don’t you think?

katmandu nepal kuuzira travels

Don’t touch the monkeys

October 10, 2016

365 steps up. That was the goal of the day.

The Monkey Temple in Kathmandu – I forget the correct name – sat on top of a hill about half an hours walk from Fireflies, outside of Thamel.

katmandu nepal kuuzira travels

My first night in the hostel, I’d sat in the social room with my beer and a cigarette watching everyone in their conversations and playing card games. After short while, a guy from London, Yoni (Johnny), came over to say hello and we sat and chatted for a while and I felt like a had a friend. This day, after Bridget had left, I bumped in to Yoni once more and said I was aiming for the Monkey Temple and asked if he wanted to come.

We then commandeered another, Krishna from India, that had moved into my dorm the evening before. So, the three of us set out for our furry ancestors and an arial view of the city.

katmandu nepal kuuzira travels

It’s funny how quick friendships are born, after minutes I felt completely like I’d been friends with these two for years. Krishna writes stories. Such beautiful stories that I wish he posted them all on a blog or something – he does add a few on Facebook, so I’ll post the one for me on here soon.

Yoni is a Londonder that’s completely adorable, forgetful and bonkers in equal part. He has one of those infectious laughs that you can’t help but catch, so the journey to the temple with these two was nothing short of fun.

We had been warned that Westerners can get charged once you get to the top, but Yoni had remembered (surprisingly, although to be fair, he remembers a lot of useful things, just not to pick up his iPod or bring his bank card to the ATM) that someone had told him to turn right at the second lot of 3 Buddhas, rather than continue straight up the steps.

It worked. Although the route we took was covered in green foliage which was beautiful but you could tell it was the local route. We called it lover’s lane because so many couples were occupying the steps with their cuddles and romance.

katmandu nepal kuuzira travels

The monkeys rolled in thick and fast as we approached the top, and, panting and sweating I might add, we stepped out amongst the prayer flags to the temple.

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I felt on top of the world. We wandered around and took photos of the monkeys under the blistering sun and just wandered for about an hour. The monkeys were adorable, but as I took a zoomed in shot of one, it lashed out in a ‘no paparazzi please’ way, like Justin Beiber. It’s safe to say I jumped out of my skin.

Pulled in to Pokhara

October 16, 2016

Word of mouth is a powerful thing. As we sat on a roof top in Kathmandu, we spoke to new friends of our plans to head to Pokhara the next day or so, a 7 hour bus ride from the city. One of the guys piped up and advised there’s only one place to stay, with Sanjay at the Jasmine Family House. It’s now almost 4 weeks later and I type this from just outside what feels like my new home.

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But getting here was no easy ride. 7 of us pilled in to two taxis with all of our stuff – mine the biggest and heaviest by far, being a backpacker newbie of course – and headed for the bus station to catch our ride through the valleys. “Pokhara! Pokhara bus!” “You want bus? Come with me, Pokhara this way”, a rumble of voices shouted, all desperate for our business amongst the chaos, all trying to scam us with the ‘tourist’ prices. Some time later, after getting in to one mini bus, and hastily getting back out when the price suddenly changed, we were sat, chilled, at the back of a coach and eager for the next adventure at the local price of 350NPR.

Nepali bus journeys are nothing short of hilarious. One TV plays a concession of Nepali music videos at the front of the bus, they cram on more people than the 120 in Southall, and we realised why none of the locals were at the back after the bruises from bouncing around like sand on a speaker.

pokhara nepal kuuzira travels

We climbed up and down through the mountains and valleys for the next 7 hours, playing games, attempting to nap, and (mainly me) panicking about falling off the edge as the driver sped around tight bends in the road. Little did I know at the time, this ride would be tame in comparison.

By the time the coach arrived in Pokhara bus station, the sun had set. We were still around 4km away from Jasmine, so we negotiated a taxi and crammed ourselves in once more as the rain started to fall. Pokhara rain is unlike any rain I’ve ever seen. It’s like someone has knocked over a watering can. It pelts, without rest for what feels like eternity, and then it stops dead. All or nothing. I like that.

pokhara nepal kuuzira travels

The taxi drove as far as possible to Jasmine, but dumped us out on the street at the foot of the hill to soak up more of our watery welcome. Keiron navigated us with maps.me (a god send for travellers that lets you use gps maps offline) as lighting flashed through the sky. The path resembled a small river by this point, but we had no choice but to haul ourselves and our belongings up stream. Shoes off, soaked and sweating (it’s possible, believe me), I spent the next 10/15 minutes in a state of slight panic. “What if the lightening hits the ground and we frazzle?” “I can’t see. Oh my god what was that?! Oh it’s a rock. It’s just a rock.” “You’re not going to die, it’s just a bit of water…” various thoughts rushed over my mind, as the path illuminated with strobes of light and my pansy torch.

And then? A tiny, beautiful bulb of glowing orange appeared before me eyes. It swiftly faded away and then appeared once more a foot to my right. A majestic little firefly, the first I’d ever seen. It filled me with calm as I looked up to see the sweet sight of the burnt yellow walls of Jasmine.

This ain’t no happy village

October 20, 2016

“There’s a place called Happy Village about 20 minutes walk that way, it’s pretty nice” Simon gestured to us one morning when deciding what to do with the day.

Beautiful Simon, the baby of the group from the US/Sweden with a face like a Hollywood actor and a heart like the Dalai Lama. If he says this village is a nice way to spend the day, why wouldn’t it be? So off we went.

happy village pokhara nepal travel blog kuuzira

It all started out wonderfully. We walked from Jasmine to the right of the lake and around the hill towards the village. Cows strolled past, the sun was glowing and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. A perfect day. As we rounded the bend, the views opened up before our eyes. Rice paddies a plenty, paragliders drifting through the sky and lush, lush green.

And there it was, Welcome to Happy Village. It was a quirky little place, full of restaurants but not really any people. I did meet the cutest kitten ever though, it purred up against me as if to welcome me to it’s home. This place was a dream.

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Naturally, our stomachs were ready for lunch so we found a place with seats overlooking the lake and ordered some noodles – the menus in Nepal are pretty much all the same, chowmein, dal bhaat, spring roll… – and let the conversation flow. I’m attempting to gather footage for a video montage of my time here, so I thought I’d get some b roll of the peaceful lake as the tiny boats drifted past housing fishermen catching their supper. I set the camera up and let the scenery fill up my SD card.

happy village pokhara nepal travel blog kuuzira

A few minutes past, and I turned to stop filming. I stared out at the lake, serene and almost still, when my eyes fixed onto something a little out of sync. “Is that branches?” I thought to myself. As I looked closer, reality pulled a sheet of horror over my eyes. Those were not branches, but arms. Riga mortis arms sticking out of the water, with the top half of what appeared from a distance to be an elderly Nepali woman’s face, floating in our direction.

“Oh my god that’s a person!” I exclaimed. We couldn’t believe our eyes. What do you do?! We stared in shock for a moment or two, not sure whether we should be, but not being able to turn away, despite the despair. Locals started to notice too, and a small boat carrying two adults and a small child, started to drift out toward her. They must be going to try and get her? No. They drifted right past her, staring, child too. Surely that’s no sight for a child.

There was no questioning whether she had life in her left, her stiff arms lay rigid above the water, motionless, fingers curled. Other locals gathered to the side of the restaurant, down at the waters edge, all staring. Some even taking photographs. What a strange thing to do.

We called the restaurant owner and explained, apologetically, that we could not stay and eat here now, please hold off the food. He looked startled when we explained what we had seen, and he immediately called to his wife, who ran down to join the growing crowd. “It’s okay, you go.” He said, with a sense of understanding in broken English. There was nothing we could do, none of us had a phone that would work to call the police, and the locals seemed to have it covered, so we walked away from the place and as far from the lake as we could vowing never to return to Happy Village any time soon.

I will not be swimming in that lake, that’s for sure.

Grand

November 3, 2016

We finally left Sanjay and the Jasmine Family Home after a farewell meal with our host. It was already getting dark when we piled our stuff in the taxi, said our goodbyes and set off for Begnas Tal – a beautiful lake around an hour or so away. We got dropped off in the middle of nowhere, not at Akuna Matata as we’d hoped – we were on the way to meet a friend for a few days relaxation. A vacation from vacation, if you will. The taxi was too expensive to go all the way and the driver didn’t really know where it was, so we went with the safe bet to stay somewhere near the lake and find it the next day.
Begnas Tal Lake Pokhara Nepal Kuuzira Travels
Nothing seemed to be open when we got dropped off, but we dumped our gear outside a restaurant (that we realised the next day was definitely closed) and a lady offered to show us a room in a sketchy looking building. It’s safe to say, we weren’t impressed. There was a spider the size of my hand ready to welcome us, and when I pointed to it, suggesting that he kindly needs to piss off, our proprietor just batted it away with a straw brush and it bolted to a mystery location. The room resembled a prison cell with stained walls, rubbish and a thick layer of dust. After explaining politely that we would have a little look around first and maybe come back, we set off down the street to find something else, praying there would be something, anything, that wasn’t there.
Welcome Break was up an infinity of steps. The room was nice, but the guy was a bit of a dick when we kindly tried to barter with him over the 1000NPR room rate. On to the next.
Begnas Tal Lake Pokhara Nepal Kuuzira Travels
And then, The Grand Nepal Hotel. The weirdest, most wonderful place of all.
Whilst in Pokhara, one of our favourite joints became the Movie Garden. An amazing outdoor cinema run by an awesome Brit named Dan, after packing up UK life and moving 3 years back. Our first (of many) trips there, lead me to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel for the first time, beneath the stars. We sat at the bottom on blankets with rum and popcorn, and I fell in love with the film. It’s so… weird. And wonderful.
And now I felt part of it, as I stood at the base of The Grand Nepal. The building was large, 5 storeys tall, looking quite regal in a stone wall kind of way, and was being tickled with the glow of fireflies in the dark. The enormous double door was locked as we arrived. Was anyone there? We were desperate to see beyond the walls. The sound of us approaching must have alerted the owner, who swiftly popped his head over the 3rd floor balcony in a comedic prance.
“Hello!” he shouted down, just like the lobby boy from the movie. We explained we needed a room, and he was gone. As he descended, the lights came on on each floor in such a choreographed fashion, and with a large clunk, the door flew open to his welcome.
The entry way was grand, square and stone. All grey, with just a few tables and chairs and a reception. It seemed way too spacious for the decor. We were lead up the stairs by a rogue bat, and shown to the cheaper priced room – it was more expensive for a lake side room, but we couldn’t see anyway – which was actually really nice. A double bed and a single, 4 people, an en suite and a fan. That’ll do nicely, thank you.
The large, marble corridors on the 2nd floor housed only us, I’m sure, and our every move echoed through the building. We sat on the floor outside our room, where the wifi actually worked, for a chill down and a cigarette before retreating for a good nights rest.
A good nights rest. Is that possible here? The rain through the night had been stronger than ever, to the point where I had genuine concern over the stability of the ceiling – and we weren’t even the top floor. The thunder was intense, loud, intimidating. Like all the God’s had let out a growl in the sky in unison. The power kept shorting – a now usual occurrence in Nepal – meaning in between the crashes of light, the whirring fan limped back into life to disturb us once more. Never mind.
At least, come morning, we could finally see the lake we’d all heard so much about. Right? Down the corridor we went, with an excited shuffle. “Wow it’s… Oh.” Not the lake. Of course! This place had to offer up one last laugh before we set off.
It was a beautiful view none the less, just not the grand, serene green water we had expected, but a mere side pond for lack of better description. A smidgen of the real gem, was to be seen just around the corner. A new adventure lay just beyond, and with that, we left the Grand Nepal, in it’s beautiful, imperfect perfectness to become a mere story to tell.
Begnas Tal Lake Pokhara Nepal Kuuzira Travels