Month: March 2004

Exploring North Africa with Survival School.

arrival We finally arrive in North Africa, where the three land rovers we will used during the next 9 days await us.

Standing next to me is my mate Pat, who I had met on a previous survival school course.

I had been looking forward to visiting Morocco. I had been told that many of the people in the country, lived as people lived in the bible (which is a bit strange, since the majority of them are Muslims !).

 After a few hours travelling through Morocco, and seeing the sites and sounds of that culture, we stop for refreshments at a roadside Cafe.

Mint Tea.

The 2 main peoples of Morocco, are the Arabs, the the Berbers. The Berbers are traditional Nomadic people, and were/are considered the warrior class of that country.

Our guide and drivers were Berbers and as Muslims, joked that the mint tea, is called Berber Whisky in their culture.

 insidelandy A view from inside our land rover.

There were only 4 people and a driver to each Land rover, so it was a lot more comfortable than I had expected.

On the first night, we find some brush land, half a mile back from the road, and bivvi out.

Later the next day, we stop to take some pictures, while travelling over a mountain pass.

 oldman We arrived in the Old town of Meski. The town was moved about 40 years before, and previously resided in an old Kasbah, which is walkable from the new town.

Meski is a real desert oasis, and our guide Mohamed, had his son Ahmed gives us a tour of the town.

Everyone in the town has some land assigned to them, and here, an old man of 70 + is working and laughing, even though its 7:30 in the evening.

In the centre of the town, was a public swimming pool, where all the people went during the evening.

There was a cafe next to it, where people were drinking, and playing pool.

Unfortunately, the light had gone, so I have had to enhance this picture, that’s why it looks so grey.

 headdress We visited a small shop, to by some souvenirs.

Most people bought a desert headdress, and wore them throughout the course.

Here, Sylvie (who was married to Mark, a London Zoo keeper, ace bushcrafter and animal expert – also on the trip.) poses with her newly bought Headdress.

I embarrassed myself at bartering by having my first offer accepted enthusiastically. When I dropped my price by 5 pounds, the seller was still delighted.

I was obviously offering way to much, but I paid what I thought it was worth and have no regrets.

Our guide Mohamed was a chef and owns a restaurant in Meski,

here he cooks a delicious meatball tagine for us at his restaurant.

 mesky1 That night, we bivvied out at the old fort, about a quarter of a mile from the new town.

In the morning, me and a few of the lads go exploring.

 The place was right out of Tomb Raider and I loved it there.  mesky2
 well Ahmed came over to give us a tour of the old city.

Here he shows us the well, which was the sole source of water for the whole town.

Being in the deserted town, was a special kind of adventure for me.

The sun shining on the town, from outside the city walls.

 oasis A view of the Meski oasis, from inside the deserted Meski Fort.

Several clay channels run to some of the outlying fields, so that more vegetation can be grown outside the Oasis.

As we continue our journey to the Sand Dunes, we stop by the road for refreshments.

Here I am photographed next to one of the longest roads I have ever seen.

 dunes1 A picture of the sand dunes at Erg Chebby.

During the afternoon heat, the only place to be, was in the shade, but in the morning, wandering around the dunes gave an immense sense of calm and peace.

 A few of the team walk around the sand dunes in the early evening.

Walking along the ridges was the only practical way to cross sand dunes.

Walking up and down them, no matter what your fitness, was exhausting.

 mebd Me standing in the black desert.

Only about 20% of all desert is made of sand, most of it is made of rocks like this one.

You can get an idea of the size of the desert and feeling off isolation from this picture.

Some of the interesting people I saw in Morocco.

Here a person earns a living, simply by fixing bicycles and repairing punctures.

 football  Some children play football, barefoot, in the black desert.
Me standing at the top of the Dunes.

One of the strange things about desert, is that when you are wandering in the dunes, there is a sense of isolation, but back at camp, There was none.

There was only one tree, in our camp, and as a city dweller, it was strange to feel “on display” and have no “corner of your own” I got over it after a few days, but its one of the extra experiences you get from being in the desert.

 sunset  The Sky before last light.
As we were travelling out of the desert, I saw some nomadic Berbers, who live in the desert, miles from anywhere.

Having lived isolated in the Dunes for just 5 days, and seeing how hard it was, I had nothing but respect for these people.

 mecamel On the way back, we are treated to a delicious hotel meal, and a camel ride to the high Dunes.

Here, the Berbers help Pat, mount the camel for our trek. The white camel in the picture, is the one I would ride.

Once at the top of the high dunes, we bivvied out.

In the morning, we watched the sunrise, and then travelled down to the hotel to have breakfast.

I had dried bread for breakfast each morning, and when I went to the toilet after 8 days, I thought I was going to damage myself.

 Casting shadows in the Dunes.  shadows
 dancefire  We relaxed for the last 2 days. Since our background is UK bushcraft, a forest provided the ideal place to do this, and we were able to light fires/carve spoons and just get our own space.
After 2 days of relaxing, we had a night in a hotel just near the border (the Moroccan border we crossed, was like the bar in Star Wars !) and made our way back to Gibraltar for our flight home.

We briefly stop at the side of the road for a team photograph.

Although the desert craft of the Berbers is unquestionable, there photography isn’t, and they manage to cut me out of the picture (maybe it was something I said !).


Tour of India and Nepal – Khajuraho.

school1 We set of to visit the Erotic temples of Khajuraho.

On the way, we get the chance to visit an Indian village School.

Even though the School is in the middle of a village, and many lessons are taught outdoors, no compromises were made.

The teachers were very professional and the children well behaved. Just a look from one of the teachers would see a misbehaving child fall into line without a word.

Reminded me of what Schools used to be like in the UK.

I learn an important tip on travel photography from Kingsley (one of the many things I learned from him).

Basically, when you photograph a local. Always show them the picture.

Usually, as in this picture, they are quite delighted, which means everyone takes away something good from the experience.

 school3 We had all brought pencils and paper and stuff like that to give to the children.

We were very impressed, when a very young child wrote the entire English alphabet in right before our eyes.

At first I didn’t want to go into the School, had a bad time at School personally, and I wanted one of my friends to donate my pencils and stuff.

In the end, as good friends would, they talked me into it. The Children were so focused on learning, that they seemed oblivious to the poverty that surrounded them.

As I said goodbye and left, I was nearly crying.

We arrive at Khajuraho.

Our simple accommodation had this amazing pool complex outside.

Khajuraho village is surrounded by the mountains of Chatarpur in the district of Madhya Pradesh and is 395 Km southeast of Agra.

 pool2 The lads made straight for the pool, and even had a go on the water slide.

Water isn’t my thing (but that doesn’t mean I’m dirty or I smell or anything !), I have never associated recreation and water together.

I continued to read my guide book, and you’ve guessed it, have a couple of bottles of beer.

In the hotel bar, this simple yet amazing device.

This free charger, would fit practically every type of mobile phone.

Why does the “developing” country of India have ideas like this, yet I have never seen anything like it in “modernised” Great Britain.

 kingsley By now, it was so common, that I practically forgot to take a picture.

Kingsley attracts more “Bovine” attention.

Today this village remains with 22 temples, which give us a glimpse of a golden time of art and devotion at their peak. Out of 22 temples, two were made from sandstone. The stone blocks were first carved and then the interlocking pieces were assembled to form a temple. Each temple is different from one another.

The contrast of it being so ornately carved, and yet, this wasn’t a coffee table statue, it was an entire building, and scale was incredible.

 carving4 Probably the most photographed place in Khajuraho.

There is some pretty extreme stuff in here, with men and woman doing just about everything that’s possible between them, and the occasional illustration of a man pleasuring a horse !.

The Western Group is the largest of all the temple groups of Khajuraho.

It is not compact and located in the center but also include the most renowned and noteworthy monuments built during the reign of the Chandela rulers.

They are also known to have been maintained well by the Archaeological Survey of India and the lush green lawns surrounding them with multihued shrubs and fragrant blossoms add to their beauty.

The most prominent temples of the group are the Lakshmana Temple, the Matangesvara Temple and the Varaha Temple that are a part of a single complex, the Visvanatha and Nandi temples situated near the above-mentioned complex and the Chitragupta, Jagadambi and the Kandariya Mahadeo temples a little to the west of the complex.

One of the smaller structures that reminded me of a Tibetan bell tower.

 carving2 Unesco world heritage site.

The Khajuraho temples do not contain sexual or erotic art inside the temple or near the deities; however, some external carvings bear erotic art and tantric sexual poses.

A common misconception is that, since the old structures with carvings in Khajuraho are temples, the carvings depict sex between deities.

This is just one small section of the outer wall of one of the temples.

Here there are several hundred carved figures and each one is different.

A similar scene, taken more closely from a different angle at Kandariya Mahadeva temple.

The name Khajuraho is derived from the Hindi word khajur meaning date palm.

 melakshman Lakshmana temple.

The city was once the original capital of the Chandela Rajputs, a Hindu dynasty that ruled this part of India from the 10th to the 12th centuries. The Khajuraho temples were built over a span of a hundred years, from 950 to 1050. The Chandela capital was moved to Mahoba after this time, but Khajuraho continued to flourish for some time.

These are fine examples of Indian architectural styles that have gained popularity due to their salacious depiction of the traditional way of life during medieval times. They were rediscovered during the late 19th century and the jungles had taken a toll on some of the monuments.

The artisans were masters of their of art.

The body of the subject would bend in 3 distinct places, and the tilt of the head would add to the aura of seduction.

According to Hindu legends, Hemvati was a beautiful young Brahmin woman for whom the famous temples of Khajuraho have been built.

The legend goes that she was bathing in a pool near her house in Benares (now Varanasi) in the moonlight. Her ravishing beauty so much captured the fancy of the moon god that he could not help descending to earth to meet her. Hemvati had an affair with the moon god. She conceived a child out of this relationship. Since it had happened out of wedlock, Hemvati was worried and asked the moon god about her fate once he departed from the earth.

 ganesh The moon god prophesied that their son would be the first king of Khajuraho. She was asked by the moon god to leave for a forest of khajurs (date palm trees) far away from Benares to deliver her child. When he grows up, the moon god told her, he should perform a sacrificial ritual that included among its rites the depiction of erotic figures. He should also build 85 temples at the forest of Khajurs, which subsequently came to be known as Khajuraho, all carved with erotic figures. This would free his mother, said the moon god, from the blemish of extramarital love.

Hemvati then left her home to give birth to her son in a tiny village. The child, Chandravarman, was as lustrous as his father, brave and strong. By the time he was 16 years old he could kill tigers or lions with his bare hands. Delighted by his feats, Hemvati invoked the Moon god, who installed him as king at Khajuraho. Chandravarman achieved a series of brilliant victories and built a mighty fortress at Kalinjar. At his mother’s request he began the building of 85 glorious temples with lakes and gardens at Khajuraho and performed the ritual which expunged her of her guilt.

The now familiar symbol of Ganesh.

 This picture shows the elevation of some of the temples, and the beautiful gardens that surrounded them.  garden
 impossible This astounding picture shows a man pleasuring 3 woman while standing on his head.

Our guide commented, that he would need to be an adept at Yoga, if this was even possible at all.

 Our crew sat outside one of the temples.  group

Tour of India and Nepal – Orchha.

 garden One of my favourite parts of the trip.

We arrive at our hotel, straight after a couple of hours on a train, and in a mini-bus, and are shown straight to the garden terrace, and offered a drink.

Indira briefs us on the local, and our planned itinerary in for the next 2 days.

The beautiful room I stayed in, next to the river.

Once again, basic accommodation, proved to be nothing of the sort.

 switch  The electrics, in some of our accommodation, was a little old, but added to the character.
The view from my balcony, showing the the river that ran past the hotel.

Waking in the morning and looking out across the water, was a special moment for me.

 street  The main street, of this simple village.
 My friend Kevin in front of the Man Mandir Palace and Gwalior Fort, in his “foreign correspondent” pose.  kevin
 side  A projected view of one of the palace walls.
 The main wall of the fort, taken through one of the gates.  entrance
 arches  Another part of the fort, showing the detail of the stone carvings.
The beautiful courtyard, showing the high walkways, all around.

It took several hours to see them all.

 hanuman  A temple inside the palace, had this picture of Hanuman (the white monkey in the picture) I had seen a song/dance rendition of the Reamker, which features Hanuman, while visiting Cambodia.
 Gate at the back of the palace, with superbly carved elephants.  ele
 underground  Underground, in a recently opened area.
 Indian Women in Traditional dress.  women
 pool  In the centre of the forecourt, was this bath, similar to the ones I had seen at the Angkor Wat.
As we head up to the walkways, I pose on the stairs with Indira.

I really is hard to describe, just how excellent she was as a guide.

I remember reading a quote once:

What’s the difference between a gymnast and an acrobat ?

They both do the same things, but the gymnast tries to make the activity look easy, and the acrobat tries to make it look hard.

Indira made travel organization look simple, but having arranged my own trips several times, I knew that it wasn’t.

 rooftop1  View of the forecourt, from high up on one of the walkways.
 A view of one of the other forts, through a “window”.  homeless2
 me  High up on one of the walkways, out of the window, there are views of the village.
Angela and Paul, with a Hindu Holyman (possibly, or more likely, someone who dresses like one).

On the left of the picture, another “Holyman” wanted to get in on the action.

 kingsleyindira We visit a traditional Indian village.

Kingsley and Indira sample some street food, and as usual, wherever Kingsley goes, livestock are sure to follow.

I’ve done quite a lot of bushcraft and shelter building, but, using techniques i had been taught and practiced, this was actually someone’s home.

 bed This bed was hand made by the occupants of the house.

Indira had told me as a child, she slept in a similar bed.

The construction was amazing, and could easily have been constructed with just a swiss army knife.

The cordage was hand made in a similar fashion to the stuff I did at Woodsmoke where cordage was twisted against its natural “turn”, and created an binding effect.

An eating house in the street, with food cooked on an open fire.

It always seems strange when I see people using skills I learn as a hobby, which they use as a practical day to day skill, in the same way I operate a microwave.

One of the few souvenir shops around here, made me laugh. It had a sign in the window which said “More crap inside”. Priceless.

 homeless1 The other fort, much nearer to the village, which I had photographed several times from a distance.

When we walked around, we found that several homeless people were living there.

India is really moving on, in terms of business.

Even though it was a small village, there were many posters like these, advertising training in computer technology.

 comp2  This one, wasn’t actually fastened onto the wall, it was painted directly onto it.
 The local police station.  policestation
 sundown2  After we had walked around the town, Indira took us across the rive on this bridge, and we were able to relax here.
Here I relax in what Kevin called my “C&A Man” pose.

A few minutes later, Kingsley, good naturedly started to hand out pencils to a few of the local children, and we were mobbed !.

 sundown1  Looking across the river at one of the other forts.
We decide to leave the minibus and walk back to our hotel.

A superb relaxing walk and a great end to another brilliant day.

 beforetea Before dinner, I grab a bottle of beer, and join everyone, “paddling” in the water at the back of the hotel.

We were sharing the hotel with some other guests, who also like to drink, and sadly at 10pm, the Hotel ran out of beer !.

Tour of India and Nepal – Varanasi.

steps We arrive in the city of Varanasi, the Holiest of India’s City’s and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

The Munshi Ghat, my personal favourite.

 We arrive in the late afternoon. Relax around the hotel, and in the evening, visit the Hotels superb restaurant. curry
 morning1  Early the next morning, we set out towards the Ganges, to see the City awaken.
The Ganges is sacred to Hindu’s, who refer to it as the holly river.

We look out across the river and watch the sun rise.

Some of the boats, were already out on the water.

 morning2 We walk down the steps to our waiting boat.

Thousands of people visit the waterfront steps (known as Ghats) to begin the day.

As the sun comes up, we travel along the waterfront, and visit the various Ghats.

Despite the early hour, their was a “carnival” atmosphere to the morning, as many dozens of boats converged on the water.

 morningboats2 Sitting in our boat, in the early morning, it was very relaxing.

Several people in small boats, paddled up beside us, and tried to sell us floating candles.

The idea, is that you light a candle, for someone who has passed away.

One of my friends lit one. I have decided not to show that picture, out of respect.

 Some of the colours, when the sun hits the Ghats were impressive.  water
 ghats Hindu’s consider it auspicious to die in Varanasi and many travel here for that purpose.

There is a ritual when people die, performed by their eldest sun.

Their body is burned on a ceremonial fire, and their remains are thrown into the Holy river.

This is a picture of one of the burning Ghats.

Afterwards, there ashes are placed in the Holy River.

 Rana Ghat where people wake early and perform ritual ablutions in the Holy River.  bathing
 washing  A view down the length of the river showing more people washing, who have waded out further into the water.
The Kedar Ghat, where clothes are washed, and then laid on the steps to dry.

One of the most beautiful mornings I can remember.

 map1 We drove around, on a guided tour, and visited the Campus of Banaras University, the largest in India.

After this, we paid a visit to the Bharat Matar, or Mother India.

Inside is a large scale map of India on the floor.

As it was a beautiful day, I decided to stay outside in the sunshine, and asked the lads to take my camera, go inside, and take a picture for me.

This is the picture that they took, not exactly what I had in mind.

This is the actual Bharat Matar.

Its most impressive, and I am disappointed now, that I didn’t go inside after all.

 street As we walk around back through the City in daylight, you can see just how busy and vibrant, it is.

Many serious travelers that I have spoken too, have told me India is there favourite country, and I could certainly see why.

We decide to head further afield and see a bit more of the City.

Our excellent guide Indira, arranges some motorized rickshaws, and off we go.

In the picture, you can see the driver smiling.

One of the things that struck me about India. People have an order of magnitude less, than your average person in the UK, and yet they are still happy.

I wonder if some of the “hard done too” people I know, would benefit from living in India for a year !.

 bakery1 For lunch, we visit the bread of life bakery on Shivala Road.

Its well known, for offering pensions, healthcare and education to its employees and their family’s.

They also contribute significantly to the families of Motorized Rickshaw drivers who have been killed in road accidents.

It was nice to visit somewhere nice for lunch, and contribute to charity at the same time.

There were plenty of backpackers in there, the place is popular, and practically famous.

I think a lot of people had visited it, to eat some pastries, that remind them of “home”, because it can be quite hard to get proper “pastry”.

Unfortunately, the power had failed, and the over, had broken, so our food options were limited.

 driver2 As we left the bread of life, Kevin and I travelled together in the Motorized Rikshaw. I was delighted to see, that I wasn’t the only person that find this kind of transport terrifying.

I took this picture to try and capture the feel of tearing through the streets in one of these things.

 As the Rickshaw stops at the lights (an occurrence that seemed to be rare) I saw this young girl doing her homework as she looked after her fathers workshop.  homework
 boats Just before dusk, we pass the river, and all the boats are empty.

The river that was furiously busy earlier in the day, is now serene and quiet.

I realized that this must happen every day, and it reminded me, of the circle of life (I do a lot of thinking, when I am travelling).

We visit a factory, and learn how silk is made.

Obviously, there was an attached shop, and we had the “opportunity” to buy.

Cynicism aside, the stuff in the shop, was superb and the prices far cheaper than we would have paid in the UK.

The loom in this picture, is 80 years old.

 ncar As we head out in the early evening, we travel in “Noddy” cars like this.

When I came to open the door, you could feel the click of the mechanism was smooth and secure, these vehicles are very well built.

Our driver, like most of the people we met in Varanasi, wore trousers, a shirt and shoes, clothing that would be fairly formal back home in the UK.

At that temperature, I don’t think I could have bare the heat, in the suit I wear for work.

 gate We take a boat to the far side of the Ganges and visit the 17th century Ramnagar fort.

It was originally home to the Mharaja of Benares (an older name for Varanasi)

It is very well preserved, but then it would be, the king ( the former king ) still resides here.

Sadly we had had such a relaxing time walking up the beach, that when we arrived, the fort was closed.

We head back to the beach, to catch our boat back to the other side.

We watch the sun set on the Holy River.

 ceremony1  As we reach the other side, we disembark at Dasaswamedh Ghat, where we will watch the nightly Aarti (ritual thanks and blessing given to the river).
I managed to find a place quite high up, to get pictures and capture the ambiance of the ceremony.

Several people, perform ritual dances, facing out onto the river.

There was traditional music playing out of loud speakers.

 ceremony3 Unfortunately, in the middle of the ceremony, the power failed. The lights went out, and the music stopped.

Power failures had been a constant occurrence throughout our visit to India, but up until this point had just added to the experience.

I wondered what they were going to do ?

They were obviously prepared for this, some musical instruments were produced, and auxiliary power fixed the lighting.

It’s said that no trip to North India is complete without a visit to Varanasi.

I haven’t seen the rest of India, so I cant comment comprehensively.

What I can say, is that the place was a treasure trove of cultures, adventures and experiences, and I had a fantastic time there.


Tour of India and Nepal – Lumbini.

border Dropped off by bus, we bid farewell to Indira, and walk towards the Nepalese Border.

I had read that at times, the Nepalese side was so disorganised, that a person could leave India, and end up spending several hours in “no mans land” until the border guards actually woke up.

Nothing like this happened, we got through without event. I didn’t buy a visa in advance, which saved £25. I normally do to avoid hassle, but on this occasion, I decided to save a bit of money, and it worked fine.

We meet our Nepalese guide, board our bus, and head towards the town of Lumbini in the Himalayas foothills.

After check in, we get cleaned up, get some food, and have an early night.

Lumbini was the birthplace of the Gautama Buddha the apostle of peace and the light of Asia in 623 B.C. (he later founded Buddhism, and is known better to westerners as the Lord Buddha).

The site is home to Monasteries from Buddhist country’s all over the world. It is in 2 zones, separated by a Canal.

East Monastic Zone is dedicated for the construction of Theravada monasteries.

West Monastic Zone is dedicated for the construction of Mahayana traditional monasteries.

The place evokes a kind of holy sentiment to the millions of Buddhists all over the world- and is the Mecca of every Buddhist, being one of the four holy places of Buddhism.

 rules Buddhists undertake certain precepts as aids on the path to coming into contact with ultimate reality. Lay people generally undertake five precepts. The five precepts are:

1. I undertake the precept to refrain from harming living creatures (killing).

2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not freely given (stealing).

3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.

4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech (lying, harsh language, slander, idle chit-chat).

5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness.

Bodhi tree and pond at Lumbini

The Lord Buddha sat under a tree like this on the night he attained enlightenment. The tree itself was a type of fig with the botanical name Ficus religiosa. In the centuries after the Buddha, the Bodhi tree became a symbol of the Buddha’s presence and an object of worship.

Many temples throughout the Buddhist world have Bodhi trees growing in them which are or are believed to be offspring of the one from Anaradapura and their worship forms an important part of popular Buddhist piety.

 outside The exact location of the Birthplace of Buddha, remained uncertain and obscure till December the 1st 1886 when a wandering German archaeologist Dr Alois A. Fuhrer came across a stone pillar.

Historians now know this to be the Ashokan Pillar featured in the centre of this picture.

To the south of the Pillar is a garden with the sacred pool (Puskarni), believed to be the same pool in which Maya Devi took a holy dip just before giving birth to the Lord and also where infant Buddha was given his first purification bath.

In the background is another Bodhi Tree, and many fluttering prayer flags.

Prayer flags are actually colourful cotton cloth squares in white, blue, yellow, green, and red. Woodblocks are used to decorate the prayer flags with images, mantras, and prayers.

 foundations The foundations of the original birthplace of Buddha inside Mayadevi temple. There is a marker stone, showing the exact spot where he was born.

The site was Revealed after a hard and meticulous excavations under the three layers of ruins on top of the site.

I took this picture inside, as the building constructed around it, to protect it from the elements, looked (sadly) much like a red children’s fort and was most uninspiring.

Our guide showed us this temple.

It is possible to go there for a week, and “study” enlightenment.

This involves 7 days of not speaking a word. It was joked that I would struggle to complete this.

Our guide pointed out that they would prepare you in advance and you would get lots of meditation practice first.

 luck  Eternal peace flame directly on the Canal, near the world peace pagoda.
The Korean Monastery still under construction.

This had the look of many of the “Soviet” buildings I had seen in China and Vietnam, and didn’t strike me as in any way, religious or enlightening.

 temple I’m not exactly sure, but I think this is the entrance to the Chinese temple.

I took the picture specifically because of the 2 lions outside.

 Each lions mouth contains a ball, and its said to be impossible to remove it (some kind of Arthurian legend perhaps).  lionmouth
 walkway  Inside the Chinese Maitreya Temple.
 Our crew pose for a snapshot, on the steps outside the the main hall, of the Chinese monastery.  group

Tour of India and Nepal – Kathmandu.

bodnath We finally arrive at Kathmandu, a place I felt like I had waited all my life to see.When I got there, it was a bustling city, and reminded me of the dirtier parts of Manchester on a sunny day.

Anyway I was here now, and wanted to make the most of it. Our first trip was Bouddhnath 6km to the east of Kathmandu.

A colossal and ancient stupa (Buddhist temple) and one of the biggest in the world and stands 36m high.

Like many of the things I had seen on this trip, it was a world heritage site.

It took its name, meaning dew drops, from a legend that when built dew was mixed with mortar, as there was a drought.

Around the stupa were many smaller temples like this one. Outside a pilgrimage of American Buddhists arrived by coach.Sadly, in a major tourist attraction like this, scams are inevitable:

A man dressed as a monk, was praying, some people gave him money, then we realised, that he wasn’t actually a monk at all.

A woman approached us. We thought she was begging, so declined. She said that she didn’t want money, just asked us if we would buy milk for her baby.

It was hard to refuse. We found in reality, the woman, and the shopkeeper were in cahoots. The milk was massively overpriced and when we’d gone they would have split the money.

 paint2 Nearby we went to see how authentic Thangka (Buddhist) painting was done.Some of them were very beautiful, but I had already purchased a picture from a Thali village I was fond of, and the prices here were very expensive.

In the centre bottom of this page, is the newest Thangka design, created personally by the Dalhi Lama.

They have trained more than 300 artists here.

Similar to the burning Ghats I had seen in Varanasi.The dead were brought here, to be ritually burned, this was normally done by the eldest son.  ghats2
 swayambunath6 Swayambunath was another Stupa that we visited.The pilgrim’s route to the Swayambunath Stupa is a steep stone staircase of more than 300 steps, often claimed as 365.

At the base of the staircase is a large, brightly painted gateway.

Inside was a massive prayer wheel nearly 12 feet tall that requires two hands to turn.

Filled with thousands of prayers, this wheel strikes a bell each time it makes a complete revolution (perhaps just to make sure someone up there is listening). Be sure to give it a spin before beginning the climb to the top of the hill.

On the way up, I saw some of the monkeys that live here.I was advised to beware, as they carry disease, and can be aggressive. I found that to be good tempered.  monkeys1
 swayambunath3 From the top, there are spectacular views of Kathmandu.The earliest record of its existence dates from a 5th-century stone inscription.

Scholars and archaeologists believe that there was probably a shrine here as far back as 2,000 years ago.

There were dozens of Buddhist prayer wheels built into the wall around the stupa.

We enter the internationally renowned Durbar Square (this would have been a bit more significant, if we hadn’t visited a Durbar Square in Bhaktapur, the day before).In reality Durbar Square means Palace complex, and isn’t an unusual name at all.

Getting back on track, sitting in Durbar Square, drinking coffee and watching the world go by is one of the things I have always wanted to do.

At one point, the civil police stopped us and asked to see our tickets.

Many of the streets here, don’t actually have an names, which can be confusing.

 box  In scorching heat, this chap carries this enormous heavy load.
It is believed that the name of Kathmandu City is derived from the name of this temple. Kastha means wood and Mandap means pavilion.We had lunch at rooftop restaurant overlooking the square.

One of the popular temples of Durbar Square, Kashamandap is known locally as Maru Sattal. It is said to be built by single Sal tree.

 letterbox Rather unusual looking postbox.We saw the outside walls of the Royal Palace, but it was closed.

There had been a protest the day before, and people had been shot.

Kumari Ghar is the temple of Kumari – the living Goddess. Kumari is believed to be the bodily incarnation of the goddess Taleju.The current Royal Kumari, Preeti Shakya, was installed in 2001 at the age of four. Both Hindus and Buddhists equally venerate her.

The Goddesses social calendar must have been busy on the day we were there, as we weren’t granted an audience from her balcony.

There is a square inside the temple, which some of the most amazing carvings I have ever seen and the building is simply majestic.

 kala A statue of Bhairab.It shows Shiva in his most fearsome form. He has six arms, carries weapons and a body, has a headdress of skulls, and tramples a corpse.
 That evening, we have our goodbye dinner. It was sad, I had made some really good friends, and I had soaked up so much of the culture that surrounded me, that I wasn’t sure how I would manage back home.We would be flying home the following evening, so it was our last night out together.

Our guide took is to a superb authentic restaurant, where several dancing birds and yetti’s performed for us. It was uncomfortable sitting on the floor, but after plenty of beers I hardly noticed.

 plane  On the last day of our trip, we have a private flight around the Himalayas and and Mount Everest.
Although I am an eternal optimist, I know that I will never climb to the top of Everest.As I sat there, I know it was the closest I would ever get to the summit, which was both euphoric and sad at the same time.  meplane
 cockpit Most unusually we were invited one at a time, to go into the cockpit.I got to look out of the front window, talk to the captain and co-pilot and be shown what the controls do (although they wouldn’t let me touch them).
The Summit of mount everest.The rest of the day, I just wandered around Kathmandu and killed time until our flight home.

A few of my friends, asked me why I was so quiet (if you know me, its noticeable when I shut up).

After seeing the Summit of Everest with my own eyes, I didn’t feel much like chatting.

 gearshop  One of the many shops, selling outdoor equipment.Interestingly, many of the items, are made of material from the same supplier as the actual goods and produced by people who have previously worked in an official factory.

You can usually only tell the difference by the finishing and the quality of the stitching.

Still, if like me, you think most modern outdoor gear is overpriced and over engineered, it produces a superb alternative.

 Overall, I was a bit disappointed with Kathmandu. I imagined it as some sort of simple mountaineering town, when in reality it was like walking around a very warm liverpool.You can see from this picture, how busy the backpacker district (where thankfully, we didn’t stay) was.  thamel2
 fireandice A must see for me, was the Fire and Ice restaurant, said to make the best Pizza’s in Asia.Alan Hinks was interviewed after completing the Challenge 8000 (there are 14 mountains above 8000 metres, at this altitude, the human body cannot acclimatise) more human beings have stood on the moon than the top of all these mountains.

Run by an Italian Lady, who has the parmesan made in Lhasa.

Tour of India and Nepal – Delhi.

airport I set off on a tour of India and Nepal with the Adventure Company.

Flying from Manchester, I stop of in Doha, before continuing to Delhi, to begin the tour.

As I arrive in Doha, I notice a girl in front of me, has a document holder, with the logo of the Adventure Company on it, and I discover that she is on the same trip as me, with her friend Paul.

We all go for coffee, and get to know each other.

In reality, I forget to take a picture of us having coffee at the time, the reason that we all have suntans in this picture, is because it was actually taken on the way home, and in that way, is a fake.

 road The debate of independent versus organized travelling has ranged for years and will continue to do so.

One positive thing about organized tours, is that when your plane lands, somebody, is actually waiting for you to arrive, and will start making phone calls if you don’t.

Our bags are carefully loaded onto an air conditioned vehicle, and we are driven to our hotel.

The first thing that surprised, was how cows were tethered and grazing in the middle of the road.

In fairness, I didn’t find the road system to be any worse than some of the more “exciting” cities I have visited in Europe.

 olddelhi After we arrive at our hotel, we have a wonder around the hotel vicinity, during the early evening.

Here a scene of people relaxing on the street and chatting, street vendors serving snacks, and bicycles being repaired.

 Because we had arrived late for the Delhi tour, my friend Kevin let me use one of his pictures.  arch
 noparking Next door to the hotel, I loved the honesty of this no parking sign.

I certainly didn’t see anyone park there, at anytime while I was staying.

Early in the morning (very early in my case, as the hotel receptionist, woke me at 3am, rather than 4am, but never mind) we head for the railway station, to catch a train for Agra.

Here an enormous line of Tuck Tucks, rise early for the morning business.

 platform The train platform was crowded and busy, but a lot more organized than I had led to believe for a developing country.

Overall, was no different from catching a train on match day in the UK.

The trip brief, said that travelling on a train in India would be a very unusual experience.

It certainly was for me, having come from one of the worlds most developed nations, I was completely unprepared for a spotlessly clean train, that left on time 🙂

 trainside The train travelled through some amazing countryside.

A few years earlier, they had to stop running the train, as “bandits” dropped onto the roof, and took over the train.

Thankfully, nothing like this happened to us.

Being unprepared as I was, 2 young people came over and seemed to want to sell me something. I shoo’d them away.

For not the first time while ravelling, I had made an arse of myself.

My friend Angela pointed out, that the journey comes with a complimentary breakfast, which they were trying to serve.

I apologized to them, and tucked into my breakfast.

As always, in a moving vehicle when you are tired, its easy to drop off. I had about 2 hours sleep, the journey was very comfortable.

I don’t know who runs the trains in India, but Richard Branson could do worse than hire them.

 agra We arrive at the busy station in Agra.

Considering, I had prepared myself mentally for an ordeal, the train journey, was actually one of the highlights of my trip, and I felt a bit silly.

Morocco 08 (2/2).

road In the morning, we assemble outside the Burber house with a sense of excitement.

We’ve seen loads of cool things up to this point, but were in the mountains now, living with mountain people (and a donkey, which we couldn’t get to stay quiet).

We set off, and on route, our guide gives a talk on village life.

We visit a mountain village. A “proper” village must have a mosque, a school and a cemetery.

All tombs in the cemetery face east.

If husband dies, the wife must go to the cemetery for 4 months. If wife dies, husband can look for a wife straight away.

It was explained, a wife is unlikely to find another husband if she is over 40.

We arrive at our destination.

Were here to explore the famous Blue Rocks.

The terrain was amazing…

 rocks2  But I thought that painting the rocks blue was a bit absurd.
Our cooks headed out in advance of us, to lay out lunch.

They picked a superb spot, and it was all ready when we returned from our walk.

 dbbq2 Freshly prepared food eaten in the desert.

It was one of the most relaxing meals I can remember.

We all wander off and explore some more.

You can see from this picture, the vastness of the landscape.

 bv5  We head home and spend another night in the Burber house, high in the mountains.

In the morning we congregate outside again.

The Souk or market is the main meeting place for communication etc.

Word spreads fast in these local community’s. If someone buys say a large amount of meat, there will be discussion of whether there is a wedding imminent, or a baby on the way.

If there is a wedding , mothers from both sides of the marriage knock on each door and invite friends and relatives to the wedding.

The invitation will always be before the Souk, and the wedding always after.

 tradhouse1 In the afternoon, we visit an old style Burber house.

You can see from this picture, all the other houses in the area.

 The building had a hollowed out light well and contained lots of authentic pots and cooking implements.  tradhouse2
 agg1 As we continue on our journey to Essaouira we stop of at Agadir.

As I wander around, I realise is basically a holiday resort.

I was also propositioned by a prostitute.

We sit down next to the ocean in search of refreshments.

For the first time since leaving England, we actually get to drink lager by the pint.

Our final destination on the trip is Essaouira

No vehicles were allowed in this charming town.

Like normal, the AC had picked a venue off the beaten track that was a hidden gem.

 eport1 We have a quick wander around the harbour.

There were amazing sounds and colours (this isn’t a tourist trap, its a working fishing port).

 Apparently this fort inspired Jimmi Hendrix to write castles made of Sand (sean has pointed out, its track 1, side 2 of the album Axis: bold as love).  eport2
 eport4 Al, Tony and I continue to explore.

I thought we made quite a good team, I really enjoyed their company.

The main square in Essauira

The hotel on the right of the picture has a rooftop nightclub, and it was here that we had our “leaving do” for Chris, and where various musicians attempted to romance, the lovely Segun

In the daytime, like the rest of Essauira, it really was magnificent to see, with the sunshine and the sea air.

 essrelax Tone had had problems with antibiotics (the “problems” being that he couldn’t drink).

Luckily, towards the end of the trip, he was back on the ale and the 3 of us, along with assorted stragglers were able to embark on an evening of debauchery once again !.

During one of the evenings, I was this picture in our hotel foyer.

They had various paintings (done by local artists, they were for sale).

I took a shine to this particular one.

It was supposed to be the little girl, walking down the dark alley to follow a friendly ghost.

I interpreted it to mean that she should follow the future representation of herself, and the life she could have.

The hotel owner told us that the alley in the picture was quite near the hotel and while exploring we would almost certainly find it.

The next day, as we wandered around, we found it.

 estreet1 We have our evening meal at a restaurant on the beach.

The following morning, after breakfast on the terrace, we walk out of the town.

Essaouira is a very special place, I know ill go back there.

 On the way back to Marrakech, we visit a workers co-operative run by widowed or divorced women.  dwomen
 hotelali Back in Marrakech, Al and I do some more exploring.

He helped me to find Hotel Ali, a legend among backpackers.

 150md for posing with snake charmers !

I’m usually happy to pay a small fee for photographs but this seemed excessive, so I took the picture secretly on principle.


 marpub1  Just about the only “proper” pub in the Medina.
Inside it looked and felt like the social club in Get Carter.

That said, they were very friendly and Alistair, Tony and I had some pretty cool times in there.

The Flag beer was expensive (about 2 quid for a 3rd of a pint).

 palace With the official part of the tour complete, I had a day to myself.

I wandered around the Royal palace.

A guard came out, told me I couldn’t take pictures and demanded to see my camera, in case I had taken any already.

Otherwise, it was a pretty quiet day.

The thing I loved about the place was its authenticity.

Ordinary people just sat down and ate their evening meal here.


Something I’ve always wanted to do.

Have dinner overlooking the Medina.

It was very difficult to photograph, but here it is.

Morocco 08 (1/2).

 mesquare I’d visited Morocco previously, and spent some time sleeping out in the desert.

I wanted to see a bit more of the culture and people and since the adventure company were running a trip there, I thought why not.

Due to flight times, I arrived a day before everyone else, so I was able to settle in (the hotel was just across the road from the Medina).

For lunch I had a steak sandwich with chips in the hotels restaurant.

There were 2 waitresses there. One was very efficient and the other was very friendly I couldn’t decide which one I liked the most.

From my balcony, I saw this porter, having a nap in his own trolley.

 walls In the afternoon I went out exploring. I decided to wander around the Medina.

I had been told to beware of people who would give directions, and then demand money as a guiding fee.

Because of this, I got lost and ended up walking around for 2 hours before I found my way out.

In the evening, I wandered around the outer wall of the Medina.

I stop along the way, to read my guidebook, and find that Bread is so valuable to the Burbers, that people say a short prayer before removing it from the road, if its been dropped.


I walked into the main square.

As the guidebook said, the place literally comes alive at night.

I had seen it featured on several cookery programs, it is the only market in the world listed as a world heritage site.

I had some fresh orange juice while I was there.

 sign Casablanca is the financial capital of Morocco, and unfortunately, the film Casablanca was shot completely in Hollywood.

In the morning, the tour starts promptly at 9:30, straight after breakfast.

As usual, our guide is a consummate professional and gives us a 40 minute talk about Morocco, what things to look out for, and what things to watch out for.

Apparently, one of the new defunct Italian lera coins is the same size as a quite valuable Moroccan coin.

One thing I love about the adventure company trips, are there ability to find the best local experts.

Our main guide (on the left) introduces us to the chap in the centre, who gives us an extensive tour of the Medina.

Here, we stop in a Riad. Travellers would bring there wares long distances then put camels and things in the main square before settling into accommodation around the high balcony’s above.

It was impossible to properly photograph the Riad, without using a helicopter or fireman’s ladder.

 market2 As well as a thriving tourist area, the Medina is actually a functioning market.

Most of the traders are grouped together and linked, so the slipper makers are quite near the leather sellers for example.

I’ve previously been taught how to sharpen knives, on a bushcraft course. It amazed me, to see several people who actually did this for a living.

Around the Medina are dye, felt, leather and metal workers.

In this picture, we pass the stall of the only remaining felt maker in the Medina.

We were told that most people would like to be paid, if you wanted to photograph them (seemed fair to me, as there were some fantastic photo opportunity’s).

These leather workers didn’t want any money to be photographed.

Not the best picture I’ve ever taken, but it shows some at work, watching dvd’s on a colour tv.

This is the reality I suppose. We imagine them to be poor, but they have been trading for thousands of years. Although simple people, they are probably far more enterprising than most would think.

 m2 We visit the mosque, right in the centre of the Medina.

It was a calming and relaxing place to rest, and an oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of the Medina outside.

Our guide was explaining some of the principles of Islam.

All the things in the mosque are mathematical in origin, like arches and patterns.

There are no actual symbols like cows or water or anything like that.

The idea was that a person connection with God should be spiritual, and any pictures or carvings would become the focus, rather than the actual connection.

He also explained the 5 principles of Islam, and one surprise to me, was that a pilgrimage to Mecca costs around 35,000md.

The food market. This was where the locals, actually came to buy food.

We buy some things for a picnic, then hit the road.

We set off for Alt Ben Hadou, I end up sitting in the front of the bus.

At one point an “unruly” tractor nearly causes an accident, and I accidentally teach the driver some bad English words.

 ab1 We stop on the way to eat our packed lunch, than drive through the mountains for several hours.

Our guide gives us a talk on the Moroccan family law, which defines ages at which people can get married and stuff like that.

We arrived at Alt Ben Hadou in the dark, so I couldn’t see much of the place.

Interestingly, the water that supplies the hotel, comes from a sea spring. I had a shower, but as it was salt water, it was impossible to get it to lather up.

We had a delicious evening meal, washed down with a few cans of beer and a glass of wine.

It was cold at night, since the area is high up in the mountains, but I had enough blankets, so I was fine.

In the morning, we eat breakfast on the terrace, with this spectacular view of the old town.

84 family’s live outside the actual village, in the place I’m standing and only 5 live physically in the village (there are rules about only cooking on wood fires and stuff like that, for those that choose to live there).

We cross the shallow river and I see this archway.

Our guide explains that this is a fairly recent addition. Loads of films have been made here, and this Gate was constructed for Jewel of the Nile (if you haven’t seen it, its the one where they “drive” an F16 out of the fort and shoot the doors away with missiles).

 ab3 Its fairly well know that the are was used in the film Gladiator.

Our guide holds up a picture, showing the arena that was erected just outside the Kasbah for filming.

The buildings are being constantly repaired and re-built and here you can see some clay bricks drying in the sun.

Bricks made from Clay and straw have been used since the beginning of time and are mentioned in the bible.

 kettle Some builders working to repair the fort.

I have always believed, that people in the world, aren’t that different (for example, while in London, watching loads of people walking to work, in comparison, wandering around Marrakech first thing in the morning, the expressions on the faces of the people, didn’t look that different.

On the bottom left of this photo, you can see the kettle, builders around the world, are especially alike !.

 Inside the Kasbah, its right out of Tomb Raider.  ab4
 ab5 Tony poses overlooking the valley.

I told a few of my friends, about the trick I had learned on my travel photography course.

If you really want a picture taken right, and you want to be in it, you stand with the person you want to take the picture and guide a 3rd person to stand where your going to stand.

This results in a near perfect picture, every time.

It’s said that in Morocco, nothing happens without Tea.

We are invited for some tea, and to see how traditional carpets are made.

The carpet shop owners wife shows us how they are actually made (the weaving frame belonged to her grandmother).

Women wear tattoos to show if they are married, how many children they have etc.

 carpet2 Wedding rugs are unique to the Burbers and not general across Morocco.

Our guide explains, that once a marriage is arranged, the bride will start to make a rug.

Symbols on the rug, will reflect how she wishes to live (whether she wants more freedom, or more protection, how many children she would like to have etc).

Delicious chicken for lunch, and then we hit the road, once again.

The whole while I was in Morocco, it was pretty rare to find beer and when I did it was very expensive.

I saw this garage at the side of the road, advertising cold beer, and I couldn’t believe my look.

Our driver just carried on without stopping.

As I saw the building from the other side, I noticed that all the cars were of 70’s American manufacture.

Our guide explained, that it wasn’t actually a working garage, and that it had been used as a set for the film, The hills have eyes, and was never taken down.

 goats I had read about the famous tree climbing goats.

I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Our next stop is Tardount, sometimes called little Marrakech, as it has a wall around it.

We wander around the streets during the evening (Sagun comes back with a new handbag, which doesn’t surprise anyone).

The locals drove around on mopeds, with a gay abandon, which at times I found terrifying.

After a delicious evening meal of Beef Kofti, a few of us chat, and the remainder play cards, especially purchased for the occasion.

I was chatting to Don and he bet me his wife Sue would almost certainly win.

She was Australian, and had grown up in a place called Calagory, where they didn’t have tv, until the 80’s.In the morning we sit together in the hotel for breakfast, drink coffee and eat french bread with butter (the French really don’t know how lucky they are to eat like that every day).

 skins After the best nights sleep of the trip, we pop down for breakfast and enjoy coffee, with french bread and real butter (the French just don’t realise how lucky they are).

We then head of to a tannery, where we see how animal skins are prepared.

I had done this sort of thing on Bushcraft courses before, and found the factory atmosphere, a bit un-inspiring.

Many of the other people were practically sick.

In Taradount’s history, there was a rebellion, during which, the Berbers backed the wrong side.

As a result they were completely wiped out.

Today they have returned, and usually wear blue. Our guide was also wearing blue that day, but said it was of no significance, he just liked those clothes.

He explained how men would bring food with them to work and then “hire” a tajine to cook it from.

At lunchtime they would come back, the food would be cooked, and they would tuck in.

To avoid confusion, people put tomatoes, forks etc on top of their Tajine, to mark it.

 spicemarket As we continued our tour of the market, we purchased some food for a packed lunch (we would be eating in the mountains for lunch again.

I grabbed some flat bread for emergency’s (I always had some in my day sack, in case I got hungry) and then found some “proper” French bread and cheese. Delicious.

This is one of my favourite photographs on all of my trips. The colours in the spice souk were amazing.

We split into 2 groups, and while exploring with Alistair, a guy said our friends had gone to the oil house.

They said that to everyone, the oil house seemed to be a very lucrative “attraction”.

That evening, we would be starting out 2 night stay in the Burber house. We set out for buy some wine for the evening.

We found a bar and had a can of flag (the local brew) while we were waiting.

The inside of the bar would have made an adequate lavatory back in the UK.

 lionrock At this point we are met by our 3 land rovers, and head for our next destination along mountain roads.

At one point we stop and get a chance to walk along the pass.

This a picture of some of the cliffs that flanked each side of the road.

We stop for refreshments before heading to the Burber house we will share for the next 2 days.

In the background is the famous Tete Du Lion, or the lion faced mountain.

Back in the Landrover, feels like adventure again.

Took turns on seats in the land rover. There was plenty of room, and considering how much time we spent on the road, this was appreciated by everyone.

The track up to the Burber house was very uneven, so we had to get out of the land rovers.

It gave an opportunity to take this pretty smart picture.

 bv1 Initial confusion in the Burber house, as there are 3 rooms, and people are moving back and forward with bags like on a school trip.

I debate sleeping on the roof, but decide to stay indoors (in the end, I am in the minority).

In the evening, I give a brief (for me !) talk on travel equipment, which seems well received.

Our drivers, cooks and porters, all worked to different schedules.

As we sat down to eat our evening meal, we could hear singing comming from the kitchen.

Two of our crew were good friends who hadn’t met up in a while. One produced a violin, and the other a water container as an improvised drum.

It really was a lesson for me, to see these simple people with nothing, improvising entertainment and having a whale of a time.

Back home in my country, many youngsters without a playstation consider themselves poverty stricken, and they could learn a lesson from these 2.


Tour of India and Nepal – Chitwan National Park (2/2).

elefarm2  We wander around the Elephant Breeding Centre.
 We were able to buy flatbread, that we could feed to the Elephants. elefarm1
 elefarm3  Elephants have always been my favourite animals and it was a special moment for me, to be able to spend time with them in peace and quiet away from a Zoo.
 Just after leaving the Elephant Sanctuary, our guide takes us trekking along the flood planes.  wsaf3
 wsaf1 Our guide speaks to a colleague. He quickly asks us, if we can move really fast (I though he meant run, but he meant walk quickly) for about 10 minutes.

We move quickly through the scrub, and are rewarded by a sighting of a rhino.

At one point, the Rhino looks slightly spooked, we back away as instructed (we could see it, but it was too far away to photograph without a zoom lens).

After an exhilarating half hour, we head back to the Elephant sanctuary entrance, to cross the river and go back for lunch.

We were surprised to see this.

 rhinowalk2 We had spent the morning, looking in the wilder parts of the park. We were astounded at the irony, when a Rhino walked right across the grass in front of us, bold as brass.

We were able to get really close and see it. One Japanese guy took a real chance and went a bit too close to it.

My guidebook was clear about this: Before getting inquisitive with Rhino’s and ignoring the advise of your guide, just imagine being trampled to death !.

After an amazing morning, we head back across the river, to our waiting Jeeps.

An old man on the bank, was carving small animals from wood (it was how he made his living).

Interestingly, he had Elephants and Rhino’s (I bought one each, have them to this day, they are treasured possessions) and since the spectacle of the Rhino passing, the carved Rhino had doubled in value.

 eleguide After lunch, our guide arrives with an elephant, and we take it in turns, to learn how to climb on its back, like the locals, using its very strong ears.
 We head to the loading station, where our 3 Elephants arrive, complete with “viewing platform” seats.  elesaf4
 elesaf3  We head gracefully along the trail.
 Crossing through Wetlands.  elesaf2
 elesaf5 Finally we reach the bush.

In this terrain, it was like being dragged through the proverbial hedge backwards.

It was pretty cool cruising high above the forest floor.

We saw loads of wild animals (but unfortunately, no Tigers. Our guide had said lf we see a Tiger, we should go home to the UK, and easily win the Lottery !)

The Rhino’s were relaxing in the long grass (well I think that’s what they were doing) and we were able to get right up close to see them, as you can see from this picture.

There are 400 wild Rhino’s in the park.

 bathele1 Afterwards, its time for some R and R.

The Elephants needed to be bathed, and we were invited to go down to the river to bath them.

Not my sort of hobby really, so I sat on the bank (with a Beer, obviously), kept hold of the Camera’s and took pictures of everyone.

Here Kingsley tries to stay on the Elephants back.

 shop Later, we wander around into the village.

I bought some presents, a beautiful painting of 3 village women carrying baskets (which hangs on my wall at work) and something I have always wanted, a Gurkha Knife.

I bought lots of stuff from this Charity shop, which contributes to single mothers in the area.

In the evening, I relax around the bar with Kingsley, the famous Pencil entrepreneur of Indian legend.

To mark the 50th Anniversary of the ascent of Everest, a special brand of Lager had been produced.

They were still selling it a couple of years later, and it was still delicious.

Its moments like these that I treasure, when you sit amongst friends and recount the days events.

 jeepsaf Up early again, and back to the Jeeps, for our final trip out

In only 2 days, we had done a village visit, a Canoe Safari, a walking Safari and an Elephant Safari.

This was an early morning Jeep Safari, to see small animals.

 As we crossed the river by bridge, there was an early morning eclipse (not photographed terribly well.  eclipse
 jeepback As we set off, we see more Elephants along the road.

During the Monsoon season, roads like this one are impassible.

As we drive through the forest, in the early morning, there were loads of birds and other creatures to see (there are over 450 species of birds in the park).

Sadly, my Camera just wasn’t powerful enough to photograph them.

 jeepsaf1 I decided to just enjoy the experience.

I love driving over rough terrain anyway, and the surroundings, just made it even better.