Santiago de Chile

January 2020 – I am sitting on the plane after a sleepless night, listening to Billie Eilish’s Everything I Wanted and wondering what the next three weeks are going to be like. It’s still dark, I’m tired and very nervous. How can I not be nervous – I have never been to South America before and everyone have been telling me that it’s not safe there, especially for solo female travelers. What was I even thinking when I started planning this trip? Why can’t I just settle for a simple beach holiday somewhere in Spain without having to scare myself to bits?..

It’s amazing when you tell yourself that something needs to happen and if you persist, the dreams turn into reality. It was January 2019 when I decided I would have to drag myself to Patagonia for the next big holiday and after some planning it all fell into places.

My first stop was Santiago. Before landing I got my first glimpse of the Andes and I could feel the excitement boiling inside me, with no way to express it (who wants to be that crazy person on the plane haha).

I got my hostel to arrange a pick up and a very friendly driver Patricio was waiting for me at the airport with a big smile on his face. He chatted to me in Spanish the entire time we were in the car and I surprised myself that even after over 20 hours of traveling with barely any sleep I could understand most of what he was saying (different story with me having to respond…. ).

The next day I woke up and decided it was time to go for a wander and explore the city. I was still nervous since someone told me that protests were not finished yet and the city was not entirely safe. I was super cautious at first until I realised there was nothing to be afraid of. Everything felt so European and I seemed to blend in so well that nobody even noticed me. Apart from that one person who came to ask me for directions!

Coming from winter in Scotland to summer in Chile was a big shock. I was so hot that I didn’t know what to do with myself. However, I quickly learned that Chileans loved ice cream, which is my favourite food on the planet, and they were amazing at making it. I could treat myself far too often with an excuse that it was boiling hot outside. My favourite place in Santiago was Auguri Milano, with the tastiest ice cream (in my opinion) and the nicest owner.

I spent my first day just wandering and exploring. I am not religious, but I love the atmosphere in the churches and the silence there, so I stopped at the cathedral to appreciate its beauty.

I met a really nice Canadian professor Luc in my hostel, who recommended visiting Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. For someone who loves art it was an absolute treat. I spent hours there looking at beautiful pieces or art, reading about different cultures and history. It was all so new to me and I could not believe that the Chinchorro mummies (Chinchorro people lived in Northern Chile in ~ 5000 BCE) were the oldest examples of artificially mummified human remains, approx. two thousand years older than Egyptian mummies!

I also stupidly decided to go up Santa Lucia Hill that afternoon. It was really hot, so I didn’t stay there long (and it was a bit depressing to see so much smog from up there). I imagine it would be a really cool spot to hang out on a bit cooler day though.

I then decided to head back to my hostel. It was quite a walk but I felt like walking rather than taking the metro. Well remember I mentioned that the protests (google it if you have no idea what protests I’m talking about) weren’t over yet? I accidentally got to experience it all. I got close to Centre Gabriela Mistral, where I saw people exhibiting weapons that were used during the protests and some of the photos. I thought – wow how interesting and it’s great that people are not giving up even if these are just peaceful exhibitions. I continued walking down the road and realised there was a crowd throwing rocks at the police vehicles. The police in return were spraying water at the protesters. Someone told me it was time to run. So I did. However, I was curious and stupid and because I needed to head past the place the protests were taking place, I walkout round a block and still got to see a glimpse of the fight taking place. It was their fight and I had no intention in getting involved, but I felt extremely impressed of how people refused to take everything that politicians were throwing at them and demanded what they deserved.

I got back to my hostel safe. Someone told me that in the area I was staying the protests weren’t happening, but couple of days later the protesters showed up there too (although they were a much more peaceful crowd). Still, seeing the armed police vehicles caused a sense of unease.

The next day I headed to Valparaiso and I’ll write about it in my next post. My last day in Santiago before heading to Patagonia was extremely relaxed (I refused to deal with the heat) and I spent a day just relaxing and eating amazing food (you know, I had to save my energy for the hike I was about to do). Santiago de Chile turned out to be an amazing city, quite an opposite of what I expected before getting there. Never listen to people who try to scare you, especially the ones who never visited those places themselves.

Billie Eilish’s Everything I Wanted became a part of my journey too. I listened to the song during various moments of my trip, remembering how scared I was while sitting on the plane and comparing it to the beautiful sense of adventure and happiness I was feeling during the trip. I still listen to the song from time to time, which really helps me to remember the tastes, physical sensations, different environments and my moods at various moments in the last few months. It helps me during this Covid-19 crisis by reminding that this moment is just like that dark plane and soon I’ll be enjoying life the way it should be enjoyed.

UAE and the World’s Longest Zipline

When I heard that UAE built the world’s longest zipline, I told Craig we had to go and try it out ourselves. He was keen to show me a bit of the country where he grew up so he agreed straight away. Sense of excitement replaced sadness of leaving Bali and I was ready for a new country and a different culture.

We stayed with Craig’s family while in Dubai and borrowed his mum’s car for getting around which made everything pretty easy. However, the traffic and the driving culture seemed to be so mental, I don’t think I would ever dare to get behind the wheel myself.

We didn’t spend too much time in Dubai. We had time for some of the things that Dubai is famous for such as Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall (just for the experience, I’m not really a shopper) and watching a sunset next to Burj Al Arab. I can say I was extremely excited to stand next to Burj Khalifa, I remember seeing a photo of it when I was young and it made a massive impression on me. Now, with the engineering degree in my bag, I can say it was even more spectacular in real life.

My favourite place in Dubai turned out to be La Mer, an extremely awesome beachfront with loads of cafes, art and a nice beach. It had such a chilled vibe and felt very different from the rest of Dubai.

One day we decided to head to Hatta to visit Hatta Fort Hotel, which was a small paradise in the middle of hot and mountainous area.

On the way back I wanted to check out the desert since I’ve never experienced it before. It was 40 degrees and the desert felt like a hot oven (surprise!), but I was really excited to step on the edge of it. And I saw loads of camels (don’t laugh, it’s a new thing for me) just wandering around the desert!

Anyway, I promised to tell about the world’s longest zipline. It’s 1.7mile zipline in the mountains of UAE, close to Ras Al-Khaimah. There is a newly built road leading to it and once you arrive there and spot the zipline, it’s looks quite scary, such a long way to go! Not going to lie, I was quite nervous.

You need to pre-book the experience and once you arrive at the car park they give you a lift up to the main office. You’ll then get your gear, introduction etc. and be dropped off near the zipline platform.

And then after a bit of queuing and seeing other people leaving the platform screaming, it’s time for your flight. You’ll leave the first platform in “superman” style (head down) and reach about 120km/h speed. Sounds a bit sick and, indeed, it does feel pretty fast at first, but soon you can start enjoying the views and the feeling of freedom. The reality (aka zipline breaks) are pretty harsh and will hit you before you reach the platform, but nothing to be scared of.

On that second platform they remove your superman costume and you get to do the last bit sitting down. It goes much slower and gives a chance to appreciate your surroundings and to recover (slightly) from the first part.

Despite all the initial nerves, it was a really enjoyable experience although it felt like it was over in no time. Would definitely recommend this to anyone, especially to people like me who are terrified of heights 🙂

UAE visit was short and sweet and I went back there a few months ago again, but I’ll tell you about it once I catch up on writing about my adventures (still about a year behind).

Nusa Penida

This island is located just south east of Bali and it’s a small paradise that hasn’t yet been ruined with too many tourists.

We left Amed coast relatively early, meaning we could beat most of the traffic and get to Padangbai in time for the ferry to Nusa Penida. We wanted to take our scooters to Nusa Penida since we thought it would be cheaper and safer than leaving them in Bali. I have to say I really didn’t like Padangbai, various people were pestering us all the time and when we got to the ferry terminal the guard requested a bribe since we didn’t have an international driving licence (our own fault…). However, there something good happened as well -here is where we met our best friend for the next few days – Thorsten.

We then were told that the ferry wasn’t running and that we should take a fast boat. There were quite a few foreigners at the port trying to do the same thing, so we didn’t believe the ferry wasn’t coming anytime soon. We thought it was a scam and they were just trying to charge us more money. Various guys working at the port were pointing at the poster entirely in Balinese and trying to convince us we had no other option but to take a fast boat. Someone eventually managed to confirm that the main ferry, which was taking cars and scooters, was indeed broken down and we had to think what to do next.

We had to leave the scooters in Padangbai so we found a random hostel owner who agreed to look after them. He seemed quite trustworthy so we felt much more confident in leaving our vehicles with him instead of at the port. Craig, Thorsten and I jumped on the fast boat and I tried really hard not to get seasick since I forgot to take the tablets with me.

Once we got to Nusa Penida it turned out that all the scooters rentals were struggling for vehicles since there was a massive celebration on the island. People from all over Bali mostly dressed in white were making their way to Nusa Penida. I think the celebration was called Nyepi Laut and the island really felt busy. Loads of temples had long ceremonies every evening and there people in white everywhere.

We managed to get a car to our accommodation close to Crystal Bay and the owner found a scooter for us. Our accommodation was newly built – like the majority of places on this island. Nusa Penida is only just getting ready for tourists and therefore the infrastructure is still lacking. We were quite away from the ferry area and the majority of shops and restaurants, so had to do a long(ish) trip everyday. The poor quality roads scared me a bit, especially after seeing couple of accidents.

On our first evening we explored the Crystal Bay and walked to the Pandan beach which is next to it, you just need to hike over the big rock that’s inbetween. There was nobody there, apart from huge waves and loads of beautiful shells.

We agreed to go exploring with Thorsten the next day. The lack of infrastructure I mentioned earlier showed its face around the first corner. I ended up having to walk for a bit until the guys got the scooters out on the tarmac road. The photo explains more than I ever could.

The first place we visited was Peguyangan waterfall. You have to wear a sarong to enter (there are locals renting them out) and then it’s a steep hike down on blue metal stairs. It’s extremely beautiful but need to take care not to slip especially because it’s so easy to get distracted and you’ll want to take a lot of photos. Once you head down you will reach the sacred water temple, a pilgrimage site for locals, which was busy that day because of religious celebration on the island. The views, waves hitting the rocks and locals coming to pray really created a magic atmosphere.

We also visited a really beautiful beach Atuh, which felt relaxed and a bit hidden from the rest of the world. Spent some time chilling there and decided to head back.

The ride back was really scenic and we ended up spending our evening in a nice bar on the beach.

The next day Craig decided to go scuba diving and I booked a snorkeling trip. It turned out on the boat that the company didn’t have the correct size fins for me, but I thought I probably didn’t need them anyway since I’m a decent swimmer. Oh god, I was so wrong.

The waves at the first stop were so strong that it was hard to swim. I only spent a few minutes in the water since that was a manta ray stop, but they were nowhere to be seen. The second spot allowed to see a bit more variety, but because the waves were strong,they were pulling me from one side to the other and I ended up accidentally brushing my foot against the rock and making it to bleed. The third snorkeling site was pretty cool, we got into water and allowed to be carried by the current while exploring the amazing water life around. I really enjoyed it and it was definitely a highlight of the snorkeling trip.

The last spot made me promise to myself that I’ll never do snorkeling boat trips ever again. We stopped in deep water and there were quite a few different boats around. I wasn’t sure if I still wanted to jump in the water since I felt a bit tired, but the guide said there were loads of big fish around. I probably didn’t see a single fish because as soon as I got into water the current started carrying me away and I whatever effort I put in to swimming was useless. I started freaking out a bit since I was carried towards other ships and had no control. Really wished I had some sort of fins at that point, but I didn’t. Luckily the guide saw what was happening so he came and helped me to get back to the boat. Later when I told this to my boyfriend he said their ship picked up someone doing snorkeling since he got separated from his boat. My fear of water has always been around and this accident slightly worsened it…

The next day we went exploring with Thorsten again. The roads were quite pleasant and scenic and we got to Kelingking (also known as T-Rex) beach. It was quite crowded so after taking a few photos we decided to move on to the next place.

However, once we got back to the car park Thorsten’s scooter was missing. We were in denial for quite a while so searched the car park twice but had to admit the scooter was stollen. Thorsten then contacted his accommodation and scooter owner and explained the situation and arranged a ride back. We didn’t feel like exploring anymore so went back to our place. Later on, when we saw Thorsten, he said that the scooter was found sitting in the port. Since the main ferry wasn’t running nobody could get it out of the island.

Perhaps I’ll finish the post by saying that we got a bit paranoid about our scooters left in Bali so contacted the guest house owner to whom we left the scooters (and their keys). Obviously everything was fine and the scooters weren’t even touched when we came back from Nusa Penida. But I would probably be a bit more careful now, especially after knowing that thefts do happen.

Otherwise, Nusa Penida is an amazing island with some beautiful beaches, funky roads and sense of adventure. Go, enjoy!

Porto

I remember sitting in a metro heading from Porto Francisco Sá Carneir airport to the city centre, listening to a strange language and thinking of how this beautiful mix of sounds came together. Probably due to my lack of history knowledge, I didn’t expect Portuguese to sound anything like what I was hearing, but that was a great incentive to do more research about Portugal during my trip. It was only one of the surprises that the country kept throwing at me while I was there.

I got out of the metro on a Friday night, with streets full of people and restaurants still busy serving evening meals. I spotted this lonely dog in the car, staring at the beautiful pieces of meat hanging inside the restaurant and people enjoying each others company. When you are a dog, you don’t have a freedom of choice, you can’t get your wallet out and buy a piece of ham. Appreciate your freedom, humans!

The next day I opened the curtains of my hotel room and decided it was time to go out and enjoy life.

I also took a photo of the same window from outside just to remind myself there are always two sides of everything and you can never tell which one is more beautiful until you see them both.

Once I got outside, an engineer in me took some time to admire the city’s bridges. The most famous one is Dom Luís I bridge which crosses Rio Douro in order to take you to Vila Nova de Gaia with loads of beautiful port wine cellars.

Another amazing thing you can do in Porto is a tour of the arch of Arrábida Bridge, which is the only bridge arch you are allowed to climb legally in Europe. You will get a harness and a great guide if you google Porto Bridge Climb and book their tour. Recommended!

Right, if bridges are not your thing and you prefer looking at buildings, you will be spoilt for choice in Porto. I was slightly surprised that so many of the buildings were looking a bit forgotten and screaming for some renovation work, but one of the locals suggested I should have seen the place before ryanair started flying to Porto. I guess cheap flights to this beautiful place will hugely change the city’s face.

If you want to admire Portuguese azulejos (various ceramic tiles that turned city into a piece of artwork in my opinion), Porto is perfect for that. You can head to Sao Bento station that loads of tourists do or wonder around the city and wait to be surprised. You won’t be disappointed!

Another beautiful thing about Portugal is it’s amazing food and I won’t keep taking about it, but some of the seafood I tried was absolutely amazing. Also, I remember one night my friend was telling me about this amazing white wine sangria he tried in one of the restaurants and we absolutely had to have it. Being a bit tipsy, we showed up at the place not realising they were closing and asked for the best sangria in town. Even if they were closed, not only they made us the drink, but also gave it to us for free. Portuguese hospitality at its best.

What else can I say, Porto is an amazing place that didn’t yet feel ruined with tourists. It’s got plenty of character and will keep your senses exposed to plenty it’s got to offer.

Adventures in Iceland

Two hours after I landed in Iceland I was swimming in the Blue Lagoon not able to believe how amazing the place was. I never imagined that anything like that existed in real life.OK I’ve seen the photos before, but it still felt so surreal to be there. Swimming outdoors in -5C and not feeling cold was awesome.

Once we got out of the blue lagoon, there was still quite a few miles to cover to get to our hotel in Selfoss and we were rushing to make it before check in closed. We were sitting in the car and talking about the northern lights when some weird ‘clouds’ appeared. We stopped the car and couldn’t believe how lucky we were to spot the aurora! The northern lights weren’t extremely bright, but they were there. It was my first time seeing them and I was jumping around like a little girl from all the excitement. Didn’t take very good photos but that doesn’t matter anyway!

The next day we got up early and went to do a Golden Circle. The first stop was Kerið crater lake that did look quite interesting but nothing too exciting for the money we had to pay.

Then we got to Geysir which is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. The land all over the place was steaming and the actual geyser was so mesmerising that I watched it going several times before I agreed to leave. So much power!

The next stop was Gulfoss which is one of the greatest waterfalls I’ve ever been to. No matter how cold it was, watching and listening to that waterfall was an absolutely amazing experience. It’s so relaxing and beautiful even if you can’t see all of that in the photo.

There was a lot of driving involved that day and we eventually got to Þingvellir National Park which would probably be your first stop if you did the Golden Circle from Reykjavik. This national park is Iceland’s first of the three and also a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s situated directly between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates which makes the place really special.

When we got back to Selfoss, northern lights hunt continued. Driving around and looking for northern lights kind of became a habit every night which was also great for another reason – kept alcohol costs to zero.

My favourite thing in Iceland was Reykjadalur hot springs. You have to drive to Hveragerði and then hike for about an hour through the hills until you see the steam coming out from the ground. You have to continue further down until the river appears and you can pick a spot you like to chill for the next few hours or so.

The hardest bit is taking your clothes off and jumping in. Would also advise to leave your stuff further away from the river since all the steam gets your clothes wet! Also trying to dress yourself after chilling in the river is quite a challenge since the river banks are muddy and if you try to stand in the snow you get cold quickly. But it’s totally worth it!

The next day we were heading to see one of the glaciers (won’t even try to spell it) in the south of Iceland. We stopped to look at Skogafoss waterfall which is extremely cool with all the rainbows, but quite touristy due to the fact it’s so close to the road.

The walk on the glacier was cool, we had ice grippers and didn’t go too far so that was safe enough to do it without a guide and save loads of money. It was extremely windy so there was loads of volcanic ash in the air (black stuff in the photos below).

After the glacier we headed towards the beautiful Reynisfjara black sand beach and if you are crazy about geology, there are some really cool basalt columns to check out in that part of the world. I love contrasts and Reynisfjara in March was a perfect place for seeing contracts in nature.

Our hotel that night was close to Seljavallalaug swimming pool, which is probably awesome in summer but a bit too cold for March. It was fun to check it out anyway.

On the final day we headed to Reykjavik and stopped at Seljalandsfoss waterfall which is also extremely accessible.

Once we reached Reykjavik, I enjoyed walking around, exploring little streets, beautiful Harpa building and the famous church. I even tried the whale steak even if I know a lot of people would disapprove this. It was delicious by the way.

Iceland will always be a place where I want to go back and I’m sure I will return one day to do some hiking.

Budapest

Life is short and you need to make the most of it. That’s what people often say, but they forget to add that you also need to go to Budapest. It’s definitely my favourite European capital at the moment and I cannot wait to go back one day.

I got there at the end of September when the weather was still nice and I was unemployed. Oh wait, the latter is not that relevant… Anyway, I arrived by train from Bratislava and had very little expectations for the place. Just thought I would check it out since one of my closest friends (Emma) was from there. I was not disappointed! The place was full of beautiful buildings, amazing outdoor and ruin bars, great food places and colours around every corner.

I spent my first evening wandering around and admiring Fisherman’s bastion that looked like a castle from a fairy tale. You could also get a fab view of the parliament from there.

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Fisherman’s Bastion

As I mentioned, Budapest is famous for its ruin bars and there are loads of them, so it didn’t take me long to step to one of them. I met up with Emma and we went on a wee catch up adventure around some of the more random ones. You can never know what to expect from the ruin bars, but it’s always a nice surprise when you find something unusual.

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In summer, loads of places will offer you an option to chill outside – like the whole place just being the outdoor bar with hammocks or they open the windows and add couple of benches outside, so you don’t feel like a random hanging out on the street.

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I am not a big fan of taking food photos but some of the things had to be photographed. I fell in love with hungarian “pizza” langos, which is a deep fried dough topped up with cheese etc. Far from healthy but it tastes amazing!

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They also had loads of nice restaurants and I was worried that I forgot the name of the place that blew my mind, but I then found it in one of the photos – it’s called Mandragora. The restaurant has a really relaxed outdoor seating and amazing food, I would recommend it to anyone.

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I also have to mention that Budapest is famous for its baths, it’s got loads of them, with one of the more famous being Széchenyi Thermal Baths. Pick any one of them and spend a day relaxing and you will be ruined forever. Thermal baths should exists in every city!

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As I said earlier, Budapest is full of colours and random features and it’s nice to walk around and explore what it’s got to offer. We accidentally wandered to one of the parks and were surprised by an amazing fountain dancing to a variety of songs.

It’s also got a lot of markets where you can buy fresh or home made produce or just wander around and feel like a part of this amazing city. Budapest’s got everything, you just need to let it to surprise you.

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Go to Budapest and you will love it. Just open up your mind and enjoy it 🙂

Istanbul

Every time I go to a place like Istanbul I just wish I paid more attention in history lessons… Nevertheless, even without any decent history knowledge it’s impossible not to appreciate this breathtaking city.

I just remembered how dirty I felt once I arrived to Istanbul. It was a 24 hour stopover on the back to Scotland from Nepal. I spent 7 weeks wondering in the clouds of dust and getting my boots dirty and then over the sudden I was in this pristine place (at least it felt like it). My dirty (kind of) tshirts and shorts really felt awkward, although judging from all the attention I got from local guys, nobody even noticed my clothes.

I really didn’t have much time to see Istanbul. I made it to the Blue Mosque which was one the most beautiful places I have ever visited. It’s hard to show the beauty in the photos, but I heard people saying that if their church looked like this mosque they would spend every day there. Not being religious, I almost agreed.

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I then met some local volunteers who recommended visiting Topkapi Palace, a former residence of Ottoman Sultans. It’s an absolutely stunning place with loads of colours, patterns and beautiful items (like jewelry) and it was a proper history overload for my tired from traveling brains.

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The place kept me entertained for a few hours and I didn’t realise I missed the closing time of the Basilica Cistern – a largest of the cisterns in Istanbul, able to hold 80,000 cubic metres (or accoring to my calcs 32 Olympic swimming pools) of water. I am a bit of a water engineering freak so I was gutted to miss the place.

For some reason everyone kept telling me how chaotic transport was in Istanbul, I kept replying that they should see Nepal… 🙂 just to be clear, not just for the chaotic transport but also for its beauty!

I spent an evening catching up with my ex classmate. She was studying in Istanbul so it was a good occasion to meet up. She dragged me back to Asia, which I thought I escaped earlier that morning. No regrets, because on the Asian side of Istanbul I got introduced to a Turkish pizza, Lahmacun, which I’m still dreaming about and cannot find it anywhere is Scotland… ideas anyone?

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The next day I got up early thanks to jet lag. Had a wee wonder around the empty streets and headed back to the airport. It was time to come back to Scotland. I know one day I will return to Turkey, do my history research beforehand and eat Lahmacun for breakfast, lunch and dinner (maybe)!

See you again, Nepal

I wanted to write my last post about Nepal and summarise my experience there, but I couldn’t. All the beautiful memories are circulating in my head and none of them seem to be less worth mentioning. I think with my all my previous posts I managed to paint a decent picture of the country, people and culture so this post will be about saying goodbye.

Before I left Nepal, I went back to Kavresthali to see my family there for the final time. I got one last ride in the crazy mini bus heading to the village. I will never forget these absolutely packed buses, where I always felt like a giant human. I remember one time the mini bus was so full that the poor lady spent half of the ride with her head in my boobs… The drivers always played loud but cool music, which made the ride a bit more pleasant.

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It was mid July and the monsoon season was full on. The road to the house was in even worse condition than when I left it two weeks ago. You were lucky to be able to use it for walking and getting your boots all muddy was inevitable.

I turned out that I missed a wedding in the village just by couple of days. The weddings are definitely not being planned for several months in advance, probably a week at the most. You don’t really need to know the person you’re marrying either, it’s something your parents will arrange for you (most of the time). Quite convenient and avoids all the tinder frustration etc. when you think about it!

When I arrived, the house was full of random people and the ladies were wearing their best clothes. I quickly remembered it was a year since one of the aunts died, so it was a big celebration. I mentioned in one of the previous posts that the death of the relative was being remembered every month for a year, with loads of ceremonies, offerings to gods etc. This last one was the big one and lasted for couple of days. Seems that everyone from the village was in the house, chatting, eating and laughing.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I know I am going to see them all again. I will come back to Kavresthali one day and sit on the roof where I spent so much time. I will be counting fireflies and minutes until the light wizzard would switch on the electricity for our village and then wait until a plate of dhal bhat would be served. Hope I won’t forget how to eat with my hand by then.

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Chitwan National Park

Nepal never really associated to me with elephants, rhinos, crocodiles but I got to see them all there! The south of the country is very different from the north and that was completely unexpected to me (you can even get malaria there!).

A bus ride to Chitwan National park from Kathmandu was one of the most unpleasant I got to experience in Nepal. The park is about 170km away from Kathmandu, however it will take you at least 5 hours to get there, depending on the traffic and luck. I think it took us about 7, but I know someone who was stuck in the bus for about 11 hours. The closer you get to Chitwan the hotter it gets and even the open windows don’t do anything when the traffic is moving slow. Actually, it’s even worse to have the windows open – the roads are in such a poor condition that there is always a cloud of dust in the air.

So after several hours in the bus I arrived in Chitwan all covered in layers of dust, unable to handle the scorching heat and having to deal with the super annoying taxi drivers who jumped on us with their offers as soon as we got out of the bus. We found a place to stay and ordered some food (pizzas) there, which turned out to be a huge mistake. Every weekend, after spending all week eating vegan curries, we were craving for something meaty or cheesy or both. Even in Kathmandu it’s easy to get a food poisoning, but we didn’t realise Chitwan was the hell for it. I have mentioned in my previous posts that the power is only supplied for several hours a day, so loads of places have their own generators. Ours didn’t, but I realised that too late.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the village and arranged a two hour canoe trip followed by three hour jungle walk for the next day. The village was peaceful and we even got to see a rhino and couple of elephants that evening.

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The bacteria from a cheesy pizza showed all the power at very early hours of the morning. The morning felt like an eternity and I really didn’t feel like going anywhere. Imagine my fear of getting into a canoe while being unsure whether my body can contain its own fluids…

I decided to be brave and got to the riverside. Four of us and two guides got into the wee wooden really unstable canoe and starting going down the river full of crocodiles. However, I didn’t have time to think about the dangers of doing it, since I had my stomach to worry about.

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Otherwise, the canoe ride was extremely peaceful – we started just before the sunrise, so there weren’t anyone around, it was so quiet and beautiful. There were loads of birds around and I enjoyed spotting loads of Kingfishers .

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I survived the canoe trip and then the jungle walk started. It was the rainy season so the grass was about 5m high. We were expecting some wild animals to jump out any moment, but nothing like it happened. It was starting to get hot and we had three hours of walking left… I started feeling better from my food poisoning, so that lifted up my mood a bit.

It was a cool walk. The thrill was always there and you could never know what might appear from around the corner. We spotted some rhinos, deer and wild elephants.

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I found a photo that really made me laugh… completely forgot that I went on a jungle walk in this fancy footwear 😀

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At the and of the walk we were exhausted. The heat was terrible and I never knew I could sweat so much! After the walk we got back and downed litres of water. No amount seemed to be enough.

Later on that day we got offered to go on an elephant ride and agreed to it. That was a mistake and I will never ever ride an elephant again. I didn’t do my research beforehand and never realised the problems related to this activity. The elephants were poorly treated and they were hit every time they didn’t want to do something. It really seemed like a cruel way to make money, but loads of people didn’t seem to have problem with it. I am just going to leave this photo here as a reminder than not everything that sounds exotic and cool is fair and the animals shouldn’t be mistreated for the sake of tourism and making money.

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We left the next morning to get back to Kavresthali. I didn’t enjoy Chitwan too much but I guess it was mostly due to the food poisoning and I didn’t really have too much time to explore the park. Maybe that’s why I kept delaying writing about this place…

Bhaktapur

I would had liked to see Bhaktapur before the earthquake hit Nepal in 2015. It’s an ancient city, full of beautiful historical buildings, temples, art and colours. However, my previously mentioned earthquake had a tremendous impact on this magical place and when visited it in summer 2016 the damage could still be clearly seen.

I spent a day there wandering around, for me it was all about the atmosphere, colours ad people.  I would recommend visiting to anyone (although please don’t try to sneak in without paying, the place really needs all the support it can get). It was really hard to take some photos that would give the real sense of this place, but I’m sharing my best attempts.

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I love the photo bellow. Can’t believe this goat climbed up the steep steps to admire the view. Who’s the boss?SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Colours, crafts and people.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Completely destroyed house…

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The people are lovely and kids are keen to pose for the photos. It’s very likely they will ask for money afterwards, but I wouldn’t recommend giving anything to them. Might sound harsh, but when I was trekking my guide said that foreigners turned Nepali children into beggars… knowing that they can get money from foreigners often keep the kids on the streets. Something to think about. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Pottery making is huge in Bhaktapur and you can visit the pottery square to learn more about it.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

It’s been a while since I visited Bhaktapur, so I hope this ancient capital is recovering and rebuilding itself and the life is slowly getting back to normal there.