Current location....Kathmandu, Nepal. Finished my tour yesterday. What a fantastic, yet busy two weeks. Seen many fascinating things, the interesting, the breath-taking, and the bizarre!! India and Nepal could not be more different. India is overcrowded, dirtier and seems to be more affected by poverty, despite being one of the richest countries in the world. Nepal on the other hand is laid back and spacious. A great place for travellers and trekkers alike. Even the operation of the Embassie's in each of the countries could not be more polar. I know which of the two I will definatley be re-visiting.
My tour got off to a shakey start. Spent 2 days travelling around Delhi trying to alter my Indian visa so that I can re-enter India to catch my connecting flights through to OZ. Was excitig catching rickshaws here and there. Felt like a true traveller! From this point onwards the tour ran very smoothly thanks to our G adventures tour guide Abi. We have travelled through Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Orchha, Varanasi, Lumbini, Chitwan, Pokhara, and finished in Kathmandu. There's been countless taxi rides, rickshaws, sleeper trains, and many other forms of transport involved.
I have had the pleasure of experiencing some fantastic spectacles. The marble wounder that is the Taj Mahal (built by the Rana of the time as a symbol of his love for his late wife). The palace of the winds ( so women of Jaipur could view the activity in the city without themselves being seen). The Amber fort. TIt was outside here that I encountered a snake charmer.....didnt get too close! Took an Indian cooking class in Orchha. Here we stayed in luxury tents overlooked by an ancient temple. like being in an Indiana Jones movie!!
The ancient city of Varanasi was a real eye opener. Extremely over-populated and busy. Believed to have been built by Lord Shiva (God of destruction), with the holy river Ganges flowing through it. This is the only city where Hindus are allowed to cremate the dead 24 hours a day. We saw a few cremations taking place on the banks (Ghats) of the Ganges during our boat ride. It takes approx 800 kilos of wood for the average body to cremate. The fire used must be purchased from the Fire God.
Nepal has been slightly more adventurous than India. We stayed two nights at Chitwan National Park. Here we took an early morning elephant ride through the jungle, and celebrated the festival of Diwali with the locals. Watched the sunrise over Pokhara, visited the monkey temple (Swayambhunath) in Kathmandu. Think tomorrow I will try and arrange with one of the others from my tour to visit Durbar Sqaure n Kathmandu. Here resides the living Goddess. A young girl who has passed certian tests that determine a goddess status. She is removed from the family and educated alone in her palace. As soon as she hits puberty this status is lost and a new goddess found. There is a book written by a previous living goddess which reveals the 'scars' and contradictions of such a position.
I have one day left in Kathmandu before catching my flights through to Sydney. Hopefully, all will run smoothly!!