30.07.2007 - 12.08.2007
Our first stop in Nepal was at Chitwan National Park. This area of the country is home to a small number of tigers, although they eluded us. We did manage to find a rhino with a calf when we were out game spotting. As we were riding elephants through the jungle, we were able to get close without being in danger. Later in the day we went with the elephants to the river. We had an enjoyable afternoon helping to wash the animals and playing with them in the water. They are able to lift people on to their back by raising their trunks, and will then throw you in the water as soon as you get seated. We had to leave quickly when a wild male elephant appeared on the opposite bank (all the elephant used for riding are female).
Pokhara is Nepal's second largest city, beside a lake and surrounded by mountains. We spent six nights here for a break after three months on the road. Althought the city is large and bustling, the lakeside area is much more relaxed. There are lots of excellent restaurants and cafes which were much appreciated after some of the food in India and Pakistan. Above the city is a superb viewpoint with a huge view of the Himalayas to the North - my first sight of the mountains. Some of us went on a two day rafting trip, camping by the river in the afternoon. There was some moderate white water to enjoy and a very scenic ride between the rapids. We also spent a day boating on the lake, failing to catch any fish, but enjoying the scenery.
At the end of the rafting trip, near Pokhara
The group was in a celebratory mood when we reached the capital, having completed the classic London to Kathmandu overland route. Because Kathmandu is so cramped and congested, we had to leave the truck on the outskirts of the city. This did make it an interesting place to walk around, as it was almost impossible to go anywhere without getting lost. The Rum Doodle restaurant has the autograph of everyone who has climbed Everest, but none of us could spot Hillary's.
Leaving Kathmandu, we travelled North on the Friendship Highway, which links Nepal and Tibet. The road climbs gently at first towards the border, increasing in steepness through the jungle. After the border towns there is a long continuous ascent on to the Tibetan Plateau. Due to work on the road, traffic was only allowed through at night, and only in one direction at a time. So at midnight we set off in a convoy of vehicles, aiming to reach the plateau by 6:00. This was by far the worst section of road on the trip. A narrow, uneven strip had been cleared alongside the road for the traffic to pass the roadworks. There were steep drop-offs and sharp turns all night as we slowly climbed. By dawn we were up on the plateau and reeling from the effects of the altitude. After a few hours rest, we set off for our Everest adventure.
The highest point of the trip, a pass on the Tibetan Plateau
Camping in Tibet
Looking across the Plateau