Visiting Tara – a tale of love

Feb. 23 – Feb. 24

And it gets better. I get out of the hotel around 5 o clock as the first one wakes up. Instead of money I show them a picture of the bed bug and leave to the bus stand to get chai. After some time I go to enjoy the dawn and then to the sweet little rooftop I discovered yesterday. I want to go to the Nepal Telecom office to get internet working on my cellphone which leaves me time until 10 to have breakfast. The guys there are very helpful and finally get me internet – yeah! First success of the day. Hitting the road I miss the turn to Tara several times thinking “that can not be a highway, or a road – anything that is supposed be used by public….”but it is.

It is for sure the worst road I have yet seen in Nepal, big rocks and little streams and a very fine sand that feels more slippery than ice when wet. And wet it becomes with all this little stream running on or crossing the road. Left hand side abyss right hand side rock wall. I ride on the wrong side of the road – right! And still there are public busses here! The plan for today is to reach Tara which is around 50km. I expect the road to become worse and doubt if I can do that in a one day ride. But I am lucky, after about 15km the road is being repaired and most of it is done. Soon I arrive at a village which, according to the km stories of the people I asked could be Tara, according to google maps it is where the road to Tara links to the highway. And so it is. I get some petrol, chai and a little chat with a local and then take the road into an amazing looking valley. But first I have to cross the river.

Ford or suspension bridge that is the question. After watching a truck taking the ford which seems not to be deeper than maybe 30cm I take the ford. When I arrive at the other side of the river I am wet up to my knees but fuck it – done it! I ride up following an amazingly beautiful river into a romantic, beautifull valley full of rice paddles, suspension bridges and beautiful tiny villages with amazingly hospitable people. From now on I take the suspension bridges when crossing the river. Unfortunately I miss one as I didn’t expect much on the other side and take the wrong way up the mountain out of the valley. When I ask for the way its getting dark already and the people whom I ask invite me to stay for the night. The last kilometers up the mountain had been hell full of steep rocky curves and slippery river crossings edging an abyss to deep to survive a crash down easily. I am happy to accept the offer.

This place is a little more than 2000 metres above the Indian ocean and its just amazingly beautiful. Hospitality reminds me of Pakistan and it is a little hard to say good bye on the next morning.

I go back then the scary road to find Tara the place so many people told me to go. Asking in every tiny place for the way I find another scary suspension bridge people tell me I have to cross. Doing so I get to a more remote part of the valley – the remoteness can be seen easily at some genetic defects of some of the people there. Either people are not so open anymore and rather tend to ignore me more a little after the bridge at Tarakhola. Searching for the right place I go higher and higher up the valley until at 2400m a young guy stops me asking what I am searching for…. I have arrived and stop.

Unfortunately the guys at the place I stop are drinking alcohol in large amounts – don’t know if its to celebrate my arrival or if they did already before… They are farmers and show me their product – low quality but high quantity. I take a few pictures and get away soon when they start to get drunk. They offer to stay for the night but I refuse as they start to get a little uncomfortable probably either because they are drunk and I don’t want to buy anything…. I quickly say good bye and leave. It has been hot all day so I am worried about the ford at the beginning of the valley because I expect the water level in the river to rise. On the way down I enjoy the scenery a lot – that place is just so beautiful with all the flowers, the singing birds of spring and that beautiful river in the middle. 500m before I arrive at the ford at the beginning of the valley a friendly guy starts talking to me just minutes before dusk is falling.

He invites me to his parents home to spend the night there. He jumps on my bike and leads me the direction up to one side of the mountain. It is dark already, the road is steep and full of rocks and now we are two on the bike which makes it much harder to handle under these circumstances. I am really happy when we arrive at his house. I get one of the best Dhalbat (like Indian thali) ever and fall asleep at 1400m up in the mountains on a balcony at the end of February. What an amazing day this has been!

Pokhara to Baglung

Feb 20. – Feb. 22

First morning in Pokhara remains the only one to see the beautiful mountain view. The thunderstorm last night had cleaned the air – the days to come it remains cloudy or at least too misty to see far enough. First day in Pokhara I run around in the city trying to get orientation. I don’t really know why all the people think it is so beautiful here. Behind the 7 storage construction sites there is a lake that might be appealing to non Austrian tourists but the city is dirty and extremely expensive. All is about business only and full of tourists spending shitloads of money. I need a motorbike but cant rent one without passport.

Second day Jason arrives and I get my passport in the afternoon – Indian visa inside. Was not able to find an enfield for rent for a reasonable price the day before and today and my host who was most promising seems to do nothing to make me stay at his hotel – only blabla. Its friday evening and in Nepal saturday is what we call sunday – most shops are closed. In the evening I organize a Pulsar for a real reasonable price for the next day. I make a ride to the hilltop village of Dhampus which is famous for its beautiful view of the anna purna range. Today I only see clouds. I make my way to the trekking permit check point where I have another overpriced chai and back to gokarna again. The pulsar isn’t that bad I think but tomorrow I will finally get my bullet.
The bullet I rent is a 2013 model. Gears left side first gear down…. That is not a bullet. Still the sound reminds me of mine so I take it. In the afternoon I make a ride through an incredible mountain scenery to Baglung where I find a nice little room with a nice view cheapish and cold water only. I make a little walk through town and soon find a sweet little roof top restaurant where I decide to have dinner. Nothing else to do so I go to bed soon…. And I wake up soon! At around 11.30pm it starts itching at the end of the socks at my legs. I think it’s the blood circulation and take them off – and I hardly ever undress in guesthouse beds when its not perfectly clean, not even socks. I doesn’t stop itching so I wash my feet with cold water. I go back to bed where 2 minutes later again it starts itching like hell a little further up.

Damn shit! Bed bugs! I discover the first one seconds later and jump out of the bed. These stupid animals are every travelers nightmare! Last time I had them in morocco and I can exactly remember how long it was itching after. And this time I left the clove oil which is the wonder weapon against them in Pokhara. I search my stuff together and go downstairs to build a bed with the tables at the restaurant so I can rest a little somewhere. Out of cigarettes I write this and wait for the next morning. At the moment it can only get better!

Chitwan – Pokhara

Feb 18. -19. 2015

When I check out at rhino land I am surprised about the small bill. Eight days accommodation and a lot of food come to not much more than 70 US$ for good food and clean and spacey rooms with good view, hot water and a little internet (though for the guiding I recommend Ram, contact details last blog entry). You can contact them at +977-56-580339 or +977-9845065547 and they will pick u up from the bus station. GPS coordinates are N27.57782° E084.49905°.

I booked a front seat next to the driver for the bus to Pokhara so I enjoy the ride a lot. The landscape is amazing and the rivers are of incredible beauty. I have to go rafting here somewhere! When arriving in Pokhara it starts to rain and after I have found a hotel the rain turns into a serious thunderstorm including heavy rain and hail. After exploring the town I am completely wet and in the evening I discover a wild animal that has attacked me in the national park. I have a tick…

Pokhara itself is expensive and full of day tourists and hotel construction sites blocking the probably once amazing view. I don’t like the place but I have to stay at least three nights as Jason whom I met in Halong bay is coming here and will bring my passport with the Indian visa with him from Kathmandu. Before I have this I cant even rent a scooter. I use the time to find out the prices for renting a royal enfield . To me this seems to be the only fun promising way to get away from the tourists at the moment – and I cant wait to ride the Himalayas on a bullet once again!

Boom Bolenath! Happy Shivaratri.

Feb 17. 2015

Today is shivas birthday – a big holiday here and everyone who once experiences it will (have difficulties to) remember. Consuming Marijuana and Hash is kind of legal today and its offered everywhere at the temples. We are in the jungle though so get up early, make little sunrise meditation including some mantra chanting for shivaji and after breakfast we make a move towards back to Sauraha.


Today we walk the right bank of the river so we don’t need a ticket for the park for the nearly 20km walk. Sunrise at the riverside is incredibly amazing. In the jungle we see wild boar, lots of deer and again tiger foot prints – this time from a big male. We arrive at the borders of the “guide needed” area around lunchtime. A big big thank you goes to Ram, the craziest guide I have ever seen. He showed me exactly what I wanted to see and that was under the score:


All in all I have seen 10 rhinos (of which two I didn’t see because we bumped into them in the grass maze and had to run away – I count animals within a ratio of 5m as seen here even though I just smelled and heard them), 8 gharials, 3 slot bears, one tiger (within 5m) a tortoise, 7 wild boar, neverending white spotted deer, barking deer, hog deer and sambar deer, a not counted variety of birds of which the pictures show only a small part. It was the first time ever for me to see slot bears, rhinos and gharials in the wild. Before coming here I never hoped to ever see rhinos or gharials as they are both almost extinct.


If you plan to come here and enjoy the thrill of WALKING through a real jungle, give Ram a call and he will arrange all for you. His prices are more than fair and considering I was taking him as my private guide and he was risking his life to entertain me he is really cheap. His number: 981-2114298 – and tell him all the best from me as he doesn’t use internet to read this.


After saying good bye to the guides I still have to walk a little less than an hour to my guesthouse. Everybody is celebrating and just after stepping out of the jungle (dirty, sweaty and wasted) a beautiful girl stops me calling me bhole baba (today that’s ok) and makes pooja for me. I celebrate with the crowd at her family’s chai shop and then fall asleep soon after arriving at the guesthouse.


Second day inside the national park

Feb. 16. 2015

Today in the morning the guys are in time and we are the first ones to enter the jungle. Tonight we will sleep out there at the borders of the national park. A far walk sometimes on jeep tracks, sometimes through the middle of the jungle and sometimes through the grass tunnel maze searching for Balu the bear.


A few hundred meters after the first watchtower Ram turns right into a grass tunnel. He moves very fast in there and I sometimes have difficulties to follow him but at one point, when I am right behind him, I hear a very powerful roar less than 5 meters in front of us. Ram turns around in the second pushing me back running. Tiger he yells which makes me stop. My curiosity and my aim to take a good picture will for sure cost my life at a point. We have a short discussion and then run out of there as fast as possible. At least tigers give a warning – slot bears don’t. A situation just like this repeats twice with a rhino – Ram is just too crazy. He hears noises of obviously very big animals in front of us in the deep grass and without thinking jumps of the track into the grass risking his life to show me the bears.



We make lunch break at a waterhole during which I see rhino number 8 and a pretty big tortoise in front of me at the water – river ecologists water scan view had been activated. The first animal I can surprise my guide with. Until evening time we arrive at a beautiful watchtower viewing grassland, jungle and a long stretched lake in between. A little before, in between grassland with slightly better visibility we see a jeep some 250m in front of us. People inside pointing our direction…. They have seen us I think when Ram tells me a slot bear with a cub is coming our direction.


This time he probably really saves my life when holding me back… Slot bear is hard, nearly impossible to see between the grass. Damn, no proper picture I think. Minutes later we arrive at that amazing watchtower. Other tourists appear and laugh at me because after running through that environment in an orange t shirt I am covered with black stripes of ashes making me look like a tiger myself. One of the guys has yet travelled 74 countries and is just about to publish a book with pictures of faces he made on his journeys. They made a picture of me too which I would really like to get, so if you read this please send it to my email address.


We are lucky some of the grassland has just been burned down offering a very good view of an area that animals moving in the grass have to cross. I am still busy taking pictures of birds and landscape when Ram gives me the “there is an animal” whistle. Slot bear right in front of us – perfect view! I start taking pictures of it when the mother and the cub appear further away between the burned down grass. Suddenly I hear a deep roaring thunder that seems to make the jungle shake. When a tiger roars close to us in the forest behind the lake dozens of deer run out of the jungle jumping into the water to cross the lake, crocodiles either flee into the water (without attacking the deer), birds fly up and even the slot bears search cover.

The tiger roars a few more times but unfortunately does not come out. I guess Shirkhan just killed a deer and will probably not move so far away from its body for some time. Jungle remains quieter than before and soon we move towards the river as we have to cross it before sunset. Accommodation is directly at the bank of the river offering an amazing view… expensive though compared to the guides fee.

First day inside the national park

Feb. 15. 2015

My guides are a little late so I enjoy one chai more in the morning with a guy from Switzerland. Today we walk (!) to the east and will be back at Sauraha at night. It is the first time for me to explore a national park by walk and considering all the animals being at home here this is rather dangerous. Crawling through the jungle, the grass and the bushland we sometimes are caught in a maze of tunnels formed by grass that is more than 5 meters high. We don’t see further than 3-4meters but this is the place where the animals and especially the slot bears are hiding at daytime. I ask myself what we will do if a slot bear or another big animal appears right in front of us but don’t ask. Pray probably….


Until lunchtime we arrive in an area of a dried out riverbed in the forest. All is full of foot prints of deer, tigers, slot bears, leopards, rhinos,….. On the way back we are far of the ways and even Ram, my guide gets lost some times. At one point we have to cross a river but the place where we could do so using a big tree is occupied by crocodiles. No problem we go 200m downstream and wade… I really have fun and Ram seems to be exactly the right guide for me – totally crazy. That day we see 2 Rhinos, 5 gharials a few wild boars as well as neverending birds (amongst them two hornbills flying rather far away from us) and deer.


into the wild

Feb 14. 2015 Today I visit lake 20.000 by bicycle which is not really worth it. I spend more time at the guesthouse (rhino land – recommended for clean and cheap rooms with some of them offering very good birding view!) and at the river. Tomorrow I will explore the National park inside. By walk with two guides (and three wooden sticks for self defense – try that mr. obama!) and surrounded by wild elephants, rhinos, hyenas, leopards, tigers, kobras, krokodiles and so on….

2 days in the jungle

The pictures speak mostly for itself. 600mm rulez. Some of the birds I would not even have noticed without the lens and on the second day it accidentally proves military potential. I accidentally enter the park area by bicycle so somewhere in the jungle two guys stop me telling me to go out. They claim to be park rangers and one of them wears a paramilitary jacket. I ask them for an ID which they don’t have. I believe nothing, turn around and left a few meters later. I see monkeys and some deer before I come back to a fence with cattle and some people on the other side. I have to agree, the area I had passed was very jungle and with the deer (4 of them) jumping out of a bush right next to me I became aware of being aware of nothing around me.
I take the bike on the other side of the fence and myself a rest under a roof. On the other side of the fence one of the rangers I had met before shows up trying to tell me that I am not supposed to be here. He does not speak english and I don’t speak hindi so what to do…? He tries to call somebody to translate and walks of searching for a connection on his cellphone. When he is some 100m away I step on the bike and ride of direction where the cattle comes from. In the cat and mouse game now the lens helps me to make them crazy. I can stand on the open field watching them without them having an idea where I am. A few locals around who look after the cattle see what I do but are on my side as I had bribed them with a cigarette – they have fun.
On the way back from that adventure through the surrounding villages I meet some really amazingly hospitable locals who are proud and happy to show me around. I suddenly realize how low the real local prices are when I get shaved. Face? 20. Head? 30. I like that old barber in his small wooden box next to the road. He has to interrupt his work knitting a fragile net smilingly making an inviting gesture. I really enjoy this second shave in nepal. At the end I give him the 50 rupees he had asked for and get 20 rupees change…


Feb 2. – Feb. 10

We get up early the next morning and do as quickly as possible what we have to do in the touristic center. This means basically we get chai, change money, get more chai (and breakfast) and a bus out of here and it takes until early afternoon. In the suburbs of Kathmandu we meet a friend and Bijays family member from Kathmandu who invites us full of love to stay for the night. It is too late to go to Hetaura, Bijays home, anyway so we happily accept. Food is more than amazing and I eat until I cannot move anymore – Aloo Ghobi, Dhal, spinach, chutney, rise, couscous – neverending. We spend the evening very cosy in a room of maybe 12 square meter, between 10 to 12 people most of them children staring at me and the pictures of my journey which I show to the family. I sleep like at home on the floor sharing the small room feeling happy like hardly ever before on this journey.


While at daytime the temperature is quite pleasant its freaking cold at night and in the morning. After getting up I soon climb the roof top with my camera and a cup of chai in my hand desperatley waiting for the first rays of the sun. After an amazing breakfast and a very warm Good Bye we hurry to get to Hetaura. 40km away drawn on the map in a straight line we have to pass two mountains of 1800 and 1900m as well as getting a bump hole of 150km length behind us. Including (noticing their condition fortunately only) one exploding tire it takes us about 4.5 hours jumping at insane speed between wall abyss and curves. A little before we arrive flashes of lightning illuminate the night. When we arrive in Hetaura its late at night. I am very happy to meet Bijays family for the first time and we soon go to sleep.


In Hetaura we visit a farm of another part of the family up in the foothills. An amazing place but the damp prevents good pictures. Most of the time its hard to see the the opposite mountain even though its sunny.


A few days later I go back to Kathmandu to get my visa for india. When I find out it takes a week I decide to see Chitwan National park – famous for its rhinos – in the meantime. Still I will be happy to get a visa at all as they where not really happy of the canceled leaving stamp from the last time when my car was seized and the Pakistan visas. I am happy though because now the old passport is full and I can get a new one. Border officials are mostly freaking out about the many stamps of axis of evil states.


On the way from Kathmandu to Chitwan (6 hours bus ride) I luckily managed to get a seat in the drivers kabin right next to the driver. Riding through Narayani river valley offers incredible views and I wish to have fishing gear, snorkeling gear, a kayak and a motorbike with me. However I decide I have to come back here to do this all.


Arriving at Chitwan I had talked so much with the busdriver to ask him to get my passport in a week in Kathmandu and bring it for me. He knows a hotel for me too (surprise!) and as the rooms are nice, clean and inexpensive I check in. In Kathmandu I had fallen in love with a 12 string guitar and first time I have a chance now to try it in a quiet surrounding. I fall in love even more when sitting in the garden for more than an hour playing with all the guesthouse stuff surrounding me.


Late afternoon I decide to explore the area. I take the camera with the 35mm lense leaving the other equipement at the guesthouse. 20 minutes later I see my first ever rhino – in the jungle on the other side of a small river maybe 500m away from the village. I enjoy the view but am hopeless to take pictures with the attached lense. Prassan, a young guy from the guesthouse had invited me to join him on the river for sunsetwith the guitar. I quickly walk back to the guesthouse getting the photo equipement instead of the guitar. Coming back to the river the rhino has moved closer to the bank and now I see it’s a cow accomponied by a calf. I sweared on myself many times already for taking the huge ‘n’ heavy 600mm lense but again I am just too happy to be able to have this amazing tool with me. I can nearly make portraits of the rhinos in the sunset.


Halong Bay – Malaysia – Nepal

Jan 30. – Feb 1.

This night I have a real hard time falling asleep. I do so around 4 am and 2,5 hours later I get the wakeup call from the reception. I ask them to move the boat trip to the next day and turn around again. Getting up around 11 I take the camera and go out – first target: coffee. I get one at the seaside and recognize it is cold and foggy – I feel tiny and cold drops in my skin when I leave the coffee and walk towards the bridge to old Halong. On the way two security guys stop me and invite me for tea – we have a little chat too and they recommend to me to cross the bridge to see the old town. I do so, look around the local fish market and the bay.
The landscape is really breathtaking and the fog is just the right surrounding for it. While I watch two guys fishing – I try to but in this method I am hopeless – a woman offers a two hours boat trip in a small fishing boat for 2,5U$. I paid 35 for 8 hours on a tourist boat. I am hungry and decide to search something to eat, anyway the trip tomorrow has to be fucking amazing anyway I think. Looking back I can only recommend to everyone to go to the fish market and get a trip there.
I get a snack and the guys where I eat offers to bring me back to the bridge which is a few kilometers way – for free! Hospitality and kindness everywhere.
After this very long and exhausting walk I make a short stop at the bakery and then go to the hotel. The room is amazing so I make a shanty evening at the there. Tonight I fall asleep early and sleep very well.
Next day I finally get up early enough to make the booked trip to the famous Halong bay by water. We go out with a pretty nice boat to make the first stop at an insanely illuminated cave. Second cave costs extra admission (5$). Most of us are a little pissed becaused having paid pretty much (a quarter of what I spent in Vietnam myself) already. Second stop we can hire bamboo boats to make a boat trip (6$ – 1 hour) who does not take a boat has to wait on a platform in the ocean with ships around blocking most of the view. Here I really start becoming friends with a Californian guy called Jonas. While we chat the hour passes quickly.
Even though the tour is mostly a scam I am happy I made it and if it was only to meet Jonas here – and of course the scenery is breathtaking too. I wonder how this might look like in sunlight under a blue sky. Coming back to the hotel pretty tired I catch the next Minibus to Hanoi. I got a ticket for tomorrow, to Kathmandu. Even though the last days had been mostly covered with great experiences with great people I am still a little sick of those who only recognize a walking dollar when they see me. On the bus I meet a guy from Barcelona whom I had met on the boat already. We chat all the way and take a dorm together in Hanoi.
Next day in the morning I find myself walking to the bus stop at 4.30am. The bus is fast because of the lack of traffic at this time and when I get out about two km away from the airport 5 Motorbike drivers jump on me shouting “One Dollar, One Dollar, One Dollar!” I shout back at them not to have terrorist money and avoid touching it whenever I can. Unfortunately this is my last memory of Vietnam. At the airport I have to pay 72$ to check in any luggage. Already having paid 220 Euro for the ticket I feel a little reminded at yesterdays boat ride. Fortunately I buy two sandwiches and drink a lot of water before passing the security check. Either of it is incredibly expensive at the airplane. Air Asia is a scam even the space between my seat and the next one is less than 20cm. Looking at their homepage they argue the luggage price of 72$ with the fast rising petrol prices. That rise must have been so fast that no one yet heard of it I think.

As soon as I get out of the plane in Kuala Lumpur everything is just great. Being surrounded by Hindus and Muslims the questions “whereareyoufromwhatsyourname” become common again and I feel at home. I pass the immigration and make this most southern place (N02°45’) I have ever been to the 50th country of which I have officially crossed the border. By the way it has the most beautiful money since the old dutch Gulden I have ever seen too. After walking around in and around the airport, drinking coffee and buying more sandwiches I leave the country again 3,5 hours later – and feel a little sad about it. I like what I have seen – Malaysia seems to be great!
Finally I arrive at Kathmandu airport around 8pm being surprised by helpful, kind and joking immigration officers. Everything takes ages though and when I leave the airport after collecting my luggage its nearly 10pm. Anyway my friend Bijay is waiting for me – we hug each other being very pleased to see each other finally in Nepal. We jump into the next taxi, go to the guesthouse Bijay had already organized, and finally I get real amazing proper food. I love Nepal!