A Travellerspoint blog

Bishnu's Eco Park

4th Workaway and the Rural Life

sunny 35 °C

It was time to move on South! We were lucky to get a window seat on the first leg of our long drive to our 4th Workaway in Meghauli near the National Park of Chitwan.
We got off in Naryanghaat, a buslting little city, and found the local bus that would drop us off at Bishnu's Eco Park. We let the driver know of our destination as we crammed on to the hot crowded bus, decked out in tassles and Hindu gods and rumbled into the country side.
It is very commendable how calm and organized these ticket boys are as they slowly rotate thru the bumping buses and give collect fees and give exact change while calling out people who might miss their particular stop and somehow manage to find room between the bodies and bags and whatever else is pulled on board!


Our new rural atmosphere was so peaceful with all the buffalo, goats and chickens wandering around with houses open to the breeze. We were also able to breathe a lot easier as we got further away from the smog of the city and the mass of cars. Unfortunately It was still rare to catch a glimpse of blue sky as it was the burn-off season for the farmers.

When we finally arrived, our host Bishnu was waiting for us and Ariel managed to shake his hand thru the bus as it was pretty obvious who he was looking for. The only foreigners out this way were coming to volunteer with Bishnu who was an ex-banker and had bought land next to his aging parents. He had many dreams that he shared with us as he toured us around his property. It was unusually quiet when we arrived as all the volunteers had left and we the faces of the next wave.

Bishnu had huge gardens spread out over the property of herbs, veggies and pineapples and banana plants (not in season sadly).


He had huts for volunteers (we got our own personal one with basic beds and mosquito net). Our shower was in a hut that dumped rain water on you, but we found it more relaxing to fill our painted pond with the water pump and lounge in that during the day or dump water buckets on ourselves to counter the heat of the day.


There was also a long house for meditation, a house for the local native's to practice their art and teach their culture.

Previous volunteers had built the beginnings of a recycling program for the villagers and there were 2 buffalo who munched around the banana plants. There were also plenty of friendly stray dogs who came and went (sometimes with your sandals) and a mangy looking cat that lived off rice and the lizards.

He also had a stage for performances and a local volunteer to teach yoga (at 4am!).

He worked with NGO's to study the local environment and culture and hoped to get funding for bigger projects for local investment in agriculture. He also had ties with government bodies and went to meetings in Kathmandu weekly, and to visit his wife and daughter who still lived there.

He also employed Gita, a single mother with her son who lived there, as he needed someone to help with cooking and making his special meals as he dealt with diabetes without any medicines. She made delicious dhal baht for us 2 times a day, or sometimes fried rice with eggs. And lots of tea. Her son was a smiley little 6yr old rug-rat who liked to throw our frisbee around and laugh hysterically at our failures or smack our bums if we weren't looking.


The whole property was also open for anyone to visit and relax. We had daily visits from the local kids who would quizz us in the full repertoire of english which mostly included, “Sister, what is your name!” “Brother, what are you doing?”. Sometime we convinced them to help us with what we were doing. Sometimes school groups would come and investigate our work and quizz us.
The older boys would usually come by to join in our evening activities or use the free wifi that occasionally worked.
Our favourite visitor was Anas who was a local young man who despite having learning disabilities was a energetic worker and put our digging to shame.

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After we enjoyed our tour we were later joined by 4 other volunteers. Cassie from Australia, Ane & Ida from Denmark and Thibat from France. We were in good company and our new schedule for the next 2 weeks was as follows;

4am – Optional yoga/laughing yoga (many people woke up to the laughter of the local women who mostly particilated)
6:30am - Tea and biscuits
7am - Start Bishnu's choice of projects
10am - Dhal baht. Break for heat of day/free time
4Pm - Continue projects
7pm - Dhal baht.

We quickly added “Samosa o-clock” which was around 2pm when we got peckish and walked the few minutes to the village which was about 5 blocks of little shops and ate at the best samosa kitchen in the world. It cost about 20 Rp or about 50cents per fresh samosa and we usually were given samosas and whatever else they had cooked which included chowmein (30Rp), girri (10Rp), and pakora (5Rp). It was hard to say no.

Our first main project at the Eco Park was to build the mud man! Essentially Bishnu had seen grand garden designs which included “living faces” and he set us to work hauling dirt and forming a face. Was harder than it sounds! We eventually got it looking human enough (some said dragon) and Ariel painted the eyes.


Posted by Kev n' Ariel 20:00 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Langtan Children's Home

Workaway no. 4, Patan and Holi

sunny 25 °C

It was time to move out of Thamel an to our next Workaway! We caught a taxi across the valley and arrived at the Langtan Children's Home in the Kimdol neighbourhood. We were immediately greeted by Pushpa and Janak who were a middle aged Nepalese couple. They were extremely busy with multiple other workaways (when we arrived there were 3 Germans, 1 Swiss, 1 French)and just within their 4 story house included a disabled children's daycare with 2 staff on the bottom floor, 7 dogs, and 6 orphan boys they took care of and 2 girls who did the cooking/cleaning. Outside the busy house, Janak ran a pet store and operated a dog-training business and had dreams of setting up another building for retired people and maybe even a hand in politics! We were fed 3 times a day usually dal bhat and copious amounts of sweet milk tea and under no pressure to commit to any schedule.


We spent a lot of our time walking the dogs and trying to not run into the stray dogs territory. We were just down the street from the Monkey Temple or Swayambhunath and across the street from the Military hospital/base. We immediately noticed how friendly the locals were but how scared they were of the big dogs we walked. Only the monks who sometimes walked by were keen on petting them.


We would also hang out with the boys. They were all very friendly and called us “sister” and “brother”. They took us on walks to the temples nearby and we went to the local pool once too! It seemed like more people went there to use the showers than actually swim as the majority of Nepalese people can't swim...We also helped them with their homework sometimes and they helped us walking the dogs. They really loved to preform for us and we enjoyed evenings of them singing and dancing, sometimes co-ordinated.


One evening Janak invited us out with his friends who were celebrating a couple baby because she had eaten her first meal of RICE! Big tents were propped up in an empty lot nearby and people were feasting, dancing and drinking home-made liquor. Nepalese people love to party and celebrate, but rice really is a central part of their diet.

Another day we went out with a new Danish workaway to check out the Ancient city of Patan. Kathmandu used to be 3 separate kingdoms of Patan, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu. Patan was a short taxi ride to the south-east and it seemed like a more chill version of Kathmandu's city centre. We paid 500 Rupees to walk around the ancient Durbar square. There was visible damage from the earthquakes but most temples were still standing with many locals hanging out on the steps. Just outside of the square we paid an extra 50 Rs to check out the Golden Temple. It was very beautifully guilded in guess what, gold, and had lots of monkey statues. We ended our excursion drinking beers from a rooftop bar overlooking the temples and watching the smog eat up the mountains.


One afternoon we learned how to make MOMOs! They are tricky little guys to make with a lot of prepy work but once that's done it takes seconds to steam or fry. We made a veggie batch and a buffalo meat batch. We never quiet perfected the pinching method but they were darn tasty!


Our last few days at the Langtan House were highlighted by the Holi Festival and Ariel's 26th birthday. In the most basic terms, Holi is the festival of good over-coming evil and has now developed into a whole day where you can soak then throw coloured powder on each other until everything looks like a crazy kaleidoscopic mess.
We got going early with the young boys by having a water/powder war break out on our balcony. Buckets of water were dumped and a few hours later we were ready for lunch. We encountered some neighbourhood kids and water balloons were exchanged until we decided it was time to see what was happening in the city.


We ventured towards the city with two of the other workaway girls and we were big juicy western targets. Walking the half hour towards the city was hilarious as old women hid in door-ways with water buckets and kids armed with balloons on balconies attacked us. The closer we got to the city the more people came up to us yelling “Happy Holi sister!” Happy Holi brother!” and with arms open would smother your face and clothes in powder.
The crowds were massing among the rubble of Dhurbar Square and after being smothered in mostly young drunk local men we escaped the colourful claustrophobic arena by climbing on top some remains of a temple and watch the celebrations continue.

After all the excitement and eye-fulls of powder we were ready to relax somewhere. We somehow managed to find an old hostel friend in the crowds and we aimed our way back to Thamel to find more friends. Kevin found a bakery that was still open for purchasing a birthday cake and as the singing was about to commence some hostel friends arrived and we discovered one of their group had the same birthday! We combined forces and the cake was shared around. We enjoyed the rest of the day by having a few drinks then returning to scrub the now muddy looking powder off our caked bodies.


Posted by Kev n' Ariel 19:17 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)


Thamel, Happily Ever After and Shiva

sunny 25 °C

We spent our first week at Happily Ever After Hostel which was tucked down a grungy road in the middle of the tourist neighbourhood of Thamel. We enjoyed our cheap accommodation and made lots of friends from around the globe. We had our own private room, free brekky (egg, toast and coffee/tea) and usually fell asleep to the local stray dogs barking or the club across the street busting some speakers.

We fell in love with Nepal pretty fast, starting with the colourful clothes and art and the friendly people...even the vendors were nice (much more chill than the ones in Morocco). Over our first month, we explored the neighbourhoods and many temples and saw the remaining damage from the major earthquakes Nepal faced over a year ago; Houses were still being propped up by giant wooden beams or huge monuments and temples that were hundreds of years old, reduced to rubble....some of the gems of Kathmandu, and Nepal, Durbar Square and Dharahara Tower are still lying in piles waiting for government funds to replace them.

But the locals are optimists and still thriving because Nepal attracts so many tourists. Every corner of Kathmandu is stuffed with posters for tourist hikes, jungle treks, adventure trips etc and an array of international cuisine. Men quiz you on what trek you want to go on and the cheap deals you will get, or you might be followed by a few small men playing tiny violins or offering jewelry or tiger balm.

Our first evening we met up with a contact Ariel had made and she invited us to eat at her friends restaurant. She was very welcoming and worked for a tv company. We learned about the struggles Nepalese had been facing with the border closing with India (recently re-opened) and the long lines for gas and how to eat our food with our hands.

We quickly fell in love with the little dumplings called MoMo's. They are usually filled with buffalo, chicken or veg. We went a little over board eating these the first few weeks...An alternative version we tried was dessert version with pumpkin dipped in chocolate chili sauce! We spread the news like wild fire to whomever would listen to us. But the main meal that the locals eat is called Dal Bhat (spelling varies). It is a simple 3 part meal and eaten twice a day; rice, lentil soup and assortment of veggies. It is great to eat with your hands and we ate at least a few hundred different variations of it during our stay...and we still want more!

We also learned that wearing a mask of some sort is beneficial as the smog in the city is awful and also causes various health issue such as asthma for the locals...the cows don't seem to mind and as Nepal is majority Hindu they are left to walk around wherever they want. On really really clear days we could squint and catch views of the Himalayas! Such a pity about the smog cutting out the view most of the time however.

And like the majority of travellers, we upset our stomachs and were stuck in the toilet for more hours than we would like over the first few weeks in town. You definitely don't drink tap water here.

One of our last big day in the city centre before we started our next Workaway, we celebrated Shivaratri, one of biggest Hindu festivals celebrating Shiva, the destroyer! We decided that since the festivities were on the same side of town as one of the stupas (temples) we would do it all on the same day. We caught one of the small taxis with a group from our hostel and suffered through dusty, slow traffic. It was amazing to get to one of the biggest temples at Boudhanath. It is a world heritage site with a great Boudha Stupa in the middle surrounded by dozens of smaller temples. During the earthquakes the Stupa suffered massive damage however since then a lot of effort has gone into rebuilding it...even on a day when we arrived there were dozens of locals carrying bags of cement and stacks of bricks. We wandered in awed at the beautifully painted buildings and received treats from the buddhists who were giving offerings to the various Buddha sculptures.
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We walked the rest of the way to the massive grounds of the ancient Pashupatinath Temple. The lines for the non-tourists to get in wound around the grounds while we ducked ropes and stepped over awkward barriers to get to our special entrance...but also paid a special fee to get in. Immediately we were given blessings by the Babas (men who devote their lives to Shiva and cover their bodies in ash and push their bodies to physical limits). These Babas, to celebrate Shiva, were gowned in white and yellow robes or were nude. Most of the Babas tried asking for donations, smoked hashish(Shiva's drug of choice to stop him from destroying the earth) and frankly are showman for those with money. However, there are still those that truly are devoted to Shiva. These are the sadhus and were hidden away in the largest temples.

We stared at the naked Bubbas who flaunted their nakedness and even more so at the young men who cheered them on, but were also amazed at the strange serene calm of the bodies being burned along the river that the temples lined.

We wandered the immense grounds and eventually followed our ears to catch glimpses of a series of spiritual dances involving yak tails, fire and singing. We were about to leave when Ariel and our other female friend got pulled in to a dancing circle of mothers and aunties. They were incredibly happy to have us and their children translated their compliments..mostly at our sweet dance moves.

Before we left, we were interested in entering the main temple where a never-ending line seemed to stream from. After the music and dancing the main part of the festival seemed over and the line dispersed greatly so we went to ask if we could enter. The police that controlled the line said we could go but as we were pushed into the line up the temple stairs other Hindu's informed us that non-Hindu's were not allowed to answer...but we were stuck! We were manhandled up the stairs and through the first gates of the temple grounds before we could comprehend our mistake...Ariel was blessed by a sadhu with a huge peacock feather meanwhile Kevin and another friend leading our group were abruptly stopped at the main entrance and yelled at to remove our un-holy western bodies from the holy grounds...WHOOPS! We felt very abashed at our cultural faux pas but no one else seemed angry at us thankfully as we removed ourselves.
We were exhausted from the immense crowds, the visual intake of strange bodies and events and were happy to find a restaurant nearly empty from the day-time throngs of eaters and stuff our faces with local delicious cuisine...and free lassi! YUMMMMM.

Posted by Kev n' Ariel 06:20 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

Goodbye Istanbul...Hello Nepal!

You say Goodbye, but I say Hello


The last few days in Istanbul we had cold, wet weather and were not keen on spending much more money. Our main adventure was to cross the Golden Horn to the Asian side of Turkey which was Ariel's first steps in Asia! We had loose plans of finding a market but failed and compensated by playing backgammon and drinking strong coffee and eating delicious lammican pizza. Another day we watched Deadpool (we laughed the hardest due to the Canadian jokes), bought some presents, ate some Turkish delight (of course), found art and cats and met up with some of the girls we met in Cappadocia.


Now it was time for our biggest and hardest travel trip- 3 planes, approx 35hrs travel- to arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Our first hurdle was getting on our first flight. We were prepped and sleepy-eyed outside our gates for our red-eye flight when a woman started to check for Indian Visas...we were taking 1 airline to New Dehli, via Kyrgyzstan then a new airline to Nepal. Easy right? Apparently this was not so accepted/normal by the Turkish reps as they concluded upon seeing our passports that we were not allowed into India and our bags were coming off the plane...!!!! We tried to explain our travel route and followed the woman around until we shoved our last flight details in her face in desperation. She was obviously stressed with other flight preps and maybe she finally understood us but, Allah have mercy, we were let on board!

We landed a few hours later in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek, where we felt tired and sickly. The staff looked like actors from the Stalin regime with big brimmed hats and padded looking shoulders. No hitches in customs, thankfully, despite confusion over Kevin's sound-recording equipment.
We finally boarded our next flight to New Dehli. We arrived in the smog to a huge, new airport and many woman had their personal eating spoons checked going through customs...strange... we were guided to an “International transfer” waiting area where we waited a solid few hours until the right gal came back from lunch. In the meantime we dozed on the floor and someone quizzed us a few times about our flights..one man eventually came, very frazzled, as he had been searching all over the airport for us. Apparently in the confusion about our flights in Istanbul the message had not been passed over correctly and our bags thought we were staying in India. Therefore our bags crossed to the terminal while we were no-where to be found...until we eventually where, chilling in no-mans land. We finally got the coveted boarding passes to Nepal and had many more hours to wait until boarding. We dozed and slowly moved along the long corridors of shops and terminals until we were right across from our own. We had also just found, seemingly, the only 2 lounge chairs in the whole darn airport and we both must have dropped into a deep sleep as Kev woke up (he claims only because his music album ended) and heard our names being called from the gate! AHHH, last boarding call and we nearly slept through our flight! Having a “silent” airport (aka no announcements other than gate changes) is a blessing and a curse. We rushed on board, somehow another couple running even later than us follow suite, and upon gaining a level cruising altitude we were offered beer...gladly taken for the end of the most stressful and long travel leg yet...all to save $100CAD...we still can't decide if it was worth it...but we were in NEPAL!!!

Posted by Kev n' Ariel 01:38 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Cappadocia Pt.2

Love, love, love


Our last day in the region we decided to give Love Valley a look. We walked out of town and down the road into another valley where we were surrounded by more funny rock formations. We camped out along a ridge for a while to enjoy the view until we got restless. We then got into the Heart of the Love Valley and despite our maturing ages we could not help but giggle and make phallic jokes as the fairy rocks resembled an array of penis shapes.

We eventually walked out of the valley and decided to cut across the road and a tourist view-point to get back to our town...it took a few attempts to find a path but we eventually found an eroded access to the ground...exploring a cave or two on the way back. Amazing that the majority of locals used to sustain their lives, and still use the few stable ones for live-stock and storage! We were very sad to say goodbye to our new friends as we left for the airport, and even sadder to find out upon arrival that our flight was delayed...twice. We finally arrived in Istanbul but after getting lost and trekking our bags across the city to our hostel we were too late, apparently, to check in. What to do! Where to sleep?? We decided we would try to see if our old hostel, which was nearby, would let us crash for a few hours. Despite waking one of the guys up (24hr receptionists slept on the couches) and finding our request very confusing, they let us stay and we dragged ourselves back to the new hostel later that day. Exhausted we spent the rest of the day sleeping and watching shows.


Posted by Kev n' Ariel 00:45 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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