Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chitwan National Park

Today I said goodbye to the Children’s home, was such an awesome experience for me.
Me and a few of the kids :)

I’m still in awe at how eager the kids are to learn, they get so much done during homework time, it’s incredible. I can’t imagine seeing anything like that in NZ schools. I’ve put the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” has answered with doctor, I get that it’s the answer they think I want to hear but they really do work so hard… much more motivated than I was in school! I took Maya, Dev and Adam (the three that run the home) out for a meal as a thank you to OR2K, it’s a pretty good vegetarian restaurant in the Tourist area of Kathmandu, always pretty busy :)

Dev, me, Maya & Adam at OR2K for dinner

The weekend before last I got a bus from Kathmandu to Chitwan National Park. It was the most terrifying drive of my life, the road winds down hills and there's a 200m cliff drop without any kind of barrier. As the German guy behind me put it “It’s like a rollercoaster but better ‘cause it’s dangerous!” Nepal is apparently home to one of the World’s Most Dangerous Roads and that is definitely one of them! We survived and arrived at the Rainbow Safari Resort, it was so so terrible, that it was funny, my room didn’t have a ceiling, it was thatched and huge clumps of dirt would fall out, one landed on the pillow next to me! The food was pretty bad & one woman spent the first night very unwell after eating lunch and dinner. I made friends with a Dutch couple who thankfully spoke fantastic English and we made the most of it. (I expected it to be bad and not as nice as the brochure but I really should have lowered my expectation haha). The activities however were fantastic! The dugout canoe was similar to the idea of a waka although less stable and we floated down the river in the morning mist spotting crocodiles and brightly coloured birds. After visiting the baby elephants at the breeding ground we went down to the water for my warmest shower yet!

The jeep safari was the first time we actually crossed the river and into the National Park. It was a bumpy four hour drive through the jungle and we spotted a couple of rhinos,

More gorgeous birds including peacocks in flight!
There were deer and a bear and even more crocodiles but the definite highlight for the 7 of us was seeing a wild tiger. I’ve seen and touched plenty for captive cats but to see such a powerful animal so close and so free was a serious highlight! 

I think it’s been the fantastic people that I’ve met this trip that have made me fall in love with Nepal, even the taxi drivers are awesome! I had a great rickshaw experience this morning and many of the waiters and shopkeepers are so friendly and helpful. Admittedly I have met a few assholes but no one too horrible! Bumped into a fellow kiwi this morning, she’s just finished the Everest Base Camp trek that I am doing tomorrow and has kindly lent me her waterproof pants! Apparently there will be snow on the mountain!  I’m very nervous but definitely excited to give it a go! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hangi in the Himalayas

It’s been less than a week and I already miss Vogels, bagels and soy lattes, the food’s pretty ace but I’m craving cheesy pasta and lamb roasts!
Adam (the kiwi guy who’s been a volunteer here for nearly two years), and I were discussing ways to keep the kids occupied during a strike day when I suggested that we give a hangi a go. I haven’t a clue what possessed me to think of that (I haven’t really seen one made since I was 5 at Otaika Primary, and I generally avoid eating them). However, Adam was inspired by the idea and on Friday morning we set off to the huge vegetable markets to get supplies.
Everything is sold in five or ten kg batches. This is about half of the huge indoor section of the market.

These pumpkins weighed up to 20kilos- we selected one of the smaller ones and even then it was huge!
The boys dug a hole, we lit the fire inside and after about 30min added the river stones (thankfully they didn’t crack or explode!)

Layered the wire with cleaned cauliflower leaves, then cabbage leaves and piled on vegetables similar to what we have in a New Zealand hangi, another contained pork and chicken that Maya Auntie marinated in Nepalese spices. 

The majority of the ash was cleared out of the pit, the food bundles were lowered onto the steaming rocks and wet sacks carefully layered on the food. In a moment of rare genius I grabbed the metal plates to try and trap the heat and protect the food from dirt.

After being buried for nearly three hours it was dug up and turned out to be a success! 
The food tasted pretty great, and most importantly the kids loved it!