Post date: 
Friday, 21 July 2017
Stupas in Nepal

RNIB Connect community member Liz Frankland recently went on the trip of a lifetime around the central Himalayan nation of Nepal.

Liz and her partner Paul went with a group tour run by Traveleyes, who specialise in holidays for blind and partially sighted people.
Liz shared snippets of her diary to give you insight into their experiences and adventures around this fascinating country.   
Sunday 26 March
We’ve arrived in Nepal at last and we’re on the bus to our hotel. It’s been a challenging journey, but we’ve had a wonderful welcome from the Nepalese people.

On arrival, we were handed these marvellous flower garlands to wear round our necks. They’re made from fragrant orange flowers. They smell a bit like Chrysanthemums. It’s been an absolutely fabulous beginning to our holiday. 

We’ve had a very long journey. We set off on Sunday afternoon from my house near Doncaster. We had about three hours wait at the airport in Abu Dhabi, which was a bit manic.   
The people there didn’t have quite the sympathy we might expect for a group of visually impaired people back home. Going through security was quite scary. Nonetheless, the time went very quickly, so it’s time for bed as we’ve got a 9.30am bus call.   
Monday 27 March   
Today we got to explore the sights and sounds of Kathmandu. To give you a taste of a typical street, we were surrounded by millions of motorbikes and the traffic was manic. It’s quite exciting being surrounded by such a variety of smells; you can smell everything from food and flowers to incense and the drains. It’s a fascinating place to be. 
Wednesday 29 March 
We are miles up high in the mountains outside Kathmandu, but there’s a problem. Our minibus has got stuck in the mud, so they’re trying to rev the wheels. There’s a stench of burning rubber. We’ve all got off the bus. We’re too scared to be on it when the bus is right near the edge of a steep drop!  
Thursday 30 March   
After a seven hour and 100-mile drive across mountain passes, we’re now in Chitwan. Let’s just say the roads are not quite the quality we’re used to in the UK, so it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride.  

The traditional stick dancers of Chitwan are incredible performers. When the singing got going, it actually became quite addictive. It was almost like the adrenaline rush that you get when you have a drink.  

In the last place, we were invited to come up and dance. It’s not the sort of thing I would normally do, but I actually did and it was really quite exhilarating. It was just great fun.  
Another highlight of today was visiting the riverside and encountering some elephants. They were just playing around and having a good time, and the splashing sounded a bit like being on the seashore.   
One lady went out into the river in shorts to ride on the elephant and received an unceremonious soaking from the gentle giant. Not sure she knew she’d signed up for that!   
Saturday 1 April   
Today we were fortunate enough to experience a game drive, and got to see lots of birds and deer. We’re now sitting on our little terrace outside the hotel, listening to a fierce tropical storm and the distant thunder roll in the background.   
Sunday 2 AprilNepal - Notes from Nepal
It’s 6am and we’re watching the sunrise from high up a mountain just outside Pokhara. We can see the Annapurna range just appearing from the mist. I asked Paul to describe in more detail what he can see. He described “a triangular cloud and behind that, a mountain emerging from the clouds”, and said it was an amazing sight.   
One member of our group hasn’t come this morning. He felt there was no point if he can’t physically see the sunset. I can sympathise with this view, as can several of my fellow travellers with no useful sight. Earlier in the trip, someone said, “You remember how you felt at certain times with experiences, but you don’t necessarily remember what you saw.” 

I think that’s an important thing to remember. It’s not about seeing what there is, it’s about being there and experiencing it.   

Friday 7 April   
Today was our last day in Nepal, and we’re back in Kathmandu after a gruelling eight-hour bus journey over those familiar rocky roads from Pokhara.   
Today we visited one of the biggest stupas in the world (pictured). We asked if I could go in for free as I’m blind, but that wasn’t allowed. I suspect that blind people don’t go out much in Nepal, we haven’t encountered any. I think our group has caused quite a stir when we’re out and about.   
This trip has been an extraordinary experience. Not sure I’d even call it a ‘holiday’, it’s been more of an adventure or an expedition. It’s been gruelling at times with a lot of travelling and several people have had upset stomachs. It was certainly not a trip for the faint hearted! Even though we’ll be glad to be on our flight home, it has been well worth it.   
This article originally appeared in Connect magazine - Summer 2017 edition.

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