Bungee Videos

Here are our videos of the Bungee jump we did a few weeks ago at Last Resort in Nepal. Many thanks to Laura’s Dad Alan for uploading these so quickly!

As you can see, we enjoyed it – thanks again to Market Risk for the leaving gift that funded our leap 160m off a bridge…


Laura's jump into the abyss

Laura's jump into the abyss


Simon's leap of faith

Simon's leap of faith

Nepal to India, another bus journey, another border crossing

From Pokhara we embarked on yet another 8 hour bus journey, this time landing us at the border with India at Sunauli. The bus dropped us in town from where it was a short cycle rickshaw journey to the border, which we crossed on foot. Passing beneath one archway marking the end of Nepal we ambled across 100 m or so of no man’s land, complete with two lines of slum shacks facing each other going into the distance each side of the border itself. A second archway welcomed us to India. The snack shop-lined road entering India was jostling with people, trucks and rickshaws and somewhere, hidden amongst the shops, was border control (once again easily missed). It turns out however, that in order to enter India you first have to officially leave Nepal. So after only a couple of minutes in India we scuttled back through no man’s land into Nepal to be stamped out (if only somebody had suggested visiting the Nepal immigration office on the first pass through…).

Upon officially entering India we once again boarded a bus, this time for a short (3 hour) bus journey, accompanied by a fantastically confusing Bollywood film, taking us to Gorakphur (a town in Northern India). For us Gorakphur didn’t have a whole lot going for it but served its purpose as a stop for the night before tackling the 17 hour train journey to Delhi. On the way, we encountered the many colourful tented temples, a grubby hotel with empty (and dirty) swimming pool, and our first taste of spice.

Unfortunately I succumbed to food poisoning in mere anticipation of ‘Delhi belly’ so not the most enjoyable train journey! Of course the guy in the bunk across from me (not Simon) snoring like a pneumatic drill (I’ve never heard such penetrating snoring) did not serve to make me feel any better. Nevertheless we arrived at Delhi in one piece (ok maybe two pieces) ready to begin our adventure in India…


Our lost days in Nepal


With its lush green hills and snowcapped peaks Nepal is certainly a far more beautiful country than I had ever anticipated. But Nepal also has much more to offer than just its magnificent mountains…

Upon reaching Kathmandu, after several days of long bumpy bus rides from Tibet, the bustling streets of Nepal’s capital city were definitely a shock to the senses. The streets of Thamel (the tourist district in which we’d been deposited at the end of our tour) were full of life with brightly coloured shops spilling onto the roads, selling everything a tourist in Nepal could possibly desire from fake North Face jackets, to Buddhist and Hindu statues, and beautiful skirts, dresses, bags and beaded jewellery.

Overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu we rapidly departed for our 7 days trekking in the Langtang National Park. Having recharged our batteries we returned to Kathmandu for a fresh assault to find no longer a city to be endured but rather one to be enjoyed.

During our second visit we toured Durbar square, visited the monkey temple (Swayambhu) and paid homage to the royal family by visiting both the old and new palaces. Durbar square, the centre of old Kathmandu, is actually a collection of squares housing several temples and shrines to Hindu gods and goddesses (some of whom double up as Buddhist deities), including one temple that is supposed to have been built from a single tree. On one side of Durbar square is Kumari Che, the home of the living goddess (mentioned in an earlier post), a beautiful courtyarded building with intricate woodcarved screens masking the glassless windows.

Swayambhu is commonly known as the Monkey Temple due to the large number of monkeys that have made this hill top temple their home. As you climb the steps to the golden stupa (and the all-seeing eyes of the Buddha), pairs of monkeys sit inspecting each other, swinging from tree to tree, clambering up railings, snacking on tourists’ litter, or simply watching the world go by. From the top of the steps, having undertaken a clockwise pilgrimage around the stupa you can truly appreciate the vastness of the Kathmandu valley.

Our Australian friends had told us that the royal palace was worth a visit, if only for a morbid understanding of a place where 11 members of the royal family (including the then king Birendra) were shot by the crown prince in 2001. Having concluded our tour of the palace buildings we were a bit bemused as to why we couldn’t find the gardens or other places that our friends had described. It slowly dawned on us that there were two palaces! The following day we made our way to the new palace in the north of the city. To fill you in on the history, after killing his family in a drunken rampage in 2001, the prince turned the gun on himself and died several days later, causing an outburst of mourning across Nepal, for whom the former King and Queen were held in very high regard. The crown passed to the King’s brother but in 2008 the monarchy was dissolved by the government. The new palace, built in the 1960s, had the distinct feel of hotel in its prime in the 1970s, with little of the opulence normally associated with a royal abode. As we stepped outside the palace doors the grey skies began to empty, setting the mood for visiting the place where the royal family had spent their final moments. Although the building from which family members fled as the prince brandished his machine gun has been razed, bullet holes can be seen in a nearby screen door and plaques mark the places where others died. A very sombre place to end our visit to the palace and the capital.

Feeling we’d spent enough time in Kathmandu, and after our bungee jumping at Last Resort, we decided to end our time in Nepal with a visit to the picturesque lakeside town of Pokhara. We spent two and a half days relaxing at lovely little lakeside cafes and restaurants, soaking up the tranquil atmosphere. One afternoon we took four exhausting but enjoyable hours to pedalo around the lake, drinking in the lush green mountain surrounds. On our final afternoon we walked around the lake and up to the Peace Pagoda affording us beautiful views of the lake and town below. In the late afternoon, crossing back over the serene lake, the clouds parted to give our first glimpses of the snowcapped Annapurna mountain range, the perfect ending to our stay in Pokhara.




Nepal in the Asian soup


Today we leave Nepal, bound for India and the heaving metropolis of Delhi. Behind us we leave a country of mountains, rural beauty – and its fair share of memories over the three weeks we’ve spent there.

Nepal seems determined to stand out with uniqueness and not just disappear into the (noodle) soup of the Asian subcontinent. Its distinctive flag shape is the first hint – two overlapping triangles instead of the usual rectangle – and then there’s the time zone, 4:45 from GMT – that quirky quarter of an hour. While we’re at it, there’s the small matter of which year we’re in, because I’m writing from The Future. It’s 2068 here, at least on the Nepali calendar. I knew we might age a little travelling, but I wasn’t quite expecting to collect my pension so soon!

Then there’s the landscape, which has more of a sense of familiarity, but is still punctuated with distinctions to set it apart from a bland Asian broth. I’ve written enough about the soaring white and grey mountains and the raging torrents (sometimes with bouncing westerners suspended above on elastic cords). What about those bits in between the peaks and valleys?

Paddy fields lining the hillsides in a patchwork of green, with dark green stitching from the borders of reeds. These exist not just on the flat by the river, but all the way up the incline into the distance, on terraces much like you see vines in France. Between them, locals treading the paths with piles of harvested shrubbery so large on their backs that they look like they’re trying to camouflage themselves as tree people. Or maybe triffids. And always nearby, dogs dozing everywhere, basking in and out of the sun, or curled up in piles of dry corn husks, the perfect cosy natural nest.

Where the land hasn’t been cultivated, the paddy motif gives way to rich tropical forest, with plants of all shapes – ferns and palms and soaring trees, and what look like melons hanging from the canopy, with branches all clothed in a fur of soft lime green moss glistening with the condensation of the damp air. From a distance, these living green lungs appear to be fed by bright clay-red arteries slicing through the mountainside, horizontal roads intersected by vertical landslides – an evolving snakes and ladders board between mankind and nature in the journey to conquer the landscape.

Sprinkled throughout this, a seasoning of buildings, from the tall red chimney stacks of the brickworks in the Kathmandu Valley, complete with crumbling mounds of red dust the shape of former bricks, to the ramshackle corrugated iron huts and shelters of the hillside, roofs weighed down by boulders or tyres – or both. Even the more solid, constructed buildings still have a sense of being in flux, due to the plan-for-growth nature of the building style – iron rods reaching for the sky out of every rooftop in preparation for promotion into upward extension should the need – and money – arise. I just hope the skyrises beginning to appear on the Kathmandu skyline have a few more foundations!

Up close, a spiders web of black plastic pipes crisscross mountain paths – and to our surprise the other day even lakes like the Fewa Tal in Pokhara. These are black plastic hosepipes, carrying water from a nearby stream or pump to a form a continually running supply outside someone’s home, or directed into a refreshing solar shower for weary walkers. It’s fascinating to see even on some of the remotest hill paths the signs of local habitation – even if we can’t quite see where into the jungle the water leads.

I don’t think it would be right to sing about the rural beauty here without adding a melancholy verse on its destruction by mankind. The main problem is rubbish, sprouting like weeds everywhere, as much a part of the scenery as the red clay mud and the grass softly waving in the wind. First there’s the litter marring every hiking trail – crisp packets, and sauce sachets, and plastic bottles. Totally avoidable and caused by laziness by the very people apparently here to appreciate the beauty. Horrible and shameful – and getting worse since it would be a big effort to now clean it up and carry it all out down the mountain. We were, however, expecting this – not that that it in any way excuses it. The thing I wasn’t expecting to see is locals showing a total disregard for rubbish too. The streets in most towns and villages we went through are strewn with waste – and vacant plots on the steep hillside yet to be built on are used as open communal dumping grounds, with rubbish scattered down the hill for hundreds of metres below before it’s consumed by the forest again. It’s unclear what causes this neglect – insufficient funds to organise a centralised rubbish system? Lack of awareness from poor education? Apathy? It’s certainly depressing.

So we say our farewell to Nepal, a mountain country of colour and contrast, where the people on the streets display colours as strong as any mountain flower. A police force dressed in the blue camouflage gear more suitable for a marine environment (and less so for a landlocked place!); beautiful bright saris in orange and red and green, woven with glimmering silver and gold thread and fluttering in the breeze; and deep red tika on foreheads and hairlines, signifying religious and matrimonial commitment. All this colour is only emboldened by the wafting haze and scent of the incense, and in the distance, the chime of a temple bell sounding the prayers of another devotee.

Nepal’s contribution to the Asian soup may from a distance seem insignificant – a mere buffer between the great powers of India and China – but it has a distinctive taste that will remain with us as we journey on.


Not quite the last resort

So today we have some good news, some bad news, and some good news to finish. Given that we were due to be jumping off a bridge over a gorge attached to nothing but a glorified elastic band, that might be enough to make you queasy, but rest assured!

First up – we did it! We actually went to The Last Resort and bungee jumped today, and are alive (and generally well) to tell the tale. Permit me to set the scene:
a tree-lined gorge in the north-east of Nepal, near the border with Tibet, with a frothing brown river deep down below. Spanning the gap, a pedestrian steel suspension bridge stretched taut between concrete anchors in the mountainside. Not unlike the classic Indiana Jones rope bridge from the movies, only made of steel, well anchored, and safe. Ok, so quite unlike it, but the shape and breadth is more or less right – perhaps 1.5m wide and 100m from end to end. Oh yes, and a drop of about 160m beneath. The people on the ground below that we were aiming for (ok, you don’t aim in bungee apparently but you get the picture) were about the size of baby ants.

So we edged out s l o w l y off the bridge, paused and trembled, spread our arms like birds (no, really we did!) then toppled and tumbled and hurtled and yelped (and screamed), and, well, bounced. And then did it again on the following bounce, with spinning for style points. And in about the time it took you to read that (you did pause for the punctuation, didn’t you?), it was over. 160m (let’s say 140 for safety) in about five seconds. Not bad for a human powered (we had to walk back up) effort!

There’s a great moment after the bungee as you’re being lowered to the ground hanging from the cord and they’re pulling you in to the landing zone on a pole when you can pretend to be superman. Obviously it would have been better to be wearing a red cape, but I felt that singing the theme tune loudly more than made up for it. The guys running the thing gave me a bit of an odd look and I wasn’t sure if for a moment they were going to let go and have me ping back up skywards (arms outstretched of course). Sadly they let it pass. Reverse bungee? Gotta be possible, right?

Anyway, bungee good, two very happy bouncers. Video to follow, once the DVDs we ordered make it back to England and onto the web.

Now for the bad news. Late afternoon we went to move into our tent for the night, only to be told it didn’t exist. Some communications breakdown between their office in Kathmandu meant that even though we’d paid in full a few days before, we didn’t have beds. They offered us a festival style dome tent instead but given that this was meant to be a luxury resort, it didn’t quite cut the mustard.

And so to the concluding good news : a full refund! It may have had something to do with our dashing good looks; it may have been thanks to our witty charm and scintillating conversation; or it may have had something to do
with a conversation that involved angry faces, slightly raised voices, and possible mention of the words ‘honeymoon’ and ‘my wife and I’*. (In case there is any confusion, Laura and I are not married or indeed together, happily or otherwise). The bungee thrill of earlier tastes all the better in retrospect now that it cost us nothing. How about that for a rebound!

So the gift of the Last Resort from my generous team at work (hello Market Risk) becomes the gift that keeps on giving – we’re now planning where to spend it next!

The change in plans means we now have a couple of days in hand, so the current idea is to quit Kathmandu (where we now are, yet again) tomorrow, for the lovely lakeside Pokhara, before heading on to Delhi and our lovely Norwegian friends in a few days time.


* It was very tempting to pepper the conversation with unhelpful but location-humorous phrases like “there’s no choice”, “the final straw”, and (obviously) “the last resort”, but we felt that might undermine our argument and indicate that we were slightly enjoying ourselves.