Pre-Travel Thoughts For Nepal

Pre-Travel Thoughts For Nepal

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It’s nearly time to head back to my village in Nepal! I’m super super psyched to return and see all those smiling faces. I visited and stayed in Nepal in 2014 for 2 and half months and it was honestly one of the best experiences I have ever had! Its been over a year since I left and I made the decision to head back and visit.

Unfortunately I was supposed to fly out in 2015 but due to the terrible earthquakes last April I was unable to go. I decided to delay my flight until this coming March 2016 and use the time I had to raise funds for re-building. I took on the challenge of a half marathon and managed to round up a £1000 worth of sponsorship which I’m really grateful for and proud of.

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Its a few weeks till I go now and I have mixture of anxiousness, excitement and energy. I can’t wait to see everyone but the situation is going to be a lot different to my previous stay out there. I know from speaking to them and other volunteers that they are still smiling and positive about the situation but it will be a shock to see it first hand.

I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into helping them with whatever I can. They have finally got enough funds to start the re-build of the orphanage and I’m no builder but I’m ready to load up some baskets and carry cement around on my back with them! I cannot wait to see the children and find out how they are all doing with school and take them out a few gifts and surprises to lift their spirits as well.

Nepal is going to be a very different state to what I saw previously. They are currently not in the best political situation (but they never really were…) and the fuel crisis is another major pressure on the small landlocked country. Causing fuel shortages and limited accessibility and transport around the country.

However I’m still positive about the trip out there and the reunion I’ll have with everyone in the village! I’m hoping to vlog (for the first time on my youtube channel! say whatttt) some of the time I’m there to give you an insight into what’s happening and what I’m doing.

Stay tuned and up to date with all the details of my trip by following my social media links or subscribing to my brand new channel 🙂

Chitwan Safari at the Eden Jungle Resort | Travel Talk

Chitwan Safari at the Eden Jungle Resort | Travel Talk

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Whilst in Nepal I made sure I got to visit one of the regions famous national parks in Chitwan. Located in the southern part of Nepal, Chitwan is about 6-7 hours travel from central Kathmandu via tourist bus. I would recommend travelling in a tourist bus as you get your own seat, water and toilet breaks; the driving is also ‘slightly’ safer as there are less people in them compared to one of the local buses.

I went on a 2 night 3 day safari tour at the Eden Jungle Resort which cost around £59 ($90) which I thought was super cheap for what you get!

Eden Jungle Resort
Eden Jungle Resort

The bus journey from Kathmandu was incredibly long and we got stopped a few times due to small landslides (which are very common throughout Nepal before you worry) along the way. Bring some food, a book and some water; maybe pack some travel sickness tablets just in case. You do stop off a few times for toilet breaks and at local cafes so there are opportunities to get food along the way, however always keep in mind in Nepal that the food may not be what you are used and ‘nepali belly’ much like ‘delhi belly’ is quite common amongst travellers. Be smart about food choices, I pretty much stuck to rice and momos!

Once I arrived at Chitwan we were picked up and taken to our home for the next few days. We were greeted with smiling friendly faces – as you get anywhere in Nepal – and briefed on the iteniary. We were taken to our rooms and were able to have a quick freshen up before heading out on a tour of the resort. The rooms are fairly basic but sufficient for what you need, its not luxury but does the job. You are provided with beds, a ceiling fan, nets and a bathroom; consisting of a western toilet, sink and shower.

We immediately went for a tour around where they kept the elephants and shown around the grounds. We were lucky enough to see one of the famous one horned rhinos bathing in a stream in the first 20 minutes of being there! They showed us the river which at the time was overflowing due to it being the monsoon season. We were able to watch the sunset and then head back for a cold everest beer!

Elephant HairdoOne-Horned Rhino

Later that evening after a buffet style dinner we were driven to the nearby Tharu village where we were treated to some traditional tribal stick dancing. This was a great atmosphere and interesting to see the tribes cultural heritage. Afterwards we headed back to our resort to get some well earned rest after the days travelling but not before we squeezed in a few more everest beers!

The next day we had an early breakfast (breakfast and dinner are included at the resort) and went down to the river where we got into canoes down the river. There are opportunities to spot gharial crocodile, various birds and monkeys. We got out further down the river and went for a short walk through some local villages. Unfortunately when I was there we were not able to go over to the elephant breeding center to see the baby elephants as the river was so high we could not cross safely, however you are usually able to see them up close.

During the afternoon we had some free time so went into the local village to have a look for some souvenirs and to grab a quick lunch. Lunch turned into nearly 2 hours waiting, always remember your on nepali time haha

chitwan 1
You’ll get used to seeing elephants just walking around the village!

We headed back to the resort to quickly freshen up by taking a shower…with an elephant. A pretty cool experience but definitely came out smelling a lot more worse than I wen into it! I made a quick purchase of one of the resort t-shirts and went for another shower minus the elephant.

the best way to shower in nepal! #elephant #powershower #nepal #travels

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Hatti are awesome #elephant #nepal #travelling #closeup #vscocam A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Next we jumped into a jeep and travelled over to the forest where we were then able to go on an elephant safari. It was a really cool way to see the reserve and some of the animals including deer, rhino and monkeys; left me feeling a bit achey in my legs though! During the Chitwan Safari you have a well experienced guide who spots all the animals a mile off through trees and bushes. When you get off at the end theres usually children selling bananas for a few rupees to feed the elephants with make sure you buy a few to reward them for all the walking they just did.

Elephant EyesElephant Safari

Deer Ears

can’t get enough of these guys #elephant #nepal #travelling #safari A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

legit jungle book #chitwan #jungle #safari #nepal #travelling #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

For the evening we went our for dinner to make the most of some of the western food that is available here before heading back to our homestay placements. Grabbed yet another couple of everest beers – my favourite if you couldn’t tell by now – before heading to bed to get some rest and digest the days elephant antics.

Early morning wake up call for some bird watching and breakfast and then back onto the tourist buses to head back to Kathmandu.

Chitwan is a great few days away activity whilst travelling around exploring Nepal. I’d head there between october-march to really get the most out of the experience the temperature isn’t too bad at around 25°C, the best months for viewing game is late january-march as the grass is cut shorter improving disability. Check out Lonely Planets essential guide for your trip.

If you’d like to see more of my travel photos from Nepal or my other photography then check my social links!

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My Experience with IVHQ | Nepal

My Experience with IVHQ | Nepal

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I chose, after a lot of research and endless googling, to volunteer in Nepal through the company IVHQ to do childcare work within an orphanage placement. I’ll talk about my experience with the company as well as give a run down of what I went through pre-trip and whilst on placement. All views and experiences are my own.

 

What they say…

“International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) provides affordable, safe and responsible volunteer abroad programs in 30 different countries around the world. Each year, IVHQ places thousands of volunteers on our volunteer abroad programs and offers a wide range of volunteer travel opportunities in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Madagascar, Victoria Falls, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Bali, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Mexico, India – Delhi, India – Dharamsala, Vietnam – Hanoi, Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – Ha Long Bay, Cambodia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Thailand, China, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia – Bogota, Colombia – Cartagena, Morocco, Peru – Cusco, Peru – Lima, Laos, Romania, Italy and Fiji.

Established in 2007, IVHQ has grown to become the world’s leading volunteer travel company, offering a variety of projects for volunteer travelers, including Teaching, Childcare, Community Development, Medical, Construction and Renovation, Turtle Conservation and Wildlife Conservation.

Whether you are traveling abroad, taking a gap year, wanting to experience a volunteer vacation, or simply wishing to provide assistance in a developing country through volunteer travel, International Volunteer HQ has the program for you.

With volunteer program fees starting from USD$180, you will not find a more affordable, high quality and trustworthy international volunteer travel company.”

 

What I say…

“IVHQ was definitely one of the more affordable companies for volunteer work I came across, especially what you got for the money and the variety of destinations you have to choose from. You really can get a lot out of the experience without the massive price tag of what other companies are offering, because after all your a choosing to volunteer so don’t want to have to pay an arm and leg to do so! There are other ways to volunteer cheaper – by going directly to in-country organisations, organising parts of the trip yourself i.e. accommodation, familiarising yourself without guides however for a first time experience in a country like Nepal I was more than happy to pay the small amount extra to get all of this included in the fee price.

IVHQ right from the start provided email correspondence to answer any queries I had, organised airport pickup, accommodation, placements and have an extremely friendly team to welcome you and check up n you throughout your placement. They also provide a weeks orienteering at the start to introduce gently into the culture and lifestyle of Nepal before sending you to your host-family placements; as well as some language lessons which come in handy!

I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start with arranging all of this so this is why IVHQ is a great company to volunteer through if your new or solo travelling. I can safely say that the team in Nepal made me feel safe, welcome and at ease before I started my placement. With this in mind I would recommend going for more than 2 weeks to really make the most of your time volunteering in Nepal. Once you take the week off for the orientation (which is essential at the start I think) you should try to have at least 2 weeks+ in your actual placement. I saw people come and go within a week or two which leaves no time to really ‘make a difference‘ or get to know the people your working with. It frustrated me that a few were just using it as a cheap way to travel – this isn’t fair on the children you are working with. If your choosing to volunteer then invest your time with the kids.

“I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start with arranging all of this so this is why IVHQ is a great company to volunteer through if your new or solo travelling”

The support from the team lasted throughout my 2 month placement with regular visits to make sure I was alright and to help with any trips I wanted to plan whilst there – they even arranged tickets and weekend trips to Chitwan National Park which I wouldn’t have known were to go for. The IVHQ team also checked in with me online via email and answered other queries I had.

I was lucky enough to be placed with a fantastic host family and the most incredible children at Bhaktapur Self-Sustaining Orphanage. I decided to stay in the same place for the duration of my stay to really get to know them. All I can say is I knew when I chose to volunteer I was going to help, what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with an entire village. Everyone from the host family, children, house mothers, villagers and locals  are like my home from home now. I’m entwined with an entire nepali village on the side of a mountain and am heading back to visit everyone in March ( keep up to date by following @travelling_jackg or my social links).

“I knew when I chose to volunteer I was going to help, what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with an entire village”

So, all in all IVHQ was a great company to volunteer through. They gave me the confidence and ease to volunteer without all the headache. I had support, help if I needed it, introduction to culture and a base of friends right from the off. Like I said you can do it cheaper but compared to the other companies out there this is one of the cheapest for what you get! You get a quality service without the ridiculous price tag and is ideal for people starting off. From doing this experience I can now say I’d be happy to just go to Nepal and organise it myself without an organisation but thats only because I had such a positive introduction thanks to IVHQ.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of what I paid volunteering through IVHQ and other additional costs:

IVHQ Program Fee – £620

Flight – £400 return (LHR – KTH) – I booked through STA travel however in hindsight use sky scanner for a better variety of deals.

Visa – £70 – Apply via the Nepal embassy – send your passport off and get it back with recored delivery. You can also get a visa on entry to Nepal I just wanted everything done before I got there.

Travel insurance – £30 via post office

Criminal background check – £50 via .gov

Vaccinations – varies depending own what you need, I had already had quite a few for a trip to Kenya previously so only needed a typhoid one which was free. I also took malaria tablets which you only need for a small part of Nepal in places like Chitwan however I never ended up taking them as it was only a two day stay. I just wanted to be prepared incase I was placed here for the whole of my stay.

Check what you need here.

Average weekly expense – £0 – £10 (Nepal isn’t very expensive at all, especially as food is including in the accommodation – although don’t expect anything fancy. Expect rice, a lot of rice)

Chitwan 2 day safari – £80 (I’ll write a more detailed post on this as well as trekking expenses)

More blog posts to come about my experiences and time in Nepal, make sure you keep up to date by following my social links!

You can expect:

  • Nepali culinary delights
  • How to bond with an entire nepali village
  • My experience with a bad stomach ache and a mountain
  • 3 new didis, no english and lots of acting out

Stay tuned!