We’ve finally decided to uproot ourselves from our lovely guesthouse here in Sauraha – the Travellers’ Jungle Camp. By the time we leave on Saturday, we will have been here two and a half weeks. Not long in the grand scheme of things, perhaps, but compared to trekking it seems an age.
Up in the mountains, we moved on every day. Having to repack all our stuff ready for a 6 or 7am start each morning meant we rarely unpacked much in the evenings which, in turn, meant none of our rooms ever felt much like home. Even in Gokyo we only stayed a few nights before our itchy feet drove us on.
When we got back to Kathmandu we stayed nearly a week but our time there was enforced rather than voluntary. We had to arrange Indian visas, the weather was torrential, and the festival of Desain (kind of like a Nepalese Christmas but with more animal sacrifice) had just begun when we arrived back, meaning everything official was closed and many non-official things like shops and cafés, too, as people went back to their villages to celebrate.
And even with the streets quieter than normal, Kathmandu traffic is still terrifying when you’re shepherding kids around. In fact, there really isn’t much open space in Kathmandu at the best of times, meaning the kids spent much of the time bouncing off the walls of our hotel room or cafés.
All of which added up to Kathmandu falling very firmly into the category of “not much fun”.
So when we arrived in Sauraha it was a double relief. We got to stay still and relax, but we also had space. In fact, we chose a guesthouse based solely their having a resident elephant which was, of course, awesome. But it turned out to be better in even more ways. The gardens here are long and grassy, and divided up into enough parts that the girls can move around, exploring for ages. The food’s cheap and tasty and we can eat on our veranda rather than the restaurant, which means the girls don’t have to be on their best behaviour.
It wasn’t long before a routine began to establish itself. I generally wake up early so I’d chill out reading until one or two of the girls woke up, then we’d snuggle in a single bed and play Small World on the iPad until Janet or the third girl woke up, too. Then we’d all do sun salutes (Janet’s been teaching us all yoga to make us all into proper hippy travellers) and wander out to the veranda where we’d order a big pot of tea and some breakfast.
After breakfast, the girls would go and take the elephant some bananas then we’d do “jungle school” (mostly Janet teaching maths while I helped the girls hand-code website projects one at a time).
Around eleven, we’d all roll down to elephant bath time for some elephant washing, rising and splashing about in he river, staying there until the last elephant left at which point we’d have to evacuate in case the crocodiles came back.
Then more “jungle school” until early afternoon before wandering up either the village’s one street or along the river and ending up at the only proper restaurant in town, KC’s, where the girls would play in the long garden while Janet and I chilled out over a beer until tea time.
Later we’d stroll back for story time and bed, ready for it to all start again.
And so day after day passed. It felt like we were in slow-mo sometimes, as almost everybody else in our guesthouse would stay for two or maybe three days. They’d arrive from the mountains by bus, do an elephant safari, elephant bath, jeep safari, watch a Tharu stick dance and take a canoe trip down the river, then shoot off again having done every activity on offer in a matter of days when we only just managed to squeeze them all into over two weeks. And we never did get round to the canoe trip. Nor the stick dance. Although having see Stomp on the Royal Variety Show a few times and heard the stick dance going on from across town, I don’t think we missed much.
If I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure why we are leaving. Sure, we’ve done everything there is to do here (canoeing and stick dance excluded) several times over but we’re very happy. And having decided not to do India any more, we have ton of time left here in Nepal.
Is it because we’re still near the start of our trip and I want travelling to include, well, more travel? Is it momentum left over from trekking? Am I subliminally trying to avoid having to sit on an elephant and be squirted with high-velocity river water again (which was fun the first few times…)?
Whatever the case, we’ll soon be back on the road, heading up into the mountains for another trek; perhaps even the huge Annapurna Circuit.
But even with the soothing routine and constant new horizons of trekking, I think we’ll miss it here. It’s felt like home.