Journey of a lifetime trust website: fundraising expedition to nepal, march 2005.

Journey of a Lifetime Trust Website: Fundraising expedition to Nepal, March 2005.
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The Journey of a Lifetime Trust (JoLt)
Expanding horizons, enriching young lives All Women Fundraising Elephant Trek in aid of The JoLt Trust
A rare and unique opportunity to trek across Nepal on elephants: March 2005 for three weeks
The expedition has now been completed. What follows below is a journal of the trip written by one of theparticipants - Sue Fenn.
CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK, NEPAL , MARCH 12 - APRIL 3 2005 The eight women on the trek: Dorothy Dalton, Susan Day, Olivia Hussey, Lindsay Driscoll, DeniseBolland, Challis Stokes, Jackie Wilkinson and me, Sue Fenn.
The Tiger Tops team (guessing the spelling): Dhan, Chief Guide, naturalist and expedition leaderSukram Kamal, second naturalist, Celina our Chaperone, and the elephants with their keepers(phanits and mahouts): 1. Hirakali, with Bhim and Sukman2. Ramkali, with Sunni and Krishna3. Gulabkali, with Rami and Lakhsman Choudry4. Pawankali , with Gani and Bharat Jeep drivers : Bhim, Tilak (Sukram's son) and BishumOur Cooks: Bhagat Rai , and Tshering SherpaMen's cooks: Babu Rasum and SukramSteward: Rekh Gurung Journey of a Lifetime Trust Website: Fundraising expedition to Nepal, March 2005.
Saturday, March 12
Eight intrepid women meet at 8.30 am at Heathrow (Terminal 3). On the flight to Kathmandu we arealmost the only women, most passengers being Nepali workers returning home from the Gulf.
Sunday, March 13
Arrive on time in an almost empty international airport. Met by Gauri (of Tiger Mountain Travel) with twomini buses so we and our bags are soon chugging through the crowded, polluted streets to the KathmanduGuest House in Thamel - the hippy mecca. Challis arrives from New Zealand in time for a late lunch, thenwe walk slowly through the old city down to the Durbar Square. There are few other tourists but lots ofeager young men offering to guide us round. Again and again we are told that tourist numbers have notpicked up since "9/11" and that the recent political crisis has made the bad situation much worse.
Monday, March 14
A very small Twin-otter plane takes us south west about 75 miles to the little airstrip serving Tiger Tops.
Meghauli is much as I remember it, a grassy runway with a fence trying unsuccessfully to keep animalsaway, and thatched houses lined up along the edge of the field. When the plane leaves Kathmandu, a sirensounds to warn the villagers to drive the cows and goats away. The army does an ambling sweep of therunway. A delicious meal is ready for us - vegetarian curries and salad, under a thatched shelter providedby Tiger Tops. We pile into a small bus which lurches along a track to the edge of the Rapti river. Wecross it in a small wooden boat poled across to a waiting Landrover, watched by a crocodile sunning itselfon the shore, and Brahminny (or Ruddy Shelduck) duck, heron and cormorant. About 45 minutes drivethrough jungle across a wide river with safe passage marked by stakes, and we arrive to a warm welcomeat the Lodge. As we look across the wide lawn, three elephants sail across our view against a backdrop ofthe shimmering white Himalayas. My heart misses a beat - it is all so beautiful and exciting - greenparakeets scream through the trees! At 3.30 we go to visit the elephant lines (where on my last visit a male elephant had been born in the nightto the noisy trumpeting of all his aunts!) All the animals are out working, so we go on with Harry to theBird Blind. This a shady platform beside a lagoon not far from the lodge. We hear and see jungle fowl forthe first time and equally colourful bee-eaters, red-vented barbets, drongos and an orange-headed thrush.
But the oddest and most extraordinary sight is a huge crocodile, a Marsh Mugger, fighting a twelve-footpython! Tuesday, March 15
5am first call, after a night full of jungle noises. Tigers have been very close during the night. At 6am fourgo out on an elephant for a short safari, at 7am a second group. We see several one-horned rhino, blackibis, peacocks, spotted deer, hog deer and flame of the forest trees. After packing up, we walk through thetrees and start our first lessons on the flora and fauna. We are told the uses of each plant and how torecognise tracks in the sand, and marks on the trees. A tigress with two cubs has walked this way and thenchased a sambar deer. In the tall sal trees languor monkeys and their young are watching us and jumpingfrom branch to branch overhead.
At 2.45 we pile into a Landrover and head for the river. A rosewood dug-out takes us downstream for acouple of hours, steered by a man front and back. The river is wide and fast-flowing and along the banksare small encampments of fisherfolk. We learn that the dam lower down stream in India is preventingmany fish from coming back to their spawning grounds and stocks are very low. At the biggest rapid wewalk round while the men steer the boat round various obstacles, but through smaller rapids we bouncealong quickly and safely. As the sun sets we reach Camp 1 for our first night under canvas. It is set outalong a high bank on a wide bend of the Narayani river. Our five tents (one for Celina who is our officialchaperone!) are in line along the top of the bank facing into the sunset. A table is set for dinner under thestars. Elephants are bringing in big logs for the camp fire. There is an open dining tent, a cooking tent, Journey of a Lifetime Trust Website: Fundraising expedition to Nepal, March 2005.
stars. Elephants are bringing in big logs for the camp fire. There is an open dining tent, a cooking tent,tents for the cooks, for the guides, for all eight elephant keepers - phanits and mahouts - and for the threedriver/mechanics, not forgetting the two demure little toilet tents. What an establishment! Wednesday, March 16
At 0815 we have ceremonial introductions to our elephants and presentation of our rather battered bananasfrom Kathmandu. It's a five-hour trek to the next camp. Pit-stops, or as they are called here "markingterritory", involve asking the elephant to kneel down so we can climb down her backside. Someone holdsthe tail up to form a stirrup and we soon learn the knack. Elephants only like standing and can injureinternal organs if they lie down too long, but they get up and down fairly willingly.
All morning we push through tall elephant grass disturbing numerous rhino and often look up into tallstands of flowering silk cotton trees with their huge waxy red flowers. We find a rather hot camp beside ashallow silvery-sand stream. After a short hot nap, Lindsay, Sue Day and I sit in the stream - in ourbathing costumes - washing ourselves, hair and clothes. The elephants hobbled with chains forage nearby.
The remnant go for a walk with Sukhram along the stream, spotting tracks of a small (civet?) cat andmongoose, an Indian Robin, green pigeons, and a brilliant bee-eater busy at our feet. On the return walktwo nightjars rise up from the path ahead of us. After an early supper we go to bed early, warned of a veryearly start next morning.
Thursday, March 17
Yes, despite it being St Patrick's day we are woken at 4am, and riding along a track by 5am - in the dark!We hear samber barking and see spotted and hog deer and lots of rhino. Peacocks are still roosting in talltrees and nightjars on the move. As it gets lighter I spot a cougal and, in turning for a better look, knockmy water bottle off the howdah. Luckily there is an elephant just behind ours and she picks it up andreturns it. As we cross the Rewa river, nearing the base at Tiger Tops we see another elephant carryingtourists and also a big turtle swimming downstream. There are fresh tiger tracks so we spread out to hunt.
It was fun but fruitless! We walk through areas where forest fires are still burning. We find the camp aftersearching for half an hour, and it is still only 11am: but already very hot. The site by an ox-bow lake isdisappointingly dull. The elephants plunge into the muddy water as soon as the howdahs are taken off,then choose tall trees to rub their backs against.
Dhan advises us to spray feet and ankles thoroughly with DEET against ticks, and to zip up our tents atnight in case wild boar wander through the camp. Every night at dusk a dozen hurricane lamps aretrimmed and lit and placed around the camp: one outside each tent, lighting the way to the loo tents andwherever they are needed. It makes the camp look rather romantic, even snug in the middle of the jungle.
Cooking dinner the cooks have a gas blow-out which burns the eyebrows and nose of Tshering Sherpa.
Livvy sprays his face with a medication which temporarily turns his face black. This upsets him more thanthe burns and he is persuaded to return to Tiger Tops to see the doctor.
Friday, March 18
6.30 breakfast for 7.10 departure and another photo opportunity with the elephants all lined up. We allplunge, four abreast, into tall grass and then on into mixed forest. We are learning which plants theelephants like to eat as well as grass: cardamon and pipul leaves, and the Left-handed or Strangler vine -the juice of which is bright red like blood and used to treat high blood pressure. While pulling some ofthis down, our elephant reverses suddenly into a tree, crushing Celina's hand between the howdah and atree trunk. Doctor Livvy to the rescue! Five of us ask to walk with the elephants as the route is now alonga pleasant track instead of impenetrable jungle. We walk into camp as the tents are going up and offer tohelp, but the men firmly place the howdah cushions on a bank above a stream. The elephants drink deeplyfrom the stream, then stir up a nice mud bath and, once covered with mud squirted over themselves, find apatch of dry sand which they use as talcum powder! Through the open tent we can see rhesus monkeysplaying on the ground and langur in the trees. Journey of a Lifetime Trust Website: Fundraising expedition to Nepal, March 2005.
playing on the ground and langur in the trees.
We nap and read till it's cool enough for a trip to the river to wash hair and clothes, and then the elephantsjoin us for a splashy frolic! Children from a village across the river come to stare - we think it must be atus but soon realise, rather shame-faced, that it's the elephants they want to watch. Very few come to thisside of the park. Our evening walk is in the rain, welcome in the oppressive heat. We hear a tiger close byand languor overhead chatter excitedly but our guides do not want to go any closer! It may be leopard. It isstill raining during dinner, with thunder and lightning, and Lindsay notices a huge black scorpion crawlingout of a hole, washed out by the downpour. Rekh takes it away on a stick. We go to search our tents andshoes for more, finding none we zip up carefully and from then on only unzip the doors to go in and out. Itis still raining and a chorus of frogs lulls us to sleep.
Saturday March 19
It has been a good camp for us, but not enough food for the elephants: chewing vines, however tasty, is nosubstitute for a pile of elephant grass or elephant sandwiches - which contain paddy and molasses. Weleave just after 7am, returning to the main track we soon see a big herd of spotted deer and a wild boarruns across our path. As the jeeps catch up and pass us we move to one side and Dhan orders the elephantsto trumpet. The huge noise is triumphant! Later one of them carefully picks up a desiccated tortoise andpasses it to her keeper. The undergrowth is full of wild jasmine so the air is heady with its perfume. Wewalk for an hour in the middle of the morning and only reach camp well after midday.
We take an hour's siesta before a swim in the river below the camp. On our evening walk we seemonkeys, the Brainfever bird, and crimson-breasted parakeets mating high up in a sal tree! The jeepreturns that evening with the cook, fit and well and grinning happily from ear to ear - obviously delightedto be back.
The campsite - the best since Camp 1 - is on several levels and the team work so enthusiastically to makeit convenient for us. They sweep the paths and make wash stands for the hand-washing water beside theloo tents, and by our tents, and cut steps down to the river. So we are all sleeping on different levels whenan army platoon visit us. The first I know is that a torch is shining into our tent and I peer out at perhaps adozen young soldiers with rifles. I'm not sure who is more astonished, but as other heads come out of thetents they ask in bewilderment "Where are your brothers"? Sue is very firm with them (as an army nurseshe soon sizes them up!) and sends them down to Dhan's tent. Dhan sends them packing and then comes toreassure us. He's abashed that we've been disturbed and assures us that they only came to see if we arealright! Palm Sunday, March 20
Wake 6am, breakfast 6.30, and 7.00 off. The keepers keep hitting hard on the elephants' heads with a stickand it is some time before I realise they are killing biting flies. We follow the track to the army post(where the soldiers came from last night) and Dhan goes in to make contact. We join a wider track andmeet a lorry heavily laden with smiling people and paddy, and then a tractor pulling a wagon of paddysacks - it's like Piccadilly Circus! There are lots of streams to cross in culsi or wadis. Most have goodwater so the elephants stop often to drink. We are now in sal forrest so we don't see many signs of wildlifeexcept for the diggings of sloth bear into the numerous termite mounds.
After two hours we turn north up a wide river bed following the marks of the jeep tyres. A long way upwe spy our new camp high on a bluff above the widest stretch of water. The lads are busy setting up thecamp, which in this heat is very hard work. Rather than sit idly by we set about damming the river tomake a bathing pool and immediately the elephant keepers come and help. After lunch we rest in our tentswhich have been set up on a terrace high enough to catch a little breeze. On our evening walk Dhan pointsout small round termite balls, football size, which he says the locals collect for their hens. There are alsolots of different ants in black nests high up in trees. For dinner we carry our chairs up to the highest leveland sit round a big bonfire under an almost full moon. It is chilly enough for fleeces. Frogs, cicadas andan owl serenade us as we sleep. Journey of a Lifetime Trust Website: Fundraising expedition to Nepal, March 2005.
Monday, March 21
Breakfast is early and I treat myself to fried eggs and French toast (egg-bread) as well as my usualporridge, because this is going to be a long day. We are going to cross the Churia hills.
Saying goodbye to what has definitely been the most beautiful camp so far, we set off up river. We aredistracted immediately by very fresh tiger tracks - they were certainly very near the camp last night. Alleyes down we follow them till they disappear into the jungle. Dhan, Bhim and Rekh are climbing about onthe western bank looking for the track for crossing the mountain. Eventually Dhan sends us back to thecamp while they hunt some more. Suddenly a shout urges us to mount quickly - they've found the track!The elephants have gone off foraging but hasten back and we are soon on our way eleven hours late andwith six hours trek ahead of us! The elusive path is just opposite the camp but we were all too busytracking the tiger to see it.
It's an easy path at first even for elephants but we reach a steep very narrow section which is quite achallenge. Then on up and up, sometimes cutting through where the vines are too low for an elephant, andsometimes they push a small tree to one side. When they have to descend a very steep bit they place theirtwo front feet together like a plough in front of them and then, making a slope as they go, slither down.
The last bit before the summit is very steep and it is getting dark. At seven o'clock we see a little gorgeabove with only dull light beyond it. We are at the top at approximately 2,500 feet. We let out a cry oftriumph! Slipping and sliding down the other side is just as difficult for the elephants but after anotherhour we finally reach a river bed. We still have a long way to go - another three hours - and the stones arepainful for elephant feet. But the moon rises above the trees and thousands of fireflies light the way. Wehear frogs, owls and nightjars and even a Brainfever bird calling "brainfever, brainfever, brainfever" in atone of increasing urgency! We occasionally use head torches when we have to cut through undergrowthbut the stones are white in the moonlight and even with sore feet the elephants press steadily on.
When we get to the bottom we find Dhan and Bhim sitting on a tree trunk showing, for the first time, theirexhaustion. They are also daunted because they failed to find the track and feel they've let us down. Wekeep repeating that we wouldn't have missed the moonlit ride for anything! Ganni soon plunges off on hisown pushing through the jungle. Whatever he has said to the others they follow and after another 15minutes he discovers the jeep tracks. As we turn up the track we see a bright light set in the middle of thepath to guide us home. Coming into the waiting camp we are greeted with shouts of relief: they had begunto really worry about us several hours ago. It is just after 11pm.
Tuesday March 23
We agree to rest the elephants and have a pottering day in camp. Looking north-west through the trees wehave a magical view of the Himalayas and in the foreground there is a tiny white-washed temple in themiddle of deserted paddy fields.
After lunch Ganni gives us lessons in making bowls from sal leaves. For the big plates for rice ten leaves,like huge beech leaves, are "sewn" together in a back-to-back pattern using fine strips he has made from apiece of bamboo. You can make smaller dishes with only four or even two leaves and we all have a go.
Later we go for a drive and meet wild boar, first one then two and finally a group of five. There is anotherthunderstorm during dinner but all is quiet by bedtime.
Wednesday, March 23
All wake about 6 for a 7.30 departure. Dhan says it'll be a 3-4 hour trek. We reach camp at 12.30! On theway we have seen lots of wild boar, deer and signs of wild elephant. Dhan's a bit worried because heknows there are five wild bulls in the area and one is in musth. We find their mud bath and where theyhave rubbed against trees, signs of browsing as well as lots of clear tracks. We find a leopard kill and theremains of a road workers' camp, a ruined temple in a glade and an old grave. We find tracks of gaur Journey of a Lifetime Trust Website: Fundraising expedition to Nepal, March 2005.
remains of a road workers' camp, a ruined temple in a glade and an old grave. We find tracks of gaur(wild oxen) and porcupine and several kusum trees ablaze with new red foliage. Blue ageratum iseverywhere forming a carpet under trees, and blue, yellow and white bindweed on the ground. Pawankalipicks up my camera case which I hadn't noticed I'd dropped, and then side-steps to pull pipul branches ofanother tree.
The men have cut a long flight of steps in the sandy cliff up to the level of the tents in our camp. Ourevening walk takes us quite a long way along a track and Dhan gets nervous about sloth bear this time!After a really sweaty day the evening is cool and we put on sweaters and fleeces to sit round the fire. Thejeeps are parked in a protective semi-circle around our tents at the top of the steep river bank. Theelephants are also tethered very close to us. But the only noises during a rather tense night are barkingdeer, gaur, owls and our own elephants.
Thursday, March 24
We wake early and enjoy a substantial breakfast. From mixed forest we emerge into grassland and turnnorth towards the Rapti River. We follow the river bank and then cross to some islands and sandbanksthrough quite deep channels. Dorothy is standing up on the back of Pawankali and says it is morecomfortable than sitting. There are lots of peacocks, woolly-necked storks, bee-eaters, drongos, lapwingsand eagles. Then back to the south bank and hog deer, rhino, samber, tracks of wild elephants andhumans. Finally we turn up another river bed, following jeep tracks into the jungle again. We come into adelightful ferny glade above a pretty rushing stream, and everywhere the camp has a bright green carpet offerns.
At 2.30 we set off, Indian file, to bathe with the elephants in the big river. We have great fun togethersplashing each other and rubbing the elephants' skin (which have many fly bites) and Jackie and Lindsayhave a go at riding bareback. A crowd of villagers watch from a sandbank in the middle of the river. Weleave the elephants munching on their favourite tree, ficus benjaminii, which is scarce in the Tiger Topsarea of the Park. We walk later through the sal forest with riverine forest on a lower level beside us. Weall sniff a tree where a tiger has recently sprayed - quite a strong smell! Then we find a deserted army postthat has been looted by the villagers, but still has orange, lemon, mango and guava trees around it, and lotsof herbs.
Friday, March 25 Good Friday
After the usual morning routine we follow the trail we'd explored on foot last night. Barking deer, a herdof samber (including a mother with twin fawns), and wild boar, enliven the ride and then we meet amother elephant with her one-year old calf. The scene which follows reminds me of mothers at asupermarket when they see a new baby! All our elephants crowd round the little one, making low cooingsounds and touching her gently with their trunks. The baby is still covered with golden brown fur, verysmall and very curious. She moves around quite confidently inspecting us while proud mother looks onindulgently. Eventually we tear ourselves away, after the keepers have exchanged news about animalmovements recorded by their lodge. When we emerge from the forest onto a wide river bed we see thetracks of our jeeps and follow down towards the big Rapti river. Our camp is roasting on this open shoreof sand and pebbles but the view across the river and into the foothills is stunning. To the east the foothillsof the Himalayas come to meet the Chuia hills, where the river winds through.
As we emerge a mischievous Dhan with a box of red Powder starts to "play Holi"! When we arethoroughly covered with the dye, he and Celina provide us with more to chase the men. Rami and Sunnitry to hide in their tent but are dragged out by Livvy and Lindsay and soon even Bhim (Hira's keeper) andDhan are bright red. Exhausted with chasing and laughter, it's back to the river to clean up! Towardsevening Dhan leads a party to visit Patapur village and they find some youths completely covered incoloured powder. Only the very old and very young are spared. Piglets, ducks and a volleyball court areadmired and TV aerials and solar panels. One girl speaks English and they are invited to look round thevillage brewery and sample the rice wine. Against the red sunset the elephants are having dust baths and afull moon rises to bless the scene. Journey of a Lifetime Trust Website: Fundraising expedition to Nepal, March 2005.
Saturday, March 26
Woke after a restless night to learn that Gulabkali had run off dragging her chain. She is easily followedand found grazing on the other side of the river where earlier she had refused to cross. We ride from seventill twelve. At many little bridges the elephants test the planks with the tips of their trunks and chose to gothe long way round instead.
Eventually as we come out into grassland there is a sloth bear in the middle of the track staring at us. Weapproach slowly with cameras poised but before we get near enough it turns and runs away leading us, aswe discover too late, into boggy marshland. Our chase turns into a struggle through deep mud followingthe trail of wild elephants. Dhan has told me how difficult it is to extract an elephant from just this kind ofterrain. They cannot be pulled for that would kill them. So logs must be piled up in front of them as theyare encouraged to pull themselves out. However it is soon clear that the elephants, especially Hirakali, arehaving a great time. She wallows in glee and the others, despite the huge effort needed to pull each footout of the sucking mud, are happy. So I relax and enjoy getting spattered with stinking mud! When finallywe return to the track we find we are near the camp. After tea we walk through rather nasty burntundergrowth and cross streams on perilous tree trunks, pick wild asparagus and listen to familiar birds.
After dinner round the fire, we learn the words of a Nepali trekking song.
Easter Sunday, March 27
We are all awake by 5.30 and find the tents covered in sal flowers. The smell is intoxicating! At breakfast Iproduce my little bag of Traidcraft Easter Eggs. The team agrees I must give them to the men so I goround presenting the eggs and wishing everyone "Happy Easter". We follow the track for a while and thenplunge into riverine forest with thick clumps of tall grass - good tiger country. Bhim spots a tree with halfa dozen beautiful pink orchids, the flowers about 12-15 inches long and three to four inches across. Theyare spectacular and he picks them for us. There are rhesus monkeys overhead and suddenly Hirakali stopshaving nearly trodden on a wild boar's "nest". It looks like a huge upside down nest and after she'srecovered from the shock, Hirakali gently blows at the piglets till they run out. They are about ten incheslong with striped backs - perhaps a dozen. Dhan assures us the sow will round them up again as soon aswe have gone.
Only samber and hog deer in the forest but when we come out into an area of deserted paddy fields we seethe tiny barking deer. Villagers used to cultivate these fields but are only allowed back once a year,officially, to cut thatch for their homes. Where there used to be houses we find fruit trees; mangos, guava,lychee, limes, jack fruit, papaya, figs, pears, banana and pineapple. And cultivated flowers such ashibiscus, cana lilies, and purple-flowered shrubs which are maybe cistus. There are lots of birds to see:racktailed drongos, bee-eaters, black ibis, black shouldered shrike, honey buzzard, scarlet minivet, orange-headed and yellow-eyed babblers, parakeets and our friend the crested serpent eagle that we see sofrequently, we wonder if he's following us! We cross many, many streams and culsis, which is hard work for all of us. Not long afterwards we stop togather yellow stalactites of resin hanging from the trunk of a sal tree. It makes fragrant incense and is veryexpensive to buy. The tree leans over a muddy creek and Pawan sprays us all with cool mud! Furtheralong our route in bright sunshine what appears to be yellow string or fishing nets heaped beside the pathto dry. It is a useful medicine for treating parasites. A very pretty shrub with delicate red flowers is goodfor dysentery. Better than Imodium? We only catch up with the others at the next camp. They had wondered if we were alright so, we are told,Bhim asked Hirakali where the missing elephant is. By some code rumbled through the ground themessage comes back that we are quite close. A few minutes later we walk in! It is a beautiful camp in acathedral-like glade of tall flowering sal trees. During tea there is another explosion in the cooking tent.
We rush to help but nobody is hurt. Bharat climbs a very tall tree to collect resin to offer to the gods.
Others are making elephant sandwiches of green grass baskets filled with paddy. Journey of a Lifetime Trust Website: Fundraising expedition to Nepal, March 2005.
Others are making elephant sandwiches of green grass baskets filled with paddy.
Monday, March 28th Easter Monday
It is a cool quiet night but we are told a big sloth bear wandered through the camp at 5am. and upset theelephants. A short walk is planned for this morning, starting at 7am. "Only two and a half hours" - toarrive at 11am! We set off hopefully, determined to see tiger. We plunge into the jungle with the elephantsfour abreast just ramming their passage through the undergrowth. We find where a tigress and two cubshave entered the jungle and then where they have lain down but then we lose the trail. On an open trackthe elephants are pushing to get in front; they all like leading. So Dhan encourages them to race and allfour thunder along the tracks to whoops of joy from us! Then we come to an area full of streams andbridges that the animals don't trust, so we make a detour round each one despite urging from the keepers.
Finally we reach camp 13 - not a good one. No shade and only a trickle of water, and no food for theanimals. The still air is hot, hot, hot with lots of flies.
Dhan organises a jeep to take us to a proper river to bathe. We bounce down a track round anotherdeserted army post (they were there to deter poachers) and slither down into a splendid stream. When weget out Dhan shows us a crocodile just up stream! Another had been coming towards us but turned back.
Perhaps it heard us rehearsing our songs! It is still very, very hot after tea and we go out on the elephantsinstead of walking. The highlight for us all is the magical sight of paradise fly-catchers flitting through tallgrass trailing their almost luminous white tails behind them. We return to camp at sunset through cracklingfires.
Tuesday, March 29
Woken at 5am by a very noisy dawn chorus. We leave camp before 7am and head off determined to findtiger. Coming out into a wide open track the elephants race each other again and then are so hot they spraythemselves and us with saliva! Once more we spread out and comb the grass four abreast but still no tiger!Camp 15 is on a wide river bank and we are greeted with ice-cold coke. Sukhram and Tilak have donepuja to thank the gods for a successful journey and safe return. Tilak puts a tika on our foreheads andSukhram puts strips of white and red cloth, called dhajas, round our necks "for protection". Theprogramme for the afternoon is: bathe, jeep ride and then party! We bathe with the elephants in the Rewariver and wash them. We go for a jeep ride as the sun is setting through the sal forest. We pass two lakes(tal) one with open-billed storks, egrets and whistling teal. By the other we sit entranced again by paradiseflycatchers as they flit through the tall lakeside grasses. And so back to change for the party.
A big circle of jungle has been cleared behind the cooking tent and the bright blue canvas sheets, usuallyused to cover the equipment piled up in the back of the open jeep as they move camp, have been rolled upand placed around this space to form seats. We troop in wearing JoLt T-shirts and sarongs. The cooks goround ladling out chicken curry, goat curry, rice and dahl. There is a cauliflower curry for the vegetarians.
We drink local rice wine or San Miguel beer. Pudding is a huge chocolate birthday cake for Sue. Aftersinging "Happy Birthday" we try to sing our own versions of "The First Day of Christmas" rewritten tomention all the guides, elephants, keepers and memorable events of the trek. And then a version of "Therewere twelve in the jeep and I heard Bhim say: Move over" which mentions all the drivers and cooks. Theyare naturally bemused but when we start "Kee, ree, ree" they join in lustily! Dorothy makes a short charming speech thanking all our friends and then she and Jackie go round thecircle and present each one with a new JoLt T-shirt and an envelope. On it is written in English andNepali (Celine has translated) a personal message. Inside are tips in dollars - we hope we have beengenerous. Then the dancing gets going, aided by the local spirit, rakzi, and some improvise a band withpots, pans, plastic jerry cans, buckets and bowls! We all clap to the rhythm and dance round the firesinging. At ten o'clock there's a grand finale by the men. At first each one mimics a different wild ordomestic animal - including a drunk man! - and ending with all the noises and gestures together. It ishilarious and deafening! Journey of a Lifetime Trust Website: Fundraising expedition to Nepal, March 2005.
Wednesday, March 30
We muster for a final group photo as today the elephants will accompany Challis and Jackie to the airport.
They are marked with red tikas and draped with golden silk scarves onto which Celina has sewn wildflowers. For an hour we ride four abreast through riverine forest and grassland, disturbing many rhino, hogand spotted deer. There are jungle mynas on the rhino using their backs as a perch from which to huntflies. Our friend the crested serpent eagle is waiting for us and many brilliant blue rollers, bee-eaters andopen-billed stork. On the approach to the airfield we cross a small lake full of blue flowering waterhyacinths and enter thatched "waiting room". Jackie and Challis say a fond farewell to the elephants whoset off for our last camp while we wait for the plane. When the plane takes off towards the mountains,shrouded in mist, we take the bus, then boat and jeep to our last camp.
It is on a splendid site, a high bluff above the fast-flowing Rapti and lunch it laid under flowering sal treesoverlooking the water. After tea we set out on the elephants for another search for tiger. (The guests fromthe Lodge had all seen one, and cubs!) We find the remains of a spotted deer - a tiger kill, and tracks towhere a tigress had rested with her cubs. Otherwise only beautiful birds, rhino, deer and a small brownwater snake. It is warm enough to have dinner in the open with a noisy gas lamp to light the table. Afterdinner Dhan calls us to see Gulabkali, Susan's favourite elephant. She is decorated all over with "HappyBirthday Susan", "God bless you" and flowers. Susan (it really is her birthday today) is crowned by Celinawith a wreath of wild flowers, and, sitting on top of Gulabkali, Rami is holding a birthday cake coveredwith burning candles. All the men stand in a circle grinning and wearing their spotless white JoLt T-shirts!We sing, she cuts the cake and everyone has a piece with a glass of rice wine.
Thursday, March 31
Awake at 5am for a cup of tea and farewells to all the camp-followers. More tikas and scarves from Dhan,Bhim and company. Denise rides Hirakali, Livvy on Ramkali, with Dorothy standing at the back, Susanon Gulab and Lindsay and me on Pawan with Dhan standing up behind the howdah. There is mist risingover the grassland as for one last time we set out to hunt tiger. We start where we saw tracks last night.
Then we do a big sweep round the lodge through ugly burnt grass and across many creeks and paths welltrodden by other elephant, rhino and deer. As we approach Tiger Tops we see three other elephants withtourists photographing a tall kapok tree. Nearer we see two young leopards, one lying along a branch withlegs dangling, the other sitting up on the branch on the other side of the tree. We all crowd round and theygaze down placidly blinking, as cats do, in the sunshine. At last we have to say goodbye and thank-you tothe keepers. Then it's into a jeep to return to the airport, through one river and across the next and finallyin the airport bus with others also leaving for Kathmandu. When the little twin-otter plane (Yeti Airlines)lands it brings Jim Edwards, chairman of Tiger Tops Mountain travel. He greets us warmly and says wedeserve medals for what we've done.
Back in Kathmandu, we walk to Rum Doodle, a popular rendezvous for mountaineers. The restaurant iscrowded and service very slow, but the food is good and we enjoy the ambiance - two groups arecelebrating the ascent of Everest - and the walls are covered with large cut-outs of human footprints onwhich messages of all sorts have been written. Dorothy says the Tiger Tops men have sent a message tosay that we have left our footprints in their hearts.
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Partido Socialista Português As origens do movimento operário e socialista em Portugal datam da proclamação da Comuna de Paris. Em 1871, a Associação Internacional dos Trabalhadores, mais conhecida pela primeira internacional, delegou na sua secção hespanhola, conforme as instruções do seu Conselho Geral, em Londres, que três emissários viessem a Portugal pôr-se em contacto com o

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