The trip offered a real variety of activities with comfortable accommodation and excellent food. Our group gelled well and we seemed to be having so much more fun than people we met following a similar itinerary on tailor made holidays.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Difficult to say but if pushed I would say looking out at the snow capped peaks of the Annapurna range from the highest point of our trek. The rafting was great fun and left us wanting more, and some rougher water. For an adreneline rush the taxi rides in Kathmandu and overtaking manoeuvres on the road from Chitwan to Kathmandu came a close second and third.
The mountain lodges were most comfortable, set in some stunning locations and offered food of a very high standard. The food at the river camp was sublime, so good that when the cook accompanied us down river to get supplies we were tempted to take him on the next leg of our trip.
Happy hours were universally popular, more often than not around a roaring log fire.
- What did you think of your group leader?
Prasant could not be faulted. He was informative and communicative, well organised and did everything possible to make our trip memorable. When two of our group became unwell he was most caring and attentive and did all he could to ensure that they were as comfortable as possible.
Prasant has a most engaging and amusing personality and we were very sorry to bid him farewell. He is a credit to the company.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Although not arduous, most of the ascents are by steps, some in quite steep staircases and at times the trek belied its category A 'leisurely' description. You don't need to take iodine tablets for this trip as the porters carry purified water and it's available at all the lodges, the camp and the hotels. Charging facilities for cameras and phones are available at all the overnight stops.
The rafting is never on more than Grade 2 rapids and is therefore relatively tame, although great fun. Be prepared for a thorough soaking and wear quick drying clothing as the air by the riverside is more humid than in the mountains and things don't dry quickly. On the first day I wore walking shorts but swimming shorts would have been better. If you want to take pictures from the raft take a waterproof camera or a disposable one as it's a bit of a mission to get cameras out of the waterproof drum once you're on the move.
If you have a full day in Kathmandu at the end of the trip (our flights were changed and not all members of the group did) I would recommend going to Patan and Bhaktapur, which we found more interesting than Kathmandu's Durbar Square. It is quite possible to see these sites and take in Swayambhunath in one day and I would suggest hiring a taxi for the day but be prepared to barter. Unless you are a Hindu or interested in cremations I would give Pashupatinah a miss. It's around £5 to get in and only Hindus are admitted to the temple. The stupa at Boudha is a better bet.
Be wary of security officials at Kathmandu airport. One tried to charge me a 'customs take' to take out of the country a prayer wheel for which I had probably paid far too much anyway. When I was able to show him that I had no cash he gave up and waved me through.
We spent more than anticipated so treat Exodus's guide as the absolute minimum and allow for getting around Kathmandu if you're intending spending extra time there.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
The accommodation at Chitwan did not meet the high standards that we had enjoyed previously. The rooms were rather spartan and lacking in charm. We were also disturbed one night by a conversation in the next room which showed up the lack of soundproofing. However another group, who had been staying in tea houses, seemed pleased with the accommodation which probably goes to show that we had been somewhat spoiled.
Don't expect to see abundant wildlife in Chitwan. Our tally from an afternoon walk and an elephant ride was some fleeting glimpses of deer and a distant and again fleeting sighting of rhino. But another group on elephant back came across two mating rhino so it's a question of luck. We were rewarded with a good sighting of a rhino on the last day, which delayed our bus departure and we did see a good variety and numbers of birds. We were not in the national park but in the buffer zone and this wasn't clear from the trip notes. Do join in the elephant bathing which was great fun - swimware again recommended.
Although for me the Chitwan leg did not live up to the rest of the trip, all in all it was a memorable holiday which I would recommend to anybody seeking a variety of activities, nothing too exhausting and some splendid accommodation and food.