Saving Nepal’s Best for Last

After our stay at the comfortable, but basic, Seti River Camp, it was a complete shock to our senses when we arrived at the Kasara Chitwan Resort.  We were experiencing luxury overload!

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The reception area

I was expecting a room, not a stand alone suite.  When I opened my door, I entered this private courtyard.  The photo doesn’t do it justice, but I was too focused on enjoying my surroundings to put much energy into a photo shoot.

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Air conditioned bedroom on the left, bathroom with open air shower on the right, and a beautiful courtyard in between.  Those are little ponds on either side of the boardwalk, complete with resident frogs.

After getting settled, we headed out to hunt for  black rhinos.  Success!   We saw several.  My favorite is this shot, because he seemed a bit bored by us gawkers.

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So what the heck are YOU looking at?

Our mode of transportation during our “safari” was a platform mounted on the elephant’s back.  It was not the most comfortable ride, for us, or probably for the elephant either, but it was a fun experience.

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We didn’t see any tigers, but the group before us caught sight of one.  After hearing about the elephant’s reaction, I was just as glad that we hadn’t.  There was a whole lot of stomping, bouncing and trumpeting going on!

For me, the best part of our visit was when we were able to interact with the elephants in the water.

The rest of the group had heard all about my nephew Jack, and how much he LOVES elephants, so Jim was gracious enough to take stills with my camera, while Binoy, our wonderful guide, shot video with my iPhone.

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First trick was getting on

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Wait, I thought I was going to be washing–not getting washed!

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Now I have to get down

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Peter, Marilyn and I giving our buddy a nice massage, using smooth stones.

These are such beautiful, intelligent and gentle creatures.  What a privilege to send time with them.

Check out the toenails on her.  Fun fact–elephants sweat through their toenails.

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Mike, can I keep her?

While at Kasara, I kept thinking about these lines from the song “Camelot”.  “The rain will never fall till after sundown; By 8 the morning clouds must disappear”, because that’s exactly how it worked during our two days there.  In fact, we were extremely lucky during our entire trip.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather–slightly overcast when we were trekking, which is much more comfortable than walking under a hot sun.

The resort has a lovely pool, so I was very glad I’d packed my bathing suit.  Again, no photos.  Sometimes you have to put the camera down and just soak in your surroundings (literally).

It also has a great second story bar overlooking the pool.  I decided to skip the ox cart ride  through the village, and partake in a margarita instead.  That’s what my sisters, hermaña preferida, and cousins would have wanted me to do, and I couldn’t let them down.

Time to fly back to Kathmandu, and another lovely hotel, The Gokarna Forest Resort.

During our Nepal trip, we added three travelers, Ann from Indianapolis, was born in Indonesia.  She and her Turkish husband met in veterinary school.  Karl is a retired navy chaplain who served in Iraq.  He and Eugenia were born in Hong Kong, but have lived in San Diego when they are not traveling the world.  Their fluency in Chinese was much appreciated by all of us when we got to Tibet.

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Standing, left to right: Marilynn, Marie, Ann, Eugenia, Karl, Peter, Dick.  Me, practicing my squat, an essential skill for the airport rest rooms.  Jim is missing because he is the photographer.

Here are Marie and Dick, enjoying their first class seats.

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Jim, Peter and Marie will be returning to the USA after our last night together at the Gokarna, while the remaining six of us head off to Tibet.  The farewell dinner is an OAT tradition when the main trip ends, and what a farewell dinner it was!

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Ann, me, Marilyn, Marie and Eugenia

Yes, we needed help getting dressed, and no, we didn’t get to keep the saris.

Some of the men played dress up too.

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Karl, Binoy, Jim

It was the perfect ending for three fantastic weeks together.  Little did we know, but the remaining six of us were going to have a very different experience in Tibet.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Big Four Oh

No, not my 40th birthday.  That happened a LONG time ago, and quite honestly, I have no recollection of how we marked that milestone.

THIS big event is our 40th wedding anniversary, and yes, that photo is indeed 40 years old.  This year, our anniversary happens to be on Memorial Day, same as the day we eloped.  Of course, true to form, our way of celebrating doesn’t coincide with the actual DATE, but that’s just the way we roll.

We have never been big party people, partly because so many of those near and dear to us are geographically scattered.  Years ago, we stopped giving gifts, instead opting to collect memories rather than objects.  Okay, so that’s the build-up.  You ready for the “reveal”?

To mark our 4 decades together, we decided to travel to Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). Yes, I know Nepal had a devastating earthquake last May, with a full complement of aftershocks.  For a country that depends on the tourist trade, we decided a way to support the Nepali was to visit their country, then share what we see and experience.  We hope blog and Facebook posts might encourage others to do likewise.  Or at least prepare those that come after us for what lies ahead.

I recognize that given the infrastructure of these three countries, I probably won’t be posting while traveling.  That will have to wait till our return, but in the meantime, I’ll share what we have learned during the preparation stage, and believe me, there is a lot to learn.

I have been checking out air options, collecting visas, figuring out what to pack that will get us through a month away, with temperatures ranging from a high of over 100 in Chitwan National Park to lows of 19 in Lhasa, and everything in between, while also staying within the prescribed weight limits.  I’ve also been busy reading everything I can get my hands on about the three countries.

So, fair warning.  If you aren’t interested in that little corner of the world, subsequent posts are going to be bone crushingly boring to you.

For those that are considering traveling with OAT, this is my way to pay it forward.  I have benefitted greatly from the kind people who have taken the time to post information on the OAT forum, and want to do likewise.

More to follow!

 

 

 

 

The Final Ingredient for a Happy Retirement

Okay, so far, we’ve talked about sufficient financial resources, good health and strong personal relationships as being three essential ingredients for a happy retirement.  What’s left?

Drum roll, please…

According to  Viktor Frankl, the key is finding meaning in life.   Some lucky individuals find meaning in their work, and are able to make a living following their bliss.  They aren’t interested in retiring.  And why should they?  How great is it to get paid for doing what you enjoy?  They will continue to “work” for as long as they are able. But this post isn’t about them.  It’s about the rest of us, primarily motivated by the bimonthly love notes that appeared in our bank account via direct deposit, for whom retirement is a welcome change from the 40 to 60 hours we spent toiling away.

If “finding meaning in life” sounds a bit too lofty, how about this?  Let’s call the fourth critical ingredient  “oomph” or “pizzazz” or whatever term you bestow on that special something that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

Some embark on a second career, working fewer hours, but because they are doing what they thoroughly enjoy, it doesn’t FEEL like work.  When he retired, my husband started making violins.  Although he has sold a couple, and given away even more, the end product is not the point.  A researcher who loves learning and sharing knowledge with like minded individuals, he’s focused on decoding Stradivari’s secrets and reproducing the sound and appearance of a master violin.

As for ME, my favorite things happen to dovetail nicely with ingredients 2 and 3.  I’m now doing all of the things that I wanted to do during my work life, but rarely had enough time for:  Exercise, book clubs, social events, travel, spending time with my family, Global Volunteer projects (The photo atop this post is from my time in the Cook Islands.  Who could resist those beautiful children?), cooking — the list goes on and on.

My guess is that we all have different “oomph” factors.  What’s important is to start thinking about what your special something is LONG before your last day at work.  How you plan to structure your days during this wonderful stage of life’s journey is almost as important as financial planning.  In fact, the two are directly linked.  If you have expensive habits and desires, then you’d best be building a BIG nest egg.  If you are a minimalist, however, then you don’t need as much.

So, there you have it.  Simple to say, harder to execute–but SO worth the effort.  Happy trails to all you current and future retirees.

Please feel free to share what is working for YOU!