Off we go again…

by Luke, in Nepal
16th November, 2009
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Still scarred from the time I was late for the Waterbabies family photo shoot and jumped into the water with someone else’s wife and child (took a bit of explaining) I approached a packed Salisbury leisure Centre with a slight sense of trepidation. The queue for the pool was virtually out the door and considering people have been doing swimming as an organised activity since about 2500BC, I was vaguely hopeful that Salisbury District Council would get through the queue before Noah had time to introduce himself to absolutely everyone in the Centre and try all the emergency exit doors. Needless to say, they didn’t quite manage it.

Getting ready for swimming with a manic 22month year old is no easy challenge, and the big edge that the ancient Greeks, Egyptians or Romans had was that they didn’t have to wrestle with Winnie the Pooh swimming nappies. That in itself is equivalent to a gladiatorial contest of epic proportions. Having nailed that, Noah then promptly opened the changing room door just as Daddy had slipped out of boxer shorts -not ideal in a communal mixed sexed changing area.

Distaste etched on several Mums faces, it was 50:50 whether we were going to be escorted from the pool before we’d even had a opportunity to get in it. If Noah and I had been in togas, then none of this would have happened and it all would have been a lot quicker. Thankfully, we didn’t and once garbed in the appropriate attire we headed through to the pool itself. Try as I might, I couldn’t imagine the delights of a Roman bath even closely resembling the churning chaos that awaited us. Suffice to say Noah loved it, the lifeguard only told us off once and only two parents made comments to me about my charge. One when Noah had hidden inside locker 227 – took some finding – and the other when Noah hurled himself into the deep end of the teaching pool. Tricky moment as he hasn’t quite managed swimming aspect of such a feat, but he was okay and it was an action packed afternoon.

Heading to Nepal now. Eighth trip for the series – if it offers half as much enjoyment or excitement as a swimming trip with Noah then it’s bound to be a winner…

Keeping it short

by Luke, in Nepal
18th November, 2009
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I’ve been told to keep these blog entries short – so here goes:
Breakfast was a drawn out affair, the fruit was particularly succulent but the coffee a little strong for my taste. I worked myself into a frenzy with the indecision of whether to have a white bread roll or a brown bread roll but finally opted for both – carbs are king.

I forgot…

by Luke, in Nepal
18th November, 2009
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I can’t do it; there is simply too much gripping information to report. For example, the boiled eggs I had were cooked to perfection. We also finally made it to Pokhara today. It has been an epic journey, broken up by a night in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, but after a relatively quick light aircraft flight between the mountain peaks of the Himalayas, we have touched down in the enchanting town of Pokhara, home to the newly formed charity Himalayan Animal Rescue Team (HART).

HART are simply great and although we have only just met Juliette (Co Founder with Jim and Barbara) and her local team, I have the feeling it will be a brilliant trip. HART was founded eight months ago in response to a rabies outbreak in the town. It is the only animal charity in the region and being a relatively remote place (Everest is just down the road (ish)) the charity is poised to have a big impact, helping hundreds of animals in the region. The scenery is stunning and for once I am somewhere cool – the temperature is perfect – and I am geared up to get stuck in. In fact I can’t wait until tomorrow morning when work starts properly (only treated one animal today) and we can really get involved. The shelter itself is half way up a snow peaked mountain and looks down on the idyllic town which laces the edge of a beautiful blue lake.

I need to get hold of some vincristine – lot of TVT cases (Transmissible Veneral Tumours) and they have no means to treat them, so that will be a big mission first thing. It is treatable and I want to help them with it. Fingers crossed I can find some. It’s a drug used for treating human cancer so hopefully the private hospital might be able to relinquish a bit.

The team are in good spirits. Simon is standing in for Adam on this one again and it’s good to have him back; Marc and Nathan are both in peak form. Simon is still feeling very extreme post Peru but has a slightly sore eye. He has also only brought three pair shoes for this trip though so definitely cutting back the more ‘extreme’ we get!

La Vida Loca

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Nepal
18th November, 2009
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Only two weeks ago I was in Peru sailing down the Amazon and now I’m in Nepal staring up at the majestic Himalayan mountains. What a crazy life…

So we’ve finally arrived in Pokhara – our base for the next ten days – and I can’t wait to begin filming. This trip is going to involve a lot of flying and we had a great 25mins flight this morning from Kathmandu to our destination. It was a bit bumpy but not too bad after I decided to put my ipod on loud and close my eyes. It blurred out the terror of it all.
The worst is to come though, a flight through the mountains to Jomsom. If you do a quick wikipedia search it comes up with the following:

“Jomsom Airport: the most dangerous airport in the world.”

Can’t wait. Apparently (and this is from a more reliable source than wikipedia) the plane can only fly very early in the morning to avoid the wind and when it lands it looks as if it is going to crash into the mountain before tipping over the edge onto the runway. As I said I can’t wait!

It will be stunning

by Marc the Producer, in Nepal
18th November, 2009
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Off again. It’s crazy.

Don’t know much about Nepal. Have never been there before, but I imagine it will be India-like, just with a couple of the highest mountains in the world added. I think visually it will be stunning, providing the clouds clear. Quite overcast and foggy at the moment.


by Luke, in Nepal
19th November, 2009
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Great day – attempted some hardcore healing on a dog we named Jimmy. Not a very Nepalese name but I had an urge and one of the key founders of HART is called Jim. It’s a good name and that’s reason enough. Jimmy underwent epic surgery – about three hours – whilst I tried to reconstruct his neck. Lots of maggots and a horrific wound, I also castrated him so all things considered Jimmy has had rather a lot to cope with today – but either that or he would have had a lingering demise. He is currently sleeping off the anaesthetic and he now has to make it through the night. Fingers crossed. Whatever had caused the wound – he was probably savaged by another dog (although there are attacks on dogs by leopards in the town) he was lucky to be alive when we found him.
Community day this afternoon – vaccinating dogs, and then managed to track down some vincristine so that was a fantastic end to the day. Currently in Pokhara Lakeside Cyber Station courtesy of a few computer issues, so no e-mail access. If anyone happens to be reading this and needs to contact me – best to phone. I’m sure it’ll be cheap.

The other great news is that we are driving around in a truck loaned to us by the head monk from a Buddhist temple up the mountain. We’ve been told that this is great karma so considering the fairly relaxed driving rules in Nepal, we’re all hoping that this means our car might be untouchable and we’ll survive the mean roundabouts of free-for-all Pokhara unscathed…

Hike of power

by Luke, in Nepal
20th November, 2009
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Great day – totally action packed. Hardcore healing at the shelter – few cases and then a two hour drive to an area where pack horses are used to hike up and down the mountain side laden with massive packs. It was an amazing setting – huge suspension bridge hanging over a raging river. The pack horses fearless in their crossing of it as we set up a base for treatments. I say horses but they were actually mules – offspring of male donkeys crossed with female horses (hinnys are female donkeys with male horses). Felt very sorry for some of them and we tried to get a bit of education in the mix as well as treatments. It’s a drop in the ocean but hopefully the story of one mule in particular will tell the story of thousands and I hope it makes the programme.
The drive back was terrifying – Marc was behind the wheel (Simon and Nathan were in the truck in front) and our headlights were of questionable use. Sadly we found a calf collapsed by the side of a road half way up a remote mountain. Treated as best we could and the plan is to get up at the crack of dawn and check on it before the action starts. Will keep you posted. As for Jimmy – I’d hate to spoil an advert break for you…

Loving the driving!

by Luke, in Nepal
21st November, 2009
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Nathan and I got up early and hit the road in search of the calf we had found on the way home last night. Thankfully the treatment we gave must have worked because where the calf had been lying was a lot of dung and it had clearly got up and walked away. The best bit of the morning though, was that on the way back to the shelter, our driver pulled over and indicated he wanted me to drive.

I’ve been driving the other truck so we thought he simply wanted a break as it was a long day yesterday, but it soon turned out it was because he wasn’t sure of the way. So with our driver in the back and me and Nathan in the front – we headed back to Pokhara and the shelter on instinct. Needless to say that with the driver not speaking a word of English, us not having a map and despite our innate knowledge of the street layouts of Pokhara and surrounding Nepali communities, we were a bit late meeting up with Marc and Simon!
A few cases later at the shelter, the rest of the guys headed off to a Tibetan Settlement full of Tibetan refugees who had fled into Nepal from neighbouring Tibet. I stayed behind a bit to sort out a couple of animals and was planning to catch up with them for an afternoon of treatments. Once again, I was with the driver from earlier, and once again, he pulled over and gestured for me to hop into the driving seat. We’ve actually got a driver who simply doesn’t like driving, so although he knew the way to the camp, he proceeded to instruct me to go left at each roundabout and then shout right at the last minute from the back seat. Brilliant! Horns blaring, kids, motorbikes and cows everywhere – it couldn’t have been much more chaotic until we drove up a narrow road which was lined by Buddhist monks who fanned out in front of us. I stopped and suddenly they all started to get into the vehicle! Unknown to me, we were picking them up – about ten of them in a four seater truck – and taking them to the settlement!

As the only one who couldn’t speak Nepali, it was a great plan for me to still be driving at this point. Luckily, I had lots of help finding the way and was suddenly receiving directions from everyone – left right meant right and left meant left. Took a bit of working out. Of course when you are in a truck crammed full of Buddhist monks, normal highway rules don’t apply so without any hesitation I was directed the wrong way up a one way street, told to cut across several lanes of traffic and pretty much told to drive through buildings that obstructed our path.

I have never had such a bizarre journey and have to say it was the highlight of the day by a long way!
The community work was brilliant – lots of dogs (Tibetan Terriers unsurprisingly), goats and horses. Buddhist monks are into dogs – or so it seemed as they all had them and brought them for treatment! There was an animal blessing and a general manic air to the session – great stuff.
Simon was on fire after his heroics yesterday with all the filming in the gorge, Marc seems pretty happy with the shoot and Nathan is very pleased to be alive after my driving!

Simon’s EXTREME Birthday

by Luke, in Nepal
22nd November, 2009
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Simon’s birthday today so we’re all in great spirits and hopefully he’s had a good day filming cattle and some rescued birds of prey. The sun also came out so we got a great view of the mountains – gave us a taste of what to expect for the next few days because we have a flight up into the Himalayas crack of dawn tomorrow to a remote place in the lower mustang – near the Tibet border. Of course we have the birthday meal to deal with before that… Internet may be a bit hard to come by so will catch up in a few days.

Happy Birthday Simon!

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Nepal
22nd November, 2009
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We all woke up slightly the worse for wear today as last night was spent out celebrating Simon’s birthday – an interesting night at a bar called the Busy Bee. Their house band played classic tracks like “Smoke on the Water” and “Paranoid” and we were all fairly impressed with the guitarist.
But despite this we all had work to do and spent the morning filming a veterinary training course for large animals and the afternoon filming the rescue and rehabilitation of injured birds of prey. It was a good day, although I think I shocked the rest of the crew by showing off my running skills when the camera batteries died and we had to get them from the bag. I sprinted over to the car and was highly energetic. It was probably the fastest I have moved all series…