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Dr. Barry Burtis
Visit to Nepal included sighting of bengal tiger
Barry Burtis, Pet Tales

Published on Aug 01, 2008
Once our visit to Japan was completed, my wife and I continued on to Nepal. It was a return visit for me, after a trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp in 2006.

Kathmandu was just as I remembered -- dirty, dusty, hot and busy, packed with people and vehicles, yet a vastly interesting place to visit. It still is a shock to all your senses, even though you've experienced it all before. Every street offers a multitude of sights you have never seen before. It is quite amazing to see a city with 1.5 million people that, in addition to having stray cats and dogs, also has a population of stray cattle wandering the streets.

We were in Nepal to repeat some of the things that I had done before and to do some things that I had not. Our next stop was a new experience. We visited Pokhara, a city of 200,000 people, located about 200 kilometres west of Kathmandu. Here we were close to the Annapurna Himal, a 55-km long massif of Himalayan peaks that are astounding in size and beauty.

TERRACED HILLSIDES

We trekked to the top of what Nepali call hills, but anyone in this part of the world would consider mountains, themselves, to view these Annapurna peaks. On these mountain trails, horses and donkeys are the beast of burden that transport all the supplies -- not carried by people -- to distant villages.

After our trek, we shopped in the stores of Pokhara and we relaxed in the resorts of Pokhara, but most, we just enjoyed meeting the people and learning about their lives.

We travelled on to another village called Bandipur, located atop a mountain saddle that has only been connected by road, to present day Nepal, since 1998. Here we saw farmers and their families toiling in the terraced hillside fields as they prepared for another planting season. Some fields are so narrow that the oxen team pulling the wooden plow can turn only with considerable difficulty, when they reach one end of the field. Oxen or water buffalo are a vital resource for these farm families. Most rural families have one or more cows or water buffalo. They devote a lot of effort to the care of their livestock, which may also include goats and chickens.

After Bandipur, we visited the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science, Tribhuvan University, in Rampur. The only veterinary college in Nepal is located here. We were hosted again by friends we had made on our visit there in 2006. At that time, we saw the aged textbooks that were being used at the school. Back in Canada, we asked Ontario veterinarians to donate textbooks they were replacing in their practices. We collected them and, with assistance from the Hamilton Academy of Veterinary Medicine, we sent them to Nepal. A second collection, shipped this past February, had not yet arrived at the time of our recent visit. We were very happy to see that last year's books, though, had safely arrived and were being used and much appreciated by the faculty and the students in the veterinary school. A fledgling library has been started in the veterinary college, itself.

It is quite wonderful to meet the faculty and students at the college in Nepal. They are so dedicated to the welfare of the veterinary profession, sharing goals with colleagues everywhere, to help both animals and people.

Next, we visited Chitwan National Park, not far from Rampur. This visit we were successful in doing something that was not accomplished last time. Chitwan is renowned for the great variety of wildlife that can be seen there. The most-sought-after animal to sight is the bengal tiger.

On our first afternoon in the park, riding high on the back of one elephant, in a group of six, that was sweeping through grass 12-feet high or more and travelling over terrain that offered a myriad of tiger hiding places, we got lucky. Out from the tall grass, stepped an approximately two year old, male tiger. Though only visible briefly, before he disappeared again into the dense swampy growth, it was a terrific thrill to see, in the wild, such a majestic creature.

Back in Kathmandu, one of the things we wanted to do before leaving for home was to return to Mount Everest. This time our journey to Everest would be a bit different. Early one morning, a Yeti Airlines flight took us for an up close look, from the air, at the tallest mountain in the world.

After a mere 30-minute flight, there was Everest (8848 m), flanked by Nuptse (7861m) and Lhotse (8516m) standing tall and impressive in the clear, blue sky of a Himalayan morning. What a sight, and my goodness, how much easier it had been to get there this time!

Yes, there is devastating poverty in Nepal. However, we left with memories of a country with awesome geography, fascinating history, exciting wildlife and wonderful people and animals.