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The road to Nepal - West Terai - Bardia National Park - Nepalganj
Sunday, 11 March 2007
Coming from Rajasthan we planned a few days in Agra to see the Taj Mahal and to hide for the Holi festival. Agra in in Uttar Pradesh, the most populated state in India. It’s just over the state border with about 2 million people. As usual we arrived in total chaos. Just before entering the city we were greeted by a detour through a busy bazaar area packed with people in very narrow long endless streets. It’s a miracle we got through without ripping electricity cables, crashing merchandise, crushing bicycles, rickshaws and people. But Agra is tourist tout heaven – this is where the real tourist haggler learns the trade – with the Taj Mahal and the Agra fort as the main play area. With Nepal on our minds we decided to make it the last stop in India before heading for Pokhara. After an hour or so we found a reasonable place to park our truck. Hotel Akhbar (Field Marshal Cariappa road) with the Agra fort on walking distance has a parking with water, electricity and a green field next door for Indra to play. They get a lot of pilgrims from Sri Lanka round this time – cooking their own dinner on the parking.

The Agra fort is simply awesome at sunset. Mughal power at it’s best. An impressive building with a lot of history and amazing architecture. The touts at the entrance are long forgotten exploring the fort without the obligatory guides. Seeing the Taj Mahal from the Agra fort tells a lot about why its there.

The Taj Mahal is closed on Friday, after all it’s a building based on Islamic religion. Still it’s worth taking a look walking around it on the riverside. Pictures of the Taj Mahal give the impression the building sits in an open area. A Friday walk reveals the total  opposite – the Taj is situated in a very densely populated area.



But the real Taj can only be seen from the inside. We think it’s worth all the 750 Rupees. Pictures only tell so little – entering this marble gem is something words can not describe. We can recommend some background reading (wikipedia) about this building. It’s interesting to know some of the controversy’s and building details when exploring the place.

During the 2 days of the Holi festival we stayed near our truck. We saw lots of people totally covered in red, green and yellow – smiling and happy the winter season has ended. According to locals it was a warm winter, too warm in fact. At night temperatures didn’t drop lower than 15 degrees.

With Nepal being the next destination we decided to take the shortest route possible, following the route to Bareilly, Pilipbit to the border crossing at Bambasa / Mahendranagar. The road from Agra to Bareilly is horribly bad – bumpy, endless potholes, road construction and very busy with narrow congested village roads. It took us about 10 hours to cross the 200 Km. Just before Bareilly we found a quiet gas station (N28 14’ 32.3” E79 20’ 3.8”) to spend the night - totally wasted.



The road to the Nepal border isn’t signposted at all. Only at the last few Km’s a sign indicates you’re close to Nepal. The road itself is good, only a few stretches with oscillating bumps – we got launched high and ejected from our seats several times.

A narrow signposted road in a small village, called Bambasa, took us to a toll station for the bridge (60 rs) with the toll slip being the border ticket also. Indian immigration and customs is behind the narrow bridge. Very relaxed immigration and custom procedures – no vehicle inspection. Same for the Nepali side where we bought a 60 day visa for 30 US$. (bring passport pictures).

For people from India and Nepal the border is open – we saw many cross by foot and bicycle. This border doesn’t handle a lot of trading – we saw no trucks cross this border. The area is not build for it either – very little space to park and vehicle heights above 3m50 is a bit of a problem because of electricity cables and trees. Long vehicles also might have a problem (>9m) to make the turns before and after the bridge.

The road to Mahendranagar was congested with people on foot and bicycle. It was clear this road doesn’t see a lot of cars – people don’t jump of the road when you honk as we saw in India. Mahendranagar being our first Nepali town is clean and quite busy. At 3pm local time we were too late to change money. Luckily we had some Nepali money already, we bought our visa’s in dollars and got Nepali rupees in exchange.

We decided to drive on and find a spot somewhere down the road to the Bardia National Park to spend the night. The drive was a treat after India. Quiet, very nice scenery and friendly people. Also the road is also very good – a 1080 Km joint project of India and Nepal. Time to relax a little after the nerve-breaking traffic and roads of India.

We found a nice spot near a river (N28 47’ 24.7” E80 42’ 15.0”). A pitch dark night with jungle sounds! In monsoon times it might be a lesser spot because of roaring water and flood danger.

We found Bardia National Park a few Km’s behind a HUGE suspension bridge and an army check post. The 13 Km (good) gravel road took us to the Thakurdwara village where the park headquarters resides. Though in monsoon season the (only) river bed crossing at the start of the gravel road might be impossible to drive.



We crossed a few wooden bridges in the village with our 10 ton truck – with squeaking sounds coming from below…. The roads near the headquarters are narrow and height (<3m50) is an issue too. There is very little space to park and entering the park with our truck was refused. Moreover its not allowed to spend the night in the park.

We decided to head back and explore a different road we saw a few Km’s back. It leads to the Bardia Adventure Resort with only one small wooden bridge. The road ends on a large open space – a good place to park (large) vehicles or park and stay inside Bardia Adventure Resort. (See PDF map here) They have water, electricity, internet, phone and toilet facilities with a friendly helpful staff for reasonable prices.

Cleary the slump in tourism has hit the many small hotels around this place. Some are closed, others deserted. Village life has gone back to farming only waiting for better times. The Bardia National Park had 15 vacant positions (park guards) at the time we were there. A lot of locals came to the entrance to apply and perform a few tests to qualify for the position. Average pay is about 3500 rupees / month (about € 40,-) with provided accommodation and food.

In the days we were here we saw how the Tharu people lived, visited the  crocodile breeding centre, the elephant breeding centre with 4 baby’s with one orphan. Very cute and impressive. This place has a lot to offer and is quiet and might be a good alternative to the Chitwan National Park. It’s a full day drive from Pokhara, starting early.

With touristy Agra and the hell road to Bareilly the days at the Bardia National Park are paradise. Highly recommendable when you need a few days to relax, even when you don’t visit the national park.

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