Celebrating my 50th in Nepal

Nepal via Abu Dhabi

April 15 – May 7, 2017

 

Arriving at LAX with mom I suddenly felt uneasy and reluctant asking myself what the heck I’m doing heading off on my own 1/2 way around the world via an unknown country with governments seemingly at greater odds then every before around this beautiful world.  Check-in went smoothly and now I sit and enjoy a glass of wine and snack in the business lounge feeling much more excited again about heading off.  My main luggage has been checked through to Nepal, so what I’m carrying is what I have for the next couple days.  I was semi-expecting such a thing, so knowing I’ll be staying over in a hotel in Abu Dhabi, I packed a few items I might light and hope what I’m wearing will be ok for a partial day touring the Sheik Zayed Mosque before heading off again.  It’s this uncertainty about plans that in the end is quite inviting adding color to life and excitement to life’s journey.

 

Life in OC is quite good, very stable and comfortably predictable, but my free spirit is not content with such predictability.  There is a big incredible world out there to explore and see in my lifetime and I’m ever so keen to spend my life living as a citizen of the world as a perpetual traveller, at least for a few years.

 

Two roads diverge in the woods, and I took the one less traveled by… And that has made all the difference.  Robert Frost.

 

17 April

 

I have to admit to a tad bit of trepidation visiting Abu Dhabi in the wake of government unrest and various imposed sanctions on the increase…coupled with a discriminatory media we are so exposed to in the US.  As expected, it turns out to be one of the safest cities in the world and the people are so friendly hailing from here as well as a wide variety of countries world wide.  One of my taxi drivers was from Uganda, a helpful guy in customs was excited to see my ticket heading to his home town of Kathmandu.  Being also one of the wealthiest cities in the Middle East, I was so happy to be traveling business class to experience their keen attention to detail and infrastructure in their airports to make the whole process of travel go ever so smoothly and always with a calm gracious smile.  I’m hoping my financial life will play out so I can indulge in at least business class for all my travels, it makes the journey so enjoyable, much like it was when my grand parents travelled.  It’s special to be a traveller and such a lovely part of that is the journey.  It also makes travels in such transport as “chicken buses” and over-stuffed trains in 3rd world countries all the more special to experience too.

 

I slept quite a lot in the past 24 hours or so with lie-flat beds on my 15-hour flight from LAX to Abu Dhabi, then after a little evening walk and some reading, another good night’s sleep in my hotel on Yas Island.  A huge breakfast buffet at the hotel started my morning before heading to the truly stunning Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.  Having had the great honor of visiting the Taj Mahal on 2 occasions, this grand place of worship is equally on par with that truly heavenly structure.  It’s 26 or so pure white marble domes contrast elegantly with the blue sky that seems to clear of dust on behalf of the beauty of the building.  Gold lotus flowers top each column and the Muslim crescent sparkles in gold atop each dome.  Unexpected were the inlays of elegant flowers carved of various precious stones adding a very feminine touch to contrast with the 4 tall strait minarets cornering the massive marble square, also in laid with floral patterns of stone.  The courtyard is kept free of pedestrians and reserved as overflow space for worshippers on special occasions.

 

Inside the grand mosque is a jaw-dropping experience with the amount of colorful inlaid floral stone work subtly seems to grow up the pure white marble walls and gold-lotus topped pillars increasing as one walks into the mosque building itself.  The chandeliers I liked best were in the reception areas to the grand hall, sporting a lighter elegant floral flair.  The lighting was a light blue like the sky and design was something one might have the likes of Tinkerbell as the designer.  Inside, three distinct areas are centered by grand chandeliers the likes of which I’d never imagined.  The interior lightings were dramatic with an almost whimsical flair, quite unexpected in color and shape, not to mention the immense scale they are to fill this phenomenal space.  Like massive umbrellas hung upside down, coated in gold and lit by white lights accented with large playful green and red bulbs. Below our bare feet lays the largest carpet in the world that was hand made by likely hundreds of women.  It’s not just a carpet one would buy in a store, but a hand-knotted masterpiece that is plush under foot and complimentary to the room in color and design which grounds the space and making a welcoming place for worship.

 

I met a lovely Australian woman who was there on her own, her husband was off golfing as a guest on some of the most sought after courses in the world.  She (Jenny) had been to the Mosque before, but was there again to take the free tour and experience the beauty once again.  I wish I’d had time to take it as well, as I hear it’s well worth the effort, but I had a plane to catch.  She was delightful to spend time with and giggle as we dressed in our not-so-flattering polyester mauve draped dressed with hoods so we’d be covered enough to enter the sacred space.  When she set off to join her tour, I stood on my own solo just taking in the experience of being there.  A security guard came up to chat with a warm smile.  Turns out he’s hoping to study in California one day at university “ins-alla” (God/Alla willing).

 

My taxi ride back to the hotel passed by the Ferrari World complex with its huge roller coaster.  It’s supposed to be the fastest in the world and the sight of it made me wish I were staying on longer to take part and see more.  Abu Dhabi has a lot to offer and a very friendly and inviting smile to go along with it.  I’d love to return one day, or perhaps fly through with a much longer lay-over.  Etihad Airlines calls this city home and having really enjoyed my experience with them so far, I hope to fly with them again and take further part in what’s available to see and do in this lovely (if hot, dry, flat and dusty) part of the world.

 

Now, I enjoy the beautiful Business Class lounge in Abu Dhabi Terminal #3 before heading off to Nepal to meet up with new friends on a journey far different from my short visit here.

 

18 April

Kathmandu

 

I met the gang at brekkie after a descent night’s sleep for all.  The spread at the Hotel Shankar is rather impressive lining the entire dining area with food choices…seems such an indulgence when just outside the property gates are starving folks.

 

The morning set off with a tour of the big stupa and the Hindu Ghats, places I’d visited in 2012 before my previous trek here.  It’s a nice way to begin the trip at a casual pace, taking in local sights and culture and starting to get to know the group.  Our guide was good, but I think a little let down that half of us had been there before, this being at least a second trekking holiday to Nepal for more than half the group.

 

We all seem to have signed up for this trek as a way to hike in a more remote area away from the crowds that flock to EBC and the Annapurna’s. That said, the later remains on my list of future treks to take on in the future…or I think it does…I’m hearing about “progress” along the track that is compromising the adventure a good bit these days.

 

We shared a nice luncheon in the Hotel Gardens by the pool before we all headed out to brave the afternoon traffic, broken side walks and nests of hanging telephone wires headed for the “lion’s den,” aka Thamel.  One takes one’s life in one’s hands walking those dusty narrow crowded streets selling everything from knock-off trekking gear, to tiny trinkets, t-shirts, scarves, money exchanges, electronics shops and so much more.  Most everything is covered in a layer or two of grime and sports prices that are often unreal, like a “Gortex” jacket for $14.  The fabric isn’t like any Gor-Tex I’ve ever known and the tag looks suspiciously second-hand.  Fun to shop though and see what’s out there knowing a little about the back-story of all this tempting gear.  I did see a super heavy North Face jacket that made me think of Jake living in Montana.  At about $85, I’m tempted to pick it up for him, but would have to get it dry-cleaned before giving it away.

 

A shower felt wonderful upon returning to my darling room, washing off all the dust from the day, then came the arduous task of repacking for the trek, thinning out what I brought and what I’ll be leaving behind.  Dinner went late back in Thamel, but at least we got a good walk out of it, racking up nearly 7 miles for the day… In smog and dust.

 

19 April

Road Trip

 

We set of in an old bus into the traffic, smog, dust, more traffic, crumbled outer skirts of Kathmandu, cow dodging, poverty stricken, earthquake shaken road heading into the lower mountains, then suddenly all forward movement stops completely.  We can see the winding road ahead for miles lined with completely stopped trucks, busses, cars and such.  People get out to have a wander and shake a leg for this looks like it’ll be a long day. Ricky summed it up as “Nepali Traffic”…and so it is.  Developing a cough along with others in the meantime from the air quality…or distinct lack there of.  My lungs are longing for clean mountain air, which we hope we’ll get into sometime today provided we get through this traffic before the day is done.

 

Once past the traffic, we carried on winding up down and all around the mountains, through the smokey smoggy air and past colorfully painted honking trucks with quite musical trumpets.  We later turned left up a hill where the Tarmac gave way to rutted rocky dirt roads that narrowed and turned tightly encouraging all the more trumpeting and honking as one blind hairpin turn added on to the next and buses and trucks had to back away and juggle around one another to get by.  It was all rather amusing, even if it did take a few hours longer than our bodies would have preferred.  We eventually stopped for lunch at a very “local” restaurant in a tiny village.  It was one of those self-built shacks with tin roof that doubled as someone’s home, it just happened to have 2 typical squat loos down a little passage, and space for a few extra tables to handle a load of guests…they served Dal Bhat, the staple of the area, which was quite good. There was one side sauce, that was so spicy even I had to give it a miss after one taste.

 

2.5 hours of more bumbling, winding road, 2 bridge crossings and a drive through one of the largest villages we’d been through since this morning’s departure and we arrived at our very basic Manaslu Hotel.  A rather underwhelming place, but friendly and does have a fan in the rooms to cool Bethany and I from the humid heat we’re finding ourselves in.

 

We had a wander about town enjoying having our feet on the ground and bodies moving again saying “namaste” to all the darling kiddos in town and smiling at the many little chicks being looked after by their attentive hens.

 

Packing in my room for the next day, I realized I’d left out my feminine products completely…seems they’re in the case I left at the hotel.  Yikes, bit of a panic.  Thank goodness there are a couple (sort of) pharmacies in town and I found one with a lady to help as her husband tended the shop. They offer basic selections, not the good stuff I’d brought, but at least I’m covered I hope…dang!  That was a first experience for me to set out and buy such things in a 3rd world country with a major language barrier and a bit of a touchy subject to address.

 

20 April

1st Day actually hiking.

 

4 hours up the jeep road along the lovely rapid river flanked by a steep gorge on either side.  Finally some natural forest is gracing our presence as well as some very pretty birds and a vast variety of colorful butterflies. Chickens, ducks, goats, cows, mules and such call this valley home whether willingly or not, they share with the humans who seem to care only for the food source they offer rather than the beautiful beings the give life to such incredible fellow inhabitants of this wondrous planet.  I did my best to tell the animals all I loved them and that they are a very important part of life here.  Dogs seems to be treated a little better as the little girl who befriended me for the first part of today’s walk saw her face light up at the mention of her dog.  She seemed a little sad when saying the puppies had died, but it was nice to see she recognized at least her dog as an important loving companion of some sort.

 

The puppy at last night’s Hotel/guest house, was a complete darling and I was honored to have been selected as his best mate for my stay.  Last night Kathy and I spent time petting and scratching him during our Uno game.  He stayed at my feet for a while then this morning remembering me and came right over, again laying on my feet and enjoying a nice scratch and massage.  He wanted to play a bit, but I wasn’t about to take it too far as to risk a bite from a dog in these parts and he seemed keen to just enjoy the pets.  His coat was dirty and seemed coated in a little oil or something as my fingers came up rathe black when done petting him.  Poor thing, but at least he’s in a good place where he’ll get lots of good attention in his life.  I started to fall for him… What a cutie.  We parted ways when heading off and he went back to his life as usual likely knowing that there’ll be other dog loving folks passing by soon enough to shower him with attention too.

 

One good thing is that even the street dogs in Kathmandu aren’t tall emaciated as they are in many places around the globe.

 

Anyhow, as for today, the hike was 4 hours of easy walking, challenged a bit by the humid heat that mostly affected the 2 Scots of the group, being used to a cold climate. After a nice lunch of noodles and cooked veggies, we all headed out for another leisurely walk and ended up at the local stream soaking our hot feet in the refreshingly cool flow beneith the swing bridge that will mark the start of tomorrow’s walk.  Ahhh… We must have all stayed there happily for 1/2 hour or so letting our hot puffy feet return to normal.  Funny to think that in a few day’s time, we’ll be entering a much cooler climate and eventually a very cold climate.

 

Each day we all get to know one another a bit more, sharing stories and connecting as a group.  Our gust house this evening is again basic, but does offer a cold shower that we all indulged in as well as doing a bit of laundry before getting into cold climates and more rustic locales where being dirty will just be a way of life.

 

21 April

Nepali detour…up, down, back up, up… Added 4 more swing bridges, lovely gorges terraced fields and such. About 10 miles by the end of the very humid day leaving us dripping when we arrived at our nice lodge.  A luxurious shower awaited, with actual warm water!  In this heat, ironically it was the cool water that was most opted for to refresh after the day’s journey.  We all showed up at tea time with lovely smiles on our faces after our first day of proper hiking on trails heading toward the mountains.

 

It seems a along time ago that we set off on that jeep track and turned down that first bit of actual trail.  Hard to believe that was just this morning! From that turn of this morning, we took the aforementioned detour as the main track had been wiped out by a massive Avalanche, we saw from the terraced farms across the way.  Today’s journey took us up and down some rather steep hills paving the way for what’s to come as we work our way toward the more challenging altitudes in the many days to come.

 

The number of mule trains is increasing and as they pass I try to tell them how important they are and what beautiful souls they are.  They aren’t treated the best, but they do stop now and again for a rest and scrounge for whatever bit of nibbles they can find.  I hope they get enough water too. They all are so skinny, I want to rescue them all and provide a lovely lush pasture land for them to run free on for the rest of their lives, but alas, that is not possible and the locals would only find more mules to work the laborious shifts.

 

Lunch was nice and Ricky shared with us about the traditional prayer flags, the one’s with the winged horses on them to messenger prayers to the heavens.  The 5 colors represent the elements such as fire, earth, nature, water and sky…all in a particular sequence.

 

We spent time in the evening on the rooftop enjoying the views, then dinner at 6:30 (Dahl baht for me) and reading until bedtime, unless we can find another deck of cards.

 

Oh, the joy of clean running water…such a luxury!!!

 

22 April:

Hardest day so far, but a brilliant one walking through a massive valley like only the incredible Himalaya’s can provide.  The hight of the flanking mountains would dwarf Yosemite, not to diminish the stunning National Park in any way, just for size comparison.  Here the valley is far more narrow and very steep vertical massifs put is in our humble place walking amongst these stunning Giants.  Loads of ups and downs all day was wearing for sure, with 7 or so hours of it.  A highlight was the cantilevered bridge clinging to the granite cliff letting the foot/hoof traffic transit this area above the river all year.  We made friends with a number of dogs as well as some really cute kiddos.

 

Our lodge is quite good, as they all have been, but last night there was a hot shower, here further along the journey we’re into only cold water making the activity a quick one, but a luxury nonetheless.  I likely shouldn’t have washed some clothes though as a huge storm has rolled in complete with lightning and deep claps of thunder reverberating up and down the gorge/valley making drying clothes a useless endeavor.  I love watching the storm though.

 

Ricky reminded us to take each day as it comes and be present therein, good advice for all of life.  Today I had a good bite of humble pie as I kinda pooped out after lunch, which allowed me to slow down and walk my walk without trying to keep pace with the faster walkers.  It was a good thing as the views were spectacular with the aforementioned gorge coupled with the river that flowed calm between the narrowing steep valleys acting as a funnel churning the waters into frothy turbulence that fell with such power it would surly take the life of any being unfortunate enough to find themselves caught in the current.  The sight was mesmerizing and truly spectacular. I’m enjoying walking through this valley as it’s so unlike anything I’d even tried to imagine.  I really didn’t know what to expect and my only comparison is my time heading up the Khumba (Everest Base Camp route) and Gokyo Valleys, which is very different from this.  Here we start at a very low level and work our way upward through huge variations of scenery.  Today we are back up at 1400m/4,200ft, the hight of Kathmandu and the temps are cooling and a bit less humid.  From here forward the temps will cool quite drastically as we gain in altitude.  This storm is also cooling the air a bit as the folks here at the lodge all sport jackets, as do I.  Something we didn’t consider the past few days.

 

The mules have a sort of paddock just across from the lodge and are huddled together to share body heat as their coats soak up the rain.  I’d think it would feel good to have their backs cooled after a day of carrying heavy loads up and down through this drastic terrain.  Here I sit dry in the shelter of the lodge enjoying the sound of the pouring rain.  Dhal Bhat is steaming away to warm my cockles and nourish my bod for another long day tomorrow.

 

One thing at a time.  Stop, slow down, take in what you’re doing.  There’s nothing to prove and everything to admire.

 

23 April

Getting harder and higher.

 

I feel a good donation to the Nepalese would be the introduction of a level…just kidding.  I say this because today’s trail, and all others for that matter either slant steeply up or downward.  Their trail building skills are truly to be commended carving into sheer rock, collecting flat stones and bringing them there by hand/foot and placing them as long stair cases hill after hill.  My body was complaining later in the day after about 7 hours of ups and downs, but I having nothing to whine about as the porters (“strong men”) have to schlep all our bags and such along the same route and all the food we eat and the shelters we enjoy each night have all been brought here by man and mule power.  All we have to do is walk the walk with a day pack and lots of water.

 

*****

Lessons from clever mules and sage advice from dad:

 

Speaking of mules, a “train” came by us later today that made me think of advice dad shared with me that I keep in mind always.  He told me that when we are just starting out, we work hours in exchange for dollars, then as we move on, we save some money to invest.  That money begins to grow and/or pay us back.  Through time and planning, we put more money into vehicles that allow our money to work for us so we don’t have to work for it any longer.  Then one can “retire” and enjoy with the security of knowing money will come in wherever you are with just a little managing along the way.

 

The mule example today started at a long swing bridge over the river at the base of a steep gorge where we rested on one side before making our way across.  One mule appeared on the trail across from us leading toward the bridge.  All on his own he walked happily onward, then crossed the bridge, past us and waited.  Not a human in sight, nor a soul to prod him along.  He called out behind him after passing us and nibbling a bit.  A little while later another came marching along, then a couple more…also unmanned.  The first called to the others for encouragement again.  I felt these were the entrepreneurs, the clever “kids” who marched way ahead of the shepherd’s calls, whistles and whips.   They’d figured a way to make their lives better, more enjoyable by parting ways with the masses.  They had the time to stop and eat a bit more along the way and certainly had a happier look on their faces than I’d seen on others.  Later, others came trotting past, still no sign of a human.  We crossed the bridge and carried on up the trail as various mules who’d learned the “trick” passed us by.  Eventually, we heard the shepherds with their loud calls and whistles, carrying their whips and such.  These mules were like the one’s we’d been passing in earlier days who’s hours were controlled, pushed and yelled at by the human leader, they lacked any freedoms to roam as they pleased while at work, just putting in their hours in a dutiful, if not forced way.  It reminded me of so many people in western society who’ve been raised and told to be a certain way, they do as they’re told, but end up miserable and wondering how they got where they were.  The early ones in the pack figured things out or took notice and learned a different way.  They had time on their hands to enjoy the journey just as a person who’s planned their life right can also enjoy their freedoms.

 

****

 

Also, during the day my mind wandered quite a lot to my life and the path it seems to be taking.  I’m thrilled that things seem to be playing out in a way that will allow me to be like the first mules in the “train”, and enjoy the freedoms of choice.  The thought of selling my house feels all the more a goal for me as I dream of a life living more “in the world” and break from the attachments and sense of feeling “stuck” that comes with that wonderful place I’ve called home for 20 years.  It’s a wonderful place to live and I may regret selling it, but I know that is not where I wan’t to grow old and this way I won’t feel obliged to do so simply because it’s there, it’s safe, it’s paid for and such.  Yes, there is a sentimental attachment and a feeling that dad might be disappointed, that it goes against the grain, but truly I am grateful for that place and the gift I have in my life to spread my wings and fly in a different direction…or take off on my own like the mules.

 

The rest of the day was delightful, even if rather challenging…the 3rd in a row.  Each day seems to be getting harder and harder as we wear out a bit each day along the way.  Tomorrow is another long day, but then we’ll have a series of shorter days in duration, but challenging in ascent.  I felt grateful all day for my health and hope I give my body what it needs to keep strong and healthy along the way.  I can’t say so much for some of the other group, as unfortunately for them a bit of “Delhi Belly” has set in making for an even more challenging day for them.  The good part is that we are at lower levels, so hopefully they will start getting better soon and the rest of the trip they’ll be ok.

 

Ricky is great about informing us about what’s to come adding in fun stories about the area.  Tende, Man and Sakte are great at looking after us in a friendly manner.  We all are getting to be a good team I think and enjoying one another’s company.  The scenery is changing, even as we are still in this massive gorge/valley, becoming more green and forested.  Looking up, there are small houses set into cliffs we can’t even imagine living on.  How does one live a sustainable life in such a precarious place? How does one even get water from the river below way up to the cliff, when there isn’t a path available to bring up a pipe between the two places. Nepali engineering is crude, but very effective and quite creative at times.

 

 

Walking up here and over the final bridge, then through the “cleansing” gates, we passed a couple monks we say yesterday too.  Seems they’re on a journey of some sort too.

 

“Suberat’e” = have an auspicious night

“Danya Bhat”.= Thank you

 

Getting into beautiful mountain scenery now, still in the gorge, but snow capped mountains make for a stunning backdrop to this cozy basic guest house.  I asked the name of the huge mountains we see and the response was “oh, those are just hills.”  Goes to show the grand scale of the huge massifs that call the Himalayas home.

 

Tonight we are at a basic solar guest house with incredible views of massive snow-capped mountains, that are apparently “just hills” and not significant mountains…wow!  There is a darling playful puppy living here who’d keen to play with anyone who’ll enjoy his company in the slightest. So far Darin and I are his best mates.  For some reason the owners have dyed his fluffy blonde hair bright pink, but the little guy doesn’t care.  He’s just so happy to be with people and loves everybody, making most of us smile from the inside out.  I say “most” as 2 folks on this trip don’t like dogs…who doesn’t love dogs, I say!

 

It’ll be Dahl baht again for dinner tonight, Richard and I seem to be the only one’s indulging in that Nepalese staple daily.

 

End of next day’s trek:  11 miles or so walked, mostly steep incline with awkward steps of varying rises, but also some really pretty forest walking.  Adding to the day, we had 2 detours taking us way up and over avalanches, the first one being a new track, quite steep and slippery.  The second has been established with stone steps and rocky paths.  I find it easier to walk on dirt rather than the stones, as the are at awkward heights and widths, often with the regular huge step taking lots of extra energy as we have gained in altitude now.  The day was about 8 hours, our longest so far and the longest until our big day crossing Larke Lakdela Pass, which will be a 10 hour day.  We had lovely views all day of big mountains and more open scenery than the gorge we’d be in.  I love the variation along the way and the change in village types as we near the Tibetan boarder, the area in more Buddhist and the faces of the people look to have a more Tibetan influence.  Life here is hard, likely the hardest I’ve witnessed anywhere, yet the people are so warm, smile easily and would bend over backwards to help another human.

 

The guest house we’re in this evening is nice and looks to be Chinese funded with a big fancy gate being built and various indications that aren’t quite Nepalese with looks topping quality.  The dining building is very nepalese though with the ubiquitous carpet-covered seating and cast iron wood/yak poo burner.  Everything now has a fee, except low and behold we have the luxury of power points in the room so we can charge all our electronics again.  Tomorrow will be on solar and the next place may not have anything either.

 

Everyone in the group did great hiking today and those who’ve experienced Delhi Belly or some other ailment are doing much better, yeah!  We continued to follow the river upward and past the drama of all the moving water carving deep into the granite elegant curves and softening edges of otherwise jagged boulders.  It’s powerful and graceful at the same time and quite a sight to stop and watch along the way.  Swing bridges are plentiful as we zig and zag upward… Then down to the river for a crossing, then back up again.  There are many darling dogs/puppies along the way who I’d love to play with, but they are quite dirty and so I have to wash and sanitize when I do play with them so as not to risk picking up some odd “thing.”  Without vaccinations in these parts, it’s not worth getting bit, but so tempting to really play with the little pups.

 

The weather report from the main KE office indicated clear skies like today though my birthday, then clouding over after that… yeah!  I felt such gratitude to Mother Nature and hope she will be kind and provide those clear skies so we can make the big trek on my birthday with brilliant views all around.  I’d be nice to have views on the other side as well, as that is the Annapurna range and I’d love to see that too.  Fingers crossed, but ultimately it is up to Nature, and she likes to keep mountain folks guessing… I’m just really praying for clear skies! :-) .

 

We’ve seen a variety of birds and loads of different butterflies, but no wild mammals yet.  The mountain deer known as Tar as well as blue sheep live in these parts, so hopefully we’ll see them.  For now, it’s a lovely feeling knowing the next 3 days will be lighter in duration with just 3 or so hours hiking each morning, then a lighter acclimatization stroll each afternoon to check out local sights.

 

25 April

Easier day of walking today, but good altitude gain taking us near the 9K foot range and testing the lungs a bit climbing the last hour or so.  It’s definitely Buddhist land here and near the boarder of Tibet.  My favorite part of the day was this morning with blue skies walking out in nature with stunning views of Nadi 1 and the Ganesha Himal, including the large central pyramid peak that looks to me like it has a carving of Ganesh sitting at the top.  My pace was perfect to allow me to walk along in a bit of a walking meditation as I connected as I could with the lovely life all around. The birds were singing, smell of pine in the air from the trees, dragon flies seemed to be all around spreading their magic and a newly welcomed foal and it’s mum shared space with us.  The strong river flowed below who’s lovely soothing sounds blended with the breezes in the trees and flapping prayer flags.  We saw our first yaks and naks today as well as a very handsome monkey of some sort.  Also, we walked past an ice bridge, the first snow that has appeared along the trail so far. Rounding one of the final corners after being cleansed by walking through the big gates and past stupas and mani walls, the first sighting of Manaslu came into view.  Slightly curtained by puffy white clouds that were growing thicker as the day wore on, we only got a teaser glimpse at her grandeur.  Hopefully the morning will be clear again and we’ll get a full view then.

 

The Majestic Lodge where we’re staying this evening is where Ricky was stranded for 7 days after the earthquake.  One of the “strong men” in our group was also with him then.  He’s shared stories of the event and it must have been terrifying to be in and not know what was going on.  He did have a satellite phone and was able to find out some information about other villages, the one belonging to the strong man, was destroyed in an avalanche, but how the people made out was yet unknown.  Ricky didn’t have the heart to tell his porter friend without knowing if his friend’s family was alive or not.  I don’t blame him, I don’t think I’d have share the info either.  It turned out everyone in the village was ok physically, but their home was destroyed.

 

The afternoon brought huge gusts of wind seemingly summoned by the clouded over mountain gods.  The plan is to walk up to the large monastery on the hill to lean about the school there and get a little altitude gain in, then return back to the lodge.

 

Our wonderful guide Ricky was written up in an article this morning, based on an interview he has about a week ago.  They asked him about things to bring on a trek and his reply was what he said to us.  The equipment is known, but a good attitude and open mind to enjoy each moment is the most valuable thing to bring along.  Attitude over altitude he says.  He also shared with me this morning a story of a German girl who looked him up to take her mountain biking around the Annapurnas.  He did and they had a good ride.  A year later someone contacted him to let him know she had passed.  Somehow that hit a strong heart string with me and I became a bit touched by the intense meaning to live one’s life while one can.  I also somehow felt the greatness of Ricky’s position to take folks on adventures they will cherish that just may be their last or perhaps the best memory they will ever have.

 

We trekked to the monastery at the top of the hill from our village.  The largest mani wall I’ve ever seen guided us upward, then through decorative gates that look Chinese, but in fact the design was founded in Nepal.  A stupa, many prayer flags and banners flapped in the cold wind, then up steep zig zags, stairs, past lovely small iris flowers and into the courtyard of the ancient monastery.  A prayer was in service, so Ricky guided us to remove our shoes and go inside to the left, remain quite and listen.  The prayers were beautiful emphasized by loud drums and buzzing horns.

 

Outside we heard stories of Buddhism, the symbol of the circle of life/death and the significance of 108.  Actually, it’s 100 that is pure, the extra 8 are for the moments of concentration laps that keeps that moment or act from being pure, so you end up with 100 pure prayers, candles lit (for the newly dead in Purgatory), or whatever.

 

In Buddhism the philosophy is that there is one mountain and many ways to get there.  No matter your choice, religion or path, it all leads to the same summit for us all.  One person’s path is their own, good or bad, but we’ll all get to the same place.

 

At the monastery, I felt a lovely sense of the ancient philosophy that touched me deeply and personally.  This is April 25th as well, the day the earthquake hit a couple years back.  Cracks in the monastery walls showed that nothing is permanent, but is was not time for this beautiful place to perish, and so the traditions continue.

 

Our timing proved perfect as the few drops began to fall as we arrived back at the lodge and grew in frequency until a proper rain came to quell the dust and wash away another day.

 

26 April

 

A most delightful stroll today with views all around that are truly spectacular in all directions.

Views of Naike, Manaslu North, Manaslu and Nadi being the highest peaks, but they are part of various “himals”.  We’ve walked away from the Ganesh Himal, and now working our way up and around to the right toward Larke Peak, where we’ll make our way over the pass in a couple day’s time then down the steep descent on the other side where we’ll likely utilize cramp-ons and axes…possibly ropes too. We have’t been trained on anything too technical, so likely it’s just a precaution.

 

Last night was really cold taking most the night to warm up in my fluffy sleeping bag.  The night before a heater was lit in the main room, which was delightful so long as you avoid the lighting of the fire with a explosion of fuel to get it going.  A French documentary film maker joined us and treated us to a 45-minute showing of a film he did prior to this trip to bring attention to the beauty and diversity of western Nepal’s national part and the need for further work to protect what is there.  It’s a beautiful film and all our fingers are crossed it will get accepted by a more international broadcasts.

 

This morning Beth and I were cozy in our bags, I woke up as the sky lightened seeing a bit of grey, then looked more and was completely gob smacked by the view out my window.  The rains last night meant snow just above Lho, it was as though Mother Nature has been busy last night painting a most glorious day just for us with snow on every mountain around us.  A few guys got up early to photograph, but in fact the sun doesn’t hit these parts until a much more reasonable hour of about 7-7:30.

 

Last night I got up in the night and was floored by the millions of stars I could see in the night’s sky.  Out my window was a very brilliant Big Dipper, which makes me think of my dad and I smile.

 

Our day’s main walk to Sama took a leisurely 4 hours with breaks.  We walked through beautiful pine and cedar forest with lovely clear water flowing down the river.  Our tea stop was spectacular with a panorama of stellar white mountains and thick glaciers pouring down the valleys.   Awe hardly explains the sight as we all snapped away with our cameras then just sat in awe taking in the feeling of being in this magical place to enjoy a cuppa tea.

 

From there is was an easier walk crossing a couple swing bridges then across a lovely open field of yaks and naks with their wee-ones.  We’re now above tree line so the wind picks up and the temps reflect the snowy peaks that stand as tall sentinels protecting this peaceful valley at the bast of Manaslu and Naike.

 

Our tea house is as most are and as we finish a nice lunch, the clouds are rolling in with the cold winds.  I’ve been eating like a bottomless pit, but seem to need the extra somehow…rightly so as the trekking is a bit challenging and the altitude is gaining.  Sama is at nearly 11,000ft…just under.

 

27 April

Another brilliant day waking after a snowy evening to a blanket of new shite delight in all directions.  It wasn’t as cold as I’d thought it would be and the clean crisp air was a treat for the lungs after so many hours last evening in the dinning room with the smokey fire going to keep us all warm.  The crowds have grown, this being a joining place for other treks, so not only was it smokey, but loud and full of who knows what that people may have been nursing along.  The darling little puppy was out looking far happier than last night when the was being rather tortured by the little boy who was clueless about the precious little pup hi had for a friend.  Last night the little guy looked “broken” in spirit, today he was playful and perky.  A few early birds woke up at “oh dark thirty” before sunrise to photograph Manaslu dressed in her lovely pastel pink before the sun rose to shed bright light on her and all the surrounding mountains and spectacular peaks turning them white against the perfectly blue sky.  Incredible to think, Manaslu is the 8th tallest mountain peak in the entire world, what a sight and what a feeling to be here to whiteness her grandeure in person.

 

The day couldn’t have been more magical walking through easy meadows amongst the small pines covered in white looking like Christmas trees, shrubs with crystal decor hanging from their bare branches and birch trees with their orangy bark slowly dropping snow balls as the sun melted the evening’s covering.  The ground was white and grew more-so as we made our way slowly upward toward Samdu at about 12,000 ft.  The morning was so delightful we all were quite surprised to arrive when we did, the time passing easily and happily. Everyone was in a good mood and feeling good so far.  Bethany and I agreed we felt like we were walking though a made-up place that didn’t seem real.  The surrounding mountain views were beyond words in beauty.  It’s the kind of place we can photograph until our fingers fall off and still not capture what it’s like to be here standing small against these truly stunning peaks.

 

The air temperature is growing much colder and as the afternoon clouds rolled in as always as we had our warm lunch, and the afternoon clouds blew in, pushed by the strong freezing winds.  We were free to hike up a local hill in the afternoon on our own as far as we felt to get some extra altitude before returning to the guest house for the evening to help acclimate.  Still everyone seems to be doing well… Yeah!  I sat up high in the cold wind, bundled in layers of down taking deep breaths of the clean air.  Some sort of spiritual cleaning or something of the village below was going on.  Men dressed in tunic outfits and waving things ran yelling through the alley ways between the houses, often going into a house, then back out.  My guess is as good as the next person’s about what was actually going on.

 

Ricky filled us in on the next couple days.  Our next stop is a VERY basic offering, mostly in tents.  It is there just to meet the needs of a place to sleep before the big day heading for Larke Pass.  Our wonderful guide decided to change up our day tomorrow keeping us in this cute village all morning, then we’ll head to the next place, about 4 hours away, in the windy afternoon.  We have to spend 24 hours at about this altitude as that is how long it takes for altitude sickness to show up if it is going to, so we might as well spend the time in a prettier locale.  From here we can see much of the track for tomorrow and it looks a bit stark in places before possibly turning a corner to see more fabulous mountains that are part of what we’ll be walking over.  The following day is planned for the long day we all have been looking forward to (or not) and will start about 4am, so our time in the rudimentary camp will be minimal.  I’m so glad we have Ricky guiding our way.

 

There’s no place to charge batteries for a couple more days, so fingers crossed charges will hold for everyone’s photographic equipment.

 

28 April – in written journal.

Tough afternoon hiking up to Dwang at a good pace and not enough rest stops to help with the altitude gain.  The result was a massive headache for me.  I gave in and took some tablets to quell the annoying ache.  The views along the way continued to be spectacular and Mother Nature treated us to a couple avalanches across the valley adding further excitement to the day.    Dwang is a very basic place where we tented and ate in a long stone building with dirt and stone floor and one long table shared by all.  It was social, but not a place to linger.

 

29 April

Happy Birthday to me!  4am start time.  The guys were up earlier treating us to tea and porridge in our tents as we woke up and packed our bags for the big day ahead.  The sky was crystal clear and very cold after yesterday afternoon’s snow flurries, leaving a view above that one stores and a special memory in itself.  The Big Dipper was bright as a bell and the Milky Way dominated a glorious cloud of galaxies across the black sky.  I wanted to stay there and just look up for hours, but my neck was a bit sore from all the lugging of heavy pack loaded with liters of water I was supposed to drink but hardly had enough of.  Also, it was bitter cold so staying out just standing looking up made one’s limbs start to go numb with cold. Still it was a night’s sky I will remember fondly and one framed in the faint silhouette of the massive and jagged Himalaya mountains.

 

Struggling still from yesterday and the altitude, I was keen to be humble and start very slowly at my own pace and not try to keep up with the others.  Eddie and Jeanie tend to be slow and steady, so we walked quite a lot together with Ricky following behind looking after us.  It’s humbling to be struggling so at this altitude (4450meters) as I’ve been higher on other occasions, but never felt this affected. Anyhow, leave it to the mountains to humble the most stubborn of egos, is what I believe…and have experienced in both me and others.

 

As the sun rose, the mountains began to glow in a soft pinky-purple before becoming gloriously white against the clear blue sky.  A few lower whisks added to the ambiance, but didn’t last as a weather pattern or anything.  The climb was tough for sure with false peaks coming up one after the other adding a bit of frustration as I grew more tired and struggled more with the altitude.  Thank goodness for the incredible scenery that made me well up now and again in gratitude for being here on this beautiful day.  What a gift life has given me!  That said, as the morning wore on, a few of us really started to struggle.  There was no turning back, we all knew that and wouldn’t consider that option anyhow, but it was truly trying to muster the energy to move on.

 

The guys gave us some snacks to take with us, including boiled eggs.  I pulled one out to eat, but not being an egg-eater, the smell an taste made me nauseous.  I don’t think I can eat an egg again.  I did give my other one to a cute dog later in the day on the other side of Larke La, who loved it. Most other snacks I had with me were frozen, but in truth I wasn’t hungry, just tired and weak.  I have Jeanie to thank for being super positive at the right moment when we looked ahead and saw only more upward rocky slopes.  She pointed out what she thought was the summit of Larke Pass and had it confirmed by Ricky.  She then proceeded to convince us all it was not far, we’ll just go slow…and so we did.  I said to myself over and over, “Sandy, you can do this,” as I knew I could, I just needed some fuel to go on.  At some point the trail flattened to a field of white snow on the flat and I couldn’t help but drop my pack and make a snow angel.  I was surprised no one had.  Ricky got a kick out of it too.  Although it used loads more energy than I had, it was something I wanted to do after all I’d come all that way to trek in these parts and it was my birthday, so there it is.

 

Another incline, then a dip and a final push to the summit.  My energy soared a bit, but I stopped short of the summit and welled up with emotion at the successes, the experience, the gratitude and a bit of congratulations to me in a most humble way.  I always learn personal lessons when hiking and get checked in my attitude and ego on things.  I love that.  Arriving at the stone ruin and multitude of prayer flags flying around the summit sigh, my new friends all wished me a happy birthday via song and hugs.  I shed more tears and thanked everyone congratulating them on a job well done by all.  Ricky and the guys had a box of little packaged cake/cookie treats that were about to explode out of their packages from the altitude.  We shared those…maybe the best birthday “cake” ever!

 

Oh, what a feeling to achieve such a thing after such struggle.  We enjoyed our time at the summit for as long as the cold allowed.  As I was leaving a rather large avalanche crashed across the valley, perhaps a “happy birthday” from the beautiful mountains…what a gift!

 

Of course with the high comes the descent and this one is likely the hardest of the day being very steep and covered in snow making it rather slippery as well.  We descended from 5200meters to 3800 within about 4-5 hours, and thank goodness (and Ricky/KE) for providing micro spikes!

 

A long very rocky descent from our tea stop down the side of a massive moraine field and finally arrived at Bimfang.  A darling and very new village with cozy yellow cottages for us all.  The only thing needed would be little heaters inside, but that is not a Nepali thing, so we join others in the dining hall huddled around the warm stove reflecting upon the days and sharing a birthday wish with Sawyer, who’s 23 today.

 

A few folks are looking quite knackered this evening and Eddie seems to have caught a bit of a cold, or perhaps it’s just that his body has been do worn down the past couple days, the toll is showing.  Anyhow, I enjoyed Dahl Baht again this evening along with Ricky, whilst the others had some variety of Italian food.  No one got a beer as we’d all been chatting about, too tired it seems.  They did provide for a yummy birthday cake and sing to me again…so darned special!!!

 

Ricky went through the day, talked about tomorrow’s plan and told his nightly story.  This one was about the Nawali people, who are the wood carvers, painters and such.  They also have a birthday tradition for those couples who’ve survived 75 years (the man) of life.  At that time, both are considered gods and paraded around the village to give blessings to all as they have seen it all, through all phases of life.

 

It’s chilly again tonight, but not like it’s been.  The weather is supposed to close in for the next couple days, which doesn’t bode well for the Trekkers behind us aiming for what we did today.  We were so blessed… Thank you Mother Nature!!!  Tomorrow we get to sleep in and will have an afternoon hike of about 4 hours to our next village.

 

Even though Ricky goes through the plan for the following day after dinner each day, he reminds us to stay in the present, to enjoy each day, to experience all the moments that do not appear on the itinerary.  Moments like connecting with the children saying “Namaste” and seeing their excitement, like seeing the incredible light in the smiles of beautiful elder women who have an incredibly hard life yet seem so happy on the inside, like seeing the wild animals such as blue sheep, playful marmots, and agile pikas, not to forget the flight masters that come feathered in silky black and friendly little birds that accompanied us on our hike at the higher altitudes…what do they eat?  Also to remember and experience presently are the feelings along the way of freedom, of exhaustion, of extreme elation, of gratitude, of humility, of comradery with fellow travelers and the incredible staff who makes this trip (and most trips) so special working overtime, but always smiling.  Of course there are the loos that make us long for something more proper by western standards, the lack of shower and often lack of electricity.  Actually, there have been quite a few showers on this trip, just no hot water to make them tolerable. The throat clearing each morning followed by luggie spitting by the Nepali men as they wake up…yuck!  Also the weather changes, starting hot and humid then walking our way up the gorge to cooler weather and finally into freezing weather and snow.  There’s so much more that happens on a trip that just can not be predicted.  It’s the exposure to these unknown elements the tough a person and change them on the inside in the best of ways.  To see and connect with folks from such a different part of the world.  One of the poorest countries, in the world with truly hard lives, yet with such warm smiles and love of connecting with others.  I love the beautiful chime of bells tied to the all important mules who make up the mule trains that move such heavy loads over extreme terrain making life here possible.  I remember the clever one’s who find ways to make their hard life a bit better by doing things differently and not staying with the others.  I loved connecting with the baby cow who wasn’t yet turned off of humans due to poor treatment (again by our standards).  It’s always hard to see how skinny the grazing animals are and how little they have to eat, yet there are dogs in every village who are healthy and full looking…they also enjoy barking in the night, often all night.

 

30 April

To Surki about 3.5 hours walk through fairy tail like forest over 1000 years old. Tall pines, birch and huge rhododendron trees in all shades of pink and purple color this magical place.  Lower down all is covered by a lush green moss adding to the charm.  I had to stop and hug one of the huge trees that compare to those large ones we have in the Sierra Mountains.

 

This morning was leisurely and good thing because it was freezing and it felt good to stay in my warm sleeping bag a bit longer.  From our cute yellow cabin, we had a spectacular view of Punker and Manaslu mountains so I could photograph the views as the sun rose into the blue sky.  The weather was predicted to change today, so it is good it is clear to start so those hiking over the pass today have a window and don’t have to turn back.  This tea house is quite nice, obviously new and had some financial input to rebuild post-earthquake.  Lots of attention to detail for Nepal with bright paint, detailed trim around the eves and extra decor added around the property.  They advertised “hot shower” but true to form for these parts, their power is solar, so the offering is dependent on sun and being in a deep valley, I’m guessing hot water is a rarity…as is enough power to recharge batteries for a group.

 

We left after an early lunch to head further down the valley at a casual pace. We crossed a huge moraine gorge left from one of the many receded glaciers.  It was quite impressive to walk through and the water runoff was a beautiful sea foam green complimenting the more deeply saturated colors of the mountains and forest we were heading into.  Birds were chirping, new blossoms blooming, the cold wind calming as we wound our way down from 3700 meters to 2700 meters.  We all are beginning to feel ourselves gain and walking up a hill doesn’t take one’s breath away as it has the past few days.  We stopped at a lovely tea house for tea in the rain before carrying on to Sarki for the night.  The rest of the groups have walked further staying in Gowa this evening, but our wonderful Ricky decided to make it s shorter day so we’d stay away from the crowds keeping the journey special for as long as possible. We are now in the Annapurna Sanctuary so will likely run into more people over the next couple days. The good part of that is apparently the next place we stay has en-suite baths, power points from the electrical grid (or something) and proper hot showers.  I have to see it to believe it, but it is quite nice to think about.

 

That said, I remember what Ricky keeps reminding us to stay in the present and enjoy the now, rather than longing for something in days to come.  I have to say I am longing for a really good salad, but know that will come soon enough.  For now, we’re all enjoying the tea house with wood stove going and trying some local drinks like Chang (home brewed millet beer) and Mustang Coffee (with some strong alcohol added).  The kitchen gang actually brought out popcorn.  With little power, that seems so impressive.  It’s raining, the forest is lush, it’s warmer than it’s been (though not warm), it’s peaceful, friendly and huge mountains stand tall with the sounds of the river below.

 

1 May

Rain walking through more lush forest along the lovely bright green-blue River.  Water falls, birds and beautiful trees.  Finally hit the jeep trail and into “civilization” or some early version thereof.  Still not hot water and basic accommodation but with power points and Internet access for free, we all could get caught up on things in the world.  As usual when traveling, very little goes on that isn’t the same as when we left.  Things at home keep moving along at a usual pace, routines remaining in place and processes evolving in their own time.

 

2 May

A lovely day as we set off on the jeep track.  Sad so see so much road up this far along what used to be only accessible on foot or by helicopter.  Ricky talked about many of the darling colorful villages very soon becoming ghost towns as the road takes hikers further up the valley to start an ever shortening trek.  Manaslu as well is threatened as a remote trek.  Process will happen whether we like it or not.  Anyhow, today’s hike did turn off onto the old Trekkers trail along the beautiful turquoise River.  The trail is well established with good steps and areas carved out of the granite cliff.  The spectacular peaks are less visible as we make our way on this last full day of hiking out of this beautiful mountain range.  We stop in Tal for tea, a lovely colorful village on the river with views of a gorgeous waterfall and loads of gardens growing more variety than we’ve seen so far.  Berries and fruit trees even thrive here at this lower altitude.  Yet another darling puppy comes to play with us and other dogs joined us walking here and there.

After our early lunch of spring rolls and a farewell from the darling proprietor of the tea house, we re-joined the Annapurna Circuit track going in reverse from the masses.  Ricky was right, it did tend to confuse people seeing us going against the grain.  They gave a look as though questioning their own direction.  A bit like life, when one takes on a whole new direction as I am working on, it tends to have the effect on others of having them question their route in life…the one they’ve been told to take and all the books lead them toward that same direction considered “the norm.”

 

All told, we walked about 6-7 hours up and down, but mostly down in elevation ending in Jagat, a place with the same name as a town we stayed at early on in our trek, but a completely different place.  It’s about even on the map as far as distance to the beginning/end of this incredible journey. Tomorrow is our last day of walking and it’s only a 1/2 day with the later part via truck/bus along this hand made, winding rock and dirt road.  We have one more night after this at Besi Sari, then back to Kathmandu.  I have to admit, I’m very ready to get back to Kathmandu for a proper shower, a sleep in a good bed with sheets and some time in my own space.  Also a good loo and breakfast with actual fresh fruit to enjoy.  My body seems tired of “dead” food, but it’s getting me though.

 

I reflect back on the trip and recall three days that stand out above the others.  One was the “winter wonderland” day, the other the “fairyland day” in the rhododendron forest and of course the climax day when we passed over Larke La Pass on my birthday.  A special trip for sure and it’s been long enough now…time to move onward…at least to Kathmandu.  With a couple days there, I’m planning on a couple massages hoping their not bizarre ones like in India.  I’ll request a female masseuse this time.  Also having laundry done and if I feel up to it, may wander to Thamel Friday night to watch Ricky perform with his band.

 

For now, I’m trying to keep clear of everyone I can as many seem to have come down with a cold that I really don’t want to deal with whilst traveling.  These Brits aren’t too concerned about spreading their germs in any way which seems rude to me, but that is just me…perhaps a bit cultural.

 

2-3 May (?)

Final days getting to Kathmandu.

 

Last evening after dinner, Ricky talked a lot about the meaning of travel and the new knowledge we all gain visiting a country like Nepal.  The biggest meaning is for someone like Bethany, who’s 19 years old and has a whole life ahead to let the change sink in and do good things in the world.  Truly for everyone who visits here, being affected is unavoidable.  To watch women spend their days breaking big stones into small ones by hand for the repair of the roads.  All day and into the night, they whack away at the stones adding to the pile of small stones to be collected as needed.  Often her kids join in and sadly that is likely their lot in life as well.  Once a Tarmac road is put in here, her job will be gone.  Still she smiles and dressed as nice as she can in lovely fabrics and such.  The warmth and genuine happiness these people house inside is infectious and profound.  The couple who live on the hill we walked past yesterday with just a couple handmade huts of some sort made from whatever they could find nearby, smile as we pass and buy a coke from them for a couple dollars.  It is these little bits of change they have to live on and creates a sincere smile that we can tell is so meaningful, not just a greedy smile, but one where you know that money is a true gift to their extremely basic lives.

 

Lest not forget the “happy honey” made by local bees here. Most places it’s encouraged to consume the local honey for it introduces healthy local enzymes that help with any local bacteria one may pick up whilst traveling.  Nepal is an exception as the bees here gather nectar from a variety of toxic Himalayan flowers that create a honey that is unpredictable and has been known to knock a person out for a day or more, leave them in a sort of drug-endured super or some other thing.  The story is quite funny, and also enough to put one off trying the local treat opting for something branded instead.  It’s become a bit of a novelty for collectors apparently, just to have.  A bit like the plant/insect that is collected by the Asians as an aphrodisiac.   We did see the makings of such with a whole batch of hives clinging to a ledge across the river from where we were walking…good enough for me.

 

4 May

Was to be our final day walking in the morning then catching a jeep to Besi Sari, but with limited jeeps, we instead caught 4 in the morning to take us all, including the “strong men” and our bags onward to BS.  The track is anything but smooth making for a slow rough drive along a steep cliff with the beautiful river below.  Nepal works in mysterious and usually quite obscure ways.  Our jeep was far ahead of the others and about 1.5 hours into the drive we got a call that one of the jeeps had broken down.  For some reason, our driver decided to drop us off having us wait while he drove back to where the other vehicles were.  Another jeep was called, so all was well and we have yet to figure out why the heck our driver felt the need to go back.

 

Further on past all the Chinese Dam developments and long tunnel, engineering the likes one Doesn’t see in Nepal, we came around a corner to find a large tractor/land mover in the middle of the road digging a trench.  We were told to back up and did that.  We then had to wait while the large backhoe dug out the trench making it’s way toward us and finally off the road where we could pass.  We continued on around to find a huge pile of dirt and boulders blocking the road.  Seems they didn’t consider where they were going to put the dirt they were digging out so just left it in the road.   3 men came in and started slowly moving boulders by hand out of the way while about 20 others stood around watching.  Eventually the drivers of our trucks and Tende (one of our loyal guides) joined in to move rocks.  The job progressed and eventually the lower trucks were waved past as the trucks behind us jostled to make room for the passing vehicles.  There was a gap, so we started onward only to be stopped by a guy saying the last truck was stuck in the soft wet soil.  A bunch of us laughed out loud at the situation.  Thankfully those 20 odd guys were still around to push and bounce the little loaded truck out of its predicament.  Eventually, we made it through thank goodness for 4-wheel drive.  The holdup lasted a good 45 minutes I’d guess and left us with a rather funny story that tells the tail of backward thinking in undeveloped countries.

 

Besi Sari is our final destination before Kathmandu and Ricky put us up in a rather posh hotel by the standards we’ve been used to.  Running water, clean on-suite, fan, wifi, numerous power points for recharging and so forth.  The town itself is more of a busy city, much smaller than Kathmandu by far, but buzzing with noise, commotion, friendly people and smelly trucks…all softened by prayer flags and warm smiles.  Sari’s are quite colorfully fashionable here with shops everywhere and lady’s sporting the latest.  Gardens grow in unusual little spaces wherever one finds a plot to grow lovely foods.  A storm is coming in with exciting crashes of thunder that follow electrical clashes somewhere in the local mountains.  Wish whips around and a few large drops fall, but not monsoon-type deluges…at least not yet.

 

5 May (?)

Patience is certainly a virtue as well as a necessity traveling in undeveloped countries as we spend our second day on a vehicle getting back to Kathmandu.  Today is a bus on Tarmac roads that although better than yesterday, are windy and close calls with head on traffic is a regular thing.  In the end it’s worth the effort, but certainly not the most desirable bit of the adventure,  still it gives time to ponder the grand trekking experience we all shared and watch the countryside of Nepal pass by the window as the horn honks musically before each town and each turn in the road.

 

I scored a rather beautiful room with a ceiling left in tact from when this property was the Royal Palace.  It looks like antique porcelain and a lovely chandelier lights it beautifully.  More exciting than that though came after I’d unpacked, took care of laundry, showered and all that, when a rather massive thunder/lightning storm blew through the city.  I don’t think I’ve heard thunder so loud nor seen lightning flash so brightly nor linger for so long with each crash.  It was quite an exciting show for sure and I think about what it will be like walking to Thamel this evening for our group’s farewell dinner.  A bit muddy for sure and perhaps a bit wet too.  Here, we/I thought I was out of all the weather and could pack all my clothes away.  Once again, Mother Nature will do as she likes…I love that about her.

 

The next 2 days are just chillin’ and waiting for my flight to Abu Dhabi and trying to avoid going back into Thamel, although I did do that last night (5th) to see Ricky sing with his band in his club, The Factory.  It’s a wonderful huge place with a big garden deck for eating.  Loads of potential, but needs marketing as there weren’t too many people in attendance.  He said they did have 1200 pax for the New Year celebration (on of 4 each year here I Nepal).  Ricky loves to cook, so he’s excited about having time during the upcoming monsoon season to revamp the menus and focus on more publicity.

 

A wedding is taking place here at the Shanker Hotel, yesterday seemed filled with dancing and celebrating, whilst today a marching band lead some 600 beautifully dressed people into the garden to surround a red tent that matches the bejeweled saris the ladies are wearing to whiteness the actual ceremony.  With the main front section of the hotel under construction after the earthquake, it’s impressive they can host such an event.

 

The journey to Abu Dhabi requires a lot of waiting as the flight doesn’t depart until 5pm, then I’ll stay the night in Abu Dhabi before catching the 15.5 hour “luxury” flight to LAX at 8am.  I plan to get to that airport early so I can enjoy a nice breakfast there in their Business Lounge before the flight.  Flying upper class really is a lot of fun, something I’d like to make a bigger part of my travels adding more fun to the journey itself.

 

We can’t bring any electronics larger than a cell phone onto the plane, a new regulation on flight from Muslim countries flying into the USA, so this is likely the end of my writings for this excursion as I must pack my tablet into my check on bag now.  So long until the next adventure.

 

Ok….

 

Again… End of day…again…

Categories: Asia

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