Published: April 17th 2008April 17th 2008
The first batch of kids asking us for school pens. They followed us for quite a while, but we didn't realized what they were asking for until they stopped running after us.
Ok, so that Yak thing comes from a t-shirt... I didn't make it up.
I'm finally writing another blog update... get excited! Before I forget, the end of our Australia trip was great. We went to Coolangata and Byron Bay and were pretty much beach bums for a week. The closest we got to surfing was playing on surfboard playground equipment and watching the real surfers from the shore. The beaches were beautiful and so clean! And, unlike Thailand, there were great wave to play in (my inner child was definitely out to play).
But now I'm in Nepal in a great town called Pokhara. Me and Katie arrived in Kathmandu around St. Patrick's Day and met up with our friend Rich and Charlie, who we met in Thailand. Kathmandu is kind of a crazy big city. The tourist area (which is nothing like the rest of the city) is fully of trekking shops with fake gear, t-shirt embroidery stalls, and souvenir shops. Usually this would not sound appealing at all, but the rest of Kathmandu is not a place I really want to be. We left the comforts of Thamel (the tourist area) when I tried to get
It's all about the roof
In Nepal they use anything and everything to hold down tin roofing. Usually they use stones and tires, but in this case they opted for pumpkins.
re-new my Swiss passport. Driving around the actual city is crazy! I have never seen so many people in one place in my life! And there are cops and riot guards with beat sticks and massive guns everywhere too. I guess that means it's sort of safe?... Anyway, I ran my errand in the real Kathmandu and then stuck to the tourist area for the rest of my time there. We all had to get trekking permits and buy trekking gear, so that's what occupied most of our time there. We left as soon as we could and headed for the calm town of Pokhara, although anything would seem calm compared to Kathmandu. Here we met up with John, Brad, and Jenni (who we also met in Thailand) and finished preparing for our trek. Jenni was staying behind to do some volunteer work while the rest of us headed for the Annapurna mountains.
On the way to the starting point of the trek we met a British couple, Tom and J, and a Canadian, Blair, who all became part of our trekking group. We all got off the bus, signed in to the trekkers check point, and began our
Us covered with red paint on Holi Day. The little kids in the picture are the ones that got us.
journey. The bottom of the trek isn't too exciting, but by day 2 you start to see the snow capped Himalayas and you remember why you decided it was a good idea to trek 10-18 km a day with a huge backpack. For a lot of the trek you follow a beautiful river, so the scenery was great. On the 3rd or 4th day of the trek was the Nepali holiday called Holi Day. I still don't understand the significance of the holiday, but in almost every village we trekked through we got attacked by local kids with red paint waiting to smother our faces and laugh at us. It was great fun and we have some good pictures of all of us with red paint on our faces. The local kids are really adorable, but in most villages they follow you asking for school pens, chocolate, and money (you are advised to give them nothing). It gets really annoying wen your panting and all you can hear is "school pen? you have school pen?" for a while.
The trek was amazing, but hard at that same time. I got what Rich and Brad called the biggest blisters they'd
Me and Katie on one of the many bidges we crossed on the trek.
ever seen (I just found then to be inconvenient and gross). One of the funniest things about the trail is that the local villages get supplies delivered by donkey train (literally a huge, generally single file line of donkeys). At first I found this concept quite entertaining, but quickly realized that being stuck behind 15 smelly donkeys on an uphill is far from ideal. We started timing our walking tot he donkeys, and if you heard their bells behind you, you'd try to pick up the pace. Another fascinating thing on the trail were the Sherpas we walked by. These men, who are probably 5'6" and wearing flip flops carry HUGE things up the mountains. We saw a group of men who had to carry a 15 foot long, 65 kilo metal pipe for 4 days. There were also men with livestock on their backs, firewood, and even a satellite dish. It made the rest of us with our trekking poles and boots look like a bunch of pansies.
I was having a good time on the trek until we started reaching higher altitude. I instantly felt the lack of oxygen and by 3500 meters was getting pretty sick.
Share the Road
There are cows all over Nepal, even on a trail in the middle fo the Annapurnas!
Every little thing made me light headed. Changing my socks, brushing my teeth, basic little things all took effort. On top of that I got a lovely little stomach bug (and by lovely and little i mean horrible!) and we all decided it'd be best if I headed back to low land and recover. I found a small airport a few towns away from where we were, booked a flight out of there, and made it back to Pokhara in one not so healthy piece.
I met up with Jenni in Pokhara and had a few days of recovery. While we'd all been trekking she was volunteering at a preschool renovation project. Once I felt better, I went with her and loved the project. The preschool had purchased a larger building with a big yard and a bunch of us volunteers helped with painting, sanding, planting, etc. to help get the school ready as quickly as possible. I absolutely loved my time working there and was so glad I found a project I enjoyed working on.
The school eventually finished up (it looked so cute!) and me and Jenni were still in Pokhara. Her friend from home came
And a few more animals
Donkeys. The number one most horrible thing we had to share the trail with. I swear those animals smell worse than most!
to visit and the 3 of us decided to take a hike to a town that was supposed to have beautiful sunrises. We hiked up for the day and in the morning saw a gorgeous sunrise over the Himalayas.
To our pleasant surprise, the rest of our friends who were still trekking made it back to Pokhara the next day, so we were all finally reunited!
We spent the next few days being lazy, going to the lake, and changing our flights out of Nepal (thank you elections...). Eventually we decided we wanted to go on a rafting trip and found a great company (Paddle Nepal in case any of you decide to come to Nepal in the near future) to go with. The owners of the company are part of the international Nepalese whitewater team, so they knew what they were doing. We set out for a 2 day adventure that is still now my favorite part of Nepal. The river we were going to raft was class IV+ rapids, which makes them fairly difficult. There were 3 other people on the trip in addition to our group, so we made a foreigners boat (Blair and John
One of the first sighting of snow on the trail!
were sent there) and an Americans boat. We set off and didn't stop laughing and smiling until a few days later. The guide on my boat was a total dare devil, and since none of us were opposed to the occasional flip or holding on for dear life, he took us into the middle of every rapid. On the first day our boat flipped completely after we somehow launched up against a rock and weren't quick enough to correct it. The rest of the day we flip free, but still great fun. At night we camped out under shelters made of traps, paddles, and a boat and the next day were up for more fun. Again the American boat got dumped on a hydraulic hole. We all got tossed around. Me and Katie ended up under the boat for a while and when everyone else was already being pulled back on he boat, we were just popping out of the water. Nobody got hurt, so we all loved it! Somehow the foreigners boat never flipped out, even when their guide started trying to flip them. It was so much fun, and there was a kayaker video taping the whole trip,
The Annapurnas! I think this is Annapurna II, either way, it's cold!
so there's proof of our chaos on the river.
We got back to Pokhara and could not stop talking about the trip. We decided we loved the company (and the water) so much that we were going to take a kayak clinic with them. They taught us how to roll in a kayak (which is not one of my specialties) and got to paddle around the lake for the day.
After that it was time to head back to Kathmandu and catch a flight to Rome. Time to go back to civilization again. No more cows in the street, Umani Pemde Hum (it's a Tibetan chant Nepalese people play, write, etc...) playing at all hours, and sadly, no more travel buddies for a few days. Katie and I part ways from here, but I'll be meeting up with Molly and Carolyn soon!
There are more photos below