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Published: November 28th 2007
I've now survived a grand total of 11 days
out of the mountains, but I miss being in the middle of nowhere more than you would imagine! Although I must admit that it has been nice to eat some decent food - like salad, Aloo Palak (no I will never get sick of it Janine!) and milky hot chocolates.
I spent the first few days back in civilisation in Kathmandu where I scoffed big juicy garlic steaks, put some poor bugger through the task of washing my smelly trekking gear and dodged persistant tiger-balm sellers.
Then I caught a bus to Pokhara. Every time I nodded off a huge pothole would send me flying out of my seat and i'd wake up with a thud. The joys of bus travel! I spent the journey trying to decide what to do with the next week, but by the time the bus toot-tooted it's way into the dusty bus station I still had no idea what I was doing.
On my second evening in the relaxed lakeside town of Pokhara
I came across a crowd of locals outside a supermarket. Naturally, I gravitated towards them for a peek at the spectacle. But
I was shocked when I came across a young child crying hysterically over a dead parent on the footpath. I was expecting some sort of game to be going on, or perhaps a busker. It seemed wrong that the world had turned upside down for a few people, yet life just kept passing by with over-enthusiastic "Namastes" from touts offering massages, jungle safari tours and offers of the "very cheapest" this and that In town. Life and death is very much in the open in many Asian countries and in a way it's nice that everything isn't behind closed doors. In fact, most things happen out on the street - you can always see locals eating dinner, getting haircuts and girls having their hair plaited before heading off to school.
While enjoying an incredibly bumpy trip on the roof of
a public bus I watched a funeral procession pass by. Unlike in a Western funeral - or celebration of someones life - everyone was dressed in brightly coloured clothes, singing & playing instruments down the road. It was like a street parade.
was something I last experienced when I was 8 years old in Switzerland. My memories of "running
of a cliff" were a bit over the top! But a childs perspective will always be different! It was a great way to see the area surrounding Pokhara, especially the Annapurnas, with views of 3 of the highest mountains in the world. I know you shouldn't really laugh at other people's misfortunes but it was hilarious watching nervous people land at the end. Many of them fell on their hands and knees and you could see people moving their legs up and down nervously before landing! I had a nice chuckle to myself!
"Take me to the river...drop me in the water..."
At less than $40 per day with everything included - from delicious catering to luxory tent accommodation - kayaking in Nepal is an absolute bargain compared to nearly every other country in the world. After hiring a kayak and checking that I still had a 5 star eskimo roll (sadly it had dwindled to around a 3, but you get that after a year off the water) I joined a group heading down the Seti River. At grade 3 it's one of the easier ones, but it was perfect for getting my feet back in a boat. Most
of the guides were from the National Nepalese kayak team, who had just returned from some competitions showing off their winnings - a flash new boat and some other cool nik-naks. The owner of the company was a pro kayaker and had spent years touring around Europe for kayak competitions. That's really impressive for a Nepalese person - it's hard to break away from such a poor country, especially when you have grown up in an average Nepalese family. He had wonderful stories about the years before he set up the company. And with the help of his sponsors - who are completely unaware of the mischief he gets up to - he can get plenty of free boats. Whenever he's strapped for cash he smashes them on the rocks until he makes a good hole, then sends the sponsors a picture and they replace it. Then him and his friends fix up the hole, sell the "broken" kayak and still get a new one! Cheeky buggers! It was funny to think of them as Nepalese because they were so Westernised and very much part of the kayaking world.
Our group was just wonderful - there were around 14
of us and 4 guides and despite all being from different places and completely different ages - ranging from 18 to 45 - we got on fantastically. In the evenings we enjoyed sitting around campfires chatting, munching on popcorn, drinking rum punch - which was far too strong - and having wrestling matches (I bet a guy and was considered superwoman for the rest of the trip!). During the day we smashed ourselves surfing in big holes, had picnics on the river bank and played plenty of practical jokes on eachother. I was the only person who didn't go swimming! Mike, the poor Canadian guy took the cake with 14 swims in 3 days! But he was still in really good spirits at the end which was great.
I've met some wonderful people
during the last month - some of whom i'll try to stay in contact with and some who i'll just have fond memories of. I met a newly divorced Canadian guy called Mike on the kayak trip and he was great. He's spent the last few years teaching in an International Primary School in Budapest - and before that working for outward bound - and is at
the start of trip around Asia. He just bought a motorbike in Kathmandu. I was offered a spot on the back - to zoom down to Goa in Southern India, which I would have gladly taken him up on if I wasn't meeting Matt! But I'll have to settle with hearing about his advenure by email instead!
back in Kathmandu, enjoying the wonderful smells!
Yesterday I somehow managed to navigate my way through
the crazy Kathmandu traffic on a mountain bike and got out into the countryside. The first 25km was uphill, but nice and gradual so it wasn't bad, then it was up and down, but mostly flat and then a long down-hill section back to Kathmandu. Altogether the circuit was 70km. I was really suprised at how isolated the area was, especially since it's so close to Kathmandu. After leaving Thamel (tourist central) I didn't see one other Westerner for the whole day, and for around 2 hours I didn't even see any locals! I got through the ride without falling off, although I was close once or twice when I had to dodge silly animals that darted out onto the street.
I'm currently preparing
my multi-coloured hippy outfitto greet Matt at the airport with. It will be great to see what he thinks of the place, although I'm secretely wishing I was picking him up somewhere like Varanasi for the first time - the culture shock would be far worse!! But I suppose the western toilets and German bakeries will ease him into travel in Asia!
I'm already thinking about a return trip to Nepal (which most people find themselves doing) sometime soon to climb more mountains, kayak, go canyoning, learn to paraglide solo, do more trekking trips, go mountain biking and...and....and. Will I ever have the time?! I suppose being super woman helps! But it will be difficult to decide what to bring - a kayak, mountain bike or mountaineering gear?
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