Friday, May 13, 2005

One Last Journal

The "official" website of the team that Sean Egan and Harold were a part of. Harold semi-regularly subits diary updates to this website, and has a tribute to Sean Egan. There are also pictures, including pics of the "highest hockey game in the world"...that's right, they played hockey at base camp, only to be interrupted by a yak!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Evererst Trek - Day 5

Up at 6:15, breakfast at 6:30, and to teh airport at 7:00. I ran out of money, Lapka hit me up for more money for our stay in Namche, so I had to borrow money from Harold and Anna to pay for the rest of my meals and the departure tax at the airport. It wasn't much.

Our flight didn't leave until 9:15. It was a bouncy flight, in a Twin Otter DHC-6 propeller plane. As we were on the tarmack, waiting to board the plane, one of the locals waiting to get on the plane was laughing at my Maoist shoes, saying he would never wear shoes like that, he'd be too scared.

We got back to Kathmandu and taken back the Kathmandu Guest House. It was sunny and HOT in Kathmandu today, not a cloud in the sky.

I got an $8 room, and went for breakfast at New Orleans Cafe. They have great breakfasts. AFter brekky, I left and ran into Harold, Anna and Seamus and went for breakfast again. I was so craving bacon, so got an order of bacon with them...they had really good bacon at New Orleans's hard to get good bacon in Asian countries.

Then we headed to the tailor se Anna, Seamus and Harold could pick up the suits and clothes they got made there. They ordered them before we left on the trek, and most of their stuff wasn't ready yet. Anna's Chinese top and robe were very nice, though.

Back to the guest house and showerd, then hit the internet and and e-mail from the Times Herald. They wanted to interview me because I was trekking with Prof. Sean Egan's kids..."Moose Jaw Times Herald scoops the world...exclusive interview with Moose Javian trekking with summit hopeful's children!" Corey Atkinson had e-mailed me with a bunch of, watch for me soon in a Times Herald near you!

I called Sabine, and left a message for her to call me back at 6:00. She called at about 6:20, she just got in and called me back, I wasn't in my room, the hotel staff were running all over the hotel looking for me! It was kind of funny.

We made a date to go to an art gallery/cafe run by a British guy...he shows pirated movies on Thursday evening, so I cabbed it to her hotel, and we walked to the ARt Gallery, and he had some unique stuff on the menu, including an English-style pork sausage in a bun. Sounded good, so I got it. He told me that I'm the first customer to try one, he hadn't even tried one yet, so I was his guineau (sp?) pig. We watched "Meet The Fockers", then we went back to her hotel room, she showed me all the pictures she had taken on her laptop, then I walked home about 10:30.

Ran into Harold, Anna and Seamus...their flights are all screwed up, they had no idea when they could get home, but they want to get home right away (especially Anna and Seamus) to deal with their father and relatives and media and ceremonies and everything else. The guy from the trekking company was talking to them, and said there is a 90% chance they could leave tomorrow, but if not, they won't get out of here before the end of May. They are very hopeful they can leave tomorrow.

Anyway, that's it. I fly back tomorrow.

See you all soon!.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Everest Trek - Day 4

Up at 6:30, for 7:00 breakfast. Our Sherpa, Lapka, slept in, and we left about 9:00.

Lapka was still stick. He kept asking me for more drugs.

It was a short trek to Lukla, we got there about 10:30, and went to the Khumbu Resort for eats and found out there were no more flights to Kathmandu for today. So, we were stuck in Lukla for the day. We booked on the first Yeti Airlines flight for tomorrow morning.

We went shopping, and I got a pair of Sherpa shoes, aka Maoist shoes. Anna had bought a pair in Namche. They are simple cloth runners, in green camoflauge.

At 3:30, Anna, Harold and myself went to Porters Progress, a non-profit organization supporting porters. They were showing a BBC documentary, "Carrying the Load", I think it was called, about porters in Nepal, and their working conditions. It was filmed in 2000, and Harold remarked to the guys working there that it's not as bad now as it was in 2000. The guy agreed, and said it is much better now. I donated my New Balance running shoes (the ones I trekked in) to Porters Progress, hopefully some porter can make good use of them. Seamus didn't come because he was sulking because me, Harold and Anna used all the hot water in our showers...he had to go cold.

Back to lodge, we sat in the restaurant and played cards and listened to music. At 5:00, the army pulled barbed wire across the runway. None of the locals had seen that before, they had no idea what was going on. In the paper today, there was a story about a new European helicopter that was set to fly from Lukla today, it was going to attempt to fly between 9000 and 10000 metres, way higher than any other helicopter ever flew. The previous record for a helicopter was under 7000 metres. If it's successful, it could mean great things for getting injured climbers off of the mountains much quicker.

Anna and Seamsu kept buying fresh tomatoes on the street and eating them in the restaurant. Between the two of them, they ate two kilograms of tomatoes.

There's a curfew in Lukla, at 7:00, the army shuts it down. So, you have to stay in your lodge after 7:00.

For supper, I had yak steak. It was quite delicious, but mine was kind of fatty. I think I got a fatty piece, because Harolds was fine (he's had two yak steaks while here). Lakpa also brougt us some local smelled like rice whiskey, but he said it wasn't. I partook in a small glass, but the other three, couldn't finish theirs.

To bed about 9:00.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Everest Trek - Day 3

Up at 7:30. Partly cloudy, we could see some peaks. Harold was up at 5:30, looked outside and saw clouds, so he didn't wake us up to go to Everest View Resort.

I went for breakfast before everyone else (they're slow pokes), and a French couple sitting beside me told us we could see the mountains (including Everest) just a 15 or 20 minute walk past Namche Bazar. After the others showed up, we decided to go check it out after eating.

We hiked along the trail main trail and sure enough, off in the distance, Everest, among a bunch of other peaks. It was very windy on top of Everest, a huge plume of snow blowing off of it. Everest is high enough that it's peak is in the jetstream, hence the plume of snow often seen on it.

Seamus was feeling a little better, he came to the first viewpoint to see Everest, but then headed back to the lodge while he went to another view point.

It was a great treat to be able to see Mount Everest. I've now seen two of the most popular mountains on the planet, Fuji and Everest. Perhaps Kiliminjaro will be next.

Started trekking back down about 10:00 or 10:30, down, down, down from Namche. Seamus was running down, bounding and jumping off of rocks along the trail. He flew way ahead of everyone else. He must be getting better!

We stopped at Mount Kailash Lodge and Restaurant in Monzu for lunch. They had a poster there of a Sherpa who has summitted Everest 10 times. Everytime he summitted without oxygen. He doesn't Sherpa guide anymore (too old), but Lakba told us that he's famous, because he doesn't eat, he just drinks whisky all the way up to the top. He was drunk everytime he did it. Whisky was his food and oxygen.

While we waited for lunch, Lapka, Anna and Seamus fell asleep.

We continued on to Thado Kosh (?) for the night, we arrived there just as it started raining. Great timing. I think we got there about 4:30. Just after we walked inside, it started pouring, then hailing.

We sat around and played cards, and ate about 7:00. Anna and Seamus to bed before 9:00, Harold and I stayed up until 10:00 or so.

The toilet at this guest house is an outhouse about 30 metres away. A wooden building, with a wooden floor, and not one, but two holes in the floor, beside each other. You can poop with a friend!

There's lots of fir and pine trees on the Everest trek.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Everest Trek - Day 2

Up about 7:30. I didn't sleep that great, Harold snores and I could hear Seamus snoring through the paper thin walls. We packed and went downstairs for breakfast.

We started trekking about 9:00. More incredible trekking, great waaterfalls, but a very hard day today. It was mostly uphill, especially the last 2 hours to Namche Bazar. Namche Bazar is near the top of a mountain, so we had to climb out of the valley up to Namche Bazar. Harold says this section is the hardest section on the whole trail up to base camp. If you can do this, you can make it to base camp.

Seamus was really sick today. He was vomitting all over the trail, especially on the hard part up to Namche Bazar. It was hilarious, because he was sooo dramatic about it, we were all laughing, because we couldn't help it, just the way he sounded. And the two-handed poleing technique was hilarious. He was so out of it, so exhausted, so sick, all he kept saying was he couldn't do it, he couldn't go any further, but we made him, then he's start hurling all over again. I realize it seems cruel to be laughing, but if you were there, you would have been splitting your sides too.

Cloudy all day, we couldn't see any peaks at all. This trek is amazing, though, way better than the rafting trek. I must come back and do more. Who wants to do Everest Base Camp next year????

We got to Namche about 4:00. Very cool place. It's a U-shaped town, curving around the top of a valley, near the top of a mountain. The town is a major tourist destination. Lots and lots of shopping, fake-branded trekking clothing and equipment, trinkets and souvenirs, German bakeries, pizza houses, lots and lots of tea houses (lodging), expensive internet (900 rupees/hour - about $20CDN/hour). Anna was loving it.

We stayed at Camp de Base, $20/night, expensive by my standards, but I'm only paying half, as Harold and I were sharing a room. Very nice rooms. The rooms are much like a motel room (minus the TV and phone), with ensuite bath, hot water shower, etc.) Anna dropped her stuff in the room, and said, "I'm shopping!" and off she went. Seamus said "I'm sleeping" and crashed in bed, anxious to start feeling better. Harold and I dropped our stuff off, we each had a nice, hot shower, then we went about town as well. I bought a pair of fake North Face, down-filled mitts. (Did I spell down right? It looks wrong.) We ran into Anna, and the three of us went to a bar and had a beer, and chatted with the guy who ran an internet shop in the same building. He sold Harold a copy of Microsoft Office 2000 for 200 rupees ($4 CDN). He told us about some of the things we could buy here in Namche, and the one thing that's unique to Nanche, that you can't buy anywhere else are yak bells. So, we decided that we would all buy yak bells. After beers, Harold used internet, and Anna and I bought three yak bells, one for me, one for her and one for Harold, for 900 rupees for the three of them.

Santos, the guy who runs the internet says there are three things you can't trust in life: women, work and weather.

Harold heard a rumor today: All climbers off of Everest - i.e. back to base camp. (Base camp is not on can't even see Everest from base camp). Apparently it's too dangerous on the mountain.

We had supper back at the lodge.

We found out there's a bug going around. There were lots of trekkers and sherpa's and porters getting sick, Seamus happen to get it too.

I should define something here. We have a guide. A Sherpa guide, his name is Lakba (or Lakpa, not sure). Sherpa's are the original natives of the area, and are pretty much tour guides for trekkers and climbers. Lakba was the Sherpa guide for Harold and Sean Egan. Lakba, who has already summitted Everest once, was to accompany Sean Egan to the summit of Everest this year. You don't need a Sherpa guide when you trek, but one can be useful, depending on your group and experience. Tenzing Norgay was the Sherpa guide for Sir Edmund Hillary when he first summitted Everest on May 29, 1953. Being the natives of the area, they are very acclimatized to the region, and are the best climbers on the planet. Sherpa's typically deal with all the things a normal tour guide would do...getting transportation (i.e. plane tickets), taking you to the best (in your price range) accomodations, and generally dealing with the politics of the area for you.

The Discovery Channel did a special on Everest a while back (not sure when), and Lakpa was one of the Sherpa guides for them, and carried one of their camera's up the mountain.

We were told before we left on the trek that there is a tea house near Namche Bazar, called the Everest View Lodge, where you can see Everest. We thought it was a short walk to the tea house from Namche, but found out once we got there that the tea house is actually a 1-2 hour trek away. We decided that we would get up 5:30 tomorrow morning, and if the weather was nice (no clouds), we would trek to the tea house to see Everest.

After supper, Anna and Seamus to bed (Seamus had no appetite, he hasn't been eating hardly anything), Harold and I stayed up a bit longer, then to bed.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Everest Trek - Day 1

Up at 6:30, showered and met the others downstairs at 7:00 and we drove to the airport. The first flight to Lukla went out this morning, the skies are clear over Lukla. We got on a flight shortly after 8:00, except Harold, who got put on a different flight, because ours was full. We took off about 9:00. Plane was a Dornier 228, a 19 seat prop. plane. It's the same plane we sat on yesterday.

The flight was amazing! Lots of puffy clouds, and the plane jerked around a lot during the flight. Then we broke through the clouds, and WOW! Clear blue skies, and incredible mountain vista's, including Everest and other 8000+ metre peaks. The clouds looked like huge cotton balls in the sky. You'd think you could just jump out and bounce around on them. Unfortunately, I was sitting on the wrong side of the plane to really see the good views. Of course, everybody was snapping pictures through the windows.

After about 30 minutes, we started descending through the scattered, puffy clouds, and I looked out my window, and gasped. Far below, I saw a teeny, tiny airstrip on the side of a mountain, with a small town surrounding it. I remember thinking, "We're going to land THERE???" It's apparently one of the highest airstrips in the world. One end of the runway points into the valley, the other end abutts into the side of the mountain. The pilot made a huge circle in the valley, losing altitude, then lined up with the runway. I watched through the cockpit window, as best as I could from my position. The runway was SHORT! I thought there was no way in hell this huge piece of metal would every stop before the runway ended. The plane landed hard, and the plane bounced, as the end of the runway (and the mountain!) raced towards us. I honestly thought we were going to run into the rock face at the end of the runway, then just as we were about to hit it, the plane lurched and turned into the "parking lot", a small tarmack for the planes to load and unload. The tarmack is small, only able to handle four small planes at a time. There was already one plane there. As the pilot found a parking spot for his plane, everyone on the plane clapped and cheered for the pilots, at the excellent job they did. I must say, that was one of the most spectacular plane rides I've ever experienced. Words can't really describe it, it's quite an experience to land at Lukla airstrip.

Within 20 minutes of our landing, the one plane that was there took off, and three more planes and two helicopters landed. This was the first day in three days that any flights were able to get to Lukla.

We stopped at the Khumbu Resort for lunch and waited for Harold. The lodge is very nice, newly renovated, and the restaurant area anyway, looks like a lodge you'd find in He arrived about 20 minutes later, and after eating, we walked through Lukla and started up the trail. Lukla was a total tourist trekking town, tons of nice lodges (tea houses), billiard halls, shops, etc. Very interesting and nice.

The trek was amazing, but mostly cloudy, but the mountain valleys were spectacular. This was way better than the rafting trek. We stopped a lot for pictures and for milk tea at one restaurant.

There's no shortages of tea houses, you can't walk more than 20 minutes without finding lodging and food. Lots of new lodges being built all over.

We got to Phakding (town) about 4:00 and stayed at the Phakding Star Lodge. Howard and I in one room, Anna and Seamus in another. The lodge is very nice.

Seamus wasn't feeling well. He has "tap ass"...diahhrea, so I gave himm one of my Immodium knockoffs.

We sat around the restaurant of the lodge, ordered supper and played cards for a bit. Then Anna and Seamus went to bed about 7:30 or 8:00, they were totally wiped. Harold and I stayed up until after 10:30, staying warm by the wood burning stove.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Off to Lukla!!!

Up at 5:45, showered and was downstairs about 6:15. Lamka, our Sherpa guide, was already waiting for us.

We headed to the airport, got there about 7:00, and found out all flights to Lukla were delayed because of bad weather in Lukla. So we waited. And we waited. Our guide came and told us that he was connections, he was trying to arrange for alternate transportation to Lukla, by helicopter, as well. Helicopters can sometimes get to Lukla when planes are unable to. About 9:30, we headed to the airport restaurant for some breakfast.

About 11:00, we were informed that all flights (by plane) to Lukla were cancelled for the day. There were lots of trekkers waiting to get on those planes, so the airport cleared out pretty quick.

About noon, had lunch at the restaurant, and as we were eating, they came up and told us that we were leaving by helicopter, right now, we had to go. I finished my sandwich, Harold still hadn't got his fried rice, so we paid, they put Harolds rice in a plastic bag for him, and we headed downstairs, and then had to wait 20 minutes to get our boarding passes. They didn't have any plastic cutlery, so Harold had to eat his rice like a dog, sticking his face into the bag. I dunno why he didn't eat with his hands, like the Nepali do.

We finally got our boarding passes, and were rushed through security and we all hopped into the back of a pickup truck and taken to the chopper. The chopper sat 9 people, plus the pilot. Me, Harold, Seamus and Anna, plus four other trekkers and their Sherpa guide. The other four trekkers, this was their 2nd day trying to get to Lukla. They couldn't get up there yesterday either. Our Sherpa guide (Lamka) wasn't able to come, because there wasn't enough room in the helicopter. He said he would catch the first flight up tomorrow morning and meet us there. Harold had already been up the trail, so knew the path anyway, so if perchance Lamka didn't get up there early, Harold could take us.

We all piled in to the back of the helicopter, like sardines, Anna, being the only one with breasts, got to sit up front with the pilot. We appeared all ready to go, the pilot was on the verge of starting the motors, then he took off his headset and got out of the helicopter. We were all wondering what was happening. AFter a few minutes, he was still standing outside with some other people, so everyone else piled out of the helicopter. We found out that there was fog on the runway in Lukla...we couldn't go. By the way, a plane to Lukla is only about 35 would be slightly longer by helicopter.

So, we sat on the tarmack, watching army personnel roam around, watching other helicopters take off and land and watching other planes take off and land. Not much security here. We could have wondered off somewhere, and no one would have blinked an eye. They finally called the chopper off at 3:00pm.

We all thought that was it, we were heading back to the guest house to try again tomorrow, but the Sherpa guide for the other group said no, we are going by plane now, the runway in Lukla was clearing. All the baggage was taken out of the helicopter and put in a pickup, and taken to a nearby propeller plane. And there it waited. We watched, and a bus pulled up with other locals, including our Sherpa guide. He waited at the airport all day, and now that we were going by plane, there was room enough for him. We all wandered over to the plane, and everyone was standing around, talking. None of the baggage was being loaded up. Jeeze, people sure like to take their time in Nepal.

AFter a while, one of the guys in a tie started telling everyone to get on the plane, get the baggage loaded, we were going. We loaded on the plane (19 seater), the flight attendant greeted us, and everyone sat down and the baggage was loaded up. It started to rain a bit, and everyone else (other pilots and airport people) were standing under the wing of our plane, out of the rain. It passed in a few minutes, and still everyone was just standing around the plane, not much happening. Then the pilot took off his headset, undid his seatbelt and opened his door. He started talking Nepali to one of the guys in a tie. The flight attendant, sitting near the back of the small plane, started laughing to herself, over the conversation between the pilot and the tie guy. We asked our Sherpa guide what they were talking about. He said the pilot told the tie guy that he wanted to go home, but the tie guy told him he couldn't. Everyone got a chuckle. So, we waited some more. The co-pilot was still all suited up, he was sitting up there, playing with the flaps on the plane. Sometime after 4:00, the co-pilot announced that there was bad weather in Lukla, the flight was cancelled.

We were loaded up into a bus, taken back to the terminal, and got back to the Kathmandu Guest House about 5:00. They had an $8 room for me.

Anyway, that's were we stand. We're going to try again tomorrow. If we get up, there probably won't be any updates for a number of days. I'm meeting Harold and Seamus and Anna and Lamka at the Rum Doodle at 8:00 for supper. If perchance, we can't fly tomorrow either, I'm going to have to cancel this little trek trip. I'll then probably head up to The Last Resort for a few days intead, but who knows what'll happen. Today was an interesting experience at the Kathmandu airport. They sure tried to get a plane up to Lukla. It's been at least two days now that no flights (plane or helicopter) has been able to get to Lukla. And there are injured climbers up at base camp, but they can't get anything up there to get them out.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Towards Everest!

Up about 8:00, shwoered, headed over to The Last Resort to see about cancelling and getting a refund. The manager, and guy who booked my trip, wasn't in yet, he works at 11:00 today, he told me to come back then. Went back to the hotel, headed to the internet, Seamus and Anna were there, and then Harold showed up. I told Harold I had to go back at 11:00 to see about cancelling my other trip.

About 10:50, headed back to The Last Resort office, the guy wasn't in yet, and the girl working couldn't do it for me, but she told me that she didn't think it would be a problem, that I'd get refunded everything. So I just waited. She offered me a cup of tea while I waited. About 11:05, he stil wasn't there, so popped back to the hotel to see if Harold was there, he was, I told him I would like to go with them. He was meeting the people in a little bit, so he would get them to setup another plane ticket for me. Harold is a talker, and he started telling me more about Sean and the kids. Sean was to be cremated here in Kathmandu later today, and they were all going. He told me more about Everest this year, it's really bad, there have been no summits so far, and the weather is crazy, snowing lots (when it usually doesn't), and he thinks this will be a no-summit year (the last no-summit year was 1996). They have until the end of May to summit, then it's cutoff, because it's too dangerous to try after the end of May. Another man has died on Everest this year too (an American, if I recall), and an avalanche covered one of the upper camps today or yesterday. While no one was killed, there are injured, and as I write this (Saturday evening), they have not been able to get any choppers up to get the injured off the mountain. This is a bad year. For those worrying about me, fear not, we're not going anywhere near the base camps, we'll be well below any avalanche risks and the like.

I headed back to The Last Resort office, the guy was there, he dug up my trip application and credit card slip. He cancelled my trip, then got on the phone to, presumably a bank or the credit card company, and when he was done, he told me that he would rip up the credit card slip, and told me in one month, my credit card would be creditted the amount that was charged. They hadn't sent in their copy of the credit card slip (it was old-style, carbon copy, machine they used), so, presumably after 30 days, if the credit card company has not received the credit card slip, the purchase will be voided.

Went to a bakery across the street and had the best apple streudal ever, packed full of apples, 1.5" thick!

Then went to the travel desk at the guest house and booked my return flight from Kathmandu to Delhi for 4:00pm, May 13. My flight back to Canada is at 11:30pm on May 13, so I can hang at the Delhi airport for the time. There are two catches. That I can get back from Lukla (after the trek) without problems (I have three days to play with), and that the Kathmandu to Delhi flight is not delayed a significantly long time.

Went out and bought a rain poncho for the trek (it'll probably rain!) and a good, aluminum water bottle and then hit the internet again, got an e-mail from Sabine to call her, she wants to meet up tonight.

Back to the hotel and called Sabine and left a message at her hotel to call me at 6:00 this evening.

Went out to the courtyard, met Harold, Seamus and Anna in the hallway, just getting back from their father's cremation ceremony. Harold said the flight shouldn't be a problem. Went to the courtyard and wrote in journal and read.

Sabine called at 6:00 and we made arrangements to meet up at 8:00 at my guest house.

I'd had a bit of travellers diahrea the last couple of days (urgency, bloated feeling, runny poops), so went to the chemist (pharmacy for Canadians) and I told them what was wrong with me, and they gave me some Immodium (well, an Immodium knockoff) to help make things "gel" inside of me better (so I don't have to go as often), an anti-bacterial to kill the baddies in me, and some rehydration salts (mix with water). Drugs are so freakin cheap here (and Asia in general). 5 days of each drug (take two of each a day) and 8 packets of rehydration salts cost me less than $7CDN.

As I was waiting for Sabine and Mike at 8:00, Harold and the "kids" (not kids, 19 and 20 years old) showed up, and I was told we were to meet downstairs at 6:20 tomorrow morning, and that I needed a sleeping bag. At the same time, Sabine and Mike showed up, so when I was done with Harold, me, Sabine and Mike headed to a trekking store and I rented a sleeping bag, then we went to the Roadhouse Cafe for supper (Mike wanted pizza), then we went to the Buddha Bar. It's a comfy bar, they had a live band, you sit on the floor with cushions, and there's marijuana being smoked, people are high, it was quite funny. There was an old lady there (perhaps 50-60), she was all hammered up (or stoned up pretty good), and when the band was on their break, a young local (20-30) started hitting on her hard, and she was getting all into was hilarious to watch.

Got to bed about 10:45.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

It's Such a Small, Small World

For the last few days here at the Kathmandu Guest House, there's been this guy around. He looked so familiar to me, and his voice resonated familiarity. I couldn't place him, though, and I just kept coming back to the conclusion that he seemed familiar because I'd seen him around the guest house in previous visits here. I saw him again in the courtyard today, he was out there drying tents or something, talking to another guy, and he was sooooo familiar to me...but who was he? I had supper at the guest house, and he was sitting at the other end of the restaurant with a few other people, I kept glancing at him, and every once in a while, his voice carried over (he has that type of voice), and was wretching my head, trying to figure out who he was...I knew it was more than someone who I'd seen around the guest house in previous visits, he was too familiar, then it hit me...I figured why I knew him....

Woke up about 9:00, showered, and went for breakfast. The longer I'm here, the less I feel like eating, my stomach often turns at the thought of eating again, even though there's lots of western food available, it's not the same. But I eat anyway.

Then I headed to The Last Resort office in Kathmandu to inquire about going up to the Last Resort for a few days, for bungy jumping and whatever else (canyoning, kayaking, trekking, etc.) I booked for two nights at the Last Resort, I leave on Saturday. The Last Resort is only 13km from the Tibet border. They are giving me a Deluxe tent for $25/night (it's regular $40/night), inclusive of all meals. If I stay longer than two nights, I get can get extra nights at $20/night. I didn't book any activities yet, as I can do that when I get up there.

I didn't do too much for the rest of day. I sat in the courtyard for quite a while and read. This guy, who seemed to familiar to me, was out there appearing to dry out tents and tarps, talking to another guy.

I headed to the internet for a while in the afternoon.

I finished the book I was reading, so went to the book store and bought the second book in that series.

About 6:30, I went for supper at the restaurant at the guest house...once again, my stomach not feeling like I really want to eat, but I knew I had to. I ordered a chicken burger. As I was waiting for it, the guy who seemed so familiar to me walked in and sat down at a table with three other people on the other side of the restaurant. I kept glancing at him, and every once in a while his voice carried over...soooo familiar...who was he???!??!??!??!? I sat there, trying to figure it out, then it hit me.

I worked with him at the Eco-Challenge Canadian Championships in Golden, BC. a few years ago. He was my volunteer boss! After I finished eating, I went over and approached their table. I said excuse me to them, then his eyes lit up, and a big smile appeard on his face, and he said, "I know this guy!". He remembered my name, where I live, what I do, where we met. I couldn't remember his name, I asked him, it was Harold. Yes, Harold! He's from Toronto. What are the chances of meeting someone you know in Nepal like that. They must be astronomical, but the world is a very, very small world.

They invited me to sit with them, then they invited me join them for supper somewhere. We went to the Northfield Cafe, they had a live band, and the place was packed with foreigners.

Harold is here trekking Everest, part of a Canadian group trying to summit. One of the men he was trekking with, a Canadian man, died on the mountain recently. I hadn't heard anything about it, but apparently it was all the news in Canada recently. I'm just searching for this story as I type this....looks like the man's name is Sean Egan. His two children, Anna and Seamus, are here to do some trekking on part of the trail up to Everest Base Camp. To "walk in the footsteps" of their father, so to speak. Harold is taking them up. The fourth guy sitting with them at the restaurant was Lakma (sp?), a Sherpa guide, from Lukla. He'll be the guide for their trek. They are leaving on Saturday at 7:00am to fly to Lukla, then they will trek to Namche Bazaar, then back down to Lukla and fly back to Kathmandu. They'll be gone for four days, coming back on Wednesday. They invited me to join them. I'm seriously considering going with them, except I've already booked (and paid for) two nighs at the Last Resort. Tomorrow I'm going to go to the Last Resort office and see if I can cancel my trip there and get a refund.

Wow, what a strange turn of events, eh?

Anyway, we stayed at the Northfield Cafe until about 10:30, then headed back to the guest house and to bed.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Up about 9:00, showered, went out for breakfast, then read in the courtyard for a couple of hours.

About 1:00, headed out in search of a barber. Wayne had told me I had to get a shave in Nepal, it was quite an experience. For all the barber shops in Pokhara all trying to get you to come in for a shave and haircut, you'd think there would be hundreds in Thamel. There isn't. I expanded my search outside of Thamel, and finally found a spot. I asked for the price of a shave and a haircut, he said 150 rupees (less than $3 CDN). So off he started with the haircut first, which was pretty normal, except they use a razor to trim the hair on the electric shavers here for trimming.

The shave was an experience. He sprayed water all over my face, then a moisturizing cream, then he rubbed it in to face (quite hard), then a powder (talcum or baby or something), then rubbed that it in. Then he put a dab of shaving cream on my face and grabbed a brush and lathered the cream all over my face, just like in those Western cowboy movies. He would stop every once in a while and wipe away the lather on my lips. After I was all lathered up, he gave me the closest shave I'd ever had. Once he was finished, he grabbed the brush again, lathered me up all over again and shaved me again. Once that was done, he sprayed more water on my face, then rubbed some sort of stone all over my face, which caused it to burn and sting. Then more water, then he rubbed an aftershave all over, causing it to burn and sting even more.

But wait, there's more!

Then he trimmed my nose hairs with his scissors, then he gave me a full head and upper body massage. It wasn't very pleasant, lots of pinching, punching, slapping and cracking of joints. The massage took quite a while. Still not done, he trimmed the rest of my face (eyebrows, forehead and under the eyes) using a piece of thread, the same way those ladies on the beach in Vietnam did. I don't know how, but it grabs and pulls even the tiniest of hairs out.

The whole charade lasted an hour or more.

When he was finally done, I gave him 150 rupees, but he said 500 rupees (he eyed the 500 rupee bill that came out of my pocket with the smaller bills). I told him no. He pleaded, saying the massage and the eyebrows was extra, and I told him I would give him 200 rupees, because I didn't ask for all the extra stuff, he just did it. He went down to 300 rupees, begging, I said no, and chided him for taking advantage of me, he kept at 300. I put 250 rupees in his hand, thanked him and left. The massage is supposed to be part of the shaving package (it was for Wayne). Even then, it was quite an experience. The kicker was, the guy who did my shave and haircut, he wasn't even old enough to shave himself! Just a kid. He did a good job, though.

After that, went to the internet, while I was using it, it started raining. At a slight break in the rain, headed back to my room and wrote in journal.

It continued to rain most of the afternoon and into the evening, a light rain.

Just as I wsa getting ready to go out and find some grub, my phone rang. It was Sabine. Her and Mike were going to the casino at the Hyatt Regency ( meeting up with a couple of Indian friends of hers (that she works with). She told me we get free drinks and food there, so I joined them. They picked me up in a taxi about 8:30, and it was a 30 minute ride to the casino/hotel. The hotel entrance had a security checkpost, where guards will check the vehicles, shining flashlights inside. Then it was perhaps another half a kilometre along a tree-lined driveway to the hotel lobby and casino (Casino Tara).

Very cool casino, not that big, but nice. The gaming hall was perhaps a little smaller than Casino Moose Jaw's gaming hall, in the middle were all the regular casino tables (Blackjack, Roulette, etc.), and along one wall were 20 or 30 slots.

There was a bar on the other side of the room, and a bunch of tables and chairs, like a cafeteria, beside and behind the bar. At the far end of the gaming hall, a small set of stairs led down to the buffet, dining room and entertainment stage.

There are a handful of casino's in Kathmandu, at least five, but it is illegal for Nepalese to gamble, so I'm told. The casino's are aimed at Indian tourists, as there are no casino's in India at all. You play with Indian rupees (or American dollars), so when you cash in Nepalese rupees, you get Indian rupee chips to play with.

I traded in 1000 Nepalese rupees (abot $20 CDN) and got 600 Indian rupees in chips. Mike did 2000.

We headed to a blackjack table, and Mike and I started playing.

While gambling, everything is free. Free alcohol (and other drinks), free snacks. At 9:15, the buffet opened up, all you can eat Indian food, free, and ta 9:30, the entertainment started. And, you get a free ride back your hotel after you're done losing all your money. :-)

Only women work the tables here, no men. And there's no shortage of women pushing around alcohol carts and snack carts, offering drinks and snacks to the patrons. And children are allowed in the casino. A number of families were milling about.

I was doing well on blackjack, got up to 1000 or 1100 Indian rupees, then the deck was reshuffled and a new dealer came in, and things went downhill. I went back down to 600 rupees, and stopped. I headed to the slots and ended up losing 500 rupees to the darn things. One armed bandits.

Just as I finished losing my money, Sabine came along and we headed down to the dining hall and filled our faces with excellent (but spicy!) Indian food, then the entertainment started.

The first performance was traditional Nepalese dance, after that, the performance turned racy, by Nepalese/Indian standards anyway, I suppose. Women dancers, in very short skirts, and small, tight tops, showing plenty of skin, lip-synching and dancing to various Indian movie songs.

It was all very good, actually.

We left about 11:00, and got our free ride back to our hotels, courtesy of the casino.

Got to bed about 11:30.

BTW, I mentioned the State of Emergency being lifted. You can tell it's been lifted, as locals are crawling over the streets late at night now (mostly teenagers), and cell phone service has been restored. I had wondered why I never saw any cell phones in Nepal, but I'm seeing them now.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Security Tightens in Nepal

Up at 6:45, finished packing the rest of my stuff, then the hotel dude fetched me a taxi to take me to the bus parking lot. Found my bus, bought a chocolate baked good and waited for the bus to leave. Bus left at 7:22.

We were stopped at an army checkpoint on the highway, and were told everyone had to get off and their stuffed checked. I was the only tourist on the bus, everybody, including me, started piling off with their bags. When I neared the front of the bus, the bus driver motioned to me to go back to my seat and sit I did. A handful of other locals didn't get off the bus as well, two young women, a "princess"-type, a couple of women with children, two older men, and some guy sulking in the back seat with sunglasses on. After everybody else emptied off, an army dude, smile (or grin, couldn't tell which) came on. He immediately laid eyes on the two young women, and started talking to them. It quickly became apparent he was telling them to get off and get their stuff checked, like everybody else. He was very pleasant about it, they argued with him, finally, in a huff, they got off the bus. He then turned his attention to the "princess"...a very attractive girl, all done up, make-up and clothes, with seemingly an arrogant, "better-than-thou" attitude to match. He started talking to her, smile/grin on his face, and he was obviously telling her to get off the bus as well, but she steadfastly refused. They argued, but she wasn't going to budge. Finally, the army dude gave in, and searched her bags on the bus (she had a big bag...looked like a shopping bag). After that, the army dude walked to the back of the bus, glancing around, then back to the front, and off. He didn't even give me a second look. I guess I just don't look like a Maoist. He didn't give the women with children, the two old men, or sunglasses dude a second look either. He got off the bus, and told the bus driver to go ahead. We moved ahead to the other side of the checkpoint, where everybody was waiting for us, they all piled on and we were on our way.

The same thing happened just outside of Kathmandu, at an army checkpoint, an serious, no nonsense looking army dude got on the bus and told everybody to get off for the checkpoint. The same ritual as last time, everybody got their things and piled off, even the two young women and the princess got off this time. I just sat on the bus, along with the two women with children, the two old men and the sunglasses guy. The serious looking army dude started checking all the bags that were left on the bus in the baggage rack above the seats (mine was up there, and he did give it a once-over). He didn't give any of us sitting on the bus a second look, just like last time.

We got back to Kathmandu about 2:00, I got a taxi to the Kathmandu Guest House, then didn't have any $8 or less rooms available, so he offered me a $17 room at $12. I took it. It's a very nice room, en-suite bath, queen-sized bed and a real mattress.

I showered, then had a sandwich, then used internet, then back to the guest house and wrote in journal. I grabbed a newspaper as I was at the restaurant eating the sandwich and perhaps found out why security has seemingly tightened. The State of Emergency the king imposed on Feb. 1 was lifted on Friday night. The army is probably being mroe cautious now, with more freedoms being re-instituted for the general public.

I didn't do much the rest of the evening, walked around Thamel, read, listened to music, etc. I was quite tired, after being up early for the past two days, and went to bed about 9:30.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Third Time's A Charm!

Up at 5:00, knocked on Wayne's door to wake him up. Lyla's light was on, so she was up.

Cabbie was waiting for us, we left for Sarangkot at 5:15, and got to the viewpoint at 5:45. Tons of tourists, mostly Korean and/or Japanese and Indian and/or Nepalese, brought up on busses. All the Indian/Nepalese tourists wanted to take pictures with the other foreign tourists. There were a few clouds around the peaks when we got there, and we watched as the sun slowly lit up the peaks. When the sun finally broke the horizon, all the Japanese/Korean and Indian/Nepalese cheered loudly. Oh brother! As the sun rose, the clouds around the peaks burned off, and we got some good views of the peaks. Third time's a charm!

Lyla stayed up there, and Wayne and I took the taxi back down about 7:00. Wayne had a bus to catch, and I climbed back into bed.

Got up about 10:00 and showered, kinda, the water was barely warm. They use solar panels to provide electricity for much of the lodge (saves money), and the water is pretty cool until the sun starts shining good during the day. Then headed for breakfast.

After breakfast, I stopped at Sunrise Paragliding and everything was a go for the flight today. Third time's a charm again! Went back to the hotel and booked a bus back to Kathmandu for tomorrow morning at 7:30.

Headed to Sunrise at 12:45, Lyla came with me, she was going to video tape me.

We drove up Sarangkot to the take off point, and my tandem guide strapped me into my harness, then give me some instructions on what's going to be happening and what I should be doing, during take-off, while in flight, and during landing. He told me once we're airborne, I'd have a seat to sit on, he said I'll be very comfortable, it's like sitting in an armchair. Then he strapped himself to me, and before I knew it, we had a good wind, and we were flying!!! It was a bizarre experience to just get lifted off the ground like we did. I pushed down on my harness, which flipped my seat under my bum, and was just like an armchair. I couldn't have been more comfortable. It was nice. I thought I'd have the harness squeezing my crotch the whole time, but it wasn't like that at all.

And up we went! After a few minutes, I looked over to where we took off from, we were already higher than our take-off point. We continued doing big circles in our thermal we had, and we continued to rise and rise and rise. Before long, we were higher than the highest point of Sarangkot, about 1500 metres. And up we went, more and more and more. The clouds got closer and closer, and the people on the ground got smaller and smaller, like ants, the buildings diminished in size as we ascended. What an absolutely beautiful feeling it was, to be flying like a bird. It was the most amazing experience I've ever had. Then I started feeling queazy, I tried to ignore it, but it got worse as we rose higher and higher, towards the clouds. I turned to Raj (my tandem pilot) to ask him what one would do if they were going to be sick, and just as I started to talk, I vomitted. I turned my head to the left and down, realizing that if I didn't do that, it would just come right back into mine (and Raj's) face. And I vomitted, and I vomitted some more, all my breakfast raining down back towards earth. I think I vomitted 4 or 5 times. I vomitted all over my left arm of my new jacket. But, I did manage to miss Raj, which he was quite happy about. But, then I felt fine. I joked that I hoped that it wouldn't land on some poor Nepali farmer working in his rice fields or tending to his water buffaloes. Raj laughed. And still we climbed higher, we were getting close to the clouds now!!!!!

Raj didn't wear a jacket (just in his t-shirt), and he was COLD, shivering by this time, but up we went, into the clouds! WOW!! He had an altimeter on him, we had reached an altitude of about 3500 metres. Once into the clouds, we started gliding, ever so slowly back down, to warmer air for Raj. We glided down and down and down and down. The ants became people again. We drifted down further and further, back into the valley's of the Sarangkot hill.

There was another person doing a solo paragliding flight also, and he had already landed near the lake, and as we were getting close, he pointed out the other guys parasail, and said we would be landing there, so we drifted down to earth, and we landed ever so smoothly in an empty rice paddy beside the lake. Unfortunately, the truck thought we were going to be landing at a different location, so Lyla didn't get our landing. The other guy paragliding was just a beginner, only doing it for 4 or 5 months so far, so he didn't go up too high...and he's scared of the clouds at this point too.

I asked Raj if he ever got himself into a thundercloud, and he said yes, once, in India, and it was the most terrifying experience he'd ever had. He climbed into the storm cloud, and there was lighting and thunder all around him and he couldn't get out. He was shitting himself, he said, he thought for sure he was going to die. I think he said he spent 1.5 hours trying to get out of the storm cloud, but he finally did. That happened when he was just a beginner, his teacher told him not to go there, but he thought he knew better. He learned his lesson.

We were up in the air for about an hour. It was a stupendous experience...if you've ever wanted to fly like an eagle...this is it!

We headed back to the town, and I went back to my room and laid rest my sicky stomach. Then headed out to the courtyard, and watched part of the video Lyla made...she did an excellent job. After a while, Lyla joined me, and we headed to a restaurant for dessert, I had a chocolate brownie with ice cream, she had a apple crumble with ice cream, and we played Scrabble.

We went back to the hotel for a bit, I hit the internet and packed my stuff, then Lyla and me met up again, and went back to the restaurant for a couple of drinks and played some more Scrabble. Ya, I know, we're both nerds, playing Scrabble in Nepal.

We headed back to the hotel about 10:30, and went to bed.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

In and Around Pokhara

Got up about 7:00, blue skies outside, went up to the rooftop of the lodge and the mountains were clear. Woohoo! I knocked on Wayne's door to get him up.

Tried to have a shower, only cold water, so didn't. Wayne went off to get a motorcycle. As I was waiting, another girl, Lyla, from San Fransisco, was inquiring from the hotel dude about getting a taxi up to Sarangkot, so I invited her to come up with us, and ride on the back of either my scooter or Wayne's motorcycle.

We left about 8:00. She had to ride with Wayne, as my scooter wasn't powerful enough for the two of us.

As we rode up, we could see clouds building around the Annapurna range. By the time we got up there, most of the range was in clouds. Foiled again! If we had been there at sunrise, a couple of hours earlier, we would have seen them all, no clouds.

We left at 9:45, and drove further along the highway to a Buddhist Monastic School, then to a Tibetan refugee village with a beautiful monastery. Of course, all the Tibetan refugees were there trying to sell us their jewellry, fabrics, and trinkets. The Tibetan people are so friendly, and so polite, and if you say no, they don't bother you any more.

Got back to town about 11:30, I dropped off my bike and we went for breakfast.

Back to the hotel, I showered and wrote in journal in the garden. Remember the crow in the tree with a bone of some sort, he was picking meat off of it, and another crow kept trying to get it from him, but the first crow wouldn't let him near it. Another girl was sitting under the tree, where the crows were, and the crow dropped the bone, almost hitting her, but definately startling her...she jumped and let out a little scream, then moved to another spot. Quite funny. Also, remember the bat that started flying around the garden, and a crow took chase. It was the spectacle.

I sat in the garden and read all afternoon and hit the internet.

About 6:45, Wayne and I went to scope out restaurants, and decided on the Busy Bee Cafe. I went back to the hotel to leave a note for Lyla telling her where we were, but she was back from doing what she was doing, so I grabbed her and we went all had supper.

Once again, a beautiful evening, mountains in clear view in the setting sun hours, so we decided that we would take a taxi up to Sarangkot very early tomorrow morning, if the skies were clear when we got up. We got back to the hotel about 9:30, and had the hotel dude arrange a taxi for us, for 5:15 pickup from the hotel.

To bed about 9:45.

Saturday, April 30, 2005


Up about 8:00 to the sound of rain drops falling. Bugger. Went to have a shower, but there was no water. Bugger. It was cloudy and rainy this morning, and I was praying it would clear by noon.

Sat around and read, while they pumped water into the big water tanks on top of the roof. About 10:00, showered in cool water. Bugger.

Headed over to Sunrise Paragliding abou 11:15 to see if it was a go, but I already knew the answer. They looked skeptical, but said come back about 12:30, we'll see what the weather is doing, as the rain had stopped and it looked like it might start clearing.

Went back at 12:30, and the answer. NO. Bugger. They rebooked me for tomorrow at noon.

I decided to rent a scooter and go up to the International Mountain Museum. It cost me 250 rupees for the day to rent the scooter, and if I wanted it for 24 hours, it would be 30 rupees. I bargained with him, on count of the weather, if it rained this afternoon, and I kept the bike tomorrow morning, I could keep it until noon for 250 rupees. I asked the guy if I needed to worry about being stopped at the army and police checkpoints, as I didn't have an International Drivers License. Le laughed a hearty laugh, and said no probelm, I don't look like a Maoist.

Drove my bike back to the hotel and got directions to the museum from the guest house dude and headed off in the rain (it had started raining again...bugger). Found my way without any problems, as I just had to follow the signs to the museum. 300 rupees for foreigners to get into the museum. It was a very good museum, I spent about 2.5 hours there. Lots of stuff about the 14 8000+ metre mountains in the world (8 of those are in Nepal), the rest elsewhere in the Himalaya's. And they had information and pictures of the first ascents of each of the 14 peaks, including quotes from the climbers. Another section on the different hill tribes that inhabit Nepal. Another section on the myth (or is it?) of Yeti, and lots of other mountain related things. The museum is set on a vast expanse of land, and the building itself is huge, very modern looking.

On the way back, it was still raining (bugger), and I ran out of petrol along the way (BUGGER!). It happened right in the middle of an army checkpoint, so I asked one of the army dudes where the nearest petrol station was, and he pointed down the street, and sure enough, not more than 50 metres away, was a petrol station. I got off and pushed the bike to the station and put two litres in. (124 rupees, about $2.15CDN). Continued on back to Lakeside, and got lost (bugger), but eventually found my way. I knew I was going in the right general directions. Made it back about 5:00.

There are tons if Israeli's here...tons. Half of the backpackers are Israeli's. And not too many people like them. The lady who sold us our jackets last night, she was saying she hates dealing with the Israeli's. I've heard that some of the tea houses (guest houses) on the Annapurna Circuit have signs over saying "No Israeli's". I remember when I travelled in 2003, hearing stories about Israeli's, and they being rather unwelcome...they can be very loud and obnoxious, especially when they get together in large groups. They are typically very easy to spot, they have large, wild hair, almost afro-like.

About 6:00, headed to the internet, and as I was walking past Sunrise Paragliding, they recognized me and called me in. They had screwed up, and already had bookings for tomorrow and didn't realize it, so I got pushed to Monday. Bugger!!!!! Monday, I think, will be my last chance. If I can't do in Monday, I'll probably pass, as I think I'll head back to Kathmandu on Tuesday.

Wayne and I headed for supper about 7:00. As we were deciding on where to go for supper, we looked north, and we could clearly see the mountains in the dim dusk light. Clear as anything, the rain all day had passed, and took with it all the clouds and mist and haze. We decided that we would head up to Sarangkot tomorrow morning, if it was sunny tomorrow morning, and see the range.

We ate at a restaurant showing "The Final Cut" (or "The Last Cut", I forget), starring Robin Williams, a bizarre story set in the future, where people can have a recorder chip implanted in their unborn child's brain, and from the moment of birth, the chip records everything that person sees, says, hears, etc. for their entire life. When the person dies, a "cutter" does a final cut of a movie that shows that person how family and friends want him to be remembered. I liked it, though.

Back to the hotel and to bed about 9:45.

Friday, April 29, 2005


Up about 9:00, slept well, but still so tired. Laid on top of my bed for half an hour, then finally got semi-mobile.

Wayne and I went for breakfast about 10:00, then back to lodge.

Read in the garden for a while. There was a guy from Italy and a girl from Calgary in the garden as well, she was doing Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) with him (he was the guide), they were leaving on the bus later today, and start hiking tomorrow.

Very hot and humid in the late morning and early afternoon. About 12:30, the storm clouds started building up, and thunder could be heard in the distance. About 1:30, the rain started, and it continued all afternoon. The rain would stop and just spit for periods. At one of those periods, about 3:00, I headed to the internet, and as I was checking e-mails, the power went out. My computer and the modem were on UPS power, so I was able to finish my e-mailing, but left the journal entries.

Got back to my room and read, then the power came back, and headed to the internet about 5:00 and updated journal.

The rain stopped in early evening, but the storm really put a chill into the air. Jacket and long pants were a must. Lots of (women) tourists were walking around bundled in blankets for the evening.

About 6:30, Wayne and I went shopping for "brand name" jackets. I wanted something warm and windproof for my flight tomorrow. The North Face, L.L. Bean, Columbia, etc., you can get them all here, cheap. I got a Goretex, waterproof L.L. Bean jacket, with lining, for 1900 rupees (about $30CDN). Of course, they're not the real thing, probably not even Goretex, but they look nice, and you can't really complain about the price.

Then we headed for supper, to the Moondance Restaurant, Canadian-Nepali management, for supper, then to another restaurant for a drink.

Got to bed about 9:45.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

2 Short Treks - and my knee feels it!

Was up at 5:45 to meet Shaun and Steph to go up to Sarangkot (2000 metre hill near Pokhara) to see the Annapurna range before the clouds and haze come in. That's the idea anyway. We got a taxi to the top, and caught glimpses of a few peaks from the taxi ride, but by the time we got to the top (taxi plus a 20-30 minute hike), clouds/haze obscured everything. We stayed at the top for a bit, but hiked all the way back down to the townsite (long way!) When we got back, we stopped at a restaurant for breakfast, then back to my room about 11:00am. I had to shower, I was dripping in sweat.

Pokhara is nice, but I probably won't hang around for too long. There's nothing here to keep my interest. The waterfall is dried up, the bat cave sucks (so I've been told from Shaun and Steph) and the views are obscured, and there's really not too many people here.

I used the internet and tried my Mastercard at a bank worked fine. Potential disaster averted!

About 1:30, Wayne and I walked up to the World Peace Pagoda, atop a big hill on the other side of the lake. We walked around the near end of the lake then up the hill to get there, and it was tough going! We missed a turn, and ended up making our own trails for a lot of the way, before we finally found the real trail. The pagoda is very nice, huge, erected in 2001. As you can find anywhere, there are a few canteens up there, so we stayed and had a drink and talked to a couple of old locals who live up on the hill. They grow marijuana (among other things), and they were trying to offer some to us. As we were talking, we looked north and lo-and-behold...snow covered peaks were starting to emerge from the clouds! Slowly, the clouds were blowing off, revealing a number of peaks, and some fairly impressive views. The haze in the air still didn't give amazing views, but still, it was nice. I think I got some good pics, but the camera didn't seem to be able to pick up the faint colour variations really good...I guess I'll see when I get them back to my computer. Also, it was late in the day, so the sun wasn't in a good position to show much.

Instead of hiking all the way back down and around the lake, Wayne and I decided to hike right down the lake and take a boat back across the lake to Pokhara.

Another guy, Simon, from Switzerland, showed up, sweat beads on his forehead. He was the spitting image of Darren. As he approached, I would've swore it was my little brother. Same hair (colour/style), same nose, eyes, glasses (!), he moved the same, same facial expressions, same lips...same everything. It was bizarre. We invited him to come back down with us and share the cost of the he popped over the pagoda for 10 minutes or so, then came back and we all headed down. My feet felt like they were going to fall off, after all the hiking today. I don't know why this was so different then any of the treks I've done, but my legs and feet were tired to the bone, and my left knee was back to it's old tricks...much paining on the way down.

It was a quick jaunt down, and we got a paddle boat (170 rupees, with three paddlers...only two at a time) on this little wooden boat. Simon was hanging on pretty good, I think he thought the thing would tip over.

Wayne, Simon and me went to a restaurant showing "7 Years In Tibet" for supper at 7:00. Excellent movie. I'd never seen it. Simon left midway through (after eating) because he's in the process of reading that same book right now. I thought it was a movie about an American going to Tibet and becoming "enlightened" and turning to Buddhism...I had no idea it was the story of Tibet (and the Chinese occupation after WWII).

After supper/movie, we went to see if we could find Shaun and Steph, but they were not to be found, so we went back to the hotel and to bed about 9:45.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Off to Pokhara

Up at 6:00, showered and walked to the bus stop and found my bus. One of the guys climbed up on the roof of the bus and I handed him my backpack, then another guy told me I had to pay, a "tip" for the guy putting my backpack onto the roof. That was not unexpected at all. I asked how much, he said 20 rupees. A British guy standing behind him, overheard, and indicated to me to only pay 10 rupees, so I gave the guy 10 rupees and told him 10 was enough. He chuckled and said ok. I went over and thanked the guy (Wayne). Had a cup of chai from local sitting by the bus selling cups of chai to tourists. He had a little propane burner, a handful of glasses, and the ingredients to make chai, and sold cups of chai to locals and tourists for 10 rupees per cup. He was making a killing!

Bus left at 7:00, I was sitting beside a British girl, Michelle. The bus stopped a couple of times, once for breakfast, another for lunch, along the way. Close to Pokhara, we had brief glimpses of some of the peaks of the Himalaya's, but most of the time, they were obscured by clouds and haze. Pokhara is situated on lake, and I'm not entirely sure why, but both Wayne and I had visions of a lake surrounded by flat, barren landscape. Driving into Pokhara, we realized how wrong we were.

We got to Pokhara about 2:00, and me, Michelle and Wayne got a taxi to the Butterfly Lodge. The main backpackers section of the Pokhara is a street that runs along the lake front, with shops and restaurants and lodges, with a scattering of tourists and locals. The lake (and city) is surrounded by green, tree-filled hills, very nice setting, with the Annapurna range in easy viewing distance (when it's clear). The highest peak in the Annapurna range is just over 8000 metres, and the Annapurna Circuit as well as the Annapurna Base Camp are two very popular treks with tourists.

It's a lot more humid here than it was in Kathmandu.

Wayne and I walked around town and to the lakefront. You can rent paddle boats at the lakefront to go across the lake or to an island temple, or to just explore. We stopped off at Sunrise Paragliding (, where I booked a 1-1.5 hour paragliding flight for Saturday (they were all booked up Thursday and Friday). It was $120US. After seeing it, I think Wayne was convinced that he is going to do it as well.

We then walked north of town, along the road, and stopped at a restaurant on a bluff overlooking the lake. Nice views of Pokhara. Incidentally, Pokhara is a campground...apparently a lot of overlanders, presumably from Europe, come through from campers. There were a few campers there today, I should have went and checked the license plates. I can't see it being locals, as I've never seen a camper or a trailer in any Asian country, that I can recall. And campgrounds are rare.

On the way back to town, an old lady carrying a load of wood on her head, asked us if we wanted to buy any marijuana.

We ran into Shaun and Steph (from rafting), and we made tentative plans to meet up later in the evening.

Going back to the lodge, an older Tibetan man, super friendly and nice, convinced me to look at his wares he had spread out on a blanket. Like a sucker, I bought from him, and another girl. They are from a Tibetan refugee camp just outside of Pokhara, and they invited me to come to their refugee camp one day and have Tibetan tea. It would be interesting, but I'm sure I'd get more sales pitches while there!

About 6:30, Michelle and Wayne and I went for supper at an outside restaurant by the lake. They had live local Nepali dance and music (which wasn't very good, actually). I had a steak, and it didn't taste really like beef...I suspect it was water buffalo. It wasn't bad, just different tasting.

Pokhara is nice, laid pack, not very many tourists. I hear tourism is way down here.

Had a good rainshower about 3:30, then it was nice all evening.

Ran into Shaun and Steph after supper and all five of us went to Club Amsterdam, a lounge and restaurant for a drink or two.

To bed about 10:30.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Nothingness Day

Up about 9:00, showered and went for the breakfast buffet at the Kathmandu Guest House.

Booked a bus to Pokhara for tomorrow, 350 rupees.

There was a girl staying across from me, Helen, British I think. When I originally got to the Kathamandu Guest House, she was in that room, and then I left for rafting, and when I got back, she was still in that room. I was chatting with her, and she just was spending 6 weeks in Nepal, and in those 6 weeks, did both the Everest Base Camp and the Langtang circuit. On a previous trip, she did the Annapurna circuit. Those three of the three main trekking circuits that trekkers do in Nepal. I've decided that I'm going to do all three (in future trips).

Used the internet, then walked to where my bus leaves tomorrow morning, so that I know how to get there and how long it will take me. It's not a long distance, I can walk it. No one bothers you outside of Thamel...locals just go about their business, indifferent to tourists.

When I got back to the Kathmandu Guest House, they told me I have to change rooms, because they want to renovate the room I was in. They moved me two rooms over, same priced room, but it's tiny. Oh well. It's only one night.

Read in the courtyard most of the afternoon.

About 6:00, went to the Roadhouse Cafe again, I recalled they had cream of chicken soup on the menu, and I was craving that. Also got a club sandwich. Neither was particularly good...they should stick with pizza.

Back to my room, packed and went down to pay. I wanted to pay with credit card, but their machine wouldn't recognize either of my credit cards (Visa and Mastercard). I ended up cashing in a travellers cheque. I think their machine was busted or he wasn't doing it right. Afterwards I got thinking, what if all my magnetic cards got wiped out somehow? That would suck. I guess I'll find out in due course.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Got me a new watch!

Up about 7:30ish, took some laundry in and went for breakfast, then used internet for a long time. About 11:30ish, went walking through Thamel in search of a watch. I knew I would probably pay a premium in Thamel, though. Of all the shopping available in Thamel, none of the shops sell watches! I expanded my search to some non-touristy, local streets around Thamel, and found a shop that had a bunch of wathces in the window. I went inside, and there were two women and a man sitting down, with another man behind a low counter, sitting cross-legged, fixing watches. I said "Namaste" (a greeting in Nepalese language), he said Namaste to me, and I told him I'd like to see some of the watches. I pointed out a few that looked intersting to me, and he picked them out of his window and let me look them over. I picked one out, and asked how much. I was expecting to have to bargain hard to get a decent price, and he said 200 rupees. Only 200 rupees??? What a letdown! That's less than $4 CDN. I gave the man the money was on on my way. I'm watch enabled again! YAY!

Back to the hotel, and read in the courtyard until about 3:00. I was tired as heck, and went upstairs to my room and listened to music as I laid on my bed, then climbed into bed to try and rest for a bit. Then my phone rang. It was Sabine, I had sent her an e-mail yesterday telling her I was back. Her boyfriend, Mike, was here visiting her (for a few weeks), and they ended up coming over to my guest house for a while, and we sat in the courtyard and chatted. He is from Canada as well, Vancouver.

They left about 6:30, we made plans to meet at G's Terrace at 9:00, they were supposed to have a live band (the same band they had a couple of weeks ago).

I headed to the Roadhouse Cafe. I wasn't too sure of the place, it's very western and modern, but the name was too close to "Roadkill Cafe" for my liking! I had a pepperoni and ham pizza, as they specialize in pizza's.

Met Sabine and Mike at G's Terrace at 9:00, but the band wasn't playing tonight. They were supposed to meet two other Canadians and a German fellow at G's also. The German fellow came around and told us they were at the Rum Doodle Bar and Restaurant. Sabine and Mike ate, then the three of us headed over to the Rum Doodle. We stayed there until shortly after 11:00, then headed to bed.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Rafting Expedition - Day 12

I must've slept good...I remember trying to find a comfortable sleeping position on the bus, I remember finding one after moving and twisting and readjusting myself. I remember waking up a few times to make small adjustments to my sleep. Then the next thing I knew, the bus started up and we were moving. It was 4:00am already (when the ckeckpoints open up). We went through, on our merry way.

Abot 6:30, we stopped in a town for an oil change and lube job on the bus. While that was taking place, we had chai.

We made it to Chitwan National Park about 9:30 and dropped Will off.

We made it back to Kathmandu about 3:00, the bus went to the companies storeroom to unload everything, and they got me a prepaid taxi back to Thamel. I got back to the Kathmandu Guest House about 3:40, and inquired about an $8 room. He said they only had one $8 room left, but it was being held for a reservation, but the reservation was late. He asked me to wait 15 or 20 minutes and if they didn't show, he would give me the room.

I went over to Ultimate Descents to get my stuff (big backpack and valuables) and got back to the guest house, and they still hadn't showed, and he gave me the room. It was the room next to the one I had last time, only this one is MUCH bigger. When I was at Ultimate Descents, they informed me that Shaun and Steph didn't make it back yesterday...their flight was to leave at 6:00pm yesterday, but the flight got cancelled because of the storm. They didn't get back to Kathmandu until about 11:00 today.

I had a shower to get all the sand and grime off of me, and then shaved of 12 days of facial hair (a difficult job with a razor) and used internet quickly.

I had a steak for supper at the Bodega restaurant. Ok, but nothing to write home about (...which is just what I'm doing).

About 5:30, a thunderstorm rolled in and it started raining.

About 8:00ish, went to the internet and used it for quite a while, updating my journal. Finished with internet about 9:30, then went back to the hotel and crashed.

The last 12 days went so fast....some of the fastest days of my life. Seriously, it only seemed like 3 or 4 days I was away. I simply cannot believe I was away from civilization for 12 days, it just doesn't seem like it was that long. I enjoyed every minute of the trip, and am so glad I did it.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Rafting Expedition - Day 11

Up at 6:00, I think. Tea/coffee , breakfast. I didn't have much of an appetite, the local beer/whisky combo still making my tummy funny. The kids were at the beach by 4:30, Steph says, she was up at that time, unable to sleep anymore. When we got up, all the kids (10 or so) sat on a huge boulder and just watched us all morning.

Rafted down the Sun Khosi river for a bit, and stopped at an important temple, a Hindu temple, I believe. It's supposed to be the most important Hindu temple complex in Nepal for a certain group of Hindu's, and they must all make the journey to here at least once in their lives.

At the temple, there is a rock. It's not a particularly large rock, maybe 15-20cm long, and maybe 10-15cm in diameter. Apparently if you can lift the rock and walk around the shrine carrying the rock, you'll have good luck or some such thing. But the rock is decievingly heavy. It weighs 80 or 90 kilograms. I was first, I tried to lift it, and got it as far as my waist, but couldn't hoist it up any further and dropped it. Shawn tried, and he barely got it off the ground. Will gave it a try, and he got as far as I did. struggling. After I rested a minute or two, I tried again, got it as far as my waist, then grunted and yelled as I jerked it up to my chest, where I was able to hold it in my arms. Wow, the rock was heavy! It must be made of iron or some very heavy metal. I did proceed to walk around the shrine once (the shrine isn't big, maybe 8 feet by 8 feet), but by the time I made one revolution, I was pooped, and dropped the rock (but only after Will took a picture of me). But, I did it! Then Shaun gave it a try. He managed to get it to the chest, and made one revolution, and he was done. Will, the oldest of the bunch, 52, got it up, and walked around once, then one of the guides said "Two more times.", so Will proceeded to make two more walks around the shrine with the rock. Impressive. Two locals, seeing what we had done, gave it a try...they could barely lift it off the ground, let alone walk around with it. It was pretty funny.

We had chai at the temple, then walked back to the rafts.

We continued on the Sun Khosi river, mostly flat, but a few parts had some awesomely big waves that we careened over. It was fun. We turned one last bend on the Sun Khosi, and absolutely nothing lay before us. This was the end, the Sun Khosi was opening up to flow through the Terai (flat bit) and eventually meet up with the Ganges. As we turned the last bend in the foothills, it literally looked like the edge of the earth ahead of us...we could see nothing on the horizon. We paddled on for a short bit, then landed near a big dam, where the bus was waiting for us. We packed everythign onto the bus (including the rafts, after being deflated) and left. This was about noonish. We had lunch at a little place in the village nearby, then drove south to the city where the airport is, and dropped Shaun and Steph off at the airport, and left for Kathmandu.

The rest of us drove into the night as long as we could. We ran into an unbelievable storm on the highway. You should have seen the lightshow in the air. I thought storms in Saskatchewan were amazing. This was 100 times better. Imagine Saskatchewan's best thunderstorm, and multiply it many times over. Storm cells reached from horizon to horizon to horizon to horizon, and the flashes of lightning were so frequent, they lit up the night sky constantly. I love thunderstorms, and this was the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my entire lifetime. The lightning flashes were so frequent, it was almost indescribable. The best comparison I can come up with is during the Gulf War. Remember the footage of the nighttime air raids the allies were making on Baghdad, and the Iraqi army shooting off thousands of rounds of anti-aircraft fire into the night sky, the night sky lighting up constanly flashing. It was kind of like that, but better. The rain was pouring down, the bus had no windshield wipers, but that didn't deter the bus driver. He just slowed down, but kept on truckin'. And the windows leaked. It was fun.

Shortly before 9:00, we hit an army checkpoint that was close for the night, the barrier tied across the road so no one could pass. Looked like we'd be sleeping here for the night. Oh well. We'd be first in line to get through the checkpoint when it opens up. There was no sign of any activity. Everyone found a seat on the bus and went to bed. Abotu 15 minutes later, a horde of army personnel showed up, with machine guns and flashlights, checking us out. The guides talked to them through the windows, but they were sure interested in the bus (and what was inside). They kept walking around, shining flashlights inside every window to see inside. They were probably being extra cautious, concerned it may be a Maoist bomb bus or a bunch of Maoist rebels inside planning a night ambush on the army checkpoint. Finally they were happy that we were just rafters, and they left.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Rafting Expedition - Day 10

Up about 6:00, tea/coffe ad breakky, broke camp and started rafting about 9:30.

WOWSERS, some amazing rapids today! All day long, they came, unrelenting! It was superb!

Mani told us the water was low this time of year. The best time is October and November, after monsoons, water levels are much higher, creating significantly better whitewater, with huge drops, whirlpools, faster, better rapids. 2nd week in October is the best time for the Tamur river. The 1st or 2nd week of September for the Karnali river.

We stopped for lunch about 12:30. We had an old village lady visit us, she had a huge gold nose ring, bedecked with gems. It's common for the older ladies in the villages to have these big nose rings, signifies age.

All day long, Shaun and I were conspiring to push each other in the water. We didn't trust each other. Mani told us we could latch the ends of the paddles together and then balance on either edge of the raft, leaning backwards towards the water. Like a balance, we would hold each other up. We gave it a go, and as we were balancing, Mani knocked the paddles apart, and we both went crashing into the water. Mani got a BIG kick out of that one...he got us good there.

At one point, at one rapids, Mani got us wedged between two rocks, stuck in a moment of time. After lots of jumping, and all of sitting in the bow of the boat, water barreling all over us, hopeing to work ourselves free, Mani climbed to the back of the boat and grabbed a rope attached to the stern. He brought the end of the rope back to the front, and indicated to me that we were going to start pulling on the rope and flip the raft over, end-over-end, to get was the only way. I just blurted out..."You can't be serious!", and I guess the look on my face was indescribale. Steph started howling, because of the look on my face. Ends up, Man was just playing me, we were going to yank on the rope to work ourselves free. It was a hilarious episode, trying to work ourselves free, it took us about 10 minutes. The other rafts and the kayakers cheered when I finallly got ourselves free.

Near the end of the Tamur river was an amazing canyon, then the Tamur dumps into the Sun Khosi river, significantly bigger than the Tamur, and much dirtier (muddy, debris (vegetation) floating down it).

Awwww, it's almost over! None of us wanted it to be over, we were all having so much fun.

We found a nice campsite on the Sun Khosi. A bunch of locals descended on us (mostly kids), and some of the adults them brought some local rice whisky and beer. I had a little bit of each, the local whisky tasted much like the local whisky we had in other parts of SE Asia, but the local beers was ungodly horrible. I didn't drink much, but enough to make my stomach churn, and I lost my appetite.

Went to bed about 9:30.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Rafting Expedition - Day 9

Up about 6:00, I think. Had tea/coffee, breakfast, all the usual bit, and started out about 9:00.

As we were carrying the raft from the beach back down to the waters edge this morning, we were going across lots of rocks. I was in my bare feet, and I jammed my foot...and smashed my toe against a rock...the same toe that I smashed up in Thailand two years fresh that memory seemed at that moment. It bled for a bit, and was tender all day, but by late afternooon, it was almost as good as new.

Some decent rapids today, with bits of flat water.

Around noon, wind kicked up again, making it hard

Had lunch around 1:00ish.

Kept going, and found civilization around 3:30ish, where we made it to the only highway bridge to cross over the Tamur. We drove across this bridge on the bus on our way up to the trekking point. It sucked to see it, after 7:00 days of being back in time.

Found a campsite about 4:00, and made camp.

Rafting takes a toll on you after a number of days. Butt cheeks were sore, shoulders were sore, it can be physically exhausting, but it's totallly worth it.

We had some sort of pasta thing for supper and apple crumble for dessert. The apple crumble was amazing. It was the first time Mani had made apple crumble on the river.

To bed about 9:00.

This must be a wonderland for kids. An infinite backyard of trees to climb, rocky cliffs to scale across, rivers to swim in, big rocks to jump off of into the river.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Rafting Expedition - Day 8

Up about 7:15...slept great!

Breakfast was pancakes with an awesome honey-lemon sauce - honey, lemon, water and brown sugar...I think it would be great to marinade chicken in it.

Started rafting about 9:15. Slow rafting, not that many big rapids and lots of flat. We didn't have to wear helmets for most of the day.

I got pushed in the water twice. The first time, Steph splashed Picass, one of the kayakers, and in his attempts to splash her back, he was getting me. I stood up and turned around and started helping Picass splash Steph, and before I knew it, someone was pushing me in the water. I found out later it was Will and Shaun, they conspired together to push me in. Later on, I was sitting on the raft, minding me own business, Shawn was sitting on the bow, and when I had my head turned, he simply poked me in the chest with his paddle, and over I went, a complete backwards somersault into the water. I got my revenge on both Will and Shaun later on.

We stopped for lunch about 1:00, I suppose.

The wind picked up about 11:00 am, upstream. It came in gusts.

Some of the best valley landscapes I've seen so far.

Thunderstorm clouds threatened about 3:00, so we started looking for camp, and found a good camp about 3:45.

Storm clouds circled and put on an awesome light show all evening, but not too much rain fell, just spit out.

To bed about 7:45, listened to music until about 9:00, then to sleep.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Rafting Expedition - Day 7

Up about 6:15, wonderful sleep. I wasn't too hot last night, unlike the other nights. I learned the best way to sleep in the sleeping bag, with the zipper on top, and unzipped most of the way. That let the heat escape.

Breakfast was banana porridge, toast and boiled eggs.

Packed the rafts and left about 9:30, I think.

The rafting was not nearly as exciting as yesterday. Not as much white water, nt as big, and ots of flat spots between the whitewater. Yesterday was full-on white-water.

A few of us went swimming in the morning, jumping off the raft. The water was cold, but warmer than it was further upp, and once you got in, it wasn't too bad.

Stopped for lunch at one point, and I ate like a pig again.

Continued on, the wind really started picking up, blowing upstream. We had to paddle hard, just to keep the wnd from blowing the raft back upstream. When we stopped, the raft would slowly go backwards.

We stopped about 4:00, I suppose. I bathed for the first time in 7 days! Woohoo! The water was cold, but bearable cold.

Lots of fisherman on the river, with fishing rods (bamboo sticks) or fishing nets.

I got to captain the raft for an hour or so today, giving orders..."All forward!"..."Stop", or when we got stuck on a rock, "Jump right!" If there was only one rock sticking out in the whole river, I was sure to find it and get stick on it! I even got to shoot a number of rapids as the bossman. It was great. I got the nickname "Rock Magnet" from Shaun.

To bed about 8:30.

The locals were totally fascinated with our expedition. They would sit and watch for hours as we set up camp.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Rafting Expedition - Day 6

Up about 6:00, I had to pee so bad. Steph was sleeping beside me in the shelter, and she punched me in the face in the middle of the night. And the sand flies (or something) bite lke crazy, and leave great big welts, itchy as heck, and they itched for days. Oh well, part of the experience.

We had tea/coffee and breakfast, got the rafts packed and had our rafting safety meeting. Mani made it sound so scary, all the things that could go wrong. They had two rafts, our raft, plus a gear raft, and two safety kayakers. He was explaining what to do if you fall out (try to swim to the nearest raft or kayak), if you can't swim (too tired, caught in whirlpool, etc.), one of the kayakers will come for you, or a throw rope will be thrown to you. What to do if the raft flips. Rule number one: DON'T PANIC!!!

We started rafting around 9:30 or 10:00. Remember all the locals sitting on the bridge all morning, watching and waiting for us to start rafting.

There was some awesome whitewater today. Big rapids, with big waves and rocks. We had to stop a few times so the guides could scout the rapids ahead and find the best line to take.

I was sitting at the front left side of the raft, and I took the lions share of the waves coming over the front of the raft. The water was SOOOO cold, everytime it happened, I would yell and freeze for a second or two as the wave came over me, then shiver and shake it off, then continue paddling. Steph was sitting behind me, she was laughing so hard at me.

As we were rafting, local kids would run along the rivers edge, along the rocks and boulders, keeping up with the raft. They are so sure footed on the rocks and boulders, in their bare feet or the flip-flops. It's amazing.

We stopped at a small beach for lunch about 1:00, and locals, especially kids, just sat on a big rock and watched is. I ate like a pig.

After lunch, we continued rafting, and stopped at another beach about 3:30 for the night. We camped where the Kabeli river meets the Tamur river.

My watches stopped working today. It's supposed to be waterproof. Dumb Timex. It might still have warranty, I'll have to bring it back to Canada and check it out.

It was a beautiful evening, no rain threat. I brougt out my MP3 player and speakers, and we listened to music.

The guides made supper (pasta with a mushroom cream sauce), and Mani made hot rum punch, which was really good. Steph and Shaun to bed early (as usual), I was to bed at 8:45.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Rafting Expedition - Day 5

Up about 6:15. Hot again in the sleeping bag.

Had tea/coffee and breakfast, and left about 8:15.

More and more downhill today, and reached the Tamur river about 11:45. There is quite a little town, called Dhoban, where we started rafting. There are lots of pedestrian suspension bridges in Nepal, to get across the deep gorges and the raging rivers.

As we were trekking, Mani bought some fresh fish from a local, who had caught them in the Tamur river. He tells me they are just called white fish, but I didn't recognize them.

We had lunch on the beach and lounged all afternoon. We were certainly the center of attention for all the locals. They were all standing (or sitting) on the suspension bridge, peering down on us. Some of the local kids would come down to the beach and play around on the rafts.

The rest of teh guys did some laundry, and laid it out to dry on the rocks, as did the guides.

We setup a shelter and the tents, using the bamboo rods. It's not pretty, the bamboo sticks aren't the correct size, and the tents don't work too well. For the shelter, the guides put one of the rafts on it's edge, and used two paddles underneath it to provide a partial shelter. Then they used a tarp, one end tied to the raft, the other to the ground to make a kind of tent/shelter.

About 5:15, a HUGE wind came roaring down the valley. The tents collapsed, the shelter came crashing down, and clothes and everything not tied down started blowing away. Steph was under the shelter at the time, and it came crashing down on her, a paddle hit her in the head, and she was stuck under the raft (they are heavy!) She was alright, but got a good bump on the head.

I remembered everyone else was racing around, trying to catch clothes and whatever that was blowing away. I gabbed someones underwear and two socks, among other things.

We waited for the wind to die down, then setup the shelter again, and the guides had to restart the cooking process because sand and leaves got into everything. Mani and the guides rebuilt the shelter and made it extra strong this time. We didn't bother with the tents after that episode.

After the windstorm, lightning and thunder surrounded us, and they had to move the kitchen into another quickly erected shelter (two paddles stuck into the sand, a rope tied between the two, and a tarp strung over it, either end tied to teh ground. What a storm it was, huge hail, some the size of nickels. It was amazing.

The storm only lasted 20 or 30 minutes, then we ate supper outside under the moon and stars. Supper was deep fried fish. Tasty, but the fish was like jackfish, too many bones to navigate to make it enjoyable.

Beautiful evening. Will and I hjad a drink (vodka and coke), listened to music, then the rafting boys (guides) went to bed around 9:00 so Will and I did too. Shaun and Steph where in bed early.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Rafting Expedition - Day 4

Up at 6:00. Despite how cold it was last night, I was freakin hot in the sleeping bag. It's an amazing sleeping bag. Just FYI, everything is included in the trip, except for the sleeping bags and sleeping mats. The other three all had their own sleeping bags and mats. I was able to rent a sleeping bag and mat (through Ultimate Descents) for about $1.50/day.

We had tea/coffee, breakfast, packed everything up and left about 7:45.

Hiked and hiked and hiked a long way. The distance we covered today is usually a 2 day hike, which we did in one day. By the afternoon, we started descending, down and down and down and down. A lot more greenery in this area, compared to the first day, where it seemed pretty dry and a lot of brown. And the houses around here are much nicer, all painted up different colours.

We stopped at a nice lodge with a great "back yard" for the night. We got there about 5:30, and setup camp. Thunder clouds started appearing, and there was a wild fire not more than 200 yards from us. That freaked me out! I should note that wild fires are not uncommon, we've seen plenty of them. But to have one that close. I had visions of not sleeping and keeping sticking my head out of the tent to see if the wild fire was encroaching on us.

Because of our lack of tent poles, the guides fashioned tent poles out of bamboo. It worked, not great, but it did work.

We got the tents and tarps up just as the rain started pouring down. The rain did put out the raging fire just around the corner, which made me happy. The rain didn't last that long, but it did come down hard.

Supper was veggies, mashed potatoes, garlic bread and fatty pork. I was the only meat eater out of the four of us.

To bed about 9:00.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Rafting Adventure - Day 3

I forgot to mention a few things about Day 1. The drive through the valley along the Trisu river was amazing. The road after Mugling (where we had lunch) was the most terrible road I'd ever been on (until we went offroading with the bus, as I mentioned on Day 2!)

There were numerous "burnt-out" busses on the highway in the valley. Work of the Maoists, they will stop the trucks on the highway, tell everyone to get out, then blow up or burn the truck. The carcasses of numerous busses were still sitting on the highway as we drove by. It was quite a sight.

As we were driving along, every town has an army contingent and a checkpoint of some sort. Often times, in the small towns, we would see soldiers having coffee in a local restaurant, chatting with locals, or chatting up the cute girls in the community.

The Terai (flat bit in southern Nepal) is very much like parts of Vietnam...jungles has been removed, and agriculture has taken over, for as far as the eye could see, flat terrace farming, locals working their buts off planting or harvesting or whatever, water buffalo doing their work.

Now, on to today:
Up at 6:00, had tea/coffee and breakfast at the lodge. The sleep was nice, the beds were comfortable. We started hiking about 8:00.

We had lunch at a place called Bhedi about 1:00. The guides make everything from scratch out here. No restaurants.

We ran into a few "yak caravans". Yaks (Yak?) are used to carry things around in the mountains. It's quite hilarious, because there will be two lead yaks, both will be wearing lots of bells, have big pink or purple feathery earrings hanging down, and a big pink wig on their head! They look absolutely ridiculous!!! The rest of the yaks, which may have fewer bells, and may or may not have the earrings, follow along behind. The lead yaks will stop and look behind the to make sure others aren't falling behind or whatever, then continue on. The yak herders (two or three people) will follow up behind.

We passed by a village called Cheuki...there was a huge celebration happening. Lots of hot local girls dressed up in their finest, the guides all flirting with them. Mani (our main guide and who speaks the most english), told us they are celebrating the Nepal New Year, and the celebrations will last for many days.

We stopped just outside of Cheuki for a rest and two very old men came along, and sat down. They were 79 and 82 years old, Ghurka soldiers, fought along side the British in Burma in WWII, these chaps did. Apparently Nepal Ghurka warriors were, and still are, known as some of the fiersest and best warriors available. They said a lot has changed in their life times. They get visited my two different armies now, and they don't know which one is the real army. One of the armies wants money (the Maoists). Things are much more complicated now than they used to be.

As we were walking along, I almost got trampled in a yak caravan. A bunch of yaks came over a hill, and I stood to the side to let them pass (as did everyone else). Some of the yaks decided to cut around the outside, and they started running down the hill, right at me (and Will). We didn't see them until they were almost on us and Steph was yelling at us. I turned around to see yaks running at me, and nowhere to go. I stood frozen for a second, a couple of yaks ran on either side of me, then I bolted out of the way of the rest of the yaks!! It was kind of scary, but I'm sure they wouldn't have actually ran into me...they all would have went around me, I'm sure.

We camped at Manglbara, in a valley. It was cold, very windy, cloudy. I didn't bring much for warm clothes, and ended up having to wrap my sleeping bag around me to keep warm while we were waiting for supper.

As we were trying to set up camp, we found out the two tents had no tent poles! Someone screwed up! We improvised by placing walking sticks and rafting oars inside the tent to hold them up. It wasn't pretty, but it worked.

Then, along came the Maoists. They wanted money. They talked to Mani (guide) and told him they wanted 5000 rupees from each of us. Mani told them where to go, there was no way we wuld pay that. Mani negotiated to 1000 rupees for each of us (which was the amount we figured we'd have to pay if we ran into them). We each gave them 1000 rupees, and got a receipt! If the Maoists come a knockin' again, we can show the receipt to prove we already paid.

The highest altitude we reached today was just over 3000 metres (3050 metres, I think). I believe we were camping at just under 3000 metres.

There's a haze in the sky, it sucks. We are unable to see the Himalayas from here.

Local kids were fascinated with us.

There are four of us rafting. We have five guides. And we have 30 (!) porters to carry everything for us for the next three days.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Rafting Adventure - Day 2

Up at 4:00...the idea is to get ahead of the rush at the next army checkpoint. The beds were horrible, full of bed bugs biting us all night long. We had chai, then off we went. We got stopped a few minutes later in a big lineup...trucks in front of us for as far as the eye can see. Another checkpoint, not opened yet. We had to wait 2.5 hours, until 7:30, before we finally started moving. We stopped for breakfast at a different town. Remember the restaurant owner and our guides getting into a big argument because the restaurant dude claimed we ate 20 buscuits, when we only had three.

It was a long drive, and we got to Dharan about 2:00 and picked up Shawn and Steph. They thought we forgot about them!

After Dharan, the road heads back into the foothills, up a big hill, and we had lunch at the top at a restaurant. Tons of locals milling around the town, because of the Nepal New Year, which is today.

The drive up through the foothills is quite spectacular. Unfortunatly, there's a haze in the air, you can't see too far.

We got to Hile about 5:30, a town on the top of a mountain, where the road ends, and it's time for offroading. The "road" past Hile shouldn't be attemtped by anything short of a Hummer...but here we were in our bus, pitch black, being thrown around the bus, as it offroads over the mountain tops. It inches along the edges of cliffs, speeds not exceeding 20 kph, probably less than 10 most of the time. Not only our bus, the regular local bus service runs along here too, as well as the goods carriers. Insane.

It took us about 2.5 hours to get to Bhasantapur, where the bus trip ended and we start trekking tomorrow.

We had supper at the lodge there, and were put to bed in nice, comfy beds, with extra thick comforters (cool mountain air!)

Words Shaun lives by:
Always drink when you can drink,
Always eat when you can eat,
Always piss when you can piss,
Always sleep when you can sleep.