Kathmandu and Bhaktapur

So, today is the last day before we join up with the REI group. We’ve met a couple of them, and everyone has been very nice so far. This morning we met another guy on our trip, he’s from Sonoma. He’s done other REI adventures before, as has Deanna, the lady we met when we arrived. That speaks well for the journey we’re about to take with REI. 

After another early morning, (we were up at 5:30 and hotel construction started at 6), some animal planet TV, and a luke-warm shower, we headed down to get some food. I was surprised to see that they vary the food available on the buffet – today’s choices included pancakes with honey. Something I’ve never tried before, but did enjoy. 

While we were at breakfast we decided to see if we could hire a tour to take us to the remaining three world heritage sights (we saw one yesterday and will see three more on our tour tomorrow).  The other three are too far to walk from the hotel, and after reading about the cabs, I’m a little nervous trying to get one to bring is back. So we walked next door to the hotel and hired a guide and a car for what a cab ride in San Francisco might cost. 

And, hiring the guide and driver was a really good idea.  They met us at the hotel and took us to three different places; Pashupatinath Temple and Pyre, Changu in Bhaktapur, and Durbar Square in Bhaktapur. The guide was native to this area and had a ton of information to share. 

After a crazy ride (as one would expect when traffic laws seem optional and cows take naps in the middle of the road), we arrived at Pashupatinath Temple and Pyre.  I’m pretty sure I almost lost something to a motorcycle flying by as I tried to get out of the car – I’m amazed that hasn’t happened yet. We were unable to go in the temple because we weren’t Hindu, but the guide was able to tell us plenty from the outside. There were a lot more people in traditional dress in this area, such beautiful clothing in beautiful colors. There were also a bunch if animals roaming freely and hoping to be fed…cows, goats, monkeys…the monkeys were really cute, and somewhat friendly – they’d let you get pretty close, but definitely not close enough to pet them. 

After the temple, we walked over to the Pyre, where cremations occur. The whole thing was a very sobering experience.  The guide told us a little bit about the different religious buildings in that area, and as he was doing so, at least two, maybe three funeral processions passed through. The atmosphere wasn’t what I would expect…the people didn’t seem to be saddened with the death or celebrating the life, they just seemed blank.  The most emotion I saw was someone I’m guessing to be a wife, she looked heartbroken, walking with her arms around two friends. 

For the cremations, they carry the person from their home, feet first, because that’s how you would walk. They stop just upstream from the Pyre to wash the person’s head before continuing on. Once they reach the Pyre, the person is laid with their head to the north (for some reason, one that we saw was laying the opposite way), and the ceremony begins. The ceremony is conducted by the eldest son and a priest, women aren’t allowed in the Pyre. For the next year, the widow and the sons must wear white and the priest comes to the home once a month for a ceremony. 

Our next stop was outside Kathmandu in Changu, Bhaktapur, the next city over. It was also our guide’s hometown. Unfortunately it was also down a dirt road and up a small mountain…packed five people in a car in the 90+ degree heat. Brian told me he’d never seen me that white, I was just glad I didn’t puke. Changu was great, even though it took me most of the time we were there to feel normal again. It seemed as though our guide knew everyone, which was pretty cool. He also showed us where his house is now, which was also cool. After Changu, it was time for lunch, which I was thankful we had after we drove down the winding, country roads. 

Lunch was at another rooftop cafe, with great views of Bhaktapur. I was still a little nauseous, so opted for a safer option of chicken fried rice.  

Our final stop was Bhaktapur Durbar Square, which was multiple squares all connected by narrow brick roads. There was so much to see here…so many temples and palaces and amazing architecture. There was another Hindu temple that we couldn’t go in, but were allowed to peak from the entrance. There was a pottery square, where they were creating pottery from mud…so interesting. 

Our final stop was at an art school.  Our guide must have had some sort of connection, because we got a tour, saw the students, and got a rundown on what the paintings all meant. If the painting is signed, it was done by a master…if it’s not singed, it was done by a student. We hadn’t planned to buy anything, but he showed us one that was red and black, and painted with gold…gorgeous, and we figured one big souvenir would be cool. 

After that, we started the adventure back to the hotel. Yay crazy traffic….and cows…and people…and dogs. And probably a few other things. 

Tonight at dinner, we met two more people on the trek – Doug and Heather. That brings our total to seven, and we’ll meet the other five tomorrow. I had another veered beer with dinner, I’m going to miss that when it’s gone…haha.     

And the TV just turned itself off…

Ok…big day of touring tomorrow, and as with every other night, I’m exhausted. I’m beginning to understand the blogs I read before I left and how tired people were. 

Over and out…until next time.

Seven Miles in Kathmandu

We were up early today, probably because that’s what happens when you go to bed at 8pm. It seemed to be the trend, as there were a lot of people at breakfast early. Breakfast was pretty good – fairly large buffet and an omelette station. We are so much food…haha. I ate two omelets with cheese, a non-sweet donut shaped thing, four pieces of sausage, and a really sweet muffin. 

Before heading out for the day, we relaxed after breakfast for awhile. The only TV channels we get in English are MTV, VH1, and CNN, which is kind of sad. We’ve had CNN on, it’s been kind if interesting watching it in Asia…a lot of the commercials/story highlights are local, so we’re still able to learn. 

And, I have to say, it’s really strange being in a place that does not have power most of the day. It was off today by the time we woke up – we were up at about 6:45 and it went off at 6. It doesn’t come back on until 10pm…luckily it’s sunny. And the hotel does have a generator that runs some lights, but not all of them and they aren’t very bright.   

After breakfast, we set out to walk to a place called Hanuman-dhoka Durbar square. The roads to get there seemed more dusty and more crowded than yesterday, and it felt like we may have been the only tourists around. The yellow buff definitely came in handy, and we managed to chase off a couple of probably would have been pick pockets. Luckily, we spotted them, and we know how to carry our bags. 

We stopped at Bishal Bazaar for a little while, and hung out in the courtyard for awhile. It was really interesting people watching. A lot of what I read about women’s dress code suggested skirts and no sleeveless shirts. However, I’ve only seen a handful of local people in skirts, and a bunch of them are in tank tops. A good portion of them are dressed more like westerners, especially the younger generation. It’s nice to see that things are a little more flexible, but also sad that there seems to be a movement away from the traditional dress. We’ve seen a lot of school children as well, they wear nice pants and shirts, with ties and blazers. Not what I would have guessed at all. 

Once we left the bazaar, we headed back toward Durbar square. Our next stop was Freak street, a small area of the city where hippies from the US once flocked to…and it seemed like maybe still do. Definitely a cool thing to see – shops named after Beatles songs and organic coffee shops. 

Before we entered Durbar square, we paid 750 rupees to a guard in a little booth, we weren’t really sure why as a lot of people were just walking around it. As a side note, it seems as though there is no direction regarding traffic anywhere (foot or motorized).  Being inside the square was nice – far less traffic. Before we really started to wander, we bought Nepal stickers for our water bottles from a street vendor. 

We wandered the square for awhile, took lots of pictures, and got harassed by some more street vendors, before going into the palace museum. The palace used to be the home of the kings, but is now a giant museum with little arrows and people around every turn to direct you where to go. We spent several hours in the palace, complete with a wander up to the 9 story temple. Pretty cool – the whole thing was built in 1770, before the US was even an independent nation. 

After the palace we went over to what I think was an Hindu temple called Kasthamandap.  As with the rest of the architecture in the square, it was very intricately designed. Then we headed to a restaurant with the same name that had a rooftop deck. It was cool to see the city from way up there, but a little crazy how much smog was in the air. I had a chicken sizzler…came with noodles, three French fries, and veggies. I couldn’t eat the veggies, but the fries and the noodles were good…chicken was all pretty much fat though. Oh well…

Walking home was not nearly as crazy as our walk out, which was nice. Of course, I narrowly missed walking into dangling power lines and then rolled my ankle in the uneven street – ouch…I really am a complete disaster. 

After a brief rest, we headed back out to get a couple of pens to take on the trek, and then head back to the hotel for dinner. On the way back, we ended up on the main road, on what I think is the edge of the Thamel district where we’re staying, and it was just…I don’t know, eye opening. Sad…a little of both, I’m not sure. It looked like a war zone…or an earthquake. Just rubble everywhere. Yesterday, when we drove through it, we asked if they get earthquakes.  They told us no, they wanted to widen the road, so they just bulldozed it. And left. But, the buildings aren’t much better…

We came back to the hotel for dinner, and halfway through these odd tree lights came on…apparently those are considered essential power. Odd… But, I did try an Everest beer with dinner. Yay for local beer..

  • And the power just came back on…and then went off…and then on. Maybe three times. Welcome to Nepal….


Ok…time for some sleep.  Over and out, until next time. 

Welcome to Kathmandu

So, Kathmandu has blackouts, lasting 14 plus hours a day. But the hotel has a generator, so as I type this, the light above is flickering overhead and I’m wondering if it’s just going to go out at some point. 

Kathmandu is…something I’ve never seen before, yet oddly familiar. I think maybe it’s similar to some of the more rural parts of China, but definitely very different too. 

Getting into the place was pretty crazy, there were so many forms and signatures and lines…and more lines. Luckily our bags made it through just fine…and we got waved through customs. Apparently we must have looked friendly or something. 

Why is there someone playing a flute outside our window??  

I only had to tell two taxi drivers we didn’t need a ride before the REI guide found us. Really glad they picked us up at the airport…I don’t know if I’ve seen anything crazier coming out of an airport.  Pre-paid taxis and regular taxis and people with signs and travelers and don’t forget the guys who want to carry your bags for money. Luckily the REI people told him to go away. 

We met one of the other ladies going on our trek.  She was actually on our flight. She’s American, but currently stationed in Seoul. Very nice and very friendly. 

The REI people hid us a ways down the airport driveway to keep us out of the clutches of the bag carriers and taxis for hire while they brought around a van. 

The drive to the hotel was interesting. No traffic lights and police directing traffic, but the police weren’t armed. There were other guys in the streets will weapons…army, maybe?  Amongst the traffic and the motorcycles and the bikes and the people, we also found cows in the middle of the road….just chillin’. 

We got to the hotel and met someone who I think is an REI person…he gave us orange fanta, a folder of information, and told us where to be when. Then, the day was ours. I couldn’t wait to explore. We wandered for a bit…traffic is crazy – one lane dirt roads with cars and bikes and motorcycles and rickshaws and people…and no sidewalks…yeah busted foot, I see this going well…

It was cool to explore, until we came upon a giant traffic jam and I got hit by a rickshaw.  Good times….something else to cross off the bucket list. And then he tried to get us to ride in his little cart. Yeah, right. You just hit me, do you really think I want to ride with you?

We had a quiet dinner at the hotel, and could pretty much tell the minute the power went off, when all the air conditioning units quit. After dinner we did a quick night walk and realized how dusty it really was. Luckily, you can buy a buff here for $1. So I now have a yellow buff with red Asian writing, I wear it pulled over my nose and mouth and look gangster…hahaha. We also procured a couple of pens (if that’s the only thing we forgot, I’ll take it). The hotel in Seoul didn’t have any and the one here just has a pencil – I didn’t see that holding up while trekking. 

What I’ve learned so far…I need to drink water, lots and lots of water. Don’t entertain the people trying to sell you something, unless you actually want to buy it (they’ll follow you down the road).  And the yellow buff I bought for a dollar may make me look like a bandit, but it may save my lungs. 

Wow…I’m far more tired than I thought. I’m not sure how far we wandered, but I’ll have to wear the Garmin tomorrow and track it. Apparently I will be falling asleep to the musical stylings of the Kathmandu streets…the pied piper, car horns, hammering, and the occasional voice. 

4500 feet….over and out. Until next time…

One Night in Seoul

Hello Korea!

After twelve hours, four movies, some sleep and several rounds of plane food, we arrived in Korea. This time, I got to leave the airport, so have another stamp in my passport – exciting. By the time we landed, got thought customs, we really only had time to get to the hotel, get dinner, and sleep. The hotel had a free shuttle, all we had to do was call it. Or have the lady at the information booth call it…since I didn’t have any money for the pay phone. Haha….luckily, it was easy to communicate with the hotel and the shuttle got there pretty quickly. We got to the hotel at the same time as a bus tour, making the check in process interesting. But, the guy working at the desk quickly helped us and we were on our way.

First task was finding some dinner. We found a little mom and pop restaurant that took credit cards and spoke minimal English. They cooked the beef right in front of us on a grill in the middle of the table. Pretty cool, authentic food. And, the owners were nice enough to show us how to cook some of the stuff. Grilled garlic was interesting…and since I’m still tasting it today, I’m not sure I’d try that again. The beef was delicious and there were plenty of other things to dip it in and try it with. The highlight so far, trying soju…which is to Korea as sake is to japan.

Hotel was nice, bed was a little hard, but if you’re tired enough, it doesn’t matter. Of course I woke up at one point and panicked that we’d overslept and my phone was in the wrong time zone and who knows what else. So, I got up, stumbled across the room, unplugged the phone and checked the time. Just after midnight, but of course I didn’t trust that my phone was in the right time zone, so I stumbled into the bathroom and googled ‘what time is it in Seoul’, to confirm it was correct. And somehow made sure to miss falling over the random step going in and out of the bathroom. Of course, when I had to get up to pee, I couldn’t find the light….awesome. Well, practice for the 14 hour blackouts in Kathmandu. Why I didn’t go grab the phone, I don’t know. After what was probably my last warm, pressurized shower for three weeks, it was time to jump the shuttle back to the airport.

And, then I found Dunkin Donuts at the airport. Yay dunkin donuts….boo coffee tastes nothing like dunkin donuts. Oh well…had to try it. No donuts though, and nothing else was open, so we ended up with McDonalds. Always fun to try in different countries.  I had a chicken sandwich with cheese, similar to the one I had in Raleigh with June. Not terrible, but much better as hangover food than normal breakfast. Haha. And the police with the assault rifles were a nice touch…

Clearing customs was easy, we pretty much had our own security line and customs line. Of course my passport case set off the metal detector….why wouldn’t it. Now, we wait for the plane to Kathmandu…7 more hours on a plane…I think that makes this the longest trip I’ve ever taken. But, I’m so excited to get there and see the city…and trek…and everything else.

220 feet….up we go. Over and out, until next time.

Everest Bound!

After over a year of planning, training, and getting excited, it’s finally here!  Somehow, we got through the crazy week, where it seemed like everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. But, it’s all worked out, or we’ve been able to plan around it.

My busted foot is healing, still multicolored with bruises, but far less swollen. Hopefully it will continue to get better before we start trekking. My hand is still sore, and probably going to scar (awesome), but it did scab, and will hopefully be almost gone before we start the trek. We weren’t able to get the xterra back (huge thank you to the jackass who threw the rock through the window), but we have a friend picking it up and we were able to super shuttle it to the airport. Our bags were far too big for both the trek and the plane, but Brian’s friend brought us new ones last night. Granted, packing everything at 9am was an adventure, but at least we found out in time and fixed it. Even my work project came together well (I hope) and got sent off this morning.

It’s still going to be an interesting time to travel to Nepal and Everest, with everything that’s happened with the avalanche. Luckily, the treks have not been impacted…yet. Hopefully the Sherpas and the government can come to an agreement soon.

The super shuttle ride was an adventure in itself…we had a ton of bags and of course it was full. And I’m pretty sure the driver took the most inefficient route through the city. And then the last people tried to fight with her over something. Good times!  But we made it. Check in was painless, thank you Korean air. Security was smooth, and we’re at the gate in plenty of time. And, we’re pretty much the only people at the gate.  Sounds like the perfect time for a glass of wine…5pm somewhere…haha…

And our adventure begins at 167 feet of altitude…over and out, until next time…or I get back.

It’s Going Down….

So, I had one thing I had to do before Everest, well, two, I guess. I really didn’t want to get sick either. But, I managed to avoid strep throat, the office stomach flu, and whatever cold Brian caught earlier this week. So, what do I do to ring in the seven day count down?  Go for a run in my new trail shoes, of course.  And what else would I do while doing that other than crash. Pretty hard. And skid…my friend told me she heard it, but thought the noise was me catching myself. My right leg was covered in dust from the skid….took a chunk out of my left hand….and rolled my left ankle (I’m pretty sure that’s what caused the fall).  I heard it pop on the way down, but once it was over, I seemed to be in one piece.  At least enough to hike myself up and out of there, and back to the car.  That’s the thing about trail running…..you can cut the route short, but there’s really no way back unless you walk. And it’s generally just as far to keep going or turn around.

So, ouch…not how I wanted to spend the week before my trip.   I run that trail all the time….of course I would crash today. Ugh….I’d take being chased by a turkey again….

It’s actually not too bad….only a little bigger than a golf ball….and it doesn’t hurt too bad if I just stay off it.  Cause I’m good at that, and do t have anything else to do….

In other news, I spent the week with one of our counterparts from Japan.  I’d met him when I traveled there two years  ago, so it was cool to see him again.  I also really enjoyed learning from him as much as I enjoyed showing him what we do in stores here.

Alright…off to dinner with some friends….if I can navigate the stairs….haha…

Until next time.

Three Weeks and Counting….

I realized today that we have three weeks until we leave for Nepal…crazy.  And it feels like it’s so much closer now than when it was four weeks away.  haha…I’m sure next week, when it’s down to two, it will feel even closer.  Second to last prep hike tomorrow….eeek!  Crazy….

We got the final trip email yesterday, so that may be why it feels closer too.  It looks like there will be eleven of us in the group, plus the staff from REI.  They’re going to pick us up from the airport, which will be nice.  Less to figure out is always good.  Of course, they’re going to identify us by our REI t-shirts, which they ran out of in my size.  Good news, they’re sending me a bag…bad news, I’ll get lost at the airport. Haha…we also have luggage tags, so I should be good.  But,  knowing my luck, who knows.

It also looked like our carry-ons might not count toward the 30 lb weight limit, which, if that’s the case, will be a huge relief.  Not that I want to bring a ton of stuff, but 30 lbs is not a lot and once I add in contacts, contact solution, medicine, first aid kit, etc, etc, I feel like it’s going to add up quickly.  As long as I can bring enough snacks to quell my ‘im always hungry’ appetite, everything will be ok.  haha…I emailed them to confirm, so we’ll see what happens.

I spent a few hours today running through the headlands.  I added a trip down to muir beach into what has become my normal route through pirates cove.  Time wise, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I felt like I was walking a lot more, but I was only a few seconds/mile off of my pace from last week.  Looking at my splits, I think my time through pirates cover was a lot faster than I was last week and the week before.  Hopefully that means I’m getting stronger and will continue to do so.  I’m trying hard to build some distance before the trip – who knows what I’ll lose or gain while trekking for days on end, but we’re looking at a 50k (classic me, right?) a month after we get back, so want to at least give myself a shot at it.

However, crawling out of muir beach was as awful as I remember it.  Not as bad on the way down as it was during North Face, but the way up was pretty rough.  Probably not as rough as North Face, since I was only at mile five or so instead of mile 16.  Of course, as I’m crawling my way up the crazy hills, I come upon paw prints…giant paw prints.  Sweet…I was hoping I could get mauled by a mountain lion today…but, after a nice trip down miwok cutoff, I was back to my car.  Which was in a really good parking spot….complete with the satisfaction that the car in front of me blocked traffic for several minutes to wait for someone to pull out, yet, I ended up with the best spot and didnt hold up traffic.

Other than that, Game of Thrones starts tomorrow!  Yay!  We’ve been waiting for quite some time for that….like, since the end of last season.  haha.

Until next time…