Home Again….

So, there was a chicken in someone’s hotel room….left the window and the screen open (if there was a screen) and in walked a chicken. Two maids and the window washer were trying to corral the chicken and get it to go back out the window it came in. Oh Kathmandu….

The Kathmandu Airport is the most interesting international airport I’ve been to. There’s one snack shop once you pass security with really cheap water and really expensive snacks.  There are only five gates, so everyone is sitting in a large room (think DMV), waiting for the gate to be announced as flight times get closer.  Flights are headed pretty much everywhere in Asia – China, Bangladesh, India…it’s a figurative and literal melting pot of culture in the 90+ degree heat. I’m thinking that getting on the plane and having some AC is going to feel really good.

The whole airport process has been as much of an adventure as when we arrived and when we flew to Lukla. The REI bus dropped us off with the masses on the curb and we had two airport people (I think) help with the bags (the REI people seemed to know them). They got us into the line and then left us with the carts, so I got to steer a cart full of bags through the masses in line (luckily, I didn’t take anyone out in the process).

Once you’re inside, all the bags, including carry-ons go through a scanner and everyone gets patted down by some poor soul not wearing gloves. Then you get to check in and head to customs which is a slow process with long lines. But, luckily, no issues.

Then comes security…where you get to walk through old metal detectors and everyone receives another pat down, whether they set the machine off or not. And the lines are broken out male and female. Somehow, I got through with half a bottle of water, but got stopped because they thought I had a lighter. Didn’t believe me when I said no, but did after they went through the pocket of my bag and found nothing – sorry Nepalese TSA, I’m just not that exciting.

Our final twelve hours in Korea has been pretty uneventful – the lady at the information booth let me use the phone there to call the hotel shuttle last night, we got to sleep in, and we had dunkin donuts for breakfast. I feel like we’ve been at the airport forever, hotel checkout was at noon and our flight isn’t until 5:30.  Luckily, it’s a pretty nice airport…decent food, free foot massagers, and the carts that transport people from gate to gate play music rather than honk incessantly.

And, after an incessantly bumpy flight, we made it back. I can definitely say I was glad when we landed and glad we were on a 777….it would have been a nightmare on a smaller plane, but still, dry heaving two hours into a ten hour flight isn’t fun.

US customs wasn’t as crazy to get through as its been in the past, and soon we were home for nap time.  It was great to take a shower in clean water…and brush my teeth with tap water because I finally could….

We finally had the Barney’s we’ve been dreaming about for three weeks for dinner. Yay gourmet burgers and chicken. So full…and so sleepy. The rest can wait until tomorrow.

Farewell Kathmandu

First, I’ll post my daily Everest blog once I get back to a computer. It’s currently pages and pages of handwritten notes – way more than I could type on an iPhone. 

Our adventure pretty much comes to a close tomorrow – other than a trip to the airport and another night in Korea. 

We got back to the KTM from the trek two days ago.  It really felt like a whirlwind adventure that I almost wanted to do again and not be sick for the entire thing, but, really, everything that happened made it everything that it was – and absolutely amazing. From having a 23 minute flight window in Lukla to the climb into Namche to base camp and Kala Patthar, it was full of daily adventures that made me realize I can do things even when I think I can’t. 

Once we got back to the hotel, I realized I was ready for civilization again….the shower and clean clothes felt better than anything I’ve felt before. And the random laundry place did an amazing job, so the trek clothes aren’t even smelly anymore. 

We had our final team dinner at Rum Doodle. Super fun and they have giant yeti footprints that the Trekkers and expeditioners can fill it with names and memories and whatnot. Ours had dominos and charlay the zopkyo (yak) and all of our names. It will be great to come back someday and see it. 

Most of the group left yesterday, I think there are only four of us left now, plus one at a different hotel. It was so crazy saying bye to people I felt like I had known forever. Brian, his uncle, and I played cards with several of them before they left, a fun, relaxing day in Kathmandu (especially since we’re over the dust and the craziness in the street. 

Other than that, we spent the day grabbing last minute souvenirs…super excited about the little yak statue I found for my desk. And, we grabbed another Everest beer…hopefully they survive the trip home and we can enjoy them when we get there.  

Today we head to the airport, I’m sure that will be an adventure, as will arriving in Korea at midnight. But on some level it feels like we just got here, and I’m not sure I’m ready to leave. However, I am ready to be able to brush my teeth with the tap water, have power all day, and put on make-up again.

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…

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.