Annapurna Adventures

22 May

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From this point on I will be writing in point form, similar to the format used in my Rishikesh entry. We chose not to carry the net book with us and therefore I’m transcribing the hand-written notes I took at the end of each day of this incredible outdoor adventure.

May 3, 2012

Besisahar to Bahundanda

  • At breakfast we met a Canadian couple that had just graduated from Western with a Master of Economics degree who were also just about to begin the Annapurna Circuit trek. We decided we’d begin walking together and see how we made out.
  • We walked along the newly developed road which was dusty and a mixture of gravel and very dry dirt, initially busy with children dressed in their clean, pressed school uniforms as they walked to class.
  • We walked along surrounded by amazing scenery of leafy green trees, corn fields for kilometers on end, terraces (similar to those found along the Inca Trail), waterfalls and gorgeous flowers.
  • We walked through a number of small villages, each containing family owned shops, tea houses and restaurants.
  • We crossed several suspension bridges, the first of which was terrifying given it was made of wooden planks flanked with holes and a number of suspension supports on either side of the bridge were disconnected.
  • We learned that stopping for a hot lunch midday can mean a 2-hour break in the day’s trekking. I tend to like to eat en route, stopping only for water and the occasional short rest or I find I lose my momentum. J.J. is quite the opposite.
  • About an hour away from Bahundanda the clouds rolled in causing the sky to appear a dark and ominous shade of grey. Shortly thereafter, the loud booms of thunder began echoing through the mountains. We abandoned our earlier plans of making it to Syang and instead opted to spend the night in Bahundanda.
  • We stayed at a tea house called Tibetan Hotel in an extremely basic room for a whopping $1.25 CDN. (We learned much later that it’s often possible to negotiate a free room if you agree to eat where you stay.)
  • ‘Hot shower’ meant cold tap water and a bucket of boiling water that you mix together. While I was in the concrete 3’x3’ shower stall the power went out. Dark bucket shower = not easy!
  • The hotel owner was a very kind young woman named Sauba. As we ate dinner her husband, Mongol sat with us.
  • Mongol told us that his career began with a job working for the Nepal Police before he was offered a position as a security guard in Dubai, where he’s worked for the past 5 years. He makes it home for about 2 months a year to spend time with his wife and 3 children ages 12, 7 and 6 months.

May 4, 2012

Bahundanda to Tal

  • The day began with beautiful scenery as we were starting out high in the lush green rolling hills of Bahundanda. This beautiful trek along a dirt path eventually morphed into an uphill gravel road of switchback after switchback, with no relief from the day’s hot sun.
  • Being that we were walking along a road we were constantly honked at to move aside to allow the many jeeps, trucks and construction equipment to pass.
  • We walked alongside the well-known marijuana fields (no, we didn’t pick any, I only stopped to take a photo).
  • 40 minutes outside of Tal we were stopped by a member of the Nepal army and asked to wait on the trail, along with 4 separate groups of horses and their herders, while the army blew up something or other with dynamite on the other side of the valley. (I gather from our conversation in broken English that the blast was for the purpose of road construction.)
  • As we waited for the boom of the dynamite 2 of the horse herders got into a full-on mountainside fist fight over God knows what.
  • The horses began to get really antsy, slowly shifting closer and closer to J.J. and I who had now resorted to sitting completely away from the action of the horses and their herders atop a nearby rock.
  • The last bit of trekking for the day was up a fairly steep hill (I slipped at one point grabbing on to a branch that was laden with thorns – awesome) and then along a gravel flat aside a winding river.
  • I chose the hotel that night for 2 reasons: 1) it was pink and 2) it was called Father & Son, like one of our favourite greasy spoon breaky spots/pubs from the Ottawa U days.
  • Our room was incredibly spacious in comparison with the room we’d had the night before and had an attached bathroom – luxury! There was even a clothesline set up outside where we could air out our sweaty trekking clothes and keep an eye on them while having masala tea and reading in the front yard.
  • Over dinner we met a porter, guide and 3 young Australian’s, at least one of which was out of Australia for the first time in his life.

May 5, 2012

Tal to Timang

  • We had planned to have a fairly light day of hiking as J.J. and I both had begun to develop some pretty nasty blisters on our heels. (I’m convinced that 2 months of wearing nothing but flip flops changed my feet in a way that now caused my hiking boots to chew on my heels.)
  • According to our map Timang was a mere 30 minutes from Danakyu, however our map failed to point out that a landslide was the reason for a re-route that took us close to 2 hours and was a nearly vertical climb.
  • Each time we ran into a local on the trail and asked them how long it would take to get to Timang the answer was always 1 hour, no matter how long we’d been walking since we asked last.
  • When we arrived in Timang we were surrounded by lush green fields dotted with the odd cow, horse and healthy looking dog, as well as beautiful snow-covered mountains. It was absolutely breath-taking.
  • Because of the strenuous uphill climb J.J. and I were both drenched in sweat by the time we made it to Timang. Though the air was damp and cool (it had begun to lightly rain) we were both ready for a ‘hot shower’. The shower was not hot, in fact in was borderline ice-cold. Not helping was the fact that it was in a loosely constructed wooden hut that was without windows where window frames had been carved out. But it was too late – I’d already geared down and stepped under the freezing spray. I quickly washed and somehow managed to grab my soap and shampoo and make it back to the room in spite of having completely numb arms, hands, legs and feet. Damn you, raynauds!
  • I have no doubt I suffered from mild hypothermia as even after putting on every stitch of clothing I had brought on the trek, crawling into my silk sheet, into my sleeping bag and under 2 huge duvets, I shivered until I passed out for a half hour and woke up still numb.
  • I resolved not to have any more ‘hot showers’,  which I thought J.J. might consider to be gross until I learned he’d opted to forgo using deodorant on the trek as he felt it took up too much space in his backpack.
  • We witnessed a chicken shit itself as it was grabbed by the tea house cook to be killed for dinner purposes. I was happy to still be observing the vegetarian diet I’d had no choice but to adopt in India.
  • The family that owned the tea house had the most adorable baby that would clap her hands together in prayer and say in her tiny voice, “Namaste”.
  • The rain had cleared up by sunset and we saw a beautiful one that transformed the snow-dusted mountain peaks into soft pink and golden hues. Gorgeous.

May 6, 2012

Timang to Bhratang

  • As soon as we set out on the trail we met a German guy that had just finished his schooling in dentistry and was taking a break between school and starting work. He was a much more skilled trekker than J.J. or I, having finished the Everest Base Camp trek just days before beginning the Annapurna Circuit.
  • Large trees lined the side of the trail and at one point we could see Annapurna II in the distance.
  • By this point J.J.’s blisters had turned in to full-on open wounds and mine were bubbles at the base of my heels with bloody open ones sitting slightly above. Due to the pain factor we had no choice but to stop in Bhratang.
  • Bhratang wouldn’t have been our first choice for an overnight stay as the town literally had 2 buildings: the tea house and very run-down and uninhabitable building across the road. We learned that Bhratang had fallen victim to a landslide which had wiped out the entire town and it was just beginning to be rebuilt.
  • When we stopped we were lucky enough to meet Dr. Markus Sorenson, originally from Denmark, now a doctor in London, England.
  • Markus referred to himself several times as being the paranoid type as an explanation for why he carried with him such an extensive first aid kit. I would argue that and call him well prepared. He began by using a sterile needle to pop each of my bubbled blisters (he said that one of them had a blister within a blister – sick!), pressed some iodine inside to kill any bacteria and showed me how to best bandage them over using clean gauze and medical tape. He cleaned the bloody ones with alcohol swabs instructing me to leave them open to dry out while we weren’t hiking but to cover them up whenever I put my hiking boots back on.
  • Markus instructed J.J. to ask for a bowl of boiling water from the kitchen, add salt, allow the water to cool down a bit and wash his wounds. Then, he was to air them out until it was time to hike when he would cover them with clean gauze and tape.
  • Markus left us with lots of gauze, special blister bandages, a blister-prevention stick and a sterile needle. We felt so much better and more equipped to heal after a visit with Dr. Markus!
  • The walls of our room were thin and there were 1cm – 2cm spaces between the wooden boards that made up the walls. For privacy between rooms we could see that a blue tarp had been put up so that one room could not see into another.
  • There was nothing done in terms of sound-proofing however and unfortunately we were placed next to who just might be the most talkative woman from France. She yammered on well into the night and began again at full volume around 4:30am. We rarely heard her husband utter a word, though at one point in the night he let a BIG one rip. I’m not sure if it was the sound or the feeling of the wall vibrating but it woke me up with a start.

May 7, 2012

Bhratang to Humde

  • The trekking between Bhratang and Humde was breath-taking with beautiful panoramic mountain views only made better by the cool breeze and forest trail.
  • We passed several calves wandering the trail staying close to their mums, their fur still young and fluffy. I’ve grown to love baby cows on this trip!
  • As we approached Humde we were surprised to hear honking behind us. As we looked back we were even more surprised to have to give way to the gang of motorcycles approaching.
  • By now J.J. and I have our tea house hunt down to a science so when we arrived in Humde I sat with the bags while J.J. walked through the town looking at rooms and bartering with the owners.
  • We decided to stay at Maya Hotel, which had a decently warm shower where I was able to bather and was also able to hand-wash my trekking clothes.
  • The restaurant at Maya is a local hotspot. As we sat reading with our lemon tea (which is tea sweetened with lemon-flavoured Tang) the entrance was a revolving door of Nepali folks coming in, sitting down, being served momos and tea within minutes and then they were gone.

May 8, 2012

Humde to Yak Kharka

  • Our day began with a stop to the Nepal Police hut where we were to check-in with our TIMS card. (You check in periodically throughout your trek so that if you were to go missing the authorities would be able to more easily locate you.)
  • Though our map recommended spending the night in Manang we had decided to push further and head to Yak Kharka. We later learned that though our map didn’t recommend an acclimatization night or 2 in Manang, many of the guidebooks, guides and travel agents do. There’s also more to do in Manang than most of the other towns along the way so if I were to do it again I would spend a night there.
  • After passing through a village comprised of stone structures and linked together by stone paths and stone steps, we stopped along the way in a mountain village (I guess they’re all considered mountain villages at this point) called Ghusang for some water, Snickers and to take in the incredible view.
  • Just outside of Yak Kharka  J.J. struck up a conversation with a couple about our age from Hawaii, Kyle and Tessa (I was ahead, ‘kicking ass’ as J.J. would say – I think it’s just the way my somewhat Type A personality comes through while trekking)
  • The 4 of us decided to stay at the same place and we spent the afternoon and evening in the dining room of the tea house learning about their jewelry design business (they travel to India where they have their silver and gemstone jewelry created and then return to the US to sell during the festival months), their home in Hawaii (they have 2 10’x10’ huts on abandoned pineapple fields, as well as deluxe white tent that they use as a bedroom – very cool, very hippy. I loved learning about their Hawaiian life!), playing chess and sharing apple pie.
  • Around 9:30pm we were asked by the tea house staff to retreat to our rooms as 9:30pm by trekking standards is LATE.

May 9, 2012

Yak Kharka

  • The previous night we’d decided we’d spend an extra night in Yak Kharka to acclimatize and allow our blisters some time to heal.
  • J.J. ‘forgot’ my birthday for the first 2 hours of the day. I air-quote ‘forgot’ because eventually he remembered but I think it was only because Kyle mentioned that his birthday was coming up later in the month, while J.J. maintained he remembered all by himself.
  • There’s not a ton to do in Yak Kharka so we spent the day reading (there was only 1 book I hadn’t yet read and so I am now one of the people who has succumbed to Twilight).
  • I indulged in half a yak burger for dinner, my first taste of meat in over a month, and it seemed to sit ok.
  • J.J. has the tea house staff bring up an apple fritter with birthday candles, carefully avoiding singing ‘Happy Birthday’ as I find there to be few things more embarrassing than singing or being sung that song.

May 10, 2012

Yak Kharka to High Camp

  • The trail between Yak Kharka and High Camp started out with walking through green and rocky terrain that reminded me of Scotland with the foggy air and overcast sky above. Eventually the feeling of wide-ish open spaces transformed into a narrow path along the mountainside.
  • We arrived at Throng Pedi (AKA Base Camp) and realized that Lonely Planet wasn’t lying – everything from here on out was straight up uphill. Suddenly paying the big bucks to ride a horse up wasn’t looking so bad…kidding! We embraced what BW would call “Le Challenge” and hiked our way to High Camp.
  • We had heard the trek up to High Camp would take anywhere from 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 hours and 15 minutes . I’m extremely proud of the fact that I made it up there in 45 minutes after ruthlessly pushing myself (there wasn’t much to look out going straight up) and am not ashamed to be pumping my own tires right now!
  • At the top I met a French-Israeli called Ilan, that calls Marseilles home, who had trekked up to high camp in flip flops. Like J.J. and I he was suffering from severe blisters on his feet and was saving up to wear his boots for the following day’s hike over the Throng-La pass.
  • Ilan told us how he’d spent a number of days prior to beginning the trek staying with random families in their homes in some of the more remote villages, completely devoid of tourists, in exchange for some small change or cheese. (He told us he’d picked up a few pounds of cheese in advance to offer those families that took him in. A nice gesture but the thought of adding a few extra pounds to my pack made my back ache!)
  • Later that evening we met 2 more Israeli trekkers that also planned to go over the pass in the morning, one of which had completed the Everest Base Camp trek just days before embarking on the Annapurna Circuit – another trekking enthusiast!
  • That night it was so cold at High Camp (-5 or -10 degrees Celsius) that I had to have the kitchen staff fill my metal water bottle with boiling water and sleep spooning with it just to avoid having my hands go numb. (And yes, I know in the grand scheme of things the temperature wasn’t that cold, especially for a Canadian, but I don’t typically choose to sleep outdoors in such temperatures at home!)

May 11, 2012

High Camp to Muktinath

  • J.J. and I woke up at 3:45am after an uneasy sleep – sleeping at 4,800 meters is no easy feat especially when you’re near sick with worry as to whether you’re physically fit enough to successfully make it to the top – braved the cold to get dressed, had a quick breakfast of tea and a granola bar and hit the trails at 4:55am. We had heard that between 4am and 5am is the time to leave High Camp to avoid high winds, melting snow and ice and we discovered it had the added bonus of allowing us to have the trail all to ourselves.
  • As we left High Camp behind we walked in silent awe of the first signs of dawn, the sky lightening in colour, the moon still overhead and the clouds interacting with the air causing them to swirl. (J.J. has a GoPro video of this cloud action that we’ve been unable to watch just yet.)
  • I was leading, looking back every couple of minutes to see J.J. getting further and further away until eventually I lost sight of him completely. I knew the people from High Camp that had left after us wouldn’t be too far behind him so I didn’t worry, instead I relished the feeling of being completely alone and on top of the world watching one of the most beautiful sunrises I had ever seen.
  • I had no idea how long it would take to reach the summit as I’d heard everything from 2.5 – 5 hours. About 1 hour and 15 minutes in I lost all feeling in my hands (damn you again, raynaud’s!) and also discovered some mild frostbite. I had to forgo using my trekking poles and tuck them under my arm in order to be able to put my hands in my pockets. Not ideal when trekking uphill in sub-zero temperatures at high altitude.
  • My determination kicked in and while I continued to thoroughly enjoy the panoramic view of mountains as the sun climbed higher in the sky I was moving at a considerable pace. Less than 2 hours after leaving High Camp I saw in the distance the landmark that Lonely Planet had described as being the summit: a number of coloured flags that trekkers who had previously conquered Throng-La had tied together to mark their accomplishment.
  • This is going to sound oh-so corny to everyone except maybe Heather Clegg, but once I confirmed that I had reached the summit by reading the sign of congratulations for making it to 5,450 meters, I felt like I do when I watch an Olympic athlete win a gold medal: teary. All of my anticipation, excitement, anxiety and worry faded into a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Like I said, corny.
  • The first thing I did when I saw the sign declaring that I’d reached the summit was take a photo. The next was burst through the semi-open door of the only building at the top, a tea shop, to discover the owner asleep on a bench in the back of the room underneath no fewer than 5 massive duvets. It was after all before 7am and no one else had crossed the pass just yet.
  • Inside I was able to escape the wind and warm up my hands a little as I waited for J.J. Being a bit of a dreamer and much more relaxed than I, he’s better at taking his time.
  • J.J. and I celebrated with lemon tea and a photo together beside the summit sign before beginning the 4-hour descent to Muktinath.
  • To say the descent was steep would be something of an understatement and having a bad left knee and a bum right shin bone it was only a couple of hours before I was really struggling. The 4-hour descent took me 5 as I had to stop frequently due to the increasingly intense pain I was feeling.
  • I hobbled into Muktinath with J.J. and we decided to stay at the Bob Marley Hotel, the only one we’d really heard about. The hotel was clean, our room bright and sunny and the pizza there was some of the best I’ve had. They also play Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, Cold Play and obviously Bob Marley on a loop – bonus! The only flaw was that like many Nepali tea houses, the doors to the room lock by sliding lock on both the inside and the outside. We’ll get to why that can be problematic t on May 12.
  • We played cards with Ilan and the girl we’d met from Israel for hours before heading to bed at 8:30pm, feeling the best kind of exhausted.

May 12, 2012

Muktinath

  • Because of my knee, my shin and J.J.’s blisters (and in part because we loved the pizza) we opted to have a day of rest at Bob Marley.
  • We had plans to meet Ilan and the Israeli girl for breakfast in the dining room at 7am. J.J. had his shoes on to go downstairs before me and I told him I was right behind him. Literally 5 seconds later my shoes were on and I went to open the door. Locked. By force of habit J.J. had slid the bolt outside the door into the lock position locking me in the room. He had been a bit of a food Nazi with the snacks that he’d bought before the trek (his intention was for us to eat them on the trail and not at any of the tea houses) and up until now had kept me away from the dried apricots. The first thing I did when I realized he’d locked me in the room was devour his apricots. As far as I knew he was downstairs enjoying breakfast with the Israelis. 15 minutes passed. Then 30 minutes. At 40 minutes I had to pee so badly that I was beginning to contemplate using one of the potted plants in our room as a toilet – I’d become quite good at squatting by this point. At 45 minutes, just as I was about to pull the trigger and pee in the plant, J.J. decided to check the room. What does he ask? “Hey, what are you doing up here?” My answer was something along the lines of “Did you not just have to unlock the door from the outside to get in here? What do you think I was doing up here?” My disdain was partly attributed to having been locked in a room for 45 minutes and partly because my boyfriend, had he come to check on me 1 minute later, would have discovered me peeing in a potted plant in our hotel room.
  • We spent the rest of our day of R&R&R doing just that – resting, relaxing and reading. It was blissful.

May 13, 2012

Muktinath to Marpha

  • At breakfast we met a group of guys that had all met each other at different points along the Circuit. I got talking to an Australian named Lenny, abandoning poor J.J. who was stuck talking to a somewhat arrogant American that had just finished a term in the Peace Corps in South America before coming to Nepal for his best friend’s wedding and subsequently doing the Annapurna Circuit.
  • At breakfast we decided to go with Lenny and the Israeli he’d met while doing the Circuit, Ittai, to catch a jeep to take us to Jomson. We made our way to jeep post where we had to wait until there were enough people to make a trip worthwhile. We ended up waiting over an hour until we piled 15 people plus the driver in to a jeep no bigger than a Land Rover (note: the jeeps are not luxury vehicles). The ride was hot, bumpy and motion-sickness inducing. It didn’t help that I had to pee about halfway through the trip.
  • From Jomson J.J., Lenny, Ittai and I had gotten it in our heads that we’d like to ride a horse to Marpha. Much to our disappointment there were no horses available to ride – we were told that we would have needed to hire one from Muktinath. We opted to take a local bus instead and had some time to kill before one would be leaving Jomson for Marpha. We decided to wait in a little café by the bus stop and listen to the Ducktales-like planes come in and take off from the airport just up the road.
  • We managed to get seats on the bus (not always possible on the local bus) and were dropped off on the edge of Marpha in the rain.
  • Marpha is famous for its apples and so the 4 of us found a hotel there that offered apple cider (my first sip of alcohol since April 11th – yes I was counting) and apple pie.
  • The owner of the hotel, Dhaulagiri Guest House, was hilarious. Drunkest guy in Marpha, maybe the drunkest guy in Nepal. We were the only people staying in the hotel and he first came over to the table where we were sitting playing cards and told us about the 3 kinds of apple cider he offered: 3 months (weakest), 6 months (mid-range) and 1 year (powerful brew). He brought us a sample of each to taste as we shared a bottle of 6-month old apple cider.
  • The next time the owner visited our table it was to give us a sales pitch about his famous Nepali lasagna. We were all pretty hungry and were sold at ‘lasagna’ but he went on for a good 5 minutes before he disappeared, presumably to put our orders in to whoever was in charge of the cooking. Maybe him, maybe not.
  • The final time the owner joined us was to act the drunken fool, and we loved every minute. He took Lenny’s faux RayBan’s off of the table and tried them on with his hood up, and then his hood down. He’d look at us in between each look and posing, seeking our approval. Hood up, pose, look, hood down, pose, look. All of this in the mirror on the wall. Hilarious, every minute of it.

May 14, 2012

Marpha to Tatopani

  • J.J., Lenny, Ittai and I started our day with breakfast on the rooftop of our hotel as we looked out over the apple orchards and watched the planes come in to land in nearby Jomson. Midway into breakfast we learned that the plane we’d just seen descending had crashed into the side of a mountain, killing 15 people and injuring 6 or so others. Disbelief washed over each of us as we tried to wrap our heads around what had happened.
  • After breakfast we visited a nearby monastery where we saw women scrubbing both the inside courtyard and the roofs and where we were able to sit and chat with the monks that lived there. It was strange to observe a monk listening to music through headphones connected to his Blackberry Bold.
  • We left the monastery to inquire as to when and where the local bus to Tatopani arrived in town. It wasn’t long before it was due to show up so we hurried back to the guest house, packed up our things and quickly made our way to the bus stop. Waiting for the local bus in Nepal is really just a big game of hurry up and wait.
  • 2 buses to Tatopani showed up one behind the other and on the less crowded one were 2 guys from Belgium (Roman and Dimitri) that Lenny and Ittai had met while trekking. They were also going to Tatopani so we joined them on the very crowded bus. Ittai was forced to sit in the aisle, J.J. and I were squished between a row of locals sitting on the driver’s bench and poor Lenny had to stand the whole way, practically falling out the door.
  • We had to transfer buses halfway to Tatopani and this next bus was even tighter: J.J. and Ittai sat with the driver, I sat on the floor on a wicker stool leaning against a tiny Nepali man doing the same, Dimitri and Roman stood in the aisle and Lenny was stuck half falling out the door again, only this time with a strangers hand between his legs.
  • We arrived in Tatopani around dinner time, found a hotel and made big plans to eat and then head to the nearby hot springs (Tatopani literally means ‘hot water’ in Nepali – tato = hot and pani = water). After we were finished eating it began to rain, we lost power and eventually motivation to make it to the springs. It didn’t help that it was already 8:45pm and our hotel had a strict 9:30pm curfew. We instead opted to drink beer and play cards.

May 15, 2012

Tatopani to Pokhara

  • First thing in the morning, after breakfast, J.J., Lenny, Ittai and I headed to the hot springs. The Belgians had already left for a 2-day side trekking trip to Poon Hill and we had agreed to meet them in Pokhara afterwards.
  • The first thing we noticed when we arrived to the hot springs was the large sign at the entrance reading “OPEN DEFECATION FREE” – all good to know.
  • From there we took a first bus to Beni, ate lunch and transferred to a second bus that took us to Pokhara. Miraculously all 4 of got a seat on each of these 2 buses. My definition of ‘luxury’ is changing daily.
  • Lenny knew of a clean hotel with a very nice owner in Pokhara and he and Ittai planned to share a room there. J.J. and I jumped on the bandwagon, along with a very young recent university grad from Vancouver, and we followed him for the 10+ minute walk from the bus, through the sheet rain, thunder and wild fork lightening.
  • We arrived at Hotel Celesty Inn absolutely soaked to the bone, got our rooms and enjoyed our luke-warm showers. Honestly, the owner of the place makes up for any lack of hot water as he is the kindest most genuinely happy man you’ll ever meet.
  • The rain cleared up and we all met in the lobby to find a place to go for dinner. Against J.J.’s advice I ordered Mexican and once again, I didn’t fall ill as he’d thought I would. Boo-ya! (I know, I know, now I’m just tempting fate and it’s only a matter of time.)
  • On our way back to the hotel after dinner we noticed the smallest hint of a Baskin Robbins logo and indulged in a little taste that reminded us of home. Worth every single calorie. Ice cream, I’ve missed you! (Though I have to admit my pants are slightly roomier without having had any in ages.)

May 16, 2012 – May 19, 2012

Pokhara

J.J. and I spent the next 4 days in Pokhara with Lenny and Ittai and because this was predominantly ‘down time’ I thought I’d condense these particular days into a single entry.

  • J.J. and I often got up and going a bit earlier than Lenny and Ittai and so we often had breakfast just the 2 of us. We discovered a few little bakeries just down the street as well as a cheap and delicious breakfast spot on the main road called Maya. Also, the coffee in Pokhara was decent!
  • Most often J.J. and I had lunch with Lenny and were occasionally joined by Ittai. We weren’t exerting nearly the same amount of energy that we’d gotten used to on the Circuit and so generally I wasn’t really hungry at lunch time.
  • The boys spent the hour or so before dinner playing chess against the owner of our hotel. They almost never beat him. (2 hours before dinner were often spent with the boys practicing chess against one another before they’d engage the owner.)
  • Dinners were a group affair. Always accompanied by Lenny and Ittai as well as 2 nights joined by the recent Vancouver graduate and one epic night with the Belgians.
  • Post-dinner time was spent playing cards, listening to music, enjoying a beer or cocktail and on one occasion discovering that White Mischief vodka truly lives up to its name.
  • We read a lot. I didn’t realize before this trip how much I had missed books.
  • Internet at Hotel Celesty Inn was decent and I was able to catch up with family and friends over email, Facebook, Skype and TextPlus.
  • One day we rented motorcycles – J.J., Lenny and Ittai each drove while I rode on the back of J.J.’s bike. Unfortunately 1 hour into our ride Lenny’s bike stopped running any time he’d lean on the gas. He was able to coast down a hill back in the direction we’d come to cause enough friction to get the bike running but we still thought it best to make our way back to town. Trying to come to an agreement for a reasonable refund for Lenny’s bike with the owner of the rental company was not easy nor did it work out to be fair considering on top of the rental fee we were also required to pay 1,000 Nepali Rupees to gas up each bike. In spite of the bike troubles though, it was still a fun 2.5 hours of ripping along the winding, uneven mountainside roads and playing chicken with the oncoming traffic as we overtook the slower trucks on the road.

May 20, 2012

Pokhara to Kathmandu

  • Getting back to Kathmandu from Pokhara was made more difficult and more inconvenient that it needed to be due to the strikes currently taking place in Nepal. Luckily steps were being taken to reduce the effect of these strikes would have on tourists and buses were still leaving Pokhara for Kathmandu. The strike just meant there were no taxis to the bus and no taxis from the bus. It also meant we were forced to stop at every town while someone came on the bus to ensure that there were no locals (aside from the bus driver and money collector of course).
  • Due to the strike our journey was longer than it would have normally been and so by the time we got to Hotel Ganesh Himal, drank our welcome masala tea and got up to our room we were ready to have dinner at the hotel, read our books (I was at a really good part in Mr. Nice, the story of the famous Oxford-educated cannabis smuggler from Wales) and nod off to dreamland.

May 21, 2012

Kathmandu

  • Having been sans netbook for the past 20 days meant that I had a LOT of catching up to do. People think this ‘around the world’ thing is all fun and games but there’s photo editing, photo posting, blog writing and blog posting to be done. (I’m absolutely kidding about it not being all fun and games and I love everything about keeping everyone up to date through photos and my blog!) That said, my day was spent doing just that, as well as reading and having meals and tea with J.J. in our hotel’s beautiful back garden.
  • Did I mention we also had to re-pack our backpacks for Malaysia? That part I’m not so fond of.

May 22, 2012

Kathmandu to Dhaka to Kuala Lumpur

  • Though our flight out of Kathmandu was scheduled to be at 11am we had to be up at 5:30am due to the strike. We had breakfast at the hotel (we remembered how small the Kathmandu airport had been) before setting off in search of the tourist bus that would take us to the airport. Instead we found what must have been the only taxi in Kathmandu and got a rate that was only $1 CDN more than had we taken the tourist bus.
  • At the airport we met a nice British guy named Alyn that had spent the past 2 years living in Nepal. He was also on his way to Kuala Lumpur to visit his girlfriend before moving back home to the U.K.
  • Our flights were with Biman Bangladesh Airlines and there was a delay of nearly 2.5 hours without so much as an update. When we were finally able to board the plane it smelled of that horrible chemical smell that comes from air conditioners, exactly the same smell that made me feel very ill at the Ivory Palace Hotel in New Delhi. To boot the plane was dirty (garbage and crumbs everywhere, pillows on the floor, etc.) and not a single free smile given by the cabin crew. This was quite possibly the worst flight I’ve ever been on, thankfully it was under an hour long.
  • We arrived in Dhaka, Bangladesh with heaps of time to spare as our flight to Kuala Lumpur (again on Biman Bangladesh Airlines) was running late as well. Alyn told us about an executive lounge that he was going to where we could pay a flat rate and eat, drink and use the internet, not to mention the clean western-style washrooms. (After this trip I’m no princess when it comes to washrooms but sometimes it’s nice to pee and not worry about the splash-back hitting your feet.)
  • We’re still currently waiting for an update as to when we’ll be departing – we’re at 4 hours behind schedule and counting.
  • On the positive side of things, it’s how I’ve had time to write 7,621 words to update you all on every last detail about our time in Nepal!
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