A Travellerspoint blog

The Adventure Begins

28 hours til Kathmandu

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View India & Nepal on Evanda's travel map.

Today, December 4th, 2013, is the big day that we have been gearing up for! Almost two years ago we started talks of our next big adventure and it feels amazing for all our planning, research and efforts to finally become a reality. Just behind us in Calgary we are leaving behind a recent 'blizzard warning' and a temperature of -29 degrees Celsius with windchill (good riddance) and now flying west towards Vancouver where each mountain peak is lite up pink by the sunrise. As beautiful of a good-bye visual by our Rocky Mountains My mind is thinking how the mighty Mount Everest would actually be another 4500 feet higher then our present altitude of 25000 feet. I know during these flights I usually recollect about my wonderful family and my amazing friends to the point of an emotional sadness but this time I feel so different. I am so excited for our trip and I know that everyone is supporting us and equally anticipating our adventurous stories...I know the 'missing' will come but today my thoughts are full of promise and positive anticipation.

As our day is broken up in different cites, countries and continents this blog post was written in 3 different stages of this travel day. Because of this it may seem as though it jumps from emotion, vision and possibly past and present tense so bear with my inexperienced writing techniques.

Our next day +1 is going to be a full day of the not so glamorous side of travel of airports and LONG flights. When we booked this flight back May we were so excited to find a flight that was only 25 1/2 hours consisting of a short hop to Vancouver with WestJet, a casual three hour layover where we can get a picture with Santa Claus, before the inevitable longest section across the Pacific Ocean. Today we are flying China Southern Air from YVR to Guangzhou, China for 14 hours another two hour layover before the last five hour jaunt to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Santa at Vancouver airport

Santa at Vancouver airport

As mentioned in our first blog post here we booked our own flights with cheepoair.com and in doing that you always take some risk by not using a travel agent however, experience from previous trips has taught us there are some key points you must consider when booking yourself...first of some of you may think "good lord 25 1/2 hours seems like an helluva long time" but actually we choose this flight for two main reasons; price and speed. It was easily the quickest flight by nearly 8 hours available at the time and when you are on that long stretch of 14 hours reducing this much time from your journey is like gold! Of course one of the most expensive parts of any journey is the flight so being frugal as we are, the less we have to pay the better. Before purchasing this flight we researched about the airlines also; South China Air (SCA) has a pretty bad reputation in the aviation world. We asked around and also googled reviews and read dozens of comments of rudeness, bad service, shite food and zero amenities. Very few positive comments were expressed for SCA, so if we relied on other peoples comments we would not have booked this. But world travel isn't about the flights so much as the destination! in this case we went with our gut, took a chance and opted for the time and cost savings. Now that I am closing in on the half way point of the long leg I can say a few things about SCA; all of the flight attendants appear with a lack of experience and travel in groups around the plane attempting to serve a decent selection of drinks and typical airplane food, their rookie actions proved quite comical at times but never were they rude. There are no electrical plug ins of any sort which for everyone in this world with electrical gadgets like the iPad mini I'm writing on now poses a challenge but meh! Although there is a tv screen it's tiny and the clarity is not good, also you do not get a lot of choice of what to watch but I still managed to watch the two movies they offered on a continuous loop. When we booked you can pay an extra cost for flight insurance (which we did must in case an issue should arise) but I also paid a little extra to reserve seats. This is essential for these long hauls! One tip I'll share is that at the back of the big Boeing 747 or 777's there are usually 3 rows of only 2 seats wide, if you are a couple getting these seats is a big positive because you don't have any strangers to excuse yourself by to go to the washroom and you generally get a little more leg and arm room. But like every flight you just never know who your neighbours are going to be and on this 14 hour jaunt ours literally ended up being the family with two young, fussy, crying kids...at times the shriek that explodes from the youngest has made me double check to see if my earplugs have fallen out...oh the joy!

Yes earplugs are a must! Other items are those funny u shaped travel pillows. Like toilet paper I suggest you spend the extra few bucks to purchase a quality one...Amanda found one brand named Cocoon that is remarkably comfy but it also compacts down to the size of an avocado. Hand sanitizer, especially as there is no soap in this CSA lavatory. Your own headphones are always better then the cheep ones they try to sell to you, of course don't ever forget your iPod with your favourite music so you don't get stuck listening to the 3 channels of karaoke favourites. Gravol (Canadian name of motion sickness pills) which is basically ginger based is a smart preventative for bumpy flights. On this trip we are trying something new also, we are taking pills to help us prevent jet lag, they are called No-Jet-Lag and I will be sure to tell you the results at another time. Comfortable shoes; as we are doing some trekking in Himalayas, solid and well worn in hiking boots must be taking with you. Being that the last thing you want to lose on a flight, we wore our big heavy boots with the intention to take them off while flying, in my carry on daypack I brought my north face bootie shoes and Amanda chose her Sannuks to be more comfortable. Also in our daypacks we brought good quality BPA free water bottles so you don't have to rely on bottled water served by the absent flight waitresses also you can fill them up as many airports have drinking water stations. We also have our sleeping bag liners in case the flight was cold and blankets didn't cut it but this hasn't been a problem on CSA. Gum can help with passing time and relieves any head pressure you experience with the always present 'ear popping'.

Our last post , I spoke of the travellers anxiety I was suffering from...this has been replaced with giddy excitement. The last week was a blur of activities, family, friends, last minute purchases and of course packing! Our packing list will be a complete separate post but I was happy to say the next 15 weeks of our life have been stuffed into two separate bags for each of us. Our main travel backpacks (75 litre) have a zip up flap that encloses all the shoulder straps and waist belt. And a small day pack zips onto the main body turning it into a standard looking suitcase both of these packs came in around 34 pounds. Our carry ons which are our Everest Base Camp (EBC) day packs are around the 32 litre size and weighed in at 14 pounds for E and 20 for A. Amazingly I found packing this time extremely easy and seemed to have room to spare which of course made me wonder what I have forgotten...i credit the success of this packing to the multiple backcountry hikes we do, as it trains you that every gram of gear adds up and less is always more. That said we have planned it to buy or rent a few required items in Katmandu such as hiking polls perhaps and sleeping pad. We also plan to mail home approximately half of everything we are brought after completing our 18 day trek as we won't require alpine gear for the remainder of the trip.

Looking out the window now I can see we are now on the other side of the ocean and we are now following along the shoreline of where North America ends and Asia starts. Right now it's time for a much needed stretch and walkabout on the plane as my ass has turned to stone and those adorable little kids screams are even louder then I thought humanly possible...

Last stop in China before Nepal

Last stop in China before Nepal

I can honestly say that we have never had such a smooth travel day...after leaving our home in Calgary at 6am Wednesday morning we have just now checked into our room at the Hotel Ganesh Himal in Kathmandu and its 1145 Thursday evening. After a unpacking our bags into our tiny little room for the next 6 nights and some quick catch up with social networking I'm ready to finish off this post. Being that our bodies are presently going through a state of shock of being awake for 28 hours with three 2 hours bouts of sleep on various airplane seats, not to mention that its a 12 1/4 hour time difference ahead (yes 1/4 of an hour, I'll explain that another time) our sleep patterns are messed up so we are wide awake at 1 am while friends back home are getting ready to go for lunch yesterday!!! Confusing much? Hopefully that made sense, I'm not sure if it did for me yet or not. But i digress back to the ease of our day; every single flight was in time, all our pre reserved seats a success, navigating through the airport in China although highly inefficient was a piece of cake, getting our 30 day tourist visa at the Kathmandu airport took less then 20 minutes and even had a driver from the hotel holding a sign with my name on it in a sea of hundreds of eager taxi drivers. We got into his super compact micro van and pulled out of the airport into a mass of semi 'organized chaos' (I'm fairly certain I will be saying that many times in the next 15 weeks). The streets of KTM are narrow, full of hills, twists, turns, piles of gravel and garbage, completely independent street dogs and consistent honking of horns and this is when most everyone was asleep.

The best news however is We Are Here!!! It's really official now. We have 5 days on our own to adjust to the Nepalese way, get lost in strange culture, discover new foods, get introduced to the locals smiling happy faces and then it's trekking to EBC time...

If the pasts 28 hours are any indicator as to the rest of our time in Nepal then we should have nothing to worry about...but that would be boring! I'm not a fan of boring...

Let the adventures begin and our curiosity's never end!

Namaste
Evan & Amanda

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Posted by Evanda 13:00 Archived in Nepal Tagged china santa canada calgary vancouver nepal kathmandu china_southern_air Comments (5)

Traveller's Anxiety

Good or bad it sometimes just happens...

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View India & Nepal on Evanda's travel map.

In exactly one week we will be flying over the pacific and beginning our new adventure!!! Sounds pretty exciting and trust me it is the only thing I think about - ALL the time.

We'll that's not the whole truth…but for the past few days that is what I've been attempting to fool myself into believing. The actually truth is I have a hundred things circulating in, out, around and sideways in my head and this too is happening ALL the time. It has preoccupied my mind while out with friends, at the office and while I lay sleepless at night, which has become the norm since the beginning of this week.

Lately the consistent questions I hear from friends and family is "soooo, are you all ready?" And "when do you go?" Obviously if everyone has read my first blog posts of course the need to ask these questions would be irrelevant right? Well not quite, you see up until this morning around 230am, in a state of tossing, turning and insomnia I came to realize that I'm a bucket of nerves and my chest hurts with anxiety and that I have been lying to myself… because my realistic answers to those questions are - "no I'm not ready" and "holy shit, only 6 more (attempted) sleeps".

I'm fairly certain that this is a phenomenon that I experience prior to any of my previous trips. However, I am certain that this time I have even more things on my mind due to the length of our travels and the two very extreme type of traveling we are doing.

I have never been on an excursion longer then 6 weeks (other then the 6 months I wondered around Europe at 19 with nothing more then Nutella, a baguette and complete naïveté) so 3 1/2 months or 15 weeks or 115 days is a pretty big deal for me. And yes I have traveled when seasons have changed from hot summer beaches to cold snowy jaunts in the Alps but this time we are trekking to Everest Base Camp followed by backpacking through India. This is not a simple 3-4 day mountain hike into the backcountry of the Canadian Rockies like Amanda and I have done so many times this summer. This is 18 days of trekking in the biggest mountains on this planet. Did I mention EIGHTEEN straight days? And now let's not forget the acclimation required that I won't even know if my body will adjust too…Amanda has been to the summit of Kilimanjaro which at 5895m is technically higher then EBC 5364m so I'm not worried about her but what if my body is going to fail at these heights? Is there a chance that I will not be able to continue? Yes its a possibility and this would be extremely disappointing (so of course I think of this).

But these are only a couple of the thoughts that swim through my head to cause my new found anxiety…Our schedule is close to completely full until we leave, every lunch and every evening is booked. Christmas presents need to be purchased, wrapped & delivered to family. Our house needs to be cleaned and arranged to make room for the ones that are living here while we are gone. I still need to purchase a couple of pieces of gear that I have decided to buy when in Kathmandu but this doesn't rest with me very well. Of course packing & repacking for our time in Nepal but also for the 11 weeks after in India. Then there is the busy social calendar; Nine Inch Nails concert, theatre tickets for "The Christmas Carol", American thanksgiving with family, dinners with friends, Pearl Jam concert and the purchase of a new camera, so yes we are really squishing as much in as possible before we leave Canada and I know I've missed out a plethora of little things.

Normally a full schedule is how I like it but with the clock ticking it is creating an elevated strain on my nerves…

So am I creating my own pre Traveller's Anxiety? Perhaps. But that still doesn't make it any less prevalent...I am however, thankful that I became aware of my reality this morning and I'm not going to continue to avoid it and with luck I will sleep better with this confessional.

Does this mean I'm a mess and in need of therapy? Absolutely not, I'm in complete control, I'm acutely focused and I couldn't be more excited!
I know that all these things that are causing me stress will happen with ease, I will do it with a smile and the moment that we step onto that plane this post will be a distant memory.

Our most amazing adventure will have started & there won't be anything I can do but let it all just happen...

===AND I CANNOT WAIT===

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Posted by Evanda 19:12 Archived in Canada Tagged travel everest nepal ebc anxiety nerves Comments (1)

The Ins and Outs of our trip planning to India & Nepal

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View India & Nepal on Evanda's travel map.

About 18 months ago Amanda and I were discussing about where we wanted to travel to next. Our last big trip was Thailand,Loas & Cambodia and was mostly where I wanted to go so being fair it was Amanda's turn to choose a location. When she said that India was the highest on her list of destination my immediate reaction was "really are you serious?" It took me aback a little because the little knowledge I had of India stemmed from the few facts I thought I knew such as:

  • Population - 1.2 billion people is mind boggling to me coming from the least densely populated country in the world, this many people create a massive overcrowding and lack of of personal space - and these are usually places I try to avoid if I can.
  • Extreme poverty - I have been exposed to this before and certain visions of begging, malnourished children still haunt my mind so why would I want to delve into more?
  • Safety - it's no secret that India makes the news quite often with reports of violent gang rapes, aggressive behavior towards women & various tourist muggings. Amanda and I have spoken about this'll great detail & we do have a plan B if this becomes a concern for us.
  • Fear - If you know me, you know I love to talk…however if I find myself in a discussion I know little about then I shut down…so basically because of my ignorance by my lack of knowledge about India I didn't really want to to talk about it or discuss it any further with Amanda. I think this ignorance turns into fear in my mind - This is a fault I have but hear me out.

After the initial shock of Amanda saying 'India' we didn't really talk about it…instead we both started reading, researching and sharing links, blogs and after a good silent month of not talking about it I opened up to idea…and to my surprise Amanda made travel there sweeter by adding Nepal and the possibility to do a trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC). Then we started talking about length of he trip…this evolved from 1 month to 2 or even 3 months…We decided if we are going to be going on big trip then why not go for longer and really experience the place. The conversation of India now became exciting. So much so that it began to snowball…we started adding other countries to the mix, Burma, Bhutan and Sri Lanka along with the length of the trip, 2 weeks at a time to the point where we were actually up to 6 months.

So now this trip was turning real…so we had to decide a plan. So where do you start? We decided we better make a budget plan to see how long we need to save for this trip…basically Amanda made a spread sheet consisting of our monthly expenses ie mortgage, utilities, car payments, etc. vs. daily cost of living while traveling and how much we would need to save. She did this for 13,15, 18 weeks and the rough numbers she came up with were everywhere from 33 to 48 thousand. This was when we narrowed it down to 15 weeks…and decided to save monthly til go time.

Now that we had a timeline we started talking about tours, flights, a rough trip plan of where to go and when we should leave. It quickly came apparent that Burma and Bhutan would be taken off the itinerary leaving a month in Nepal, 7 weeks for India and one more month for Sri Lanka. It all seemed straight forward but truly it was only just getting started. We printed off maps of India to talk about destinations…we ordered travel books and researched various tours and trekking companies. We immersed our minds into everything Nepal, India & Sri Lanka…Of course as time went by we added and removed different places to visit and because of the massive size of India we decided to remove Sri Lanka all together.

We also had to deal with a few other major factors.

We needed to save money; so we began a weekly budget…we documented every penny of our spending by the use of an app called toshi https://toshl.com/ . I hated being restricted to spending and us using this budget method so it only lasted for a year but it truly helped our money awareness and it helped us pay off depts. and put money in the positive column. We tried to take bag lunches to work, eliminated luxury items like those $5 Starbucks lattes, stopped using the credit cards, and other then two trips to Victoria to visit family our only holidays were restricted to camping trips that we could limit to 2 or 3 day long weekends. we consolidated our payments and tried to reduce all current bills.

We needed to save up our vacation time with our jobs, we also needed to get approval from both our employers for the time away. This has happened and with a combination of time leave and earned vacation time and good fortune to work for employers that accepted our requests.

Believe it or not the very first thing we needed to do was to find a home for our dog while we are away. He may be a little 13 pound cockapoo but he is our fur child and this is a very serious and important step for travellers with pets. Jake will be living with my brother and their family and we are so grateful.

We also needed our house to be looked after…we contemplated renting it out with airbnb but are happy that my niece and friend are taking our place over. They are paying us enough to cover our utility bills which works out well for everyone. again...we are very appreciative.
Up until 3 weeks ago both Amanda and I had a car along with our VW westy but sadly Amanda was in a car accident and her car was totalled (she is fine so you know) but we still will be reducing the car insurance and parking them in garages over the winter.

Of course there were many expenses pre trip. Travel insurance, vaccinations for typhoid,cholera,rabies, hepatitis along with prescriptions for malaria and altitude sickness (this was close to $900 and took us by surprise). Outdoor gear, pack locks, the new iPad mini, the 22 day trip with world expeditions for EBC, another 15 day tour with intrepid travel, Indian Visa( that's a whole blog post in itself), camera gear and I'm sure there will be others pop up in the next 2 weeks. But trust me…we will be able to overcome whatever happens and in just a few days all of our planning, saving, research & organizing will be actually happening and I know it will be all worth it & more.

There is something I have to clarify in closing…although initially I was never thrilled with going to India - I am completely excited and happy Amanda made this choice and now it is OUR choice…ultimately the main reason we like to travel is to learn about new cultures, explore and learn by experiencing them first hand. I can't think of two more amazing country's to do just that.

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Our Fur Child - Jake

Our Fur Child - Jake

Posted by Evanda 13:30 Archived in Canada Tagged travel india budget nepal planning everest_base_camp ebc Comments (0)

only 10 working day and 19 sleeps - but who's counting

a preview of our upcoming trip...

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View India & Nepal on Evanda's travel map.

HELLO

this is our first post and is prior to us leaving Canada...
I just wanted to let you know that we are going to try to attempt to do some light blogging on our upcoming trip and if you would like to follow along please subscribe to this blog.

in case you don't know Amanda and I have some very exciting traveling ahead of us...it has been close to 18 months now that we have been planning and saving for our biggest and longest adventure EVER!

with a LOT of luck, determination, planning, research, understanding employers, help from family and friends we will be leaving Calgary on December 4th, 2013 and aim to be returning home on March 15th, 2014. we learned quickly that going away for 15 weeks is much more of a challenge in the preparation stage then only a month...between permission and acceptance with our jobs, someone to look after our pup Jake, having our house looked after and lived in, car insurance, training, visas, vaccinations, medications, utility bills etc. there was so many more conditions we had to think of right from the beginning in order for this trip to even become possible. but with just under 3 weeks to go all the major hurdles have been jumped and now its just making sure the extra things are taken care of and we can see the light now...
in fact we are quite excited! as I mentioned December 4th we leave Calgary -> Vancouver -> Guangzhou China -> Katmandu Nepal. its a relatively fast flight of 25 hrs 5 minutes and we booked these ourselves on a site called CheapOAir - cost for flight with taxes, flight insurance and seat reservation was $881.35 each (yes less then it cost to go to NFLD) but this is only one way...we booked a separate flight home from Mumbai -> London -> Calgary for slightly less $725.29 each.

once in Katmandu we have booked to stay at Hotel Ganesh Himal for 6 nights...here we will wander lightly the Katmandu valley and buy any last minute supplies we will need as KTM is a mecca in terms of outdoor gear and clothing...and our hotel is right in the heart of it.
on Dec 11th we officially join up with our first tour...we begin a 22 day trip which includes an 18 day trek into the Himalayas and to our ultimate goal of Everest Base Camp. there are so many options of companies or the thought of even doing it yourself with a hired guide crossed our minds but after much evaluation and considerations we decided to go with World Expeditions. Although it is not the least expensive it is one of the most environmentally responsible and quite frankly one of the most comfortable looking. the thought of long hiking days in high altitude the less I have to worry about food, drink, sleeping quarters, carrying my gear made our decision easy. the tour we chose is called suitably "Everest Circuit" we chose it also because instead of just an in and out to EBC it takes an additional 7 days longer to get there by going the way of the Gokyo Lakes and up to the Kala Pattar (5545m) which is actually higher than EBC at 5364m. yet is still an mind boggling 3303m lower than the summit of the worlds tallest mountain...8848m just seems impossible for me to visualize being that most of the mountains we scramble in our backyards here in K-country and Banff range around 2200 to 3200m. I honestly fully expect to be in complete awe of these monsters and I do not think any pictures I have seen or I will take will ever do them justice...they need to be seen first hand.

after the World Expeditions tour we will be staying at Friends Home Hotel for 4 more days to probably sleep and rest our bodies...on jan 4th 2014 we are then joining up with a tour with Intrepid Travel this tour takes us to national reserve where I hope to see Rhino's, to the birthplace of Buddha, the most holy city in the world, Varanasi, floating down the Ganges, to the Taj Mahal and ending in Delhi...
obviously I will be blogging periodically to keep you in the loop of our actually experiences, but I just wanted to send this out as a good start to our itinerary...

again...with only 19 sleeps remaining we know our excitement now is valid for such and exciting adventure...but I know it is going to be tough once again to say good-bye to so many of our favourite people, family and our Jake.
please feel free to ask questions, leave comments or just say hello...

stay tuned for our amazing adventures into the mystical world of Nepal and India...

Namaste
Evan & Amanda

go directly to next post here and our profile page here

Posted by Evanda 12:57 Archived in Canada Tagged calgary Comments (11)

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