A Travellerspoint blog

Goodbye Nepal

Now into India...

On January 10th we left Nepal after spending a bit more than a month there. It was a bone jarring 11 hour drive from Lumbini in Nepal (where Buddha was born) to the holy city of Varanasi in India. We ended our day with a sunset float on the Ganges river watching some of the Hindu prayer ceremonies and we released small candles on leaf boats to carry our wishes to the gods. It was a nice end to a long day.

Here is a very small selection of photos from Nepal ... As you can imagine we have about a million of them! We are wearing our Canada mitts at Everest base camp on Christmas Day. After the trekking we spent a few more days in Kathmandu before heading to Cheitwan national park - we did see a rhino but it was at night so no good photos. The last one is Evan with Buddha in Lumbini.

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Posted by Evanda 22:58 Archived in Nepal Comments (2)

My Everest Family

Our biggest endurance test of all time...

all seasons in one day -20 °C
View India & Nepal on Evanda's travel map.

Before I get into some detail regarding our 18 day Goyko Ri & Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek I'd first like to introduce you to my Trekking 'Family'. When you spend close to 24 hrs / day for 22 days in a row you definitely can call each other family and I'm proud to talk of my current one.

On dec 11th, 2013 at the fancy yet out if place Radison Hotel, Amanda and I walked into the lobby to meet our group leader and the 13 others that also signed up for the Everest Circuit with World Expeditions (W.E.) If you have ever gone on a tour or plan to one day there is one thing that you have zero control of - the other people that join your tour. There is always those first tense awkward moments at the very beginning at introduction time...it's like the first day of a new job or meeting your possible future in laws - it can go one of two ways...really well or a horrible outcome can unravel quickly.

Unlike other tour groups, we didn't initially do the 'go around in a circle and introduce ourselves' bit, instead we dove right into a traditional Nepali cultural dining experience where we began our intros on a one by one basis. Our group tour leader is Ramesh Onja, a born and raised Nepali from the eastern countryside who is a serious, kind and responsible man who at first I felt had an accent and english annunciation I was going to have difficulty understanding, however after a little time listening to his instructions and skillful leadership these past few days his voice and advice are,completely clear. I understand him very well and he has become a friend who affectionately calls me "boss" each morning. Underneath Ramesh in 'family' rank is D.V., Lok and Dilip, these 3 Sherpas take care of us as if they are our communal parents. Every morning they wake us up at 630am (or earlier) with tea and washing water (washy wash), breakfast at 730, guide us through the mountains at a slow, steady and set acclimation pace...usually around 1230 they serve us a hearty lunch by our kitchen crew, more walking til tea time at 330 again with afternoon washy wash, and a substantial dinner at 630...they are also in charge of the porters, organizing the purchase of produce along the way and a handful of other duties...they do this with a smile, joking personalities and gratitude. All in all there are 26 staff that are looking after our family of 15 - consisting 8 men, 7 women aged 20 to 60, 4 are from Canada & the USA and the remaining 11 from Australia.

  • Ching-Wen Lin: raised in Taiwan and for the past 20 years has lived in NYC is the only one from the states, she is meticulous, organized, focused and asks every question we all,wish we asked in the first place. Often her smile takes over her face as she laughs at herself. She is in contention with having to deal with the most illness on this trip as I bugged her about becoming addicted to cough medicine and daily dose of drugs she was on.
  • Ken: originally from Great Britain he has been in Canada since 1982 and lives in Ottawa. He has heaps of travel experience and although he generally sits quietly in the corner he comes up with fantastic one liners in a old sea captain growl. Kens push to EBC and Kala Patthar was cut short as the Cho La pass pushed his health to the limit and he needed to go into the Pressure Altitude Chamber PAC in Labroche twice for close to 5 hours but he did complete the remaining of the trip and eared respect for his commitment.
  • Kate & Tony are from Melbourne and have so much experience in travelling its hard to keep track of where they have been...their conversations often involve where they are planning on travelling to next. I can tell that if we lived closer together we would be friends with them both as they have quick wit and interesting stories. They both struggled with colds for a majority if the circuit but still managed to come out healthy and smiling.
  • Lisa & Craig are from Canberra are the only others that are our age in our group. They are the tours quietest two yet they are both very tough...even though they battled with a nasty cold as well as some Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) they pushed through with no complaints EVER!
  • Stephen, Ben, Dan - affectionately known as 'the boys' these three from Adelaide are best mates and two are also brothers. They are the youngest 3 men of our tour with Stephen being the youngest all together. Stephen is an student studying astro physics so we all know he has an IQ of 258 but being the youngest he gets the most ribbing from all of us and his colourful delivery of epic adjectives is the source of many laughs, he is quite possibly one of the nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure to meet, the best way for me to describe him is as the character of Kelso from The 70s show that is as smart as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Ben is a self proclaimed accident prone klutz and has the most curious mind of everyone...this combination led him to some prime "if it's going to happen to anyone then - Ben" moments. Dan, has shown that he is the leader of this trio evident by thoughtful, calculated direction and to me is the glue for these three...however with that said I don't believe that they would ever be the same without each other...they show love for each other that is honourable and creepy at the same time!
  • Karen ... Oh Karen! She is a Scottish lass that immigrated to Australia to get away from the cold weather and is an absolute cracker! Her humour of well timed one liners and deep set oldies all delivered with full shameless disclosure is a constant source of giggles for us all...she too was ill for a lot of this trip but persevered by often pointing out the hilarity of our certain doom...god love her.
  • Dave; well there is always that one person in a group that is completely disliked by everyone else...just kidding. Dave from Sidney has a humour that is quite possibly darker and dryer then my own...plus he has the added ability of no filter and no concern for consequence...he is by far the king of the 'selfie' and was by far the neatest person in every aspect on this tour.
  • David & Kiera; every now and then you meet some people on these tours that you have an instant connection with. This father daughter team from Sidney shared an instant trust and comfort with us like no others. David shares the same think set as myself and we often found each other finishing each other's sentences or not even needing to speak to communicate. I consider him my brother and I know we will be friends for life. He travelled the Khumba valley 30 years prior and this time brought his daughter to experience the adventure...Kiera is the youngest female at 21 and is mature beyond her years, she has travelled extensively already and probably will never stop...her and I clicked from day one as I poked and bugged her daily...I am the little brother she never had and to me my little sister (this is a massive honour towards her for me to state this) and I do love them both.

So like any regular family we have all seen each other to accomplish some of our biggest triumphs, helped lend a hand to overcome obstacles, seen us at our worst, all have been ill, spoke about how badly our most recent toilet experience payed out, broken down and above all persevered our toughest test of endurance - together.

This is our Everest Circuit family and we feel so fortunate to have been touring with each and every one of them. Life long connections have been made by all of us and i personally am proud of us all...with the achievement of Goyko Ri, Cho-La Pass, Kalla Pathar and of course EBC we have created a life long bond that will forever be in our hearts and memories...

Happy New Years to all my friends and my families...we love you all.

EBC family at summit of Gokyo Ri - 5357m

EBC family at summit of Gokyo Ri - 5357m

EBC family at Cho-La Pass 5368m

EBC family at Cho-La Pass 5368m

Posted by Evanda 02:39 Archived in Nepal Tagged everest family camp base pass gokyo cho-la Comments (6)

48 hours bed ridden in Kathmandu

And we start our trek to EBC in 2 days

sunny 10 °C
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My head is pounding, throat scratchy, eyes are watering, I can no longer smell the dollop of tiger balm under my plugged nose and i have been lying awake for over an hour tossing in my bed clearly listening to a constant barking of ferrel dogs even with my ear plugs wedged n...I feel like I'm being tested, perhaps being punked or on a hidden camera tv show. The past 48 hours have been a challenge to say the least, my health has not been well. It started off with the sharp pain in the throat and visible white spots indicated I had a viral infection; a common infection I have been known to get often over the years. thankfully we are prepared for this, Amanda and I always go to a travel doctor pre big trips to make sure we have all the proper vaccinations and prescriptions we will require for preventative and I this case required measures. For the throat infection I take an antibiotic with amoxicillin and within hours the pain dissipates and the white spots disappear, I will take 1 more of these pills in 12 hours and I know this is all I will need to be gone with illness number 1. I also went went to a pharmacy here in Kathmandu, because curious, explained what I needed and bought a box of the exact same antibiotics without a prescription, in 2 minutes for $4.

With my throat pain gone it is now revealed that I have a full fledged head cold; enter in illness number 2. We also brought tylenol cold/flu (day & night) pills in case of this need, although i never anticipated needing them so soon. Of course these do not cure the cold but they are at least supposed to mask the head pounding, snot dripping and waterey eyes (not until i actualy typed this did i become aware of their ineffectiveness - hrmph) and with good rest and a recovering immune system I will stand a good chance this will clear up in a couple if days...for years I have been a big fan and proponent of ColdFX for an immunity boost and we have been taken them almost regularly in double dose since before we left Canada to be extra careful and proactive. Clearly my body broke down due to pre travel anxiety (and did I mention this is Kathmandu?) as these illnesses over came all of my protective measures, but we are still stubbornly taking around 6 per day. About 16 hours ago i woke up and needed to sprint to our dingy little washroom as obviously a daemon inside me needed to rush out of my backside...so now I have the runs; illness number 3. Face-palm - when it l rains it pours and sometimes out of your back end ( sorry could resist ). I am not exactly certain as to what I ate or drank to cause this but as it's not that odd for me to experience this at home on a weekly basis this never really caused me any additional stress but it did drain an remaining energy I had right out of me.

Did I also mention that Amanda also shared the same viral infection with me and she had her own food poisoning to deal with? she too had a good full days worth of projectile purging; "What a pair we are" she quoted as we both crawled back into our bed around 3 in the afternoon yesterday. Last night we went to bed at 630 and the same the night before in attempts to rest our bodies...we are alternating responsibilities and taking turns on looking after each other...when you travel as a couple you are all you have to rely on and we are so grateful to have each other for physical, mental and psychological support. Amanda who also is laying awake beside me now just showed me some pictures of our lil pup jake on the day we picked him up from the breeders and it warms our hearts, we crack jokes and poke fun at ourselves at how old a frail we are 2 days before we head out for an 18 day trek through the Himalayas. The laughter makes me forget about the handful of drugs I'm taking, the headache, the sore throat and the 11 rolls of toilet paper I've gone through blowing my nose! Never stop laughing...

The good news is we still have two days to recover...the bad news is we only have two days to recover!

We move out of the the hotel room we have been in for the past 5 nights in a few hours and move to much higher end lodging at The Raddison. I'm looking forward to this as I learned in Shianokville, Cambodia that a little better quality hotel/room really helps with the recovery when traveling. As i said in 2 days our trek starts with or without good health and on Friday the 13th we fly out of Kathmandu and into Lukla, Nepal. I haven't figured out how to post a video on this blog game yet but copy and paste this link [http://youtu.be/f3bN4c7CfVM] if you want to see one of the worlds highest and most dangerous airports! How's that for a wicked birthday present?

With that said its 1245 am right now and I have to try to get some more sleep before the next dog fight or the growl of the hotel generator wakes me up again...

Ear plugs check,
tiger balm check,
eye mask check,
positive thoughts check,
wicked adventure CHECK

Posted by Evanda 01:09 Archived in Nepal Tagged nepal kathmandu health lukla ebc Comments (6)

How to track us while we are Trekking

Everest Base Camp!!!

sunny 19 °C
View India & Nepal on Evanda's travel map.

Namaste friends...

Our trek to everest base camp is fast approaching and other then Amanda and I both becoming ill with combinations of throat virus, food poisoning and a cold we are pretty much ready to go...Amanda hasn't been able to keep anything down all day and with the antibiotics we brought from our travel doctor at home the white spots on my throat have gone but now I'm going through Kleenex and lozenges like mad. It's unfortunate but our only saving grace is we don't actually start our trek for 4 more days so we should be over this by then! Positive thoughts and our eye on the prize as we keep telling ourselves.

We are trekking with World Expeditions and they have sent us an email with a pretty cool feature and we thought we would share it with you. It's a service that they provide to show tracking of our daily progress by GPS and to receive updates on the camps we are at and what we are experiencing... if this interests you at all you may choose to utilise our automated email update service. Just click the highlighted 'Email' below and enter your email address and World Expeditions will send you periodic up-date emails as we trek...

Email

Because of limited wi-fi and battery charging for our iPad mini we will not be doing any blog posts from after dec 13th til December 31st! So this may be your only contact to know how we are doing while trekking in the Himalayas.

It is totally voluntary but we thought we'd share it with you...

Now please send us your positive thoughts and prayers to help us get better fast...

Evanda

Posted by Evanda 05:49 Archived in Nepal Tagged trek everest kathmandu gps everest_base_camp ebc world_expeditions Comments (8)

Kathmandu - our first 24 hours

First impressions say a lot.

sunny 21 °C
View India & Nepal on Evanda's travel map.

We all experience first impressions! They usually determine the outcome of a friendship, job interview, the purchase of a home and sometimes an indication of quality travel to a new country. When our plane landed in Kathmandu (KTM) some 30 hours ago I instantly feel warm and invited by a Nepalis gentleman. We get some small talk out of the way and we part ways with him saying "you are good for this country". He is well aware that tourism is a massive commodity for Nepal and knows Amanda and I are only two of thousands that arrive daily to come experience the beautiful surroundings, conquer the worlds highest mountains or just explore its culture. Of course we also need shelter, food, guides, transportation all which cost Rupees and help the Nepalese economy. Nepal is a young country when it comes to tourism; it only opened its doors to the world in 1950 and still after that, decades of civil war and political unrest as recent as 2001 with the assassination of 10 members of the royal family including the king and queen by their own son, there seemed to be some road blocks for the unseasoned traveller. Since 2008 Nepal has been in a peaceful state and the people of KTM are seeing a steady flow of curious explores as ourselves arrive.

Kathmandu valley is densely populated at +/- 3.5 million people consisting of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim many levels of castes and a multitude of languages and as far as it appears everyone lives in harmony with each other. Obviously it is the main entrance location for tourists to the many trekking destinations like the Annapurna and some hill called Everest. But it also offers tours for kayaking, bungee jumping, national reserve parks with animals like snow leopard and one horned rhinos!

So far we have not strayed too far from the area of KTM we are staying at; our hotel is located just on the SW edge of the popular tourist area called Thamel...it is a bustling area consisting of narrow streets, roads and alleys that are full street food, vendors on wheels, endless shops that appear out of 600 year old old barn doors and sometimes tiny hobbit sized doors that offer everything from trekking gear, local artifacts, souvenirs and basically any item a backpacker could desire...of course this means it is full of hotels, restaurants and non stop action. It's an area where cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, goats, people, bikes are in perpetual dynamic motion always accompanied by relentless honking of horns. It's utter madness but it all works fluidly and there is no place for the timid. And I love it! It is an absolute maze walking around these twisting roadways and I pride myself on having a good internal bearing system for direction but I admitted to Amanda within the first couple of hours of wondering around that I was completely lost...but I'm sure "Thamel is that direction". It was much to my surprise when we suddenly popped up into another popular area called Durbar Square as I thought I was 3 km the other direction. But serendipitly this was an area I planned on going too so...there we were right where I planned! (Cough) At this time the weather had now reached over 20 degrees and Amanda spotted a roof top patio and suggested a cold beer...as she knows the fastest way to my heart I agreed completely. It was nice to feel the heat sitting in shorts and at t-shirt knowing that it is -38 with the windchill back in Calgary...Our waiter was the nicest kid that laughed and joked with me at my botched attempts of Nepali and most notably went out of his way to say namaste (it means both hello and goodbye) and ended our conversation with "I hope to see you again".

Thamel streets

Thamel streets

Durbar Square

Durbar Square

After lunch we took a 3 km rickshaw ride up to the Swayambhunath more commonly known as the monkey temple and this iconic whitewashed stupa one of dozens of world heritage UNESCO sites in Nepal and an absolute must see location to visit...

Swayambhunath - Monkey Temple

Swayambhunath - Monkey Temple

We were on our way back to the hotel to rest when a rickshaw driver approached us and offered us a "good price" for a ride so we just went for it...because YOLO. We felt kinda bad as us 2 fat westerners jumped onto his rickety 3 wheeler as he struggled to peddle power us through the crazy streets dodging honking chaotic vehicles, traffic jams and worse - the uphill sections...we did jump off twice as it was impossible for him to power our weight up and I even considered swapping places with him so he wouldn't keel over, however all our lives would have been more at risk if I attempted that with so little experience on theses roadways. At the base of the temple you look up an ominous set of stairs that seem to go up endlessly, here our driver parked his rig and walked up with us, gave us his version of a tour and even took pictures of us. He talked to me about his 3 children, wife and how he lived on the other side of the valley some 8 km away. At the end of this journey the good deal was for 600 Rp which is basically $6 CAD we handed him 800 which was worth every Rp for us and 4 times that for him. He also asked if he could come back tomorrow and give us a ride to wherever we needed to go! When was the last time a taxi driver in your city offered such a service after literally carrying you about for a few bucks?

our mighty Rickshaw driver at payment time

our mighty Rickshaw driver at payment time

When we arrived back at out hotel room (503) we were welcomed by some peaceful sounds of construction noise for the new building going up directly below our window. So without telling Amanda I went to the front desk to see if it was at all possible to find a room facing the other direction, she handed me a key for another room (307) to check out and within 30 minutes we moved down a couple floors to corner room with a west view of the beautiful garden and to the north towards the Himalayas. We will be staying at 3 other hotels for our duration in KTM and I will review them all but this one Hotel Ganesh Himal has been a winner. Staff are friendly, rooms are clean enough, we have a private completely tiled washroom about 1.5 meters x 1.5 meters that allows you to use a sit down toilet, use the sink and have a stand up hands free shower all at the same time. The water pressure on the shower is better then ours at home, and there is always hot water and electricity. This may not sound like a big deal but in a city that commonly experiences power outages multiple times a day this this is a welcome advantage. The down side to 307 is below us the hotels generator that provided us with all the luxury of hot H2O & power comes on time to time but the low hum of this is usually not noticed over the odd horn honk and constant dog barking ("what are they talking about for 24hrs" we find us asking each other while awake at 3am) again I stress earplugs, they will be a staple in our lives for the duration of our vacation, we packed 5 pairs each. The hotel also offers a private patio on each floor right off our window and a large rooftop patio with wonderful views of the monkey temple, the Himal Ganesh mountain range and a quiet resting spot. We also have wifi, the food has been tremendous at a reasonable price, unlimited drinking water and airport pickup & delivery. We choose for just a standard room which cost around $30/night after the standard 25% KTM room taxes. I highly recommend this hotel which is also ideally situated to Thamel and Durbar Square.

After a break at the hotel we choose diner at a restaurant that touts itself to help employ women to earn experience as servers, cooks and managers...ironically the small 10 tabled room never had a single female employee on site but the food was delicious. The short walk home was warm and much more peaceful through the same street that only hours prior was stuffed full of crazy!

We did it...now at only about 30 hours into our 15 week adventure, with no jet-lag to speak of ( maybe those little pills did the trick )

So how is our first impression of KTM? Is is fantastic! I expected it to be a little bit unbearable but is actually a hundred times easier to walk around then Bangkok or even Phenom Pen and there is little begging, the pushiest people are the taxi drivers and rickshaws that are only offering you their service. Sure maybe I was offered hash a few times and a couple beggars asked for money but they still were polite! Also, there is garbage and poop everywhere and people often spit where they please but cultural norms only add to their character.
KTM has been defined to me through the people here:

  • they recognize that we as tourists are good for their country,
  • they go out of their way to please us,
  • they are polite and they want us to return!
  • they laugh and smile and treat you respect.

A lot of countries on this planet could benefit from the social practices the people of Nepal exhume and I hope that they can stay true to this...because "they are good of their country" and I highly recommend this area to be put on your list of places to visit.

Only 114 days left
Namaste
Evan & Amanda

If you would like to see our previous post click here

Posing after climbing all those stairs at monkey temple

Posing after climbing all those stairs at monkey temple

Posted by Evanda 05:44 Archived in Nepal Tagged culture travel nepal kathmandu thamel durbar Comments (4)

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