The day I met Pokhara Pete.

“I wish to pray for the passage of her soul as it rises to the radiant lights” – Pokhara Pete.

I had started my 18 day trek with 3 Nepali guy friends from Bhaktapur, after reaching our goal of Lake Tilicho they continued back the same route and I headed over Throng La Pass to complete the remainder of the Annapurna Circuit.  I had met Anja and Flo, two independent hikers, German and French, and we all decided to make a quick trek up and finish our journey with South Annapurna Basecamp (ABC).  On our way back down we crossed the main highway which most choose to end their trek by jumping on a crowded bus or jeep and riding back to Pokhara but not us! So we snaked our way down a less than traditional route by navigating small, un-mapped mountain trails and old washed out, overgrown roads until finally we came to rest our eyes on the little villages dotting the edges of the Seti River which feeds into Phewa Lake, the second largest lake in Nepal.

Views of the Seti River as we came down into Pokhara Valley from the West

As long as the path stayed in the downward direction and remained heading east we trekked on hungry and ready for a lakeside community to gobble us up.  We walked through a few small villages where cars and buses could be seen and heard again.  We were surprised to find none of the places were open to serve us any food and here we had put off eating far too long and were just about on empty when we came into Pame, the village just a mile from Pokhara.  Flo was waving his arms out of the doorway of a place in complete celebration that he found us a Nepali woman who would cook us dal bhat and even tracked down some warm beers too.  We were officially done with the mountain trekking through the Annapurna Range.  After eating what I will call the worst dal bhat of the 3 months in Nepal we finished the walk to Pokhara alongside the lake.


Our first views of Phewa Lake in Pokhara

Anja and I found the best little guesthouse tucked along the shore in what they refer to as ‘The Lakeside’ portion of Pokhara.  Although the city is one of the largest in the country this small quaint area along the water would never convince you of that.  The vibe is all about island time with tie-dye fabrics, hemp-made clothing and reggae music playing at the greasy little diners lined along the streets.

Our room at the guest house overlooked the lake and had been run by the same family for over 30 years for $6.00 a night. It had an attached bathroom, was safe and clean with a hot-‘ish’ shower depending on the time of day and if there was any sun since it was a direct sun-heated black tub on the roof rather than electric or gas water heater.  We said our goodbyes to Flo and exchanged information as he was rejoining his girlfriend waiting for him at a different guesthouse in Pokhara.

Flo, Anja and I finishing up our trek together of Annapurna South Basecamp
Fresh Veggie Salad, followed by pizza and desser.....what no dal bhat!!
Fresh Veggie Salad, followed by pizza and dessert…..what no dal bhat!!

After the most refreshing fresh salad, a slice of amazing thin crust pizza and a ridiculously good brownie and ice cream dessert at ‘Godfathers Pizza’, which I highly recommend, we found ourselves walking the lakeside taking in the local sounds echoing across the lake.

We were drawn to the live music coming from a group of younger Nepali guys sitting at a really tiny tiki bar/hut with short little bamboo couches and a thatched floor overlooking the water.  They were playing all sorts of American covers and some memorable Nepali pop songs.  With no one else in sight we sat down and ordered a beer to enjoy the ambiance all to ourselves.  We met the guys and I only remember the one’s name, Bsan because I came to know him a bit better after taking a motorcycle ride later in my Pokhara stay.  That lovely ride resulted in my falling off the back of the bike on a steep, sharp corner heading down from seeing the World Peace Stuppa… another story for later.

That night the guys told us about a place to enjoy more music, beer and a game of pool called, ‘The Old Blues Bar’.  So, we conceded to following them and found ourselves playing a game of pool (on a snooker table) and having a beer.  I was sitting down at the table talking to Anja when a man who looked to be in his 60’s sat down at the bar close to our table.  He didn’t look to be all that healthy with a spindly and frail frame; he was at least 5’10”, thin and bony with a withdrawn look about him.  What made his sad appearance even more prominent was the deep set in look of confusion and pain all wrapped up into the furrowed skin between his eyes and sagging skin of his cheeks that drooped down near his jawline.  I have been told throughout my life that I am a very ’empathetic’ person,  I find myself wanting to get right down to the rawness and depth of a person rather than spend a lot of time on the surface level conversation.  This has also come to serve as a way to take the attention off of my own pain and problems and feel purposeful in letting someone vent and experience their own feelings while I tuck mine away for a bit.

 So, naturally, I felt the urge to motion the man over with a hand gesture and eye contact.  He stood up, stepped near and responded by saying, “I suppose I could join you but I’m not much for good company”. I was intrigued at that point by his simple response that begged the question of “Why?”  Anja and I introduced ourselves and he did the same telling us his name was Pete and then proceeding to say, “I just found out that my sister died”.  I think my heart actually dropped in my chest as I felt the instant depth of his sorrow no longer kept inside but a wound open and fresh on the outside.  Within hours he had heard that his closest sister, Sue, had died suddenly from a heart attack back in Australia where he was originally from.  He was distressed and in a state of numbness as he proceeded to explain she died on Friday the 13th of Nov. it had already been 5 days and due to some email issues he had only just found out via email from his family that day. The most difficult thing at the moment was that he would not be able to fly back home, to Australia, in time for her funeral. He would be leaving the following day and had his flight booked, so there he sat just feeling through one of the most painful things he would experience in life, the death of a sister, sitting at a bar with strangers.
He spent some time talking about her heart and soul and spirit, who she was and how she mattered to him. She was his oldest sister at 69 and he was 58, he had 3 other sisters and was just wanting to come up with the words to have his family say on his behalf at the funeral he wouldn’t make.  I offered to write down his words and feelings for him as he jumped from thought to thought and what he described next was a beautiful summary of what he wished, “I wish to pray for the passage of her soul as it rises to the radiant lights”.   He had said that when he closed his eyes this was what he saw and he wasn’t too sure what he believed when it came to God or other religions but he believed her spirit was truly beautiful and that he could visualize her rising up into the bright light above.  The whole night was quite touching to me as he proceeded to talk about how he also lost a best friend, Jeff, to suicide only a few years ago.  For those of you reading this who don’t know I also in the recent years lost 2 very close loved ones, my aunt Carrie to lung cancer at 54 yrs old and my brother-in-law, Jeff, at 43 yrs old to suicide.  We ended that night sitting by the lake on a piece of driftwood with a glass of wine and laughing about some truly beautiful and joyful moments and memories we carried of our loved ones.

Losing loved ones brought our hearts together on that night. The most spiritual and touching of moments are right under our noses wherever we are in life and it amazes me who and what walks in the door when I open it to those around me.  I am saying a prayer for Pokhara Pete today in hopes that he made it safely back home where he could be of comfort to his family and feel the comfort of his family that he needed. We are all in need of others during our life to listen, to express, to feel and share the joy and the sorrow of life’s amazing journey. The best advise I can give after this experience is to keep your heart open to others and their stories and moments of connection because you may not always see the opportunities to help or be a light for someone else if you are too busy looking down at your own stumbling feet.  Pete said he was grateful and felt truly blessed to have met me at that moment and been allowed to share feelings and tears when he otherwise would not have expressed himself so openly to others before. I am glad for that night and will remember it forever.


No Money, No Petro, No Phone – No Problem when you have Nepali family with hearts as big the mountains that surround you!

I arrived in Tatopani with my injuries from the waterfall plunge as a great reason to spend a day recovering. The 3 guys I had traveled with from Kathmandu got up and after buying me breakfast to say goodbye they headed towards Pokhara via bus.  I happily found some comfort in the room for awhile, writing, napping and thinking about my next plan before venturing out to soak in a hot springs. They were beautiful for the body, extremely hot, but the setting wasn’t nearly as scenic as a second place I came to find on my Annapurna Basecamp route in Jhinu Danda.

I was eating my dinner looking out on the road and I saw Anja hiking up, the smiling German gal I ran into briefly the day before while walking. We chatted and had a laugh about how she had watched me ‘disappear’ onto that fateful bus when I decided to jump on with my Nepali friends. Her French friend arrived behind her and they went to find some cheaper options to stay but I knew we would cross paths if I decided to head towards Annapurna Basecamp in the morning as that was her plan.

I left Tatopani the following morning feeling a bit irresponsible and anxious after having come face to face with nearly running out of money. After paying the hotel I was down to less than 800 rupees ($8) because I hadn’t planned on trekking over the pass and continuing my journey so my only real option at getting cash would be to get on a bus to Beni in the opposite direction as ABC and Ghorepani. It’s funny I left the hotel without making a decision on what I was doing and started to walk. Within a 1/2 kilometer I came to the important junction of a footbridge leading East into the valley toward Ghorepani or the road leading South to Beni. I sat down on a rock and called Shree, unsure of anyone else that could truly aide me in my financial dilemma in the middle of the Annapurna Region. He immediately answered, a good sign to start, and continued to respond to my emotional indecisiveness by saying, “keep going Ang Dolma Sherpa (my nickname from our Everest Region Trek), you’re there now and makes no sense to not see ABC”. He said you have to make it to Ghorepani that night and seek out Sunny Guesthouse, there you can speak with the woman who runs the hotel and call him and he would get the money in my hands. My problem was resolved and I instantly had the freedom once again to continue on in the direction I most wanted to go, Annapurna Basecamp.

That day was one of the most relaxing and beautiful of the trek so far. The landscape was terraced hillsides and the daily life of the Nepalese people was ever-present during harvest season. It was constant activity in all of the bustling villages far removed from from tourism in nearly every sense. The men could be seen and heard up on the terraced mountainsides, pushing, pulling, prodding, shouting, grunting and whistling at their bulls churning up the earth with their handmade plows.

Woman could be seen in nearly every home outside on the stone patios beating huge piles of grain with long sticks of bamboo all in unison. They were all talking loudly, laughing and rarely noticed a passing white face walking along and stopping to snap a picture. Some woman use these big hand woven sifting trays, standing to sift like basically tossing something in a fry pan. A more modern approach was a boy using a rudimentary foot-pedaled machine to power a belt that would rotate large beat up metal blades of a fan. His mother stood in front and tossed the grains from the woven tray while the dusty light outer shells blew off and heavier desirable grains fell to the ground in little heaps at her feet.

Little ones were getting bathed outside their with big basins of soapy water where clothes were also being laundered and laid out to dry all across the stone walls and grassy hills. The woman bath outside as well with sarongs around them pouring cold water over there upside down heads of hair and attempting to scrub up awckwardly underneath the sarong. At first it all seems like such a pain but you come to realize after days and weeks of seeing it all over and over that they aren’t looking for better, faster, easier ways to do things all the time. They have a routine in their chores and activities and the time they need to do these things remains the same. Food is on the table, rest is found at night and joy is seen in the everyday activity. There is not this pressure to do something faster or better when what you get from your current pace is all that you need. It’s definitely a healthy thing to witness coming from the culture of bigger, better, faster, more product, less time, quantity, quantity and more quantity.

A man was sitting cross- legged on the ground using an old hand-crank sewing machine, stitching up clothes in the sun while his older daughter chitter-chattered away at him.


It was really the first time I can say I didn’t see any needs or reliance on the tourism to keep the villagers busy in their daily lives. I stopped at one point to take the huge cephalopod fossil out of my pack and leave it behind on a rock wall. There was a little girl and boy on the wall standing over me saying, “sweets”, “picture”, “chocolate” and I smiled and said no sweets but I have this present for you…..and pulled the huge fossil from the bottom of my pack. I don’t think they were very enthused about my gift and it will likely stay there for years without any notice that it’s a fossil from the riverbank 50 kilometers away and hundreds of meters below us!!

Further along in my walk I stopped to have some soup for lunch and looked down to see this message on my phone that said ‘Locked SIM’. I asked a local Nepali guide at the teahouse if I could use his phone to contact Shree once again for help!  I needed to see if there was anyway he could find out my PUK number required to unlock the SIM.  All I could think was thankfully this happened after I was able to contact him about money earlier in the day or I may have been ‘bussing’ to Beni after all.  I was shit out of luck unless Shree managed to find the code or get me a new SIM card.  I had reached a point in my journey where I had no money or cell phone service. If it weren’t for my Nepali brothers back in Bhaktapur I would have had to scrap the trip much sooner. He didn’t have the PUK number I later found out and my old number was history but he said he may be able to get me a SIM card in the middle of the ABC trek when I crossed paths with one of the iTrek Nepal guides coming back with a client so we left it at that and I remained without a cell phone in hopes of wi-fi to keep in touch as needed. I’ve been off the radar for longer periods of time that’s for sure.

I continued along toward Ghorepani. I was walking along and starting to climb some more ‘lovely’ steps when a little girl and her dog came running down one of the hills next to the trail and she quietly just looked at me and began walking along beside me.  I pointed ahead and said “Ghorepani”, she said “yes” and I attempted to ask her what village she was from but regardless of how simple I tried to speak she just looked at me and nodded smiling.  Cute as a button, she carried her little purse with a long strap on her head like all the porters carry their loads and baskets around the villages.  She proceeded to run up the endless rock steps stopping and looking and waiting for me just like she was out for a walk herself and enjoyed the company.  Her dog went in front of us just a few meters at all times.  She couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6.  It’s amazing the freedom all these little ones seem to run about with, on some very steep and dangerous cliffs and ridges. It was like her home was in the middle of the wilderness where we were walking and it brings a whole new perspective to what their ‘neighborhoods’ and ‘boundaries’ are when it comes to playing in the woods and walking with strangers to and from nearby villages.  I thought I was wild and free as a child but seeing her just run up and down the mountain trails with her dog really brought a smile to my heart.  A little girl and her dog playing in the wilderness, I could relate to that from my own childhood.


After coming up to the next village the little girl did stop trailing along and I came upon a guest house up in the woods and saw a familiar face, it was Anja. We were only a few hours from Ghorepani and she was hiking with a different French guy, Flo, whom she also ran into earlier in her hike when he was with his girlfriend.  He was going to head up to ABC as well so that night we all ended up in Ghorepani, he happened to still get be with his guide and they were also staying at the Sunny Guesthouse which is where we all landed.  I managed to do just what Shree had instructed and the woman from the hotel got on the phone with Shree and 1/2 hour later I had money in hand and he was transferring funds to her bank account. I was a happy trekker among new friends and ready to finish my journey up to Annapurna Basecamp thanks to the beautiful people of this beautiful country.




Wisconsin disappeared on a bus…..15 drunk Czech’s and a Waterfall later…


Wisconsin disappeared on a bus


Bus ride to Tatopani

I met Anya for the first time while passing she and her French friend, Javier, taking a rest by a large rock enor ute to Tatopani from Jomsom.  I spoke a few words to them in passing regarding my trek and didn’t stop at that time to make much conversation.  She laughs now about the next hour or so of the walk as they were behind me in the distance watching my decision to hop on a bus.  The journal entry she showed me from that day was something like, ‘Wisconsin disappeared on the bus’.

I had lost the 3 Nepali guys earlier in the day in a little village that I think I decided to walk through rather than around so they were not with me at the time and I had waited sometime for them to walk up at one point so I didn’t know if they were in front or behind me anymore.  So I came to a large bend in the road where the riverbed seemed to widen and instead of taking the road around the entire edge of the river that we were following I opted to traverse the riverbed across and avoid some unnecessary road.  It worked as I had watched, while I stopped to squat and pee before crossing, some local farmers with their water buffalos snake their way across the rocky open span of land.  So I managed to hop, skip and jump over the water, using a little homemade log bridge at one point, and then I heard the sound of a vehicle and looked back to see a bus rounding the bend.  It was the only bus seen yet in the day coming my direction so I gauged my pace and quickened up my steps to make it to the other side of the riverbed and onto the road just in time.  I raised a trekking pole and the bus came to stop in front of me and one of the 3 Nepali guys I was walking with stuck his head out and without a word I jumped on and was whisked away.

The bus stopped for everyone to unload and have some tea, bathroom breaks and the guys got some sort of curry in a little dishes that I gladly took.  Then back on the bus I was squeezed next to a drunk man in his 30’s or 40’s maybe, he kept elbowing me, smiling big and dancing with his arms to the Nepali folk music playing loudly in the background.  One more stop for the 2 or 3 tourists including me to check in at a TIMS check point (Trekking Information Management System). Everyone has permits when trekking in various regions and these are checkpoints for you to have your permit stamped and then your next intended destination documented in a ledger in case of any emergency so that you can be back-tracked so to speak.  Last stop for that bus was short of Tatopani – due to the petro shortage the buses don’t just keep going because they literally don’t have enough fuel and we needed to hope for another bus with fuel and enough passengers to go the last stretch.  I immediately noticed a large group of foreigners seemingly having a great time standing and sitting around a table in the open dusty ground of this ‘bus stop’ where there are a few little shops that serve food and beer.  The group was 15 Czech’s and their 8 guides and porters waiting for their privately hired bus to arrive and proceeding to get drunk on Kukri rum and Tuborg beer.  I asked about their plans and they indicated they had ordered a bus and laughed about it maybe showing up…so they were just whooping it up, chasing ducks and I was happy to be welcomed immediately to the group by being offered a coke bottle with straight rum in it to have a toast.

I told my Nepali mates they needed to talk to the guide(s) because we could get on the bus with them and just needed to know how much they would want to charge us to tag along.  In the end the bus arrived and we all piled on  – packs on top and booze inside for an adventurous ride.  The bus had colorful yarn macrame hanging down all around the front of it.  I found it to be full of dust as it rained down on my head every time we swayed and bounced which is every 3 seconds!!  The singing started immediately from the Czech’s and continued endlessly back and forth in a battle between the Czech’s and then the Nepali’s each singing their own traditional songs, anthems and cheers.  I sat as the single American foreigner humming, laughing, gasping every so often at the crazy driving on the edge of the mountain and appreciating my company of a bus full of cheer the whole 4 hour ride.

We stopped to ‘pile’ out of the bus at one point and see a waterfall on the side of the road and I went out with the Nepali guys to get some pictures.  I handed my phone to Hari, one of the 3 I was traveling with, to take a picture of mhe.  I njstepped down on the rocks to get closer to the spraying water and that’s when my 1st of 9 lives in Nepal was used up.  Suddenly my foot slipped and I careened head first into a deep crevice of rocks that was being beaten by the forceful water falling from above.  I hit my head so hard, that was the first thing that smacked against the rocks, and immediately was aware of this loud and chaotic force pinning me upside down.  I just remember thinking long enough about being upside down and not having the ability to right myself and no concept of where my arms or even the rest of my body really was – I was simply conscious of my head being where it was and I think my only option was to move my head in a way that I could find air amidst the heavy weight of water in my face.

Thank God within only seconds Hari had thrown my phone and jumped down to grab me by my arm and leg and pulled me up onto the rocky ledge I started on.  I didn’t have time to even think about how I was going to get out on my own before I felt his hands dragging me out.  I immediately came to feeling like I needed to regain control of the situation and saw my purple jacket down in the rocks which I was able to stoop over and get myself, thankfully I had my go pro on my wrist (the selfie stick) because it came back up with me.  The first thing Hari said to me while looking me over head to toe and staring into my eyes was something like ‘and this is why I am never leaving your side’.  I felt protected at that moment and I understood the feeling of having someone next to you in a moment of crisis when you aren’t able to get out of something by yourself and you have no control.  I went back to the bus where the Nepali guys had all heard quickly what happened among themselves and were all worried and making sure I was ok. I felt stupid at that moment just feeling the need to stay in control and find my pack on the top of the bus, none of them were happy when I jumped on the ladder myself and climbed up before they could stop me, so that I could get my dry clothes out and change.  I walked down a little path so I could get out of sight to change and it felt like I had 10 Nepali watchdogs that wanted to stay next to me the whole time.

I was lucky I came out of it all with a big goose egg on my head and only bruised legs and arms, that night after we got into Tatopani the guys made it a point to check on me in the evening as I could have a minor concussion and didn’t want to be left alone to sleep all day the next day or anything.  They were so good about everything and Hari especially really has continued to check on me as I haven’t returned to Kathmandu yet and I owe him a nice meal at least after saving me from dying in a waterfall in the Himalayas.

Bus Ride on a Cliff side




Numbing peppers, cephalapods and new friends on the Annapurna Circuit

So after coming over Thurong La Pass you come into Muktinath.  It was nice to be in the area with someone who is used to giving history and information rather than going it alone and missing out of so much culture.  The guide I met in Thorung Phedi, Ram Rai, and his son and client from Japan were new walking partners for a bit. Muktinath is a very sacred place for both the Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist cultures and a great example of how two religions can share the same holy place.  Muktinath’s local name is ‘Chumig Gyatsa’ which translates to ‘hundred waters’.  The central shrine of Sri Muktinath (Muktikshetra) is considered one of the eight most sacred shrines for Hindu Vaishnavas and means ‘place of salvation’.  The outer courtyard has 108 bull faces through which ice cold ‘sacred’ water pours and devotees of the religion can at times be seen being bathed by the ice cold waters. I am saddened I didn’t get my own pictures when trekking near the temple; however it was immediately after coming off the pass and all of my batteries were dead on phone and GoPro:( Thank you to Ram who took pictures for me which I hope to get shortly!

We stayed in Muktinath that evening where a late afternoon walk  brought me to see all the local woman weaving scarves on their looms, selling the same jewelry and trinkets at each homefront table. The bright yarn is a beautiful reminder of this quiet little village that I will have forever since I had to buy one or two as a souvenir!  This region is in the lower part of the Mustang district of Nepal, which up until 1992 was restricted so needless to say the landscape and culture are quite preserved.  Mustang was formerly the Kingdom of Lo and was only recently overthrown in 2008, so it will not be long before continued culture influence from China and the outside world will show in the people and look of this region.  A trekking permit to go into Upper Mustang is $500, not a trek for this trip, but the majority of the population in the district is in the Southern half where I was lucky to explore.  Old caves can be seen dug into the sides of the sandy river banks from the first settlers of the region and remnants of old foundations are strewn about which you can see from high above the river.  

Kagbeni was the next town we walked to and it is the gateway into Upper Mustang so rich with age and history.  The old village is made up of mud houses along the banks of the Kali Ghandaki River.  We put our packs at a hotel that Ram had frequented with clients in the past and took a nice walk around Kagbeni.  We were able to enter the Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Monastery, home also to a currently operating Monastic school.  This monastery was founded and built in 1429 and the building is absolutely beautifully painted inside with large paintings of the wheel of life and old wood plank floors.  It’s 3 stories tall with a roof top looking over the village which I wasn’t able to see but standing in the monastery with my shoes off listening to the young student give history of the culture was a true treat.  I was allowed to take pictures and only wished we could have stayed to be witness to some of their daily prayer and meditation times.  A monastic boarding school was established in 2009, which provides an opportunity for the young monks to stay in their home village of Kagbeni and surrounding communities to study under a traditional Tibetan monastic discipline. Their ages ranged from 3 years up to teens and many could be seen playing in the courtyard when I was there.  They had a large wooden paddle and small rubber bouncy ball they were hitting so you could hear the laughs and shouts while looking out over the colorful buildings that made up the student housing against the backdrop of the mountains in the distance.  A beautiful sight to take in!

On our way through the streets we stopped to see some drying herbs on a local’s doorstep and Ram said one was cumin and the other a Nepali numbing pepper.  He said I could try the pepper and just a little piece put my lips and mouth out of feeling almost immediately.  The dentist’s back home need this stuff!  It lasted for a good 15 minutes and it wasn’t hot or spicy at all, it seriously just numbed your mouth and lips.  We returned to our packs at the hotel to have a bit of lunch and arrange a jeep.  Before getting back I saw more adorable children, took more pictures and was approached by a nice couple traveling from France that had taken a bus to Kagbeni from Jomsom but there were no buses going back so they were looking for a way to get back.  I was able to get them onto the jeep back at the hotel that Ram came to sort out so we could all skip the windy river bed walk to Jomsom together.  Alice was the  French gals name and I’ve already come to meet her farther along in the journey in Pokhara for lunch.   She was not trekking but her boyfriend and cousin were for nearly a month while she rented a place in Pokhara to just relax by the lake.  It’s great traveling alone. when you are open to connecting and sharing with all sorts of new people in new places everyday.

After arriving in Jomsom from the 30 minute bouncy, dusty, hilarious jeep ride I decided to get a room at a different place than Ram and his client, wanting to have a bit of privacy and so we arranged to meet back up in the morning and walk to Marpha together.  Sitting having dinner at my guest house I found out that all the flights going in and out of Jomsom, in addition to all of the domestic flights in the country, were canceled for the next few days at least.  Thankfully I had planned to walk but for those needing to fly it would be yet another waiting game for the fuel to reach the airlines so flights w/in the country could resume.  Nothing is for sure and there are no schedules you can rely on in this country, ever!!  There were 3 Nepali guys at my hotel in their mid 20’s discussing their options to get back to Kathmandu.  After indicating I was trekking and had been for the last many days they wanted to look at the map with me and explore the route down.   I explained my plans weren’t for sure but that I was planning on at least walking the next day to Marpha and from there figuring out a ride or walk to Tatopani.

The plan evolved and in the morning and the  3 guys joined me and Ram with his client on our short walk to Marpha.   They didn’t have any trekking gear but at least decent footwear and it was only road walking so two of them carried a duffle bag (one on each handle) and the other a small backpack and made it work.  The walk along the river was nice  but windy and dusty.  Afteer looking down for almost an hour I finally was able to find a pretty large fossil of a cephalapod, which is what the locals are selling to tourists all over this area.  I managed to carry it a day or two before deciding it was too damn heavy and a picture would do just fine.  In Marpha we walked through town and the streets are lined with buildings painted white and history again surrounds you as you come around a corner underneath a building and look up there is a huge sculpted man with a huge penis jutting out of the rock painted red and he’s holding a sword in his hand.  I missed the female statue in the village which I only learned of after leaving the village but nonetheless I have some cultural research to add to that story – for now it’s just entertaining to say the least.   Ram and his client decided to stay overnight in Marpha but I was wanting to move on and the 3 guys we had walked with also wanted to keep going aand to possibly to see if a bus was going to Tatopani.  Ram assured me that he trusted the young men after talking to them along the walk to Marpha and so we exchanged information and he also had the guys information  in case we had any problems.  I felt safe again moving on into my journey saying goodbye to yet another great person God put in my path.  Ram told me to wait for 5 minutes while I thought he was checking on the bus or transportation options but then he came back with a gift of a white prayer scarf also called a ‘kati’  that he put around me as a blessing for safe travels as we parted ways.  I teared up as we hugged goodbye and had a picture taken and left knowing I could see him down the road someday but no matter what he was my Thurong La Pass blessing:)

The journey continues with crazy mountain bus rides, falling into a waterfall, recovering in a hot spring, completing the Annapurna Circuit, trekking to Machhapuchhre  (Fishtail Mountain) Basecamp and South Annapurna Basecamp and spending some great restful time in Pokhara.  I also plan to add photos when I have better connection so stay tuned.


Random male sculpture hidden in the maze of buildings in Kagbeni
Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Monastery in Kagbeni
Cephalapod from the banks of the Kali Gandaki
A goodbye to another great trekking friend made!

Village of Marpha
Kagbeni to Jomsom jeep ride

Thorung La Pass… the Snow and Oh so Solo!!

11/5 I awoke with my Nepali brothers in Siri Kharka after taking on Tilicho Lake and feeling like the trek had only just begun I felt it in my heart that I needed to do something more independant and just for me!  I had gone to bed the night before talking to Parash again, thinking about my time in Nepal, my time trekking and where things had taken me in the last few months.  I got up out of bed and walked outside to just get a breath of fresh air and clear my mind before heading to sleep and I sat in the still cold night sitting on a rock wall in front of the hotel.  The night skies in the mountains can be magical when the sky is clear and the moon and stars are so bright they illuminate the mountains in the far distance.  Almost immediately upon looking up I caught a shooting star from beginning to end right where I was focused in the sky.  It was a moment that I knew was just for me.  I wanted clarity and I got it.  I wanted to continue on the trek alone and not return back to Pokhara so soon with the guys since they were on more of a schedule with Numbish’s coming wedding and none of them were exactly stoked about trekking anymore it was time to split off.  

I awoke in the morning and sought out Lomi, the female Nepali doctor we had been trekking alongside the last 2 days and asked her about my intention to go over Thorung La Pass since I was right here and so close to it – why not?  She had done the pass and assured me it was well worth doing it and said she really believed it was a good idea and I would have no problem.  My confidence was boosted and I knew that’s what I wanted to do so I told the guys my plan and got the map out to see what I had to do for the day’s hike. The other Nepali porters and guides we were also new friends with also indicated I could get to Thorung Phedi by the days end based on my speed and health so I walked just a mile or so with the group up until the trails split ways and we all said farewell.  I stopped to take apicture of myself right after I said goodbye feeling excited, nervous and soooo free at that moment knowing I could take care of myself by meeting up with other Nepali guides and porters along the way.  I hiked for a few hours coming up over the first big climb, looking out over Manang on a little out cropping.  A white eagle was soaring in the wind just below me and slowly getting higher, when a second one joined and I just watched and videoed the pair circling around me until they were out of sight.  I shouted out over the edge, ‘thank you God for the sign that you are with me’  I truly felt safe and reaffirmed my decision to move along on my own just me and my pack onto the next village.  

The first bridge I crossed I stopped at the little tiny hut for a cup of Masala Tea – my new favorite tea.  I walked in and sat down, looked up and saw a grouping of Eagle feathers bunched up in the curtain and just smiled knowing every small coincedence was more to me than just chance :)  That day hiking was beautiful and I will never forget the way I felt hiking by myself for the first 8 hours.  I stopped for lunch in Yak Kharka where I asked the locals how many hours to Thorung Phedi and they indicated 3-4 hours.  I ate my vegetable noodle soup quicly and got on my way knowing it was getting colder and I was only going to be climbing higher.  I cruised up the mountains, crossed another suspension bridge and stopped to buy a few hard candies from a woman who had her home perched on the mountainside with a little table out in front and basket of apples.   It was really her little white dog in a knit sweater that made me stop but the candy turned out to be quite the right decision for later.  It only took me 2 hours to get to Thorung Phedi and I was glad because it was getting cold and I needed to navigate my way into a teahouse.  The first Nepali I saw wandering around the entrance of town (town is a loose term – there were only about 4 places to stay and all stacked on top of each other) I asked him about a room and he indicated he had two American clients staying above, where he pointed.  I followed him up and talked to the employee in the dining room and he proceeded to show me a room that was just like all the others (two beds, big blankets and cold as hell) I took the room and headed into the dining area to get warm and order dinner of dhal bat to fit in with the locals.  

It all worked out great, I talked to some tourists, the American couple was older and many other Nepali guides and porters filled the place, so I started to talk to an older Nepali guide sitting across from me.  His name was Ram Rai and he was traveling with a Japanese client and his son was portering with him.  I asked around about what time everyone was getting up for breakfast and made my order for 3:30am.  Sitting at the table I started to chat with group of Nepali guides and porters playing cards and ended up getting in on their game which was similar to the game I learned from Shree so I fit right in!  Dinner of Dhal bat and my eating with my hands with all the ohter Nepali’s further put me right at home again.  It’s not very common to have a young American woman head up the pass alone so I was embraced by many of the people and felt good going to sleep that night knowing I would head out in the morning with a caravan of other trekkers.  

The snow started flying that night before the sun went down and it never stopped – in the morning I got my breakfast of Phapar Roti and eggs and proceeded to head out with others into the dark snowy mountains.  Before leaving the hut I noticed a porter frantically looking for something in the dark corners of the dining room.  He had misplaced one of his gloves and so I offered him my knit mittens knowing I might miss them but I would make my finger gloves work.  UP up up – that’s all it was for nearly 5 hours – a woman riding a horse was behind the group of 10 of us at one point.  I heard the horse make a loud neigh of sorts and then the girls voice yelling, we all looked down and you could see from our headlamps lighting up the area that she was hooked by her leg and being dragged (slowly since they had control of the horse) but finally she was freed and later in the day I had a tea with she and her friend and she was afraid (for good reason) to get back on the horse.  Eventually she and her friend did get back on horses and finish the summit but what an experience.  

That trek up the pass was one of the hardest days I’ve had in the Himalayas.  I was on my own for a few portions with people in view way up the mountain just my headlamp and I was thankful to have a blazed trail in the snow because without foot prints I would have surely been stuck not knowing where to go.  Picture a white landscape in the middle of towering peaks – no trail markers and dark – the hike of a lifetime!!  3/4 of the way up I ran into Ram and his client which began my journey with them.  I was thankful to have him the last stretch up the pass – I only got slightly nauseous for a brief moment before eating a snickers bar and climbing on.   NO altitude sickness and feeling strong we all made it up by 10:30 if I remember right!  Pictures and cup of tea and snickers bar later and we walked out of the little hut and got blasted by the strongest snowiest wind out of nowhere it had came up on the pass.  The trek down was nearly as stressful and more technical than the climb.  I managed to slip at least 4 times but all ended in success safely landing in Muktinath for the night staying at the same hotel as Ram and getting a nice hot shower to end the day!


Manang and Swimming in Ganggapurna Lake 

11/2 – So after my emotional morning we moved on through the village of Braga and stopped in Manang for lunch and the guys all proceeded to wash up in the back of one of the local restaurants while we waited for our lunch.  Manang is quite the neat village to walk through – we got lost amidst the 3-4 story stone buildings all built up on each other with mazes of walkways and no signs.  We could have avoided this I’m sure but was great to see that part of the old village.  After coming out of the city we started towards what we thought was the trail up to Kengsar but realized it was a side trail to a beautiful glacier lake, Ganggapurna Lake, which is the result of the Ganggapurna Glacier coming down the mountain creating a gorgeous blue lake.

The lake was a must see, especially since we could get a little cup of coffee at a little hut on the lakeside.  I am soooo glad we ended up there, it was sunny and warm and I started to think about jumping in the lake for the hell of it.  I felt like my morning was deserving of a big restart and what better way to do it than plunge headfirst into a glacier lake.  Before the guys could be convinced I was going to do it I jumped behind a rock, whipped off my clothes and sprinted into the silty blue water. I came up catching my breath, unable to even make a noise for a moment and realized I was completely covered in gray slimey mud/silt.  I was sinking up past my knees with every step trying to get out and was nearly impossible to rinse off in the water because all the silt was stirred up.  Thankfully the guy running the little coffee shop had a large black tank of water semi-warmed by the sun that he let me rinse off with.  It truly was warm in the sun so I laid on a warm rock and dried off.  We got back on track for Kengsar our final destination for the day.  I officially earned the title of ‘The Crazy American Girl’ after that – if only the guys knew all my friends and fmaily back home!! 

After a while I was hiking a bit ahead and we came over a big suspension bridge and climbed up an icy/muddy couple hundred feet – the guys thought that was crazy and it was a bit scary but I could only imagine what we are going to see on our way to Tilicho – much more than that. I ran into a Canadian hiker and hiked the rest of the way to Kengsar with him since it was getting cold and I didn’t want to stop and wait, letting my sweat get icy cold is not a good idea.  We had met 2 nice younger Nepali doctors earlier in the day that were trekking to Tilicho as well (they worked in the village of Besishara) and I managed to find them in a hotel.  They had told a hiker coming down to stop and tell the 3 Nepali guys and one Americal girl what hotel to go to.  So the guys knew where to find me without my having to stand out and wait for them thankfully.  I got changed out of my wet bra and stinky clothes and realized I was carrying some extra mud in my bra – hilarious since I only have one bra I brought it up to the kitchen and had hot chocolate and dried my silty under garments out by the fire.  We had dinner of Dhal Bat and other than Parash beginning to feel a bit sick we were happy to get some sleep and head for basecamp in the morning!

11/3 Kengsar to Tilicho Base Camp!!!!

UP and out by 7:30 – Today’s hike was awesome – landslides were the highlight – the landscape was soo unexpected for me it was sandy and rocky and craggy and just amazing walking all day. The guys and two doctors and ireland guy were pretty surprised by the technical difficulty. Parash’s brother is exhausted after the day and we will have to talk him into the lake hike in the morning – he has to come!! We had lunch at 10:30 in Palgnay Khadka and made it to basecamp by about 2:00.  Snow and cold but warm sun made it all worth it. I didn’t think the hiking was too strenuous at all Rick was right I would be able to do it on my own just fine although we did come to a pass that had rockslide in the middle of the huge landslide and the doctors guide/porter ‘Santa’ was extremely helpful in keeping us safe standing in the loose rocks and making sure we all got past him safely. The room is the most rustic room I can say I’ve been in. The rock walls around the ceiling and concrete are falling apart so when someone steps hard above little pieces fall down – I’m wondering if I should wear a helmet to bed – at least protect my head with a hat of somesort!! I’m feeling great other than gasey from the food – dinner of dahl bat is coming at 6:30 and we are getting up at 5:30am I think to be hiking by 6:30 – I think that will get us there by 10:00 but we’ll see.  

11/4 Hike to the Highest Lake in the World – The weather was sunny and warm after the chill of the morning wore off.  We left with 5 other Nepali trekking tourists which made for a great group of us trudging up the snowy icy landslides.  I started with two trekking poles and my sunglasses but within the first 1/2 hour I donated my poles one at a time to 2 different people in far greater need than I.  Even though I was only in trail running shoes and the Nepali guys wee in boots I seemed to have much better traction on the ice and snow so I opted to give up my sticks.  Then Parash was having trouble with his eyes and the bright snow so I donated my sunglasses to him and ended up with a trendy pair of square clear lens glasses that did nothing but improve my stylish appearance:)  We were up to the lake and celebrating our accomplishment by about 10:30 and I was sad to see I could not get down to the lake and swim because of the steep bank and ridiculous amount of additional hiking up in deep snow I would have to do.   We got pictures and had some noodle soup and tea then trudged our way back to basecamp arriving at about 2:00 to have some dhal bat and head out to make it to Siri Kharka back along the crazy miles of landslides.  It was a long day of trekking and I slept like a baby that night!

Onto my solo trek over Thorong La Pass – Trekking the Annapurna Circuit and meeting great new people, seeing amazing beauty everday.  Namaste :)

Tilicho Lake Trek continues…..

So my trek continued from Hongde to Kengsar on 11/2/15.

We had a great breakfast in the kitchen of the teahouse. It is nice to travel amidst the Nepali friends and families because you get to see a more natural and everyday way of life throughout the villages and our stops along the way. As a tourist trekker sometimes the only thing you can really communicate to the locals is how much the cost for sleeping and eating is so I have found myself really seeking out Nepali friends and conversations everywhere I go because I feel much more welcomed and at home being able to communicate with the people who I come into contact with.  It was cold and cozy around the fire for breakfast, watching the woman work in the kitchen to put our food out in front of us. I had a new bread called Phapar Roti (a buckwheat pancake) and continue to learn all the Nepali words as I go.

As we hiked out that day I felt some loneliness in my heart. I felt mad at God and wasn’t sure how to express the anger besides tear up and walk faster just reeling with thoughts about where I was in all of this traveling and living. I didn’t ask to be divorced and I seemed to feel more shameful recently about where I was in all of it partially because in this culture getting a divorce is looked upon much like it was in the United States 50 years ago, it’s just not accepted or nearly as common. What strikes me is hearing a few times from Nepali’s that “we dont get married twice”! I just want to scream next time I hear something like this. It’s just another example of how sometimes the things people say can bring up such feelings of failure or sadness when it comes to the changes I have experienced in the past 2 years. No one gets married and has a thought about getting divorced on their wedding day. It was beautiful marriage for many years we loved and shared and stuck through so much. We experienced great joys and pains along the way and when it came to dealing with real life as everyone must do; finances, jobs, death, sadness, hurt, pain, loneliness we simply grew apart rather than together. 

So that day I hurt thinking about being with someone side by side going through life together and how wonderful I felt and how normal it all seemed to be when a strong, loving, kind, hard working man was part of my life. Mike was all those things but things changed and we didn’t survive the fight. I really can’t change how we dealt with things – the divorce is final I can’t rewind the clock but I can cherish the memories and the strength I have gained knowing I have so much more to share. This is where the past can zap the present and future from us – remaining hurt, resentful, ashamed or bitter is a slippery slope to lost time. It’s a new chapter for me and I can remain feeling shameful and out of place, being divorced and cast away or I can embrace what it is and be a stronger better woman from all of the things I have experienced and survived.  I will choose to be stronger to fight harder and to keep hope in my heart that life is right where it is supposed to be.

So I was angry for a good bit of time that day and I knew that Parash was aware of my emotions as he asked how I was and even encouraged me at one point to ‘let it go.’  I did I screamed out over a river for God to stop giving me what seemed to be far too much pain and emptiness in my heart.  I actually made the guys stop and count to 3 to yell as loud as we could because I really felt like just bursting apart at the seams.  I told Parash I was feeling pain in my heart and it had nothing to do with the trek or the situation unfolding around the group and us.  I wanted things to be different sometimes, I wanted a family, I wanted to be traveling alongside my partner for life, experiencing these new things with the intense exciting love of another but for some reason God felt me strong enough to be in this place but I wasn’t always ready to take on what he gave. Grief continues to come in waves and can be almost paralyzing and unbearable at times being here in Nepal by myself and not knowing the language can make the feelings multiply.  It was simply a time that loneliness had set in and took hold and I was thankful at that moment to be surrounded by new friends that I could trust to just let go and not be ashamed of who I was in that moment.  So on we went toward the next stop and I cleared the cobwebs with each new step knowing my future was in my hands and no one else held that power. I will share more from the trek later as for now I guess I needed to clear up some thoughts and forget the story telling:) 

It was Mike’s birthday yesterday (11/9) which brought about more reason to write and process after re-reading my words from the day on 11/2 and 11/3.  I am missing my dogs Sadie and Peanut, as they are with Mike and I haven’t been able to reach him since I started this journey in September.  I can only pray everyone is healthy back home and no news is good news.

I start back out today from a village called Tatopani on the Annapurna circuit with much hope in my heart that I will continue finding peace and joy and common fellowship with others out on the same journey.  I’m focusing on controlling only what I can today, staying safe and healthy on the road to my next stop in Ghorapani.  

Thank You Tatopani for the rest stop and swim in the hot springs- it was a much needed recharge!

God Bless and Namaste from the Annapurna Circuit!!

Tilicho Lake Trek in the Annapurna Region of the Himalayas

My trek to the highest lake in the world, Tilicho Lake, has been successful so far and continues to bring new adventure everyday in the Annapurna Region of the Himalayas.  I have made some great Nepali friends in the short time I’ve been in this country and my recent trekking journey began with one of my Nepali brothers, Parash, his brother Numbish and their uncle Suraj.  The weather is getting colder and none of the guys are serious trekkers so we took it slow. We ggot dropped off in chaos of the ‘bussing area of Kathmandu where the guys told me to hang back since my white face would only cost them more to travel!  They ended up getting us our 7 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Besishara for $5.00.  At one point we started in the back of the bus, then we switched buses in Dumre, where we got on top of the bus, after riding for just a bit we stopped for lunch at a local roadside stand for Dal Bhat (of course) then proceeded to get on top of the bus for another 1/2 hour until the the police indicated we had to get off of the roof.  Due to the petro crisis they are being far more lenient on allowing people on the rooftops but in some areas it is just too dangerous.  We were definetly  climbing in elevation along the cliffs where I would rather be on top of the bus so I can jump off….I just heard of a public bus leaving Kathmandu that fell 100’s of meters and killed 70 people.  It is risky traveling in the country by any means but especially up in the mountains where landslides and washouts are constantly changing the road locations. 

We got into Besishara at 7:30 and walked around looking for a hotel Shree told us about which we never found.  Shree is another Nepali ‘brother’ I’ve come to know in Bhaktapur while staying at his hotel, Bhaktapur Paradise Hotel, he also  manages iTrek Nepal and New Hope Society which is the charity I have been working with. After walking the village streets in the dark and listening to these guys talk Nepali to everyone I just hung back and waited to hear where we were landing for the night.  I have no doubt I am in good hands and the trip is going to be quite inexpensive because I am with locals who are negotiating everything down to the dollar ;) It cost us $1.50 to stay at the hotel – it was a common room but noone else was there.  More dal bhat for dinner and we shared a few beers before heading to bed.  From Besishara in the morning we proceeded to get into a jeep for more adventure up the winding, rocky, cliff side road.  The  jeep ride to Chame was quite the journey, taking over 8 hours and 3 people had to sit on all the bags in the back of the jeep facing the rear as we bounced our way up over 1500 meters of elevation getting stuck and having the kid jump off the back every 1/2 hour to ‘rebuild’ the road.  It was nothing short of terrifying!  


A dangerous jeep ride to Chame
 We saw some amazing waterfalls, a beautiful rainbow, sunlit valleys and never-ending landslides.  A 35 yr old woman who also rode in the jeep with us was teaching at a school way up in a small village for the last 1.5 years.  She has taken this jeep ride at least 8 times and flown over 4 times just to go back into civilization for a bit at a time.  We dropped her off in this quaint little village.




The 8 hour jeep ride kept me bouncing all the way into my sleeping bag that night- it was bumpy as hell and have never been in such a dangerous road that long! In Chame we got 2 rooms and readied ourselves to finally hike to Hongde.  Mainly road walking but will feel good to not be in a jeep and see some mountain landscapes! 

After only a few hours of hiking toward Hongde the first day Parash’s brother opted to hitch a ride on the back of a motorcycle with the 2 backpacks the guys had and he waited for the remaining 3 of us to arrive later in the day.  I continued to carry my pack and looked forward to the trek although it seemed my Nepali brothers were a bit more hesitant in their enthusiasm for hiking!   

More amazing details to come as we conquered the trek to Lake Tilicho.  I swam in a glacier lake just outside of Manang and continued to take on Thorung La Pass solo in the freezing temperatures at 5400 meters. I continue to feel safe and inspired to keep breathing in the fresh mountain air.  

Sneak Peak at what’s to come…


Tilicho Lake – The highest lake in the world
Enroute to Tilicho Lake
Landslides on the way to Tilicho Lake

New Hope Society efforts continue amidst the petro crisis in Nepal

Nepal has my heart and I can’t say it any other way.  I’m at my office today (a rooftop table and chair looking over Bhaktapur) relaxing and taking the day off from the always present Nepali itinerary.  It is time to rest and reflect on what all of these amazing moments mean to me in the present day.  

It’s been a beautiful month in Nepal beginning with a week of work on a school up in the village of Mali Gaon (near Bhaktapur) where the our New Hope Society crew completed the installation and painting of iron railings, cleared heaps of rubble and mud from the collapsed classrooms.  I had the heart-melting experience of measuring all of the 50+ children for new uniforms which are complete with tops, bottoms, belts, shoes and socks.  We will be delivering the last of the shoes and belts on Friday.

We are continuing the mission after returning from my trek in the Everest Region and some tourist time in Thamel, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur.  I’ve gotten a full cultural experience in the past week throughout the festival of Dashain and now the daily life resumes for the Nepali people and children are back in school.  The school we are continuing to aide is a few miles up the mountainside and it is quite the experience just getting there.  With the countries ongoing fuel shortage due to cut off supplies from the Indian border we are making due with whatever type of transportation we can and this sometimes includes making a ‘Nepali Sandwich’ as I decided to call it.  Putting 3 of us on a motorbike or scooter and making our way up the steep inclines – sometimes jumping off to allow the bike to navigate the roads!  We have also ridden on the top of a bus, in the back of a truck and even trudged our way up on foot to see the work to be completed.   

The upcoming projects we are aiming to complete in the next week and some days include painting the rusted metal doors and windows of the school as well as the interior classrooms.  I am going to enjoy painting the classrooms as I am hoping to get some colorful paint and have come up with some creative and colorful ideas to inspire and cheer the children as they continue to fill the classrooms and learn about all of the people, places and things that this great world encompasses.  I am taking suggestions on art for the walls and hope to include the alphabet, numbers and various cheerful pictures.  The school is a lower secondary school with children from 3-12.  The supplies are limited, there is no electricity and the children wear their winter jackets and warm clothing in the classroom for the months of winter here.  The roof is not attached to the building and the it is simple concrete wall construction with thin metal doors and windows.  Due to there being no electricity they need natural light from the space between the roof and the walls but this also means the wind takes every bit of warmth from the inside as they are perched on a high hill.

A wonderful part of this effort that can be seen and felt around the school is the new inspiration we have given the teachers and elders in the area to put time, energy and love into the school for their children.  After leaving for a week and returning they had independantly cleared 2 more classrooms of rubble, there are plants and flowers planted along the newly installed fence on the hillside and the classroom floors and overall appearance is clean.  Doing this work encourages local support and involvement as they wish to see the school systems grow.  Speaking to some teachers on our last visit they said that they have reached out to the teachers in the surrounding villages to take part in sharing their teaching methods and education for themselves as well.  It is a learning experience for absolutely everyone involved from the smallest child to the most elder.  

If you are looking to donate time, supplies or dollars to an established and locally impacting charity in the country of Nepal I urge you to visit the websites of New Hope Society and please feel free to contact me if you have other questions in that regard.  We can work with the logistics here and will do everything we can to keep helping those far less fortunate.  This is continuing to be a personal trip for my own growth and healing in addition to becoming passionate about a cause that is so very present in my time here.

Namaste Family and Friends