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…..in 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.

http://www.newhopesocietyusa.com

Namaste Family and Friends

Namche to Dhole

Our weather was superb for the entire 15 day trek in the Everest Region and now that we have landed in town for a bit I can catch up on the daily trekking diary!  We left from Namche Bazaar (Rick, Grayson, Shree and myself) on October 4th continuing to see the craziest of weighted down porters who carry absolutely everything including appliances/building materials and even the kitchen sink – literally.  There are weight limits for the tourist porters and you will see even the day packs of some of these hikers outweigh my main pack.  Porters get paid apx. 80 cents to 1$ per kilo which is equivalent to 2.2lbs. The tourism porters have maximum weight of apx. 35 kilos and the local porters have no limits and seem to always have at least 70+ kilos and can be as young as 10 or 12.  Most are men and boys but you will see some woman carrying items from village to village but usually they are gathering yak dung and plants/food and they are not doing it for money only their own needs.  Leaving our lunch spot in Mongo a young girl (16 at the most) left with us carrying 80lbs of rice to stock the teahouse up in Dhole that her family also owns. She hiked just as fast as we did carrying her load from a strap on her head which is how they all carry their loads.  We had lunch in Mongo where Grayson and Rick took small naps and we are at the front of the high trekking season and the route we are taking is not a common one – many would choose this second over the EBC hike and not see this Gokyo Valley – they are missing out – even Rick who has seen much of this range is really blown away by the beauty all the way.

We hiked on to Dhole at 4200m feeling no pain or issues from the altitude. Shree is a bit slower but doing well he is most worried for himself going over the Renjo La Pass but we have no worries about his ability to do it.  It’s nice being on a trek that no one has been on so it’s all new beauty for us all. We had dinner at our teahouse after having some serious wi-fi discussion and attempts with the owner who in the end couldn’t get it to work – Grayson and I shared a room while Rick and Shree shared a room. We played some Eukre after teaching Grayson and Shree, we had bought cards in Namche. We were also promised a nice warm fire when the woman told us to stay at her teahouse and that turned into quite the pitiful fire but all of us were ready for bed at 8:30 anyway – hiker midnight comes early! It will continue to get colder in the evenings at altitude – during the day I am hiking in t-shirt still. Shree and Grayson seem a bit colder blooded used to warmer weather hats and gloves and long sleeves even to sleep. The best tea comes one after another around here (lemon/black/ginger among others) however we scored on finding hot chocolate and Oreos last night which was like nirvana in a cup!! Mmm onto the next day in the mountains!

Lukla to Namche Bazaar

We headed out on our first trek surviving the flight and landing into Lukla, considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world for good reason….its 400 yeards long and at least a 20 degree pitch helping to stop you flying in and give you speed flying out.  Beautiful weather has allowed us to see some of the most breathtaking views of the Everest Region and the giant peaks towering above us all day long as we slog onward and upward from teahouse to teahouse.  It’s been a different sense of hiking all together not having to use a tent and cook my meals – the culture of trekking in the Himilayas consists of little lodges called teahouses that are cheap to stay as long as you eat there as well.  Common foods are Fried or Steamed MoMo’s (like a ravioli) with anything from meat to veggies or potatoes.  Sherpa stew which is broth with cabbage, potatoes, meat (sometimes), noodles and other various veggies.

We started our hike out of Lukla with a stop  at a ‘Starbucks’ of all places (not sure starbucks knows about this operation) lol… then we got on to the trail. We first passed through Chheplung at 2660m seeing a hotel guest returning from his hike with one of the iTrek guides so a stop for tea was in order to chat and see his photos.  We moved along to Pahkding 2610m for lunch at a teahouse and then onto Monjo 2835m where we stayed at The Mini Tibet teahouse for 1 dollar per person. Grayson Rick and I shared a room with 3 beds in it was not bad at all and the custom is that you would eat at the teahouse you stay so that is why the rooms are very cheap. We slept like babies – we thought that it was 2 or 3 in the morning when we heard drums and I looked out the window to see people carrying big balls of fire – turns out it was only 10 pm and the ceremony was for a funeral they do this on the 13th and 49th day after the death of the person. they only go a few houses down each way from the home of the person who died and then they put the fire on the ground and Rick said he thought they werre trying to start the teahouse on fire because there was a stretch of burning ground right in front of our place he could see from his window…..the traditions of the Nepalese are just around every corner it’s nice to have Shree along to explain and answer our questions about what’s going on.

we woke up in Monjo and had our brefakfast they had some Tibetan bread and egg I had apple panacake and hard boiled egg with some milk coffee!! mm mm every so often we get american looking food and its pretty nice change. On our way from Monjo to Namche it was only a 4 hour hike or so but up up up we went – in a matter of about 2.5 miles we climbed 700 meters – feeling good no real pain everyone is feeling good. We laugh because both Rick and Grayson have dealt with some sickness down in Bhaktupar but once you get up and get hiking seems like the body knows whats best for it. Shree is worried about his fitness but is just chugging along fine – we will keep listening to our bodies and making smart decisions about meters climbed in a day and adjust accordingly!!

Prime Minister and Classy Flying

Just shook hands with the former prime minister of Pakistan in the Dubai airport – had to ask the onlookers who it was of course like I would pick him out in a crowd!! Just one of those things you can say you’ve done in your life;)

Goodbyes were tearful as I walked into security and headed onto my next adventure. Its been a mixed bag of emotions that is for sure as I always measured my worth and value by the level of productivity I gave in a job and leaving that behind not knowing the next direction has been a real raw experience.  Making me dig down into what really matters to me and how I deem happiness I guess.

The trip started out giving me a good perspective that you can’t plan for everything. I had to watch my backpack filled with my life’s essentials be checked in  and disappear behind the black plastic flaps on the baggage escalator and I can only hope I see it on the other side.  I couldn’t take it due to weight and that was unplanned but I grabbed my technology, medications and shoes knowing if I lost the rest I’m buying it all in Nepal!  So welcome to taking life as it comes!!

So here I sit at the Dubai Airport……ready to board after a luxurious flight here complete with menu of amazing food and complimentary wine and drinks.  Got a warm wash cloth, sleeping mask, socks, toothbrush and had a touchscreen tv to play all I wanted so the 14 hour flight here went by in a breeze!!  We’ll see what I get on the next one – only 4 hours from the final destination.

I had a 9 hour layover and almost left the airport by geting my passport stamped as a visitor visa and it sure would have another adventure in itself to see Dubai but after assesssing the public transit and being asked if I needed a taxi and proceeding to follow a gentlemen ony to realize he was going to the parking garage I said sorry I’m not interested in your taxi services and shot back out making the decision not having cell service or wi-fi was putting me in a hard place if I had any issues whatsoever.  Back into the airport and happy moms everywhere I am sure hearing that!!  I then realized my connecting flight was from a different terminal all together and needed to take a taxi – well they have pink topped taxis designated and driven by women.  Very nice and great little lady gave me the 10 minute ride.

I have a few remaining dirham dollars to bring home and bought a small backpack afterall because all that crap didnt fit into the airline bag and was hanging out everywhere.  UPdates in Nepal are that Rick and Grayson begin building a wall for lady who only has 3 and not 4. They are planning a delivery of 100 blankets to villagers before winter weather hits and discussion are being had about clearing a road to a village blocked by debris from the quake.  I’m going to good places and ready to take part. ONto the challenges and accomplishments we get to experience everyday as we assits as needed and also take a 8 day trek amidst the help!!!  More to come soon.   Apologies on typos I re-wrote this after losing it all the first time – uggghh

Namaste – Lady M preparing to fly