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Archive for September, 2009

A new caste

9-30
Kutumumsang to Chisopni 2180m
“Good no rain, we can take the local route” proclaimed my able guide. I have been on ladders that were not that steep, but I resigned myself not to let those 7 year old girls who were carrying 15 kilo of millet each beat me to the top. I should have left my ego at the bottom of the dry water fall that was the local route. Two thirds up and my shirt poured rather than drip sweat off the tail.  At the top I was on my knees not sure whether I should ask for salvation or simply death.
I finally figured out our plan.  After studying the miniature map in the guide book and piecing information together, I realized we were walking back to KTM-or nearly so.  Up a ridge to a saddle, down a ridge to a saddle, repeat. But the landscapes are amazing and we are now into a new caste area that is dominated by Hindu rather then Buddhist of the high elevations. While brutally hot and humid these low lands are dotted with homes, people, cows, goats, chickens, ox, dogs, buffalo, and even a non-black cat.
In Nepal when you are trekking a route, you are simply following an ancient route that has been named as a trekking route. The PCT this is not, and to call much of the last several days a trail is quite optimistic.  Rather, a landslide clears the vegetation and that slide, as if ordained, becomes the new route up or down. Six hours of this and your knees are begging for salvation.
Having a local guide is great and given that Angin is so well liked along the trail, I get the benefit of traveling with him, and thus receive excellent treatment and service.  And when we walked into the local bar tonight, as we grow near the end of our trek, I felt at home playing pool on a table with felt so thin you could see through to the slate below.
This town has some limited road access to vehicles (motorcycles only) but I am unsure as to why.  Never mind, I am sure.  If three young men can get a bike here why wouldn’t they.  One runs the clutch, one pushes or holds the bike back on down hills, and one pulls on the assents and try’s to slow the bike while not getting run over on the descents. Yea, I would try to get my bike here. Standing around we diagnosed the bike’s problems and get cheers from the local crowd when we get her to fire – only to hear moans as she dies when the clutch is let out. I know just enough, thanks to Dan my friend mechanic man, back home to know that the problem is fuel/air; oh if I  only had a different needle for this carburetor to compensate for the altitude, I could be king for a day.
Sometimes food just shows up. Today as I write a plate of spicy curry and potatoes combined with a dry rolled grain appears before me and Angin.  Ok, push the spoon aside with approving nods and use only the right hand to mix and transport food to mouth.
Today’s diet worked: Two boiled eggs, and black tea with sugar for breakfast; walk 2 hours and score a 500ml coke (plastic bottle and I don’t care); walk 2 hours for Ramen and a milk tea (milk slightly curdled but sugar cut it well), walk 2 hours and rely on Chili Verde burrito I ate back on August 27th to get me up the last hill; reach lodge and enjoy and Sprite and thank God and Warren Buffet for ensuring Coca Cola Bottling Company is still number one in Nepal and provides Coke, Fanta Orange, and Sprite to guys like me.

Kutumumsang to Chisopni 2180m

terraces

Millet and corn

“Good no rain, we can take the local route” proclaimed my able guide. I have been on ladders that were not that steep, but I resigned myself not to let those 7 year old girls who were carrying 15 kilo of millet each beat me to the top. I should have left my ego at the bottom of the dry water fall that was the local route. Two thirds up and my shirt poured rather than drip sweat off the tail.  At the top I was on my knees not sure whether I should ask for salvation or simply death.

I finally figured out our plan.  After studying the miniature map in the guide book and piecing information together, I realized we were walking back to KTM-or nearly so.  Up a ridge to a saddle, down a ridge to a saddle, repeat. But the landscapes are amazing and we are now into a new caste area that is dominated by Hindu rather then Buddhist of the high elevations. While brutally hot and humid these low lands are dotted with homes, people, cows, goats, chickens, ox, dogs, buffalo, and even a non-black cat.

In Nepal when you are trekking a route, you are simply following an ancient route that has been named as a trekking route. The PCT this is not, and to call much of the last several days a trail is quite optimistic.  Rather, a landslide clears the vegetation and that slide, as if ordained, becomes the new route up or down. Six hours of this and your knees are begging for salvation.

Having a local guide is great and given that Angin is so well liked along the trail, I get the benefit of traveling with him, and thus receive excellent treatment and service.  And when we walked into the local bar tonight, as we grow near the end of our trek, I felt at home playing pool on a table with felt so thin you could see through to the slate below.

This town has some limited road access to vehicles (motorcycles only) but I am unsure as to why.  Never mind, I am sure.  If three young men can get a bike here why wouldn’t they.  One runs the clutch, one pushes or holds the bike back on down hills, and one pulls on the assents and try’s to slow the bike while not getting run over on the descents. Yea, I would try to get my bike here. Standing around we diagnosed the bike’s problems and get cheers from the local crowd when we get her to fire – only to hear moans as she dies when the clutch is let out. I know just enough, thanks to Dan my friend mechanic man, back home to know that the problem is fuel/air; oh if I  only had a different needle for this carburetor to compensate for the altitude, I could be king for a day.

Sometimes food just shows up. Today as I write a plate of spicy curry and potatoes combined with a dry rolled grain appears before me and Angin.  Ok, push the spoon aside with approving nods and use only the right hand to mix and transport food to mouth.

Today’s diet worked: Two boiled eggs, and black tea with sugar for breakfast; walk 2 hours and score a 500ml coke (plastic bottle and I don’t care); walk 2 hours for Ramen and a milk tea (milk slightly curdled but sugar cut it well), walk 2 hours and rely on Chili Verde burrito I ate back on August 27th to get me up the last hill; reach lodge and enjoy and Sprite and thank God and Warren Buffet for ensuring Coca Cola Bottling Company is still number one in Nepal and provides Coke, Fanta Orange, and Sprite to guys like me.

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Got water buffalo?

9-29
When Angin awoke me from a short nap before dinner, I was shaking violently.  I sat up and immediately threw up all over the floor – the hand hewn logs had ample vomit gaps and the mess disappeared to the earth below. Not sure what was wrong with me but the combination of poor diet, high altitude, and walking in the rain for 8 hours may be a factor.
At some point the rain always penetrates your best defenses. Sweating from the complete humidity, It first hits you neck like a squirming ice cube, follows you spine as you brace, runs down your ass crack for a second cleaning, and ultimately ends up in your shoe. Like New Zealand, in Nepal you have to be careful as you can go from so very hot to so very cold, so very quickly.
Playing with my diet and simple is good.  Oat porridge or a hard boiled egg for breakfast along with black tea.  But be careful as the very tasty oats are unrefined and will most likely have several rocks mixed in.  For lunch I have been sticking to noodle soups and like everywhere the soup is as good as the kitchen it came from. Some contain homemade noodles and are seasoned beautifully and some are literally the Asian version of Top Ramen.
Bamboo, Cedar, pine, a type of Madrone, and ferms all within meters of each other.  What a diverse flora; and species so far up the slope (at home, this is above timberline).
Down slope to a smoked filled tea house with “dinare hool” printed above the door, we stopped for warm liquids. Above the stove hung strips of meat that I had seen throughout the region in limited quantities, but had never seen on a menu or up close. I inquired out of curiously and was indeed told it was meat as I took a photo; no kidding. As I finished my tea and got ready to leave the women took down one of the strips and with a curved knife and brute force cut it into corn kernel sized pieces. Heating oil over the stove until it smoked she added onions to the black skillet, then seasoning, then a splash of water and ultimately the meat. Complete, she, surprisingly,  brought the plate of meat to me. I had decided, largely, to not order meat on this trip, but if it was offered out of kindness I would accept. The smaller pieces of meat and onions were good in that salty greasy way and the larger chunks tasked like old dirty boot leather. Actually really dirt boot.  After a lot of going back and forth I understood why.  The meat was specifically:  an old, male, water buffalo.
Regarding meat.  I LIKE it. I like it a LOT. But I have come to understand that the way we raise, produce, and distribute it in the states can only be described as environmentally sinful and morally wrong. That does not mean I do not eat it, I am just trying to be honest about the decision I am making; my like of meat out weighs my objections to how it get to my mouth. Interestingly, in Nepal meat is very limited and therefore it is used quite sparingly and in a sustainable manor. The diet here is dominated by plants. They have no choice, the land will not support a lot of meat production and thus that limited land must be used to produce the greatest (plants) return.
Witnessed high living trekking yesterday that a month ago I would have scorn. An older German man with a younger – drop dead (actually I was hoping he would drop dead….I wanted her) gorgeous French girlfriend or wife were traveling with 8 Nepalese; three porters, one guide, 2 cooks, 1 server, and 2 assistance.  Excessive?  Certainly, but this couple was providing good jobs for these local people; job good enough to support an extended family in a place that many live on less than $2 per day. I met another solo traveler who had three people working for him.  “What is that about?” I inquired.  “It is about giving back, sort of my way of sponsorship.  I employ this same family each year I come to Nepal, my friends here are brothers, and he is a son in law.  I go on a trek, go to their village, and pay for their children’s education….everyone wins and I feel good about it”.  Besides he continued “ If the children of these men are not educated, they will fall further prey to growing world economic gap and will be exploited further.  I am not advocating they give up their culture, just the opposite, but without education other will simply take their culture from them”.
9-30
Kutumumsang to Chisopni 2180m
“Good no rain, we can take the local route” proclaimed my able guide. I have been on ladders that were not that steep, but I resigned myself not to let those 7 year old girls who were carrying 15 kilo of millet each beat me to the top. I should have left my ego at the bottom of the dry water fall that was the local route. Two thirds up and my shirt poured rather than drip sweat off the tail.  At the top I was on my knees not sure whether I should ask for salvation or simply death.
I finally figured out our plan.  After studying the miniature map in the guide book and piecing information together, I realized we were walking back to KTM-or nearly so.  Up a ridge to a saddle, down a ridge to a saddle, repeat. But the landscapes are amazing and we are now into a new caste area that is dominated by Hindu rather then Buddhist of the high elevations. While brutally hot and humid these low lands are dotted with homes, people, cows, goats, chickens, ox, dogs, buffalo, and even a non-black cat.
In Nepal when you are trekking a route, you are simply following an ancient route that has been named as a trekking route. The PCT this is not, and to call much of the last several days a trail is quite optimistic.  Rather, a landslide clears the vegetation and that slide, as if ordained, becomes the new route up or down. Six hours of this and your knees are begging for salvation.
Having a local guide is great and given that Angin is so well liked along the trail, I get the benefit of traveling with him, and thus receive excellent treatment and service.  And when we walked into the local bar tonight, as we grow near the end of our trek, I felt at home playing pool on a table with felt so thin you could see through to the slate below.
This town has some limited road access to vehicles (motorcycles only) but I am unsure as to why.  Never mind, I am sure.  If three young men can get a bike here why wouldn’t they.  One runs the clutch, one pushes or holds the bike back on down hills, and one pulls on the assents and try’s to slow the bike while not getting run over on the descents. Yea, I would try to get my bike here. Standing around we diagnosed the bike’s problems and get cheers from the local crowd when we get her to fire – only to hear moans as she dies when the clutch is let out. I know just enough, thanks to Dan my friend mechanic man, back home to know that the problem is fuel/air; oh if I  only had a different needle for this carburetor to compensate for the altitude, I could be king for a day.
Sometimes food just shows up. Today as I write a plate of spicy curry and potatoes combined with a dry rolled grain appears before me and Angin.  Ok, push the spoon aside with approving nods and use only the right hand to mix and transport food to mouth.
Today’s diet worked: Two boiled eggs, and black tea with sugar for breakfast; walk 2 hours and score a 500ml coke (plastic bottle and I don’t care); walk 2 hours for Ramen and a milk tea (milk slightly curdled but sugar cut it well), walk 2 hours and rely on Chili Verde burrito I ate back on August 27th to get me up the last hill; reach lodge and enjoy and Sprite and thank God and Warren Buffet for ensuring Coca Cola Bottling Company is still number one in Nepal and provides Coke, Fanta Orange, and Sprite to guys like me.
9-29
When Angin awoke me from a short nap before dinner, I was shaking violently.  I sat up and immediately threw up all over the floor – the hand hewn logs had ample vomit gaps and the mess disappeared to the earth below. Not sure what was wrong with me but the combination of poor diet, high altitude, and walking in the rain for 8 hours may be a factor.
At some point the rain always penetrates your best defenses. Sweating from the complete humidity, It first hits you neck like a squirming ice cube, follows you spine as you brace, runs down your ass crack for a second cleaning, and ultimately ends up in your shoe. Like New Zealand, in Nepal you have to be careful as you can go from so very hot to so very cold, so very quickly.
Playing with my diet and simple is good.  Oat porridge or a hard boiled egg for breakfast along with black tea.  But be careful as the very tasty oats are unrefined and will most likely have several rocks mixed in.  For lunch I have been sticking to noodle soups and like everywhere the soup is as good as the kitchen it came from. Some contain homemade noodles and are seasoned beautifully and some are literally the Asian version of Top Ramen.
Bamboo, Cedar, pine, a type of Madrone, and ferms all within meters of each other.  What a diverse flora; and species so far up the slope (at home, this is above timberline).
Down slope to a smoked filled tea house with “dinare hool” printed above the door, we stopped for warm liquids. Above the stove hung strips of meat that I had seen throughout the region in limited quantities, but had never seen on a menu or up close. I inquired out of curiously and was indeed told it was meat as I took a photo; no kidding. As I finished my tea and got ready to leave the women took down one of the strips and with a curved knife and brute force cut it into corn kernel sized pieces. Heating oil over the stove until it smoked she added onions to the black skillet, then seasoning, then a splash of water and ultimately the meat. Complete, she, surprisingly,  brought the plate of meat to me. I had decided, largely, to not order meat on this trip, but if it was offered out of kindness I would accept. The smaller pieces of meat and onions were good in that salty greasy way and the larger chunks tasked like old dirty boot leather. Actually really dirt boot.  After a lot of going back and forth I understood why.  The meat was specifically:  an old, male, water buffalo.
Regarding meat.  I LIKE it. I like it a LOT. But I have come to understand that the way we raise, produce, and distribute it in the states can only be described as environmentally sinful and morally wrong. That does not mean I do not eat it, I am just trying to be honest about the decision I am making; my like of meat out weighs my objections to how it get to my mouth. Interestingly, in Nepal meat is very limited and therefore it is used quite sparingly and in a sustainable manor. The diet here is dominated by plants. They have no choice, the land will not support a lot of meat production and thus that limited land must be used to produce the greatest (plants) return.
Witnessed high living trekking yesterday that a month ago I would have scorn. An older German man with a younger – drop dead (actually I was hoping he would drop dead….I wanted her) gorgeous French girlfriend or wife were traveling with 8 Nepalese; three porters, one guide, 2 cooks, 1 server, and 2 assistance.  Excessive?  Certainly, but this couple was providing good jobs for these local people; job good enough to support an extended family in a place that many live on less than $2 per day. I met another solo traveler who had three people working for him.  “What is that about?” I inquired.  “It is about giving back, sort of my way of sponsorship.  I employ this same family each year I come to Nepal, my friends here are brothers, and he is a son in law.  I go on a trek, go to their village, and pay for their children’s education….everyone wins and I feel good about it”.  Besides he continued “ If the children of these men are not educated, they will fall further prey to growing world economic gap and will be exploited further.  I am not advocating they give up their culture, just the opposite, but without education other will simply take their culture from them”.
9-30
Kutumumsang to Chisopni 2180m
“Good no rain, we can take the local route” proclaimed my able guide. I have been on ladders that were not that steep, but I resigned myself not to let those 7 year old girls who were carrying 15 kilo of millet each beat me to the top. I should have left my ego at the bottom of the dry water fall that was the local route. Two thirds up and my shirt poured rather than drip sweat off the tail.  At the top I was on my knees not sure whether I should ask for salvation or simply death.
I finally figured out our plan.  After studying the miniature map in the guide book and piecing information together, I realized we were walking back to KTM-or nearly so.  Up a ridge to a saddle, down a ridge to a saddle, repeat. But the landscapes are amazing and we are now into a new caste area that is dominated by Hindu rather then Buddhist of the high elevations. While brutally hot and humid these low lands are dotted with homes, people, cows, goats, chickens, ox, dogs, buffalo, and even a non-black cat.
In Nepal when you are trekking a route, you are simply following an ancient route that has been named as a trekking route. The PCT this is not, and to call much of the last several days a trail is quite optimistic.  Rather, a landslide clears the vegetation and that slide, as if ordained, becomes the new route up or down. Six hours of this and your knees are begging for salvation.
Having a local guide is great and given that Angin is so well liked along the trail, I get the benefit of traveling with him, and thus receive excellent treatment and service.  And when we walked into the local bar tonight, as we grow near the end of our trek, I felt at home playing pool on a table with felt so thin you could see through to the slate below.
This town has some limited road access to vehicles (motorcycles only) but I am unsure as to why.  Never mind, I am sure.  If three young men can get a bike here why wouldn’t they.  One runs the clutch, one pushes or holds the bike back on down hills, and one pulls on the assents and try’s to slow the bike while not getting run over on the descents. Yea, I would try to get my bike here. Standing around we diagnosed the bike’s problems and get cheers from the local crowd when we get her to fire – only to hear moans as she dies when the clutch is let out. I know just enough, thanks to Dan my friend mechanic man, back home to know that the problem is fuel/air; oh if I  only had a different needle for this carburetor to compensate for the altitude, I could be king for a day.
Sometimes food just shows up. Today as I write a plate of spicy curry and potatoes combined with a dry rolled grain appears before me and Angin.  Ok, push the spoon aside with approving nods and use only the right hand to mix and transport food to mouth.

Today’s diet worked: Two boiled eggs, and black tea with sugar for breakfast; walk 2 hours and score a 500ml coke (plastic bottle and I don’t care); walk 2 hours for Ramen and a milk tea (milk slightly curdled but sugar cut it well), walk 2 hours and rely on Chili Verde burrito I ate back on August 27th to get me up the last hill; reach lodge and enjoy and Sprite and thank God and Warren Buffet for ensuring Coca Cola Bottling Company is still number one in Nepal and provides Coke, Fanta Orange, and Sprite to guys like me.

Not sure where I spend this night
stupa and lnagtang

Stupa below Langtang

When Angin awoke me from a short nap before dinner, I was shaking violently.  I sat up and immediately threw up all over the floor – the hand hewn logs had ample vomit gaps and the mess disappeared to the earth below. Not sure what was wrong with me but the combination of poor diet, high altitude, and walking in the rain for 8 hours may be a factor.

At some point the rain always penetrates your best defenses. Sweating from the complete humidity, It first hits you neck like a squirming ice cube, follows you spine as you brace, runs down your ass crack for a second cleaning, and ultimately ends up in your shoe. Like New Zealand, in Nepal you have to be careful as you can go from so very hot to so very cold, so very quickly.

Playing with my diet and simple is good.  Oat porridge or a hard boiled egg for breakfast along with black tea.  But be careful as the very tasty oats are unrefined and will most likely have several rocks mixed in.  For lunch I have been sticking to noodle soups and like everywhere the soup is as good as the kitchen it came from. Some contain homemade noodles and are seasoned beautifully and some are literally the Asian version of Top Ramen.

Bamboo, Cedar, pine, a type of Madrone, and ferms all within meters of each other.  What a diverse flora; and species so far up the slope (at home, this is above timberline).

Down slope to a smoked filled tea house with “dinare hool” printed above the door, we stopped for warm liquids. Above the stove hung strips of meat that I had seen throughout the region in limited quantities, but had never seen on a menu or up close. I inquired out of curiously and was indeed told it was meat as I took a photo; no kidding. As I finished my tea and got ready to leave the women took down one of the strips and with a curved knife and brute force cut it into corn kernel sized pieces. Heating oil over the stove until it smoked she added onions to the black skillet, then seasoning, then a splash of water and ultimately the meat. Complete, she, surprisingly,  brought the plate of meat to me. I had decided, largely, to not order meat on this trip, but if it was offered out of kindness I would accept. The smaller pieces of meat and onions were good in that salty greasy way and the larger chunks tasked like old dirty boot leather. Actually really dirt boot.  After a lot of going back and forth I understood why.  The meat was specifically:  an old, male, water buffalo.

Regarding meat.  I LIKE it. I like it a LOT. But I have come to understand that the way we raise, produce, and distribute it in the states can only be described as environmentally sinful and morally wrong. That does not mean I do not eat it, I am just trying to be honest about the decision I am making; my like of meat out weighs my objections to how it get to my mouth. Interestingly, in Nepal meat is very limited and therefore it is used quite sparingly and in a sustainable manor. The diet here is dominated by plants. They have no choice, the land will not support a lot of meat production and thus that limited land must be used to produce the greatest (plants) return.

Witnessed high living trekking yesterday that a month ago I would have scorn. An older German man with a younger – drop dead (actually I was hoping he would drop dead….I wanted her) gorgeous French girlfriend or wife were traveling with 8 Nepalese; three porters, one guide, 2 cooks, 1 server, and 2 assistance.  Excessive?  Certainly, but this couple was providing good jobs for these local people; job good enough to support an extended family in a place that many live on less than $2 per day. I met another solo traveler who had three people working for him.  “What is that about?” I inquired.  “It is about giving back, sort of my way of sponsorship.  I employ this same family each year I come to Nepal, my friends here are brothers, and he is a son in law.  I go on a trek, go to their village, and pay for their children’s education….everyone wins and I feel good about it”.  Besides he continued “ If the children of these men are not educated, they will fall further prey to growing world economic gap and will be exploited further.  I am not advocating they give up their culture, just the opposite, but without education other will simply take their culture from them”.

Read Full Post »

Sacred sites

9-28
Lanbrina yak to Gosainkundo 4300m
It rained hard and we awoke to spectacular views of Langtang, Annapurna, and the other massive mountains near and far. We walked the short 2 hours to the sacred lakes of the Hindu people and the site of a massive holy man pilgrimage during the monsoon season.  Beautiful place, but has nothing on the Sierra Nevada lakes of my home land.
Along the Langtang route we passed thousands of stone tablets that had the background rock chiseled away leaving only the raised letters of Buddhist mantra found throughout the region. They look like museum pieces each one, but here they are used as pavers, and line walls.  Prayer wheels/drums also containing  the same mantra are also prevalent throughout the region. The water prayer wheels are my favorite; a structure is built over a creek and a prayer drum is placed inside. The drum is attached to a shaft that is attached to a small blade at the bottom and placed in the moving water.  The blade is propelled by the water, thus turning the shaft and the prayer wheel – naturally and appropriately in a clock wise manor thus providing a constantly turning prayer. Some are painted beautifully in bright blues, reds, greens, and yellows and some are cast from rich brass.
Most tourist I have met have been delightful but there are exceptions.  Like Sara pointed out in Skorea, most of the young American military guys there are uneducated, culturally rude jerks.  Seems like there is a trend (age, military?), as I have ran across several groups of young Israeli men who have just completed there compulsory military service.  With notable exceptions, they seem to be low on money, high on expectations, and short on cultural respect.  Apparently this has not gone unnoticed and some lodges actually and, if they can afford it, refuse service; culturally this is very difficult for a Nepalese and they are a very warm and excepting culture – thus you know it is really bad behavior.
Differences do abound culturally.  For example, while Nepal language has a word for thank you it is used reservedly, whereas we use it all the time; even more so here as most tourist truly appreciate and are thankful for the service they receive.  Along the main routes it is not so noticeable but if you say thank you for a small thing in the more remote areas you will likely get some funny looks.  Conversely, if you expect a thank you, you may be disappointed.   We ran across a young man, that had a pretty nasty infection on the edge of his mouth.  Anjin, ask me I had any medicine, and we proceeded to doctor the guy up pretty well given what materials and limited expertise I had. When finished, he simply stood up and walked away.  So expectations can get you. I am pretty certain however, that that same man would do anything he could to help someone as well; that is the real expectation minus the niceties.
9-29
When Angin awoke me from a short nap before dinner, I was shaking violently.  I sat up and immediately threw up all over the floor – the hand hewn logs had ample vomit gaps and the mess disappeared to the earth below. Not sure what was wrong with me but the combination of poor diet, high altitude, and walking in the rain for 8 hours may be a factor.
At some point the rain always penetrates your best defenses. Sweating from the complete humidity, It first hits you neck like a squirming ice cube, follows you spine as you brace, runs down your ass crack for a second cleaning, and ultimately ends up in your shoe. Like New Zealand, in Nepal you have to be careful as you can go from so very hot to so very cold, so very quickly.
Playing with my diet and simple is good.  Oat porridge or a hard boiled egg for breakfast along with black tea.  But be careful as the very tasty oats are unrefined and will most likely have several rocks mixed in.  For lunch I have been sticking to noodle soups and like everywhere the soup is as good as the kitchen it came from. Some contain homemade noodles and are seasoned beautifully and some are literally the Asian version of Top Ramen.
Bamboo, Cedar, pine, a type of Madrone, and ferms all within meters of each other.  What a diverse flora; and species so far up the slope (at home, this is above timberline).
Down slope to a smoked filled tea house with “dinare hool” printed above the door, we stopped for warm liquids. Above the stove hung strips of meat that I had seen throughout the region in limited quantities, but had never seen on a menu or up close. I inquired out of curiously and was indeed told it was meat as I took a photo; no kidding. As I finished my tea and got ready to leave the women took down one of the strips and with a curved knife and brute force cut it into corn kernel sized pieces. Heating oil over the stove until it smoked she added onions to the black skillet, then seasoning, then a splash of water and ultimately the meat. Complete, she, surprisingly,  brought the plate of meat to me. I had decided, largely, to not order meat on this trip, but if it was offered out of kindness I would accept. The smaller pieces of meat and onions were good in that salty greasy way and the larger chunks tasked like old dirty boot leather. Actually really dirt boot.  After a lot of going back and forth I understood why.  The meat was specifically:  an old, male, water buffalo.
Regarding meat.  I LIKE it. I like it a LOT. But I have come to understand that the way we raise, produce, and distribute it in the states can only be described as environmentally sinful and morally wrong. That does not mean I do not eat it, I am just trying to be honest about the decision I am making; my like of meat out weighs my objections to how it get to my mouth. Interestingly, in Nepal meat is very limited and therefore it is used quite sparingly and in a sustainable manor. The diet here is dominated by plants. They have no choice, the land will not support a lot of meat production and thus that limited land must be used to produce the greatest (plants) return.
Witnessed high living trekking yesterday that a month ago I would have scorn. An older German man with a younger – drop dead (actually I was hoping he would drop dead….I wanted her) gorgeous French girlfriend or wife were traveling with 8 Nepalese; three porters, one guide, 2 cooks, 1 server, and 2 assistance.  Excessive?  Certainly, but this couple was providing good jobs for these local people; job good enough to support an extended family in a place that many live on less than $2 per day. I met another solo traveler who had three people working for him.  “What is that about?” I inquired.  “It is about giving back, sort of my way of sponsorship.  I employ this same family each year I come to Nepal, my friends here are brothers, and he is a son in law.  I go on a trek, go to their village, and pay for their children’s education….everyone wins and I feel good about it”.  Besides he continued “ If the children of these men are not educated, they will fall further prey to growing world economic gap and will be exploited further.  I am not advocating they give up their culture, just the opposite, but without education other will simply take their culture from them”.
9-30
Kutumumsang to Chisopni 2180m
“Good no rain, we can take the local route” proclaimed my able guide. I have been on ladders that were not that steep, but I resigned myself not to let those 7 year old girls who were carrying 15 kilo of millet each beat me to the top. I should have left my ego at the bottom of the dry water fall that was the local route. Two thirds up and my shirt poured rather than drip sweat off the tail.  At the top I was on my knees not sure whether I should ask for salvation or simply death.
I finally figured out our plan.  After studying the miniature map in the guide book and piecing information together, I realized we were walking back to KTM-or nearly so.  Up a ridge to a saddle, down a ridge to a saddle, repeat. But the landscapes are amazing and we are now into a new caste area that is dominated by Hindu rather then Buddhist of the high elevations. While brutally hot and humid these low lands are dotted with homes, people, cows, goats, chickens, ox, dogs, buffalo, and even a non-black cat.
In Nepal when you are trekking a route, you are simply following an ancient route that has been named as a trekking route. The PCT this is not, and to call much of the last several days a trail is quite optimistic.  Rather, a landslide clears the vegetation and that slide, as if ordained, becomes the new route up or down. Six hours of this and your knees are begging for salvation.
Having a local guide is great and given that Angin is so well liked along the trail, I get the benefit of traveling with him, and thus receive excellent treatment and service.  And when we walked into the local bar tonight, as we grow near the end of our trek, I felt at home playing pool on a table with felt so thin you could see through to the slate below.
This town has some limited road access to vehicles (motorcycles only) but I am unsure as to why.  Never mind, I am sure.  If three young men can get a bike here why wouldn’t they.  One runs the clutch, one pushes or holds the bike back on down hills, and one pulls on the assents and try’s to slow the bike while not getting run over on the descents. Yea, I would try to get my bike here. Standing around we diagnosed the bike’s problems and get cheers from the local crowd when we get her to fire – only to hear moans as she dies when the clutch is let out. I know just enough, thanks to Dan my friend mechanic man, back home to know that the problem is fuel/air; oh if I  only had a different needle for this carburetor to compensate for the altitude, I could be king for a day.
Sometimes food just shows up. Today as I write a plate of spicy curry and potatoe

Lanbrina yak to Gosainkundo 4300m

prayer flags at Hindu holy lake

Holy Hindu lake

It rained hard and we awoke to spectacular views of Langtang, Annapurna, and the other massive mountains near and far. We walked the short 2 hours to the sacred lakes of the Hindu people and the site of a massive holy man pilgrimage during the monsoon season.  Beautiful place, but has nothing on the Sierra Nevada lakes of my home land.

Along the Langtang route we passed thousands of stone tablets that had the background rock chiseled away leaving only the raised letters of Buddhist mantra found throughout the region. They look like museum pieces each one, but here they are used as pavers, and line walls.  Prayer wheels/drums also containing  the same mantra are also prevalent throughout the region. The water prayer wheels are my favorite; a structure is built over a creek and a prayer drum is placed inside. The drum is attached to a shaft that is attached to a small blade at the bottom and placed in the moving water.  The blade is propelled by the water, thus turning the shaft and the prayer wheel – naturally and appropriately in a clock wise manor thus providing a constantly turning prayer. Some are painted beautifully in bright blues, reds, greens, and yellows and some are cast from rich brass.

Most tourist I have met have been delightful but there are exceptions.  Like Sara pointed out in Skorea, most of the young American military guys there are uneducated, culturally rude jerks.  Seems like there is a trend (age, military?), as I have ran across several groups of young Israeli men who have just completed there compulsory military service.  With notable exceptions, they seem to be low on money, high on expectations, and short on cultural respect.  Apparently this has not gone unnoticed and some lodges actually and, if they can afford it, refuse service; culturally this is very difficult for a Nepalese and they are a very warm and excepting culture – thus you know it is really bad behavior.

Differences do abound culturally.  For example, while Nepal language has a word for thank you it is used reservedly, whereas we use it all the time; even more so here as most tourist truly appreciate and are thankful for the service they receive.  Along the main routes it is not so noticeable but if you say thank you for a small thing in the more remote areas you will likely get some funny looks.  Conversely, if you expect a thank you, you may be disappointed.   We ran across a young man, that had a pretty nasty infection on the edge of his mouth.  Anjin, ask me I had any medicine, and we proceeded to doctor the guy up pretty well given what materials and limited expertise I had. When finished, he simply stood up and walked away.  So expectations can get you. I am pretty certain however, that that same man would do anything he could to help someone as well; that is the real expectation minus the niceties.

Read Full Post »

Summer of 1984

9-27=09
Thulo sarabru to Laubrina yak 3550m
The camera is often intimidating and can actually separates you from the people you want to meet and interact with. But I am learning how to turn this around; first, show the kids photos, them “make” photo of them, show them photo, show mom photo when she ultimately comes over (she will), and show dad photo after mom insists he come over.  Employed tactic tonight as me and the kids ran around in the rain shooting video; back by the fire, we were “rock stars” as many of the tourist looked on in fear as we interacted with locals while playing our movies.
1984  was the summer of my youth and before this trip I ran across the music of that summer: Billy Idol’s Greatest Hits. I downloaded and figured it would be an embarrassment to current senses. Wrong, it is still a great album, and combined with hours of trail reflection….proves  a lot of water has gone under my keel. As a Sgt in the Marines  that year, I finally figured out how to game the system, set me up beautifully, and pissed off my Commanding Officer (CO) in one perfectly executed strategic and tactical move. You see, in the Corps, when good temporary duty assignments get issued the best or most qualified people never get rewarded and never receive the orders. Rather the “shit birds” get the duty as a way to export them out of the unit – pass the problem on in typical government fashion. Not this time. A friend lets me know that temporary orders have been issued for the civilian  swimming pool as a lifeguard.  “Hey, I have the Water Safety and Survival certificate that is needed for that posting, put my name in”.  To which he replied: “Are you flipping crazy, you are the senior platoon Sgt in this company, and the CO would never allow that”. You are right I said, “Don’t tell the old man, simply submit my name as someone who is qualified per the request”.  Now a Marine will never “Lie, cheat or steal” but when the light colonel called me into his office spitting mad, I denied any knowledge of these orders out of the Infantry and into the swimming pool.  And given that they were signed by a one star, there wasn’t a thing he could do; I packed my bags, turned in my gas mask and M16, took my shirt off and got a tan.  That is how I spend the summer of 84, and my last 6 months in the USMC as the senior base swimming pool lifeguard while listening to Billy Idol. And that was the summer that I finally broke the jinx. Mind you, I was not a virgin as I had spent two tours in the western pacific, but I thinking  that spending $10 on a drink had something to do with my luck there. So the kid who joined the military as a junior in high school – where I drove a 69 F150 pickup truck complete with a gun rack and lariat hanging from it while listening to outlaw country, found Billy Idol and women.  We partied hard, sang “With a rebel yell, she cried more more more”, and found that senior officer’s daughters liked the risk of sleeping with enlisted men as much as we did.
For several kilometers today we followed a 5 year old boy up a very steep trail as he moved his 5 family ox to the higher pasture.  He wore rubber boots that were 4 sizes to large and carried a bamboo switch that he would swat or throw at these mostly uncooperative beast; rocks were used as well. After he realized I was marginally competent and he showed my a few moves, including grabbing the ox’s tail while pulling it forward as you walk towards their head,  he assumed the leadership role up front and I brought up the rear as fear of getting kicked gripped me. I held together however for one simple reason; who wants to be shown up by a kid not much taller than my knee?
We also came upon a funeral gathering today.  I was clueless and kept happily saying “Namaste” to everyone, until I realized something was off. When I asked Angin, he said that an elder member of the village had died.  We were taking a local short cut and at this point we needed directions.  When we inquired, we were assigned a 7 year old girl to be our guide.  I think she was happy to be away from the grief as she skipped up the goat path to our next key intersection all the while telling other homes about the deceased.
Now I know something about short cuts and if you do not believe me you can ask my dad;  he has scares to prove how competent I am in this department. This was no different; straight up a ridge for 5 hours and 700 meters. No tourist however as we crossed small potato patches and an occasional apple tree. At one small home I saw a coke sitting in a bucket of water – just in case someone did come this route and had a 100 rupee note in their pocket….hey that’s me.
9-28
Lanbrina yak to Gosainkundo 4300m
It rained hard and we awoke to spectacular views of Langtang, Annapurna, and the other massive mountains near and far. We walked the short 2 hours to the sacred lakes of the Hindu people and the site of a massive holy man pilgrimage during the monsoon season.  Beautiful place, but has nothing on the Sierra Nevada lakes of my home land.
Along the Langtang route we passed thousands of stone tablets that had the background rock chiseled away leaving only the raised letters of Buddhist mantra found throughout the region. They look like museum pieces each one, but here they are used as pavers, and line walls.  Prayer wheels/drums also containing  the same mantra are also prevalent throughout the region. The water prayer wheels are my favorite; a structure is built over a creek and a prayer drum is placed inside. The drum is attached to a shaft that is attached to a small blade at the bottom and placed in the moving water.  The blade is propelled by the water, thus turning the shaft and the prayer wheel – naturally and appropriately in a clock wise manor thus providing a constantly turning prayer. Some are painted beautifully in bright blues, reds, greens, and yellows and some are cast from rich brass.
Most tourist I have met have been delightful but there are exceptions.  Like Sara pointed out in Skorea, most of the young American military guys there are uneducated, culturally rude jerks.  Seems like there is a trend (age, military?), as I have ran across several groups of young Israeli men who have just completed there compulsory military service.  With notable exceptions, they seem to be low on money, high on expectations, and short on cultural respect.  Apparently this has not gone unnoticed and some lodges actually and, if they can afford it, refuse service; culturally this is very difficult for a Nepalese and they are a very warm and excepting culture – thus you know it is really bad behavior.
Differences do abound culturally.  For example, while Nepal language has a word for thank you it is used reservedly, whereas we use it all the time; even more so here as most tourist truly appreciate and are thankful for the service they receive.  Along the main routes it is not so noticeable but if you say thank you for a small thing in the more remote areas you will likely get some funny looks.  Conversely, if you expect a thank you, you may be disappointed.   We ran across a young man, that had a pretty nasty infection on the edge of his mouth.  Anjin, ask me I had any medicine, and we proceeded to doctor the guy up pretty well given what materials and limited expertise I had. When finished, he simply stood up and walked away.  So expectations can get you. I am pretty certain however, that that same man would do anything he could to help someone as well; that is the real expectation minus the niceties.
9-29
When Angin awoke me from a short nap before dinner, I was shaking violently.  I sat up and immediately threw up all over the floor – the hand hewn logs had ample vomit gaps and the mess disappeared to the earth below. Not sure what was wrong with me but the combination of poor diet, high altitude, and walking in the rain for 8 hours may be a factor.
At some point the rain always penetrates your best defenses. Sweating from the complete humidity, It first hits you neck like a squirming ice cube, follows you spine as you brace, runs down your ass crack for a second cleaning, and ultimately ends up in your shoe. Like New Zealand, in Nepal you have to be careful as you can go from so very hot to so very cold, so very quickly.
Playing with my diet and simple is good.  Oat porridge or a hard boiled egg for breakfast along with black tea.  But be careful as the very tasty oats are unrefined and will most likely have several rocks mixed in.  For lunch I have been sticking to noodle soups and like everywhere the soup is as good as the kitchen it came from. Some contain homemade noodles and are seasoned beautifully and some are literally the Asian version of Top Ramen.
Bamboo, Cedar, pine, a type of Madrone, and ferms all within meters of each other.  What a diverse flora; and species so far up the slope (at home, this is above timberline).
Down slope to a smoked filled tea house with “dinare hool” printed above the door, we stopped for warm liquids. Above the stove hung strips of meat that I had seen throughout the region in limited quantities, but had never seen on a menu or up close. I inquired out of curiously and was indeed told it was meat as I took a photo; no kidding. As I finished my tea and got ready to leave the women took down one of the strips and with a curved knife and brute force cut it into corn kernel sized pieces. Heating oil over the stove until it smoked she added onions to the black skillet, then seasoning, then a splash of water and ultimately the meat. Complete, she, surprisingly,  brought the plate of meat to me. I had decided, largely, to not order meat on this trip, but if it was offered out of kindness I would accept. The smaller pieces of meat and onions were good in that salty greasy way and the larger chunks tasked like old dirty boot leather. Actually really dirt boot.  After a lot of going back and forth I understood why.  The meat was specifically:  an old, male, water buffalo.
Regarding meat.  I LIKE it. I like it a LOT. But I have come to understand that the way we raise, produce, and distribute it in the states can only be described as environmentally sinful and morally wrong. That does not mean I do not eat it, I am just trying to be honest about the decision I am making; my like of meat out weighs my objections to how it get to my mouth. Interestingly, in Nepal meat is very limited and therefore it is used quite sparingly and in a sustainable manor. The diet here is dominated by plants. They have no choice, the land will not support a lot of meat production and thus that limited land must be used to produce the greatest (plants) return.
Witnessed high living trekking yesterday that a month ago I would have scorn. An older German man with a younger – drop dead (actually I was hoping he would drop dead….I wanted her) gorgeous French girlfriend or wife were traveling with 8 Nepalese; three porters, one guide, 2 cooks, 1 server, and 2 assistance.  Excessive?  Certainly, but this couple was providing good jobs for these local people; job good enough to support an extended family in a place that many live on less than $2 per day. I met another solo traveler who had three people working for him.  “What is that about?” I inquired.  “It is about giving back, sort of my way of sponsorship.  I employ this same family each year I come to Nepal, my friends here are brothers, and he is a son in law.  I go on a trek, go to their village, and pay for their children’s education….everyone wins and I feel good about it”.  Besides he continued “ If the children of these men are not educated, they will fall further prey to growing world economic gap and will be exploited further.  I am not advocating they give up their culture, just the opposite, but without education other will simply take their culture from them”.
9-30
Kutumumsang to Chisopni 2180m
“Good no rain, we can take the local route” proclaimed my able guide. I have been on ladders that were not that steep, but I resigned myself not to let those 7 year old girls who were carrying 15 kilo of millet each beat me to the top. I should have left my ego at the bottom of the dry water fall that was the local route. Two thirds up and my shirt poured rather than drip sweat off the tail.  At the top I was on my knees not sure whether I should ask for salvation or simply death.
I finally figured out our plan.  After studying the miniature map in the guide book and piecing information together, I realized we were walking back to KTM-or nearly so.  Up a ridge to a saddle, down a ridge to a saddle, repeat. But the landscapes are amazing and we are now into a new caste area that is dominated by Hindu rather then Buddhist of the high elevations. While brutally hot and humid these low lands are dotted with homes, people, cows, goats, chickens, ox, dogs, buffalo, and even a non-black cat.
In Nepal when you are trekking a route, you are simply following an ancient route that has been named as a trekking route. The PCT this is not, and to call much of the last several days a trail is quite optimistic.  Rather, a landslide clears the vegetation and that slide, as if ordained, becomes the new route up or down. Six hours of this and your knees are begging for salvation.
Having a local guide is great and given that Angin is so well liked along the trail, I get the benefit of traveling with him, and thus receive excellent treatment and service.  And when we walked into the local bar tonight, as we grow near the end of our trek, I felt at home playing pool on a table with felt so thin you could see through to the slate below.
This town has some limited road access to vehicles (motorcycles only) but I am unsure as to why.  Never mind, I am sure.  If three young men can get a bike here why wouldn’t they.  One runs the clutch, one pushes or holds the bike back on down hills, and one pulls on the assents and try’s to slow the bike while not getting run over on the descents. Yea, I would try to get my bike here. Standing around we diagnosed the bike’s problems and get cheers from the local crowd when we get her to fire – only to hear moans as she dies when the clutch is let out. I know just enough, thanks to Dan my friend mechanic man, back home to know that the problem is fuel/air; oh if I  only had a different needle for this carburetor to compensate for the altitude, I could be king for a day.
Thulo sarabru to Laubrina yak 3550m
fence and langtang

Fence to Langtang

The camera is often intimidating and can actually separates you from the people you want to meet and interact with. But I am learning how to turn this around; first, show the kids photos, them “make” photo of them, show them photo, show mom photo when she ultimately comes over (she will), and show dad photo after mom insists he come over.  Employed tactic tonight as me and the kids ran around in the rain shooting video; back by the fire, we were “rock stars” as many of the tourist looked on in fear as we interacted with locals while playing our movies.

1984  was the summer of my youth and before this trip I ran across the music of that summer: Billy Idol’s Greatest Hits. I downloaded and figured it would be an embarrassment to current senses. Wrong, it is still a great album, and combined with hours of trail reflection….proves  a lot of water has gone under my keel. As a Sgt in the Marines  that year, I finally figured out how to game the system, set me up beautifully, and pissed off my Commanding Officer (CO) in one perfectly executed strategic and tactical move. You see, in the Corps, when good temporary duty assignments get issued the best or most qualified people never get rewarded and never receive the orders. Rather the “shit birds” get the duty as a way to export them out of the unit – pass the problem on in typical government fashion. Not this time. A friend lets me know that temporary orders have been issued for the civilian  swimming pool as a lifeguard.  “Hey, I have the Water Safety and Survival certificate that is needed for that posting, put my name in”.  To which he replied: “Are you flipping crazy, you are the senior platoon Sgt in this company, and the CO would never allow that”. You are right I said, “Don’t tell the old man, simply submit my name as someone who is qualified per the request”.  Now a Marine will never “Lie, cheat or steal” but when the light colonel called me into his office spitting mad, I denied any knowledge of these orders out of the Infantry and into the swimming pool.  And given that they were signed by a one star, there wasn’t a thing he could do; I packed my bags, turned in my gas mask and M16, took my shirt off and got a tan.  That is how I spend the summer of 84, and my last 6 months in the USMC as the senior base swimming pool lifeguard while listening to Billy Idol. And that was the summer that I finally broke the jinx. Mind you, I was not a virgin as I had spent two tours in the western pacific, but I thinking  that spending $10 on a drink had something to do with my luck there. So the kid who joined the military as a junior in high school – where I drove a 69 F150 pickup truck complete with a gun rack and lariat hanging from it while listening to outlaw country, found Billy Idol and women.  We partied hard, sang “With a rebel yell, she cried more more more”, and found that senior officer’s daughters liked the risk of sleeping with enlisted men as much as we did.

For several kilometers today we followed a 5 year old boy up a very steep trail as he moved his 5 family ox to the higher pasture.  He wore rubber boots that were 4 sizes to large and carried a bamboo switch that he would swat or throw at these mostly uncooperative beast; rocks were used as well. After he realized I was marginally competent and he showed my a few moves, including grabbing the ox’s tail while pulling it forward as you walk towards their head,  he assumed the leadership role up front and I brought up the rear as fear of getting kicked gripped me. I held together however for one simple reason; who wants to be shown up by a kid not much taller than my knee?

We also came upon a funeral gathering today.  I was clueless and kept happily saying “Namaste” to everyone, until I realized something was off. When I asked Angin, he said that an elder member of the village had died.  We were taking a local short cut and at this point we needed directions.  When we inquired, we were assigned a 7 year old girl to be our guide.  I think she was happy to be away from the grief as she skipped up the goat path to our next key intersection all the while telling other homes about the deceased.

Now I know something about short cuts and if you do not believe me you can ask my dad;  he has scares to prove how competent I am in this department. This was no different; straight up a ridge for 5 hours and 700 meters. No tourist however as we crossed small potato patches and an occasional apple tree. At one small home I saw a coke sitting in a bucket of water – just in case someone did come this route and had a 100 rupee note in their pocket….hey that’s me.

Read Full Post »

Toilets and respect

9-26-09
Bamboo to Thulo Sarabru 2120m
My new lodging is perched atop a vertical agricultural landscape. In the distance the mountains loom, where in the foreground terraced fields of millet and corn proceed forever down the valleys. Corn dries throughout the village, while men, women, and children chop winter feed for their precious livestock.
Electricity can be a good thing and this village, although I do not know how, has it. Deforestation is a major issue in Nepal as wood is still the primary heating and cooking fuel. Here, propane and electricity serve that role and the forest, thick above us, appreciates that. Now, I am certain that a wild river is moaning its new and restricted role of producing hydroelectric power. Electricity also means a sustained hot shower and as the sweat and rot of the jungle washes away, I feel anew.
About squat toilets; they work. It is like this – many are actual built in units that mount flush to the floor with a hole in the bottom of a basin.  They often have foot platforms on each side that are designed to “properly” align you placement to ensure a successful drop (note: these are designed for short people and if you are tall like myself, you MUST adjust your placement forward or you will miss the target hole; effectively shitting on the floor). After your payload is out the door, you dip water from an alga growing bucket with a, typically, broken ladle, cup, pitcher, spoon, or what ever is provided, and you pour water down your bomb crack with your right hand while you “clean” with your left – thus why you do not touch people or bring food to your mouth with you left hand. Many of these are very clean yet some far exceed your wildest gas station restroom stories. For my Mexico biker friends, well “Big Brown” and that overflowing porta poty in Ensenada has nothing on a nasty squatter in Nepal. Take your own soap as there is none provided, and use the same alga water to wash your hands.  I find that Purell, once outside, makes me simply feel better as well.
“You can buy anything in Nepal, even the Government”, is a phrase I have heard here often. But like everywhere you can not buy respect…it can only be earned. In a land of unrealistic tourist expectations, I earned a bit today. My clothes were filthy and so I walked to the communal water station and drew up a rock to the bewildered looks of the locals doing their clothe and dish washing. Angin quickly ran over and tried to insist on doing my wash. “You are my porter not my maid”.  The soap was passed around and we washed.  Later that evening, while drafting this journal, a plate of momo showed up in front of me.  I tried to explain that I did not order but was assured they were indeed intended for me.  The next morning when I went to fill my waters bottles from the normal stream source, a young women ran out and grabbed my bottles with no explanation. Moments later she returned with them full of water.  I went to put my Iodine tablets in the water, and she put her hand over the top of the bottles; “No need sir, good water”.
Angin was a bit surprised today when I showed him our tentative plan I had developed from the crude map and description in the guide book.  This will not be an ongoing program, but felt I needed to demonstrate that I was perfectly capable of leading as well as following; both key skills.
Met a fellow Californian named Emile Baizel who hails most recently as a software corporate jock from San Francisco. Like me, he is trying to discover if there are more pressing priorities in life.  He recently stumbled upon, and stayed a month, a legitimate Nepal orphanage. Here he put his talents to work developing a Web site and a PayPal donation site. “We got a hundred dollar donation right off, and people are inquiring about coming to volunteer. In 30 days I did something really meaningful, we really can make a difference“. I did not know him before, but I think he is a changed man.
I am officially off the Langtang trek and now am on the Gosainkund trek which leads to the sacred lakes of one of the worlds great religions, and the annual pilgrimage of thousands of Hindu holy men each August. We continue to see less and less foreign travelers.
One advantage of electricity is the ability to recharge my Ipod Nano. I typically leave music and books behind in the mountains, but this trip is different, and spending an afternoon overlooking this valley while listening to Summertime by the Decembers is pretty fantastic.
Bamboo to Thulo Sarabru 2120m

monistary iwth old women

Monastery women

My new lodging is perched atop a vertical agricultural landscape. In the distance the mountains loom, where in the foreground terraced fields of millet and corn proceed forever down the valleys. Corn dries throughout the village, while men, women, and children chop winter feed for their precious livestock.

Electricity can be a good thing and this village, although I do not know how, has it. Deforestation is a major issue in Nepal as wood is still the primary heating and cooking fuel. Here, propane and electricity serve that role and the forest, thick above us, appreciates that. Now, I am certain that a wild river is moaning its new and restricted role of producing hydroelectric power. Electricity also means a sustained hot shower and as the sweat and rot of the jungle washes away, I feel anew.

About squat toilets; they work. It is like this – many are actual built in units that mount flush to the floor with a hole in the bottom of a basin.  They often have foot platforms on each side that are designed to “properly” align you placement to ensure a successful drop (note: these are designed for short people and if you are tall like myself, you MUST adjust your placement forward or you will miss the target hole; effectively shitting on the floor). After your payload is out the door, you dip water from an alga growing bucket with a, typically, broken ladle, cup, pitcher, spoon, or what ever is provided, and you pour water down your bomb crack with your right hand while you “clean” with your left – thus why you do not touch people or bring food to your mouth with you left hand. Many of these are very clean yet some far exceed your wildest gas station restroom stories. For my Mexico biker friends, well “Big Brown” and that overflowing porta poti in Ensenada has nothing on a nasty squatter in Nepal. Take your own soap as there is none provided, and use the same alga water to wash your hands.  I find that Purell, once outside, makes me simply feel better as well.

“You can buy anything in Nepal, even the Government”, is a phrase I have heard here often. But like everywhere you can not buy respect…it can only be earned. In a land of unrealistic tourist expectations, I earned a bit today. My clothes were filthy and so I walked to the communal water station and drew up a rock to the bewildered looks of the locals doing their clothe and dish washing. Angin quickly ran over and tried to insist on doing my wash. “You are my porter not my maid”.  The soap was passed around and we washed.  Later that evening, while drafting this journal, a plate of momo showed up in front of me.  I tried to explain that I did not order but was assured they were indeed intended for me.  The next morning when I went to fill my waters bottles from the normal stream source, a young women ran out and grabbed my bottles with no explanation. Moments later she returned with them full of water.  I went to put my Iodine tablets in the water, and she put her hand over the top of the bottles; “No need sir, good water”.

Angin was a bit surprised today when I showed him our tentative plan I had developed from the crude map and description in the guide book.  This will not be an ongoing program, but felt I needed to demonstrate that I was perfectly capable of leading as well as following; both key skills.

Met a fellow Californian named Emile Baizel who hails most recently as a software corporate jock from San Francisco. Like me, he is trying to discover if there are more pressing priorities in life.  He recently stumbled upon, and stayed a month, a legitimate Nepal orphanage. Here he put his talents to work developing a Web site and a PayPal donation site. “We got a hundred dollar donation right off, and people are inquiring about coming to volunteer. In 30 days I did something really meaningful, we really can make a difference“. I did not know him before, but I think he is a changed man.

I am officially off the Langtang trek and now am on the Gosainkund trek which leads to the sacred lakes of one of the worlds great religions, and the annual pilgrimage of thousands of Hindu holy men each August. We continue to see less and less foreign travelers.

One advantage of electricity is the ability to recharge my Ipod Nano. I typically leave music and books behind in the mountains, but this trip is different, and spending an afternoon overlooking this valley while listening to Summersong by the Decemberist is pretty fantastic.

Read Full Post »

Only in Nepal

Kyagon gompo to Bamboo 2042m

bench
God’s bench
I write this entry under a thatched roof where the hens, roosters and I take shelter from the rain. Walked a knee jarring 7.5 hours today after awaking to a magnificent sunrise amongst the mountain giants. Coming down slope we spotted a troop of howler monkeys who put on quite an acrobat show.  More impressive however were the large white faces cousins who demonstrated amazing prowess as they moved from tree to tree with their young clutched to their chest.

People are people are people. My Japanese friend pulled me aside, and as often seen in Japanese politeness, expressed to me that I might want to consider taking a more direct leadership role with my young porter. “I have worked here for 10 years, I understand the language, I understand the caste system, and it is best for you to understand this is a business relationship where you are the boss.  Your porter is a good man, but he like so many here is a desperate young man.  You must manage that; manage the expectations, manage the relationship”. This council came as a surprise and, well, not a surprise. I had seen some indication of conflicts arising  (where to stay, how far to hike…) but attempted to simply go with it. I also had a nagging thought that I new somehow he was right. A friend had told me to be careful on this trip; not physically, but emotionally as I needed to understand that the hugely disparate economics can complicate human interactions. These competing priorities was a primary reason, I later deduced, why we hike so far today -Anjin, was trying to set us up for an early return to KTM.  I did not really mind as I need to get more fit, but I do plan on taking a bit more of an active role in how things will be done going forward. That said, I know that Angin much prefers to stay at tea house within his same caste system so I told him that was fine, but I would be deciding, after consulting with him, how far we walked each day.  He told me that today would have only been six hours if we walked faster.  I looked him in the eye and said: “No, you know I walked very fast, do not mislead me again”. Enough said.

We found the scene of the accident today.  After looking at it carefully, I do not think I would have ever made it into the river as there was a big flat rock I would have hit first.  So that earlier assertion was and exaggeration. Now to not break anything or even survive that initial fall can still be described as: “flipping lucky”. Upon examination, I am certain that the only thing that saved me was that the fall was not completely vertical.  Rather, like a motorcycle or ski jump landing area, I hit a sloped, wet, and very very slippery ramp. This allowed me to bounce and continue to fall as the vines slowed my progress. You know, I always thought it was cool that cats had nine lives; now I am not so certain as I did some calculations and I have to be getting very close to that number.  Thus I now choose to think that I have as many lives as I am supposed to have…hopefully quite a few.

Only in Nepal could something be so backwards and broken. Or is it? I awoke disturbed from an odd dream and spent most of the day reflecting on it.  In my dream, I had needed to apply for a permit to live……a what? After standing in the queue for a good third world time, I was told “Sir, you can not apply for a living permit, without being in possession of a dying permit”.  Looking incredulously at the clerk I replied “What, why the hell is that?” to which he looked shocked and simply said “Sir, no live permit before die permit”. Hours on the trail drove home the point: You can only live after recognizing you are going to die.

I think I am actually sitting in the chicken coop; as night falls I have birds trying to roost all around me. No, a young girl just collected each bird and put them under a wicker basket.

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Bastard

9-24-09
Kyagon Gompo to Tsergo Ri 4984m
As I came over a ridge with my heart trying to escape my chest, I suddenly remembered “Their brands were still on fire — their hooves were made of steel, horns were black and shinning, and their hot breath you could feel – plowing through the ragged skyyyyyy, and up a clouded draw”. But these were not the Ghost Riders of Marty Robbins and later Jonny Cash, rather they were the yaks surrounding me in the mist as I attempted to reach the summit; the scene was eerie as it looked like steam was boiling from their nostrils in the thick, cold, early morning mist. Further along we saw a ancient man milking the yaks in front of an crude structure consisting of stacked rock walls and a makeshift roof of cloth, thatch, plastic, and metal. I could see yaks up, down and across this incredibly steep and forbidding landscape and assumed this was a summer herding camp; “No, they live here full time”, Anjin assured me. I don’t think I am going to get up this thing once, let alone live and work here.
“Slow sir, slow sir, we make it, must slow go, we long time”. When I finally reached the prayer flags and a new personal high elevation, I had the exact same experience of reaching the California/Oregon border during my 2006 thru hike; I was suddenly overcome with emotion.  As I looked up, crying while releasing so much emotion accumulated over the last 2 years, the clouds parted for a minor second to reveal the highest places on earth: “We are here, we have always been here…do not worry”.
That was hard, really hard…steep, high, hard. My future plans include tying to climb a mountain that is a thousand meters higher…I don’t know, I am not as strong as I used to be; brain says climb, body says: “bite me’. I do not quit easily, but today I almost quit several times and to combat this, I broke the climb into 20m increments; if you can not go any further after you go 20m further you can quit, repeat, repeat, repeat, for the last 200m and ultimate summit.
I have not been eating well, and while I have been heading John’s advice that “It is a brave westerner who farts in Asia”, today I had to let it go. Dal Bhat was having its way with my lower intestines. Angin kept saying: “Good health” as I produced enough methane to light Kathmandu and maybe Deli as well.  My constant response was “Dal Bhat”.
I know that many, some would argue most, stomach aliments result from hand to hand food contact, so when the young girl held out her hand and offered me a piece of yak cheese I paused momentarily. Then I suddenly realized that this obviously poor family was sharing what little they had – “dawn jya baud” (thank you).  It was obviously cheese, but that is all the good I can say about it. This offering came as a result of deciding to stay at the much smaller tea houses (plank with a thin mattress for sleeping, squat toilet down the hall, and available food) that dot the landscape along these ancient trade routes.
Also staying here is a Japanese guy, who through his work at an NGO in Nepal, speaks credible Nepalese and understands nearly all of it. Everyone else in the house is Nepalese. I struggled with the conversation and felt left out until I realized I had photos; photos of South Korea and photos of Nepal, photos of far away places for these mountain people. The kids loved the show as my Japanese friend provided the translations.
Less here in the mountains, but when I walked the back alleys of KTM I saw women pulling lice from the heads of their obviously uncomfortable and crying children. A bar of soap, if available, can fix this problem. WTF is wrong with this picture?
I don’t feel so good – suffering from altitude, food, poor hygiene. I could sure use a burrito at sea level. But then again,  all of those burritos and pizzas instead of spin class sure did not help in climbing that bastard this morning.
9-25-09
Kyagon gompo to Bamboo 2042m
I write this entry under a thatched roof where the hens, roosters and I take shelter from the rain. Walked a knee jarring 7.5 hours today after awaking to a magnificent sunrise amongst the mountain giants. Coming down slope we spotted a troop of howler monkeys who put on quite an acrobat show.  More impressive however were the large white faces cousins who demonstrated amazing prowess as they moved from tree to tree with their young clutched to their chest.
People are people are people. My Japanese friend pulled me aside, and as often seen in Japanese politeness, expressed to me that I might want to consider taking a more direct leadership role with my young porter. “I have worked here for 10 years, I understand the language, I understand the caste system, and it is best for you to understand this is a business relationship where you are the boss.  Your porter is a good man, but he like so many here is a desperate young man.  You must manage that; manage the expectations, manage the relationship”. This council came as a surprise and, well, not a surprise. I had seen some indication of conflicts arising  (where to stay, how far to hike…) but attempted to simply go with it. I also had a nagging thought that I new somehow he was right. A friend had told me to be careful on this trip; not physically, but emotionally as I needed to understand that the hugely disparate economics can complicate human interactions. These competing priorities was a primary reason, I later deduced, why we hike so far today -Anjin, was trying to set us up for an early return to KTM.  I did not really mind as I need to get more fit, but I do plan on taking a bit more of an active role in how things will be done going forward. That said, I know that Angin much prefers to stay at tea house within his same caste system so I told him that was fine, but I would be deciding, after consulting with him, how far we walked each day.  He told me that today would have only been six hours if we walked faster.  I looked him in the eye and said: “No, you know I walked very fast, do not mislead me again”. Enough said.
We found the scene of the accident today.  After looking at it carefully, I do not think I would have ever made it into the river as there was a big flat rock I would have hit first.  So that earlier assertion was and exaggeration. Now to not break anything or even survive that initial fall can still be described as: “flipping lucky”. Upon examination, I am certain that the only thing that saved me was that the fall was not completely vertical.  Rather, like a motorcycle or ski jump landing area, I hit a sloped, wet, and very very slippery ramp. This allowed me to bounce and continue to fall as the vines slowed my progress. You know, I always thought it was cool that cats had nine lives; now I am not so certain as I did some calculations and I have to be getting very close to that number.  Thus I now choose to think that I have as many lives as I am supposed to have…hopefully quite a few.
Only in Nepal could something be so backwards and broken. Or is it? I awoke disturbed from an odd dream and spent most of the day reflecting on it.  In my dream, I had needed to apply for a permit to live……a what? After standing in the queue for a good third world time, I was told “Sir, you can not apply for a living permit, without being in possession of a dying permit”.  Looking incredulously at the clerk I replied “What, why the hell is that?” to which he looked shocked and simply said “Sir, no live permit before die permit”. Hours on the trail drove home the point: You can only live after recognizing you are going to die.
I think I am actually sitting in the chicken coop; as night falls I have birds trying to roost all around me. No, a young girl just collected each bird and put them under a wicker basket.
9-26-09
Bamboo to Thulo Sarabru 2120m
My new lodging is perched atop a vertical agricultural landscape. In the distance the mountains loom, where in the foreground terraced fields of millet and corn proceed forever down the valleys. Corn dries throughout the village, while men, women, and children chop winter feed for their precious livestock.
Electricity can be a good thing and this village, although I do not know how, has it. Deforestation is a major issue in Nepal as wood is still the primary heating and cooking fuel. Here, propane and electricity serve that role and the forest, thick above us, appreciates that. Now, I am certain that a wild river is moaning its new and restricted role of producing hydroelectric power. Electricity also means a sustained hot shower and as the sweat and rot of the jungle washes away, I feel anew.
About squat toilets; they work. It is like this – many are actual built in units that mount flush to the floor with a hole in the bottom of a basin.  They often have foot platforms on each side that are designed to “properly” align you placement to ensure a successful drop (note: these are designed for short people and if you are tall like myself, you MUST adjust your placement forward or you will miss the target hole; effectively shitting on the floor). After your payload is out the door, you dip water from an alga growing bucket with a, typically, broken ladle, cup, pitcher, spoon, or what ever is provided, and you pour water down your bomb crack with your right hand while you “clean” with your left – thus why you do not touch people or bring food to your mouth with you left hand. Many of these are very clean yet some far exceed your wildest gas station restroom stories. For my Mexico biker friends, well “Big Brown” and that overflowing porta poty in Ensenada has nothing on a nasty squatter in Nepal. Take your own soap as there is none provided, and use the same alga water to wash your hands.  I find that Purell, once outside, makes me simply feel better as well.
“You can buy anything in Nepal, even the Government”, is a phrase I have heard here often. But like everywhere you can not buy respect…it can only be earned. In a land of unrealistic tourist expectations, I earned a bit today. My clothes were filthy and so I walked to the communal water station and drew up a rock to the bewildered looks of the locals doing their clothe and dish washing. Angin quickly ran over and tried to insist on doing my wash. “You are my porter not my maid”.  The soap was passed around and we washed.  Later that evening, while drafting this journal, a plate of momo showed up in front of me.  I tried to explain that I did not order but was assured they were indeed intended for me.  The next morning when I went to fill my waters bottles from the normal stream source, a young women ran out and grabbed my bottles with no explanation. Moments later she returned with them full of water.  I went to put my Iodine tablets in the water, and she put her hand over the top of the bottles; “No need sir, good water”.
Angin was a bit surprised today when I showed him our tentative plan I had developed from the crude map
Kyagon Gompo to Tsergo Ri 4984m
langtang fllagss
Prayer flags and Mt. Langtang

As I came over a ridge with my heart trying to escape my chest, I suddenly remembered “Their brands were still on fire — their hooves were made of steel, horns were black and shinning, and their hot breath you could feel – plowing through the ragged skyyyyyy, and up a clouded draw”. But these were not the Ghost Riders of Marty Robbins and later Jonny Cash, rather they were the yaks surrounding me in the mist as I attempted to reach the summit; the scene was eerie as it looked like steam was boiling from their nostrils in the thick, cold, early morning mist. Further along we saw a ancient man milking the yaks in front of an crude structure consisting of stacked rock walls and a makeshift roof of cloth, thatch, plastic, and metal. I could see yaks up, down and across this incredibly steep and forbidding landscape and assumed this was a summer herding camp; “No, they live here full time”, Anjin assured me. I don’t think I am going to get up this thing once, let alone live and work here.

russin hiker

Mt. Langtang

Slow sir, slow sir, we make it, must slow go, we long time”. When I finally reached the prayer flags and a new personal high elevation, I had the exact same experience of reaching the California/Oregon border during my 2006 thru hike; I was suddenly overcome with emotion.  As I looked up, crying while releasing so much emotion accumulated over the last 2 years, the clouds parted for a minor second to reveal the highest places on earth: “We are here, we have always been here…do not worry”.

That was hard, really hard…steep, high, hard. My future plans include tying to climb a mountain that is a thousand meters higher…I don’t know, I am not as strong as I used to be; brain says climb, body says: “bite me’. I do not quit easily, but today I almost quit several times and to combat this, I broke the climb into 20m increments; if you can not go any further after you go 20m further you can quit, repeat, repeat, repeat, for the last 200m and ultimate summit.

I have not been eating well, and while I have been heading John’s advice that “It is a brave westerner who farts in Asia”, today I had to let it go. Dal Bhat was having its way with my lower intestines. Angin kept saying: “Good health” as I produced enough methane to light Kathmandu and maybe Deli as well.  My constant response was “Dal Bhat”.

I know that many, some would argue most, stomach aliments result from hand to hand food contact, so when the young girl held out her hand and offered me a piece of yak cheese I paused momentarily. Then I suddenly realized that this obviously poor family was sharing what little they had – “dawn jya baud” (thank you).  It was obviously cheese, but that is all the good I can say about it. This offering came as a result of deciding to stay at the much smaller tea houses (plank with a thin mattress for sleeping, squat toilet down the hall, and available food) that dot the landscape along these ancient trade routes.

Also staying here is a Japanese guy, who through his work at an NGO in Nepal, speaks credible Nepalese and understands nearly all of it. Everyone else in the house is Nepalese. I struggled with the conversation and felt left out until I realized I had photos; photos of South Korea and photos of Nepal, photos of far away places for these mountain people. The kids loved the show as my Japanese friend provided the translations.

Less here in the mountains, but when I walked the back alleys of KTM I saw women pulling lice from the heads of their obviously uncomfortable and crying children. A bar of soap, if available, can fix this problem. WTF is wrong with this picture?

I don’t feel so good – suffering from altitude, food, poor hygiene. I could sure use a burrito at sea level. But then again,  all of those burritos and pizzas instead of spin class sure did not help in climbing that bastard this morning.

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