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Archive for September 19th, 2009

On my way up

September 19, 2009

I booked my first trek with a company that an very friendly Australian couple is also using. We were both very impressed as the owner of the company (Chandra) took a call during our morning tea and immediately excused himself to coordinate a helicopter rescue (acute mountain sickness, and possible pulmonary edema) from the remote Kingdom of Upper Mustang. We were supposed to have dinner with Chandra later that evening but word came that weather delayed the chopper and thus we were to proceed to his home where his family would host us; he would join us upon his return. After I thought dinner had been served, dinner was served; we ate for something like an hour in the comfort of a Nepalese home, and the food was simply and wonderful.
At dinner I got to know David (from Australia) a bit.  David is enjoying a new life after being nearly completely incapacitated and paralyzed for 3 years due to an unusual disease he secured while performing military duty in Somalia. He did not go into what exactly he was doing in Africa, but my impression was that David was no ordinary foot soldier.  Anyway, with an injection once a day to the abdomen he is nearly symptom free and we had a good chat about what is “important” and also about moving beyond unexpected divorces. He and his partner (maybe wife) are going to Everest base camp, which I am also planning in a few weeks time. “I am looking at this as a test – how does my new body (this guy is crazy big and fit) adapt to altitude, and how well do my limbs actually work outside of the gym. If all goes well, I may try an attempt at Everest in a few years – interested?”  To which I replied: “Please due not ask my questions like this…I am weak”.
September 20, 2009
Exactly how can a bus ride that is less than 120 Kilometers take 9 hours?  Well, first you have to get the cows loaded on top of the bus (I am not kidding here people), then you must check each passengers ticket 6 times, add 70 bodies to the inside of the bus (maybe 30 seats), put another 30 on top, and start to leave a dozen times over the first 45 minutes. Once moving, travel along a one lane road that has vertical drops, landslides, and other hazards to many to mention; seriously, if this road was in the U.S it would be rated as “high clearance 4wd drive only”.  When the spotter slaps the bus hard once the driver heads, and stops immediately; you may have a passenger to let off/pick up, you may have lost part of your top load (we lost some furniture and a crate of chickens), or you may be about to go loose a tire into the abyss (the buss before us did indeed drop a tire over the edge and the Italian lady who described how “Everyone pilled to the high side while the boys on top balled off and pulled the bus back to the road”  was still shaking as she retold the story). Two slaps means proceed. Angin argued constantly with the porter about my bag on the floor as they wanted it on top with the cows.  I think he ultimately paid a bribe but my bag was close by at all times and ultimately served as a seat for 3 elderly mean and a couple of kids. I meanwhile practice  a new yoga position of placing my knees against my ears and holding them there for several hours as the young guy behind me vomited out the window. It was a rather “rich” cultural experience and I enjoyed smiling at the young Hindi girl that sat and Angin’s lap as we listened to first on-board entertainment complete with some sort of 3 string instrument, followed by some really bad Nepalese rap (complete with English mixed in) that blared over the broken speakers.
We stopped for lunch and I without knowing quickly secured that “You have got to be kidding me look” when Angin assured me if was “Ok Sir“.  Pretty good actually as I used a fork and those around me placed loads of Dal Bhat (lentils, curried potatoes, and white rice) into their mouths. I went down stairs to the open pit toilet immediately under the restaurant and adjacent to the owners living quarters and said to myself “if this is ok, I am certainly going to die”.
Traveling along we picked up more passenger, but, how I do not know. We also dropped people and supplies off and every time they dropped a 30 liter propane bottle from the bus’s roof I cringed. We stopped along side the road and we (all hundred plus of us) peed together.  I think the cows shit in place and I KNOW the chickens did.  Reloading was a process but after climbing over young, old, pretty and ugly, I found my seat, amazingly empty, and ready for more yoga.
September 21, 2009
POST EDIT (Do not read if you are offended by profanity)
“Oh fuck, mother fuck…protect you head, fuck, my hip-oh shit, you head your head -protect your head; second bounce – my ribs- fuck your ribs protect your head, your head…quiet”. Upside down, suspended in vines, 15 meters lower than I had been 2 seconds prior as I crossed a small water fall bisecting the trail. “Shit, don’t look down- next fall puts you into a class 6 rapid and you will not survive that. Grab vines, grab vines, hold on.” Angin is trying to get to me and yelling for other porters we know are behind us. “Angin, I am ok….likely hurt….need help.
Regrettably I would like to tell all of those I have loved, love, and will love, along with all of the deities of the world that, unfortunately – not once, not even for a millisecond did I think of any of you while I was falling.  I am sorry! No, I did not think “ I hope you know I love you” (but I do nonetheless) and no I did not look to Siddhartha for strength, I did not ask Brahma to protect me, I did not seek council from Yahweh, and I certainly did not ask my personal savior Jesus Christ to save me.   Rather I was 100% into me, fully selfish and self centered.  In other words. I did not give a flying fuck about anything beyond myself and trying not to die. So that crap about you life flashing before you eyes and all….maybe so for others, but I now dispute it.
Moments before I was thinking that I like my new Vasque trail shoes; not as well as my old faithful Montrail Hard Rocks… but solid. The only problem I had noted was the Vibram sole are by nature hard and therefore slippery.  Who actually cares if the soles will last 5000 kilometer? The shoe will be worn out in 1000k – give me a soft, sticky rubber that is not slippery”. Ultimately however, and as these thing go, the fall was completely my fault. I was on the outside edge of a water fall trying not to get wet and had completely failed to realize the magnitude of the risk as the drop was obscured by heavy vegetation. With the help of 3 porters and my friend Thomas from Denmark I was freed and pulled back to the trail. Amazingly, I didn’t think anything is broken; but I knew I was going into shock so I tried to walk whiling doing U.S. Dollar to Nepal Rupee calculations in my head. The trail was extremely steep and the adrenaline had completely drained my energy – I could go no more than 10 steps and I was doubled over my hiking poles panting for oxegen. 30 minutes later, I knew I was beyond the risk of significant shock but I was starting to swell and am now wondering if I will be able to move in the morning. Emotionally I felt awful as Anjin was beside himself with remorse and guilt.  As we continued to hike, the rain intensified and I was a dripping, limping, bleeding, ballooning mess. Angin took charge and the next rest stop we reached he ushered me inside and rapidly stoked the fire, got a wool cap on my head, and gave me a coke. After an hour, I was calm and Angin was post cardiac arrest so we headed farther up towards our nights lodgings.   I think I am basically, and amazingly, whole. I may have a bruised or even cracked rib…or two, or three, and my hip now appears to have a small pumpkin attached to it, but hey I am fine. A bit concerned about things internal, but hours have passed now, so If I am bleeding inside out, well, at least it is slow…right?
Besides that and a bee sting it was a great first day to my Himalayan trekking. Seriously, this was a simple accident on a simple piece of trail and this is what happens in life, with or without your permission.  What is the bumper sticker? Oh you know the one.
Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal

goat
Simply a cool looking goat in the high country
I booked my first trek with a company that a very friendly Australian couple is also using. We were both very impressed as the owner of the company (Chandra) took a call during our morning tea and immediately excused himself to coordinate a helicopter rescue (acute mountain sickness, and possible pulmonary edema) from the remote Kingdom of Upper Mustang. We were supposed to have dinner with Chandra later that evening but word came that weather delayed the chopper and thus we were to proceed to his home where his family would host us; he would join us upon his return. After I thought dinner had been served, dinner was served; we ate for something like an hour in the comfort of a Nepalese home, and the food was simply and wonderful.

At dinner I got to know David (from Australia) a bit.  David is enjoying a new life after being nearly completely incapacitated and paralyzed for 3 years due to an unusual disease he secured while performing military duty in Somalia. He did not go into what exactly he was doing in Africa, but my impression was that David was no ordinary foot soldier.  Anyway, with an injection once a day to the abdomen he is nearly symptom free and we had a good chat about what is “important” and also about moving beyond unexpected divorces. He and his partner (maybe wife) are going to Everest base camp, which I am also planning in a few weeks time. “I am looking at this as a test – how does my new body (this guy is crazy big and fit) adapt to altitude, and how well do my limbs actually work outside of the gym. If all goes well, I may try an attempt at Everest in a few years – interested?”  To which I replied: “Please due not ask my questions like this…I am weak”.

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Kathmandu, Nepal

September 19th
Steamed vegetable momos and a coke from a bottle that is so worn it is nearly opaque – now this is living; 65 rupees.  Momo  are like dumplings or maybe think of a pot-stickers that are steamed rather than fried.  Served with a spicy peanut sauce and eaten immediately out of the steamer basket. We scored these at a place no bigger than a closet with a curtain for a door, and  a few broken stools along a wall that had a board attached above to serve as plate and soda shelf.  This was certainly out of my comfort zone, but Patrick who is a Burmese American, from Sacramento of all places, was confident; “They are so hot, nothing can live through that”. Best meal of my trip.
Because it is festival time in Nepal, we had to check several banks to find cash; a lot of locals are moving about the country creating a paper money shortage as they make withdrawals from the banks.  Hey, at least they trust their banks with their money.
I needed cash as I am leaving the city tomorrow and entering a completely cash economy.
My first trek is to Langtang. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langtang ,and thus you will not see any updates to this journal for several weeks. I am going as an independent with a porter/guide named Anjin who just last week he passed his guide license.  He is a small man in stature standing about 5’2” and weighing maybe 120lbs but clearly of man of big heart and strength. Now my kit is light, but when Anjin assured me that he could easily carry 30 Kilo over any pass in the Himalaya I new he was not kidding.  I told him I was out of shape and was viewing this as a 14 day warm up trek, to which he replied “That will not be a problem sir, if you get tired I will carry you also”.   I then inquired if I needed a map to which he replied “oh no Sir, these are my mountains, I know them”.
Patrick, Anjin, and I went on a bit of a shopping trip together as it has been recommended that we treat our water with Iodine rather then buy the plastic bottles.  This recommendation is two fold: First, someone has to carry that plastic water into those mountains therefore it is expensive. Second, most of those damn plastic bottles never get carried out resulting in a huge environmental problem.  I like how these guys are thinking.  So, I needed a metal water bottle because in addition to Iodine, sometimes you get boiling water poured into the bottle which also serves as a purification measure; plastic will not work. Though the back streets we roamed until we came to a small outfitter who had what we needed. And because Anjin was with us, no negotiation needed-the first price was the good and more than fair price.
After we dropped Anjin off, Patrick and I went to explore the back alleys of Kathmandu.  We had a good time and went down a few streets that are best left to traveling with two or more. It was wildly interesting, the people were all smiles and gracious while we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of these types of communities verses the west.  Patrick, being from Burma, had an incredible perspective as he has lived on both sides of this equation.   He loves California with its independence and valued self promotion but is concerned that the trade off regarding loss of community and family causes other social problems. We agree on much, question some, and depart being richer fro the momo and the conversation.

kathmandu skyline

Kathmandu skyline

Steamed vegetable momos and a coke from a bottle that is so worn it is nearly opaque – now this is living; 65 rupees.  Momo  are like dumplings or maybe think of a pot-stickers that are steamed rather than fried.  Served with a spicy peanut sauce and eaten immediately out of the steamer basket. We scored these at a place no bigger than a closet with a curtain for a door, and  a few broken stools along a wall that had a board attached above to serve as plate and soda shelf.  This was certainly out of my comfort zone, but Patrick who is a Burmese American, from Sacramento of all places, was confident; “They are so hot, nothing can live through that”. Best meal of my trip.

Because it is festival time in Nepal, we had to check several banks to find cash; a lot of locals are moving about the country creating a paper money shortage as they make withdrawals from the banks.  Hey, at least they trust their banks with their money.

I needed cash as I am leaving the city tomorrow and entering a completely cash economy.

My first trek is to Langtang. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langtang ,and thus you will not see any updates to this journal for several weeks. I am going as an independent with a porter/guide named Anjin who just last week passed his guide license.  He is a small man in stature standing about 5’2” and weighing maybe 120lbs, but clearly of man of big heart and strength. Now my kit is light, but when Anjin assured me that he could easily carry 30 Kilo over any pass in the Himalaya I new he was not kidding.  I told him I was out of shape and was viewing this as a 14 day warm up trek, to which he replied “That will not be a problem sir, if you get tired I will carry you also”.   I then inquired if I needed a map to which he replied “oh no Sir, these are my mountains, I know them”.


Patrick, Anjin, and I went on a bit of a shopping trip together as it has been recommended that we treat our water with Iodine rather then buy the plastic bottles.  This recommendation is two fold: First, someone has to carry that plastic water into those mountains therefore it is expensive. Second, most of those damn plastic bottles never get carried out resulting in a huge environmental problem.  I like how these guys are thinking.  So, I needed a metal water bottle because in addition to Iodine, sometimes you get boiling water poured into the bottle which also serves as a purification measure; plastic will not work. Though the back streets we roamed until we came to a small outfitter who had what we needed. And because Anjin was with us, no negotiation needed-the first price was the good and more than fair price.


After we dropped Anjin off, Patrick and I went to explore the back alleys of Kathmandu.  We had a good time and went down a few streets that are best left to traveling with two or more. It was wildly interesting, the people were all smiles and gracious while we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of these types of communities verses the west.  Patrick, being from Burma, had an incredible perspective as he has lived on both sides of this equation.   He loves California with its independence and valued self promotion but is concerned that the trade off regarding loss of community and family causes other social problems. We agree on much, question some, and depart being richer for momos and the conversation.

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