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October 14, 2008, Namche Bazar

namche bazar monistaryNamche Bazar Monastery

After some looking I found the Sherpa museum. It was locked, but a care taker let me in and I wondered alone amongst the tools and belongings of the people who truly have a mastery of these mountains. Nothing was behind Plexiglas, and there were no alarms; simply a “request to respect” our small collection.  After walking around, I was offered the opportunity to see a slide show about the area that had been prepared  by a local hotel owner and photographer.  It was a very low tech power point but I enjoyed sitting in the musty room (which was also storing Yak dung) while the ancient PC labored to load each photo. Given my interest, I was then given a private tour of the Everest room that included a great newspaper collection (under Plexiglas this time) documenting the climbing history of the worlds tallest mountain.  They were all here: Tenzing Sherpa, Sir Ed, Jim Whitaker, Rob Hall…all the great climbers and their greater Sherpa support teams. One memorable quote from the great Kiwi caught my eye from 1953:  “We knocked the bastard off”.  I may use that line on Island Peak.  HUBRIS dummy…never forget hubris.

yak drying wallYak and other dung drying

After awakening to the Tibetan horns of the monastery, I went for a walk and saw what I had previously been described at the museum.  Away from the tourist routes I saw two men mixing human waste with Yak, Yakow and likely other dung.  They were forming the mixture into large pancake sized disk.  After the disk are dried, according to my understanding, the cakes are burned for heating and cooking fuel and the “ash” is used as a fertilizer in the high altitude gardens which support mostly potatoes and HUGE cabbage I see growing around town.

cabage

Big dung cabbage with help from Stupa

The morning air was also filled with juniper smoke as small dried branches are traditionally burned to make the “Gods happy”.   This smoke smells really good as it wafts up in small clouds from mini shrines at nearly every home, lodge, and shop.

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October 13, 2009 Phakding – Namche Bazar

“Look asshole, just because people are poor and it may appear they don’t care, you don’t pee on the wall of someone’s home. You also don’t snap your fingers at the people who are trying, with limited resources, to meet your wimpy (myself included) needs”.  The bad behavior is isolated and most people are fantastic but occasionally a few have tempted my walking stick to end up against their arrogant colonial heads.  We often hear about the justly named ugly American traveler, and I certainly witnessed this previously in Paris, and to a lesser extent New Zealand, but the American crowd here are mostly the outdoor type and they are representing the stars and stripes rather well.  In fact, my friend Martin who is Polish but lives in Sweden said: “Not to be rude and please take no offense, but if the Americans here in Nepal, yourself included I would add, would show up more often abroad and in the media, you guys would have a much better world reputation”. The big groups seems to cause the most consternation and I guess some is understandable. They paid a lot of money for this trip (about double what I paid by booking local), they have unrealistic high expectations (the operators have some responsibility – as they over promise and under deliver), and large group dynamics create a feeding frenzy of “Us first, us first, we are German after all”. The best “You have got to be flipping kidding me story” was the French guy I witnessed who wanted to buy bottled water.  Now bottled water is carried up these mountains by man and/or beast and it is dusty out here.  So while the proprietor hands this snob. bottle after bottle of water (after wiping each top as is customary) he continues to reject them for being “dirty”.  After 12-15 bottles, the owner sends her son to another tea house and he brings back more bottles of water; again “disgusting – dirty”. Finally, she starts speaking in Nepalese and the boy disappears; I see him outside polishing the plastic water bottles out of sight of the French guy.  When presented with the sparkling plastic bottle this pin-head Parisian says: “finally, clean water”;  he then wants to negotiate the price. My hiking pole almost went through his spleen with a “No, you eat cake” comment from Versailles.
jax with load

Yakow

We followed many Yakow trains out of Lukla and up to Namche Bazar.  These sturdy beast are a cross between a Yak and a cow and are used at lower elevations.  Yaks, apparently do not feel good below 3000m and actually start loosing their hair if they get to much oxygen. Yakows on the other hand like thick air and work hard; they are no match for the size and strength of the big male Yaks up high however. Now at home, I give things weighing about a ton with attached horns a wide berth, and this has, to the annoyance of locals, been my practice here.  When I see these buffalo looking things coming, I get the hell out of their way while little school kids walk right by them and slap-em, silly if they get out of line.

We stay at a lovely tea house for a day of acclimation in Namche Bazar where I enjoy talking to the owner about his holiness the Dali Lama.  She has several photos of her family with the exiled leader of Tibet and her husband has traveled with the great monk to the United States and I believe elsewhere. I visit the local monastery and witness the local monks continually chanting their mantras in order to bring focus and quiet to their minds.

mt above namcheMt. above Namche Bazar

I got off to a good start with this tea house owner when I requested a shower. She gave me the keys and I went into the small closet that was the shower room.  On the wall was a propane instant hot water heater.  I got naked, turned on the water, and waited for the heat.  Instead, I found myself bathing in the fumes of highly explosive gas.  I turned off the water, threw on my skivvies and got the hell out of there.  I call for help and this traditionally dressed Tibetan women with a huge smile shows up and turns the water back on and laughs hysterically when the not so small explosion ultimate happens as the unit lights. “Happens every time, you pay me extra, I pay to have fixed”. She then looks at me standing in my briefs and starts laughing uncontrollably while shaking her head. About an hour later a British fellow runs up the stairs half naked complaining of a “gas” smell in the shower and a possibility of “real danger”.  The Tibetan women looks at me and I say to this poor chap: “Happens all the time, you pay her extra and she will have fixed, otherwise just wait for the explosion”.

jax hanging

Yakows hanging out

I was very happy,  to the point of smugness, with my performance on the way to Namche; I beat the porter with the plywood to the top of the hill! I was carrying Angin’s small day pack while he carried my full pack. The plywood guy was hauling 4 full sheets of our U.S equivalent (4X8X¾) laminated wood. To be clear, I can not carry one of these sheets from the rack at Home Depot to my truck in the parking lot.  This guy walked, bent over to nearly 70 degrees, with this wood on his nearly flat back.  He was wearing flip flops, had to cross several narrow suspension bridges, and walk up a trail that was effectively a boulder strewn staircase.  It took me about 5 hours, but I beat him by over 20 meters: Go America! Later in the week I would see another porter carrying 7 (4X4X7is) post in the same manor; he would beat me easily and walked out of sight within an hour.

Below the tea house two men are making the foundation material for structures I will see throughout this region.  The are making blocks out of solid granite that they have exposed beneath the earths surface. One man swings a huge sledge hammer while the other holds a short handled tool that has a spike on the end of it. After several blow, the a small hole begins to appear and water is added to the hole as a lubricant. Ultimately a big piece of granite is broke free and the men turn their attention to the more careful work of forming very uniform rectangular blocks. They utilize the natural crack lines in the rock and during my two day stay they hand chisel about 12 blocks.  When I returned 10 plus days later, the underlying granite had been completely transformed into a stack of nearly a hundred perfect blocks.

making boards
Making boards
Beyond building blocks, timbers are hand made throughout Nepal also.  A tree is felled and a platform structure is built out over a ledge.  This allows for one person to stand about 4 feet above his partner sawyer. A long saw is drawn up with a “touch down” motion from the upper person and drawn down with the opposite motion from the person below.  In doing this the four bark sides are carefully sawn away leaving a square timber.  I watched several men perform this task and it looks to take about a half a day to make one 4x4x8 post.  If you need a 2×4, well that naturally takes one more long and careful cut.

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Kathmandu, Nepal

budha

Sitting Buddha, little Tibet

Ok, so maybe an expedition is a bit of an exaggeration, but I figure a porter and a climbing guide, along with boots, crampons, ropes, helmet, ice ace, and 20,000 ft….has to count for something. I leave in the morning and will be gone for nearly a month.  My new summit attempt day is October the 30th.  On Dad’s birthday, the 23rd of October, I should be on top of Kalipathar enjoying the reported best view of the Himalaya (happy early birthday Dad); I should be able to see California from the top and will be thinking of you.  My schedule is below and the locations can be found on any good map of the Everest regions if you are interested. Oh yea, “lodge” does not mean Timberline Lodge in the North Cascades; rather think of a shelter with a plywood bed complete with 4 inches of foam, a squat toilet down the hall, and some hot noodles to eat….all good.

Number one fact checker comes through again.  I reported that Cei had pulmonary edema but she actually had cerebral edema. the former being a lung problem while the later is the much more serious brain swelling problem attributed to lack of oxygen reaching he brain. Thank you John, appreciate the help as always.

My dear sister Sheri said: ” Next time you post translate the mountain heights into feet for me :)”.  I love you girl, but that is not going to happen. I am having to train myself in metric because when you say “feet” here people just role there eyes with that “catch a clue American” look.  Seriously, I have talked to people from no less than 20 countries and NO ONE uses feet and can not believe the idiocy of the U.S for keeping  a system that is archaic, difficult, inconsistent with the world’s scientific community, and directly responsible for conversion errors that have caused human life.  But then again the “American government is famous for their arrogance” is typically the conclusion we jointly come to; albeit with good humor.  I often respond with one of my favorite quotes that RT shared with me: “Yes, it is easy to be principled when you are insignificant” .  That pretty much drives a final nail and solidifies the arrogance argument completely. Wanting to help  my math challenged sibling however,  the math is: 1 M = 3.28 ft.  Or simply multiply the meters times 3.3 and you will be close enough for understanding purposes.

go-BIG 2009 Himalayan Expedition: Gokyo valley, Chola pass, Everest base camp, Imja  Tse summit

Day 01: (October 12, 2009)

Fly to Lukla early in the morning (2827 m. 45 minutes flight) and then trek to Phakding (2-3 hours walking). Over night at lodge.

Day 02:

PHAKDING – NAMCHE (3440 m 6-7 hours.). Over night at lodge.

Day 03:

Fully day acclimatization and explore to climbers museum, Sherpa culture museum and visit to monastery.

Day 04:

Trek to Khumjung (3850 m 3-4 hours)  Over night at lodge.

Day 05:

KHUMJUNG – DHOLE (6 hours 4130 m.). Over night at lodge

Day 06:

DHOLE – MACHHERMO (4 hours 4520 m). Over night at lodge

Day 07:

MAHHERMO – GOKYO (4 hours 4860 m) Over night at lodge.

Day 08:

Wake early morning, climb Gokyo peak (5480 m)  Over night at lodge

Day 09:

Early morning walk to Chola Pass (5430 m 8-9 hours) Over night at Dhongla (5060 mtrs) Over night at lodge.

Day 10:

Trek to Labuche (5 hours 4860 m) Over night at lodge.

Day 11:

Rest day at Labuche.

Day 12:

Early morning VISIT KALAPATHAR for best Himalaya view (4 hours 5545 m) back to Gorekshep. Over night at lodge.

Day 13:

Early morning visit Everest Base camp (5 hours 5340 mtrs.) trek back to  Labuche (5 hours 4830 m) Over night at lodge.

Day 14:

Trek to Dingboche. Over night at lodge.

Day 15:

Trek to CHHUKUNG (7-8 hours 4730 m). Over night at lodge

Day 16:

Rest day at Chhukung. You will be meeting your climbing guide and check all the equipment.

Day 17:

CHHUKUNG – ISLAND PEAK BASE CAMP (6-7 hours 5130 m). Over night at tent

Day 18:

ISLAND BASE CAMP TO HIGH CAMP (Imja Tse) (5-6 hours. 5820 m.). Over night at tent.

Day 19: (October 30. 2009)

HIGH CAMP SUMMIT PEAK  (Imja Tse) (6189 m.) back to Base camp/Chhukung Over night at lodge.

Day 20:

PHERICHE – THYANGBOCHE  (3868 m 5-6 hours.) Over night at lodge.

Day 21:

THYANGBOCHE – MONJO (7 hours.). Over night at lodge.

Day 22:

MONJO – LUKLA (7-8 hours). Over night at lodge.

Day 23:

LUKLA fly to KTM.  (35 minutes flight.). Transfer to selected hotel in Kathmandu. Over night stay.

Talk to you all in a month; know you are in my thoughts and my heart.

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Bus ride

Kathmandu to Langtang trek

rop of our bus

Top of our bus

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.

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 too 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 heeds, 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 bus 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 men and a couple of kids. I meanwhile practiced 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 on 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 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.

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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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Thanel Distric, Kathmandu, Nepal

I was not worried about security, but that was the scariest place I have ever lay my head.  The hotel where I tried to stay was fully booked,  but they offered to put me up next door and allow me to use all of their facilities; fair enough as their place was pretty nice. Next door, however, was differnt.  Having not slept for well over 30 hours, I did not care as I handed over my $9,000 rupees (~$12,00USD). Where to start with this room – I am pretty sure it had not been occupied for months, the toilet seat was dangling beside the crapper, the shower had a steady stream of water coming out the only hole in the head that flowed any water, and the bucket on the floor was there, I presume, to catch the water as the drain could not keep up with even this minimal flow. The bed was basically a platform with a blanket and I would  have broke out the thermarest and slept on the floor had I been coherent. The sheets were torn and stained, but appeared clean. The electrical outlets and most of the lights did not work…… I could go on, but why. I slept hard.
It happened AGAIN.  This time it took a bicycle rickshaw to delivery back to my room as I got hopelessly lost.  And again, I was less than a block away from my room, but with the night falling, and the hashish salesman coming to the streets, I got intimidated and sought help for 100 rupees.
The food at the preferred hotel was great as I enjoyed vegetable curry and flat bread for dinner, and a honey/banana crepe with really good black coffee for breakfast.  Just as I was leaving, I met a nice couple who had booked two rooms at the desirable place but only needed one of them.  Thus the offered me the other room.  Great, but the hotel would have nothing of it; I am pretty sure they were over-booked and this was going to save them.  That combined with the fact that I mistakenly told them I did not want to book a trip with them, made me a non-prospect for additional revenue.  So I headed down the road and found a beautiful place for about double the money and booked in for two nights.  I wanted to stay for 4-5 but they are full later in the week.  This could work out great as I can write multiple reviews as I am forced to move from room to room around the city.
I need to get to a bank today and stock up on cash; should be interesting.  I know, how could that be interesting?  Well, just getting to the bank will be filled with sights, smells, and sounds the challenge and tilt my western mind’s experience bank. I in the reasonably deep third world now.  And all that intellectual bullshit we talk about back home regarding appreciating how fortunate we are – well, it gets real real and moves from the mind to the heart as I am immersed verses watching it on the discovery channel.

outside first room

View from my first room

I was not worried about security, but that was the scariest place I have ever lay my head.  The hotel where I tried to stay was fully booked,  but they offered to put me up next door and allow me to use all of their facilities; fair enough as their place was pretty nice. Next door, however, was differnt.  Having not slept for well over 30 hours, I did not care as I handed over my $9,000 rupees (~$12,00USD). Where to start with this room – I am pretty sure it had not been occupied for months, the toilet seat was dangling beside the crapper, the shower had a steady stream of water coming out the only hole in the head that flowed any water, and the bucket on the floor was there, I presume, to catch the water as the drain could not keep up with even this minimal flow. The bed was basically a platform with a blanket and I would  have broke out the thermarest and slept on the floor had I been coherent. The sheets were torn and stained, but appeared clean. The electrical outlets and most of the lights did not work…… I could go on, but why. I slept hard.

It happened AGAIN.  This time it took a bicycle rickshaw to delivery back to my room as I got hopelessly lost.  And again, I was less than a block away from my room, but with the night falling, and the hashish salesman coming to the streets, I got intimidated and sought help for 100 rupees.

The food at the preferred hotel was great as I enjoyed vegetable curry and flat bread for dinner, and a honey/banana crepe with really good black coffee for breakfast.  Just as I was leaving, I met a nice couple who had booked two rooms at the desirable place but only needed one of them.  Thus the offered me the other room.  Great, but the hotel would have nothing of it; I am pretty sure they were over-booked and this was going to save them.  That combined with the fact that I mistakenly told them I did not want to book a trip with them, made me a non-prospect for additional revenue.  So I headed down the road and found a beautiful place for about double the money and booked in for two nights.  I wanted to stay for 4-5 but they are full later in the week.  This could work out great as I can write multiple reviews as I am forced to move from room to room around the city.

second room view

View from current room

I need to get to a bank today and stock up on cash; should be interesting.  I know, how could that be interesting?  Well, just getting to the bank will be filled with sights, smells, and sounds thar  challenge and tilt my western mind. I in the reasonably deep third world now.  And all that intellectual bullshit we talk about back home regarding appreciating how fortunate we are – well, it gets real real and moves from the mind to the heart as I am immersed verses watching it on the discovery channel.

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The answer

South Korea

little guy

Guardians protect the entrance to many ancient sites

Given “The answer” has been found, I – well- guess , I can go back to the states. In hindsight it was easy, to easy in a way; and while I am very happy, I am left with a feeling of – really, that simple; results do not lie. When Sara and I speculated that we were onto it, it was simply a matter of finding the “right”, “not substitute” ingredients. Granted it took some bus rides, it took some walking, it took asking directions, it took help from abroad, it took multiple stores, it was expensive – but after a half a day we had what we needed, or at least we were pretty sure we did (labels were all in Korean); the ingredients for the perfect American chocolate chip cookie, and thus the answer to all of life’s questions – Good friends, good laughs, great cookies. We could only bake 4 cookies at a time given we only had access to a toaster over, but we knew we had it as we ate multiple spoon fulls of raw dough; lubrication for the tongue and upper palette. REAL BUTTER, REAL VANILLA, REAL CHOCOLATE CHIPS, and of course walnuts.

“We are dangerous together, like two peas in a pod” Sara exclaimed as we thought it was perfectly fantastic to stay up until 3am and sleep until noon all the while enjoying batches of cookies, 4 at a time. Sara had bought a book on traveling to South America on a shoe string and I had found the newly published Lonely Planet guide for Nepal. “Hey check this out, I am going to take Salsa lessons in Latin America” or “OMG, Kathmandu is one of the only capital cities in the world to have daily and extended power outages….it says here that nothing works”.

And thus my stay with my Sara comes to a perfect end. We saw some sites, we experienced a different culture, we ate a lot of Kimchi, and most importantly, we expanded our friendship beyond one of Uncle/Niece that was a definition from my previous marriage and a previous time.

While I have found the answer, I do think I will carry on in my travels however. In a comment posted here, my friend Ed Whitehead reminded me about what Mark Twain said of travel: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Looking forward to that motorcycle ride to the tip of Baja, ferry across the gulf, and ride back up the mainland of Mexico Ed; you and those biker bums back home get to planning. And that goal of sailing across an ocean together, well that needs to happen also.

Off to Kathmandu and the country that has the right to boast about having 8 of the worlds 10 largest mountains within its border. Tonight, if things go as planned, I will be calling the Singapore airport home. Tomorrow, tiger balm hucksters, and some BIG ass mountains.

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