Monday, June 3, 2013

Top of the World! Mount Everest and Kathmandu.

Mount Everest!  We took this picture from an airplane. (Buddha mountain flight.)

Part of the Himalayan Mountain Range.

Jeff and Scott.  Scott is from the United States.

These crazy guys saw and touched the top!  Scott is from the United States and he summitted from the Nepal side. Scott lost 30# due to the climb.

Chris and Jacky.  Chris is from Australia.
Chris is from Australia and he summitted from the Tibet side. 

We met them last night when we were having some drinks.

Road in Kathmandu.
I (Jacky) wanted to spend more time in Pokhara so Ward and Jeff mounted their bikes and headed to Kathmandu.  During their 2 day ride they experienced rain, narrow winding mountain climbs with heavy traffic and flooding once they hit Kathmandu.  The water drains are full with garbage which prevents them from adequately draining.  So, when it rains there is typically flooding in the streets.  Ward and Jeff experienced this when they had to ride through 9 inches of water once they entered the city of Kathmandu.

Two days later I took the bus to Kathmandu and met Jeff and Ward.

Jeff went to the Indian Embassy to get his visa on Friday but was told he will  not be able to pick it up until 5:00pm Monday.  Therefore, we have 4 days to explore Kathmandu.

We walked around and saw temples, stopped at a local festival, ended up an International Wrestling match (WWF, raw), etc.  See pictures below.

This is a typical road in the Thamel area (tourist zone) of Kathmandu.  The roads are narrow and outlined with many various little shops.

They haven't figured out their wiring system yet either.  A young lady was electricuted the other day when she stepped on a live power line.

Fruits and vegetables are purchased daily at the markets.

 Its a chiropractor's nightmare.  No item is too big to strap on your back and head.

The diety lives in this building.  The diety is a girl that has not reached puberty yet and that they believe is a God.  Once she reaches puberty she is replaced.

Other Cool Events:

We went to see a soccer match.  It was half time and we heard a lot of yelling and cheering coming from a different building so we went to check it out.  It was an International Wrestling Show (WWF, raw).

It was Nepal and USA  vs  Japan.

Thank God the Nepal and USA team won.  Its a scripted match but the fans were taking this very seriously and getting a little out of hand at times.

There was an extraordinary amount of  riot police present.  At one point a Japanese wrestler had the Nepal wrestler in a headlock and was strutting him down the front row of the bleachers right in front of us.  A local from behind jumped over  my (Jacky's) back and hit the Japanese wrestler.  The riot police were right there and escorted the kid out.

We also attended a local festival.  We never see any other tourists at any of these events.  They all stay in the "tourist" zone.

We had heard a lot of negative comments regarding Kathmandu prior to our arrival.  Much to our surprise, we enjoyed the city.

Tomorrow we hit the road and bike through the mountains to the Indian border.  We are in our last week.  We will send one final blog prior to departing on June 12th.

Until then...Namaste!

Sight Seeing in Pokhara

After our 3 day trek we spent a couple of days exploring Pokhara and the surrounding area.

This time of year (monsoon season) it is a real treat if you see the Annapurna Range.  I awoke one morning at 4:47 to a bright blue sky.  I jumped in a taxi and took it to Sarangkot where you can get the best view of these amazing mountains.

Gorge created by the Seti River.

The Seti River runs throughout the Pokhara valley which creates many gorges.

Devid's Falls

Devid's Falls:  In 1961 AD a Swiss couple was bathing near the fall.  A sudden flood from the Fewa Dam (Lake) swept the women, Mrs, Devid, over the falls to her death.

The World Peace Stupa overlooks Pokhara.

We biked up to the World Peace Stupa to tour the temple and also to view  Pokhara at sunset.  Unfortunately the temple was already closed for the day.

We enjoyed a beer after a grueling climb to the Stupa.

Day with the Rotarians.
We went to see the "Children of Nepal" school project that Dr Ram, a Rotarian has founded.  It focuses on 1) education for the children that do not have the needed financial means to attend school,  2) helping girls get educated, 3) help the families learn skills to obtain money to support their families, and 4) to help get violence out of the homes and schools.  Many of these children's education is funded by sponsors from other countries.

Jeff is talking with two of the students.  The smaller girl is being sponsored by Britt Rhodes from Decorah, IA.

We also visited a private school who's principal is a Rotarian.  The children were very well behaved.  They were very excited to see us and many of them presented us with flowers when we visited their classroom.

We ended the day by going to Dr Ram's home for dinner.  It was a fabulous dinner with great conversation.  Its nice to visit with someone who can answer the questions that we have regarding Nepal.

We loved Pokhara and we definitely return in the future.  Now it is time to head to Kathmandu!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Amazing 3 Day Trek in the Himalayas of Pokhara, Nepal.

Photo of Fewa Lake from the Lakeshore Tourist side of Pokhara.
We are now in Pokhara, Nepal (refer to previous blog).  It is such a welcoming relief.  Most of the time we are trying to get away from the touristy locations but after being deprived of these luxury amenities for is darn nice to have them!

We checked into the Celesty Inn  Hotel.  This place became home to us for awhile.  Once we arrived we quickly started planning our 3-4 day trek into the mountains.  The Annapurna Mountain Range (mountains as high as 8091 meters) has a complete trekking circuit around it that takes 16 days.  So, you can see we were doing quite a short trek in comparison.  We had to get 2 different permits for trekking, rent an appropriate backpack, trekking poles, etc.  That took a full day to organize.  The next day we started on the hike.  We were warned of leaches as it is the beginning of the monsoon season and I had actually talked to quite a few hikers that had already experienced them.  As I am not a fan of blood sucking creatures, I purchased salt, made sure my arms and legs were covered, and as my sister Pat suggested...tried to remember, "they are just sucking the bad blood out".

We were told our route would take 5 days at a very easy pace, 4 days at a comfortable pace and that we could do it in 3 days at a fast pace.  We decided we would take 4 days since we wanted to take pictures, make sure we could see the mountains when they decided to show themselves etc.  The first day of hiking we reached our overnight destination by noon.  That was much too early to stop so we kept going and ended up reaching the destination that we were going to stay at the second night.  The other hikers were all amazed that we did it in one day.  I guess we are used to putting in long days on the bike and stopping at noon just didn't seem right.  There is no need to camp since guiest houses are available.  We had fun that night talking to the trekkers from other countries.

Passing through one of the many small villages on the route.

Ward hiking.

Everything has to be carried up by humans or donkeys.
Local person carrying a table up the mountain.

The next day was going to start  at 4:00 a.m.with a short hike to Poon Hill to see the mountains unviel themselves at sunrise.  (Jeff and Ward had to go without me as it was my turn to have gastrointestinal problems.)  This view is suppose to be "in the top" panaramic mountain views in the world!  Because the best season to climb is in Oct/Nov, not May (monsoon season) the chances of this view are slim.  They saw the top of one mountain but that was all.  I then joined them for the remainder of the day.  The weather was humid and changing between mist, rain, and sunshine.  We were always checking for leaches and having to brush them off of us at times.  Ward had one burrow through the stitching of his tennis shoes then through the stitching of his socks and then attach onto his toe!  Now, that's a desperate sucker!

Jeff and Jacky making their way down the muddy trail.
The second day was hard.  It was up and down and very muddy - difficult not to slip and fall.  I wasn't able to eat or drink anything as my system was upset so the fatigue and lactic acid set in quicker.  We reached our overnight village and found a fantastic place to stay, the Trekkers Inn.  Hot showers, clean rooms, great food and friendly staff.  That's all you need.  It is a place we will certainly return to. 

Rule #1:   Hike faster than a donkey because its darn hard to get by them!

Trekkers Inn.  This is where we stayed the second night.
Day 3 we finished the hike out of the mountain.  Once we reached the end we had a celebratory beer sponsored by Mark Pernitz.  It was a great experience.  All three of us said that we would like to come back and do the larger circuit in the future.
Terraced mountain side.
Fishtail mountain (Machhapuchre) decided to show itself
at the end of our hike (6,993meters)

Enjoying a celebratory beer sponsored by Mark Pernitz.
Thanks Mark.
Great time!

Question of the day: Will Jeff become Nepalese?

Heading to Nepal (Jeff and Jacky)
Jacky is wearing an arm warmer, not because it is cold,
but to protect her scar from the sun.
 We thought the rest of our trip would  be smooth sailing.  Wrong!  Once Jeff returned from picking up his new passport in New Delhi we headed to Nepal.  The heat and humidity were challenging enough but then Jeff developed a gastrointestinal illness which made it difficult for him to eat or drink.  He still got on his bike every day and we continued on trying to stay with our schedule.  You just can't keep a "Freidhof" down!  (Remember the previous blog where I talked about Boot Camp??)
As we were exiting India at the India/Nepal border, the border patrol looked at Jeff's Indian Visa paperwork and told him that his Indian Visa was no longer valid and if he exited India he would not be able to get back in!   Jeff was beside himself because he had just spent many days and hours at the Indian Visa Office in New Delhi clarifying with them that his prior visa was still active, that he could still leave the country and re-enter as he has a multiple entry visa, and making sure everything was complete and in order.   (For those of you that don't know Jeff, he is extremely thorough!)  We were in a predicament since they had already stamped Ward's and my Indian exit papers so we had to cross.  They told Jeff that if he crossed into Nepal he would need to go to Kathmandu for a new Indian Visa. 
Entered into Nepal.
Jeff's fate??  Still unknown!!

We hadn't planned on going to Kathmandu as we'd heard it is a big dirty city.  Pokhara is the recommended tourist spot that lies in the truly beautiful Annapurna Himalayan Range.  We've been cracking jokes continually about Jeff finding a Nepalese wife and staying here since he can't leave.  I think he has accepted this.  He has since purchased a dhaka topi (traditional Nepal hat) and struts around town with it.  All kidding aside, there is still a little concern since he doesn't have permission to enter India at this time and the Indian visa/immigration system is very unorganized and unpredictble.
Jeff sporting his dhaka topi (Nepal hat).
He seems to be settling in quite nicely.

Bicycling in Nepal:
Rest break at the mountain pass.

Afternoon rest and hydration break from the sun in a village.

The first leg of our Nepal bicycling adventure took us through forests and jungles.  The heat continued to be over 100 degrees and the humidity was at an all time high for us.  We were having a hard time staying hydrated as it seemed we'd have more sweat dripping off of us than what we are able to consume (even though we would each drink ~6-10L fluid per day!).  We would try to get an early start and get most of our miles covered in the morning, knowing that the heat of the afternoon was going to require frequent rest stops.
No A/C at Hotel Paradise.  We had to use our mosquito nets. 
  We biked through a wild life preserve and saw many signs for tigers.  At first it was a little unnerving.  However, after seeing goats and cows
being herded down the road we knew we were
safe.  I think tigers prefer them over us (or at least that was my belief).  We did see monkeys and we were lucky enough to see elephants in the wild.  That was a real treat!

Since it was ~100 degrees in our room we sat outside with the locals at Hotel Paradise.

I don't know Nepalese but I think the picture says it all. 

We saw 2 elephants in the wild while biking.  WOW!!  You don't see that everyday!

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Because we need to incorporate Kathmandu into our plan (that's if we want Jeff to come back with us) and we need to be in New Delhi by June 9th to prepare to fly back, we need to move forward a little quicker.  Therefore, once we hit Butwal, Nepal we got on a local bus and took it into Pokhara.  It was quite an experience.  The bus made frequent stops delivering parcels to different villages and picking up other items and passengers.  We had big bags of grain throughout the whole walkway, baskets of live chickens, etc.  There was always room for one more passenger even if all the seats were taken.  They would then stand in the walkway or ride up on top of the bus.  At one point we had to wait 1 hr to cross where a bridge had recently been washed away due to high rains.  A temporary crossing was made.  Remember, these local buses are not air conditioned and Ward and Jeff do not have the stature of the locals.  Just because you are a little bigger than them doesn't mean you get any more room in your seat!  The route through the mountains was very busy and winding.  Sometimes its best to just shut your eyes so you don't see what is coming or how close you are to the edge.  (If anyone saw "Ice Road Truckers" when they drove from India to Nepal you know what I am talking about.) 
This photo is taken from a pier on Fewa Lake. 
We dropped down into Pokhara.  What a beautiful site.  Yeah!  We made it and we're ready to start our next phase...a trek in the mountains.  (See next blog).

Photo to the left was taken from a pier on Fewa Lake.  It is on the Lake Shore tourist side of Pokhara City.  The city is actually very large and is nestled in this range of mountains.  Very beautiful!