Tag Archives: Nepal

Gratitude. part dos

27 Jan

Last week when I wrote about making a list of what I am grateful for in this past year, a few folks asked about that list.  So — here is a portion of that list, in no particular order (the numbers are there just because I like lists, not because of priority).

38 things I am grateful for:

1.  My mom and dad for encouraging me and supporting me to follow my dreams, accepting that my path is not as straight as others.  Though it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, I am ever so thankful for their inspiration, acceptance and support.

2.  Katherine – my buddy in adventures.  We have skied the Chic Chocs, bed down in the whites, climbed some pretty high mountains and have hiked countless number of miles together.  I feel lucky to have a friend who will go on such adventures with me – and cannot wait to plan the next one!

katherine and I on top of mt. whitney

katherine and I on top of mt. whitney

3.  My job.  I do work that I care about, work that I believe makes the world a better place.  Work that makes me think and pushes me to be my best self.

4.  My mentors.  I am lucky to have some pretty great mentors, people who are looking out for me, who have given me guidance along the way and have inspired me in my work.  Thanks Steve, Julie H., Sue, Lily and Meg (among others).

5.  India – for reminding me of the goodness of people and the beauty of humanity and that, ultimately, the world is a good place full of good people.

Couldn't speak any common language, but we could understand enough

Couldn’t speak any common language, but we could understand enough

6.  Hope.  Ultimately, I am full of hope, even when I try to hide that hope.  Hope makes us vulnerable.  It makes us trust.  It opens us up.  Sometimes all that is scary – but as much as it scares me, I cannot deny that is who I am.

7.  Climbing, trekking, skiing, backpacking, hiking, walking – being outside and active (and not hurt – unlike right now…..  which I hate.  I hate being hurt.  oh, wait – wrong list).

8.  Mountains – for keeping me dreaming.

one of the many, many mountains i dream of climbing

one of the many, many mountains i dream of climbing

9.  My brother.  We’re just under two years apart, went to the same school — all the way to college – together.  Now we live on different sides of the country, but every time we get together we laugh and have fun.  But, can’t leave out my other brother who is much younger, but is well on his way to leading an interesting life himself.

10. My bestest girlfriends.  I am beyond lucky that I have an amazing group of girl friends.  Yogatara, Jessica, heather, susan, cynthia, tracy, smak, cara, meggy, jessica.  These women make me laugh, feed my soul, listen to me complain, let me cry on their shoulders and tell me to shut up when I need to hear that.

weekend in the berkshires

weekend in the berkshires – look how much we love hanging out with each other!

11.  Bucket lists.  Biking around the world?  Climbing a mountain over 20,000 feet?  Living in another country?  Becoming fluent in spanish?  Being in Thailand for a sky lantern festival?  Trekking in remote Nepal?  Yes, don’t mind if I do.

12.  Laughter.  The world keeps me endlessly amused.  I like to laugh – often and loud.  In fact, one of my students use to make fun of my laugh because it was so loud.  awesome.  keep it coming.

13.  Books.  Fiction, specifically.  And lots of it.

14.  Patagonia – for make me yearn for wild places.  Patagonia – will you marry me?

i am in love….

15.  Peru – for offering me lessons when I needed them.  For its beautiful people, its passion, its landscape, its rich history.  I might cheat on patagonia for peru.

16.  The universe – what a grand, amazing world this is conspiring each and every day to remind me how great it is.

17.  My journey.  As unpredictable as it has been, as winding, and messy and twisty it is, what a great journey it has been.

18.  Surprises and magic.  Last year when I was traveling – each thing that happened, that seemed wrong and bad — ultimately it would all turn out to be ok, even great.


19.  Open heart.  See #6.  Open heart and hope and vulnerability — all tied up.  And I am ever thankful that I am on this journey to keep my heart open (with varying success along the way).

20.  Wisdom.  As I get older, the more wisdom I get.  I have a long way to go, but it is one thing about getting older that I love.

There’s more.  Another 18 on the list (whoa, that makes me feel old), but you get the idea…..

Thanks world.

What I miss….

7 Jun

I have been back in the states for a little over a month now.  In some ways, my life has slowed down a lot.  I go to the same place for work every day, I see my old friends.  I just got my car back.  I do ‘normal’ life things — like get my car inspected.  But at the same time, I am still in flux.  Still very much in transition – sleeping on an air mattress with my sleeping bag as a blanket.  Still unsure of where I will go beyond July 27th.  Still unsure of what I want.

But one thing is clear to me…  I know what I miss.  So, I thought I would put together a little list of what I miss….

sunset in southern india

I miss:

  • the taxis everywhere honking at me (except when i need them) – all I can think is – don’t you think that I would wave you down if I needed you?
  • freshly squeezed juice
  • buses with someone yelling out of them telling you where they are going
  • busy markets
  • street food – pork, tucanos and salteñas with hot sauce, empanadas

street food!

  • the ability to buy any movie on the street
  • markets that you can buy just about anything at (fresh veggies, fresh fruit, meat)
  • strangers wishing me ‘provecho‘ in restaurants
  • south american couples – young and old – holding hands, kissing in plazas
  • meeting strangers and within hours or days, feeling that they were old friends
  • being called mamie or mamacita in the markets where i bought my daily avocados and mangos
  • women walking down the street breastfeeding (ok, that was just SA)
  • the vivid colors of saris

girls on a field trip in southern india

  • everyone around me having dark hair and dark eyes
  • staying out until 4 in the morning, dancing at a club
  • meeting strangers
  • the mix of spices unfolding in my mouth
  • the smell of India
  • riding the trains, buses, rickshaws, motos
  • being on a train and hearing ‘chai, chai, chai’
  • mountains, sunsets, beaches, high altitude landscapes
  • the constant awareness of history and religion and spirituality

the eyes of buddha

  • fresh air and being outside every day
  • hearing a foreign language and trying to guess at context
  • learning to speak another language and get my needs met
  • walking everywhere
  • trekking
  • the Andes, Patagonia, Himalayas

mountains near Huaraz

and then there is the other stuff..   the stuff that is harder to find, harder to name.

I miss writing and reading every day.  I miss having the time to think and reflect and write.  I miss having the freedom to come and go as it suits me.  I miss people watching.  I miss what it feels like to wake up and think… huh, I wonder what I will do today? I miss not having a schedule.  I miss adventure.  I miss being by myself – but the prospect of not being by myself every day.  I miss the possibilities of saying ‘yes’.  I miss trusting that everything will work  out.  I miss freedom.  And choice.  And travel.

I miss feeling like I am exactly where I am suppose to be.

8 months in review….

13 May

8 months in review…..

Best Meal:

This is such a hard one…. I have had so much amazing food….  but here are a few of my favorites:

  1. grilled chicken from a street vendor in peru – plate with beet salad, maize and amazing chicken – though this was quickly overtaking by the roasted pig fresh out of the huge oven bought on the street a few days later.  Oh man, I could have had 3 plates worth!
  2. masala dosas in Southern Indian, eaten with my hands
  3. vietnamese soup from a street stall
  4. fresh fruit from the street vendors in bangkok
  5. not quite a meal but…. chai on the trains in india first thing in the morning

drying fish

Strangest food:

Oh man, SE Asia is the place for … different… food.  I wasn’t always terribly explorative but….

There is this sandwich that is really common in Vietnam.  It is combination of the French influence (a baguette) but truly Vietnamese – on one side is a pate-like substance, on the other there is butter.  Then you can choose between pork or a fried egg (or both). Then the condiments and extras include cucumber, tomato, chilies, fish sauce and other unknown stuff.  It is actually quite good – as long as you don’t think about the ‘pate’.

I had some meals in Thailand from the street carts that I have no idea what they were.  Some were strange, for sure.

And if I HAD tried it, baby bird still in the shell would make the top of the list!

Best Book

I have probably read close to 40 books this year.  I am a bit of a voracious reader, which was great because I read a lot, but not good because it meant that I finished books super fast.  So – I cannot remember them all – but one of my favorites was White Tiger by an Indian author.  It is super funny and reflective of life and people in India – I read it while there and I could not stop laughing.

things lost

2 pairs of underwear (but one was not my fault – the laundry service lost them!)

1 pair of socks (damn laundry service)

umbrella  – uh, no idea where I left that…..

my SA cell phone – also no clue….

Best Guesthouse

I have stayed in many many crappy places.  But I have also stayed in some really nice places – whether it was a guesthouse in Vietnam that over looked the beach, or a simple room in a family’s home in Nepal, or a clean room with my own bathroom in Huaraz – the  things that started to matter to me was quietness, cleanliness and bathrooms.  Funny how your needs start to get boiled down to simplicity….

sunrise on the ganges

Coolest Wildlife Sighting

Seeing mama and ‘baby’ rhino from the back of an elephant!  I mean, it was a rhino!  And they look just like the pictures….  (which I know sounds ridiculous but that was totally my reaction….)

going for an elephant ride (not comfortable!)

Most beautiful scenery

How could I possibly pick just one?  I have spent time in some of the most beautiful mountain ranges of the world – Himalayas, Andes, Patagonia.  I have visited Machu Picchu and temples of Bangkok.  I cannot possibly pick one place that was more beautiful than another. But the diversity of Bolivia, the mountains of Huaraz, the raw beauty of Patagonia and the grandeur of the Himalayas definitely stole my heart.

crossing the glacier

Toughest moment

There were definitely times in the fall when I had a crisis of faith what am I doing here?  What am I doing with my life?!  I remember one day in particular.  It was a rainy day in India, I was in Kochi, a city in Southern India.  At that point, I had been traveling for close to 3 weeks or so in India, by myself.  I was enjoying India, at times.  But was also finding it difficult – the constant staring, the constant feeling of being a spectacle, of being uncomfortable.  I was at a coffee shop and just spent the afternoon staring out in space, trying to figure out my purpose….  it was a rough period.

Biggest scam

When I arrived in Mumbai, I had to take a taxi from one train station to another.  It was quite early in the morning, still dark, and I wasn’t sure exactly what I needed to do.  Taxis are always tough because they are really metered, you don’t know how much they should be charging you and how much you should bargain.  I found a driver and thought we had a deal.  When we got there, I paid him with a large bill (I can’t remember what it was, but I was almost positive it was enough to cover the fare).  For the sake of the story, let’s say it was a 100.  But, he told me, no, that is 20.  You need to give me more.  Confused, I handed over another 100.  Again, he told me that it was a 20.

Now, you have to remember that it was still dark out.  There is a chance that he was telling the truth.

But, I am pretty sure that I handed over a whole lot more than I should have.  My theory is that he dropped the money on the front seat and had a 20 there to show me.  Or, maybe I really was just overtired…..  Want to give him the benefit of the doubt but….. I think that I lost out on at least a few 100 rupees that day!


meeting the locals….

I found the people in India to be incredibly funny and want to talk to me.  Of course, at first they stared, but if I smiled at them, chances were they would smile back.  I remember being in the train station in Varanasi and I had accidentally arrived early.  So, I joined everyone else in sitting on the floor.  There was a large group of women who were staring intensely at me.  I tried to smile, but it was hard to crack their stares.  Eventually, I got one of the little girls to smile at me – which in turn got the whole family to smile and giggle at me.  They waved me over and we spent 30 minutes of them staring at me, holding my hand, speaking to me in Hindu and me just smiling.  As they left, they all wanted to shake my hand.

Getting sick

I am not sure how I pulled this off, but I had it 8 months without getting sick – except for a few times that were pretty minor.  My body had a day or two adjustment from being a vegetarian for 4 months to jumping back on the meat-train (with no easing in).  Then in Bolivia, I got sick a few times, but mostly just for 24 hours or so. And one cold in Peru that lasted 48 hours or so.  Moral of the story? Traveling is really healthy for me.  Oh – and I lost my hand sani early on and never replaced it……  🙂

Craziest public transportation

This one is tough, as I took a lot of sketchy transportation this year.  I have been on auto-rickshaws and bike-rickshaws, motorcycles, buses, trans, cars, elephants.  And, as my brother can attest, I can be a nervous passenger.  But, for some reason, the sketchiness never really bothered me this year.  Maybe it is because people do not drive super fast, maybe it is because the lack of rules in so many places means that everyone understands that and works within those parameters (a lack of rules almost means that you are always expecting the unexpected).  And then there is the simple consolation for myself – well, I am sure the driver doesn’t want to die, so…. he’ll be careful., right?

But the craziest?  It was probably a rickety bus that had to be push started and had 4 out of 5 gears working and I could see the ground through the gear shaft.  And I was on it for 13 hours.  And the driver had to avoid dogs and monkeys and people and motorcycles.

worst food

This is hands down Argentina.  I mean, could the food get any more bland?  Yes, yes, I know – this is the land of steaks and good wine.  And I bet that if you have a lot of money to spend, you can have a really good steak. But, I never had a lot of money to blow.  So, I had some good steaks. And I had some good wine.  But on a whole, the food there is boring and bland.

worst guesthouse moment

This one is easy….  I was in Potosi, Bolivia and had gone to bed early, as I am prone to doing.  The other people in my room got back late – around 2 in the morning.  I was already annoyed with them, as it was a group of 3 and the couple of the group was staying in one bed above me (get your own room, please).  In any case, they were clearly a bit drunk, stumbling around, knocking things over. Eventually, they got into bed, when I heard the guy say to the girl above me ‘uh-oh, I think I am going to puke”.  And though I heard him clearly, his girlfriend seemed confused by what he was saying. In my head, I am screaming at her – get him out of the f’ing bed. But she is slow to respond.  Too slow, in fact.  And he pukes down the wall.  You know, down the hall onto the bed I am in.

Yeah, definitely a low point….

friendliest stranger encounter

There have been so many positive and helpful. Encounters with strangers – people have been kind of helpful to me all along the way.  But one memory, in particular was when I was in India trying to figure out how to get to this festival and I had to take a bus.  I could not find the street that I needed to take the bus on, so I got directions there.  When I approached the street, I saw that there were many buses to choose from – all written in a different language.  How would I ever know?  I asked a woman who was walking towards me – and she brought me over to the street, helped me find the bus and told the driver where I was headed.  When I thanked her, she said, “no problem.  You would do the same for me if I needed help in your country”.  Good reminder of what goes around, comes around….

3-faced buddha

Number of high passes (over 4500m) crossed (by foot)

  • 3 in Nepal (2 in the Everest region, 1 in the Annapurna region)
  • 3 in Argentina (2 in Patagonia, 1 on Aconcagua)
  • 4 in Peru (3 on the Ausungate circuit, 1 on the Lares trek)
  • and of course, 1 high summit in Bolivia!

how much rice eaten

let’s see….  I have been traveling for about 240 days.  Most of the countries I was in eat rice with their meals.  Let’s low-ball that I had about a ½ cup of rice with each meal.  And then let’s low-ball that 175 dinners were rice dishes, which means that I had approximately 87.5 cups of rice this year.  Which I would say is definitely a low-ball estimate…. which means that is a lot of rice.

Best luck (and worst luck)

I combined these too – because it was really hard to think of a time when I had bad luck.  Because even when things did not work out the way I had planned them, something always good happened to me. There was the time I had a day layover in Bengalore, but I ended up getting to sit poolside drinking gin and tonics.  And then there was that other time that I was delayed in getting to Huaraz, but my timing meant that I met my mountain guide.

poolside! always good to say yes!

how many miles/km walked

Ha.  Try and figure that one out – not only did I trek in Nepal, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru.  But I also walked pretty much everywhere.  Like the day in Bolivia where I tried to walk to a school in La Paz – and it ended up taking me 3 hours.  Or all the times I was a cheap-ass and refused to take the bus or the taxi.  I mean, it has got to be 1000s and 1000s of kms….

biggest fear

Rickety buses?  no.

Muggings?  Nope.

Being abducted by a rogue taxi driver?  Hardly.

But being attached by animals?  Yep!  Top of the list.  And not just dogs (though they are definitely scary in South America), but my biggest fears are being attacked – no, that is not the right word – being charged by farm animals – you know, the cows, horses and yaks that are frequently in the areas where I trek.  I know that a cow is not likely to charge me, but surely it has happened before, no?  And the yaks are so damn big.  And donkeys are total spazzes, hard to predict what they will do!

And, just for the record, I was trekking through a meadow last week and a horse did try to charge me (swear to god!) and the dogs that were following me (I might have fed them…) charged the horse and barked at it and scared it off.

So, I think that my fear is justified.  Ok?!

fishing on the China Sea

Best ‘just say yes’ moment….

there have been a few….

  1. Getting invited to a fancy hotel and getting treated to lunch, G&Ts and dinner while sitting poolside in Bangalore
  2. Getting to visit a Peruvian school with a local teacher and meet and talk with her students
  3. Going to review maps with a mountain guide and then spending the next two weeks together!

rule of life — just say yes!

  1. Getting to try delicious food from all over the world when I let the ‘salesperson’ talk me into it!

Namaste Nepal

8 Nov

From mountains to lakes to the jungle – Nepal seems to have it all.  What an amazing country.  I found the people, for the most part, kind and helpful.  They wanted to help – and not just to, you know, ‘help’.  For instance, one morning, while running, I saw a guy hit a dog on his motorcycle — down he went and skidded down the road (the dog ran away).  People ran from all over to help him pick up his bike and his shoe and move to the side of the road to make sure he was ok.

Yes, I solicited stares a lot of the time – but I think that happens anywhere where you are different (amazing to think what a homogenous country it is – especially as compared to the US) and when you travel in a place where women have, for the most part, a very specific role.  And the stares seemed more curious than mean or harsh.

Kathmandu is big and dusty and dirty and polluted, but people helped out when I needed directions – or smiled when I smiled at them.  Children seemed well cared for and I loved seeing them with their parents – both mom and dad seem to have lots of love for them!

But, that is not to say that it is a Shangri-La.  The day before I left, there were police in riot gear everywhere and then that evening there seemed to be a street fight breaking out near where Lisa and I bought our veggies (and right near where Katherine and I stayed when we first arrived in Kathmandu).  There definitely seemed to be an undertone of something more – perhaps as it is a country that is just coming out of civil unrest and still does not have a constitution?

But all told, it was a great two months and I would for sure go back — there are still so many places to climb and trek and areas that were unexplored!  Thanks Nepal — what a great way to start my journey!

Rhinos, Tigers and Elephants, oh my!

7 Nov

Chitwan is a large national park that creates a large part of the southern border between India and Nepal.  It is well known for its inhabitants – tigers, rhinos, elephants and the Tharu people – who amazingly enough have a natural resistance to malaria.

Since I was headed by land to India anyway – I thought this would be a pretty exciting – since I have never seen (in the wild) a rhino, tiger or elephant.  I left Kathmandu on a morning bus full of Germans and Nepalis.  Our ride was going well until a car, trying to pass a truck, side-swiped our bus.  All I heard was swerving tires, felt our bus jerk to the left and then screeching of brakes.  Nobody was hurt – though we ended up being on the side of the road for an extra hour or so.  For a seemingly remote section of the road – it was amazing how many people showed up to say their part and stand around the car and the bus.  The police showed up, paperwork was filled out and eventually we were on our way.  I was able to follow the progress as I befriended my seat-mate — a young Nepali woman headed to Bangalore where she goes to school for physical therapy.  We exchanged email addresses and promised to be friends on facebook!  🙂

Eventually we reached Sauraha, the town outside of the park entrance.  There are all sorts of fancy places in the park where you can stay for multi-day packages, but that didn’t quite fit into my $30/day budget (by a long shot….).  The place I ended up staying at was just outside of town and was opened by one of Nepal’s leading ornithologists.  The courtyard was full of plants and gardens and had a few hammocks — really quite lovely.  I was in the budget room, but it was pretty nice (as compared to the two places I have stayed since there!  who knew I had it so good…)

The first day I was there, they sold me on my package – an elephant safari ride and a canoe with a jungle walk back.  The price was a bit of a splurge for me, but staying with my friend in Kathmandu, I was able to save money – so I am still within budget (for all you yankee spendthrifts out there — you know who you are!  🙂  And they provided a free walk the first day – which was to go look through the community forest (that surrounds the park) for a short walk and then see some of the govenment elephants and learn some facts (for instance, did you know that elephants only sweat through their toes?  and that Asian elephants age by turning white on their ears and nose?).  We also saw a rhino chillin’ in the water — which was pretty damn cool.

half submerged rhino

The next morning, we went out for the canoe.  It was short – but pretty cool to be out on the water.  The canoe is carved out of one sal tree that is manuevered with a mix of poling and paddeling.  We saw a bunch of submerged crocodiles – and then – a big one out of the water sunning himself!  WHOA!  it was pretty awesome!  and a bit scary.  Next to it, there was one in the water that the guide said was even bigger – and I think that they were all a little frightened because they all reached for their sticks!

We also saw a bunch of birds — couldn’t tell you what they all were but egrets, storks, kingfishers, peacocks, etc.  I couldn’t understand the guide fully and then when they are birds you don’t know….  yeah, not so much.

Then we started the jungle walk – which frankly wasn’t all that exciting. The most exciting part was the guide telling me about the dangers – i.e. if we see a rhino, you should run but if we see a tiger, we should just pray, and as for the sloth bear – well, not much you can do because they can run, climb, etc. and they don’t like humans’ faces.

It was more of a sal forest, which was cool enough, but not very jungle-y (as one would imagine it to be).  We didn’t see too many animals up close – but in the distance we saw spotted deer (I didn’t have the heart to tell him about how many deer we have at home), monkeys in the tree.  And cool enough – we saw a tiger print and signs from where a sloth tiger had climbed up to a bee’s nest.

my guide carries a big stick to, you know, beat back the tigers

really cool bugs found all throughout the forest

tiger print (to the right of his hand)

As for the elephant walk….  well, it was interesting.  There were 9 of us going out at the same time.  The elephant platform can handle 4 – so I got an elephant to myself.  which was cool b/c it was super quiet.  If anyone ever tells you that riding an elephant is fun, tell them they are wrong!  No, it is pretty cool but definitely not comfortable!  We ended up seeing 3 rhinos – including a mama and her baby, which was very cool!!  I couldn’t get over how cool the rhinos were.  I know this sounds stupid, but they look just like they do in pictures!  (and before you laugh at me, let me say this — they are such strange looking animals that you almost expect the pictures to be caricatures…. but they aren’t!!!)   The elephant rides are cool b/c you can get up closer to animals (they are not as freaked out by the elephant as they would be if you were on foot).

the elephant i was going to ride. damn, they are big

the other two groups — now imagine that platform with just me!

The ride was for about an hour and a half and took me through the grasslands (which is pretty awesome – though being taken over by an invasive) and then into the forest — where I saw some hanging orchids which was really cool!  Right before the ride ended, something must have scared the elephant (the guy said monkey, i think?) and the elephant started to run!  I had a brief image of the elephant stampeding through the village with me hanging on, just, for dear life!  Fortunately, the handler got it calm in a manner of seconds!

going across the river


trying to take a picture of myself while riding an elephant is difficult!

mama and baby rhino (not a great shot….)

The next morning before I had to leave I went for a great run near the river – through Tharu huts as people prepared for their day and passed a bunch of elephants and their handlers (so now I know, I run faster than an elephant saunters along.  Good to know).

And that was that — it was time to leave Nepal and head out to big ol’ India and start that adventure!  Who knew it was such a calm before the storm?!  (ok – anyone who has been to india knew!)


30 Oct

As I mentioned (in my Pokhara post), it is Tihar, the festival of lights and the Nepali new year.  Tihar, also known as Diwali, is one of the most important Hindu holidays, second only to Dasain (here in Nepal) — which was celebrated in October (remember the slaughters while trekking?  yeah, that was Dasain).  This festival starts with honoring crows (they are messengers of death), dogs (they guide souls in death), cows and then siblings.

My last night in Pokhara was beautiful — with colorful mandalas made in front of all the stores and restaurants.  As the sun set, candles were placed out front, lights were strung up on all store, bar and restaurnat fronts accompnaied by garlands of marigolds.  Kids were making their way from place to place chanting and singing.

Mandalas and the pathway for Lakshmi

The first night is when the girls are suppose to go around singing, chanting and dancing – though in Pokhara I saw both — girls going to store fronts and doing traditional dances.  But the strangest was in the middle of the street – a large group had gathered.  There was a Nepali/Hindi ballad playing and a guy, dressed in a Michael Jackson-esque style, was dancing, in a Michael Jackson-esque way.  It didn’t quite fit in…

The lights, music, chanting and singing went late into the night – groups of kids visiting every household – getting a bit of a handout at each place.

On the trip back to Kathmandu, we could tell people were getting ready for the big Deepawali (festival of lights) as there were slaughters of water buffalo, flowers out in front of their houses, paths from the mandala into the house (so Lakshmi – goddess of wealth – can know which way to go) and lights being strung up in front of the houses.  Then, back in Kathmandu – most of the store fronts were closed – but the side streets were PACKED with people buying items from street vendors.  It is kind of like the day before Christmas and all the last minute purchases!

On the Bhai Tika day, the 5th day of Tihar, siblings meet and place tikas on one another and there is a big meal with families.  We joined Lisa’s family for this — we all got a multicolored tika and sat down for a delicious meal with lots of sweets (I could not tell you what most of the food was – but there was dal and rice and curried veg and fried fish and chicken and lots of other dishes as part of it.  the sweets were a mix of Nepali and Indian sweets — all delicious – many of the fried items I have seen on the street and have wanted to try, but haven’t!).

Just like thanksgiving, the aunties were there trying to get me to eat more food!  Everyone sits around and eats a lot of food, then some more and then everyone sits around in a food coma.  Just like thanksgiving!  It was great!

Here is the Tika process:

all the ‘ingredients’ for the tikas

the grandmaster of tikas

applying the tika

the last stage – giving food and water

final tika product


30 Oct

Pokhara, southwest of Kathmandu, is the gateway to the Annapurna region. Katherine and I flew through here on our way back from our Annpurna trek. We flew from Jomsom to Pokhara, landed, got a taxi and then hopped on a bus — we were out of the city within 45 minutes, if that! So, needless to say, we did not see the city.

But, I had wanted to come back — everyone said it was beautiful and a great place – and I had the time, so I figured I would come on over. I took a tourist bus to get here — VERY different from the buses Katherine and I took! It was comfortable and not overflowing (most of the buses K and I took were not quite as comfortable and overflowing, including passengers up top, and we were the only foreigners on them!) and we stopped at nice rest stops (not that there was a problem with the places the other buses stopped at– they were just a bit more local).

On the way, I had a great clear view of the Annapurna range (you know, as opposed to how it was when we were actually trekking!)

View of some of the Annapurna Range

I had a great, but expensive guesthouse the first night here in Pokhara (set up through the guesthouse in KTM that i got my bus ticket through). It was really nice to stay in a place that was super clean and had wi-fi (so great to skype with two friends!) but the next day I downgraded myself (gotta keep that 30$/day budget going — which, incidentally, has not been happening at all here in Pokhara….). The new guesthouse…. well, let’s just say that it is different from the first one. Did I mention that I downgraded myself?

Pokhara’s mainstrip is called Lakeside, aptly named since it runs along lake Phewa Tal. It is full of restaurants, tourist/souvenir shops, bars, cafes. The first morning I went for a great run along the lakeside — solicited a lot of stares — but it was fun to be out running when people weren’t trying to get me to buy pashmina scarves (nice as they are) or trying to get me to buy fruit or just plain begging. following the run, I had a leisurely breakfast in view of the lake with the tops of the mountains peaking out above the ridge to the north of town – I sat in the sun reading my book and journaling for a few hours.

Pokhara on the lake

the rest of the day was spent…. well, not sure. I think that there was more coffee time in there and reading time and lots of food time. it was a really really chill day. Even though there are so many restaurants in town, they all basically have the same menu – pizza, dal bhat, momos, lasagna, enchiladas, hummus. I spent awhile the second night looking around for a place to eat — wasn’t sure what i wanted — but I looked at a dozen or so menus before I realized they were all about the same…

The next day, I decided to walk up to the Peace Pagoda and then walk around the lake. The Peace Pagoda is on the south side of the lake – up high, overlooking the scene. I had read that you could walk up there — so consulting my map every once in a while (as slyly as I could — as when I pull out my map – it seems to attract people from all around to ask me, in order, “how are you? where are you from? where are you going?” and sometimes followed by “would you like some nice jewelery?”.

But, I found the bridge near the dam and crossed over — but then my troubles started. Two guys immediately were in the path – telling me I had to go one way, but I thought I had to go the other…. maybe I should have just trusted them, but that was right after I saw a sign about thefts on the way up and that people should always travel in a group and/or with a guide. Neither of which I had.

So, I ignored those two men (they were probably like – ‘whatever, lady, go get lost’) and wandered along the path — which was pretty cool – set up high above rice paddies. But then a young man of 14 (can’t remember his name) asked me the three questions (see above) and when he heard I was going to the Peace Pagoda – he told me I was going the wrong way and that he would show me the way. I decided to trust him (though I did wonder if he was in cahoots with the other two men) and he lead me up into the woods – I did ask if he was for sure taking me to the peace pagoda – i had a moment of being nervous! But he assured me this was the way. I asked him questions about school and his plans for when he is done (his favorite subject is math; he plans to join the army). He walked super fast and took up further up the ridge until we got to a larger path — there he told me to just keep following it. He of course asked for a tip. No such thing as free help around here.

I followed this path for a ways, climbing further and further up. It was a bit unnerving at times — I was definitely alone up there! And then all of a sudden…. there wasn’t really a path anymore… I mean, there were paths, faint ones that looked like cow paths, but no real path. I didn’t have a lot of options – so I tried a few of them, pushing on — through cobwebs and scrambling through overgrown trees. I definitely felt grateful that Nepal does not have a plethora of poisonous plants, animals, snakes, spiders – especially spiders since I walked through a lot of spider webs. (and if there are poisonous spiders here — just don’t tell me, ok?) Then, I came out on a path! But which way to go? I tried down — that wasn’t right, so I tried up — which was correct. I ran into a family, dad was wearing a red sox hat — and they assured me I was almost at the pagoda (I must have been a sight — all sweaty from climbing uphill and a little scratched up and messy from scrambling through the woods, cobwebs hanging off of me).

Th peace pagoda was beautiful — and if the clouds hadn’t been built up on the mountains, it would have been an amazing view — even still, we could see some of the mountains here and there – Annapurna I, II, III and IV and Machhapuchhare.

Peace pagoda

I didn’t stay long – as I was hoping to walk around the lake and the book said it would take all day — so down I went. Like a lot of trails in Nepal, this one was not straight forward…. I made many wrong turns, went up hills only to go back down, asked kids and grandmas and buffalo herders about where I was going – to sometimes get a response I understood and other times…. (like when I had 3 small children all yelling at me and each pointing at the three different possible paths – and as I left on the one I thought was right, i heard “No, Didi!” [Didi means sister in Nepali and it is what women are called until they are called grandmothers] and more screaming – only to turn around and have each of them pointing again in different directions).

a house along the way

At one point, when I thought I was close – I came to a dead-end at a house (and I am not sure if it was a dead-end but the dog barking at me made it a dead-end for me!) and so I went back down to what I hoped would be a path — but no, that dead-ended into the water…. so the only option was to retrace my steps and climb up the hill I was trying to avoid (did I mention that it was super hot and humid here?!) So, as I stood at the water’s edge, contemplating my options (wait, there weren’t really any options at that point!) a kid who was across the small inlet came over in his canoe – asking the typical questions. However, I did not like his response very much as he said there was no way to get around – and instead he would take me across in his boat for 500 Rs. Um, no thanks – I’ll keep following my map (though, there was a part of me that was tempted….)

I came to what I thought was the final village – and saw my path across. At the west end of the lake, it becomes more of a river and there are rice paddies everywhere. So, I started down the path – rice fields on either side. It was pretty awesome being out there. And I was pretty excited to be heading back and to be done with being lost (I could see where I had run to the other day – so I knew where I was sort of). But, all of a sudden, my path t-boned with the river. Of course — becuase as I had seen all along, there is a river there. Right….. and no bridge.


path through the rice fields
where is the bridge?!

There was a path heading up towards where I wanted to go — so I followed that, hoping at each turn for a bridge. But, no show…. I was starting to get nervous – had even checked out the river for how deep it was (could I swim across holding my bag above my head?). But then, I came around another corner – and there was a couple who was coming across on a little pontoon boat with a rope on either side! I just about cheered! I asked if I could use it and they signaled, go ahead — so I hopped on and started to pull myself across.

my rescue raft!

My co-captain was a dog with a marigold chain of flowers around his neck. (it is Tihar, a Hindu festival, and on the second day of Tihar, dogs are honored.) He stayed on for the ride and then chilled on the boat as i left.

me trying to get the dog to pose with me

dog with tika and garland

From there it was an easy (albeit long) walk back to Pokhara and my guesthouse. I was definitely ready to be done by the time I got there!!!

That was my biggest adventure in Pokhara. I didn’t take part in some of the other options available to tourists – like paragliding and rafting and the trip in a taxi up to a look-out on Sarangkot as Pokhara is definitely more expensive than other places I have been! I spent a lot of time walking the strip, people watching, reading my book and contemplating this year and what i am doing – including having a moment thinking – WTF am i doing?! but mostly it was a good few days of relaxing lakeside.

sun setting on the lake
alpen glow on the annapurnas


Quick Check-in

28 Oct

hey everyone!

sorry i have been so out of touch — quick trip to Pokhara and then back to Kathmandu. Now it is Tihar festival (same as Dawali in India) — so, much is shut-down for the festivities! I promise to tell you all about it.

Life is good — starting to move towards the transition to traveling to India — crazy that in 6 weeks I will leave this region of the world… where has the time gone?

But — just wanted to let you all know that I am alive and well.

much love — aurora


20 Oct

Yesterday, I visited Bhaktapur, a medieval city outside of Kathmandu.  It is a beautiful old city surrounded by rice fields with 3 main squares.  There were lots of narrow cobblestone streets to wander through, finding small statues and temples along the way.

I got a ride there with one of my friend’s co-workers – who dropped me off and told me to head straight to the gate (you have to pay $15 to enter — which is pretty steep — but the main part of the city is protected and they do  maintain/restore the buildings with the fee). I wandered in among red-brick houses until i reached a square–over a cup of milk tea, I was able to figure out where I was. From that point, I ambled for close to 3 hours — following a walking tour suggested by lonely planet which provided me with a great overview of the old city.

As I mentioned, there are three main squares — each with great sculptures and temples.  But wandering the alleyways and back streets, where I rarely saw another tourist, was a real treat.  I wandered into one temple courtyard – which was being used by a spinner, a wood-whittler who was making miniature rocking horses, and several women winnowing rice (shaking the rice out onto tarps – i don’t know what winnowing means exactly).  An old man who was sitting in the shade invited me to have a seat, which I did — glad to be out of the sun.  I sat there for twenty minutes or so, sharing the silence and observing the quiet action.

From there, I wandered on  — in another spot near the river, I found a couple working with the rice — he was hitting the rice stalks and she was spreading the rice out onto the tarps.  He invited me to help winnow the rice (I think) and so I tried — doing it all wrong, she corrected me — but then told me that there were bugs (or something itchy in there) and so I might not want to.  Or so…. I think, maybe she told me.  Damn, wish i could communicate!

winnowing rice

rice fields

I had lunch in a former temple — the view of the Nyatapola temple made up for the high prices and the so-so food.  But it was fun to sit and people watch.  A woman from the Ukraine shared my table with me — she and her husband are in Nepal (Kathmandu and Bakhtapur) for 3 days and then onto Bhutan for 4 days — she told me that would be enough time to see Bhutan. (?!)

But all of these temples and such are great….  but what Bhaktapur is _really_ known for is it’s CURD!  (translation for many of you:  yogurt!)  You might be thinking – whatever — how good is yogurt, really?  Well, let me tell you — it is AMAZING!  I stopped in one place to have a bowl — and it was good.  it was really good.  But, then I read in the book that you should get it on the street at one of the hole-in-the-wall places — so I did.  I got another bowl of curd (for half the price as the other one) in a little earthenware bowl (sorry – no picture of this one!) and ate that bowl up too.  It really is so rich and creamy and almost sweet and kind of tart and really, just amazing.  i  wish i could have that every day for breakfast… and for dessert!

And then, it was time to go home…  it was my first time figuring out transportation all by myself on this trip!!  Katherine had always been with me the other times (on this trip) to figure out transportation.  So, taking a deep breath and reading (and rereading) my guidebook and studying the map, off I went in search of the bus station.  Following several sets of directions which I half understood “just go straight and then wait harpumph…”.  Finally, many people questioned later — I found it!  Or at least, the buddy on the bus (each bus driver has a buddy — a guy who collects the money and rides in the doorway and shouts indistinguishable words that might mean cities or… something) told me it was.  So off we went.  Fortunately, I recognized a lot of the journey – so at least I knew I was headed in the right direction!  I wasn’t sure where to get off — so I kept waiting for buddy to give me the signal.  I thought to myself that this is great practice in trust – in truly believing in people’s best intentions – and that they will look out for me.

We arrived in a bustling bus yard – taxis, buses, people, bikes, motos, carts with fruits and veggies, trash, stray dogs. Buddy gave me a  vague point to Patan and off I wandered.  I asked someone for the zoo (which is a great landmark since there is only one!) – but here in Nepal, you need to be judicious about who you ask for directions — as people will respond, even if they don’t know, as they do not want to be rude.

Heading down the street – I gradually started to recognize where I was and was able to arrive ‘home’.  And how great that was — to come back to a space that feels comfortable and warm and safe.  I realize how much I like having a home – a place to come back to.  Which, of course, begs the question — why would i give up my home for this year of travel?  Or what makes a home for me?  I suppose that answer is something I need to discover about myself this year.

To finish off, here are some little glimpses of my past days:

  • Roof top yoga, sun salutations with the rising sun
  • Three sheep and a lamb running down the street near my friend’s house (she lives in the city which begs the question – where did they come from?!)
  • early morning runs – seeing people playing badminton, basketball and out walking and running; kids heading to school, women preparing for their days.

I think that I am going to go to Jazzmandu tomorrow night — and then probably go to Pokhara next week for a visit (I was going to work on a farm but the timing is off for it to be really meaningful as I would only be there about 3 days there with transportation time and all…) and then Lisa and I will do something next weekend — so it looks like I will be making a move out of Nepal around the first of the month (probably head to Chitwan to see some elephants and maybe rhinos and tigers (!!!) and then down to Varanasi, India from there).  Part of me wants to just stay here – I love catching up with an old friend and spending time together – but it is hard to believe that it will be November soon!  Time to push myself and head into India – I know part of my reluctance has to do with heading out on my own and fear in the unknown.  I guess all the more reason to push myself into it!

Hope that you are all well!  I love hearing from you!

Take care — love  – aurora

some trekking pictures

17 Oct

Everest Base Camp

Lunch (most days) – p.b. and honey on a chapati


Trying to survive a 14 hour snowstorm

Climbing up Cho La

view from our guesthouse in gokyo


The beautiful Cho Oyu (over 8000m!)

The beautiful Gokyo valley (on our way down to Namche)

These pictures are thanks to Katherine (as my camera battery died early in our trek) – thanks K!!!

Life  continues to be good here in Kathmandu — from early morning runs to Korean donut shops with wifi to $5 massages to making plans (not ready to make them concrete….)

take care friends — much love — aurora