Showing posts with label nepal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nepal. Show all posts

Friday, May 8, 2015



The view from the roof of my hotel, The Tibet Guest House, a quiet oasis in the turbulence of people and cars, shops and scooters, lying in wait out there in the Kathmandu streets. I don't have any pictures from street level. As I learned on my first day, stopping makes you a target. Not for safety reasons - I don't wander around by myself late at night, it was just that the bright phosphorescent beam of my tourist origins shone out like a beacon when I stood still. It was hard right away because there were no street signs. If I turned the corner without looking, I might never have found my way back. So I tried to orient myself, and immediately, someone introduced himself, tried to tell me his life story (a sad one) and then tried to interest me in buying him food because - his words - "You can afford it! This is nothing to you!" And then he kept following me. So. 

So I learned to not stop walking, but walking itself was draining, because there were no sidewalks and no lanes. You walked on the same street as cars, people, and scooters going in both directions, and the road was not a generous one. Honking was almost a form of conversation.  

Tibet Guest House

This the wonderful courtyard of the aforementioned Tibet Guest House. I tried to wait until there were no people present to take this, so this is as good as I could make it. They pipe in classical music too, and it is just as serene as it appears.
Kathmandu through a crack

I took this through some slats in the hotel wall. They were decorative slats, quite beautiful in fact, and I wanted to capture what was going on next door. I wanted the frame of the slats around the lens.

Dasan festival tour

You see all these people? This is what it looks like when there are less people than normal milling around. You can see some are dressed up. It was the Dasan holiday, and most people in the city had already left to go back to their homes in the villages. This year's will likely be very different.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Line of Stupas
Stupa on the way to the forbidden parts of Kathmandu
As our guide would tell us, you cannot separate Nepal from Buddhism. This is true. Do you see the trails of steepled structures? Those are Buddhist offerings called stupa. I had never heard of them before and my own father is Buddhist. The structures lined Kathmandu in varying forms, from basic stone carvings to the dramatic structure with eyes - those are the eyes of Buddha watching you. They are all stupa. You will walk across pathways that are for stupa and holy structures alone. 
Kathmandu is overcrowded, and that is putting it mildly. Moving from the rural areas where most people are from and into the city center is a proper shock. Hiking was a paradise. You would meet no one for miles and you would wander around places only locals ever saw. Returning to Kathmandu was the opposite of that experience. All these people barely fit into the city and simply navigating your way down streets was an adventure. So many people, such insufficient resources, and yet so much land went to stupa.
Stupa temple
The eyes of Buddha
Here is the main stupa for one of the largest Buddhist temples in Kathmandu. Tiny people are at the base of it, so you can get a sense of scale. At the top, the eyes of Buddha.All stupas
Walking through here, alongside the Hindu offerings, the stupa, and the associated animals, was divine. You can't see it, but there are animal carvings in front of some structures, because some Hindu gods have an associated animal.
Stupas to gods

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


City Tour 6

Here you have my ant's eye view of Durbar Square in Kathmandu, a world heritage site as beautiful as they come. I have no idea what this looks like now and how long it will take to return. I'll share these now because I was there to be documentation of how it was before the 2015 earthquake and to give an idea of what where your donation will go. This was taken during the Dasan holidan, so there are less people than usual, but it was still overrun. I try not to take pictures of people whenever possible, so all the people you see of people sitting on temple (Stupa) steps around are the result of me trying to actively avoid them. A post on Kathmandu city proper to follow shortly.
City Tour3 temples8 Elephants

Tuesday, March 31, 2015



It was a mention made offhand that started it. An Australian girl traveling alone through Peru said she didn't handle altitude very well, she'd already been to Everest base camp and that was even higher than this. Where was Everest base camp? In Nepal. Did I want to go?

I never made it to base camp. Everyone who goes to Nepal goes to base camp, about thirty thousand people descend every year from all over the world to this one part of the country, and they never go anywhere else. Base camp, or so I've heard, is an ugly place. The trees have been razed to make warm showers for travelers. There's litter everywhere. Plastic doesn't decay. Once you drop it on the ground, it will remain there forever. Instead, I would go on a trip titled Lower Everest Trek. This trip would begin at the house of a local family, and would continue by foot across areas almost entirely untouched. The land would be lush and fertile and you would only see other people now and again carrying up to 70 pounds in a basket, using a strap that wrapped around the basket and braced against the forehead. Infrastructure would be non-existent. Local people, when you saw them, would be happy to see you. I don't have pictures of these people, mostly because I think it's rude. There you are, carrying 70 pounds on your way home to the village, and here is a complete stranger taking your picture to take home and show their friends.  
Altitude was not a problem. I took altitude medication when I went to Peru, and never acclimated properly. When I tried not taking the medication, I got nauseating headaches and went back on. In Nepal I didn't take anything, which sounds insane. There were the usual effects -  higher altitude usually meant more pressure on the kidneys and the almost incessant need to pee. The world become your toilet. It also means slower digestion, and difficulty digesting proteins. I tried to stick to eating mostly carbohydrates the higher I went. But what was different on this trip, was that the elevation was gradual. Every day we walked, and every night I slept at a consistently higher elevation so my body was able to acclimate naturally. The highest I went was 13,000 feet. From that vantage point, I saw the peaks in the first photo. Their names: Gauri Shankar (a sacred mountain that no one is allowed to climb), Karyalung, Khatang, Numbur, Everest, Lhotse, Amadablam, Makalu, Buruntse. My spelling may not be entirely correct. 
cheese factory views
View from the Cheese Factory
While I was researching for guides - this was not the kind of trip I would feel comfortable just "winging it" on my own, living on luck and a prayer - I was surprised by the lack of information available. When I got to Kathmandu, I could understand why. There were next to no Americans. There were Europeans (Germans mainly), Australians, Indians and Chinese (these being the two neighboring countries). It could have been because the country only recently opened for business. Nepal had immersed in civil war from 1996 - 2006. In 2006, the country became a republic. During the war, the government devoted all its resources to fighting the Maoists, and forgot about its people. While I was there, the country was still putting itself back together. We rode part of the way in a jeep across dirt roads. The next day, it rained and the roads washed away. So the country is still finding its way.

Mani wall
Mani Wall
Above is a Mani Wall, which is a Buddhist structure built along the roadside. As you see, you cannot separate Nepal from Buddhism. The two are intertwined. If I talked about Nepal and casually omitted any mention of Buddhism, I might as well have just hiked the Appalachian trail.  

My biggest fear on this trip, was not the physical exertion, the country conditions, or accidentally drinking exotic e. coli and getting diarrhea. It was potentially handing over money to a fraudulent or inept travel agency. In that sense, I was very lucky. I wanted to work with a smaller travel agency, and I wanted a local guide, and both these needs were met. The trip was very well organized, my guide provided food for me in the middle of nowhere, three meals every day, and I did not get sick. In fact, I ate very well. 

Travel Agency:
Himalayan High Treks This agency is based in the US and has offices in San Francisco. I took the Nepal: Lower Everest trip. The agency will help you prepare everything you need. The Nepal trip is listed as moderate, so you can pick the level you are most comfortable with. 

Three Jewels Adventures: Our guide for the Nepal trip, Amber Tamang, also owns his own travel agency based in Nepal and can offer more extensive and personalized trips.  I trust Amber, and I also trust his staff. I always felt safe as a female in the middle of wilderness. 

Third Eye Travel: I worked with Sonam and Usha to book my Airline tickets to Kathmandu, Nepal. Airline tickets were my biggest expense, and I wanted to get a deal on a nicer airline, such as Cathay Pacific, because flight would take a long time, a layover was inevitable, and I don't believe in unnecessary suffering.  

I will talk a little about Kathmandu in another post. 
Nepal Landscape9 Before sunrise

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