Asia, North America · 21 Days · 173 Moments · November 2016

Brad and Karen's Adventure in Nepal

30 November 2016

Now that we've been able to fix typos and factual errors, and add photo captions, we suggest you do another read through.
Greetings from Hong Kong airport, where we're enjoying croissants, tea and coffee during our layover. Yesterday was our last day in Nepal, and we went for sensory overload. We hired a driver for the day to navigate the dust and diesel fumes and jam-packed roads to two of Kathmandu's iconic sites, the Boudha stupa and Pashupatinath, where Hindus cremate the dead and hold evening prayers on the banks of the Bagmati River. While Boudha was a highly enjoyable experience of joining Tibetan Buddhists on their prayer vigils, Pashupatinath was an experience that is not easily captured in words. The public cremations, surrounded by the teeming city, leave one conteplating life and death on many levels. And it gives us a different appreciation for what we have in our lives. If you've been following this blog, you may want re-review it from the beginning; Brad finally figured out how to add photo captions. As we close out our travels, this likely is our last post. Until next time ...

29 November 2016

We left Kathmandu at 11 p.m. and arrived in Hong Kong around 5:30 a.m. Spotless bathrooms (with toilet paper) were among the highlights at the airport. Not to mention luscious croissants and delicious beverages.
Cremations on the banks of the (polluted) Bagmati River.
Holy men at Pashupatinath.
The Boudha stupa.
An afternoon walk through Bhaktapur, then a bone-jarring drive in the world's smallest taxi to Nargacote, followed by sunrise over the Himalayas. Today is our last day in Nepal: not sure when we'll be able to post today's pictures (it may not be un until we are home on Wednesday).
This was from our bed.

28 November 2016

With our two packs, Karen barely had enough room to breathe in the back seat.
From our table at a rooftop restaurant.
Women collecting water from the public tap.
Morning prayer offerings.
If you read or hear about a 5.4 earthquake in Nepal, no need to worry about us. It was an aftershock of last year's big one, and it was pretty far from us, near the China border. No damage here. Here are some pics from our morning stroll. You've probably already figured this out, but you can see better versions of many pics by clicking (or double clicking?) on the images.
The colorful morning vegetable market.
The tallest pagoda in Nepal was rebuilt after last year's earthquake in just a few months. Much of the rest of the old city still is a work in progress
A sunrise panorama.
Sunrise over the historic square.
More prayer offerings by women in traditional dress.

27 November 2016

Up early to pack, then had a wonderful breakfast and said goodbye to all our new friends. As we got in our car for the airport, many of the staff came to wave us farewell. Heartwarming. When we landed in Kathmandu, we were met by our guide and taken -- through horrific traffic -- to the Monkey Temple. We're glad we saw it, but was a little underwhelming. The guide then dropped us at our new hotel in the Bhaktapur area of Kathmandu. It was near dark when we arrived, so we only had time to stroll the ancient square and catch dinner. Our fourth-floor room overlooks a bustling main street on one side, and a crowded valley on the other. Like Patan, even though it's noisy, there's a lot of vibrant energy. Tomorrow we'll see the city in sunlight, then go to our next -- and final -- destination, Nargacote.
At the Monkey Temple.
Where thw temple gets its name.
On the way back to Kathmandu from Chitwan.

26 November 2016

The days just keep getting better. The morning was spent in a dugout canoe in the morning mist, followed by a jungle walk. This afternoon we helped bathe an elephant. Let's just say that everyone should have this opportunity. The day was capped by an afternoon walk in the jungle. Upon a rhino siting, we were swarmed by bees. While Karen escaped with just one sting, our two guides received about 30 between them. Brad got zero. One of our quick-thinking guides set a grass fire, and we all stood in the smoke and smeared the ash on our skin as bee repellent. Don't laugh; it worked. We spent some time picking the stingers from our guides' skin. We felt so badly for them, but the only courtesy they would accept from us was a couple of Cokes. Standup guys, both of them. We heard later that the resort gave one one the guides the night off and was told to rest and recuperate. He earned it. Just another day of adventure.
Wow. Another great afternoon. The highlight was a jeep safari into the park: crocodiles, monkeys, huge spiders, spotted deer. When we returned after sunset, we introduced ourselves to the resort owner and his wife, who treated us like royalty. This morning we were in a dugout canoe in the morning mist, then walked in the jungle looking for wildlife. More crocs, spiders and monkeys, plus a boar.
It's hard to tell from the distance, but that's a rhino lying down on the river bank.
The ash acted as bee repellent.
Our guide set these grass fires so we could stand in the smoke, which bees avoid.
If you're ever going to ride an elephant in a river, it's always best to put your spouse in front.
I asked for a photo, and she said, "Okay but just one selfie."
The infrastructure in Nepal.
If you look real closely, you can see a fairly fresh tiger print
Dugout canoes in the morning mist.

25 November 2016

When the resort owner found out it was our 21st anniversary, he and his wife made us this platter of cakes and other treats to go with our wine before dinner.
At the crocodile preservation center in Chitwan National Park.
You have to look closely, but there's a crocodile on the river bank.
Another early morning, this time to take a stroll with elephants inside the national park. In hindsight, we're not sure what to feel about this. The elephants are magnificent, but it's a sad existence to be kept in captivity. During the stroll, we saw a rhino with her baby, but the the only good photo we got was of her hindquarters. We also spotted a baby spotted deer. This afternoon, we'll be able to bathe some elephants that are not used for hauling tourists. We're hoping it's a not-so-sad experience.
Truly magnificent creatures.
This was the best shot we could get of the rhino in the bush.

24 November 2016

Up early for our last breakfast with our trekking mates, Lori and Dean. Then the two of us were escorted to the airport for a quick flight to the airfield nearest Chitwan National Park, which is near the India border. We're chilling with lunch overlooking the area, including watching the bathing of elephants, then will walk to the local village, Tomorrow, we'll go looking for rhinos and tigers.
This is a common site where we're staying.
Let's just say that there's a lot they can be modernized in Nepal, including the baggage claim area at the airport.
Off to Chitwan.

23 November 2016

Pokhara to Kathmandu, with yet another epic traffic jam. Tomorrow we fly to Chitwan National Park.
Traffic jams only get worse when trucks like this are forced off the road.
It took hours getting through this traffic jam on a two-lane mountain hghway back to Katmandu

21 November 2016

Sadly, we now are off the mountain. We are spending two nights in Pokhara, Nepal's second-largest city.
Our parting photo from the mountain towns.
School kids at a picnic.
This is Karen shortly after buying about six oranges from a farmer's wife next to the shrine
He is sifting the rice by hand.
Sunrise from our lodge.
Sunset from our lodge.

20 November 2016

Descending through the forest to Pothana. Even cloud cover can't ruin the sunset.
This was the worst weather we saw the entire trip. So we got that going for us.
Lentil stew being prepared over an open fire.
Yes, we did walk over that bridge.
Gives new meaning to the term economy class, doesn't it?

19 November 2016

The most beautiful place I've ever washed my clothes.
A short hike today ... Ghandruk to Landruk. Very steep descent into a river valley, followed by a very steep ascent. We see clouds in the direction of Gorepani, and are thankful for the fantastic views we had there.
Did we tell you that there are lots of steps involved when hiking in the Himalayas?
A shopkeeper's daughter.

18 November 2016

Each day just keeps getting better. Tadapani to Ghandruk.
There's a museum of local culture that charges you the equivalent of about 20 cents to be dressed up in traditional garb.
The Buddhist shrine in Ghandruk.
Being served tea by the cutest waitress in the Himalayas.

17 November 2016

These are our two guides in training, Prem and Bihm.
Gorepani to Tadapani.
The rock towers honor dead relatives.
Meet our two best hiking buds. Dean is from Bruny Island in Tasmania, and Lori's from Brooklyn.

16 November 2016

Gorepani, Poon Hill and Mohare Danda.

15 November 2016

In two days, we climbed 7,000 feet. We're now in the shadow of the world's seventh-highest peak.

14 November 2016

We just got a blessing for donating to the local school.
The local banana seller.

13 November 2016

This is Bierthanti.
I'm nominating her for U.N. Goodwill Ambassador.
Not that we would actually do it, but this sweet woman warned us about swimming in the local river, using no English. Apparently two hikers were swept away the past couple of years.
The drive and hike to Bierthanti.
At the local water source.
Just starting the hike. We still don't know what is in front of us.
What a beautiful morning.
We were so excited to see the mountains this morning. Little did we know just how close we would get to them in the next few days.
Change of plans. Due to expected travel delays tomorrow, we headed to the mountains today. After two epic traffic jams and some she worst road conditions we've ever seen, we arrived in Pokhara about nine hours later. Before we left, we visited the Living Goddess of Patan, who blessed us. She seemed sad to us. And we gathered our hiking group together in the courtyard of our inn.

12 November 2016

This was our entire hiking contingent. Our guide, two guides-in-training and two other hikers.

11 November 2016

Happy 21st anniversary to my travel companion, my love, my wife.
Another day in Patan. We hired a guide to show us around the streets and alleyways, and he told us all about the history and the mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism in this region. We were joined by Lori, one of our companions who will join us on the Annapurna trek, and we enjoyed a very nice lunch on a rooftop garden overlooking the Royal Palace. Here are more pix.
Collecting water for home use at the public tap.
Offering Hindu blessings.
After more than 24 hours and stops in Hong Kong and Bangkok, we finally arrived in Kathmandu. Our 350-year-old inn is on the hostoric square in Patan. The local streets and alleys are teeming with people, motorcycles, bicycles, tuk tuks, motorized tricycles and other modes of transportation, all of them beeping their horns and none of them knowing the difference between the left and right side of the road. Hindu and Buddhist shrines, temples and monasteries are interspersed with one-room shops and street vendors. The smells are of curry, diesel and dust. Here are a few photos of the sensory overload that was our first day near in Nepal.

10 November 2016

The crush of humanity against the backdrop of the Himalayas. The centerpiece of a temple door. Prayer candles. Peanut sellers. The low ceiling of our room, and more from Patan.