Europe, Asia · 95 Days · 76 Moments · October 2017

Maria&Wendie's Adventure: Nepal, Sri Lanka...


22 January 2018

Taking shoes of before you go into the house is a custom here in vietnam. Quite often they will provide you with flipflops (so that you can use the toilet/bathroom without getting your feet wet).
Coffee practices in Vietnam. Firstly, the coffee in Vietnam is delicious. Thick, sweet (although that could be due to the condense milk). Really full bodied, and not bitter at all. Secondly, I can drink it without feeling like I'm having a heart attack or must run to the toilet! Amazing! I'm putting it to the test right now- black and on an empty stomach. They make the coffee with a metal drip filter. You either get your own personal one, on top of your cup, or they make a big one into a jug and keep coffee ready on the side, cold. You get served your coffee with a green tea on the side, free. I love that. Especially when I just fancy tea and wendie wants more than just a shot's worth of coffee. I guess the tea is like getting a glass of water on the side in Europe, only here tea is cleaner and tastier than water. Quite often they have it cold, so it drips down onto ice, or they serve you a bain Marie to keep it hot. In this coffee shop they've served it on top of a tea light!
Today we gave back the motorbikes. The last ride was slightly sad. We had so much fun. You always had to be extremely vigilant and watch pretty much everyone's move so as to be able to predict what they were doing. As there aren't really rules of the road like in the UK. People would quite often scoot down the wrong side of the road, beeping away so that you were aware they were coming at you. We did do that a couple of times when we needed something on that side of the road but couldn't cross the dual carriageway. It was slightly nerve-wracking having massive trucks pull into the road across your path, always weighing up "can I continue driving and speed around the front or will he plough me down?" so sometimes you had to slow down and go round on the inside. Undertaking, overtaking...Same Same. We've had a great time and been safe, no crashes, no flat tyres. The o ly hairy time was driving at night through the rain without proper directions...That's not a story mama needs to hear yet

18 January 2018

Finally some sun today and we borrowed rickety bicycles from our hostel to get to the beach. The beach was propped up by huge sand bags, the size of containers. I'm guessing otherwise they'd lose what little beach there is. We soaked up the rays, finally dispersing the last month of cold from our bodies.

11 January 2018

We went to phong nha cave today... It was absolutely incredible. We glided through on a boat and couldn't believe our eyes. It was like a sci-fi film and we had discovered another planet. So many different stalagmites and -tites sprouting, pouring, budding, climbing, erupting out of and onto different rock formations in the caves. And the sheer scape of it! The best cave I have ever been to! Photos to Come.

2 January 2018

From Cat Ba, we rode to Ninh Binh, the on-land equivalent to Halong Bay. It was raining and we could hardly see anything, so we left the boat tour till the next day. We played lots of pool to make up for the lousy weather. The boat tour around Trang An the next day was stunning. We also jumped onto the movie set of King Kong skull island. So if you want to know what the area looks like at its finest, watch the film.

24 December 2017

We spent Christmas and new year relaxing on cat Ba with Coz and G and coz's sister Grace who was over for her Christmas hols. We stayed at a hotel on the beach, cooked our own food on a fire and played games of cards and dice while bohemian rhapsody played for the umpteenth time. It was the place's anthem. We did a boat tour of halong bay, visiting monkey island, we then stayed on a fishing village and moved to the next place- mountain view hotel. With a pool table up on top of the mountain. Good times. Motorbiking around the island was an absolute dream- brand new roads, empty, winding around a beautiful landscape.

20 December 2017

Yesterday I went for a walk around Hanoi old quarter with Coz. I loved all the shops- packaging shop Road, lock and door handle corner, haberdashery street... And of course food stalls everywhere. We stopped off at a little stall that smelt great and sold these mince pork patties with the sweet broth and herbs. Delicious! I got my legs waxed (professionally this time and not by a lady in a North Face coat as in Nepal), Coz got her dead skin scraped off her feet. Right treat! We watched a lady open the massive snails...smash the inner circle of the snail shell circle, shuck the hard opening off, shove your thumb right in the squish it and then skewer it out...but with such rhythm! I don't think I can share the video on here. It's pretty gross to be honest ๐Ÿ˜€

18 December 2017

We took off on Sunday to meet wendie's friends coz and gerard a few hours north of hanoi. We took it slow as we were still getting used to the bikes and the rules of the road. It was a lovely homestay place but a lot of people were staying over that night so instead of a homecooked meal we went out to a local restaurant. It was the worst food I've had in Asia, over cooked cabbage and questionable meat, and everything tasted like bamboo shoots. Luckily I had a guy bring me a couple of banh mi pork sandwiches before dinner so I wasn't too hungry anyway. We had a night of bia hois and then drove back to Hanoi yesterday. We had a great night last night I'm hanoi, lots of 5000dong bia hois (fresh bubbly lager). And today I went for a walk around with coz.

16 December 2017

Rented our motorbikes, after a quick YouTube tutorial off we were. Turns out even in the busy city it's not that scary, as everyone goes around 10-15kmh ๐Ÿ˜€ we then found an amazing bun cha place- bbqed pork in a sweet tasty broth, with noodles and fresh leaves to put in bit by bit (when you make a bit of room in your bowl). Something I'd been waiting for for 9 years! Tasted even better than I could remember. I then bought a sim card and we scooted off to a cheap Vietnamese massage place, where I got an amazing pounding that makes my massages seem very soft. Now just waiting for wendie to have her hair finished off at the hair dressers. She's getting a star shaved in the back of her head for Christmas.

15 December 2017

We arrived safe and sound in Hanoi yesterday. We got off the wrong stop on the airport bus, which meant a 30min walk down a narrow Road along side the railway bridges. I loved it- it reminded me how much I love Vietnam- bustling with shops selling the most random things (one just full of plastic stools, all the same kind), people sat eating, playing cards, smoking massive pipes, all while hoards of scooters beeped past. The hostel we were hoping to stay in was fully booked but a helpful guy at a different hostel directed us to suki hostel. We headed out for our first bia hoi, pho and a little walk around the area. We found a lovely restaurant bar playing awesome jazz, funk and soul called hanoi social club. Also see attached the motorbike we're not renting, but looked insane!
Just slept over at Kuala Lumpur airport. Off to Hanoi!

14 December 2017

The last few days in sigiriya were lovely especially as we met up with Martin and Lisa. We climbed the rock together, went to a national park and saw lots of elephants and went round the ruins of pollonuwara- an ancient city. They were so advanced!

10 December 2017

Yesterday we went to the old post office before getting the bus to Kandy (3rd time of catching that bus). From kandy we then got the express bus to Dambulla. The express buses are smaller, like a large mini bus, but have slightly bigger seats, dont stop as often, don't really pile on people, sometimes have aircon and in yesterday's case was showing a Sri Lankan film on the TV. We're staying at "tourists oasis" right infront of the main temple. It's a really old, basic hut, surrounded by plants and trees and dogs chasing the naughty monkeys away. The owners are a German and srilankan couple. Really lovely.
While in Dambulla I witnessed monkeys stealing underpants off the line as I wouldn't give them any of my breakfast. Which meant me then half climbing a tree and retrieving the pants with a long stick ๐Ÿ˜€ we laughed that the monkeys probably recorded it and put it on mobkeytube- watching humans being stupid :D We went to the Dambulla rock temple...so many Buddhas. I can't help but think that Buddha would be so disappointed to see people worshipping statue's of him.

8 December 2017

We got the kandy bus and jumped off at Bluefield Tea Factory. We had a personal tour that explained all the steps and machinery for processing green and black tea. We then got a complimentary cup of tea and then drank our way through the majority of the rest of the menu. Broken orange pekoe (your normal black tea), orange pekoe (left as bigger leaf chunks, a lot lighter), pekoe chai masala... Delicious. We struggled to find any good recommendations for restaurants in Nuwara Eliya, but heard tat the Grand Indian was supposed to be good. The kerala curry was tasty but I think we get spoilt in England by great curries. The Grand hotel had lots of Christmas decorations. It feels bonkers to be surrounded by Christmas songs and decorations in hot Sri Lanka!
Yesterday we got the bus to Nuwara Eliya, "little England" it's called for its old colonial buildings. We were tired after the early morning trek, but managed to find a cheap place to stay, grabbed a cheap dinner from a curry house, got a beer at the lion pub and then finally went to bed. I could have easily fallen asleep as soon as we got into the guesthouse (around 6pm). We didn't set our alarms this morning, so a late start today. I need breakfast though, so I'm going to wake sleepyhead next to me!

6 December 2017

We got the train to Hatton, taking in the beautiful views again. We found a guesthouse a girl we chatted to on the bus was staying at (&got the room cheaper as we didn't book online shhhh). We tried to get to bed early so that we could wake up at 00:30 to go walk up the 5500 steps up to the 2243m Adam's Peak. It rained heavily all night, but had luckily stopped when we got up. There are lots of stalls at the start selling biscuits & sugary peanut and cake snacks for the trek ahead but also lots of stalls selling really terrible cuddly toys and plastic Buddhas (next to the toy guns). We wondered whether that's how parents bribe their children up there! It's a pilgrim walk, for Buddhists, Hindus and Christians, because of some outcrop near the top that resembles a foot. There were lights all the way up and a temple at the top which in the clouds looked like a ufo had landed on top of the hill! Unfortunately it was too cloudy to see the sunrise. Our legs were shaky on the way down.

5 December 2017

We got the train from Kandy back to Ella for the incredible train ride. The train was back up and running after the storms, so it was packed full of tourists & locals. We managed to get one seat and move towards a window later on in the journey. Food merchants hop on and off with big baskets of salted chilli mango, savoury gram doughnut balls, roasted peanuts, drinks, calling out in melodic sinhalese as they walk up and down the train wearing the tradition shirt, sarong & flipflops. We were equipped with snacks for the 7 hour journey through hills covered in tea, past waterfalls and villages, massive eucalyptus trees growing out of the valleys and up the hillsides. The views were incredible. Photos to follow. Ella still had electricity trouble, but luckily the cookery course we'd heard good things about was running the course by candle light and just had two spots left for us to join. We made 3 delicious curries, poppadoms and coconut sambol. Will definitely be cooking these back home.

4 December 2017

We went to the ice-cream place again before setting off to the botanical gardens. Just as we got there it started to pour down. We put our waterproof jackets on and ran over to the office that lent umbrellas. We dashed into the plant houses first- the cactus house, plant house and the best of the whole botanical gardens- the orchid house. The whole room was filled with trailing airplant roots and stunning orchids, that looked like beautiful insect like alien creatures come flowers! By then the rain had stopped and we were able to walk around the lovely gardens, especially impressed by the variety of massive trees! We were there till late and then grabbed a couple of drinks in "the pub" after a slow bus journey back in rush hour traffic. The small curry shops were closing when I wanted to pick up some takeaway kottu, but the tuktuk driver (who also sings in a reggae band) knew of a great kottu place. Kottu is chopped up rotti with veg and a bit of sauce. There answer to a kebab. Delish!

3 December 2017

Yesterday we ate the best ice cream ever- prepared fresh right infront of you on an iceplate that "fries" it. It was stunning. Today we visited the temple of the tooth, wandered around some shops and market, watched crazy big cat fish in the Lake that walked onto ledges and watched a dance performance. The dance show was great, lots of backflips and fire dancing (and even eating and walking over hot coals). I may have found it a lot more exciting as I tried one of the betel nut, leaf, tobacco concoctions that some people chew here to give them an edge. It tasted foul and after a minute of chewing my head was spinning and my heart was racing! I took some travel sickness drops incase I should feel sick, sat down to watch the show and thoroughly enjoyed it! ๐Ÿ˜€ Today was the full moon festival so the temple was packed. I didn't make out a tooth for all the gold adornment. But it was a cool temple. We lit an incense stick in remembrance of wendie's friend Mikayla.

2 December 2017

We left Ella today, planning to do the main thing we wanted to do on this trip- getting the stunning train ride to Kandy- but the storm had taken down their power lines and the tracks were flooded and had fallen trees obstructing them! Noooo! So we had to get the bus round the windy Road that had us slipping off our seats the whole way. Hopefully they get the tracks up and running again soon so we can do an excursion on the train. Our guesthouse in Kandy is up a hill and seems lovely. We're just getting dinner (finally) and then we'll explore kandy this evening. We're excited.

30 November 2017

We arrived to find Ella had had a powercut due to the storms and only a few of he bigger bars and restaurants had generators. We were meant to get put up by one of Mr Tissa's friends in his new guesthouse, but his brother met us instead and told us the hotel was full and sent us to his aunt's pitch black house to a cockroach, mozzie filled room. It would do. The next day we hiked through the tea covered hill up Little Adam's Peak, and then across to a peak next to it which was a treacherously steep path that we had to use our hands to clamber down and up. It fortunately wasn't raining, but it had done all night and morning. So the hills were shrouded in clouds. We actually watched the clouds form as the day warmed up which was mesmerising. We walked to a tea factory but it hadn't been in operation for a week due to the powercut so we couldn't see it in action. We felt a bit bad for them, they must have lost a lot of production. We then sat in the fancy hotel nearby with stunning views.

29 November 2017

Our tour started at 4:30am this morning. Despite the torrential rain, we still managed to see plenty of wildlife. Birds, wild boar, spotted deer, buffalo, crocodiles, land monitors, monkeys, an elephant aaaand we were really lucky to see a leopard! It was brilliant. We were only one of maybe 3 jeeps that got to see it. And we were right in front of it! One party were there for the third time and still didn't get to see a leopard. We were so delighted! The cat was beautiful. We have been really unlucky with the weather, so even luckier that we managed to see the leopard. It's been raining a lot l and today was the worst day so far. Luckily my waterproofs kept most of the rain out, but we were sat in puddles on the Jeep! After a little nap we then went on our second outing this afternoon with Tissa and his cousin's brother drove us. We stopped for every bird and chameleon and also spotted another elephant and at the end another leopard. It crossed the road in front of us!
Yesterday we got a few busses to Tissamaharama. We were immediately approached by a guy who wanted to take us on the yala Park safari, and two minutes later by another jeep driver. But after 4 and a half hours on buses we just wanted to get to where we were staying. The owner, also named Tissa, was so friendly and talked about his love of this area and the wildlife. He showed us some of his photos of leopards and elephants and we decided to go with his tour of Yala national park. He also leant us his slr camera to use and his birds of Sri Lanka book. He then also arranged a private tour in the afternoon with us to go past the park, where he's also spotted leopards and elephants before.

27 November 2017

On monday we got a surf lesson early in the morning at weligama beach. I loved it! I could stand up and ride the waves the instructor helped push me onto. Was so chuffed to pick it up so easily. It was so much fun. And tiring! We hired boards afterwards for another hour and I managed to surf at least 4 waves on my own! And I'm shocking at getting much momentum by paddling, but still managed to catch the waves. So satisfying! Afterwards we got rotis for breakfast and then headed into Galle again in search of some trainers for wendie and to go to the cinema. They had Justice League in English and 3D. It was brilliant, we were up on a balcony and there was an interval where they brought snacks and ice-cream! That's how they should still do it in England!

26 November 2017

On Sunday we went whale watching. We got the boat early at 6:30 am and went out in search of the whales. The guy from the Whale Watching Club said he was 100% sure we would see whales. And we saw whales, maybe 15 different ones in total. Mainly pygmy blue whales, but they were still huge! Unfortunately even though the sea was "calm" the first time we spotted some water spraying out of blow holes I threw up the breakfast we were given. It was absolutely incredible to see such magnificent animals so close. A couple of times they dived under the boat! We got back around 11 and found our way to the "secret beach" two beautiful secluded bays, covered in beautiful shells and tonnes of feisty hermit crabs! We had a little snooze and we're awakened by a sudden downpour and ran to the shelter of the bar round the corner. I wish we'd have gone for a paddle before! The water was so warm. And it was such a pretty bay.
We got to Mirissa, a beach town, on the 24th. For the next 4 days we were there it rained a lot, so we couldn't really enjoy the beach as much as we had planned. We stayed at Mother's House guest house which a morroccan guy opened 3 months ago after quitting his stressful international business career. Now he gets to wear flipflops every day instead of a suit :) He was a lovely guy. The beach front consisted of lots of tourist bars and restaurants serving grilled fish. We found a cheap little place that did delicious guacamole and poppadoms. We also drank a couple of King coconuts. So good.

23 November 2017

We went to Galle to do a little shopping in non tourist shops. Beach throws and knock off trainers, couple of vests- we didn't pack for the hot weather really as we knew we didn't need it for Nepal. Wendie got her hair cut in record time and with incredible precision. And then we went for dinner in the old Dutch fort area in galle. Coconut sambol the place was called, the same as a common Sri lankan side dish. There was rice and multiple curries in clay pots you could help yourself to as often and as much as you liked for really cheap. And it was delicious. Yesterday we headed further along the coast to Mirissa. It's been rainy so far, so haven't made the most of the beautiful beach yet. We did have an absolutely delicious breakfast in Aloha Coffee, a peanut butter smoothie bowl and avocado toast with sprouted beans and pickled onion. And really good mango and passion fruit smoothie and coffee. I could see this kinda place being so popular in Chorlton!

22 November 2017

We went for an early morning swim in a nearby bay where turtles are often sighted. There were lots of fish swimming around us in the shallow waters, but no turtles. We then got the train further down the coast to Boosa, near Galle. We're staying in a tiny beach hut on the beach. There's a small bowl to wash your sandy feet off before hopping onto a mattress (the inside of the hut is just covered by mattress). We had a quick lie in the hammock and ate a small watermelon while they fixed the rusty hinges on the door to the hut before an almighty storm hit. We were asked whether we wanted to eat and if so they'd get some fish. So mid storm they headed out on a little catamaran fishing boat. Dinner is at 8 we were told as they still needed to catch another fish if the fisherman wanted to eat fish too! As fresh as it gets. We're sat around the bar watching him prepare it right now, while lightning continues to strike the ocean behind us.
We spent the last few days in Hikkaduwa. Relaxing at the beach, visiting a turtle hatchery, visiting the tsunami photo museum. A 30m high wave crashed through this town and the coast of the whole bottom half of the island in the 2004 tsunami. There are graves and memorials along the front. We left the museum in low spirits and then it started to pour down, so a guy gestured us over to stand under his porch. He was opennd ing a new diving centre and there was a girl painting a mural under the porch who turned out to be from London. She moved over this summer with her Sri Lankan husband. We all sat under the porch watching it pour down, drinking tea and chatting about this beautiful island.

19 November 2017

We almost didn't make our train to Hikkaduwa this am as our tuktuk driver ran out of petrol, didn't understand English, so didn't know we wanted the Mount Lavinia train station & had to stop to ask someone on the road to translate while he used his backup bottle of petrol which got us to a petrol station...meter ticking...minutes ticking closer to the train departure time. We get on the road again, pull across a busy dual carriage way (more like 6 lanes of traffic) only to drive head on into a road that was being used as a market. I was worried he would still try to plough through it but instead did a 3 point turn onto said 6 lanes of traffic (all without a right wing mirror). He pulled down a parallel Road, had to ask for directions, the train was due to leave in 2 minutes time and we didn't have tickets yet. I got cash ready to pay and dash. Jumped off the tuktuk with our heavy backpacks, ran to the counter, got tickets...phew. Turns out the train was 15min late. So we sat & laughed.
The train to Hikkaduwa was so loud and rickety, it was great fun. We didn't have seats to begin with so we stood by the wide open doors, clutching onto whatever we could so as not to get thrown out of the doors! A guy then started chatting to us who had been to Leeds a couple of years ago to play cricket. He gave us some tips of things to see in the region we were going to and said Hikkaduwa wasn't that nice as it's full of Russians ๐Ÿ˜€ (it turned out he was right about the Russians). And also found us some seats (it was easier for him as he didn't have a large backpack on). The place we're staying at is really cool, called Chami's Place- huts made of palm tree trunks, roughly sawn planks of wood and woven roofs of palm leaves. We had a fresh juice smoothie, dumped our stuff and headed for some lunch at the beach. Post lunch snooze and then watched the sun glow red and set while storm clouds and thunder drew in.

16 November 2017

We went and got fruit salads before a short tuktuk ride to a nicer beach. With fruit this delicious Mama doesn't have to encourage me to eat more fruit! Papaya, mango, pineapple, guava...perfectly ripe...mmmh. We found a little bar restaurant at the beach with loungers. Which we stayed on till sunset, despite my worries about the coconuts directly over my head (what's the statistic...more people die from falling coconuts than shark attacks?). I had my first dip in the choppy Indian ocean. So warm! The bar we stayed at also had a family of friendly dogs roaming around...with 3 adorable little puppies near the back of the restaurant! We thought if the waiter wanted to attract more clients he should approach people holding a puppy! :D We then had a happy hour drink before heading to the swanky Mount Lavinia hotel, a large colonial building with a fish market style restaurant we'd read great reviews of. Hot butter cuttlefish, seer fish curry & grilled garoupa were delicious.

15 November 2017

Once we found the apartment we're staying at, offloaded our heavy packs and cooled down a little we set out to investigate the area. We ate some food we picked up at a beach and watched the sun set. We acquired a sweet dog who could smell that we'd had food. We were a little surprised when Sri Lankan lady who was facetiming with her kids walked over and held the phone up to us for us to say hello to the kids. She then took photos with us. Second time papped! We have a feeling it won't be the last time! On our way back we got fresh fruits juices- I got pineapple, wendie got guava with a ball of ice-cream. Absolutely delicious. I think we'll be back there tomorrow for a 75p massive bowl of fruit salad.Now to hang out some laundry...our place has a washing machine and all our clothes smell like Nepalese hikers!
Yesterday we flew forwards and backwards through time zones, from Kathmandu via Kuala Lumpur to Colombo, Sri Lanka. We stayed in a little bed and breakfast near the airport, the owner was so lovely, she made us fried egg for breakfast and called the airbnb owner of the next place we're staying at to be able to give us directions there. After watching over four different types of birds and a couple of chipmonks in the tree on her patio we started our bus adventure. A little local bus to Negombo and then from there the express bus to Colombo. Then we trekked (any walk with a massive backpack on in 32c is a trek) across the bus station, which was actually a market dispersed over 2 main roads and side roads filled with buses. Friendly locals pointed us to the other side where we found another local bus which would take us closer to where we're staying for the next 4 days. Which wasn't too easy to find in the end, but again, another lovely stranger called from his phone for exact direction

13 November 2017

Back to Kathmandu yesterday after a 8 hour bus ride. After we gave back our sleeping bags we'd hired & sold our poles and thick gloves, we had a little mooch. This afternoon we found an "irish shamrock bar", but it was far from it- it was a chilled out, reggae roof top bar from which we watched eagles circling in the sunset. After the sun set the cool dudes reorganised the chairs, readying to show a film on a screen. We were intrigued. Then a guy comes up the stairs and shakes the bartender's hand has a brief chat and then suddenly snaps the laptop shut, cutting off the music and shouts to the customers to leave. To leave because they haven't paid rent for 3 months. Awwwkward! But also quite funny. We go up to the bar to pay for our couple of beers and the owner says, you can give that straight to me, they've not paid anything. We headed down the stairs (past the gym and zumba room on the 3rd floor), saving some tourists on their way up to see the arty Nepalese film the extra flights.

11 November 2017

After our long day we briefly rested back at our hotel and the only thing that would motivate me to get back up again was of course needing dinner. We found this amazingly cool food place, could have been in Melbourne or London, with awesome food and chilled techno music. It was like we had completely stepped out of the country for dinner! Before we left we rushed to the toilets to make the most of a swanky western toilet before more squat loos over the next few months.
Or... the set of a new mutant ninja turtle film. Oh with the temple shrine things in the cave too... So the first bit was a statue of a cow and if you put these metal marbles down a shute a milk like substance would continue to flow from the statue's udders. We couldnt examine it for long though as another ten people crowded into a space big enough for 2. Then to the awaited Shiva/linga statue which they had put in a massive cage, and they had painted the statue, making it look like a day of the dead/Mexican mariachi style cactus thing with a statue of a three headed cobra looming over it. Totally bizarre. Didnt even look like anything naturally formed. Got hustled further down into the cave which our knees were already balking at. When we finally got a glimpse of a waterfall behind a slit in the rocks. And then had to squeeze under rock passageways to get out (dodging sparking wet light bulb connections). After which we then decided visit the peace pagoda.
We really crammed in the sight seeing today (again, that's what you do after 18 hard going days of hiking). The peace pagoda trip ended up happening after visiting a stalagmite cave. Strangest cave I've been to, was the mix of a Hindu temple and a cave and also an opening to a waterfall. Which sounds incredible, right? But actually it was really bizarre and can't say I enjoyed it. Thousands of years ago someone found a stalagmite in a cave that they thought looked like the anatomical embodiment of the god Shiva. A "linga", or to you and me, a phallus. It was just a large stalagmite, not a magically formed statue of a God/person :D but they had made the entrance to the cave like a Hindu shrine, with carved figures, but as soon as you got into the cave it was dark, wet, hot, really low, and full of Nepalese school kids, a health and safety nightmare... with pipes and wet electrical cables and dodgy scaffolding holding up parts. It was like we were in a building site one minute or
We made it back down after two Nepalese girls asked to have their photos taken with wendie. We at first thought they wanted her to take a photo of them, but no, they then started posing with Wendie. I mean, she's my girlfriend so I know what you see in her, but honestly?! Too funny! We made it to the bottom of the hill just before the sun was completely gone, found a bus and hopped on with the locals to take us closer to the hotel. We were about 2 hours away from our hotel by the end of our long wander today. The bus ended up not taking a turn that we thought it would, so still had to walk an hour home down a busy main road. The pollution is pretty bad along main roads so we bought some face masks (like the locals) and some fresh fruit from a market. Just realised that "pollution" and "fresh fruit" were in the same sentence then... And yes, pretty much everything you buy here whether from a shop or off road, on-a-busy road, or in the countryside will be covered in dust.
The view from the pagoda on top of the hill was stunning. I hadn't really realised that you could still see the Annapurna range backdrop from Pokhara! I just thought it had the pretty lake going for it, but Pokhara has loads going for it. Turned out the peace pagoda was a gift from Japanese Buddhists, promoting peace, following Nichiren Daishonin! I was so surprised to see Nam Myoho Renge Kyo emblazoned behind the Buddhas and explained in placques. So I chanted, and it was really quite an emotional moment. Maybe it was after our physical and mental struggles throughout the circuit, or the fact that Japanese Buddhists funded four of these pagodas worldwide promoting world peace (all of which were destroyed at some point and erected again). I had become quite disillusioned by the type of buddhism quite prevalent in Nepal which seems to just revere Shakyamuni Buddha as another Hindu god and is essentially still a very old-fashioned form of Hinduism.

10 November 2017

An amazing day in Pokhara. So...After 18 days of trekking the Himalayas without any physical training our legs can hardly manage the hotel stairs. So what do we do today? Walk for about 7hours! รœbergangsphase for our metabolisms and acclimatising our bodies? :D We were close to tears when we were struggling half way up the steep trails up a hill to the Buddhist peace pagoda, knowing that going downhill is so much worse at the moment! We were determined to finish what we'd started though, vowing that tomorrow would be a complete rest day. And wow was it worth persevering- we stopped off for food 5min from the top (of course there's food places all the way up there, hanging half off a hill, it's Asia, there's food everywhere!) with a great view of the southern part of Pokhara. After a delicious affogato coffee (espresso over vanilla ice-cream) and some veg fried noodles I at least had a bit more energy to carry on the last few steps.

9 November 2017

Today was our last day with Bhim and TP. We had a 3 hour descent this morning, legs completely seized up and ready for a rest. We were picked up in a car from Birethanti and taken to Pokhara. The second largest city in Nepal, with a definite hippy vibe to it. There are lots of dogs in Nepal, that seem to be semi stray. They just roam the streets but are tame and seem to wander in and out of some houses and stick around people. A few times during our trek a dog would just decide to walk some of the way with us, like we were instantly its companions. When the people go to bed (9pm warm countryside, 7:30-8pm cold countryside, 10:30-11pm city), then the dogs start barking out to each other for about 15min. This is after people have put their livestock and children to bed. Then you've got until about 5am when the cockrels start cockledooing and the bustling day starts again. Our first day back in a city, my first night going to bed after 9pm, I hope there aren't any cockrels in this city.
From Ghorepani we walked to Hille, a 5 hour steep descent down rocky steps, through the jungle. My legs ached so much towards the end I could hardly move them. They're still sore this morning. You don't get to see that much of the scenery when you have to look at your feet all the time :D Weve only got a two hour trek this morning till we get the bus back to Pokhara. We're starting early to help Bhim as he's been given another job and has to meet new trekkers back in Kathmandu today- guiding them on an everest trek tomorrow!

8 November 2017

Our hotel in Ghorepani had an upstairs dining hall with views of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. But last night we just got views of bats flitting past, catching moths. We left at 5am this morning to trek up Poon Hill for sunrise. It was beautiful. Now we're enjoying the mountain view from the hotel as we finally have breakfast!

7 November 2017

Over 4 hours of pure uphill to get to Ghorepani. Steps pretty much all the way. Broken up by playing with a really cute fluffy puppy, seeing a little snake and watching some little chicks follow their mum. From up here we should have an amazing view of Annapurna south and Dhaulagiri, but it's really cloudy. So not sure whether we fancy a 45 min trek up to Poon Hill for a nonexistent view.
Woken up at 5 by screaming cats, babies and cockrels. Ah, the serenity of country life :D classic breakfast of tibetan bread, fried eggs and fried potatoes. And off we set at 8:30 to Ghorepani.

6 November 2017

We walked to Shikha today, a beautiful little village and the food at our guest house is great. Passed one day old goats. Walked up lots of steps, but it was only a 4 hour trek.

5 November 2017

We had a rest day today in Tatopani. "Tato" means "hot" and "pani" is "water"... We spent most of the day in the natural hot springs. It felt amazing. We observed people having showers...that took well over 30min I'm sure. I joked that that would probably last them for the next couple of weeks. I don't think I'm far off the truth though! Our legs should feel a lot better by tomorrow. The place we're staying in has citrus trees around the whole gardens. It's beautiful. There's also a heavily pregnant dog that I had hoped would give birth if we hung around. That's not happened yet :D 7am breakfast tomorrow and we start trekking again.
Dahl Baht set... This is pretty much the only Nepalese dish on the menu and what we've eaten most days (well at least once a day). The bare minimum consists of rice (baht), a dahl (more soupy than we know it to be and can be made of any type of grain or pulse, not just lentils) and a bit of veg curry. But lower down the mountains where it's warmer you also get some fried veg, usually spinach, and a little blob of some spiced fresh or pickled veg (usually some sort of radish). The best thing about it is that they come round and top you up (more rice, more dahl, more curry...whatever bits you want more of). This being one of the main reasons why I order it so much! It's also the only thing Bhim and TP order (our guide and porter).

4 November 2017

On our ride from Jomsom to Tatopani we drove past the remains of another 2 massive landslides. Making me think, what's actually stopping the road from doing the same? Wendie didnt want to be reminded of that thought! We stopped off at a place for lunch where everyone ordered a Dahl baht set and frantically scoffed it as you never know how long the break is (as long as it takes the driver to throw his meal down and go for a pee). The mood felt celebratory once we got back in the bus- we survived the landslides, had eaten, now for the busdriver to turn his Nepalese music up even louder & the group of Spanish to start clapping along, encouraging the driver to take his hand off the steering wheel and turn the tinny music up even louder. He did turn it down a couple of times when heading round blind bends to hear whether anything was oncoming. We arrived in one piece, covered in dust & glad to get off the bus (which had been crammed full of additional standing passengers along the way).
We walked from Kagbeni to Jomsom, partly on the dusty road, partly in the rocky river bed. It took us under 3 hours, but we thought we had missed the 10am bus, luckily it was leaving after 10:30, so we made it. It was the hairiest bus ride yet- fair enough the roads are rocky tracks that wind round the mountains, but this trip.... First there was a road closure due to them building an actual road so the bus driver reversed (eeek) and headed off road into the wide, mainly dried up river bed. Which was actually smoother than the "Road" but meant driving through the actual river a few times. Then we hit another closure, this time we were too high up for detour. There had been a massive landslide and the road was covered in soil and massive rocks, so we had to wait for the digger to clear the mound ahead. After about 30min, the first few impatient scooters drove over and we shortly followed, driving past local men in flip-flops breaking up large rocks with sledgehammers. Tbc

3 November 2017

I said "easy descent" to Kagbeni... Our legs are so sore we hobbled there! The closer we got the windier it got. By the time we got to the town our windproof hoods were up, buffs and sunglasses over faces! Our second ensuite! But I'm still just happy the town has running water (because it's not frozen). Yesterday was the first time we washed our hands in 3 days I think, let alone have our first hot shower in a while. So happy to have the simplest things we take for granted. 8:30pm-way past our bed time, our legs need Recovery sleep!
Day 11. Yesterday our walk ended in Muktinath. Our room wasn't freezing cold when we went to bed or woke up! Amazing! Woke up with really achey quads and calves. Luckily today we only have an easy descent of 3 hours to a really old village Kagbeni. Wendie's gone and done an extra walk this morning to a temple. Today is my day to give the extra walk a miss!

2 November 2017

Started our our steep ascend to the pass at 5am with all the layers on and head torches on. Thanks to wendie we have near enough military grade head torches that light up the whole side of the mountain :D The stars were so bright and clear as the moon wasn't out- I saw two shooting stars so I made wishes that wendie and i made it over the pass ok. Some of the narrow track was covered in snow and ice, but it was exhilarating. You could see tiny lights on the path ahead- other hikers ascending with their headtorches on. It looked like a magical light procession, or fairy lights draped up the side of the mountain. The sun started to rise behind one set of mountains and start to light up the other surrounding snowy peaks. It was so special! 3 hours later we made it to the top of Thorong la Pass- 5416m altitude! It was quite emotional! After a hot ginger and honey tea and a photo we then had a steep 1200m, 4 hour descend down steep, rocky, partially icy tracks.

1 November 2017

We're off to bed now (6:30pm) as tomorrow we ascend to Thorongla pass. Breakfast is at 4:30am! It will freezing but I'm excited to be able to wear lots more layers- thermal leggings, hiking pants, and waterproof/windproof trousers, vest, long-sleeved thermal top, shirt, fleece, down jacket, waterproof coat, buffer, warm hat, fleece liner gloves, skiing gloves, two pairs of socks. I'll sleep in a lot of those layers! :D we've filled hot water in our bottles, Wendie's is insulated so it will be warm when we wake up rather than freezing cold. Mine isn't insulated so we'll use it as a hot water bottle to take the edge off our sleeping bags.
Today was a tough hike from Ledar to Thorong High Camp. The path crossed landslide rubble so we had to tread carefully. Even more breathless & legs feel heavier, but I kept thinking about the buddhist principles of oneness of body&mind, and oneness of self&environment. Depending on how I feel the path and mountains either feel really tough and scary, but today I felt envigorated and grateful to feel fairly good. Being mindful of thoughts, how my body feels, surroundings w/o judgement. After we got to high camp & had lunch I did an extra little acclimatisation hike up a big hill. The view was absolutely stunning. I scratch the "you know it's cold when your pee steams up the pee hut"...You know it's cold when the toilet is blocked because it's frozen&the floor of the toilet is a sheet of ice! It's absolutely beautiful at night, the moon isn't even full but it lights up the snowy mountains around us. And the stars are so clear. We just can't bear to stand out too long to gaze at them!

31 October 2017

Day 8- Siri Kharka to Ledar. We're now at 4200m altitude. Walking is breathless business! Luckily I can catch my breath again quite quickly, but even last night wriggling around to get comfy in the sleeping bag made me pant! But it's also so dusty on the trail that I mainly have to pant through my buff. The views are also breathtaking though. We were at a viewpoint where we could see Tchulu West, Manaslu, Gangapurna, Annapurna 3 and 4, and Tilicho Peak! Incredible to be amongst some of the largest mountains in the world. Although as soon as the sun goes it is absolutely freezing. I sometimes can't help but think going on a skiing holiday would have been a lot easier and warmer! :D I can't wait to be on the descent into warmer climate again. We saw 5 eagles swooping around each other today at quite close range. Mostly golden eagles. It was incredible to see them up closer. Early night tonight I think as tomorrow we've got a long and hard trek to Thourong High Camp.

30 October 2017

Day 7 of trekking- Manang to Siri Kharka. The trail keeps getting dustier. We had to wear our buffs over our our faces most of the time. We made the most of the hot shower for 150 rupees, it was so icy cold getting out it again though. Our last shower for the next few days. Sleeping clothes and walking clothes have merged into one as getting changed in the morning is freezing cold! We learnt a game called tigers and goats, which is great! Might make my own board and figurines. More strategy than drafts. As the sunset it lit up the Manaslu mountain and turned it pink. It was spectacular. We headed to bed at 8pm. Standard Nepalese porter time. We felt a lot more rested for it though. We managed to actually leave at 8am the next morning!

29 October 2017

Day 6 "rest day" in Manang, we did a short but steep acclimatisation hike up to the prayer flags on a nearby "hill" not worthy of even naming on the map, but still about 3700m high. From there we had an amazing view of a lake and the snow covered Gangapurna (7454m) and Annapurna III (7555m). I'm losing my breath a lot more easily now I think, but we've started taking anti-altitude sickness tablets, so hopefully we should be OK. We've seen at least 2 helicopters a day medivac-ing hikers back. Today was sunny which made a massive difference temperature wise and hopefully also means our laundry is dry. We've been strapping our washed knickers and socks to the outside of our rucksacks! None of this trip is glamorous! :D I hope it remains sunny as we get higher otherwise I'll be hiking in all my clothes like a real life Michelin man! We saw an eagle a lot closer today. Absolutely magnificent.
Day 6 "rest day" in Manang, we did a short but steep acclimatisation hike up to the prayer flags on a nearby "hill" not worthy of even naming on the map, but still about 3700m high. From there we had an amazing view of a lake and the snow covered Gangapurna (7454m) and Annapurna III (7555m). I'm losing my breath a lot more easily now I think, but we've started taking anti-altitude sickness tablets, so hopefully we should be OK. We've seen at least 2 helicopters a day medivac-ing hikers back. Today was sunny which made a massive difference temperature wise and hopefully also means our laundry is dry. We've been strapping our washed knickers and socks to the outside of our rucksacks! None of this trip is glamorous! :D I hope it remains sunny as we get higher otherwise I'll be hiking in all my clothes like a real life Michelin man! We saw an eagle a lot closer today. Absolutely magnificent.

28 October 2017

It was really cold today as it was cloudy and windy. It's only warm in the sun and when there is none... It SNOWED! I had hoped we would be a few days away from snow yet. It's so crazy to think on monday it was 28degrees and now it's around -1 tonight. I bought a new wooly, fleece-lined hat today, which Bhim our guide picked out and I tried on and loved so I bought it. Turned out he had picked it for himself! So we went back to the shop so he could buy one for himself! This will ruin our photo ops! :D Manang is a bigger village, so we perused the shops. We think we might need to buy more layers of gloves! We bought some yak salami and yak cheese. Which was delicious.
5th day of trekking. Upper Pisang to Manang. Walked the lower, easier route today following the road track, mainly across plains. It was sooo sandy and windy. Our boots and trousers are completely filthy. We're staying in Manang for a day though to acclimatise, so we're making the most of the laundry service! So far I've been handwashing our little laundry bits in the scrubba wash bag I bought which has been great. I'm sure the novelty will wear off soon :D We saw yak today. All the animals are so cute and fluffy. I will continue refraining from stroking though, as the horns of the yak and cows are big! And despite having a rabies jab I've also not touched any of the really cute dogs that are roaming everywhere...doesnt mean I need to risk being bitten :D

27 October 2017

Day Four- to Upper Pisang. The surroundings changed from jungle to sandy dry pines. There were still lots of butterflies everywhere. Then there were plains and the scenery looked like from a western film- dry rocks and mountains and roaming cattle. I realised at some point just how quiet it was as there were no more crickets and the river was in the distance. It felt quite weird to begin with! We stopped for some delicious apples at an orchard. We walked past "heavens door" a massive barren slab of a "rock"/mountain (I thought about Bob Dylan, Papa) :) We've spotted eagles flying really high up in the clouds above the mountains and we can tell they must be massive as even a person would be a dot up there. We stayed in a wooden hut on a cliff. We were glad to have a sleeping bag and duvet!

26 October 2017

A short and fairly easy trek to Chame today, a larger village, at 2710m altitude. I'm feeling my legs now though. "They're getting stronger, getting stronger!" I keep repeating to myself in my head! This is not a time for my chronic pain coaching mind to give way to the inner worried sports therapist that keeps checking for pulls and tear! It's a lot colder now as we keep getting higher. My pee steamed up the toilet hut! :D We got sight Manaslu mountain today and Anna Purna II. Insanely big mountains- We feel tiny! The track changes regularly due to landslides, the traces of which we sometimes see...which is pretty scary...massive parts of the side of the mountain just disappeared and a massive trail of rubble left.

25 October 2017

From Ghermu we hiked all the way to Dharapani. A long and really steep trek, even the guide felt his legs at the end of the day. At 1900m I think we're higher than Snowdon and yet there are mountains everywhere you look, ranging from around 4000 to roughly 6000m above see level. The villagers build most of their houses from the surrounding trees and grind the rocks to make sand/cement, but the windows... apparently they will have carried them all the way up!

24 October 2017

We started at 8am and hiked till 5pm, arriving at Ghermu Phant. There are only a few houses dotted here and there, barely even hamlets than villages, right on the path. The path follows the river, sometimes crossing it on amazing bridges (Wendie asked about how frequently repairs were made to a rickety wooden bridge just after crossing it :D ). We passed lots of cute goats on our way today. We wished we were as nimble as them- we took the "up-down" route (as our guide gestured) rather than the straight route... I think im going to feel it in my legs tomorrow. The views are stunning. I mainly took photos on my camera though, so more photos to follow. The air smells thick with tropical plants, there's the constant noise of the crickets and the crashing river below. We passed a couple of schools and loads of kids in uniforms beamed namaste as they passed. We tried the local beer- essentially fermented rice pudding... We struggled to down more than a few sips. Which is saying a lot!
Off we trek to Ghermu Phant or Syange today.

23 October 2017

Got to Besi Sahar safe after a 8 1/2 hour bus trip. Picking up locals on the way, cramming them onto stools in the aisle. The luggage was strapped to the top of the bus and bags of vegetables were also loaded on and dropped off at small shops in villages en route. The scenery was beautiful as we went from really dusty tracks into the green mountains. Although our guide said that they don't consider anything under 5000m above sea level as a mountain. So, hills! Loads of banana trees and terraces of crops. We slept quite a bit of the journey though as we didn't get a good night's sleep last night (probably due to pre-trek excitement/nerves). The journey was so bumpy, Wendie's pedometer watch thought she was doing over 27000 steps :D We tried the steripen on some tapwater this evening. We'll soon find out if it's worked!
At Kathmandu bus station off to start our adventure. First stop Besi Sahar.

20 October 2017

Iggle Piggle joined us on our first outing and made some native friends :D
Arrived in Kathmandu, survived the eratic taxi ride to the hotel and found a roof terrace to have our first Everest beer. Early night for us.

19 October 2017

Yep, that's our flight, 09:30am and it's now almost 7pm :D
The plane had a technical fault so we got to watch half a movie while waiting, got served lunch (Indian curries and desserts) and then taken off the plane. Given vouchers, will get compensation and means we won't have long to wait to get our connecting flight to kathmandu. Happiest most relaxed passengers on that flight I think. Although I think most of the others are gutted to be missing diwali with their families.
After sampling some whiskies and the last half of English beer for a few months, feeling a little tipsy and really excited. Quickly trying out travel blog apps, sending my last text goodbyes.