Monday, March 14, 2011

Nepal: Final Thoughts

Everest (with the cloud) and Ama Dablam (on the right)

Margaritas, Rotted Mattresses and Wheezing Men:


Awesome place. Especially without any tourists. So if you're thinking of backpacking in the Himalayas go in January/February. I was planning on going through Tibet into Mongolia to trek in the Gobi Desert, ride camels and live in yurts, but I got an email from the Mike Horn Young Explorers Program stating that I had been selected to get flown to the Swiss Alps for 10 days of physical and mental training as part of a selection camp for an expedition to the Magnetic North Pole. So I got a free flight to and from Switzerland, and I decided that it was time to move on from the Himalayas, so I changed my return flight to Novosibirsk, Russia. 
Fat local bird
I was back in Kathmandu for a couple of days before my flight. Nepal has something called “load-shedding”, which is where the entire city’s electrical supply is turned off for about 10 hours a day. I ate dinner one night by candlelight alone at a two-person table while reading a Polish crime novel, and it felt like I had been stood up on a date, especially when fellow diners threw sympathetic glances in my direction.
I found this in a Japanese restaurant in Kathmandu
The final night in Kathmandu I was invited to dinner by some fellow Everest-trekkers. These are the typical "tourist-Everest-trekkers" you meet. They all have a porter carrying their backpack for them, a guide telling them to keep their feet on the trail, and a complete lack of survival skills. They also usually expect way too much from the humble guesthouses, and drive the owners crazy with their requests. They also hike at least three times as slow as I do, so I get the pleasure of overtaking 40 year old, six foot three, wheezing men in sunhats, uselessly swinging the trekking poles strapped to their arms as if this will propel them faster up the mountain. I'm sure they were not too pleased to  see me later in the evening when they finally managed to make their way to the guesthouse four hours after I’d arrived.  
One of the guys that invited me for dinner my last night in Nepal

“Bob” drank one too many lime margaritas and left for the bathroom, never to return again, while we made our way to one of the Nepali clubs for some games of pool and blasting techno music.
This is "Bob" from Minnesota.

This is my journal entry for my final night in Nepal:
“Sitting cross-legged in the dorm surrounded by a crime novel without a cover, a Ukrainian magazine called the “Korrespondent” and an in-flight Shangri-la magazine from Nepali Airlines. My mattress is made of foam, and when I came in, the son’s owner was making the bed. He looked at the side of the yellow-green foam with a rotting chunk missing, then flipped it over and proceeded to cover the mattress with a yellowing, clean sheet and blanket…..Nepal is an interesting country. If you want to get a taste of what life must have been like without modern amenities-the romanticised European city life of the 18th and 19th centuries, then someone should try living here. Sure there’s intermittent electricity, but most of the toilets are holes in the ground covered by leaves, people throw garbage into the streets, you always have to boil your water and people here still rely on folk medicine, herbs and fortune tellers selling their abilities to the casual passerby on the street. Just today I saw a respectable man, age about 25-30, with black leather shoes and a suit and tie, crouched down with his hand outstretched in front of an Indian palm-reader, listening attentively.........I just moved on the bed to lean my back against the wall, and it gave an ominous crack. I’m probably going to end up falling or breaking through the bed frame in the middle of the night. Oh Nepal….” 

Ducktape is perfect for raw blisters

For the seasoned backpacker, Nepal trekking is easy. There are trails to follow, and you don't need a compass to navigate, because every local will gladly point you in the right direction. The highest I climbed was to 5600 meters, before the snow and ice prevented me from walking any higher. If I had my climbing gear with me I could have explored upwards. I wonder when altitude sickness would start to affect me.... I guess I’ll have to return with some gear to find out. 
Still my favorite mountain

Nepal highlights: Sherpa lattes, milk tea, Ama Dablam, massages and Sherpa dancing with Conrad.

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