Nepal Travel Log
- Submitted by: Helen Pederslie
- Submission Date: 09th Feb 2005
Trip Participants: Helen & Robert Pederslie and Eveline & Eric Alkemade
Trip Summary Description:
11/1/92 Singapore - Kathmandu - Pokhara
11/2-11/6 Trek to Ghorepani and back (normally 7 day trek squeezed into 5)
11/7 Pokhara - Kathmandu
11/8 Kathmandu - Mt. Everest (1 hour r/t photo flight to Everest)
11/8 Kathmandu - Singapore
This travel log was written solely for the purpose of providing the trip participants better means to remember this trip after their memories begin to fade. Therefore, if you like it-we will be happy for you, if you don't like it-don't come to us with a lawsuit for mental hardship! :-)
Email Address for Comments/Questions:
firstname.lastname@example.org (Robert Pederslie)
I SURVIVED NEPAL!!!!!
Our flight to Nepal on Sunday morning, November 1, had an hour stop-over at Dahka, Bengladesh. They didn't let us out, but passed out complimentary playing cards. Couldn't see anything from the airplane though, what a drag. Upon arrival at Nepal, we were ripped off by the official porter. He carried our luggage for a total of 30 feet, and wanted 50 Rupees (US$1) for it. Oh well, at least we learned to say no to all porters. It was a mess at the Kathmandu airport. Luckily, Eveline spotted a sign for the 'Alkemades'! The local trekking company, Pabil Tours, sent someone to pick us up. Since we had about a 4 hour layover, it was a great way to kill the time. We all piled onto this Volkswagen minibus and went to the Pabil office, where we met Tenzing Sherpa, our local agent. Apparently, Sherpa could be your surname, and Sherpa could mean where you were born and raised, and it could also mean your profession, so there are MANY Sherpas around. Tenzing was very nice and smooth, he mapped out our itinerary, took all of our passports and return flight tickets (GULP! He claims that he needs them for our trekking permits and that he does this all the time.), issued us four sleeping bags to take on the trip (they might not make it there otherwise because the rest of the crew travel on the local night bus), and then took us to lunch at Hotel Sherpa (Sherpa again!). We were all very conservative in our food choices, so we all had spaghetti bolognaise. Not bad. Driving through the narrow streets of Kathmandu reminded me of the scenes from Indiana Jones. Everybody would blare their horns at the pedestrians and cars and bicycles. We saw holy cows every where we went. In Nepal, it is a MAJOR sin to kill a cow. Cows lead a very good life there. They don't need to do anything at all, just eat and sleep. I envy them.
Our flight to Pokhara that afternoon was uneventful other than the fact that the plane was VERY small and we felt quite claustrophobic. Poor Robert had to sit at the aisle because there was so little leg room. This time we were ready for the most enthusiastic porters at the airport. Protect your luggage and keep on saying 'no' until they leave you alone. We quickly found our head man, Lakpa Sherpa (Lakpa means that he was born on Wednesday...I read this from our Nepal book), and then we rode to Kaare where we had our first night of camping. By the time we reached the campsite, it was nearly 7 pm, and the sun had already set. Our tents were already set up neatly. The moment we got there, 'Cookie', the chef, already had hot tea all ready for us. We sat around and had our choice of tea, coffee, ovaltine, and some energy drink. They even make milk from powdered milk. Everything tastes a bit funny because of the water. Cookie also served some cookies with the tea. I had thought that perhaps tea was 'it' for the evening, but to my surprise (and delight), Cookie then served us a full dinner consisting of soup, Yak cheese sandwiches, Pizza (!), etc. Following dinner was the usual round of tea again. We also had these green oranges that tasted like Mandarin Oranges. Neither Eric nor I liked to peel oranges. At LAST I've found someone else who hates oranges! Well, Eric and I acted like babies each time, and Eveline and Robert would have to peel the oranges for us. A nice dog called Kukuur (I guess that means dog in Nepalese) was there the entire evening. Turns out that the places that we stayed at during our trip all had dogs that look just like Kukuur ('Family', as Eveline would say), but the first night's Kukuur was my favorite. She had a very nice face, and guarded our tent all night long. Eveline brought Uno cards, but we decided to just call it a night since there was no electricity. We were very proper in our hygiene that evening...we all brushed our teeth and washed our faces before bedtime. This proved to be the only time we did this during our 5 day trek...we were just too dead tired to care after that day. We all dressed in the same sweatsuits (from C.K. Tang's budget floor) for bedtime. The locals must have thought that we looked mighty funny.
The rooster woke us up at dawn. I had never been awaken by a rooster before. By the time I got up, Cookie already has a nice basin of hot water ready for us. He also gave us hot tea and cookies. I fed mine to Kukuur since they weren't too tasty. The view from our campsite was truly beautiful in the morning with all the red and orange colors in the sky. Ahhhh...so far so good! I had to find a spot for going to the bathroom in the morning, the trick was to find one where no one could see you. I finally gave up because all the locals were staring at me wherever I went. What helped was that I didn't wear my glasses so I couldn't see if they were all looking at me intently when I did my business. One thing that I learned from this was that I didn't care about who saw me when I did my business anymore. Anyway, back to breakfast.... Again, I thought that the cookies and tea were all we would be having for breakfast, but then I heard this chicken squealing loudly for quite some time....we had fried eggs for breakfast that morning, on toast. There was also porridge, which Eric liked. I was too chicken to try it. I figured that if I get hungry on the trail, I'll just have the granola bars and the dried fruit we brought, and of course I could always have the Cheese and Crackers 'to feel good'.
We finally started on the trail at 7:30 am. Tenzing had told us that normally, the trekking should start at 8:00 am, but then we found out from Lakpa that we should be starting at 7:00 am everyday! Oops! The trail started out nice enough. We were going downhill on a paved road. I was in a GOOD mood, thinking that this trekking business shouldn't be too bad after all. We saw herds of donkeys or mules along the way (I could never tell them apart...Eveline gave me a long explanation on their difference, but I couldn't remember anymore). Some of them wore bells around their necks. We then came to a point where we turned and started walking up these stone steps to a village. I guess this was where the REAL trail started. You have to be really careful about where you step. The stone steps were rickety, and many were loose and uneven. Besides, there were always plenty of shit along the passageway. The best person, in my personal opinion, to follow during the trek was Eric. Robert always took the 'tough' route...he always liked to step on high rocks and skip around. Eveline always took the 'shit' route....well, actually, that would be the easiest route because the animals took that route...only problem was that I was not fond of stepping into giant mule muffins. We eventually came to a resting place where there are many 'restaurants' selling mineral water and soft drinks, and Eric bought this silver and wooden ornament. Robert thought that it looked like an ashtray....he was so mean. From the resting place, we could see our first SNOW-capped mountain! How beautiful. Lakpa then pointed out where we would be having lunch. It was to be at Birethanti....looked nice enough, but it's WAY WAY DOWN the mountain. So we began trekking down the steep trail down the mountain. Parts of the trail looked like a river bed. I was having alot of trouble because I was a 'scaredy cat' and didn't want to take my chances on the slippery rocks. One of the guides helped me out alot. Most Nepalese don't wear proper shoes. They either wear thongs or nothing at all! Couldn't believe that our porters with their huge loads (up to 60 Kgs -- that's about 130 Lbs) would run up and down these trails on thongs! We had thought that our duffel bag would be too heavy for one porter, but it turned out that the poor porter had to carry our bag PLUS two others. They would strap all the bags and pile them on top of this rattan basket. The basket had a very long strap which the porter would put against his forehead. It was totally amazing at what they could carry! Looked very painful though. I was very embarrassed that these porters would actually overtake me on the trail. Well, I could understand that when they were going downhill. Basically, they just start running and hop from one rock to another...they couldn't stop even if they tried. Going uphill, I would go about the same pace as the porters...well, maybe I was a bit better than them going uphill...but I was only carrying my fanny pack (boy, a whole Lb!) and they were carrying huge loads. Robert was very nice and told me that I didn't need to carry a pack. Poor Eveline was jealous because her 'dear husband' wouldn't let her do the same. But Eveline was a real mountain mama. She and Eric had done lots of trekking before. Actually, now I wished that Carl and Angela had joined us in our trekking trip, even if Carl were still very tired from his illness. Then I wouldn't be the weakest one in the crowd....hee hee! But seriously, it was a good thing that Carl followed his Doctor's orders and didn't go with us. It would have been too tough! I got a nice fever three nights in a row from over-exertion. Luckily for me, the fever would subside by dawn. Anyway, after a long, hard journey down the muddy path where I saw many torn thongs and shoes along the way, we finally arrived at Birethanti where Cookie had already cooked lunch for us. Lunch was excellent because we were starving! Cookie even made this 'banana' pie. Only the boys tried it. It looked like a pie, but the bananas didn't look appetizing enough. Upon arrival at the lunch place, Cookie quickly brought us 'orange juice', which tasted alot like the tea and all other drinks. We couldn't mask the strong taste of the water. We ate LOTS and then had a short nap after lunch. BIG MISTAKE! Our poor muscles were so tired and stiff after the rest. Miraculously, I was the only one who seemed energetic after lunch. Well, the extra energy didn't last long. Along the way, we noticed that some of the villagers would sit on these pelts which reminded me very much of Kukuur. Apparently, they didn't waste much in Nepal. What better way to remember your dog than to make a pelt out of it!!!! Eveline then taught our guides to say 'Yelling Cucumee'. Long story... But the result was that these people would scream 'Yelling Cucumee' in a high-pitched voice for the rest of the trip. Eric decided to teach me another Dutch word other than 'Hooooiiiiii' which was basically 'Hello' in Dutch. Now I would say 'Hooooiiiiii' all the time, so it was time to learn more. So he taught me to say 'Drop Lul'. I guess I was supposed to met a new Dutchie, and say 'Hoooooiiiiiii, Drop Lul', but then I would have to run for my life! 'Drop Lul' meant something like 'Licorice Brick'. Couldn't figure why 'Licorice Brick' would cause such violent reactions from Dutchies. Ah hah! Eveline just told me that I heard Eric wrong. 'Drop Lul' meant 'Licorice PRICK', not Brick. Ahem.....Now I finally understand! Ha Ha! We also met a couple along the way. He was Dutch and she was German. Eveline didn't think that they were actually travelling together. Both were on an extended holiday. They had been trekking for some time and were much fitter than we were. They carried their own backpacks. Eventually, we managed to climb yet another mountain to reach Hille where we camped. We were supposed to go to Tirkhedunga (another 30 minutes or so away), but the head man decided that we probably wouldn't make it there in time. It was 4 pm when we arrived at Hille. I didn't really care for this camp site. It was behind this inn. No view at all, and not very nice either. Oh well. This inn actually had a bathroom and a toilet. Eveline and Eric took a sponge bath in the bathroom. I just washed myself in the tent because I was so tired, and then I had Robert stand guard by the door to the toilet because I didn't want to latch it. It was pitch black inside and didn't smell exactly kosher. Yuk. After washing up a bit, we had tea at the inn while we waited for dinner. Life was so simple when you trek...you ate, slept, and trekked. That was all. Well, occassionally, you shat (Eric just found out from his book that the past tense of shit was shat....very interesting stuff we talked about during our trek!). I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this Caucasian in his jogging shorts go running up the hill! Good grief! Wasn't all-day trekking enough for this fellow? There was also another man doing some writing at the next table. Turned out that he was British, and had been travelling around a bit on his own. He used to work in Switzerland, but he quit his job to travel around the world for a while. He had been in India visiting his friends for about 9 weeks, and had been in Nepal for about a week or so. Unfortunately, he had been sick for a couple of days. Food poisoning, I guess. He had walked to Hille from Pokhara and had taken him 3 days to get there. He had decided to turn back since his illness had prevented him from enjoying the trek. I had started talking to this guy because there was a VERY strange young woman at the inn who insisted on staring at us while we were waiting for dinner. She would lean across the table to stare intently into our eyes. When it got dark, she looked real spooky. We jokingly told the British guy to be careful because she might attack him in the middle of the night. Eveline told him to keep his bedroom window open so we could hear any strange noises. Cookie had bought this chicken from a 'chicken vendor' who carried his chickens in a giant basket on his back. We had chicken soup and also had the chicken as the main course. The villagers have this way of 'weighing' the chicken with their hands. Even the little kids would imitate the adults doing that. In any case, Cookie found us our chicken....but the chicken was so TOUGH! It was the toughest chicken I have ever had. Perhaps it was because these chickens were free to run up and down the mountains, and had built up big muscles. After dinner, at about 7:30 pm or so, we were all getting very tired, and decided to call it a night. We had another dog with us that night, a yellow one with a damaged ear. It was quite nice. We had to keep all of our belongings in the tent with us, including our stinky boots. This was because thefts are not uncommon in Nepal, and boots are one of the strongly desired items. Robert and I got quite good at arranging our two bags, a backpack and our boots in the tent. Our down comforters were quite nice. I had brought along pillow cases and a duvet cover... so they were extra niceties from home.
More roosters woke us up at dawn. This time, we actually set out at 7 am sharp. Today was to be the tough journey. We would need to trek UP a very steep mountain to Ghorepani. It wasn't too bad until the sun caught up with us. Then it became so hot! I took every excuse to rest....to let the donkeys or other people pass on the trail. The trail seemed to last forever, but I guess since we had been told about this day would be the toughest one, somehow I endured. Both Robert and I only wore our T-shirts and shorts because we knew we would be climbing all day. We climbed to 9300 feet that day. As we climbed to the higher altitudes, we got quite cold at times. It was strange... I would be sweating and I would be cold at the same time. At the first sight of the word Ghorepani, I was totally delighted to think that we have reached our destination. Turned out that our camp site was to be at the next village. I was about to kill the guide. This guide was very clean cut. He was wearing a khaki shirt all neatly buttoned up, and had a nice jean-jacket. I guess he got a lot of nice clothes from the tourists at the end of the treks. Eveline and I saw both guides washing their clothes meticulously at the end of trip. Anyway (Eveline always says that Robert and I use a lot of anyways in our speech, so I wouldn't want to disappoint her), turned out that the extra hike UPHILL to our campsite past Ghorepani was well worth the effort. We were rewarded with a WONDERFUL view of the snowy mountains from our camp site. This was the biggee! Well, it was the most beautiful scene that I have ever seen, even better than Switzerland, I have to say. The nice yellow dog from the camp site the night before actually followed Cookie's crew to this new site. I was very glad to see him again! Dogs in the villages were generally pretty well-fed, especially when compared to those in Kathmandu. Problem was that Robert and I were FREEZING to death up there, and our porters had not yet arrived. For once we beat them to the destination! We had to huddle in the hut where Cookie was cooking so we could get warm. Eventually, the porters arrived and they were so nice! They brought our bags to us right in the hut so that we could get our coats. These people were so nice to us all the way. Eveline thought that this one porter who had this tattered T-shirt looked very handsome. He was always all-smiles even though he had just walked for 8 hours with a 130 lb load on his back. At the end of the trip, I gave the porters a bag of apple candy and also a pack of playing cards. They seemed to like to play cards. They just didn't seem to get tired at all, not like the 'bloody tourists', as Eveline would say. We watched Cookie bake an apple pie for us that night. It tasted quite good considering he didn't have an oven! Eveline started having her cup of soup 'to feel good'. It was quite cold that night so we went to bed early AGAIN, right after dinner. Cookie would always cook for us first, then he would cook for the rest of the crew. The headman would get a portion of 'our' food. The rest of the crew would eat rice with sort of a thick soup on top of it. I guess they call it 'Dhaal Bhat'. That's the staple of Nepalese food. They all ate it by hand. There was a real hierarchy with the crew. The head man only had to carry a very small daypack. The 2 guides carried their own backpacks and had to carry our lantern also (perhaps the lantern was in case we got lost or was still on the trail by nightfall). The porters and the kitchen boys all carried large loads. Cookie never had to carry anything. He was always the boisterous one. He would run up and down the trails and laugh and sing. He would always get the 'boys' to sing. Sounded like Chinese opera to us. I hated to have them follow me when I hiked. Their loud singing and laughing always made me nervous.
Robert was the only brave (and tough!) one to go to Poon Hill for the sunrise. The guides were not too pleased that they would have to hike all the way up just for Robert, but they did wake him up at 4:30 am. The hike took about an hour in the dark. All the way UPHILL! Robert said that the hike was very tough. He was lucky that he brought a mango juice with him...that 'hit the spot'. Unfortunately, the clouds got bigger and bigger and they kept waiting for the sunrise with no luck. Eventually, they gave up and came back down at about 7 am. I had no problem sleeping in! It was nice and cozy in my tent. Eric and Eveline always got up before we did, and Eric kept on telling me that I was missing the beautiful sunrise. I finally got into my boots and looked around quickly, then decided that the view was just fine from my tent! I was so sly! And so lazy! When Robert came back, we listened to his short-wave radio during breakfast, just as Clinton was making his victory speech. It was strange to hear such a clear broadcast of it halfway around the world and in the mountains! The Nepalese were all very curious about Robert's radio, and took turns looking at it. After breakfast, we set off again. Turned out that we hiked quite a ways uphill, and we saw the same view that Robert saw from Poon Hill. He felt really cheated. The view was fantastic. I felt like I was at the set for Sound of Music. We were surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains. I guess all that hard trekking was finally rewarded. After the mountains, we trekked through a relatively flat trail of 'jungle'. It was really nice to be among the nice tall trees. It reminded us of Washington State, so Robert and I started making these stupid jokes about everything reminding us of Washington State. Poor Eveline and Eric had to endure our endless 'We love America and especially Washington State' jokes. But while we were making our way through this narrow trail along the side of this mountain, Robert fell off the trail and tumbled for about 3 to 4 feet. All I heard was Eveline's gasp, and then I saw Robert rolling away like a stunt-man. He performed the stunt beautifully, and didn't lose anything. He even held on to his walking stick all the way! Unbelievable! Later on, we heard this little 'Baaaaaa's from somewhere in the thick growth around us. Apparently, some poor little lamb was lost in the thick brush. Every time we made a 'Baaaaa' sound, the little lamb would respond. Eveline and I wanted desperately to go rescue the little lamb, but we couldn't figure out where it was. Luckily, another Sherpa came along the path. He was the shepherd for the little lamb apparently. So he went looking for the poor little thing. Next thing you know, FIVE little lambs showed up! They were SOOOOOOOO cute! There were a couple of chocolate ones, a white one, a black one, and the last one was black and white (my favorite!). These little lambs ran all over the place and barely stayed on the path. The shepherd did not have an easy job, they needed a 'Sherpa' dog. Later on, Eveline found a nice bathroom spot a bit off the trail. But these two holy water buffalos that were coming up the trail decided to check Eveline's spot out while she was still there! Good thing I decided to wait till Eveline was done for my turn. I wouldn't want to be visited by two holy water buffalos and the Sherpa tending to them while I was 'doing my business'! Eventually, after yet another long tough day of hiking, we FINALLY arrived at our camp site at Ghandruk. It was 5 pm when we arrived. I had 'died' several times from exhaustion along the way. The last part of the trail was horrible. It consisted of jagged little rocks going steeply downhill. I could imagine horses and mules breaking their legs on that trail. Needless to say, the guides had to help me again. This chosen camp site was at a very nice place. They actually had lots of marigolds and nice bushes. The view was excellent. We saw MORE snow-capped mountains. But poor Robert just found out that the shoelaces on his brand new hiking boots were being severed off. Of course we didn't bring spare shoelaces! Luckily Robert adjusted the laces and they seemed to hold up okay. The inn actually had electricity and a 'hot' shower. We all decided to take the 'hot' showers, which turned out to be luke-warm water trickling down from a little faucet about 3 feet above the ground. The 'shower' room was cold and Robert and I had quite a time when we tried to put our clothes back on. My fever started again, and my Cup of Noodles didn't help too much, although it made me 'feel good'. I went to bed shivering and Robert tucked me in. I was REALLY freezing that night. Couldn't remember much...I guess I passed out from the fever. There were four big black dogs at that house. They fought through the night. They even started barking when Robert unzipped our tent to go to the bathroom.
More roosters in the morning! Robert was convinced that Eveline was the one getting the roosters all excited so that they could crow all day long! Ah...I thought, our last whole day of trekking. Friday would only be a half-day, the head man promised. We were to trek to Landrung for lunch. That's about 3 mountains away. So down we went on our mountain (my legs felt like Jello after a while), and then we crossed this stream and then we went up the next mountain. That was tough because the sun was beating down on us. We then got to a ridge where we actually had a relatively flat trail! But of course good things wouldn't last. We had to go down the mountain again to cross the stream to go up another mountain. Boy, by the time we got up there, I was dead MANY times over. The only nice thing I remembered was that there was this small kitten fast asleep on the belly of a dog in one of our rest areas. It was so cute! We finally reached our lunch place where we had to climb these funky wooden steps to get to our 'restaurant'. Nice cozy place but I was too tired and cold to really enjoy it. Cookie made us some 'chocolate pancakes' as dessert. Robert said that they tasted sorta like chocolate, but had a strong artificial taste. Eveline liked them with lots of Druk jam. Seems like everything had a Druk label on it. We finished off a bottle of Druk ketchup during our trek. Later on in Kathmandu, Robert asked for Druk instead of ketchup! After lunch, we actually trekked on a stretch of flat trail. I really enjoyed myself because this was the first time that I could walk and enjoy the scenery at the same time. It was totally amazing that I got such a tan on my face, even though I spent most of my time looking down at my feet to see where I was going. Alot of this trail passed through what I called a 'park' with rolling hills and pretty flowers. I had a ball! Needless to say, the trail started going uphill again. We actually saw this group of Japanese trekkers carrying an umbrella to protect themselves from the sun while trekking. Eveline took a picture of them... After more hill climbing, we ended up in Pothana (we had thought that we were going to stay in Dhampus), which was only about 1/2 hour away from Dhampus. I was bargaining for these silver cups (they wanted 500 rupees each, I later found some smaller ones at my Tibetan friends' store for 80 Rupees!) when Eveline said 'Here's Cookie!' What sweet words to my ears! The main objective for my trekking was to get where Cookie was. That evening, Robert and Eric bought the crew beer. Everyone seemed to enjoy them very much. This one poor porter had a leaky cup, and was quite perturbed to see his beer dripping away! We were all rejoicing the fact that the last full day of trekking was over. We actually played one hand of Uno, but we got so bored after that. Our guide and porters sure looked interested in the game though. Cookie bought another chicken for dinner tonight. Eveline tried to bribe him to free the chicken (she was offering him a free beer!). As tempting as the bribe was, Cookie cooked the chicken. I guess the crew would have given him a bad time otherwise. Cookie tried to tell Eveline that he did free the bird by showing her this OTHER white chicken that was running around. The only bad part was that our camp site was at an inn with no view and there was this big group of young people from Hong Kong. These folks made a racket and one actually wore a flashlight (with a battery pack) on his head! All night long, I heard these people going up and down the stairs and peeing next to my tent! Yuk. To top it off, these folks all decided to get up at 5 am to see the sunrise. Eveline was really mad that they woke us all up by yelling to one another and told one of the guys off. Well, the one good thing was that they woke us up, so Robert decided to take some pictures of the sunrise anyway. They turned out to be quite nice.
Finally, the last day of the trek! I was quite ecstatic. We saw some views of Pokhara and also stopped at this vantage point for one of the last views of snow-capped mountains. Eric joked that he was tired of looking at the same snow-capped mountain. We saw many more tourists that day because we were much closer to the city. Here, village children would beg for Rupees. Another little girl asked Eveline (who was holding the camera) to see if she wanted to take a photo of her. But we knew that she would ask for Rupees in exchange for the photo. It really was too bad that these village children were spoiled by all the tourists. After more downhill maneuvers, we finally reached Phedi, our destination. From the mountain, Phedi looked like a giant dried-up river bed. Eveline was all excited because we saw this giant procession going on. The head man told us that these Nepalese were moving these sacred flower bells (well, at least that was what they looked like to me) from one temple to another. So Eveline and Eric went on ahead to join the procession. Meanwhile, our head man got Robert and I a taxi cab to take us to our lunch place. It was only about 1/2 mile away. We were actually quite embarrassed that we were riding a cab instead of trekking. Geez....we just trekked for 5 days in the mountains! But Lakpa didn't speak English very well, so it was hard to communicate with him. Perhaps I looked very tired or something. The moment we arrived at the lunch spot, many vendors started to persuade us to buy their wares. Other locals came to play a song for us. I gave them 20 Rupees and hoped that they would go away. They didn't. We had to be rude and had to keep saying 'no' to all of them so that they would leave us alone. It was only 11 am, so we weren't too hungry during our last lunch that Cookie prepared for us. Then it was time to take a cab back to Pokhara, and also time to say goodbye to the crew. I felt quite sad to say bye to them, since we had been together for 5 whole days. We gave them some US$ as tips, and Eveline and Eric gave away most of their T-shirts. We had also brought a fashion magazine from Singapore, so Eveline decided to give it to the lady at the lunch spot. Cookie seemed to be really fascinated by it. We then all crammed into this very small taxi to go to Pokhara. Poor Eric had to sit in the middle of the front seat, next to Lakpa. We three in the back were quite comfortable in comparison.
We arrived at the Hotel Tragopan in Pokhara. We said goodbye to Lakpa, who told us that he was taking the night bus back to Kathmandu. The night bus would take him 8 hours! We had been seeing these buses along the way. They would be jam-packed with people, and more guys would even be hanging on the back of the bus. How could they do this for 8 hours? Anyway, our hotel looked okay enough from the outside. We had adjourning rooms. Our door handle fell off when Robert tried to use it. The rooms themselves were not the best, but it was a definite luxury to have a real hot shower!!! We bathed and took a short nap before heading out to town. I had forgotten how soft my hair was when it was clean! I was so pleased. We decided to have lunch at the hotel restaurant. Eric, Robert, and I all asked about various items on the menu, then decided the chicken curry would probably be the safest thing. Eveline took Hawaiian pizza. Feeling fat and happy, we then strolled along the streets to try to find my friend Brooks Hill's 'special Tibetan friends'. Brooks' friend Sonam had a store in Pokhara by Lakeside. Brooks had given me US$50 to give to Sonam as he was putting her 9 year old daughter through boarding school. After following somewhat vague directions (no street names, we had to go by big trees in the middle of the roads and big shop names), we actually found Sonam's store. Her husband told us that she was at home at the Tibetan refugee camp. They even had Brooks' photo in the store! I was relieved because I did not want to hand out the money to just anyone who answered by the name of Sonam. Eveline and I did some shopping at the store since Sonam's husband gave us pretty decent prices. Best part was that we did not have to bargain. He then told us that he had called Sonam at home and she was taking a cab to town just to meet us. To kill some time, Robert and Eric naturally found this place next to the lake for some beers. It was called the Elegant View. We were fine until dusk when a bunch of mosquitoes and gnats descended upon us. We then found out that there was a brown-out from 5pm to 7pm every night. It was strange trying to shop when you could not see most of the merchandise. Eveline wanted to buy this puppet with 4 faces, but Eric told her that the puppet would just sit in the closet like all the other puppets she already had. Men! Anyway, it was about time to go back to the store to meet Sonam. She was there waiting for us. She was a very nice gentle woman who spoke English very well. It was really neat to meet with her to talk about the Nepalese and Tibetan cultures and lifestyles. It was then time for dinner. Eric had spotted a sign for Spaghetti Carbonara and wanted it badly. We searched high and low for a restaurant, and while we were walking around in the dark, Eric was accosted by a group of Nepalese children who wanted Rupees, Rupees. They were hanging onto his legs and arms. Finally Eveline and I screamed at them and they let him go. Poor Eric. Such a nice guy! We finally found an Italian Restaurant that looked quite lively. Sat on these loungers for dinner (of course my feet didn't reach!). The dinner prices were so inexpensive. Entrees were about 120 Rupees! So the boys splurged on beer. I ordered spaghetti carbonara also, but it was not quite what I had in mind. It was spaghetti with a very strong cheese sauce and was served with tidbits of chicken instead of bacon. Oh well... On the way back to the hotel, we saw some more holy cows and holy pigs. I was getting all ready for bed when I heard Eveline semi-screaming in the next room. She told me that she saw 'running animals' on her carpet (cockroaches). Got me so scared that I was thinking about these running animals all night long. Robert decided to squeeze his big feet into my thongs to go to the bathroom.
Of course they had plenty of roosters in Pokhara also. We had breakfast at the hotel before catching the flight to Kathmandu. Robert decided to have the Indian breakfast...he had been so brave and adventuresome ever since he had been in Manila. The Indian breakfast was very tasty. It consisted of fried bread with a highly spiced curry vegetables. A glass of sweetened or salted Lassi (yoghurt drink) was also served with it. Well, since there was about 1/2 hour to kill before catching the cab, naturally Eveline and I started shopping at the hotel shops. I found these nice paper-mache decorative balls and bells. Eveline and I bought a bunch for our Christmas trees. They were only $80 Rupees each. I also bought a nice set of paper-mache coasters.
Back in Kathmandu! Eric remembered to demand our passports back... I guess he was our team-leader. It was wonderful not to wear a watch for the entire week. Eveline and I let the boys handle all the responsibilities. It was great to feel so relaxed! From now on, I'd let Robert handle all the details of the trips we'd take! What a great way to enjoy the vacation! Our mini-bus drove us through the narrow streets of Kathmandu. More holy cows and holy sheep along the roads. We even passed by the Royal Palace, but it did not look especially impressive from the outside. Our hotel was in Thamel, a very touristy part of town. The scene on the streets were straight from the Indiana Jones movie. The Hotel Marshyandi turned out to be a pretty nice one. Unfortunately, our room was in the section where the hotel was under construction. We decided to walk through the streets of Thamel to find some lunch and do some shopping. Had spaghetti again for lunch! We were so adventuresome with our food choices! But we had to be careful so we wouldn't get sick with food poisoning. Eveline and I had Spaghetti Yeti...it's basically spaghetti bolognaise. After lunch, we walked through the crowded streets and Eveline bought Eric a 'Tin Tin in Tibet' T-shirt. I didn't understand why Eric said that he didn't really care for it. Perhaps he would feel embarrassed wearing 'Tin Tin' around. Eveline also bought a T-shirt with these eyes on it. Looked like cat's eyes to me, but later on we found out that these eyes denoted the 'Watchful Eyes of Buddha'. The Alkemades wanted to explore the not so touristy parts of Kathmandu. I got kind of nervous because we stuck out like sore thumbs. The locals were probably thinking why these bloody tourists were here in their market. Anyway, saw some things that I would never forget. There were four legs sitting in a pile by the road. Couldn't figure out where the rest of the animal was. We also saw a rat rummaging around the garbage. I had never seen a rat in real life before. He looked quite grungy. Robert said that this rat looked like those rats on the movies, except the movie star rats were actually rubbed with grease to make them look slimy. On the cuter side, we saw two kittens inside these dark apartments. They kept on meowing. Eveline also took a picture of these nice children looking at us from a window above. Eventually we got tired and ended up in this coffee shop of the Hotel Annapurna, where Eveline and I had banana splits and Robert had this 'Rose Sherbet' which turned out to be a glass of rose flavored liquid. He was quite disappointed. We decided to take a quick nap at the hotel when we returned because it was not time for happy hour yet. I was trying to read excerpts from the Nepal guide book to Robert but it became very difficult as it was getting dark and the brown-out (from 5 pm to 7 pm) was in effect. The room was FREEZING cold, so it was nice to cuddle. At 6 pm, we walked down the four flight of stairs to go to the hotel pub where Eveline and Eric were waiting. We knew that they offered free snacks, so we demanded lots of peanuts and Papad (chips). I had told Robert about this local Nepalese beer, the Iceberg, and he was trying to persuade me to share one with him. Good thing I stuck to my other choice because he and Eric shared one, and it definitely tasted quite different. Later, Tenzing dropped by to bid us farewell and also wanted our comments regarding the trip. We told him that we really enjoyed the trip although we thought that it would have been nicer if our guide spoke more English. We missed out on learning about the local cultures and customs while we trekked. Tenzing told us that he had lots of groups coming in that day, and had been at the airport several times. When Tenzing left, we decided to head over to the hotel restaurant for dinner. I wanted Tandoor chicken in a curry sauce with saffron rice and some vegetables. Of course none of that was in the menu, but they managed. But, in the course of making our dinners, they set the kitchen on fire (that was what we thought anyway). The waiters all just kept standing there smiling at us. It was so smoky. Robert called me 'Meg' because I was so picky about the food, just like Meg Ryan's character in the movie 'When Harry Met Sally'. This was our last dinner in Nepal, so the boys decided to 'drink and be merry'. Eric then got all philosophical and started asking me questions about what I thought about the Japanese buying out the businesses in America. And he was really quite serious. Good grief! Eveline then told me Eric always became very philosophical when he had too much to drink. He did the same thing to her one evening in Holland while she was frantically trying to pack for their holiday starting the next morning!
Our last day of vacation!! Robert and I got up EARLY to catch a mountain flight on Everest Air, while Eveline and Eric decided to visit the 'monkey' temple. Pabil Tours picked us up bright and early from the hotel and brought us to the domestic terminal. Robert was all excited at the prospect of seeing Mount Everest! Needless to say, the plane was delayed for nearly an hour. The entire flight was only supposed to last an hour anyway, not too bad for US$120 each. Well, at least the people watching activities were not too bad. One of the larger airplanes had an engine problem, so we got to see them load and unload this large group of passengers. Good thing that they found that one of the engines were not working properly while they were still on the ground! Anyway, our flight was finally ready. It was a 14 to 15 passenger plane, and we all had window seats. Robert and I were a bit worried because there was this group of VERY large Americans for our flight. Even the women were double my size! The plane was quite nice. We had a stewardess that passed out mango candies. She then gave us maps that profiled the different mountain ranges, and also periodically pointed out the names of the mountains we were passing by. Everyone had a chance to walk to the cockpit to get some pictures. Robert went there once but could not get a good enough view for a picture. I stayed in my seat since I did not want to chance getting nauseas. You could feel the excitement building as we neared Mount Everest. All the passengers were busy switching seats so they could get better shots. It was wild! I was one of the few that stayed put in their seats. All of a sudden, the stewardess came by and pointed out Mount Everest to me! It looked just like the picture in the map I had. Wow!!! We circled Mount Everest area twice. The plane dipped so low in some spots that I could clearly see the rocks on the trails below! Robert got as many shots as he could of the mountain. Problem was that from our vantage point, Mount Everest just did not seem to the highest mountain. All in all, I thought that Robert did a great job in his photography. Now we could boast that we have seen Mount Everest!
We hurried back to the hotel to have a quick breakfast and pick up our luggage before we had to go back to the international airport again for our flight back to Singapore. Eveline and Eric joined us for our meal. They had a great time at the temple and even did a little more shopping. It was really nice having the local agents arrange all the ground transportation. This vacation was truly worry-free.
The Kathmandu International Airport was much better than I expected. The waiting for the flight was relatively uneventful except for the snack-bar guy who tried to rip us off. Eveline was the smart one. She was always very careful about her Rupees. I was off on never-never-land. I had taken a dramamine pill before my mountain flight to prevent nausea but I was getting very drowsy from it.
Back in Singapore finally. It was nearly 10 pm when we landed. We were still in good spirits even though our vacation had ended. But what an adventure it was!