Sunday, March 28, 2010

The trek begins

Our 18 minute flight into Jomsom was quite exciting. It was a small plane, holding 30 people. To land in Jomsom, you have to do a steep bank right against the mountains, while being buffered by the incessant wind. It made for a roller coaster ride. My porter, Krishna, had never flown. His face was blanched and I know he was very glad when we landed. He didn't know how to undo the seat belt because he had never used one.

We started out right away and went to this cool town called Kagbeni, where you can see people living like they have for hundreds of years. In the old section of town, all the construction is stones and cement, dirt floors, animals roam freely, and shrines and religion are tightly woven in to daily life.

I had a nice room with wood floors and my own bathroom in the guesthouse we stayed at. I ate something wrong there, and it took about 12 hours for it to leave my body. Kind of wiped me out. I was hoping to make it past the first day before that happened!

It meant we had to forego Muktinath, and come back to Jomsom. I just didn't have it in me to climb 3000 feet in 5 miles, and we weren't able to get the jeep we thought we could get. After resting today in Jomsom, things are looking up. By tomorrow I should be hopping again.

The mountains here are breathtaking, and this isn't considered an especially scenic area. Just a taste of what is to come.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A little rough spot, but soon trek begins!

Every big trip I have taken, about 2-3 days in there is a rough spot. For some reason once the haze of traval exhaustion has passed, and the wave of enthusiasm of everything being new, I hit a weary place where there are doubts. I have arrived in Pokura, ready to fly tomorrow to start the trek. I find myself wondering, did I train enough? Will I be able to do it? Do I have any business being here?

I know this will pass within 12-24 hours, it is just part of the deal. I think it is a natural part of my readjustment to turning my world upside down.

Two lovely things about today. A storm came through, and I had just got back to my hotel when it broke. I sat on a covered porch and watched for lightening and jumped several times when the crashing thunder rolled over. It cleaned the smoke out of the air, and the rain on the rooftops was soothing to hear. After that, Niraj and I took a stroll by the beautiful lake here. The sky was blue and pink, the jungle green hillsides around the lake. It could have been anywhere: Europe, Alaska, South America...felt very timeless and peaceful.

Niraj has been great, and Narayan (in Boulder) has called several times to make sure things are going well. I appreciate him checking on me.

Looks like I cannot afford to go through Tibet, even if it is possible. I am looking at other options.

Tomorrow I fly to Jomsom and hike 7 miles, and the trek will be underway.

Blessings to all. I am in the Himalayas! These blues won't last long.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lost and found in Thamel

I am staying just outside of Thamel, which is the main tourist area. It is dense with shops that line narrow streets constantly teeming with pedestrians, bicycle rick shaws, mobile fruit and popcorn carts, bicycles, motorbikes, and taxis. The streets look like a maze to me, and I am only just starting to orient to one or two streets, out of about 20. So at the end of my first full day here, I decided it was high time I set out on my own, even though I wasn't completely oriented. I had got directions to a restaurant I was recommended, and headed out. I made it with only one error.
Then, dinner was more than I expected. I was left with only 30 rupees in my pocket. I headed out to go home, and got really turned around. It was dark, and things looked different. I walked up and down, trying to find something I recognized. Finally, after 45 minutes, I asked a woman where my hotel was. She gestured directions, which mostly told me I was far from where I wanted to be. A bicycle rickshaw driver was nearby. I told him I only had 30 rupees, but I needed his help. (Normal fare would have been 50-100.) He agreed and took me to my hotel. I'm glad I did it, and it was a good test that things work out. I knew I was safe to be out until 8 pm, and made it back at 7:45. Just getting my feet wet, and ended up going for a swim.

The next day I went sightseeing in the city on the back of Niraj's motorbike. I will write more about that, next blog. Tomorrow we head out to Pokura on a 7 hour bus ride through the valley, and the next day start the trek.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kathmandu: The adventure is underfoot

You know on the Matrix Reloaded when Trinity heads down the freeway the wrong way on purpose, zigzagging through traffic, cars swerving everywhere? That is what driving is like here. There is a logic, apparently, because there are few accidents, but to the untrained eye it is extraordinary.

I met Niraj, who will be my guide on the trek and in KTM (Kathmandu). He is a man with a kindly, gentle disposition. A good match for me. He has been taking me around on his motorbike through the mad traffic where all the vehicles constantly discuss matters of state through their incessant beeping. Like a flock of geese, where they are all talking to eachother as they fly. He was surprised I insisted on renting a helmet. He only wears one because it is the law that drivers have to wear one. Now with the helmet I just occasionally close my eyes, find my happy place and magically avoid collisions. Niraj is a good driver so I trust that.

Today I went to the US embassy here. The security was imposing, the people quite unfriendly. I was a little surprised at the tone, especially since I am a citizen. Maybe I am already getting used to how friendly Nepali people are.

I will write a little more after doing some sighseeing tomorrow, and hope to post pictures. My backpack was delayed one day, but I was relieved to get it today. After so carefully packing everything, it would have been very difficult to reinvent!

Thanks to Lisa Leafgreen for connecting me to Niraj, Devaraj, and Narayan (owner of company), they are great, and taking good care of me.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pretty lights for company

I was able to get the last exit row seat so had tons of room on the 18 hour flight. What a blessing! A thin fog bank had come over the airport in L.A., so when we took off, we quickly came out above the layer and the fog was all lit from underneath, a sea of colorful light, with the blackness of the water showing through. It was beautiful. Then there was the Cheshire Cat moon, always a welcome sight. Over Alaska there was northern lights out my window, and the stars were winking at me whenever I checked.

I watched 5 movies, stayed up most of the night to start to shift to Nepal time. I feel pretty good.

More once I get to the Kathmandu. I'll also try adding pictures next entry!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Good golly, I'm on my way!

I am in line in the LA airport, in the international terminal, with announcements in Chinese, Thai and others I can't identify. The muggy warm air of LA wafts through the terminal, a taste of warmer climes I am on my way to. Had a fine flight here from Denver after a comforting sendoff by family and friends last night and this morning. Thanks to all that came to send your well wishes! I carry them with me.

My pack for the next 6 months to a year came in at 35.5 pounds. I am good with that! I had to read a whole book about packing light as it is counter to my old nature. I'm developing new, lighter habits. The book's message could be distilled down to one easy test. You should be able, with everything you are carrying, to run at a dead run to catch a train and not be inhibited by your stuff. I haven't had to literally test that yet, so I'll have to let you know how I did. At least I'm way closer to that goal than on previous trips.

An 18 hour flight to Bangkok on Thai airlines, 5 hour layover then a 3 hour flight to Kathmandu. A couple days to switch to their time zone (12 hours difference) and then I'll start my trek!

Next post will be from Bangkok, if I can swing it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Leaving daily work in an office

Today was intense. I am training the woman who will carry forth the work I am leaving. She is spunky, energetic, and a quick study. She'll fit in great with my team, and it is a profound relief to be leaving knowing the work I have done will be continued and that my teammates have a good new person to share the load.

Today was my going away party where people from the larger department all came by to say goodbye, to hear about my trip, to look at my maps, and to eat good snacks. It was easy to talk about the trip. That part is getting easier. "Nepal, India, Tibet, China, and Mongolia." See how easy it rolls off the tongue?

The hard part was saying good-bye to people that I spend more time with than my family. They wrote up a framed statement that said what they appreciate about me. My boss read it to the room, and many were choked up (including me). I knew I couldn't read it aloud without crying. I was glad Patti got through it. Even though it is awkward for me to be the object of public appreciation, I worked to be present and try to soak it in to help me get through other times where I need encouragement. Even people from outside the department came. Felt like a mini-retirement party, which is about right.

Two days left of work. One long and one short. I'll be out of my apartment Sunday morning. Ten days til I get on the plane. Amazing!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Details, details, details...

The lists are getting shorter. Stuff is getting figured out. Less than 2 weeks until I board that plane. I spend most days checking off items from my lists, dedicating time to work on my Website, making time to see friends and family. Inside my body I get waves of sadness about all the little "deaths" of the life I have made here. Blips of nausea when I think how much there is left to do. I get moments of shooting euphoria when I get a vivid image of a possible moment of my trip. Exciting realizations like, "I won't have to be in a cube every day!!!" that make my bones rejoice. It's all part of the deal, and it is good.

Thanks to my brother Will for helping me figure out the best way to load short video journal clips to this blog (look forward to a short instructional clip on the proper way to milk a horse, which I apparently will be learning how to do). Thanks to Maggie for helping me move a load to storage. Thanks to my Aunt and Uncle for some space to use as storage. Thanks to Chris Powers for working hard to get my Website up and running before I leave. Many more thanks to come. So many blessed souls have contributed to this trip!