Monthly Archives: March 2012
So we left Katmandu and boarded a plane for Lukla. Lukla is the location of the Number 1 most dangerous airport in the world. The flight is in a 15 seater and Feels loud a rickety. It takes about an hour to get there and the flight went well. Getting close, though, he was threading a needle through the mountain. I would say getting as close as 500 feet at times! The landing was pretty uneventful, but I can say I landed at the most dangerous airport in the world!
We took off from thee and headed for Phak Ding. It was going to be about a four hour hike. Supposed to be the easy day before the hard one. For me? Not so much. It was hard. While you lose altitude you go up a lot to do it. And I had way over packed my day pack Late in the hike, the Mani, my Sherpa of the day, took my pack and I continued on without it. It was tough going. Lots of stairs that go uphill and lots of very steep near-scrambling. At least that is my memory. I arrived at Phak Ding 10 or 15 minutes after my fellow trekkers. They are great, by the way. Every last one of them. The hike itself rambled through villages and fields and was really breath taking. But we ain’t seen nothing yet. Sorry no pics again, but the upload eats up all my time for blogging. I buy it by the usage. [edited in pictures]
This is supposed to be the tough day. I didn’t sleep at all during the night. Our accommodations were very nice, though cold. But I kept warm enough. my roommate is great and does not snore, but I was Sleepless in Phak Ding. I have not been able to eat a lot, though I feel great. I was worried about the hike to Namche. How hard it is touted to be and how difficult the easy day was for me. We got our wake-up tea at 6:30. The Sherpa brings tea to your room and wake you up. An hour later you are to be at breakfast. I ate lots of mush and an egg for breakfast and we headed out. I was very scared. I had learned that all the elevation gain was in the end of the hike. We meandered back and forth across steel bridges across the river and each time there were steep rock steps to climb on both sides. Up, down, up down and then after crossing the last bridge, a huge down followed by steady, extremely steep hiking all the way in and gaining over 2k in around 3 miles. I was again assigned a Sherpa who again took my pack once we crossed that last bridge. I pressed on. I fought with myself about why I thought I could do this. But here I was so stop it and keep going! It was ugly. Real ugly. But on I went, all the time being treated extra nice by a man who could have run up the hill! I was passed time and time again by porters carrying 100 pound loads in sandals. I drank 4 liters of water as told by the Dawa, the boss of the Sherpa. Finally, we get to the very edge of the town of Namche andI have to take another of the many rests I had taken. Suddenly I was sick. I just started throwing up off the edge of the cliff. Nothing there though so I simply sounded like a barking dog. One of the Sherpas early in the day had told me that I can trek my only problem is that I am FAT! He said it smiling and there was no negative meant by it, just the facts ma’am! Another point in the day an old hippie passed me on the trail and spit out. “Just go slow!”. several hours later he passed me again and said “you are still here! I am F!*$in’ impressed! I figured you would have quit a long time ago! That is GREAT!” All I could muster was “there is no quit.” That along with a bucket of spit like a distempered horse!
The Sherpa suggested we stop at the Irish Pub and have tea before the last leg. I did and we had two milk teas as I looked around at the big mountains around me. I am here. In Namche. I did it. I did not quit. I am well…the tea hit the spot. Now I am simply going to take a shower after having a dinner of Shrimp chips, pasta with sauce, mashed potatoes, fruit, tea and Soup. I will write more later, but the shower and Big Agnes the sleeping bag beckon. Maybe next time I can introduce you all to Elvis the Yak!
Today started after what really was a restful sleep. I awoke to the sounds of Katmandu waking below me. I headed down to the restaurant for breakfast and posted yesterdays entry while enjoying the wifi posts to Facebook and drinking fresh mango juice with fresh watermelon juice chasers. I still had not met anyone from my group and was sure, as I looked around the room some of them were there.
After breakfast, i went to the lobby where we gathered for our city tour. I met our tour guide and all of the team. Four from the San Francisco Bay Area, an Ausie father and daughter, An Ausie who lives in Hong Kong, and a camera operator who lives between Vegas and LA. Once the ice was broken it was clear that I had lucked out and got a great crew of people!
Rita was our tour guide and quite knowledgeable about the area. She loaded us up into a van and off we went through the streets of Katmandu. Man oh man. The level of poverty was palpable. the streets are rough and choked with motorcycles, bikes, cars, trucks, vans, and the occasional Sacred cow. People just wander in and out of traffic and the chaos it seems to create works like a well oiled machine.
Our first stop was a Pashupatinath Shiva Temple and crematoria. It is situated on the head waters of the Ganges river. Because of its location it is quite sacred to the people, who come from all over to die, dip their feet in the waters as they day, and then be burned in the funeral pyre so that their ashes can be returned to the waters and the cycle of life can begin again. As our trekking guide Deanna says, life is lived right out in the open here. Birth, death…..all of it for all to see. We hung with the Sadhus and received blessing from them.
Our next stop was Bouda Stupa. Here you enter a gate and are in a sort of gated village that surrounds the Stupa, one of the most iconic pictures of Nepal. You always travel clockwise around the Stupa. We climbed several flights of stairs to a temple and the monks there stopped everything to offer our group a blessing. My third or forth of the day. People here take their faith quite seriously and they want you to be blessed in your travels. This was extraordinary, because the monks had already locked up after morning religious activities. The unlocked the temple and had us all come in. It was really very touching that they care that much.
Once the blessings were complete, we came back down to the Stupa and did a little shopping. Then up to the top of one of the buildings for lunch! The Food was EXCELLENT. Chicken momo, which was like pot stickas. Some chili chicken item and veggie dumpling. Main course was chicken fried rice and an Everest beer. Then some milk tea. This was the time we all got to know each other much better and I really am liking my trekking companions.
At this point we were all stuffed full of food and ready to get moving again. So it was off to the Monkey Temple high on a hill above the city. Bet you wouldn’t guess there are lots of monkeys here…but there are lots of monkeys everywhere in Katmandu. The dogs are everywhere too. They are sad dogs. Never seem to wag a tail. No pics this time, having upload difficulties. Will add them later,
Kathy swept me off to the airport in San Francisco so that I could depart the homeland for the big adventure. It was an easy check in. But oddly, the lady at Cathay Pacific looked at my Ping Rolling carry on and said it was too heavy to go on the plain. She asked if I could move some of the items over to the tow other checked bags. But I told her I feared they would burst if one more item were put inside them. She said it was not going in the cabin and began to check it. I asked her what cost that would be to which she replied “I will do it for a courtesy.” I thanked her and thought to myself that was nicer because now I wouldn’t have to worry about it while I was in Hong Kong.
I went to the gate and before you know it, I was settling in to my seat: 44A. That meant I was on the bulkhead and would have oodles of legroom. The down side was the constant stream of people to the bathroom within 5 feet of me. But so far so good and the big leg of the flight was shaping up good. My row mates were Dawn and Steve Gregory. They are a fine couple that runs a café in Pasa Robles, California. They were on their way to china for a several day trek themselves. Steve has climbed Whitney a couple of times before as well. It was a great set up there in the 44th row of the Boeing 747. Now I just had to get some rest over the 14-hour flight that was ahead. I have to say that I was impressed with the flight in general. Though there were over 400 people on the plane, the kids were doing well and despite non-stop use of the bulkhead restroom, the air quality remained tolerable.
I did manage to get a good amount of sleep and soon found myself grabbing my bag and heading for customs to venture out to the streets of Hong King to meet up with my cousin, Leonard Nichols at the Holiday Inn. I paid my $90.00 Hong Kong Dollars for a ticket for the train to Kowloon and settled in. We passed the Port of Hong Kong where there were literally THOUSANDS of trucking containers in various stages of loading and unloading. It reminded me of Dad driving container trucks to the port to be shipped overseas. As we hit the Kowloon Station, I quickly scoped out the taxi stand and headed for there, jumped into a little Toyota cab and called out HOLIDAY INN! And off we went…on the wrong side of the Road…ahhh the Brits and their crazy idea that one should drive on the left! We went on a wild ride though the streets of the city and came to a very sudden
stop in front of the Holiday in. Which is not so far from Shakey’s Pizza….yes, the same Shakey’s company that owned the pizza parlor all of us used to go to after Games at Glacier High School.
I fired up the Spot Connect so that I could check in….no bueno. It seemed to try hard for 15 minutes, but to no avail. I had been able to get free wireless at the airport so checked in with family and facebook, but Hong Kong was having none of the coolest piece of gear I got for this trip.
At last I was going to see Leo and we were to make a day of it. He called me and met me in the lobby but because he had indulged in Yak Steak the night before to honor me and because the Yak meat he ate had some sort of malady, he had spent the entire night praying to the porcelain gods and was not entirely done with that pilgrimage upon my arrival. None the less, we set out for the tram to the top of Hong Kong, taking a ferry across the harbor and beginning an uphill walk to the tram. But it did him in, poor guy. So we turned back, stopping for rests and for him to get some liquids. Then back to his hotel and the hotel doctor! I went out for a short walk while he treated with the doctor and got to encounter the hawkers trying to get me to buy hand bags and quality tailored goods.
After the doc left and Leo had gotten a shot and some other medicine, we went out again and ran some errands for him after which we had a coffee (he had a gator aid for the electrolytes) at Starbucks!
I had arrived at about 8:00 AM local time and it was now approaching 2. We decided to go our separate ways, Leo back to Mainland China and me back to the airport. It was so nice to see him. Sort of like a pilgrimage of Nichols visit…first his parents, (my God Parents) back in Fremont California a few days ago and now him in Hong Kong. My efforts to travel there to see him have catapulted me into the favorite cousin position. I just know it!
So onward I went, heading to check in and try to get another one of those swell seats like on the last flight. I walked up with my big smile and was excited for the next leg. But remember that really nice gesture back in San Francisco? The one where the lady put that rolling carry on in with my other checked baggage? That as about to come back and slap me right in the face. The lad y said in pretty good English “You have three bags checked and ticket only for 2.” So, I tried to explain what happened in San Francisco. But that was not relevant to her. For her, all that mattered was I had a ticket for two checked bags, but three had been checked and the math did not add up. Her solution? The first one was for me to pay 120 US dollars for the bag for each leg of my flight. I Told her that didn’t seem fair since they had checked it through in San Francisco and had never said that it WOULD have cost that kind of money. Her second solution? Take the bag number three from under the plane and put it in the overhead with me. Well, that seemed reasonable. Not what I expected but better than shelling out hundreds of dollars for what WAS supposed to be a carry on in the first place. So they sent me to Terminal 1, Section H, Isle
H19 to get the bag. The problem was, they had no clue. Now they wanted me to go get the bag since there was a problem with it….I told them there was no problem. At least not one they didn’t create all on their own. So the young man helping the woman advised me to take a seat and when the bag was available in the Customs Hall, they would take me there. That sounded ok, though there were no seats. I walked a few paces away and simply stood. And waited. And waited. And got hungry. And waited.
I went back to T1, H, H19 and asked how long it would be. The lady (same one) told me that since I had lost my bag…WAIT! I never lost my bag! Now I could feel some anger roiling up inside me. I kept telling myself in my quiet, inside voice…NO INTERNATIONAL INCIDENTS! Especially when you haven’t even started the activities that have brought you over 6,000 miles from home so far. After stern words of urgency to the young lady that I had a plane to catch and the bag she was trying to take off it had to be back on it with me PDQ! An hour and a half had already passed. She brought another young man out and told me to go with him. So off we went. And went. And went. Into the bowels of the Hong Kong
airport. He kept showing different ID’s of his and waiving me on with him. Then we came to an official looking chap with a stamp. You know there could be trouble when they have a stamp and an ink pad at the ready. Was I to be Locked Up Abroad? He asked me for my boarding pass……SERENITY NOW I yelled inside! SHUT THE FRONT DOOR you guys never GAVE me a boarding pass. Then I stared straight into his eyes with my best Robo-Cop impression and no joy to detect on my face. Thought of my father at Chosin reservoir all surrounded by the Chinese. I knew how he felt now. I was sure I did. I was not about to walk the 250 miles back to T1, H, H19 to get the boarding pass. I broke eyes with stamp-man and burned a whole through the young man’s eyes and he slinked off. I stayed put and did not move. Not an inch either way. Just stood and robo-copped the stamp man. About 15 minutes later young guys shows up with a freshly minted boarding pass and we pass thought a gauntlet of flailing, ink lathered rubber stamps and gates and now we are in front of a baggage claim carousel.
Each bag that passed, the young man asked if that was it. No. It wasn’t. Time was now speeding passed. I ask young man where all these bags on the carousel came from. He said they are lost from their owners…..MINE IS NOT LOST! He gets nervous again…or maybe afraid that my big round blue eyes have now turned red and laser like. He moves off to a coworker and they speak. He comes back and says “Your Bags should be coming now.” BAGS??? I told him that the all the bags were checked through and for whatever reason they decided the third bag could no longer be under the plane and had to be in it but what was he doing with my other two bags! He said they all had to come off. And it happened.
At last, it happened. They had broken me. All at once I realized that in 20 minutes my plane was leaving. I had not gone through security or customs. And now all three of my bags had been exorcized from the plane….the one about to leave….with or without me or them. I looked at the man and said “I spent thousands of dollars on this trip and now it is about to be ruined if me and those bags do not make it to Katmandu tonight. And with that big tears rolled down my cheeks and I was through, I took the rebel bag that had been the source of all the trouble, they took the other two and we went our separate ways. I headed for customs. I got through customs after a thorough tear down of THE BAG and hurried through security and then scurried for the gate. I got there just as final boarding was being called.
So here I sit, in Dragon Air’s plane…in Seat 22A, a bulkhead seat with no isle mates, at 38,000 feet in the air, eating Indian rice and writing this blog entry. I do not know if my gear is on the plane with me. I will not know for another 3 hours. Adventure, it’s what’s for dinner.
My time of final preps in the SF Bay area is drawing to a close. It has been a nice visit with my sister, a great time with my God Parents, and a delightful meeting with new friends that I got to know at Trail Space.
This morning started out with a final trip to my favorite REI location in downtown San Francisco. It is where I first purchased my pack two years ago, after which I walked the couple of miles back to the hotel where I was attending a prosecutor’s conference on Evidence. Today I picked up another bladder for water and some other odds and ends. Then it was off to Radio Shack to get a power converter and some flash drives for photo storage.
Then I picked up a bowl of soup and sourdough for lunch because that was sooo good Saturday that I had to do it again! Finally, I headed off to Mad House Coffee to meet Bill Heiser and BillS from trail Space. I had such a great time with Bill H., Bill S., and his wife Barb. Though I always enjoy
them on the Trail Space Forums, they now have human bodies, voices and laughs! It was such fun. OGBO (BillS) said it all when he said that it is nice to get out from behind a computer screen to interact with each other.
So now it is time to lock up the duffel and the back pack and get ready for a 14 hour trip to Hong Kong where I will meet up with Leo Nichols, my cousin, and do a whirlwind tour.
I am trying to get real tired so I can sleep on the plane and be ready for all the fun Hong Kong can offer.
Today is the day. Have been working, waiting, fretting for it. When I set out for this adventure, I am not sure even I believed I would follow through with going. But here it is, March 24, 2012 and I HAVE set out on the biggest adventure of my life.
Along the way, I have learned a lot about myself. That the Karen I always was was inside waiting to get out. I learned that the biggest obstacle to success in anything I set out for is not the physical environment around me. Though many of those things are huge challenges, the actual obstacle is myself and the mental battle I fight with myself.
So here I am at the beginning. I was all packed up and ready to roll and Jim and Maggie arrived to transport me to McCarren Airport in Las Vegas. They came in and met my digs and we chatted and all of a sudden I was out the door. The dogs were behind the door while we were headed off to the car and I would not be seeing them for 22 days. Just that fast, I was leaving.
I got a comment on a post a while back from a person who is also doing this trek. We have been communicating about it ever since. He has a reason for going. Seems that is common…..exorcising some demon or another by putting ones self through some physical challenge far off from home. He phoned last night to give me a pep talk and encourage me. He is a few weeks after me. I’ll have been home a few days when he starts. It is somehow comforting knowing that somebody I have spoken with will be putting his feet where mine once were in a land far away and as high as you can get into the heavens. It also motivates me to work hard against the voices that chirp and bleat about when the going gets tough. He wants me to finish it for him. So that he can know that he can finish it too. I think he already knows he can.
So we sped down the 215 to McCarren, chit chatting with each other along the way. Jim and Maggie are stand up folks who I have come to know most recently and feel like I have known forever. Maggie came climbing in the gym with me Wednesday and she has now caught the bug. Guaranteeing more fun together. Jim works with me at Red Rock Search and Rescue. They are sporting their own WhelanTrek shirts and toting my baggage! What great friends they are to come clear across the valley and pick me up and cart me off on my journey!
In a flash, they, too were gone. So off I went, checked in and paid the extra $60.00 for my duffel and back pack, got my boarding pass and headed in to the gate. But first I tested out the Spot Connect and checked in from McCarren. I wanted to be sure to get used to using it and understanding it. I also wanted to be sure I get the trip from door jam to door jam. I was excited when I was sitting in the plain and got a text from another friend, Kristen, who had gotten the email Spot Connect sent out to her. So. It is working!
Airport security wasn’t too bad. Boarding went well too. And to my delight, nobody was sitting next to me. It is always a nice flight in coach when you have a seat between you the next person.
I was thinking as we flew along and I could see the Sierra Nevada Mountains out my window that those will see so very small in a few days when I see the big peaks of the Himalayas. And how this short flight to Frisco will seem like bliss compared to what flights lie ahead.
Just as I completed that thought, the flight attendant came over the loud speaker to say that we were about to descend to San Francisco International Airport. She wanted us to know, too, that she was about to take one last run down the isle of the plane to take all of our plastic cups from us for fear that they could be projectiles should the landing be a bit too assertive. At least that was what I heard her say. So here she came and I launched my cup her way as she blew past my seat
28A. Just like that I was at another airport. Only difference was, now there was all this rain coming down.
It was nice to get out of the plane and enter the airport and smell the wonderful bread! Moisture in the air always makes food smell so good! I headed out to the curb after collecting my bags and headed out shopping for some final things with my sister. Then back to her house for a piping hot bowl of Clam Chowder with fresh sourdough to dip! What a wonderful dinner on a cold San Francisco day.
Now my sister and I are done for the evening and we are drinking tea and petting her schipps. Makes me miss Cappy Jack and Katie Scarlet already!
So I’ll sign off now, from this my first dispatch of the journey. I will finish by thanking Jim and Maggie for their gracious assistance, and for the Trekkies for supporting me on this excellent adventure!
The time is hear to begin getting the final things ready for the trip. I have ordered, tested, lost, reordered and assembled quite a lot of stuff. Cloths, electronics, Packing, first aid……it is a lot of stuff and a lot of organizing. Today I am inventorying everything so that I can see if I ave all I need….or even too much of what I need.
So it seemed easiest to get all the stuff together in one room and go from there. Just drag it all in and see what there is.
I have layers of clothing for top and layers for bottom. I love the jackets best! Then I have socks for hiking and even undies for hiking, They rinse out easily and dry fast. I have gloves and hats and bandanas. Gaiters and balaclavas.
I have a solar charging set up, Canon 60D DSLR camera, media cards, a SPOT GPS device, Mac Book Pro, iPhone, Steri Pen. I have a back pack, a day pack, a cover to put the pack in for the plan rides, a duffel for all the stuff Elvis the Yak will carry. Trekking poles will help my knees…along with the knee braces.
I had shots: Meningitis, Typhoid, Flu, Hepatitis A and B, but I also got prescriptions for antibiotics and Diamox, a drug to help with the high altitude we will be at. I got passport pictures to bring for my visa documents that Mountain Madness will be getting for us once we get there.
I still have to meet with my friend Eric Darr to sort my electronics and figure out how many and what type batteries I will need. I have a few more things to get for my first aid kit as well. I have t-shirts coming just for the fun of it. And, as of the time of this writing, I am leaving in 20 days!
I have to get everything together and packed ahead so I can weigh to the two main bags. Unfortunately Virgin America, the leg that gets me to San Francisco, charges me 50 bux a bag to get there!
The electronics are a bit daunting. I do hope I can get them all up and running for the duration of the trek. There will be some access to power, so I had to get conversion plugs for the ends of the cords.
I have been using poles for 2 years and really do see the difference. Especially on steep declines.
At the end of the day, sitting around a yak dung fire, high in the Himalaya, these booties will keep tired feet and battered toes toasty warm! Thanks to Mo for the great give at Christmas!