Trekking – day 176

Start: Bupsa @ 6.45 (2,360m)

End: Chaurikharka @ 18.00 (2,072m)

Distance: 21.16km

Quite possibly the most mentally tough day that we have had so far. The route today began with an incredibly slippery downhill climb, dodging wet rocks and pools of muddy water whilst navigating the narrow paths next to vertical drop offs down the side of the mountain. Fog came in around midday to hide the near embedding doom but it made it even eerier.   Climbed up for a bit, coming to a town where it began to pour with rain. Took shelter in one of the tea lodges, having a hot chocolate and vegetable fried noodles whilst our backs were steaming in the heat.   The rain didn’t stop so we had to continue our descent on the afore mentioned slippery trail with the added joy of rain… Got about 1.5km away from our planned destination before I decided to call a halt to walking and find a tea lodge for dinner and bed. 

Thursday 31st March 2016

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Trekking – day 175

Start: Nunthala @ 06:45 (2,220m)

End: Bupsa @ 14:40 (2,360m)

Distance: 16.3km

Our tea house owner didn’t seem particularly keen on getting out of bed to serve us breakfast, so after waiting for 15minutes, we decided to get breakfast en route. A steep descent for about 2 hours, narrowly avoiding a local woman walking her Yak (which Jayne was allowed to stroke… carefully with the woman holding his horns!). Stopped at the bottom of the valley for some noodles before crossing a suspension bridge and beginning our ascent.  Clearly physically and mentally exhausted, it was really tough for me – Jayne continues to be a superstar!! Had a second breakfast of porridge at 11am and continued our trek. Reached the summit around midday before gradually descending to a 109m suspension bridge!!  A gruelling climb to our village – stopping to let more donkeys pass. Had a restful afternoon washing our incredibly stinky clothes before having dinner and going to bed.

Wednesday 30th March 2016

Trekking – day 174

Start: Junbesi @ 07:00 (2,680m)

End: Nunthala @ 17:00 (2,220m)

Distance: 20.8km

An early start again, having an immediate ascent through a pine forest with the sun shining. It smelled like an overpowering car air freshener!!      It levelled out and then ascended steeply for a while before we came across our first glimpse of Everest – not a dry eye in sight!  Stopped at the view point for a bit, buying some nak cheese & crackers and had a snack looking at the view.    Continued our walk – descending to a valley and suspension bridge. Another brutal ascent before a quick lunch stop (& to rub some feet) before continuing the gruelling ascent to the pass. Stopped at the top to catch our breath before beginning the slippery, almost vertical descent down to Nunthala. We clearly had come at the wrong time as our scramble down muddy wet rocks was made harder by dodging a never ending line of donkeys! A cold shower, followed by dinner, before we headed to bed for another early night.

Tuesday 29th March 2016

Trekking – day 173

Start: Sete @ 06:50 (2,520m)

End: Junbesi @ 16:10 (2,680m)

Distance: 18.6km

We woke up in the middle of the night to the rumbling of thunder bouncing off the valley walls. It continued for some time and it took our hearts some time longer to calm down and let us go back to sleep. The early morning ascent was steep and tiring and we had to stop just outside Dakchu to put on rain coats and bag covers… the rain stopped nearly instantly after we had got prep’d. We rearranged bags and gear in Dakchu (meaning: two small ponds) while watching a farmer and wife gently try and encourage a yak to breed with a nak while others ran around the field and wandered around one of the ponds. 

The ascent was gruesome. The wind, laden with moisture was buffeting up from one valley to cross over and and say hi to the other valley. The sound of it whistling through the trees was like a gale force storm hitting a coastal village. Skipping ahead a bit, passing through a forest with Rhododendron trees that had trunks in colours of silver and red, looking like red gold, we were at the highest point in the journey to Lukla. The phone signal was still deciding where we were, so we ascended slightly up the hill for the GPS to kick in. Out of the mist, much like a scene from a Sherlock Holmes novel, the trekker that passed us at Dakchu came bounding down the hill saying “No, No, No”. He had gone 5km out of his way to the the top of the mountain, missing the trail markers in the most, only using a map and not having a GPS as a back-up. Heading down the next valley heading to Junbesi, we passed through a forest of pine and rhododendron. The flowers were a cherry red and the pines smelt of Christmas. We came out of said forest to the beginnings of a snow storm. We came in sight of our destination as the snow began to come at us horizontally. We literally have now had fire, thunder and ice in 24hrs. There were a few photographic moments of the snow-capped mountains that meant we just made it to our tea house before snow, hail and ice turned to heavy rain.Sat around the stove warming up and enjoying Sherpa Stew, we pitied those arriving to the village in the pitch black and pouring rain. It was a tough day and we despaired at the next day to come, where the guide book already says it would be slippery and steep. Better head off to bed. 

Kat’s Footnote: I hate this! This is so fucking horrible – why are we walking vertically up AGAIN? SNOW?? REALLY!! This sucks! I want this to end… Ah, heated dining room – Joy!!

Monday 28th March 2016

Trekking – day 172

Start: Banti Bhandar @ 07:00 (2,200m)

End: Sete @16:10 (2,520m)

Distance: 18.3km

Woke up with the rest of the tea house as day was breaking – thanks to the ridiculously loud cockerel! Ate porridge and set off following the path and asking for directions when we saw someone.   Spotted a horrible looking suspension bridge which Jahne was adamant that we had to cross. Fortunately, a woman came out of her house to point is in the right direction!! Descended for about 3hours, just below a forest fire – the advice from the local was be careful of rock fall!! Weren’t too concerned until we saw 2 local women rush past looking petrified.  Signed in at the checkpoint & had a cup of tea before starting our gruelling, near vertical ascent for the remainder of the day. Quick drink stop to play with the puppy. Arrived at a tea house and had one of the coldest showers imaginable. Dinner & chatted to another Trekker before snuggling in to bed.

Sunday 27th March 2016

Travelling – day 171

  1. Start: Kathmandu @ 06:00 (1,400m)

End: Bhandar @ 16:44 (2,200m)

Distance: 221km

A horribly early 4am start to get to the bus station for 5:30am. A hideous 10hr 45min on a very dusty bus, with 3 toilet stops (only one of which was utilisable by women – unless you were happy to flash the entire bus and several goats!!). Both of us had to get off the bus at Jiri to sign our name in the tourist register – clearly the Canadian tourist onboard looked too much like a local to bother having to sign his name. Arrived at Bhandar and chose a different tea house to the Canadian – got to spread the love (aka money). Ordered dinner and went for a walk in the village, trying to work out which route we needed to take in the morning. Delicious Momo’s and Dal Bhat for dinner before going to bed early – washing the dust off my feet and brushing it out of our hair before climbing in to bed.

 Saturday 26th March 2016

Kathmandu – day 170

Both of us woke up slightly snotty – think the pollution is aggravating us (especially after the Maldives). Had breakfast at the hotel before heading to the bank as the ATM yesterday declined the transaction but still took the money from my account! A slightly stressful 30 minutes explaining and filling out forms (clearly this happens a lot!!!) before we headed to the tourist area to buy our last pieces of trekking gear. Dropped it all off at the hotel and then spent the rest of the afternoon sorting and packing our stuff – both our hiking bags but also organising and reshuffling all the stuff that we are leaving at the hotel in Kathmandu. Headed out for an early dinner back at Momo Star – for more Momo’s obviously!!  Jayne got sweet and sour chicken and spring rolls. Another stop off at the bakery for desert and to grab some banana cake for our long bus journey tomorrow.  A quick check of emails & FB (for the last time in a long while) before finishing watching LOTR – The Fellowship of the Ring in bed, munching on our donuts.

Friday 25th March 2016

Kathmandu – day 169

Woke up early and I enjoyed a surprisingly hot shower! Unfortunately, all the hot water seemed to be gone when Jayne got in… oops! Had breakfast at the hotel before heading to the tourist information centre to organise our TIMS Cards and permits. Got to be nosey on everyone else’s treks – all much shorter time wise but seem ambitious with the distance…? Went to the bus station (after a slight delay as a guy stole my pen!!). Got our tickets for Saturday to Bhandar and then treated ourselves to Momo’s at the bus station… 90NPR for 10 (about 60p – I’m in heaven!!).   Wandered back to the hotel to sort through our bags and work out what we still need to buy for our trek. Headed out to price a few items so we had a vague idea of the haggling price before heading to a restaurant called “Momo Star” for dinner. We had Nepalese soup and a plate of Momo’s each – Jayne’s buffalo ones were amazing.  Found a bakery on the way home which was reducing its stock in 45mins – but we couldn’t wait – the donuts looked delicious much to the disappointment of the tourist waiting for 9:30pm…

Thursday 24th March 2016

Travelling – day 168

A painful wait until 4am for our flight to Doha, made slightly worse by having to wait over an hour for the completely hopeless check in staff to work through the massive line of customers. Jayne was particularly excited to see the new “Star Wars” film on the TV sets (suddenly all her tiredness was gone!). I promptly passed out only to be woken up by the kid in front singing nursery rhymes – to her parents delight! But not mine as it was 6am… When have parents stopped telling their kids to shut up? A swift and easy connection in Doha for our flight to Kathmandu. Had a 2nd breakfast (the same as the previous flight!) and both watched films. Had organised a transfer with the hotel, so were collected at the airport and got to experience the chaos of Kathmandu from the sanctuary of the car! Headed out into the tourist area after dropping out bags off, going to the ATM and trying to get our bearings. Headed to a recommended restaurant where we had a mixture of Nepalese food & watched traditional dancing by candlelight.Early night since we were both exhausted.

Wednesday 23rd March 2016

50 things we’ve learnt during our 29 days in the Maldives. 

1. Male’ has one of the coolest airports ever… you come out of the building and have to get a ferry straight away. 

2. The waters around the jetty are cleaner than most tropical beaches I’ve ever seen, even with water bottles floating around and tyres on the sea bed. 

3. They sell Milo by the can (big cans) – Katherine is very excited. 

4. There is a public swimming pool on the west side of the island where the sea tops up the lagoon. It gets used!

5. There is a full outdoor gym opposite said swimming ‘lagoon’ that would put any gym back home to shame. 

6. We have no idea when you would ever plan to use the equipment in this heat. 

7. We had to turn the air conditioning off during the night – we were too cold with it set at 24*C. 

8. There are no public buses or trains. Although there seems to be bus stops!?

8a. Errata: The buses are pick-up trucks and masquerade as buses. 

8b. Further Errata: There are posh buses and 3 regular bus routes on Hulhumalé. 

9. There is not a single TukTuk driver in sight. Bliss!

10. There seems far too many motorbikes for islands you can walk around in less than an hour. 

11. Nobody beeps their horn, even when you deem it necessary. 

11a. In retrospect and in amendment, if they start beeping their horn, they sit on it until the blockade has been moved. 

12. We saw a shop that sells fleece blankets – how on earth is anyone cold in this weather?!?

13. The park behind the presidents office is full of fake plants and light-up trees as to create some colour and life to the area. 

14. There is mud in the Maldives, contrary to what some would say. 

15. Pedestrians are away with the fairies or glued to their phone, oblivious to their surroundings while walking. 

16. Some tourists walk around like they are in a resort. Shame on them!

17. The women tie their head scarfs in a beautiful fashion. 

18. There is near enough to no shade during the midday sun. Avoid open areas. 

19. They have a ridiculously long lunch break. Coincidence?

20. The only idiots who power walk are tourists trying to get out of said midday heat – we weren’t the only ones. 

21. Some of the locals totally look like video game gangsta’s with their haircuts and aviator glasses, especially driving around on a moped. They are, however, constantly smiling. 

22. They drink more power drinks than water. 

23. Ferries run on time. To the second. 

24. Resort islands look glamorous, we can’t afford looking at them, don’t mind visiting them. 

25. There is such a thing as a prison boat. 

26. It breaks your heart seeing the locals and staff throw litter out the windows of the ferry. 

27. Nappies are called WeeWeeDry. Sanitary towels are washable, reusable and come with a free gift. 

28. Milo doesn’t taste the same in a can. 

29. Bread has a best before date 14months after production???

30. Maldivian women are speed demons on a jet ski. 

31. Some ferry drivers dream of being models in a boxing ring – carrying the destination up and down the boat on a card when approaching the island. 

32. The bikini beach is normally located down wind of the garbage site. Plus, they burn their rubbish just before sunset just to annoy the tourists a little more. 

33. The only hill in the Maldives is the man made one at the driving test centre to teach people how to navigate them… Which seems slightly pointless as its the only hill. 

34. Sometimes the current is just too strong. 

35. Building works in Male’ start at an unsavoury hour (around the same time as the daily tsunami warning siren).

36. You can’t have a comb-over with three strands of greasy hair. Only Homer Simpson can pull that off. 

37. A sarong is not acceptable as a cover up – you can be arrested and/or fined. 

38. “Is this the only shade on the beach?”… is code for, get up off the sunbed and give it to me so that I can sunbathe. 

39. There is a cheap alternative to MoguMogu where the coconut pieces are like chewing rubber tyres. 

40. You should always buy your ticket for the ferry as early as possible, the day before if available. Sold out ferries are not uncommon. 

41. It is better to cook for half an hour on a boat not moving, in the sunshine, than to have a breeze for three hours but the sun blazing on your arm. The wise and experienced will tell which side to sit on, that’s not necessarily the locals. 

42. The woman whom sells the ferry tickets in Malé will remind you of ‘Rose’, the slug lady from Monsters Inc. Rose’ mannerisms, facial expression and drawling accent are based entirely upon this woman. 

43. Berths at the jetty are numbered on 3D Tetris concrete blocks. They are also the wave breakers. The structure would remind the geeks amongst us as a methane molecule. 

44. Trying to tip a Maldivian in seashells is like trying to tip an Innuet in ice cubes. It is however greatly amusing to us to watch the conversation. 

45. Maldivian men are kind of sexy… Especially when they are in board shorts and flip flops.

46. Diving (or snorkelling) within reaching distance of a shark is better than a laxative!!

47. When Katherine says she was directing the Captain’s tiller with her foot, it is not a euphemism, it means she was driving the boat (with a bit of flirting). 🙂

48. Stage props are an acceptable device to use as skate-board ramps, jumps and grinds. 

49. Katherine has the ability to throw away a pair of flip-flops. But only when they’ve melted in the heat. 

50. One should always have a formal outfit in your backpack for that PhD/Job Interview in paradise!