An early start to catch our bus to Lumbini. Left the hotel at 5am and walked to the bus station. Was really nice walking through the, usually busy, streets of Kathmandu just as it was waking up for the day. Watched a large group of ladies do an aerobics class in the grounds of one of the temples. Arrived at the bus station and then were surrounded by guys who wanted to help us! Except none of them had an idea about where we needed to go so we headed to the ticket counter and told to look for bus 9777… Easy enough, except all the license plates are written in Nepali numerals. Started looking for number plates where the last three digits looked the same and found our bus relatively quickly!! One of the benefits of getting up this early was to catch the air conditioned bus to Lumbini – it was bliss, especially after the horror of the bus journey the other day!!! As we left Kathmandu, there were huge traffic jams going up and down the hills. Mainly trucks, lorries and buses that clearly lost speed and momentum to go uphill when trying to pass each other on the narrow roads. I spent most of the bus journey typing up blogs (which was tough given the bumpy nature of the roads) as Jayne watched the film that was being shown on the bus – a Hindi one that kept restarting every time we hit a big pot hole so she never saw the end!Stopped for lunch after about five hours in a restaurant that has clearly never seen a tourist – they were all really shocked to see us eating the food (which was actually really nice!). For the rest of the bus journey, we watched ‘Friends’ on the iPad. We arrived in Lumbini around 15.00 and left our bags at the hotel/guesthouse to have a little wander around and to stretch our legs. Went through the village and ended up at a local market. The chicken stall was great – a man chopping up a dead chicken for the waiting customers, a massive pile of chicken feathers just behind him and a group of live chickens (not caged) just sitting under the table waiting patiently for their turn to be slaughtered. We then walked into the temple complex but didn’t go in as we were both too tired to fully appreciate the Maya Devi temple today (and since it’s a UNESCO site, we need to be on top form!!!!). Headed out for an early dinner and then to bed. However, no electricity + heatwave = no fan and two very grumpy Stockdales!!!
Saturday 30th April 2016
Decided to have a lie in as we are both still tired from our trekking. Got up around 8am and decided to have breakfast at the hotel to make things easier as we have a list of jobs that need doing today. The service was so slow at the hotel that it probably would have been quicker to go somewhere else!!! We were just about to get started on our list of jobs when we had a knock on our door. Apparently, we have to move hotels as they had over booked and the guests arriving had booked using booking.com (meaning they’d paid more than we had!!). They’d offered to put us in their posher sister hotel and, after some negotiating from Jayne, we managed to get a room there at the same price we were paying at this hotel!! A bit of frantic packing and I struggled to lift my rucksack (not good!) with my bad back so we shuffled slowly down the road to our new hotel. It is so much nicer!!! Because of my back, we decided to split off to do our list of jobs so, as Jayne headed off to the bus station to buy our tickets for Lumbini tomorrow, I headed to the Internet cafe to sort out our visas for Myanmar and check our luggage allowance on the AirAsia flights. A couple of hours later, we were both back at the hotel chatting to Australian/British trekkers just back from EBC. We then repacked our bags to leave most of our stuff in Kathmandu again since I can’t carry a big bag – hopefully it will be alright by the time we leave for Myanmar. Having completed all our jobs and finally both feeling awake enough, we treated ourselves to a posh Thai dinner to finally celebrate our trek – papaya salad, meatballs, pad Thai noodles, green Thai curry and chicken with ginger was all washed down with a beer!
Friday 29th April 2016
Woke up feeling slightly strange – there was no trekking to do… We were staying at this hotel for another night so we didn’t have to pack up our stuff… We weren’t cold… But we were still aching (some things never change!!!). Enjoyed a hot shower, still scrubbing off layers of dust and grime, our hair taking a battering from needing another 2 washes to get it clean! Sorted out our clothes for washing and dropped them off to a laundrette (I feel so sorry for whoever has to wash them!!!) and headed out for breakfast. Chose a cafe recommended in the Lonely Planet and climbed 8 flights of stairs to get a panoramic view of the city. Practically drooled over the choice of food available on the menu before choosing sausages for Jayne and croissants for me. Sat quietly munching watching tourists on the streets below and monkeys jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Jayne wanted to wander around the streets after breakfast to look for something small so that I had something to open on my birthday. We managed about an hour before the hectic streets and our general tiredness got the better of us and we retreated to the sanctuary of our hotel room. An afternoon of watching ‘Friends’ and drinking the fizzy drinks that our bodies were craving. Both too tired to have our well-deserved celebratory dinner, we decided to head back to Momo Star for diner, deciding to save our fancy meal for when we both had the energy.
Thursday 28th April 2016
Start: Phaplu @ 5.37 (2,413m)
End: Kathmandu @ 18.15 (1,400m)
Obviously, the first thing you want after a month of trekking is a 12 hour bus journey… Made slightly more painful as we both felt slightly worse for wear from the small amount of beer we had consumed last night!!! With a bag full of treats, we set off on the windy road back to Kathmandu, the heat increasing as the altitude decreased until everyone was sweltering and hoping that the bus could pick up a bit of speed so that a breeze could flow through the windows! A man got on with a chicken in a basket which for or in the luggage rack above our heads – surely it must be cheaper (and easier) to buy your dinner hockey at your destination?!? Felt increased my grateful to arrive in Kathmandu, catching a taxi with 2 other tourists to Thamel and heading to or hotel. Decided to head out for something to eat straight away before we had a chance to sit down and then lose all motivation to move! Went to the shop to buy fizzy drinks and chocolate before heading to the kebab shop for a take away chicken roll and falafel wrap. Back at the hotel, we grabbed two ‘Everest’ beers and ate our dinner watching a ‘Friends’ episode. Fully stuffed, we had a shower – scrubbing off only the top layer of dirt and we both had to wash our hair twice – although mine still feels disgusting!! Flipped into bed and pretty much passed out…
Wednesday 27th April 2016
Start: Nunthala @ 7.10 (2,220m)
End: Phaplu @ 15.05 (2,413m)
The rhododendron leaves were a lovely mixture of red, orange and yellow on the new leaves, with the occasional species still sporting some white flowers like snowdrops. It was after we saw 2 langur monkeys jump down in to the forest that we started to notice the vibrancy of the forest and the colours. Suddenly, these plants, the white flowers of the strawberries and the blue forget-me-nots along the trail was like a living set of prayer flags, mimicking the ones getting blown in the breeze. We made excellent progress up to our highest point and, with new motivation and drive (plus full bellies of vegetable noodle soup, omelette and chapatti), we flew down from Traksindu La to Ringmu. This was supposed to be our stop point for the day. Encouraged by locals telling us how good the new road is and how quick it’d be for us to get to Phaplu or Selleri, we pushed on. The effects of the new road system are already apparent with businesses/lodges/etc. all closed down, never to reopen. But to be honest, my back, neck and hips were hurting so much (as was Katherine’s back), we were both relived to arrive in Phaplu, book our bus for tomorrow and enjoy a beer – our first alcoholic drink in over 2 months.
(Sung in the style of: ‘I want candy’)
I know a troll who’s tough ‘n’ strong,
Carries the bag – all month long,
Shouts at me when I’m too slow,
Don’t stand too close in case she blows… (off!)
I love Jayne, dom dom dom dm dom
I love Jayne, dom dom dom dm dom
(The song in my head for the 3 hour ascent up to Thaksindu La).
Tuesday 26th April 2016
Start: Kharikola @ 07.50 (2,220m)
End: Nunthala @ 13.25 (2,220m)
So… The decision has become ‘more and shorter’ is better than ‘fewer and longer’ days. It was a tough decision but one can only stay cooped up so long with ‘extreme sudoku’, no books and a limited menu. Pasang, bless him, escorted us through most of Kharikola’s long village to point out a longer, but far easier, route around the hill instead of trekking up and down past the monastery. Thus, we came across villagers looking guilty as they cut down trees and the lush green footpath, bereft of donkeys, were coloured with red pimples of wild strawberries. The overall trek was short, but painful enough. The emergence of so many butterflies in the area was lovely and the cattle and donkeys now have to be muzzled lest they munch their way to a come on the new shoots and leaves on the path. The hills are alive… With only the occasional sound of music (i.e. porters with radios), but it is abuzz with life, colour and growth and is a hub of activity. We’ll get there and we’ll try to enjoy the last few days as best we possibly can.
Monday 25th April 2016
Well, the osteopath may have realigned some stuff(?!?) but Katherine is still in a lot of pain. Thus, I was encouraged to go with Pasang (the lodge owner) up to the local school (above the village – steep ascent) to see the place. It was much bigger than other schools I’ve seen and even has dorm rooms for kids to stay if they live 1-2 days walk away. It was while sipping coffee, after the interviews of new pupils – who want to join his grade – that he points out why there is a missing plank of wood in the ceiling. It’s a year to the day when the earthquake happened. So, not only do we not get to celebrate in style day 200 of travelling, we’re reminded of how isolated we are and how we can’t manage to get out of the Himalayas because of a sore back. Cringe!!A lazy afternoon of reading was broken up by some chocolate (heaven) in the form of a Mars pie. It’s the equivalent of a Mars Cornish pasty or perhaps more similar to what a deep fired Mars bar must be like. Silent bliss followed and we went about solving some ‘extreme sudoku’. We ventured out and down the hill a bit to the bazaar where we stocked up on ibuprofen and managed a bargain in toothpaste – only 5 times more expensive than it should be… Oral hygiene is clearly up there with our list of priorities and we ‘escargot’ed’ back to the lodge to teach Pasang UNO and enjoy some Dal Bhat. Here’s hoping for some better news tomorrow and the weather to then be in our favour.
Sunday 24th April 2016
Start: Puiya @ 7.48 (2,730m)
End: Kharikola @ 15.00 (2,220m)
Not entirely sure I wanted to write anything for today as I am absolutely sure that I don’t want to remember it!! Had peanut butter with bread and pancake for breakfast, which was amazing and we nearly asked to buy the rest of the jar to take with us. Started off walking and my back just got progressively worse and worse as the day drew on. As I slowed down to a slower-than-snail shuffle, Jayne and I had an argument over my speed and the lack of painkillers we had left in the first aid kit, causing her to power on ahead to the next town in search of ibuprofen. No such luck so I took the last of the paracetamol with lunch before continuing for another 4km to the next town that had a hospital, crying with each step in pain and cursing the never ending line of donkeys that seemed to be constantly coming up AND down the path! As we finally shuffled into the village, Jayne found a lovely tea lodge, got me to lie down on the double(!) bed before going off in search of painkillers and more Coca Cola. I managed to swallow two tablets before pretty much passing out on the bed whilst Jayne took off my shoes and washed my feet so I could sleep properly. Managed a quick shower once the painkillers had kicked in and got into some comfy clothes to relax in the dining room. Ordered a feast of momos, fried potatoes, cheese pizza and a vegetable spring roll to share. Had the village kitten sat on my lap, who happily munched on one of my momos!!! Treated ourselves both to a hot chocolate and a fizzy drink each before heading to bed. Was really nice to have a double bed (for the first time in over a month), mainly cause I got to fall asleep with Jayne rubbing my sore back – like I was a princess and she was my slave!!!
Friday 22nd April 2016
Start: Nurning Ghat @ 07:31 (2,824m)
End: Puiya @ 15:15 (2,730m)
The splinter next to my blister last night needed more attention when I woke and Katherine was taking painkillers with breakfast. Thus, it was like a bad comedy as I hobbled on 1 foot and leaned on a trekking pole and Katherine walked with a rigid disposition. We made it down to Surke and I just had to take her bag. Not sure what weight I was now carrying but I trudged up hill and it worked out well: catching my breath and wiping away sweat timed perfectly for Kat to take it much easier and not overdo it. We had lunch at Khumbu lodge, the lady not remembering us from 3 weeks ago, and her cheerful manner not improving in the slightest! A shuffle around of items in the big bag / little bag meant I could breath easier on the next leg of the journey with Kat having a tiny amount in her back but keeping it warm as it started to spit rain. We were, in fact, making great time and matching the Lonely Planet recommended times. However, with a big gap until the next town around the valley and hearing thunder echo ominously louder and closer, we decided to stop at Puiya and try to replan the next few days to make them easier for Kat when we had rested a bit.
Thursday 21st April 2016