Friday, January 20, 2012



Just wanted to send a quick update. I am still in Kathmandu, Nepal
but will be heading to Italy on the 25th of Jan for a family ski trip.
I cannot believe I have been away from the States for a year already,
time sure flies. When I think of the places I have been, the things I
have seen and the people I have met, I have to admit the last year has
been really amazing.

Most recently, I did the Langtang trek and then the Tamang Heritage
Trek. The Langtang trek was a 3 day walk up the mountain to a place,
Kanjin Gompa at 3,800 meters. I stayed there for three nights and did
2 day trip hikes. One was to the top of Tsergo Ri, a 4,980 meter
mountain, and the other up the valley. The day I went to Tsergo Ri was
one I will remember for a long time. I got up before sunrise and was
up to around 4,000 meters before the sky finally turned the beautiful
blue/red/pink/purple of sunrise. As the colours started to fade, the
sun hit the mountain peaks and turned them a vibrant red. So although
it was freezing cold, -8 degrees C according to my thermometer, it was
well worth getting up early. As I continued up the mountain, I thought
for the first time, and probably the last, a guide would be nice about
now. Denis and I were the only ones around and although we were
following some footprints in the snow from a few days before, it was
evident that the person before wasn't really sure where to go either!
Nonetheless, we continued up the mountain, over snow covered boulders
and up steep, snowy trails. It wasn't easy and, despite my year on the
road, I guess I am still a little bit of a worry wart. I kept thinking
that one of us would twist our ankle with a misstep on one of the snow
covered boulders or that the clouds I saw way off in the distance were
going to suddenly drop 6 feet of snow on top of me! It all worked out
though and a few hours later when we were heading down the mountain we
met a group with their guide. Luckily we were able to follow their
path down the mountain avoiding the treacherous snow covered boulder
section i was so worried about! The nex day was another early morning.
However, because we were down in the valley the sun did not since on
us until after 11:00, my thermometer read -15 degrees C until about
10:15!! Furthermore, after walking three hours up the valley, I was
somewhat disappointed at the viewpoint. It was only 100 meters above
the valley floor and there were a few glacial morains (ridges left
over from moving or melting glaciers) around that were much higher and
I imagined offered a better view. As I am sure you would do to, we
scurried up the snowy morain to check out the view. Although it wasn't
as nice as the one the day before, it was still amazing. There were
snow capped peaks in almost every direction and then the river flowing
down the valley. As it turned out, the going up was easier than going
down. I was again worried that there would be some sort of a
catastrophe, mainly that I would cause and avalanche/ landslide type
disaster as I slid down the side of the ridge, however, no such
disaster occurred thankfully. Lastly, we did the Tamang Heritage trail
which goes through less visited villages and you get to see Nepali
people who do not often interact with tourists. What I noticed most in
these villages was when a person said "Namaste" (Hello) the always
took the time to put their hands together and bow their head too.
Whereas in more touristy places although people say it, it does not
seem sincere or genuine. Yet along Tamang you would pass an elderly
person carrying 35 kgs on her back and she would stop, put her hands
together, bow her head slightly, and say, "Namaste"; a beautiful sight

Well, I guess that is all for now. Hope you're doing well and I love
to hear about how you're doing too!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nepal, Round II

I seem to be adjusting to civilization well enough. I returned on the 30th of December from a 34 day trek around Manaslu, into the Tsum Valley and finally completing the Annapurna Circuit. Although there were certainly some cold days and lots of hills to go up and down, it was still fun. Since both the Manaslu and Tsum Valley regions are restricted, it is mandatory to have a guide. Our guide was a young guy, 24 years old, and lets just say he still has a lot to learn. That being said, Chelsea, an Australian girl who I traveled with and who had had other guides before, did say he wasn't as bad as some she has had. In any event, it was nice to have a translator and to be able to communicate with the locals to some degree. Over the 21 days we were in Manaslu and the Tsum Valley, we stayed at home-stays/ monasteries at least 15 nights. Staying at home-stays is nice because it really gives you a chance to see Nepal. We spent 3 nights at our guide's house. The living quarters are elevated and in the evening the cows come into the room downstairs (and ring their bells all night!!) There were basically 2 large rooms upstairs, the kitchen/ dining room and then a "bed room." As expected, there were not any beds in the bed room, but there were some sheets stuffed with straw that we could sleep on. It was neat to see his mom cook over the fire and his dad would come in after cutting grass for hey all morning and eat "Himalayan food" according to our guide. As far as I can tell, Himalayan food is simply Himalayan wheat mixed with just a little bit of water and heated up. The end result looks like a big glob of brown goo- not exactly appetizing but evidently full of energy. We, however, were spoiled and had thupka for most dinners. It is a noodle soup with potatoes, although not the most delicious, it was certainly better than the "Himalayan food!"

I think the night I enjoyed the most, we stayed in a small nunnery. Well, not really a nunnery, it was a tiny monastery in the middle of nowhere run by a nun. She was a lovely lady, maybe 55 years old or so. She lived by herself and took care of the monastery by herself as well. Every day, or two days, she had to walk down to the river to get water. Although the river was not that far away, it was about 200 meters below the monastery! It was exhausting enough for me to walk down to the river to get my 3 liters of water, I cannot imagine carry 30 liters back up!!! That evening, after our guide and Denis carried up extra water for her, we sat around the fire and waited for dinner. She actually popped us pop corn over the fire!! Finally, when dinner was over I got out my camera and showed her some of the pictures I had taken in Tibet. She was in awe!! Her smile was from ear to ear and she was so amazed by the different temples. I guess I had been a little jaded, there are so many temples and monasteries in Tibet that after a while they all started to look the same to me.....not to her! Each one was as impressive as the last I all I wish is that I would have thought to print out we a few of the pictures to give them to her and others we met along the way.

Getting onto the Annapurna Circuit seemed like we were returning to civilization compared to where we had been. On our first day on the Annapurna Circuit we celebrated with a packet of bonbons (chocolate cookies). After 5 hours or so on the trail, we came to Chame- complete with almost a dozen shops selling all the necessities: chocolate, peanuts, chips, shampoo, oatmeal (which we soon found out was terrible) and lots of other exciting items!! The shop keeper must have thought we were crazy, we were much to excited about such basic little things! It is shocking how much it has changed since I was there in March. The amount of progress that has been on the road is astonishing! At the rate they are going, you should be able to drive a car around the circuit by the end of the year it seems!! It was fun for me to pass all the places again, this time with out any snow on them!! I guess I didn't realize what a big difference walking in the snow made. In March, when there was tons of snow leading up to and over the pass, it took Nathan and I 4 hours to reach the pass and then another 4 and a half to come down....not this time. I reached to top in 2 hours and was down in another 2 and a half!! I was able to make it to Tuckuche on Christmas day. It is a lovely little village with flag-stone paved streets where Nathan and I had stayed before at a delightful guest house. The owners were as welcoming as before and can still make the best apple desserts in Nepal!

By December 30th I arrived into Pokhara, along with every Nepali in Nepal!! Much to my surprise, Pokhara holds a street festival every year from Dec 28th to Jan 1 which is evidently the highlight of the year. All the hotels in town were booked and the ones that had openings wanted $50 a night for a room (they are usually about $10)!!!!! After over an hour of trying, we finally found place and hit the town for food. Sadly, I was too tired to shower when we got back and I figured that if I had survived 26 days with out a shower before, 8 days wouldn't hurt:) As for the new year, a massive steak (the first meat I had had in about 38 days) and a beer sounded like heaven to me!

I'm back in Kathmandu now and will do the Langtang trek, only 10 days or so, before going out west the Baradia National Park. Hopefully I will see tigers and rinos in the park, but no guarantees. I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from Nepal!!

Well here I am back in Nepal for the second time this year. I know it's been awhile since I've sent an update, so here it goes...

Much to my dismay, in order to visit Tibet you have to be on an organized tour. After countless hours on a painfully slow internet (well I might have mentioned before, the internet was not slow- there were 50 Chinese kids playing internet games at lightening speed, however G-mail is unbelievably slow due to the filters/ sensors or whatever else the Chinese government does to it) I arranged an 11 day tour through Tibet to the Nepal border. I was extremely luck, I was able to join a Portuguese couple's tour; they not only helped decrease the cost of the tour, but also increased the fun significantly. I enjoyed Lhasa as much as I did the last time, maybe even more this time. Because it is winter time, there are many more Tibetans in Lhasa since there is no work for them on the farms. Therefore, there were thousands of traditionally dressed Tibetans spinning their prayer wheels and doing their pilgrimage around the temples and Potala Palace! Not to mention, there were hundreds of Tibetans in front of the temples prostrating themselves for hours on end!! It is hard to describe, but believe me, it was a beautiful sight.

After 4 busy days in Lhasa seeing many monasteries and a few cups of yak butter tea, we headed towards the Nepal border. Although there were many long days in the car, the scenery was breathtaking! I never knew there were sandy deserts in Tibet! We also passed turquoise blue lakes and rivers, went through 5,000 meter passes and gazed at Mt Everest and many other huge mountains. We spent one night at Mt. Everest Base Camp, but before you get too excited let me remind you that it is a major tourist attraction and it was not nearly as dangerous or difficult as you might think. We were able to ride in our Land Cruiser all the way up to the Rongphu Monastery Guesthouse. From there, for $5 a night, I had a perfect view of Mt Everest from my window. However, the guest house is 7 km from the actual base camp (5,200 meters elevation), again we were able to drive the whole way on a gravel road!! Despite the fact that it was so easy to get to, it was still amazing. I cannot explain how massive Everest is, is simply dwarfs all the other mountain around it. The next morning we again drove up to Base Camp to see the sun rise on Mt. Everest. Since China is all on the same time zone, the sun doesn't rise until 8:30 so at least it wasn't too early a morning.

The border crossing was quick and easy, the time change was the hardest thing to get used to! Although all you do is walk across a bridge into Nepal, the time changes 2 hours and 15 min! We decided to dive right into "local Nepal" and take the public bus to Kathmandu. Now that I can compare it to Mongolia, it wasn't bad at all!!! (Although my Portuguese friends did not feel the same way:)) Now that I am here in Kathmandu I am enjoying lots of good food and most of all good bread!!! Heading out not to meet with a trekking agency to organize a 3 week trek around Manaslu and the Tsum Valley and from there I will hop on the Annapurna Circuit again and hopefully be going through Thorang La Pass (5, 400 meters) Christmas day!!

Hope you're doing well and when I get on a computer that recognizes my memory card I will post a few photos!! Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Great Wall of China!

Ever since I was on the Great Wall 6 years ago I have wanted to come
back and camp on was worth the wait. We were a group of 4,
including a Chinese girl. Wow, having a Chinese speaker with you
certainly facilitates everything. We were able to navigate through the
bus station easily and then negotiate a fair price with the minivan
driver to take us to the Great Wall. Furthermore, the minivan driver
was able to inform us that the section of the Great Wall we wanted to
go to was closed. Instead he took us to a different section and I was
able to fulfill my dream of hiking along and camping on the Great Wall
of China.

When we started our walk, it was cold, cloudy and rainy. Although some
of my group members were upset about the weather, I actually enjoyed
it. It was only a light rain and it gave me an almost unreal feeling
of being on the Great Wall. With the mist and clouds all around and
not being able to see any modern strcuctures, it was easy to imagine
what it must have been like years ago when people were building it.
The rain stopped after a few hours and as dark approached we decided
to make camp. We were able to set up our tents in one of the watch
towers and make dinner. Before I went to sleep, I went out of the
watch tower in hopes of seeing the stars, not only did I see a clear
sky full of stars, but also 2 shooting stars. What a way to end a
night on the Great Wall!!

I woke to a beautiful sunrise on the Great Wall and clear sunny skys.
Of course as we walked closer to our destination we were also getting
to the tourist section. I must have passed over 500 people in the 3
hours I walked in the tourist section, quite a difference to in the
day before when I saw no one else. Nonetheless it was spectacular.

I am currently in Xining, China getting ready to spend a week or two
on the Silk Road towards Kashgar before heading to Tibet. I will try
to updated again soon.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Return to China

After 2 long months in Mongolia I am back to China and back to
civilization!! Since my 57 hour bus ride, things have certainly only
gotten better. I relaxed in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for a few days to
recover and then went on an organized tour to central Mongolia and the
Gobi Desert. First of all, let me say an organized tour is luxurious!
It was run through the Golden Gobi Hostel and the owner kept saying,
"remember, this is not a luxury tour." Well, I guess he hasn't taken
the bus from Olgi to UB recently or done his own self sufficient trek
for 11 days through the Alti mountains in Sept, because, believe me,
compared to that it was certainly a luxury tour!!!!!!!

The tour was delightful in that there were only 6 of us in the back of
a Russian van, as opposed to the 8 of us in the back of a jeep during
one of my journeys in Mongolia. Although there wasn't extra room,
there was at least enough room for all of us. Due to the vast size and
poor roads of Mongolia, we spent a lot of time in the van. However we
either stayed in nomads' gers every night or camped. I got to do a 2
day horse trek through central Mongolia, boy am I glad it was only 2
days! Being the inexperienced horse rider that I am, I was happy to
get off the horse and walk the last 2 days! While trekking, we stopped
at one nomad's ger who had a large herd of yaks. I got to try my hand
at milking a yak! Luckily no one was dependent on me milking a yak or
waiting for me to get a full bucket of milk, because they would still
be waiting if that was the case. It was something new and different
though and I was happy to give it a shot.

From Central Mongolia we continued to the Gobi Desert. Well, as we had
been warned, the Gobi Desert is not as spectacular as it sounds. The
Gobi is an extremely large part of Mongolia, but the sand dune part
that I usually think of when I hear Gobi is actually only 10km long
and 12 km wide. That being said, the sand dunes were spectacular. We
got to ride camels to the sand dunes, then took off our shoes and
played in the sand. In the evening we took the van 10km away to the
tallest of the sand dunes, 300 meters high. Let me tell you, it is
nearly impossible to climb a 300 meter high sand dune! You would put
your foot down, and then slide backwards. After a long and exhausting
walk, we reached the top in time to see a beautiful sunset. Luckily,
on the long drive back to UB we only experienced minor car troubles: 3
flat tires and at one point there was a long metal shaft and bulky
round thing dragging from the bottom of the van. However, our driver
was evidently used to these problems and was able to fix each one

I am now in Beijing, went to the Forbidden City yesterday and am going
to go camp along the Great Wall this weekend with a group of friends.
Looking forward to Kashgar and north western China in the next few


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fwd: Khovd, Mongolia

I am now in Kovd, Mongolia and am heading to Olgii, Mongolia tomorrow.
I don't know how to explain Mongolia (although I do know the key board
here is less than perfect so please excuse any typos) but it is
amazing!! After nearly a week in Ulaanbaatar I have loved being out in
the country!! I took a 27 hour bus ride from UB to Uliastai. The 27
hour bus ride was actually was much better than I anticipated. There
were only few hours here and there were there more people than seats
on the bus!  As the sun doesn't set until 9pm and it is up about 6:30,
I was able to see much of te landscape along the way. We were on a
"road" the entire time, although te road was really just a woren down
path through te grass lands and across a few rivers.

Although Uliastai is not a remarkable city, the countryside around it
is. I took a nigt or 2 to recover fom the long bus ride and stock up
for a trek through Otgon Tenger Strictly Protected Area. The Otgon
Tenger mountain is sacred to Mongolians and it is prohibited to climb
it. As it was gong to cost $60 to hire a car to take us the 40km to te
park, we decided to hitch-hike instead. We were on the sde of te road
for about 2 min when a man stopped.  We pointed on the map where we
wanted to go and piled in, he didnt speak any english, but he said ok
and off we went. We were not sure how far he was goiing to take us or
how much it was going to cost, but we figured it was all part of the
experience! He drove us about 10km and asked for $4- a reasonable
price I think. We got out of te car and were trying to decide ow much
further we had to go to the park when again a car stopped and offered
us a ride. We were driven anoter 10km and then invited in a ger
(traditional mongolian tent) for warm milk and bread. With a happy
stomach, we strapped on our packs and headed off on foot. For the next
3 days we passed countless nomads heardng hundreds of sheep, goats and
horses, we saw wild camels wandering around the hills and saw some of
the most beautiful sunsets I ave ever seen!!! It was truly amazing and
I have loved every minute; I cannot wait to see what I will see next!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tibetan horse festival continued

Please excuse me, I am on my tab and it's sometimes quicker than I am:)

ast the horse fair I was able to witness spectacular horsemanship. The riders would go to one side of the horse, you couldn't see them from the far side. On more than oe igation I thought the rider had fallen off because I couldn't secede him, only to see him pop up 10 seconds later on the other side of the horse. They would lean completely over to the ground abd try to pick up prayer scarves with cokes arranged to them! I also watched people shoot arrows while riding both on the horse normally and while leaning over to the one side! Lastly some riders were riding bareback. It was an amazing display of talent and the atmosphere made it one of the most memorable parts if my trip so far.

I am off now to get sone sleep before catching a bus for 27 hours to uliastai, mongolia in the morning. I hope to trek and camp and see a golden eagle festival in the next 6 weeks! I'll be away from internet for awhile but I'll try to be better about blogging when I get back.