Tom‎ > ‎Asia Blog 2000‎ > ‎

Nepal


Kathmandu

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Date: Tue, 26 Sep 00 12:53PM EST 

Subject: more in a month

Greetings! A quick note from Kathmandu. We're going on the Sun Kosi for eight days, then a three week trek, so we probably won't be updating very much, if at all, during October. Have a great month, and send news from elsewhere!

Namaste, Tom

Date: Tue, 26 Sep 00 12:59PM EST 
Tom and I will be on the river and in the hills of Nepal for the next four weeks, so we probably won't be sending updates during October. We might be able check mail once or twice, so send stuff anyway!

Love, Mona and Tom




Sun Kosi

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Date: Fri, 27 Oct 00 10:17AM America/Knox_IN 

greetings! we've made it back to the main line. i think it's been a month now since tom ran in to drop the last bit of communication. looking back at it i find it funny we thought we might find email outside of kathmandu.... most definitely NOT. it has been a great time though. we arrived in the big city sept 20somethingish thinking we had 3 days or so to collect ourselves, finalize trekking plans, and prepare to take off for the country. as it turned out we were to leave the next afternoon. yipe! so, we were running everywhere. the plan was to go rafting on the sunkosi, have bags and guide meet us at the takeout and leave to go trekkng from the end of the river...close from there anyway. and well, it actually worked out easily, though not due to being well prepared. the sunkosi was to be a small private trip, which exploded into a 30 odd person commercial deal. but, the group was lots of fun and since the trip was commercial we had very little to do except deal with our own gear and show up at the kathmandu office. which we managed-just barely. there were required nepali(nepal requires each raft to have a nepali guide), a gaggle of danish social workers, a trio of israeli bodyguards (?), a hongkong business man, a couple of backpackers from san fran (just in from a trip to tibet, doesn't sound like a good place to visit), some old friends from the noc, and some folks back from a nols course. we had some good evening giggles, great food, and big water.

tom and i went down in a gear/oar rig, our nepali guide was babu. i still keep picturing the little green guy from the flintstones. babu taught us some nepali and was rarely too keen about tom's choice of lines through the rapids. the first big water day, just as we are about to hit the thick of our first monster wave, he says, in the most saddened tones, "oh tom, nepali guides never go this way......." then while tom's wrestling away at the oars and i'm jumping for the high side of the raft (we did become VERY sidelong vertical) i look....down... to see babu, eyes squeezed shut, whiteknuckling the rope around the edge of the raft. holding on so that WHEN the raft flips he'll still be with it. no high siding for him, thanks very much. he was shocked to find the raft still upright at the bottem of the rapid and impressed. by the end of the trip babu was jumping for the raft edge and laughing about tom's line choices. tom and i got to follow along with the guides on a lay over day on a goat buying trip. we tracked up the hillside along the river, through rice terraces and three different households bargining for the goat. a slow process, goats were thumped, picked up, tossed down, the men stand back, arms are crossed, they smoke, wave their arms about, the goat in question, relaxes and finds something to chew, only to be lifted again by various men. prices and weights are argued-the merits of feed, the goat shits on someone's foot, we move on to the next higher house and start over with another goat. children follow from below. the small dirt yards of the houses are packed with kids, women, and men.

the goat buying is, after all, better than watching the rice grow. no electric in these villages. finally we find at the topmost house just the right goat, it is to be butchered at the bottemmost house so back along the path we head with a reluctant goat, the nepali guides, tom and i, and our watchers. the head is off with one great swing, little blood spills into the yard-it is caught in a great brass urn. we head up the log ladder to the living/sleeping area. i admire the adobe walls and floor, the rafters hand planed and pegged together, thatch roof. sectional walls are of adobe with niches for candles and a couple of books. we pantomime and talk. the goat's insides are cooked up by the women and passed up to the guides, tom and i, and various villagers. we eat----and though the spices are really good, i still hate liver, heart, and chitlins. these are being cooked here for the guides because few sahibs will eat them. i also find that i don't much care for chaang, the fermented millet brew very popular here. the nepalis all laugh at these discoveries, though i try to hide them. the ghee though is incredibly good, and sadly the last we've seen. after the goat pieces are packed away in bellies and bags we hike back down to the river crossing and rejoin our trip. along the path as we've hiked up and down i keep seeing plants from gardens back home. cardinal creeper, cannas, marigolds, dahlias, they are really happy along the tropical edge of the sunkosi.

later on this month we see the first snow capped crags of the himali while sitting among bananna and papaya trees...... bends the mind a bit. after some more laid back river days, waving to villagers, sprawled back watching terraced rice fields, rampent green layers, float by. pulling a massive grasshopper--as long as my hand--- truely--- from the waves. the thing woke up the next day, we'd saved it to stick beneath a pillow...... but it started shifting around in the helmet so back to the ricefields with the beast. t'was big enough to relieve some of our pet deprivation, almost, a little too green and shiney though. we landed at the takeout. watched a funeral pyre- started with a tire-- and kero? ain't modern tech good stuff? off we took for durhan then hile and the trek to makalu. we drove across some of the wasteland from bangledash' floods last year. women perched here and there in the washed out road bed........ it all looked the same--the road is not an evident thing..... chipping gravel from boulders to rebuild the road.

work in nepal is interesting. the roads beyond the cities are footpaths, goods are carried to towns by porters and their loads seem to defy physics. 60kg carried by men who can't weigh much more than that. in kathmandu yesterday i watched men painting the fence around the king's palace. they stood on bamboo "ladders" 1o feet up in the air. the "rungs" lashed on at greater than 5 foot intervals, the sides of the ladder further apart than my armspan. they used their hands as brushes---wonder where all our leaded paint got shipped to......another fellow was arc welding a rickshaw together in his shop, without any eye cover. i feel lucky and incredibly wimpy most days. i'm also feeling spent-an hour atthis piece of tech's to be my limit today. tom's got the can't break wind without cover blues, and i think they may be just around the corner for me. glad to be in kathmandu to recoup. meds and bathroom and bed all close by, off to play nurse maid. hope you are all well. oh, happy new year-- today's the first day of the year 2050some by the nepali calender. there were lights and dancing in the street last night. small children sang carols and appeared to be trick or treating too. the dogs had on their marigold lays from their tika day (tom's letter covers this) and big smiles everywhere.

mona

Date: Thu, 26 Oct 00 05:15AM EST 
Thanks for the news from home. We had a few cold nights up near Makalu Peak. We are heading back to Thailand for some beach time, then two weeks with Greenway working in sustainable agriculture. We'll send a new update very soon...

Namaste, Tom



Makalu Trek

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Date: Thu, 26 Oct 00 06:54AM EST 

Subject: tika tika woof woof makalu

It's been an hour and a half in this email shop in Thamel, and I am just now able to write something down. Thanks for the notes! Today is the day of the dog, during Tia Festival, and after many weeks of mammal deprivation, Mona and I had a round of massive loving with a little dog named Jimmy. Oh baby it was good. When you walk around keeping an eye out for startled canines lying on the stoop, cautioning yourself to always keep the hands at bay, day after day, you begin to understand why little tykes want to run up and grab Mocha by her fuzzy cheeks and give a big squeeze. Dogs, cats, chickens, all too big a risk here, so we've been sneaking scritches of kid goats and unsuspecting buffalo as we wander along the trails.

While trekking up to Makalu, we met an Aussie who was taking his sons up to a friend's village in the hills midway up the Arun River, near Chichira. Great fun walking and eating with them, and he had mentioned that he helped some Nepali youths in Kdu train in cuisine and open a cafe. So, today, we went by and had some damn good momos and dal baht, and talked about our travels. During this visit, Dennis informed us that the neighbors had borrowed their dog, Jimmy, for Tika, a short Hindu ceremony offering blessings to the dogs of the land, as well as to the gods of money.

Tomorrow and the next few days will be for blessing other animals and honoring other worthy gods. So, after lunch, Dennis brought Jimmy in and we each enjoyed in petting a happy, vaccinated pup, as we remembered fondly our loving pooch Mocha. Thanks Brenda! for taking care of her! The Sun Kosi trip was a welcome change from Bangkok. First we went up to the Last Resort, up the Bhote Kosi, and watched the Bungee boys tie up a new cord. We had to move on before the action, though, and we put-in about 2pm. Mona and I took a gear boat, with our trainee, Baabu, and we cruised through some mostly mellow waters, and a few extremely challenging rapids. Some of the best parts were when Baabu would say, "Please relax." He of course wanted to practice all he could, but it was fun to help him learn, and especially to kick back with some Jerry Douglas on the minidisc and watch the mountains drift by.

We enjoyed our extended time with Nick and Maria (excellent-adventures.net), mostly talking about their plans for the future of their biz, their wedding, and our adventures in the low lying hills of south-central Indiana. We also got some great Teva tans. At the take-out, we watched a funeral pyre proceed to the river and be lit, then we had some dal baht at the internationally renowned cafe Sun Kosi. Instead of riding the bus back to Kdu, Mona, Lincoln (Nick's brother), and I hired an old land rover for the hour long drive across the rocky flood plains to Dahran. Dahran was cool, because not too many tourists have a reason to stay there. In fact, we stayed only a night. We found it a bit overwhelming in trash, but we later heard that it is one of the nicer cities in Nepal. I'd go back, it was fun not to be accosted for dark pens, or be offered tiger balm. But we were on a mission.

Want to know where we were headed? What about the goat on the sun kosi? What the heck is dal baht, and where are my sandals? All this and more, soon to come, but two hours is my personal limit at the wrist crushing keys of post modern technocracy...

Ramro, Tom

Date: Fri, 27 Oct 00 09:08AM EST 
here fills my head. at the moment tom's pretty wretched sick, started him on antibiotics, pretty wild to go to the pharmacy and just request what i need for him..... think i'll grab some sleepers for the next extended bus trip before we head out. (did go to the travelor's clinic today for "specimen" testing, poor tom). hey, i ate a cockleroach a few weeks back. found them offered up at this monster weekend bazaar in bangkok, deep fried with chili and fish sauce... figured-- how bad could they be?

......... incredibly bad as it turns out. maybe americans will eat shoe leather if it's deep fat fried and salted, but this one experienced waves of nausea trying to swallow that cockroach. didn't really help that it was as big as my fist. (okay, maybe it was bigger)  tom and i chuckle regularly at chris' bit about coke and the dark cool waters of emperialism (i ?)-- they were available all the way to the foot of makalu, though, beyond hile there are no roads passable by anything but feet/hooves. and sadly since there was not chocolate we did partake on occasion...... sugar fix ya know. and should you wish tom wrote up a bunch about the thailand beginning of our trip, shall i bombard you? hope all is well and that you've got your nares above the waves.

love mona

Date: Sat, 28 Oct 00 05:40AM EST 
greetings! we've made it back to the main line. i think it's been a month now since tom ran in to drop the last bit of communication. looking back at it i find it funny we thought we might find email outside of kathmandu.... most definitely NOT. it has been a great time though. we arrived in the big city sept 20somethingish thinking we had 3 days or so to collect ourselves, finalize trekking plans, and prepare to take off for the country. as it turned out we were to leave the next afternoon. yipe! so, we were running everywhere. the plan was to go rafting on the sunkosi, have bags and guide meet us at the takeout and leave to go trekkng from the end of the river...close from there anyway. and well, it actually worked out easily, though not due to being well prepared. the sunkosi was to be a small private trip, which exploded into a 30 odd person commercial deal. but, the group was lots of fun and since the trip was commercial we had very little to do except deal with our own gear and show up at the kathmandu office. which we managed-just barely.

there were required nepali(nepal requires each raft to have a nepali guide), a gaggle of danish social workers, a trio of israeli bodyguards (?), a hongkong business man, a couple of backpackers from san fran (just in from a trip to tibet, doesn't sound like a good place to visit), some old friends from the noc, and some folks back from a nols course. we had some good evening giggles, great food, and big water. tom and i went down in a gear/oar rig, our nepali guide was babu. i still keep picturing the little green guy from the flintstones. babu taught us some nepali and was rarely too keen about tom's choice of lines through the rapids. the first big water day, just as we are about to hit the thick of our first monster wave, he says, in the most saddened tones, "oh tom, nepali guides never go this way......." then while tom's wrestling away at the oars and i'm jumping for the high side of the raft (we did become VERY sidelong vertical) i look....down... to see babu, eyes squeezed shut, whiteknuckling the rope around the edge of the raft. holding on so that WHEN the raft flips he'll still be with it. no high siding for him, thanks very much. he was shocked to find the raft still upright at the bottem of the rapid and impressed. by the end of the trip babu was jumping for the raft edge and laughing about tom's line choices.

tom and i got to follow along with the guides on a lay over day on a goat buying trip. we tracked up the hillside along the river, through rice terraces and three different households bargining for the goat. a slow process, goats were thumped, picked up, tossed down, the men stand back, arms are crossed, they smoke, wave their arms about, the goat in question, relaxes and finds something to chew, only to be lifted again by various men. prices and weights are argued-the merits of feed, the goat shits on someone's foot, we move on to the next higher house and start over with another goat. children follow from below. the small dirt yards of the houses are packed with kids, women, and men. the goat buying is, after all, better than watching the rice grow. no electric in these villages. finally we find at the topmost house just the right goat, it is to be butchered at the bottemmost house so back along the path we head with a reluctant goat, the nepali guides, tom and i, and our watchers.

the head is off with one great swing, little blood spills into the yard-it is caught in a great brass urn. we head up the log ladder to the living/sleeping area. i admire the adobe walls and floor, the rafters hand planed and pegged together, thatch roof. sectional walls are of adobe with niches for candles and a couple of books. we pantomime and talk. the goat's insides are cooked up by the women and passed up to the guides, tom and i, and various villagers. we eat----and though the spices are really good, i still hate liver, heart, and chitlins. these are being cooked here for the guides because few sahibs will eat them. i also find that i don't much care for chaang, the fermented millet brew very popular here. the nepalis all laugh at these discoveries, though i try to hide them. the ghee though is incredibly good, and sadly the last we've seen. after the goat pieces are packed away in bellies and bags we hike back down to the river crossing and rejoin our trip. along the path as we've hiked up and down i keep seeing plants from gardens back home. cardinal creeper, cannas, marigolds, dahlias, they are really happy along the tropical edge of the sunkosi.

later on this month we see the first snow capped crags of the himali while sitting among bananna and papaya trees...... bends the mind a bit. after some more laid back river days, waving to villagers, sprawled back watching terraced rice fields, rampent green layers, float by. pulling a massive grasshopper--as long as my hand--- truely--- from the waves. the thing woke up the next day, we'd saved it to stick beneath a pillow...... but it started shifting around in the helmet so back to the ricefields with the beast. t'was big enough to relieve some of our pet deprivation, almost, a little too green and shiney though. we landed at the takeout. watched a funeral pyre- started with a tire-- and kero? ain't modern tech good stuff? off we took for durhan then hile and the trek to makalu. we drove across some of the wasteland from bangledash' floods last year. women perched here and there in the washed out road bed........ it all looked the same--the road is not an evident thing..... chipping gravel from boulders to rebuild the road.

work in nepal is interesting. the roads beyond the cities are footpaths, goods are carried to towns by porters and their loads seem to defy physics. 60kg carried by men who can't weigh much more than that. in kathmandu yesterday i watched men painting the fence around the king's palace. they stood on bamboo "ladders" 1o feet up in the air. the "rungs" lashed on at greater than 5 foot intervals, the sides of the ladder further apart than my armspan. they used their hands as brushes---wonder where all our leaded paint got shipped to......another fellow was arc welding a rickshaw together in his shop, without any eye cover. i feel lucky and incredibly wimpy most days. i'm also feeling spent-an hour atthis piece of tech's to be my limit today. tom's got the can't break wind without cover blues, and i think they may be just around the corner for me. glad to be in kathmandu to recoup. meds and bathroom and bed all close by, off to play nurse maid. hope you are all well. oh, happy new year-- today's the first day of the year 2050some by the nepali calender. there were lights and dancing in the street last night. small children sang carols and appeared to be trick or treating too. the dogs had on

their marigold lays from their tika day (tom's letter covers this) and big smiles everywhere.

mona

Date: Sat, 28 Oct 00 06:37AM EST 
tom's enjoying my nursing care, he's not farting with confidence, poor fella. temp 102, flaming shits. it's good it happened in the city, easier here. i've been brewing him up soup on the whisper light, cool cloths, started up the antibiotics yesterday, the whole tx. he's feeling better i think, but is liking the tlc too much to let on. his color's better anyway.(and he's starting to ask for chocolate....) we're both missing out on the dog love thing, as tom mentioned, twas fine to have a chance to cuddle one a few days back. it sounds like mocha's doing fine. nope, no snickers pies.

we did a less traveled route to makalu base camp. gorgamoose, but since fat white souls don't head that way much there were not snickers pies, there were cokes and fantas though, lots of yucko glucose biscuits, and heaps of dal baht. which as it turns out i could live on without complaint (though i did miss chocolate......) we too were traveling during darsain (sp?) but didn't wittness much slaughter, instead we took in the swings that are also a big part of the fest. huge 20ft bamboo swings for the children. some of them on hillsides with the most heart arresting drop offs once the swing started. more stuff later. hope you are healthy.

love mona


Date: Sat, 28 Oct 00 06:44AM EST 
my big toe nails are a fallin' off, you should see the funky flesh beneath. maybe i'll have bright shiney new toenails by the time we return? or perhaps i'll live in embarrassed-funky-looking-toe-shame for the remainder of my days...... tom groans--looozer from his flaming bed o shit. poor fella. antibiotics and the crapper rule his day. thanks for looking after mocha, giver a big fat scrub from me. missing critter contact, cows and goats just are not the same.

Date: Sun, 29 Oct 00 07:34AM EST 
tp? well there's this por-sa-lin hole in the floor of the shitting room and sometimes there's a bucket and dipper---or perhaps there's a spiquet--and then there is you your ass and a choice of hands. it is customary to NOT eat with one's left hand. i guess if you have especially fine balance and flexablity you could try other appendiges. or speed and agility could win you goat hair. small children are proble easier though their noses are generally snotty. and ya know for some reason i eat with my left hand, go figure. the careful looks are kindof fun, i do try to keep my finger nails clean though...

met some girl in a porter's shed one cold and rainy evening who played with b-towns frisbee children. didn't know beth but remembered damon and jason. the world is small. we were also born in the same hospital. of course we didn't exchange names, she's doing the peace corp thing. neat group of folks to spend the evening with. working with weavers in the hills. 

mushiness mona

Date: Sun, 29 Oct 00 08:16AM EST 
Subject: Happy Deepawali!

The Tia festival is actually Tihar, pronounced somewhere in between the two. Yesterday was cow tika day. Today is for worshipping, honoring our own existence. There is a new year going on here there and everywhere, but different people live in different centuries. 1921, 2057, and for others, 2000, I suppose. I also noticed a year 1100-something...

Saved draft. Run to privy. New day. I just spent a few days driving the monolevered urn. I'm finally back in action and able to take long strides. I recommend the local bakery for your most essential in antibiotic goods - 50 cents for an eight-pack - couple that with dark chocolate and leave the driving for another day. Speaking of health care. Dennis the Aussie went to a dentist nearby, and had his gums cleaned out. his whole side of his face was feeling infected. The cleaning worked out well, and his grand total was 500 rupees. That's about 7 dollars.

Today is Bai Tika. Sisters honoring their brothers. The final day of this group of festivals. M-80 is the firecracker of choice here, and a fun game is to slip fireworks in the path of ambling vedeshi (gringos) and see who jumps. Not super tourists. I was going to fill you in on some more of the river trip, but Mona wrote a cool note, so enjoy your already funning bonus email on this most auspicious occasion of the happy deepawali... [see above] Pretty cool. The audiophiles among you will also be pleased to know that there are some large chunks of ambient and journal audio via the portable minidisc recorder. And I plan to pick up some pop, folk, and most auspicious varieties of music before we sadly must bid our most regretful farewell. I love the signs for the Neaplai businesses. Most read like the more honorable sections of this ramble. But we have a trek to impart. We left our hotel in Dahran in the morning, my new chaco sandals remaining under the bed for the next patron of Hotel Navayug. We walked to the roundabout and hired a land rover to Hile for Rs 2000 ($30 for about two hours, split three ways).

The private car is a pretty convenient mode of travel. He dropped us in Hile at the Hotel Himali, where we asked about hiring a guide. we then roamed the strip also asking for guides, because one doesn't normally hire in Hile. We eventually gathered a small crowd of interested faces, even though most seemed quite happy to be chilling in the home town during the festival of Dasain. Interestingly, the Eastern portions of Nepal (all of Nepal, actually) contains majority populations of non-hindu peoples, such as Kirat peoples in the East. We hired the most confident young (21)lad, who had portered up to Makalu before, but who spoke little English. He and his friends, Dewan and Anamul, were not concerned with dasain, since they do not observe it as strongly as Hindus do. They also were set to earn some serious cash and have a spontaneous adventure. We left in the morning with Nagendra and company for, eventually, Tumlingtar, then the Makalu-Barun Conservation Area and National Park. MBCP is a very well-designed program. Check out www.mountain.org for details on the goals and strategies of the park.

But first we hiked three days to Tumlingtar/Khandbari, along the blazing hot sands of the lower Arun valley, amidst the sizzling vegetation of the low tropics. these three days - Hile to Mangmyaar to Khare to Khandbari - were a shakedown cruise of fairly epic shakes. Mona bashed her toenails descending from Hile to Mangmyar, because the only decent path here is the direct path, even if it is straight down the hillside, all the way from cloud levels to the river. Then there were the volumes of sweat, as we realized that we hadn't given our porters enough weight to bear. The downhill that first day actually seemed to whack anamul in the hips, so it probably good that we heft the load that day. The night in Khare was fun, because our lodge proprietor (lodge is a thatch roof with a bamboo loft) was a fine cook and of gracious humor, but the sweet dogs of his had a slight problem with Lincoln's snoring. Not that anyone wouldn't. one dog growled and barked at the ceiling the entire night, so our brief and irregular dream phases all contained stress sequences involving people yelling at each other! As we left we all gave the dog a round of growls and barks, to the great laughter of his guardian. We hoofed over streams and hills to tumlingtar by noon, where we enjoyed a satisfying lunch. Every meal here is only a meal if it contains bhat (rice) and almost always dal (beans) unless only some meat is available for whatever reason. So we had good dal bhat. The lads thought that was it for the day, but we had read that Khandbari was only 3-4 hours away. We sort of convinced them to keep moving, neglecting to mention that we planned to layover in Khandbari. A paid day off is strange here, so they might not have related to our plan at the time.

Half way up the hill, we are told, the boys informed Lincoln that they wanted a second days pay, which is what they were getting anyway, so they pressed on, to catch Mona and I, who were trying to find the hotel Ariti, which was at the far end of town. The hike was a seemingly endless 5-6 hour uphill ordeal, but the rooms had a spectacular deck and view of Mt Makalu. A note about Khandbari. It is a a bustling little metropolis on top of some ridges with power lines and phone. Lots of traffic and commerce, and not a single motorbike, or car anywhere on any street. It's about three days walk from the nearest motorvehicle, and yet city life goes on quite productively. Speaking of which, time to enjoy some of those fine kathmandu bananas and dark chocolate. Responses are coming, I hope this will satisfy for now... Good Morning, Tom

Date: Sun, 29 Oct 00 08:34AM EST 
Subject: Sister Tikka

hey there! it's tikka your sister day. (tikka's a blessing, twas dog tikka day when last tom and i wrote,then twas goat, then cow, there are visable signs of tikka, a red rice tapioca stuff on folks'--or dogs or cows or goats or for that matter chickens --forehead and a marigold lay or two---we learned about tikka when we spotted a pink chicken !?--and our trekking guide said no, no special pink nepali breeds of chicken--tikka) in addition to caroling and trick or treating during this week long tikka fest. people also like to listen to explosions. and since, i guess, there is a shortage of small red relatively quiet explosive devices they seem to be using sticks of dynomite....?

as we were walking through town last night there were great flashes of light, huge noises, and i could actually feel the whosh of air in the narrow alleyways. yikes! watch for small children holding their ears. a sure sign to be at least 20 feet further away from where ever they are facing and perhaps face down on the ground would be wise. i think tom is covering the trek writing. and i'm happy to just forward along his stuff. i'm learning a bunch about email accounts, tried some,i thought, bright new ideas in updating my email mass mail list. not effective. so this is my next try. i think very few folks actually got my bit about the river trip(that's when i was having the "bright email ideas"---should you want it----but not got it---let me know---other wise i'll spare the spamming.

today there were cobras in the street. spreading their hooded grins to the earie tunes of the sadhu(sadhu' are folks on religious search--or perhaps con-men-- they wear flowing red/saffron robes,carry tridents, perform acts of self mortification and beg--- and i think it's required that they have incredibly craggy weathered faces-- they look really wild). beautiful and scary from 3 feet away. there was another monster snake lying about in the street 6 feet long and bigger around than my calf. incredible markings and it looked like it had ceramic tiles on it's head for scales. so cut, bright and shiney were they. not a boa--maybe a cobra--- it had that spade shaped head and oval pupils, though it didn't grin for us......and that might be just fine.

we were on our way to the monkey temple--swayambhunath. and as always getting there was the adventure. across the bowl that is kathmandu to the high point(island?--kathmandu may have been a lake at some point in history) that is the temple. we took the long route through the tiny alleys and along the edges of the gardens that fill all the unpaved spaces in this city. few roads are paved here, there is no trash pick up. cows trot along in the streets unmolested except for giving them tikka (the hindus believe that cow could be an uncle....in fact in some sects the dying are given a cow's tail to hold in their final moments---living---the cow that is---- could make for a messy last few moments, eh?) children run up and test their english and today for some reason there were a number of passionate handshakes complete with smarmy kisses. and the usual massive grins and giggles. not to mention friendly redirection to the best winding path to the temple. and it has been an hour---time for rum and coke. it is vacation after all. be well.

mona

Date: Mon, 30 Oct 00 01:54AM EST 
i'd written you the other day, but alas the connection blew. after a long bit. the nepalis running the email spot kept saying oh here try again, but no dice. finally in frustration i left. one of the fellows noting my irratation suggested i go to india to "fix my head" all friendly and smiles. grrrrrrrr..... here it is to "lose face" to become angry. guess i rather lost mine. at any rate the celebrex saved a lot of knee pain while pounding down the mountains.

tom's over his bout of intestinal distress. norfloxin is good stuff. we're trying to figure out the shipping scene here and then go on a shopping spree. pretty sweaters everywhere. it helps to hear about home. we feel special. i'm having vivid dreams of home, garden, kitchen and such---work even. tom's talking, as seriously as he gets, about moving to a-ville. i'm torn, miss you, miss the mountains, miss...... but also tacked into certain parts of blooming t. sigh. away i go. love mona

Khandbari

Date: Wed, 01 Nov 00 11:21AM EST 
Subject: Himalayan Rain

> A note about Khandbari. It is a a bustling little metropolis on top of some ridges with power lines and phone.
> Lots of traffic and commerce, and not a single motorbike, or car anywhere on any street. It 's about three days 
> walk from the nearest motorvehicle, and yet city life goes on quite productively...

stone steps are the main streets whenever there is a hill, and plenty of hills, as this is the hub of many ridgetop communities. No traffic signals, yet the mighty trucks of the Arun Valley roll on. These trucks are strong necked porters toting loads that often dwarf their sinewy physiques. It's the big city to us, after only a few days hiking up the river, and I spend a good part of the day shopping. A plastic wallet for storing the group money cache, some soap, cheese balls, cookies, bananas, sandals for Mona, and treats for her as she lay with foot elevated. I bought my replacement sandals the day before at the barking dog hotel - most porters here are barefoot or they use those surf/shower sandals. Some of them well-worn beyond their original incarnations. I bought a pair for 40 cents, to the delight of our portering friends.

We left Khandbari, with the good fortune of meeting the doc with the toenail boring device, and we set off for Manibanjyang, a mere hour away, but the last telephone for a couple of weeks. We called Mona's mom, and away we trekked. We continued up the Arun for a few hours until we reached Gogune, a very tidy little group of homes (3), and we decided to call it a day. It was such a pleasant little hamlet. Wonderful people, adept at basket weaving, walking stick making, soccer, volleyball, bathing, and most especially dal bhat. The best greens in Nepal are cooked in Gogune, and almost the best dal. A thick brew, but not rich in fat like in Kathmandu. We slept well with only one very quiet pup to give an eye towards before we crashed. We awoke as usual before dawn to the cocks, babies, goats, and buffaloes that populate each community. We typically have wah-wah (way-way) for breakfast, because it is fast, and milek tea (milk tea with sugar). Wah-wah is ramen, fried noodles in water with a few herbs and powdered chili. Not healthy at all, but it gets us out onto the road. We passed Chichira, and stop for the last bits of almost real chocolate - Nestle products like Crunch, Munch, and Bar-one.

Bhotebash

We continue the ridge climb to Deowali, where we stop, well ahead of the lads, and order for the whole gang. Here was true entertainment, three trek masters invoking many magical incantations for the delivery of lunch. When the boys arrive, we sit down for lunches of dal and fried dried buff, and corry. No dal, to the lads disappointment, but they cook their own usually anyway. Corry is a fruit that hangs from trellised squash-like vines, in a shape and texture akin to the butt of a chicken. It's quite a bit like avocado, but is sliced and stir fired, as is the pit, like a potato. Choyote. I had hoped to record the radio amidst the store sounds, because the Nepali music sounds so cool in the mountains off the grid. Gotta hit that pause button next time. The afternoon we descended the ridge to Mure and then to Num, a fairly large Rai community resting at the edge of the ridge before it precipitates into the Arun 1000 meters below. We pass a large pig butchering at the public fountain, and choose the Hotel Himalaya. Nagendra leads Mona and I to the laundry and bathing fountain, donated by the Nepali Veterans Fund of Canada. There is a guy cleaning the entire intestine of the pig from the other fountain, for sausage makings. It takes him all evening, longer than it takes us to wash clothes and limbs. It was certainly an entertaining bath, what with him, and all the kids gathering water, and the dog attracted to the sausage man.

Meanwhile Lincoln learned some of the details of a favorite game here, a kind of billiards played with chips on a chalky board with pockets. It takes dexterity and, like pool, lots of practice hanging with the gang, to develop the skill to compete at any of these boards. Dal Bhat wasn't so hot, but we ordered some Roksi, a millet whiskey, and cruise through the evening. We arise early, but breakfast is incredibly slow for ramen. We eventually set down the river bank, from 1500 meters down to 500, in a couple of hours. We hung out on the swinging bridge for a while and admired the tasty waves and powerful holes in this large S-bend in Arun. Then we hoofed it up the other side to Sedua, at, pitifully yet beautifully, 1500 meters. We looked across the gorge at Sedua that morning, then back at Num that evening. It would be a great place for two zip lines. But sweat and effort are about all we enjoy each day, so who can complain about where it gets you? Well, there are also amazing butterflies, tree-size poinsettias and other monstrous flowers, and shrill screeching bugs piercing the breeze.


Seduwa

At Sedua, Mona and I took our first unauthorized side hike. In opposition to the general rule of always go up (or always go down) we led ourselvs onto a pleasant little trail with a decent grade. We never got up to town, we just bypassed it at the base. So we had a little picnic and prepared to walk back to a junction. Then a local farmer strolled along, asked where we were headed, and pointed to a ridge-road right behind us that would take us into the other side of town. We cruised up the frontage road, and just as we hit town, we bumped into Lincoln, who was not sure where we went. Oh, just for a little side hike... We saw a cool place up a big flight of stone steps, and it had the best of the biscuit-cookies of the entire trip. Bourbon cookies are chocolate colored crispies with chocolate colored cream, and big chunks of sugar crystals on top. These are the finest indulgence on the west side of the Arun. Well, the bananas - FRESH - that we had with them were better, but they're only available below 1500m or so. They only had a campsite there, which was a converted rice paddy. All paddies are occupied in early October with rice, so camping is not convenient, but here was good. Nagendra persuaded the proprietor to fix us dinner, which was the very best dal bhat in all the kingdom of Nepal, as well as the outer lying regions of Limbuwan in Sikkim, Assam, and Bhutan. I assure you of this, without traveling beyond our thin little trajectory. Thick with beans, salty and creamy, but again, no fat or cream used, like a hearty split pea soup. Yummy.

The rain rain rain came down down down, and we hunkered in our tents for their inaugural usages. The boys slept under the upstairs eave, which was a great spot, but it was worth the fears of washing away into the paddies to have some time away from the restless animal noises of co-trekkers, porters, moms, sisters, babies, brothers, fathers, dogs. Mona and I awoke in a dry coccoon on a sunny morning, while Lincoln contended with the puddle in his rented home, by soaking his quicker picker upper, the adventure story "Into the Void." We dried tents and miscellaneous items as we had breakfast, and off we went to Tashigaon, which is up and around the ridge. It was fun checking into the National Park office at Sedua to register, and telling them our trekking agency was Nagendra Limbu. The park is set up as an independent trekker's playground, but it is mostly visited by large trek agencies, who employ many porters, at about 4&5 to 1 client ratios.


Dobato

These groups wreak havoc upon campsites and trails, but they surely bring in the large hard currencies. Tashigaon is at a good altitude to stay a day, and then hike as high as possible to acclimatize. It was also a good place to wash clothes - completely drenched in sweat by the low altitude climbs - and to leave behind some of the weight that we would replace with food and cold weather items. Beyond this beautiful community, the camping is only in small pastures or meadows. There are stone huts now at most sites, for porter shelter, and quite a few little stores (beer and wah-wah and rice), but none of us knew what would greet us for the next nine days. Including the climbs. So we climbed a bunch of ridges further and further up to Makalu, then came down. The end. I'll work on it some more, but the email gong has run. I read Tin tin in Tibet today. It's a comic depicting a lad's travels through Nepal and Tibet, with plenty of local culture, and funny western characters. Worthy reading after the trek. Guess who our Captain Haddock was? With sorrowful regret we must depart. Until the next time of our plesant meeting, Jane Ho! (Jonny Ho!)

Happy Trails, Tom


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Back in Kathmandu

Date: Sun, 05 Nov 00 08:41AM EST 
mmmmmm......cipro. everything's better when you share with your mate. right? well, maybe not. how 'bout that tom's just full of odd info. dadaism that is. and don't you just hate it when stuff you've pounded out disintegrates on you. i quit messing with email in kathmandu, cause the systems were too funky. walked about town and read a bunch. and spent way too much money on stuff. rugs and a thonka. beautiful, but i feel a little queasy about the magic plastic retrobution coming my way... nope very few pools of blood marked dasin for us. hard tellin' why. maybe because we were out in the sticks. fewer people- fewer beheadings. i hear the larger towns are a blood bath. for our trek maybe since we had an inexperienced guide and/or didn't go through a company in kathmandu there really was no meat to be had. a couple of times we had meat. goat for one of the dasin evenings, fried dried buff in a town that had run out of dal (few porters during dasin), and fresh buff once.

fine with me i really liked dal bhat, but wasn't too taken with the meat factor. and you know the dal bhat in ktm, wasn't as good as the stuff in the villages. too much oil and gravy in the veggies. the village stuff was mostly like stir fry with tumeric, not so heavy. regional or maybe the euros influence? we'll have to have a dal bhat party when tom and i return. i'm sorry to have missed fall in the rolling hills. it's some of my favorite hiking weather. love the clear air and the smell of fallen leaves. missing the moca time . keep drooling over dogs, but mustn't touch. we've 6 weeks or so more, and having a fine time. but you know, it'll be good to come home. i like this point in traveling, loving it still and the dreams of home and visiting with people become more and more vivid. the transition to return. hope all is well. love mona




Finally, here are some Himalayan panoramas that I made before I learned that there is software designed to stitch panoramas together:

 Mount Makalu

 Shipton La (immersion)

 Makalu Base Camp (immersion)





č
AboveMakaluBaseCamp.mov
(1865k)
Tom Visnius,
Mar 2, 2010, 10:03 AM
č
ShiptonLa.mov
(3554k)
Tom Visnius,
Mar 2, 2010, 10:03 AM
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