Nepal Postscript

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Annapurna South

As you can probably tell, I love to travel, and part of what make travel so enjoyable is coming home. I am now home at last, with a head full of incredible memories of awe-inspiring mountains, the lakeside, tourist town of Pukhara, the humid, elephant-filled jungle lowlands of Chitwan National Park and the teeming city of Kathmandu.

Kunmig airport

The Modern Kunming Airport

I don’t know if I believe the slogan, “Getting there is half the fun”, but I can tell you this, getting home is a pain in the ass . . . literally! For us, it clearly won the battle of ‘the one bad day’ . . . or two. We were picked up at our hotel in Kathmandu at 1:30 on Friday afternoon (That’s around midnight on Thursday back on the left coast) for a 4:30 flight from Kathmandu to Kunming, China. We arrived there around 7:30 p.m. and had to pick up our checked baggage, as it could not be sent directly from Kathmandu to Los Angeles. Unfortunately our connecting flight to Shanghai, China wasn’t until 8:00 the next morning, so we had ‘a few’ hours to kill at the airport – like all night! We thought about going to a nearby hotel, but then decided we’d just tough it out and hang at the airport. After we wandered through all the shops, eateries and restrooms, we cozied up to an airport bench with our backpacks and luggage and tried, in vain, to get some sleep. The next morning we departed at 8:00 and arrived in a very smoggy Shanghai around 11:00 a.m. We then had about two hours to kill before departing for Los Angeles at 1:00 p.m. After an 11 hour flight, we arrived in LA at 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning. I don’t think Patrick is going to let me book anymore of his flights.

For those keeping score at home, that’s crossing through 11 time zone and the International Date Line for a total of 36 hours from start to finish! Now that I’m in the comforts of my own home, I like to say that it wasn’t that bad – but it actually was.

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Those Damn Stone Steps

I think the message was clear from the blogs posted over the last two weeks that our favorite part of the trip was our time spent in the Himalayas – the scenery, the people, our time with Dom and Kirin and that feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day that was only relieved by a hot shower and a cold beer.

Each time I posted over the last two weeks, a Jimmy Buffett lyric echoed in my head and helped me realize why I love to travel and write:

“If you ever wonder why you ride this carrousel,

You do it for the stories you can tell”

So thank you Jimmy and thank you to all who followed us on our adventure and particularly those who took the time to comment on the blog – it’s always good to hear from home. I did try to respond to them all, but our schedule and connectivity issues wouldn’t allow, but I did read, and sincerely appreciated every one.

Thanks to sister Suzanne, who I’m sure edited and cleaned up my posts and kept me abreast of what was going on back home.

Thank you to Patrick, for taking two weeks off work to join me – I couldn’t have had a better trekking and travel companion. We spent 24/7 x 2 together and we’re still friends . . . I think.


Inspired by Jimmy Buffett

My biggest THANK YOU goes to my wonderful wife, Linda, who surprised me with this amazing trip for my 70th birthday. I have to admit that Kathmandu was not on my rather extensive ‘Bucket List’, but it turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime. I love you Linda and you cannot know how much this trip meant to me.



Day 9 – Nepal Diary: All Days Are Not Created Equal



Patrick and I talked about this when we were planning the trip – we figured that with a two-week adventure, we’re probably going to have at least one bad day. Today wasn’t really that bad, it just wasn’t that good. To start with, our driver picked us up in Pokhara at 7:30 and took us to the drop off point for the river rafting. We’re OK so far.  Fortunately he hung around to see us off, but soon we discovered that the rafting trip was poorly organized, over-crowded and an over an hour late of the estimated time of departure . We decided that this raft ‘float’ in 90-degree temperature, with humidity to match, was not going to be that fun, so we hopped in the car and continued on to Chitwan – which, on these narrow mountain roads, was a white-knuckle adventure in itself.

About 10 miles out of Chitwan the topography changes dramatically. The majestic mountains disappeared and we found ourselves in a flat, jungle environment. Chitwan is in south Nepal, very close to the India border, and we could see a difference in the look of the people as well as a more definite Indian/Hindu influence in the culture versus the China/Tibet, Buddha influence we found in northern Nepal.


What, me worry?

Our accommodations in Chitwan, the Parkland Hotel, were excellent; nice room, three good meals a day and beautiful grounds. The only problem was their wifi was not working and I had a deadline to meet to get this blog published. I told a hotel employee that I really needed to get on my computer and he said he would take me to a cyber-café in a neighboring village. I followed him out to the parking lot and watched as he fired up his motorcycle and motioned for me to get on the back. I checked to see if he was wearing a shirt that read on the back, “If You Can Read This, The Idiot Fell Off.” He was not, so I hopped on. It was a short ride to the cyber-café where I was able to post yesterday’s blog. I assume I’ll have to do the same for this one. What I won’t do for you guys!!!


How they keep elephants still at night

Before dinner a guide took us on a nature walk to view some elephants, which was fairly interesting. What I’ve noticed from trips to both Africa and here is that guides go to great lengths to tell you the difference between an African elephant and an Indian/Asian elephant, like we were going to be quizzed on it later. After hearing all the differences I broke it down to its simplest terms: if you’re in the India/Asia area you’re going to see an India/Asia elephant and if you’re in Africa you’re going to see an African elephant.   Class dismissed. If the guide hadn’t taken so long to explain the differences we might have not got caught in a torrential downpour at the end of our walk. Everyone came back to the hotel soaked. After changing into some dry cloths and having dinner, we were driven to a neighboring village to watch a cultural dance exhibit put on by local artists. It was actually fairly good, but it made me wonder what America would do for a cultural dance – probably some mix of Gangnam style and a Moon Walk.

I sort of feel like a sloth today, no 7 mile trek before lunch.

On a personal note I must admit that my full attention was not in Nepal today, but rather thousands of miles away at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angles, where daughter, Darlin’ Dana is going in for heart surgery at 4:30 Tuesday morning. It’s not as major as her surgery last year; it’s the insertion of a stint, but no heart surgery is minor. So my thoughts, prayers and focus are there until I hear she is in post-op and doing well.



Going to Kathmandu

by Bob Sparrow

“If I ever get out of here, I think I’m going to Katmandu”                                                                                                

                        Katmandu, Bob Seger



If Saturday’s Air Canada Flight 55 out of Los Angels to Vancouver was on time, I will indeed be ‘out of here’ and in Kathmandu by the time you’re reading this. No, LA to Vancouver didn’t seem like the most direct way to me either, but it actually was the first leg of the shortest (time-wise) that I could find . . . and afford – 26 hrs 33 mins (My back hurt just writing that). From Vancouver to Guangzhou, China (which is about 95 miles northwest of Hong Kong) and from there into Kathmandu, Nepal. Why Kathmandu, you ask? It was a 70th birthday gift from my wife. No, it was not a one-way ticket! Like most things she buys, she got a ‘deal’ on Groupon – a 12-day trip for two to Nepal, which included a 5-day trek into the Himalayas. Not being a hiker herself, she is not part of the ‘for two’. So I’m with my hiking buddy, who I’ve done lots of hikes with, including Mt. Whitney and Half Dome, Patrick “Trail Boss” Michael. He’s a good friend & neighbor, a good hiker with a quick smile and an engineer by trade, so we have checklists for our checklists. We had both been looking forward to this trip for several months, when after we told a 70+ lady our itinerary, she said that she and several of her friends did that same trip last year. We thought, ‘This may not be quite the adventure we were looking for’, so I contacted our travel agent and asked if there was a little more challenging trek we could take. She answered in spades. We’re now spending 8 days trekking in the Himalayas, with a Sherpa guide and a porter (we’re not sure if that’s a person or an oxen) and reaching altitudes of just under 14,000 feet.Pokhara We should have arrived in Kathmandu around 10:30 Sunday night and be flying out of Kathmandu early Monday morning (because we needed some more flight time!) into the city of Pokhara (photo at right) where our trekking will begin that afternoon. Over the next several days we will be working our way up to Annapurna Base Camp at an elevation of 13,500 feet. Annapurna, at 26,545 feet is the 10th highest mountain in the world, but ranks #1 as the most dangerous to climb – it has a summit-to-fatality ratio of 38% (By contrast, Mt. Everest has a 9% ratio). That’s only one of the reasons we’re only going to Base Camp, no fatalities there unless it’s from the dal-bhat-tarkari soup. We’ll also be visiting the beautiful Chitwan National Park, doing some river rafting, taking an elephant ride safari, where we hope to see the elusive Bengal Tiger as well as traveling by ox cart through an elephant breeding camp to our hotel. I’ll be used to the oxen’s pace having driven in LA commute traffic.


Bengal Tiger

Nepal is 12 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Pacific Daylight Time (Yes, 45 minutes, just another oddity of this part of the world), so I’ll try to sum up my activities at the end of my day and post so you’ll get it that morning. I’ve read that wifi can be very dodgy over there, so if you don’t hear from me I probably just can’t connect . . . or had a very boring day. We’re crossing our fingers that the monsoons don’t come earlier than expected . . . oops, wait a minute, I just checked the 10 day forecast for Nepal: Rain and thunderstorms everyday for the first week.

It’ll be an adventure!