Emails from Nepal

by Bob Sparrow

buildings crumbling


Yes, I had heard from the travel agent that both Dom and Kiran were OK after the initial earthquake, but my three emails to Dom continued to go unanswered. All kinds of scenarios were running through my head as I wondered if the travel agency in New York really knew what was going on in Nepal and specifically with Dom and Kiran? I certainly wanted to believe they were OK, but wanted confirmation from Dom. I realized that responding to my emails had to be fairly low on Dom’s priority list at a time like this, but none-the-less I had hoped to hear from him to first, confirm that he and his family and Kiran were truly OK and secondly to try to get a ‘boots-on-the-ground’ perspective of how the nation of Nepal, and Dom specifically, was coping with this disaster.

I checked my email day and night, several times. Six anxious days passed and finally an email arrives from Dom. It reads as follows (I’ve edited it for easier reading – I think we’d all probably have difficulty writing in Nepalese if the situation were reversed):


Namaste, (nom-ess-tay – a traditional Hindu salutation meaning “I bow to the divine in you”)

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Kiran – the mighty porter

     Thank you for your email … yes there was big earthquake. Sorry for late reply, my phone was destroyed so I’m using a friends – the Internet and electricity have been out for many days. Kiran is fine and I am fine with my family as well although we lost everything. Our home was flatted along with everything in it. We now live in a tent in an open field away from buildings, along with most of the people from our village. Because I know the Himalayas well, I have been in the mountains trying to help some of the more remote villages where help cannot reach. Thanks for your thoughts and all the blogs about our trekking.  I am so happy to keep in touch with you.


 His email brought to life for me the nightmare that he and many of his countrymen must be going through . . . his home is now a tent in an open field! It was so like Dom, insuring that his family was safe, then setting out into the mountains that he knows so well to help others.

I wrote him back, thanking him for his email and telling him that Patrick and I would like to send him some money and asked how to do that. He replied . . .

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Dom in the Himalayas

Thank you very much for your email. It will be big support for me. I have a bank account but for a long time not using so better send by Western Union money transfer.

Name: Dom Bahadur Tamang             Address: Okhaldhunga – Shreechaur -7, Nepal

 I am very grateful for you and Patrick. It’s not easy even to write email. I am using friend’s mobile. Sorry for late reply. Thanks and best regards. Dom from Kathmandu 

With all the scam charities out there, Patrick and I gave money with the satisfaction of knowing that our donation was not only going directly to someone who actually needed it, but someone who we actually knew and admired.

I asked Dom to let me know when he received the money, as I didn’t want it to end up in the pocket of some Western Union clerk.  I had confirmed that it was picked up last Thursday, but had not heard from Dom, so I wasn’t sure he was the one that picked it up.  Finally, this past Sunday I received an email from Dom saying he was sorry for the delay, but he was helping in the village and yes, he had picked up the money and returned to his village to help with the reconstruction process. He was very thankful.


Nepal ‘tent city’

The second earthquake, which fortunately was centered in a more remote region of Nepal, still killed over 90 people at last count and injured over 1,200, bringing the death toll for both earthquakes to well over 8,000, injuries to over 20,000 and physical damage to over half a million homes.

‘Tent cities’ have sprung up throughout the area and are filled with people who have lost their homes as well as those afraid to go back to their homes for fear of another earthquake.

The losses from these two quakes will be felt for many years to come. As a trekking guide, Dom will have less opportunity to earn a living, as tourism to the Himalayas will certainly drop off dramatically in the near term.

To Dom, Kiran and all Nepalese – “Namaste, our thoughts and prayers are with you.”



Feeling the Nepal Earthquake Here at Home

by Bob Sparrow

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Those of you who have been following us for at least a year know that I was in Nepal a little less than a year ago visiting Kathmandu and trekking in the Himalayas, so I felt particularly saddened by the news of the recent earthquake in Nepal. Like most of you I felt so bad for these really good people, who had so little to start with and now have less – their whole world has been turned upside down – literally.

Additionally my personal concern was for the two wonderful people from there that I got to know very well by trekking with them for a week in the Himalayans – Dom, our guide and Kirin our porter (They are pictured on my Facebook homepage). They both lived in and around Kathmandu, Dom with a wife and two children, Kirin, is single. I emailed the travel agency in New York that booked our trip to ask if they had an email address for Dom, or any way to check on the status of both Dom and Kirin.


Everest Base Camp

I heard yesterday morning from the travel agency that Dom and his family are OK, but no word on Kirin yet. Although I knew that communicating with Nepal right now was difficult at best, I sent another email pleading with the travel agent to do everything she could to check on Kirin’s status.

The riots in Baltimore and the continuing California draught have pushed the Nepal story out of the headlines, but those still following it know that the death toll has risen above 5,000 as of this writing and could get to as much at 10,000 before it’s over. Tens of thousands of people are living in tents and are still without adequate food and water, as relief is slow or non-existent to many of the outlying villages.

If you’re so inclined, there are plenty of places to donate to this cause, I chose the one here on Facebook at,

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The quake that rocked the tallest mountain in the world devastated Everest Base Camp; two major avalanches over the last two years have killed at least 27 Sherpa guides. The climbing season, which just started, is now over for the year.


PS; I just received word from the travel agent this morning that Kirin is all right as well!! Happy for them both, but so heartbroken for all those Nepalese living this nightmare.


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 7 – Nepal Diary: In Search of that Religious Experience


Annapurna I

As we left Tolka, the innkeeper told us that she had a brother who owned an ‘airplane restaurant’ in Pokhara, that we should stop in and see him and have dinner. We said we’d try and headed off to the next village, but not before I got this great photo of the sunrise on Annapurna I. We trekked about 6 miles, on mostly what they refer to in Nepal as flat, a little up and a little down (the little ‘up’ was 1200 feet and the little ‘down’ was 1700 feet). The great views that we thought we were going to get by going this route were obscured by a heavy cloud cover.  We thought we’d stay in the village of Dhampus, but when we got there we were told there was no power and no wifi, so after having lunch, we continued down the mountain for another 3 miles and thousands more of those stone steps. There just seems to be no redeeming quality to those stone steps, they exhaust you if you’re going up, and pound your knees if your going down and they keep you from seeing anything else around you as your total focus must be on you next step or you’ll be doing a face plant in one of them. When I get home, I’m taking out the stone steps I have in the back yard – they’re flat, but I just don’t want the reminder!  We reached the village of Phedi at the bottom of the mountain and there was actually a road and we see moving vehicles for the first time in 6 days. At the bottom we have a decision to make; our goal is to get to the village of Sarangkot at the top of the next mountain. People from all over the world come to Sarangkot to view the spectacular sunrise over the Himalayas. They say it is like a religious experience.

Village view


It would indeed be a religious experience for me, because if I attempted to go that extra 8 miles, straight up, I would be meeting my maker. Dom looks at Sarangkot then looks at me and says, “Are you ready?” Then breaks out laughing and says, “We’re taking a cab to Sarangkot”. Who knew that a cab could be part of the whole trekking experience? Where were the cabs on Days 1-2?

The cab ride was an experience in itself. Four of us, plus the driver and all our gear crammed into a car the size of a refrigerator. I got to sit, knees in my face, up front with the driver, whom, I’m guessing hadn’t showered since February . . . 2013. Of course after trekking for the last 7 hours I wasn’t exactly a bouquet of roses myself. The fact that they drive on the ‘other’ side of the road didn’t help the white-knuckle experience of going up the mountain. The cabbie ultimately let us off about a half mile from the village as the road was too rutted and muddy for him to go any further. We happily walked the rest of the way in the fresh air.


Sunrise from Sarankot

Sarankot offers a great view of the city of Pokhara and Lake Phewa Tal, it was a little hazy, but still a great view and a great resting place. After a cold beer and dinner we watched a movie on my computer, Into Thin Air – the story of death on Everest. Not exactly a musical-comedy, but everyone seemed to enjoy it. We settle in early and set our alarms for 5:00 a.m. so we could wake up then walk up to the observation point and watch the spectacular sunrise over the Himalayas. The alarm went off and I looked outside and I could barely see the dog that was right outside our window barking all night – everything was socked in. No spectacular sunrise today. No religious experience. I rolled over and went back to sleep.







Day 6 – Nepal Diary: Room, Board and a Himalayan Cremation


The teahouses that we stay in are all very similar, there are anywhere from 8 – 20 motel-style rooms; there is a main kitchen and dinning hall and a sitting area typically overlooking a spectacular view. The rooms are Spartan-like, 12 x 12, two single beds with a mattress that is about three inches thick (although I must admit, fairly comfortable) and usually one electrical outlet that typically doesn’t work. We always get a room with bathroom, most rooms don’t have one, but the bathroom is also very Spartan-like. It is about the size of a small closet and consists of only a toilet and a spout coming out of the wall, which is the shower; no sink and no mirror (thank god) and a drain in the middle of the room. Because there is no separation, no curtain, no anything except the spout, you could actually take a shower while you’re going to the bathroom. (Nope, haven’t tried it yet). There is one light in the bedroom about the size of a golf ball and it doesn’t work during the day when the power is shut off. There is usually a clothesline outside your door so that you can wash and rinse out the cloths you wore all day and hang them out to dry. The ‘deluxe’ room, the one with the shower, also has a Spartan-like price; on average about $6.50 a nigh!. But you don’t get a mint on your pillow, in fact sometimes you don’t get a pillow.


Every food looked so foreign to us that we really couldn’t figure out what to try, so we’d order something that we thought looked good from the Beerpictures on the menu. When our food came, Dom and Kirin’s food always looked better, so next time we’d order what they had at the last meal and they’d order something different . . . that looked better than ours. One of their favorites is Dal Bhat, a combination of rice, lentil soup, potatoes with curry, chili peppers, throw in some chicken or other meat and viola! What’s interesting is they eat it with their hands – remember they don’t attend too many black-tie dinners. There is virtually the same menu throughout the Himalayas and they try to do a little bit of everything, Italian, Korean, Mexican, Japanese, Indian and American – most of the Asian dishes are the best. Some of the unusual items on the menu include:


Not your mother’s apple pie

Porridge, I thought that word died with Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. Goat cheese and Yak cheese – Patrick says, with a smile and a twinkle in his eye (which means he’s bull shiting), that he can taste the difference. Curry everything, Momo (pot stickers), Chicken lasagna, I actually tried this one and it was pretty good, although it tasted nothing like lasagna or chicken for that matter. Another fine Italian dish I tried was Tuna Pizza; don’t hold your breath waiting for is one to come to the states! any time soon.  I couldn’t bring myself to try the Himalayan burrito (who knows what’s in there?). Most of our meals, even breakfast, have some sort of noodles in them, and every place serves apple pie, although it looks nothing like apple pie – but very good. The most expense item on the menu is in the $4 range.

On the beverage side, you can get about 50 varieties of tea as well as Coke, Sprite and Orange Fanta in a bottle. Of course I had to try the local beers, two main brands, Nepal Ice, which has an alcohol content of 7%; combine that with the thin air and you’re buzzed before you’re half finished. The other beer, my favorite, is Everest, it taste really good, but what I really like is their they great marketing slogan: “Our beer is colder than your ex-wife”.

The Himalayan Cremation



When we reached Tolka I discovered that I was missing my prescription glasses. I looked all through my pockets and pack and they were nowhere to be found. I remember having them the night before while reading in bed and then setting them on the window ledge next to the bed. While reaching for my watch or flashlight during the night I must have knocked them off and they ended up under the bed and out of sight. In Tolka, the lady who owned the teahouse where we stayed, called back to the teahouse in Jhinu and asked if they found the glasses. Kirin had volunteered to go back early the next morning and get them – that’s just a quick 16 miles before breakfast! I think he has lungs that could breathe on Mars. Fortunately for Kirin, but unfortunately from me, when the lady hung up the phone, she said, “They found the glasses, but they were broken, they threw them in the trash and they have already burned the trash today.”  So my glasses have been cremated and the ashes have been scattered in the Himalayas – so I guess I’ll always have that going for me.



Day 5 – Nepal Diary: The Trail

DSC01224Today we got an early start out of Jhinu with a sharp decent (more of those damn stone stairs) to the Maudi River. We then followed the river down to the town of Tolka, about 8 miles. For me it was the best day of hiking, not just because we didn’t have a lot of ‘stairways to hell’ to climb, but because we got to enjoy some beautiful scenery without breathing so hard. Sharply inclined, lush mountains on each side of the river valley, terraced rice fields, spectacular water falls (with ice cold water coming off the Himalayas), and Annapurna South peering over our shoulder. It was a great hike. The only down side was the 6-7 leaches that Dom spotted on my ankles while walking behind me. He flicked them off with a stick, but not after I gave a quart or two of blood, and I didn’t even get a little carton of orange juice or a blood-drop pin that said, ‘I Gave Blood’.

As I mentioned earlier, the path that we travel is ‘Main Street’ of the villages that it runs through and it is thus the key transportation artery that links village to village. We therefore see all kinds of thing going up and down the mountain. It is not unusual to have a team of 10-12 burros coming down the trail at us hauling supplies to a village or garbage away from it. We constantly run into a herd of goats or sheep and often have to go to one side of the path to get around a cow taking a nap or make sure we don’t step in a ‘road apple’ left by a horse. There is always a good supply of chickens running around as well as some beautiful Burmese Mountain Dogs – friendly and looking like this is where they belong. We see women speed by us going up hill with incredibly large baskets of produce or something on their heads. Men are hauling lumber or have huge bags of corn or rice strapped to their heads and act like they’re just wearing a hat.

DSC01227Another thing we find on the trail, or just off the trail is marijuana plants growing in the wild – in abundance. I’m sure they use it just for medicinal purposes, although this may be why these people have so little and are yet so happy. The Himalayan High has the Rocky Mountain High beat three ways to Sunday. Pot is illegal in Nepal, but I don’t think they can get a squad car up here to haul anyone away.

Even though the trail has been a little wet from the previous night’s rain, we have been very lucky with the weather. We’re typically up early and hike 5-6 hours in beautiful weather and then settle into the next village’s tea house just in time to watch the afternoon monsoon come in with a vengeance.

A final thing that we run into on the trail, even though it is the off-season, is other trekkers from all parts of the world. I have found that they all have two characteristics in common: 1) They all speak English, and 2) THEY ARE ALL UNDER 30!!!

Old guys definitely DO NOT RULE here in the Himalayas.


Day 4 – Nepal Diary: Let Me Introduce the Boys in the Band

(No connectivity in last location so I’m a day late and a couple of Rupees short)

First, thank you for all the wonderful responses I’ve received from those who are following this adventure. I feel I have your company as I travel to places unknown.

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Annapurna South

We leave Chomrong, but not before getting this great photo of a sunrise over Annapurna South – simply awe-inspiring.

Let me officially introduce our crew, hopefully with pictures that heretofore I’ve not been able to upload. Dom our guide, I have come to find out, is not a Sherpa. Sherpa is an ethic group from high in the Himalayans. Dom is a Tamang, which is a group from the Himalayan foothill region; he speaks very good English and has been a guide in the Himalayan for 15 years, doing many treks around Everest, although he has not summited it yet. He is extremely accommodating and a really good guy. He is 35 years old, married with 2 children who live in Kathmandu. His parents live in eastern Nepal and in order to see them he must take a bus that takes all day to get relatively close and then he must walk for another full day to get to their home. So they don’t stop by for Sunday dinner that often. We have nicknamed him, ‘El Hefe’ – the boss.

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Our porter, Kirin is 25, married with one child and they also live in Kathmandu. He is Magar, another ethnic group from the Himalayan foothills. Both Magar and Tamang are Tibetan influenced and Buddhist by religion. Kirin is about 5’3” and honestly does not weight more than 110 pounds, yet he is carrying a huge pack with most of our stuff in it weighing between 60-70 pounds with only a strap he places on his forehead. He is amazing; we have nicknamed him, ‘The Stud’.    

Today was a short trek, as we went almost straight downhill from Chomrong to Jhinu, a distance of only a couple of miles, all on thousands of stone steps, not great for old football knees. I was thinking if Linda would have given me this trip for my 80th birthday she probably could have same money and bought that one-way ticket.

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After lunch we headed to some hot springs that are adjacent to the Maudi Chola (river) about a half mile away. Large rock pools have been built to trap the natural hot water coming up from the ground. The warm water felt good on some tired muscles and sore knees. On our hike back to our ‘tea house’ (which is what they call the small hotels we stay in) it started to rain. Then it started to really rain – we experienced our first monsoon. We sat outside our room, had a Nepal Ice beer and watched the rain. In bed by 7:30 . . . again.